March 31, 2004

Prayer Request

Our premature nephew, Aaron Zachary, was born seven or eight weeks early has been suffering ever since. If you could spare a prayer I'd appreciate it. The doctor thinks he might have meningitis, and now we have to wait three or four long days to see what the test results bring...
Interesting Sven Birkerts column:
All of this leads, and not all that circuitously, to the question of snark, the spirit of negativity, the personal animus pushing ahead of the intellectual or critical agenda. Snark is, I believe, prompted by the terrible vacuum feeling of not mattering, not connecting, not being heard; it is fueled by rage at the same. If writers and critics felt similar aggressive urges in the past—and of course they did, for personal, if not cultural, reasons—they were held back from venting, if not by an inner sense of decency, then by a more externalized awareness of prohibition. Cheap shots were not to be taken—not in the public arena.
The Coming Cicadas
During Brood X's 1970 emergence, Bob Dylan...added to the immortality of cicadas with a song he wrote about the occasion, "Day of the Locusts" [catching] the eerie appeal of the cicadas' sound:

And the locusts sang, well, it give me a chill,
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.
And the locusts sang with a high whinin' trill,
Yeah, the locusts sang and they was singing for me . . .


Dylan is one of a long line of artists smitten with cicadas. J.G. Myers, whose 1929 book "Insect Singers" records much of cicada lore, preserves these lines from an ode to the insect attributed to the Greek poet Anacreon: "You are worthy of the homage of mortals, you, the charming prophet of summer. The Muses love you." Out of the East comes this haiku from the Japanese poet Saren, as translated by Japanologist and cicada-lover Lafcadio Hearn:

Fathomless deepens the heat;
The ceaseless shrilling of cicadas mounts, like hissing fire,
Up to the motionless clouds.


Once the eggs are laid, the adults begin to die, and they will all be gone by early July. The eggs will mature, and provided they have not been eaten, young cicada nymphs will hatch out of their nests in August. Each one smaller than a grain of rice, they will drop to the ground and work their way into the soil, not to be seen above ground again until 2021.
Marveling at How Well They Turned Out

I was listening to a mission preacher at my other parish last night (i.e. the Latin and not Eastern Catholic rite). I have to fight against feelings of condescension when I go there because the liturgies are so milquetoast and most of the music is so awful that you couldn't make it up. Not to mention that sometimes it feels like I'm the only one saying the responses - at least the electric guitars produce something resembling energy.

But something happened last night on the way to my prejudice.

There was Confession afterwards with four priests on duty and the lines were lengthy beyond ken. And three of the "confessionals" were out in the open. And the "patients" waited patiently for seeming ever and the missioner's face was so full of love and concern, and they would confess and it was the most beautiful thing in the world, this was: to see them leave their sins at the altar, to see resentments and small hatreds and off-limit signs melt before the sign of the cross, before the words of absolution: "...and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". It was humbling and inspiring and it moved me to ask God to give me a true spirit of repentance.

To echo Bill of Apologia: I can only marvel that so many of our fellow humans turn out as well as they do.
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts
There are countless people on-line who seem to have a devotion to St. Jerome's personality, without any evident devotion to his sanctity. - Tom of Disputations

No firearms allowed inside building. - new sign outside our workplace

When did I officially become a stick in the mud? Was it back when I voted for Lazio over Hill for the New York senate seat (sorry but a wronged wife gets a nice gift like a Benz or a boob job, not a senate seat) or when I asked for a National Review subscription for my last birthday? - Phil of PhilAlbinus.com

So The Revealer wonders: Just how big is St. Blog's? And how much does it matter to the future of the Church? This is not just a question for Catholics, but for all bloggers -- can blog communities genuinely challenge or transform real-world communities? Or are they simply steam valves for malcontents, exhibitionists, and know-it-alls? - NYU's "The Revealer"....Must it be either/or?

It's 4:47 a.m. Time to go to the Adoration Chapel. Woo-hoo!!! My favorite time of the week! - Tom of Goodform

I see a lot of media (even Christian/Catholic media) aimed at couples interested in developing a 'happy' marriage. Are we being encouraged to settle for nothing less than a 'happy' marriage? (And I'm not talking about forcing people to stay in sick, abusive situations, but about leading people to think that if they aren't 'happy' they are being abused.) Don't even get me started on the pop literature that prattles on about soulmates.How much is addressed to couples who don't have 'happy' marriages? What about people who realize after X number of years that they didn't marry their soulmate? And now they know that they have no real reason to vacate the vows they made on their wedding day.....and why can't they be 'happy.'... Are we idolizing 'happiness?" Do we worship well-known, 'happy' Catholic couples? (And, yes, now we're seeing the fall-out from putting celebrity 'happy' Catholic couples in a special niche of admiration.) Is it time to start asking God to help us be happy even if we aren't 'happy?' - Ellyn of Obhouse

What to you get when you cross Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral with a Spanish conquistador's helmet? A church where Ponce de Leon can grow really, really big man-eating plants. - Mark of Irish Elk, on the proposed new Ave Maria church

When we were involved in presenting Marriage Encounter weekends, we talked a lot about the cycle of romance, disillusionment, joy. In the early days, we put each other on pedestals, and were willing to forgive almost everything. Romance. Then reality snuck in, and the period of disillusionment - where we are unwilling to forgive almost anything. Many marriages founder on the shoals of disillusionment. It is hard work to live with another person. Those who grew up in small families or as only children have an even harder time. If your life has always been tidy, and you end up married to a pack rat (or vice versa) - if your family always went barefoot in the house and your spouse never took shoes off except to bathe or sleep - even little things like how often one changes the bedsheets or washes the towels. These seemingly minor differences can blow up into marriage busters, especially without the graces of the Sacraments. If I let my angers and disappointments freeze in my heart, they can become frost heaves on my path and can trip up my marriage. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

The best part about mothering - actually, fathering too, I would think, because this has nothing to do with gender - is knowing that you have put another human being out there into the world. That because of your "yes" to the conception and birth of a child, another person exists, and is out there walking his or her own journey, in relationship with God, bringing amazing gifts to a world in need. It sort of takes your breath away. -Amy Welborn

Might one way in which we are unlike the woman of the Annunciation be our impatience? Filled with zeal, touched by God with some special consolation, we are ready to evangelize the world NOW! Yet, for whatever reason, the world is not evangelized NOW, and soon our zeal for the kingdom fades as worries over that new knocking sound in the car engine increase. Then comes the reflection: "Guess I wasn't really supposed to evangelize the world after all." We can't give what we don't have. We can't give a viable Christ to the world until He is viable within us, and that takes some time. Time to nurture the Word, to ponder in our hearts, to contemplate the face of Jesus. What God gave Mary was not the promise she would conceive and bear a son. A promise, once given, is ready to be shared with whoever needs to know of it. What God gave Mary was her Son Himself, and He wasn't ready to be shared with the wider world until He was fully formed in her womb. - Tom of Disputations

I just love Anne Rice. Her work is one of the secular comforts in life that I'll probably never be able to give up. I hear she's a revert to the Faith and that she's very devout these days, and that she's going to begin writing religious novels now that she's finished her Vampire Chronicles. It should be interesting, to say the least. -Nathan of the Tower

St. John Chrysostom was like Jackie Chan: kicking butts left and right; twisting, turning, and leaping off of buildings. He put hundreds of bad butts out of commission. St. Athanasius, though, was like Rambo: he just stood there and blasted like a wildman with his machine gun--and he TOOK DOWN THE MEGA-BUTT!.... DECISION: St. Athanasius. - KTC on who would win a grudge match between St. John and St. Athanasius

Perhaps it's like that in virtue as well: one virtue to set you on the right path, another to keep you there. I wrote something on my blog about the danger of letting the virtue of humility sour into despair or a feeling of uselessness. I'm wondering now if all the virtues can be put off their track this way. - MaryH of Ever-New

Strong wind...[and]..the Crystal Palace will be reduced to Our Lady of the Pointy Shards. (How did this thing ever meet code in South Florida?) --Steven of Flos Carmeli on our new whippin' boy, the new Ave Maria church

To me, at least....the core of the problem with Roman Catholic spiritual life as it has evolved in the US is encapsulated in one phrase, read in your church bulletin or advertised in the diocesan paper or even blasted on a sign hanging outside of your parish. "All-You-Can-Eat Lenten Fish Fry"-Amy Welborn

With all due respect, loving Jesus is a piece of cake; it's loving your neighbor that borders on impossibility. - Rob on Disputations
John Kerry Against Death Penalty Except in the Case of Unborn Children

Democrat Joseph Califano was on one of the talk shows and lamented his party's turning away, in 1972, from economic issues (soc security, Medicare, welfare) to social issues like abortion. He said it's a shame and ridiculous because a president will think about abortion maybe three hours during a four-year term. What he didn't say is that a president has a big say in choosing Supreme Court justices, and they do make a difference (if Justice Kennedy hadn't changed his mind in a '92 decision, abortion might be illegal in some states today). Ultimately though change must come not from justices but in hearts and minds. Abortions would become only a bit more rare if Roe v Wade were overturned, since most states would continue to protect abortion.

Let's concede for a moment that a president has no impact on the life issue. Do we really want someone who made such a Faustian bargain as president? All presidents sell their souls in one way or another to get elected, but aren't there gradations in that selling? Someone who's pro-choice automatically disqualifies himself as a representative, imo, because he's already proven himself unworthy of trust. The pro-life candidate will shortly prove the same after the election, but at least there's the momentary illusion. Besides, I'd rather they sell out to Big Oil or Big Business than to Moloch. For liberals, the motto, "protecting life from womb to tomb" has become "from toddler to healthy senior".

March 30, 2004

My Protestant friend Ham of Bone just saw TPOTC...

His comments on my voice mail (used with permission, all rights preserved):
Loved it..loved it. I love Catholics and Catholicism even though I disagree on a few things - but what an amazing story potential brought out in TPOTC and the Catholic aspect of the story -- which I was able to get outside myself and forget about the Mariology and just dig the story and what they did with Mary. The closing scene - the Pieta - what a stroke of genius.
Backtracking

I would I were a mite more careful about what I blog. I sometimes have an illusion of privacy here, which is patently absurd given this is a public blog.

This was brought home recently when I made a throw-away comment to Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking" in an email, throwing stones at the new glass Ave Maria chapel. Thomas liked it it a lot and so pride led me to put it on the blog.

The comment got picked up by what I call the "wire services", i.e. any blog bigger than mine (in this case Mark of Irish Elk), which caught the Revealer's eye, a NYU journalism school publication.

Ouch. It's so not my job to critique churches and it's so not my job to poison the well by the colorful language used. As Don Imus might say, "that's just not helpful". Christians need to pick their battles and not get side-tracked by minutiae. For me, the intolerance towards Christianity in the public square and abortion are worth fighting for.

My pledge is more spam poetry, less gratuitous slams.


I like this mosaic in St. Peter's (link via Dom of Bettnet.com). I think it expresses not only the necessary humility that St. Peter and his successors ought have, but there's also in Christ's mien a sort of reluctance, a seeming acknowledgement that even while conferring authority He was thinking of future near-disasters.
Lighten Up & Gird Your Loins

My father is much more risk-averse when it comes to investing than me. So I tease him when he tells me about the latest utility stock he bought by saying, "Pina colada, 'eh?". Pina coladas not only provide ease and relaxation, unlike anxiety-inducing high-beta stocks, but they also provide a lower return. A pina colada doesn't supply the jolt that good Irish whiskey does.

The best proof that the pina colada approach to the spiritual life is not the correct approach is to look at a crucifix. Jesus on the cross emphasizes just how serious God takes our situation and our waywardness. It was silly, but I noticed the bent knees of Jesus on the crucifix in my room. A small detail, and certainly nothing to compare with the actual pain he felt elsewhere. But the bent knees looked so confining; he couldn't even stretch out his legs. Trivial, sure, but this is the God of the universe. He who created infinite space willingly accepted the constriction of space, to the point of being pinned on a cross. It's a harrowing thought and a bracing blow against tepidity. Especially with just ten days till Good Friday left.

Recently I read two somewhat contradictory things, which both struck me as potentially truthful. One is from a commenter, Frank Gibbon, on Amy's blog:
Perhaps Bud McFarlane has overdosed on religion. Orthodox Catholics have to lighten up a bit and put the religious stuff aside once in awhile. We all need to relax and realize that orthodoxy is only worthwhile when it proceeds from knowing the love of Christ.
    Then I read Rev. P.J. Michel's book responding to those who feel a dryness in prayer:
You are all day occupied in natural gratifications and frivolous amusements, intent on seeing and hearing all that is said and done, losing no opportunity for useless conversations, listening to any evil report against your neighbor; always distracted, occupied with the actions and interests of others without a thought for yourself, your eternal interests, and your salvation; prolonging this dissipation of mind and heart to the very beginning of your prayers, to which you hurry at the last moment, and without stopping to reflect for an instant on what you are going to do; and you imagine that all this distraction and dissipation will suddenly disappeear, and that recollection and devotion will as suddenly replace them, clam the tumult of your passions, reawaken at once in your heart sentiments of faith, piety, and love. In good sooth now, do you really expect such a miracle? You have scarcely once thought of God during the day, you have not had toward Him those sentiments which are his due...

March 29, 2004

Lightweight Hand Grenades & Warning Labels

Funny review of retired columnist Florence King's Stet, Damnit!:
Among her rival print columnists, there are few left who believe anything but that the prescription for society's ills is voting for the Good Guys, whoever they may be, next time around. King's own treatment would probably involve great quantities of benzene and a Zippo. Anyway, the very job of freewheeling "culture commentator" is dying out: as she never quite gets around to asking in Stet, Damnit!, how can you have a culture commentator without a culture?

Ten years is an awful long time to urge logic and clarity on a country that issues hunting licenses to the blind, devises lightweight hand grenades for female combat soldiers, and puts warning labels on balls of string.
Poemable

I was looking for a poem for an upcoming occasion and happened across this interesting one:
What are big girls made of?
  --Marge Piercy (1936-)

           Look at pictures in French fashion
           magazines of the 18th century:
           century of the ultimate lady
           fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
           Paniers bring her hips out three feet
           each way, while the waist is pinched
           and the belly flattened under wood.
           The breasts are stuffed up and out
           offered like apples in a bowl.
           The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
           never meant for walking.
           On top is a grandiose headache:
           hair like a museum piece, daily
           ornamented with ribbons, vases,
           grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
           sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
           of a hairdresser turned loose.
           The hats were rococo wedding cakes
           that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
           Here is a woman forced into shape
           rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
           a woman made of pain.

            How superior we are now: see the modern woman
            thin as a blade of scissors.
            She runs on a treadmill every morning,
            fits herself into machines of weights
            and pulleys to heave and grunt,
            an image in her mind she can never
            approximate, a body of rosy
            glass that never wrinkles,
            never grows, never fades. She
            sits at the table closing her eyes to food
            hungry, always hungry:
            a woman made of pain.
           
            If only we could like each other raw.
            If only we could love ourselves
            like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
            If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
            to need what is sold us.
            Why should we want to live inside ads?
            Why should we want to scourge our softness
            to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
            Why should we punish each other with scorn
            as if to have a large ass
            were worse than being greedy or mean?

            When will women not be compelled
            to view their bodies as science projects,
            gardens to be weeded,
            dogs to be trained?
            When will a woman cease
            to be made of pain?
Sun Day*

Number of days in 2004: 366
Less number of predicted cloudy days in Central Ohio: 279
Less number of sunny days when temp < 30 degrees: 32
Less number of sunny days when temp > 90 degrees: 14
Less number of days spent working during sunny day: 40          
Leaving one temperate sunny non-work day. I think it was yesterday!

* - Disclaimer: all statistics approximate and intended strictly for comedic purposes.
Round Up



Let's round up a few strays, out there on the prairie. (Which is another way of saying what follows will be disjointed and prone to the occasional non-sequitor.)

Piety may not prove a rightly-ordered heart but one could expect that prayer and sacraments influence the heart even if cause and effect can't be measured or seen. (The tendency in our faithless and utilitarian age is that if we can't measure it, it doesn't count.) I don't believe Jesus gave us empty rituals that simply flow from an already rightly-ordered heart, as a Methodist sees Baptism. Cop out or not, Graham Greene was asked why he was such a bad Catholic and he said (paraphrasing here) that the questionner couldn't imagine how worse he'd be if he wasn't Catholic. All men are not created equal; some start from a position (nature but also nurture) such that they have advantages or disadvantages that preclude equal outcomes where holiness is concerned.

*

Kathy the Carmelite writes of putting too much of one's faith in supernatural coincidence: "Lots of Christians do. But Teresa of Avila, herself a big recipient of it, said gravely that it's a concession God grants to the weak. Hopefully they'll use the grace of it not to remain weak--but, too often, people receive it and say "COOL!"--and keep on clamoring till they see more of the same. Sometimes God gives it. But sometimes Satan does, or sometimes people just see it in the woodwork--because it's the cloak-and-dagger supernaturalness they adore, not the Lord and the carrying of His cross."

*

"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence." - Robert Frost

March 28, 2004

The Brian Lamb Fan Club

I've always been fascinated by one Brian Lamb, founder of C-Span. In an age of passion and agenda, he's remarkably passionless and agendaless. In an age of bombast and self-promotion, he's quiet and avoids talking about himself, at least on his channel.

But fortunately for Lambiacs he fielded questions about himself from Tim Russert this weekend. We learned that he gets up at 3a.m. and reads for three hours, during those wee hours when peace reigneth beyond all understanding. (The downside is the 8pm bedtime, but nothing is costless.) We learned that his discipline comes from a Catholic upbringing (all nuns all the way through), and from his time in the Navy. I suspect this combination of a Catholic and military background really does wonders for augmenting internal control. We learned that he thought about becoming a priest but doubted they would have had him. When asked who Brian Lamb is he replied that his defining characteristic might be his curiosity. He reads a book a week and simply loves to learn. Jefferson said "the only cure for sadness is learning"; if there is any sadness in Brian Lamb it is camoflauged by a certain peacefulness.

March 27, 2004

Conservative Catholics

Steven Riddle was playing around with the notion of "conservative Catholic" in an email, and it's something I hadn't really given much thought before now. To call a Catholic conservative by his stand on controversial issues seems inadequate. What is the conservative trying to conserve? Obviously the answer is Tradition, capital "T", those truths that the gospel and the Magisterium attest to.

Perhaps a way to see it is that a conservative thinks the way to conserve Tradition (while being flexible on traditions) is to preserve the hierarchical nature of the church. The liberal wants a flatter, less hierarchical Church - more of a democracy. But a democracy within the Church would favor a disconnect between faith and reason since the masses are more faithful than reasoning (although, come to think of it, there's a premium on both). To take one example, the discarding of the prohibition against contraception would pluck at the marriage between faith and reason since it seems well-nigh unreasonable to see homosexual sex as wrong if contraception is fine - openness to life is the basis for both contra-contraception and contra-gay sex.

The more important reason to be against a democratically-modeled Church is that Christ set up a hierarchical Church. He chose twelve apostles and gave three of them - Peter, James and John - special prominence and additional instruction. And, of course, he singled one of them out to "strengthen his brethern" and conferred upon him the Keys.

Are conservative Catholics consistent in their conservatism? Obviously not, but then humans are not consistent about anything.

March 26, 2004

Spring Thaw

Winter releases the pinchers
for a few shrugging moments
a hiccup in the siege of bitter.

The seasons arrive in fits and starts
in random irregularities only
finding their true home in season--

    the winter fully winter,
        the summer fully summer,
only after fooling by feints.
Zero Sum Game

Overheard on a local radio station:
"What's up with Jehovah Witnesses? They believe only a fixed number are saved. So they're evangelizing someone who might be taking their place?"
Ave Maria's New Church

Commenter SEB on Mark of Irish Elk's post makes mucho sense to me: "First off, a glass house focuses attention to the outside. I would think that the purpose of any church would be to keep the focus on the Mass, on the Eucharist, on the Real Presence and not provide excuses for wool-gathering and day-dreaming about the weather."

This, however, was a necessary corrective toward any thought of penning a letter. :~)
Excerptable
Natives dislike speed, as we dislike noise, it is to them, at the best, hard to bear. They are also on friendly terms with time, and the plan of beguiling or killing it does not come into their heads. In fact the more time you can give them, the happier they are, and if you commission a Kikuyu to hold your horse while you make a visit, you can see by his face that he hopes you will be a long, long time about it. He does not try to pass the time then, but sits down and lives.

--Isak Dineson, "Out of Africa"
Poetry Friday
Worlds

For Alexander there was no Far East,
Because he thought the Asian continent
India ended. Free Cathay at least
Did not contribute to his discontent.

But Newton, who had grasped all space, was more
Serene. To him it seemed that he'd but played
With several shells and pebbles on the shore
Of that profundity he had not made.

Swiss Einstein with his relativity -
Most secure of all. God does not play dice
With the cosmos and its activity.
Religionless equations won't suffice.

--Richard Wilbur





Parable

I read how Quixote in his random ride
Came to a crossing once, and lest he lose
The purity of chance, would not decide

Whither to fare, but wished his horse to choose.
For glory lay wherever turned the fable.
His head was light with pride, his horse's shoes

Were heavy, and he headed for the stable.

--Richard Wilbur
News

FYI...concerning Randall Terry, in case you make donations.
______

What is this, two degrees of separation? I didn't realize local blogger Ono got a mention from one of my heroes, William F. Buckley:
Apologists for Senator Kerry's inanimate disapproval of abortion contend with the problem, for instance Mr. Ono Ekeh. He has the unenviable role of administrator of "Catholics for Kerry."

Its pitch on this issue is that Senator Kerry's war on abortion is most subtly conceived. You see, most abortions are had by the very poor. "John Kerry's vision for America is a pro-life vision that will ultimately reduce the frequency of and need for abortions" — after Mr. Kerry has eliminated poverty. Perhaps the candidate should be asked: Would it be reasonable to prohibit abortion for women who are millionaires?
Don't Come Home a Drinkin'...

...with bloggin' on your mind. Old Oligarch lays down the gauntlet and I got only 7 of 40. Part of it is I'm just so damn cheap. On a related subject, I think I've had a blackout concerning whether I've ever blacked out.
Longing for Solutions

I'm uncomfortable discussing someone's personal scandal, even if it is public knowledge. But maybe some good can come of it if there is something that can be learned from it. A tragedy is most senseless when nothing is learned. (There's also a lot of selfish self-interest in wanting to avoid a similar fate.) I've been discussing & recussing the news of Bud MacFarlane's situation with Kathy the Carmelite and I think she has some extremely valuable things to say, so I'll post the exchange on the blog.
My Thoughts: First off, I don't judge Bud Macfarlane; Nathan aptly quoted St. Josemaria Escriva concerning someone else: "It's true that he was a sinner. But don't pass so final a judgment on him. Have pity in your heart, and don't forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity." As Fr. Groeschel says, "we're all poor sinners".

Obviously one wonders what went awry. And perhaps I'm wrong, and it's pure supposition, but maybe it comes down to prayer. Bud once said, and I can relate: "I doubt anybody in the Vatican will be considering canonizing me as an example of mystical contemplative prayer." I have a sense that this article was a recognition, in the midst of his marital woes, that something needed changing in that department. He says that, "My goal here is not to berate you if you do not have a prayer life. I have fallen short myself until recently, so I am the last one who can possibly criticize you." I think it emphasizes how true it is that you are only as good as your prayer life. How crucial the quality - and not quantity - of prayer! Love is only derivative - from God - we can't ex nihilo it.

I asked a priest on a retreat last year why it is that so many of our priests failed in their chastity vows and so many of our bishops failed to protect young people. He said that I was "only" asking him to explain the mystery of iniquity! Well, they call it a mystery for a reason. Some mysteries are too deep. Would that God make our wills a little less free since it's the freedom that can lead us away from God?

Her thoughts: It often happens that people with a specific temptation they're fighting work hardest and loudest at it.  Perhaps just as Jimmy Swaggart lashed out publicly at pornographers in an effort to preach hard truth to himself; Bud McFarlane may have started E5 men to help himself sanctify his own marriage.  It's probably not so much that he was "Mr. Marriage" all along, then suddenly snapped--the "wonderful marriage extension" of his CatholiCity ministry was probably an act of public desperation, trying to stave off what he believed to be inevitable.

There are always two sides to every story.  Satan loves to take down leaders.  He must be pretty desperate to divorce her.  I haven't heard a peep from his side; I wonder if he is perhaps too gentlemanly to give details.  Nor, on the other hand, have I heard about any co-respondant.

March 25, 2004

Alas...

Cities still build more beautiful ballparks than Christians do churches. Somehow I expected more from Ave Maria U.
If you're going to be defined as retro by mass society, then revel in your retrocity, I say. It's like watching some dignified gentleman (theologically-speaking) trying to pretend he's young & hip. If Rev. Schuller of Crystal Cathedral were Bill O'Reilly, he'd sue. (Since Thomas liked my description in an email, I'll pass it on: "crystal-methane-greenhouse-effect excuse for a church".)

Of course, in light of previous posts that emphasize the gift of sacrament rather than what surrounds it, I'm probably being hypocritical.
Gospel Minin'

It occurred to me, reading this fine post, how crucial the role of Christian women in today's society.

Nixon went to China because only a Republican with anti-Communist credentials could make overtures to Red China and be credible. So if the DVC depicts women as sacred for their body parts, that message is best refuted by women, since most men have trouble disagreeing with this. (Ultimately this is best refuted by Christ, of course, but a good mediator of that message would be a woman. And if you still think the book isn't adversely affecting people, read this.)

This could also be said with regard to issues of wifely submission, which Kathy has written about in the past. Similar too with the abortion issue. It's easier for a man, who doesn't go through labor, to tell women not to abort their children. It's a much better witness for Amy Welborn, who actually faced such a dilemma (and refused to abort) than anyone. Another great witness for this truth are some feminists. All this in no way leaves men off the hook, just recognizes, I think, the efficacy of good Christian women in these times.
On the Corner Today...
THE PASSION COMES TO BRITAIN [John Derbyshire]
Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is about to open in Britain. Damien Thompson, editor of The Catholic Herald over there, got a pre-screening. He thought the movie, taken as a movie, was a bit cheesy, but welcomes it as a cultural phenomenon anyway: "This curiosity [i.e. about the movie] has been stimulated, ironically, by the very lobbyists who have declared premature victory in the culture wars: secularists and multi-culturalists. Nominal Christians say to themselves: if these ghastly people hate our inherited faith so much, there must be something going for it. And so they ring up the Odeon to book tickets for Saturday night. The wild success of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has forced us to revise our assumptions about the inevitability of secularisation. If such a bad film can do this, what might a good one achieve?" Read the whole piece here.

I must say that at low points I wonder if my own faith is not as much negative as positive -- I mean, inspired not so much by the message of the Gospels as by revulsion at the sneering triumphalist arrogance of the Christ-haters. Hey, maybe I will go to see THE PASSION... Posted at 09:28 AM
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Happy Saint Patrick's day to all. I'm of Scottish, Irish, English, and Sioux descent, so I pretty much fight myself and demand self-reparations all the time. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

Please tell me there's not a Masturbation Awareness badge -- Kat of Lively Writer, concerning the Girl Scouts devolution into politically correctitude, such as support of Planned Parenthood

For me, it didn't lead to anti-Semitism. The central Jew of the movie came off too well for that. But it did lead to another "anti-ism." To use that old-time religion language, I was convicted. I don't think I would have been one of those people who endured with Jesus to the end. I'm too worldly, too fleshly... and that needs to change. In short, there's been an outbreak of anti-millinerdism thanks to Mel Gibson's film. -- Millinerd of millinerd.com (the 'central Jew' is Jesus obviously

Regret is a way station on the way toward total repentance, but it is with great danger that one stays there and lays down and makes a bed of regret. [Judas] should have proceeded from there, regret, to ruminating on how good God is...this God whom Micah said..."delights in mercy". He is not said to "delight" in punishment though He brings punishment...but he is said only to "delight" in Mercy. Just as the Jews were called on to repeatedly remember God's saving action during the Exodus, each of us personally do well to have our own personal list of exodus' that God has brought about for us. Then when we have sorrow, we need to remember who He is....Love. We can only remember Him as Love in my view if we agree with Aquinas that the anger and hate and wrath passages concerning God are anthropopathims since for Aquinas, there is no anger or hate or wrath within God since He is unchanging..."Wrath" said of God is the Bible's way of saying something true: that in willing a Just universe, God indirectly (not directly) wills punishment. The dispensationalists thoroughly disagree with this idea and believe in a God who has wrath/who changes His mind..etc...etc. But Aquinas is the saner view and the only one whereby God can really be called love as in John's gospel...since His Love is never interrupted for a second by wrath since He does not have it.- Bill Bannon of the Parish Hall

I'm perusing The DaVinci Code a little more. Please drink plenty of fluids, esp. Gatorade--I fear you might dehydrate from all the retching you're surely going to do! This guy is the literary Thomas Kincade!...But the elaborate suspense, Opus Dei "shenanigans" and code-cracking are just peripheral devices: the big sell is SEX! This is DH Lawrence, repackaged for the 21st century! It's nothing other than a glorified Danielle Steel book... The Church? Secrets? Female Sacred Worship? Suffice it to say that the person of Jesus is utterly irrelevant to this book! Women aren't sacred because of their body parts; they're sacred because Jesus has redeemed them! Our bodies are holy because He has fashioned them for us! We can only love with our souls, and it is only His light in our souls that renders them lovable. Jesus Himself refuted this "My body parts are what make me worthwhile" mentality and put things in the right perspective when He honored Mary in Luke 11:27. - Kathy the Carmelite

While I am convinced that we can lose our salvation, and acknowledging that this is extremely difficult to do for one who has been Saved, there is another factor in play, too. Somewhat like Pascal's Wager, OSAS is a safer bet. If I'm wrong, and it turns out that we can never lose our salvation, then the worst possible outcome is that a person spends time worrying about their status than they needed to. However, if OSAS is wrong, then people may believe that they have a license to do wrong so long as they made that commitment at some point. I've met people like this, but I recently became aware of a shocking example of this recently. - Robert of Hokie Pundit

How, for example, does a Catholic who believes Mary is the All-Holy Seat of Wisdom understand her misunderstanding when she discovered her twelve-year-old Son in the Temple? Speaking for myself, I understand it by assuming Mary was more "normal" than a lot of the pious legends would allow. Jesus, too, for that matter. In fact, a relatively normal Mary -- one who isn't herself an all-knowing glow-in-the-dark plaster statue with a demur half-smile and downcast eyes -- serves in part as a guarantor of the Incarnation. Even as we proclaim her the Mother of God, if she is a true-to-life woman, then we are proclaiming the Son of God is true man... It seems to me that it wasn't necessary for Mary to entirely get it (and here I'm straying from the Catholic tradition of arguing for the fitness-nigh-unto-necessity of Mary being practically perfect in every way). Also, her not entirely getting it signifies a bunch of things to the rest of us; e.g., we can't count on entirely getting it, either, and we should always be prepared for God to surprise us, and even where to look for Jesus when we find we've lost Him. So given a) that it wasn't necessary for Mary to have complete understanding of Jesus' mission, and b) that her incomplete understanding would teach us more about ourselves than her complete understanding would, the tension implied in a Mother of God who does not completely understand her Son seems worth it. - Tom of Disputations

If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel. - via Mark of Irish Elk

But God put a chink in my armor--I'm the type who needed the structure of marriage. So I struggle--more often probably than many--and I offer it up to God, as if I'm on a sanctification Stairmaster! - Kathy the Carm

I also, gingerly suggest that although we may sometimes be irked at the intensity of the pendulum swing - you know, rainbow and flowers Catholicism, etc - that for those who resist the message of God's love and mercy - even though it might be incompletely presented - if you really resist it - you might want to think about that. For I'm telling you, the Gospels are not about condemnation. Paul's epistles aren't either. Sure, they are about narrow paths and invitations that are rejected, but for those who have chosen the narrow path and accepted the invitation, the rest of the news is GOOD. Do you really believe that? If you find yourself grumbling about the priest who doesn't seem to want to make you feel terrible about yourself...why? I have often found that the people who are most resistant and contemptous of the message of the joy we should find in God's mercy are the people who need it the most. They are unhappy people who, for some reason, think that they know better than God, and that even though He says he loves them and wants to forgive them and give them joy....they really don't deserve it. - Amy Welborn

He gets so excited to have food in his mouth that he forgets to breathe. - my sister-in-law, on my lil' 4lb pre-mature nephew, obviously taking after his uncle.

I don’t know why I’m not ashamed. After
all I’m an educated man, variously
interested in what passes for high
science, with, you’d say, a modest knowledge
of differential equations and late
Cretaceous extinctions. I’ve seen a few
light switches, even installed one or two,
unraveling ground and hot wires. Yet
I believe he walked away from his tomb,
easy to mistake for a laborer;
a man with nothing, still wounded in his
glory; a dead God made alive, roasting
fish at the lakeshore for his wayward friends.
It’s silly but, my love, I’m not ashamed. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

There is a simply splendid article in the current issue of PRO ECCLESIA...by Alvin Kimel. Kimel's argument is that the bread and wine don't "become" ("like") Christ; they are the way Jesus Christ is present in the world today. Just as the man Jesus was the walk-around-touchable-Christ-on-earth 2000 years ago, so now that same Christ is among us as bread and wine. Kimel speaks of "real identification" between the ascended Lord and the bread and wine. The article is mind-blowing in its requirement that we take seriously sacramental presence and time. I've studied this stuff for 30 years and this is one of the finest summaries I've seen. And I think, on this basis, that Kimel would say that the fraction is a hinderance to proper appreciation of the presence of Christ. - Dwight on Camassia's blog

We ;) while we can. There are lessons I have yet to learn for which tragedy may well be the only effective teacher. - Tom of Disputations

This time, I cried. - Pigeon Pi, on seeing TPOTC a second time.

Na, diese Beiden sind ja richtig empört! Sind wir von 40jährigen Prälaten gar nicht gewohnt... - blogger at Intelligam. I don't know what this means, but anything in German sounds so imperative that I thought I'd better include this.
Rev. P.J. Michel, S.J. Excerpt
How frequently, fearing the labor we encounter in fighting against our evil inclinations, we ask God to free us from them, but it would seem that the conditions are that He is to do all and it is to cost us nothing. We aspire to the miracle performed for a St. Paul. It sems as though we said: 'If this inclination be displeasing to God, why does He not deliver me from it? Why does He not change the feelings of my heart? He has changed others in a moment." Waiting for this miracle to be performed in our favor, we, meanwhile, do nothing ourselves, and do not heed the voice of God whispering to our soul. Such dispositions, as you must see, are not apt to draw down upon us the mercy of God. Whosoever expects to serve God without doing violence to himself, contradicts the words of Jesus Christ.

Others, again, are free from such foolish presumption, and are kept back in the path of virtue fromtheir over-anxiety about their difficulties, and from their deep conviction that they can in nothing obtain merit; their whole mind is absorbed by this, and their only petition to God is to change their state. They hesitate to follow the lights and pious inclinations which God gives them, because not finding in themselves the particular graces which they are bent upon obtaining, and which they persist in asking for, they fear they are deceive...Did they only profit by those graces, although not such as they asked for, they would soon obtain what they desire, but which they cannot expect so long as they resist God.

It is always from want of instruction, or from inattention to that which we have received, that we are led to form unreasonable expectations...There is no doubt that the Almighty can perform miracles, but He has promised them to no one. Therefore have we no reasonable right to expect them, either to help us in our wants or to guide us in our actions.

March 24, 2004

More Funny Blog Taglines

A week ago I linked to a blog that had "Fabulous since 1973. Blogging since 2003. Drinking since Noon." as her motto, obviously a classic.

Today I came across another goodie:
reflection. cleansing. booger jokes.

His html title at the top of the browser is even more hi-laire:

pure irony - curing ego through the narcissism of blogging
    attempting to remove character flaws by exposing them in a public forum.
NRO Excerptables
The human condition of Haiti grows ever more frantically desperate. It is not so much that the country is actually poorer in absolute terms than it was — for it was always very poor — or that (for example) the life expectancy of Haitians is much lower than before. The historically new quality of Haiti's desperation is the population's awareness of wealth and abundance elsewhere, thanks to the media of mass communication to which even the poorest people in the world now have access. If you read Haitian literature of the 20th century, it grows ever more angry and despairing as the century progresses, as the awareness that things could be different increases, although it is unlikely that poverty in the absolute actually worsened as the century progressed. If you look at the pictures of Haitians in our newspapers, they are better or more expensively dressed than they would have been years ago, but the human quality of their lives has declined catastrophically. Modernization without prosperity has transformed poverty into absolute misery. --ANTHONY DANIELS
Time travel is the pornography of eggheads. What reasonably well-read person wouldn't jump in the Wayback Machine if he could? You don't have to be a science-fiction geek to wonder what the day before yesterday looked and smelled and tasted like. Small wonder, then, that filmmakers love to turn back the clock, though they tend not to do it especially well, getting the surface spectacularly right (the best thing about Hollywood is its art directors) and the substance hopelessly wrong.
--TERRY TEACHOUT
From a review of "A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People:

Germans have contributed much more than their fair share to civilization but also to human misery. Gifted as so many individual Germans may have been, collectively they have provided a cautionary tale of how not to organize a society, a nation, and a state. Time and again, they have destroyed their lands and negated their achievements; time and again, some strong man has come to rescue them, only to leave worse carnage and numberless dead...

Much of what Ozment says is thoughtful, though his style sometimes makes for ambiguity or, worse, academic cuteness. But is this apologia true? Are Germans really victims rather than victimizers, and would they all have been Beethovens and Kants if only others had let them? To make his case, he omits evidence that doesn't suit. No mention of the Teutonic orders of knights whose attempts at colonizing eastern Europe survived as factors in the two world wars. No mention of the persecutions that drove Jews to flee to Poland. No mention of the burning of witches. One 15th-century paranoiac by the name of Jacob Sprenger was alone responsible for burning 500 witches in just one year. No mention of the genocide that pre-1914 Germany was practicing in its African colonies. --DAVID PRYCE-JONES
Oy vey...

Mark applies hammer to the nailhead in this post, leavened by a preface describing what a privilege it is to receive the sacraments.

I've been reading a few of the comments over on Amy's blog about the latest GRIM GIRM situation and it's cringe-inducing. The very folks most likely to be of the "offer it up" variety - i.e. old-fashioned, Douay-totin', Mass-as-a-sacrifice folks - are the least likely to sacrifice by listening to banjo-y music like "Eagle's Wings" at Mass. I don't like it either, and I don't like the holding hands or other theatrics, but one would think that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ would be enough to squelch the firestorm of minutiae this has apparently spawned.

Our priest is an exceptionally learned and noble monsignor who, frankly, doesn't belong at our parish. He's too smart and holy for us. (I think it's in reparation for our previous priest, but that's another story.) Anyway, he suffers with great dignity and merit through liturgies that...shall we say...aren't his cup o' tea, and I think better of him for it.

An old nun in 4th grade told it like it is. Just because you're not getting anything out of the music doesn't mean the person next to you isn't. And if you've been given a bad voice, sing anyway and let God know it! Bad taste is not a sin.

But I digress. We all have our little pressure points and mine are myriad, including TPOTC critics, pro-choice Catholics, and drivers who don't exactly share my assumptions on good driving (i.e. don't be driving 35 in a 40mph zone unless you're behind me).

I understand that 75% of blogging is complaining, aka venting, as this post is. (The word 'blog' comes from the Old English bloge meaning, 'to vetch, 'whine'.) So one has to take these (and this) with a grain of sand. (Or is it salt?)
Memories...

A few years ago I used to haunt the Catholic Convert bulletin board (it wasn't just for converts) and there was more erudition there than anywhere except when Tom dines alone.

Seriously, the board was top-notch. So I was glad when one of the old crew, MaryH of Ever New, started a similar bboard. Yesterday's discussion on sloth and humility was especially interesting and edifying.

March 23, 2004

Aquinas for the Democratic Age

Review of Hittinger's "Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace: Thomism and Democratic Political Theory":
One may surmise, therefore, that John Hittinger is an unusual kind of scholar who blends together Catholic, Straussian, and American concerns and who is driven by the intellectual challenge of finding a Thomistic justification for modern liberal democracy while possessing a keen awareness of the difficulties he faces.

The difficulties are evident in part one of his volume which begins with several chapters on the achievements of Jacques Maritain and Yves Simon. Hittinger clearly reveres these 20th-century Thomists, as well as the college professors from Notre Dame who introduced them to him as a young student. But Hittinger's reverence does not blind him to their shortcomings, as can be seen especially in chapter three, "Jacques Maritain's and Yves R. Simon's Use of Thomas Aquinas in Their Defense of Liberal Democracy."

In point of fact, Hittinger says, Thomas argued that the best regime is not a democracy but a mixed constitution which looks "something like constitutional monarchy." Hittinger concludes therefore that Simon's and Maritain's justification for liberal democracy is "not fully warranted by the texts of St. Thomas" and that their "advocacy of the democratic spirit and the sense of historical progress take Simon and Maritain well beyond the political philosophy of St. Thomas."
He's Retired, She's Working, They're Not Happy

When retirement ever after ist nicht zu gut.
No Time to Get Weak-Knee'd

Let's dedicate a few rosaries to Bud Macfarlane Jr. (see posts on Alicia's & Elena's & Two Sleepy Mommies' blogs) and fight weakness with (His) power. There sure aren't any guarantees in life.
Interesting Finds

I love the token conservative of the NY Times, David Brooks. He's like Atatürk's Turkey in a sea of Islamic republics:
But the more interesting phenomenon limned in Chappell's book is this: [Martin Luther] King had a more accurate view of political realities than his more secular liberal allies because he could draw on biblical wisdom about human nature. Religion didn't just make civil rights leaders stronger — it made them smarter.

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.

For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.
From a Laura Miller column:
Classicism comes in two flavors, and while supporters of American foreign policy like to compare America to Athens, those with reservations turn to Rome....The leaders of the American Revolution courted the Roman comparison. George Washington staged a performance of Joseph Addison's play ''Cato'' for his officers at Valley Forge, presumably to inspire them with the austere tragedy of a statesman willing to sacrifice all for the republic. The 18th century was the Augustan age, in which the Stoic virtues of discipline and self-control -- qualities the Romans, in turn, admired in the Spartans -- were prized above the raucous squabbling of democracy in the Greek mode. By 1863, as Garry Wills writes in ''Lincoln at Gettysburg,'' Romanticism had replaced the Stoic ideal with the Greek Revival, and Athens was no longer disdained for being ''ruled by mobs'' and ''anarchical.'' The transformation has lasted and affected more than politics, as a reading of ''Cato'' shows. In the play, Cato's two sons compete for the hand of a young woman. She prefers the ''graceful tenderness'' of one over the ardent, fiery ''vehemence'' of the other, which she regards with ''a secret kind of horror''; her choice seems bizarre now, in a time when overpowering passion is prized above all in matters of the heart.

Everyone wants to be the Greeks -- democratic if disorderly, cultured if impulsive. Nobody wants to be the Romans, with their well-oiled war machine, their vaunted sobriety and their frank imperial ambitions. But even in books intent on characterizing contemporary America as either one, it's possible to find as many differences as similarities.
Thomas Hibbs on Schindler's List (perhaps a weakness of TPOTC was the depiction of the Roman soliders, who are also at "too great a remove" from the typical viewer.)
Some have objected that Oskar Schindler represents the banality of goodness, an ordinary businessman with little apparent interior life who manages to do the right thing and save many Polish Jews from the gas chambers...Yet the film succeeds at doing what historical art aims to do: educate our minds, inform our memories, and foster appropriate sympathy, revulsion, sorrow, and admiration. What is most instructive about Schindler is not just his ordinariness, but the way his entrepreneurial opportunism, his mundane desire for profit, and his willingness to use bribes and other illegal means of persuasion kept him from being swept up into the camp of German true believers and provided him with the skills and habits to engage in systematic deception of German officials.

The real weakness of Schindler's List is not in the character of Schindler but in that of Goeth, an unhinged psychopath whose intoxicated sadism puts him at too great a remove from the viewer, who is apt to come away identifying the evil of the Nazis with simple madness. In an illuminating suggestion, the philosopher Gillian Rose proposed that a certain conception of an "ethic of service," captured effectively in the film The Remains of the Day (1993), could implicate ordinary human beings in the Nazi system.
Jonah Goldberg on the CORNER:
The fact that Al Qaeda is calling for revenge for Yassin's killing demonstrates how wars cause everyone to choose sides. That's how wars work. Much like Qaeda's interest in American failure in Iraq, it was in evitable that the terrorist group most dedicated to destroying one democracy would would become a natural ally for the terrorist group dedicated to destroying us. This doesn't mean that there's active cooperation between the two organizations. But it does mean that al Qaeda understands that Hamas sympathizers are natural recruits to be al Qaeda sympathizers. Opponents of America's friendship to Israel will no doubt claim that this opportunistic joining of forces -- at least rhetorically -- could have been avoided if we took the position that Israel's fate is of no concern to us whatsoever. But if that doesn't fit Churchill's definition of appeasement -- i.e. feeding your friends to the alligator in the hope he'll feed you last -- I don't what does.
TPOTC still resonates... the scene of the God-Man kissing his cross suddenly becomes Him kissing us - for the cross was just a means to an end - our salvation.

Another scene that lingers is where a soldier lances his side and the blood and water are caught by the wind and sprays everyone, including a Roman who immediately kneels in conversion. Matter - even matter that induces squeamishness like blood - has been transfigured.

*

Deliver me O Lord from perversions like
thinking it arrogant of me
that you hear my prayer.

March 22, 2004

Left Field Bleachers

Amy's been on a roll lately.
Yassin

NY Times columnist Tom Friedman said on Imus's little show that the Israeli assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin is a logical and rational response, given what this Hamas kingpin has done to Israel, but it will also surely lead to more suicide bombers. Which makes it seem less logical and rational, at least to the extent killing can ever be seen as rational.

What works with terrorism? Appeasement doesn't appear to. Friedman said that when Sharon began moving out of the Gaza Strip due to demographic problems (i.e. soon there will be more Palestinians than Israelis), Hamas took and received credit for it. Hamas filled the power vacuum that was left by the dismantling of Yassir Arafat & his gang. Talk about going from bad to worse.

But "tit-for-tat" doesn't work either. Israel responds to violence, then the Palestinians do the same, endlessly. Responding to terror begets more terror.

Personally, I was always glad that Bush Sr. & Clinton were soft on terrorism and blew up empty tents in the desert in response to various and sundry bombings because once you engage this enemy, it's Northern Ireland all over again. But 9/11 was a whole new ballgame. At that point, "we don't want to play" became, "you will play". The threshold of "acceptable casualties" was outrageously exceeded and we've done what we've had to, although Iraq seems to be a bad deal given the absence of WMDs.

But how do you win a war against terrorism when responding to terror creates a new generation of martyrs? The old rules -- two armies facing each other on a field of combat -- now look as quaint as if disputes were settled by playing a game of chess. The only way to win against terror is to turn terror states into democracies, as this Administration is attempting. And that is far more challenging than engaging in appeasement or 'tit for tat'.

*
Update: I put the Bone update/writing jag post here.
Inspired by Steven Riddle's post today.... so let's play....

Why Does My Workout Bag Weigh 300 lbs?

Running late, I put my pre-loaded bookbag in the workout bag and now it weighs more than Dom Deluise.

* Pure Clear Light: A Novel by Madeleine St. John
* Guide to the Passion - Ascension Press
* Last Days of Pompeii - Lytton
* The Miracle Detective - Sullivan
* Getting it Right - William F. Buckley novel
* Julian the Apostate - Ricciotti
* Path to Rome - Belloc
* Founding Father - Washington bio by Brookhiser
* The Moviegoer - Percy, this big seller is ironically the only fiction book of his I haven't read.

March 21, 2004

NY Times essayist says folks are more honest on the web.
Excavating Books

From today's Dispatch on the NY Review of Books Classics series:
"The series grew out of a catalog I was editing of books in print," [Edwin] Frank said. "It was broken down into categories such as ‘Italian Literature,’ and I noticed there wasn’t a single book in print by Alberto Moravia.

"That gave me a sense that there was a hole (in publishing) that could be filled."

And fill it his series has, with two titles by Moravia (Boredom and Contempt) as well as with little-known books by under-appreciated writers such as J.R. Ackerley, Joyce Cary, Richard Hughes, Mavis Gallant and J.F. Powers.

Universities concentrate, understandably, on teaching canonical works, tested by time and deemed the greatest achievements in literature. But that sort of vetting can crush lighter, more delicate pieces.

"In college today you’ll read a lot of Virginia Woolf. Of course Virginia Woolf was a remarkable writer, but she was also a remarkable modernist writer, and that is how she’s taught, as a modernist," Frank said.

"There are a lot of books on our list that are modern, but not modernist, and for that reason they tend to get passed over. Richard Hughes’ "A High Wind in Jamaica" is electrifying in its own right. It could only be a 20th-century book, but it doesn’t fit into any of the categories."

Many of the books in the series have had, at one time or another, cult followings. Dog lovers, for instance, have long pointed to Ackerley’s "My Dog Tulip" as one of the very best books ever written on the relationship between man and canine.

Other books, such as Hughes’ "A High Wind in Jamaica", were vastly popular when published, but then almost entirely forgotten — for decades — until Frank or one of his army of suggesters unearthed it and made it a part of the series.

"The picking process is still headed by me," he said. "I’m a committee of one. But I solicit suggestions from our contributors and readers. Probably my biggest resource is the used-book store."

The used-book store is a place, Frank said, where decade-by-decade fashions in literature "overlap and rub shoulders."

*
Dream fluently, still brothers, who when young
Took with your mother’s milk the mother tongue,
In which pure matrix, joining world and mind,
You strove to leave some line of verse behind
Like still fresh tracks across a field of snow
Not reckoning that all could melt and go. — To the Etruscan Poets, Richard Wilbur

--Bill Eichenberger
NCAAs

I'm glad St. Joseph's won yesterday but it would've been nice if they'd played and won on their patron's feast day.
Why why is important

Interesting comment from Rod Dreher on Amy's blog:
As George and Amy point out, something went seriously wrong in that generation before the Council, else we wouldn't have had such a rapid and complete collapse. I think what George means by "rule-based formation" is the old model of being told what to believe without it being explained to one. The first priest to do my personal instruction (I bailed on RCIA because it had zero content, and was all about feeling good about Jesus) was an elderly Irishman formed in that system. I appreciated him at first because he cared about doctrine. But I quickly saw that he was unable to explain in any depth why the Church taught what it did. He thought it was sufficient to say, "Look, here's what the Church teaches, accept it if you want to, or reject it, but here's the deal." You can imagine how frustrating that was for somebody like me, who had great sympathy for the Church, but really wanted to know where this doctrine comes from. Yet I don't feel harshly toward this good priest. That was how he was raised.

I'm thinking that a lot of folks in that Conciliar generation were never taught the deeper reason why the Church teaches what it teaches, and when confronted with a culture, but within the Church and outside it, that forcefully challenged the Church ... found that they couldn't withstand the blast.

Let me find a political analogy, and see if that helps. I wrote a cover story for Natl Review that examined in part why the Netherlands went from being one of the most religious and conservative countries in Europe to being the most secular and liberal in a single generation. In a nutshell, it's like this: the Dutch are a strongly consensus-oriented people, very averse to conflict. In the 19th-c., leaders of the three blocs in the country -- the Protestants, the Catholics and the Socialists/secularists -- got together and worked out a power-sharing system, called "pillarization." The idea was that the country rested on three pillars, and that maintaining social and political unity depended on everyone trusting the leadership and falling into line. Disputes were worked out at the top, and everybody stayed in their own little pillar. They even had Catholic grocery stores, Catholic soccer teams, etc. Everybody stayed in his own pillar, and got along fine.

The Second World War broke all that up, and by the time the 1960s came, people began to question why they were still living according to pillarization, and all that entailed (esp. religious devotion). The leaders had no answer for them. And lacking the ability to articulate why it was impt to live this way, the old order collapsed. People had ceased to believe in it, because at some point they had grown comfortable in their belief that the world would always be the way they arranged it.

Holland has never recovered. And because the Dutch are strongly consensus-oriented, when the leadership stopped being able or willing to articulate its raison d'etre, the people crumbled too.

I think that dynamic may explain a lot of why the Church collapsed as it did post-Vatican II, even though in America, the 1950s were a golden age.
Heaven on Earth

The preternatural joy of the Byzantine Catholic liturgy is amazing. I've been to a few Latin Masses and numberless post-Vatican II Masses, but there is something special about the Byzantine liturgy that I can't put my finger on. There is a childlike quality, a recognition of our creatureliness that doesn't seem to come through elsewhere.

The congregation is special too. Services last 90-100 minutes but no one leaves early. There is a reluctance to leave the pews afterwards. I find it in myself too, I "verweile doch" (German for 'linger awhile') among the icons. On the walk out to the parking lot the sidewalk is single file. Many elderly with canes walk very slowly, but no one passes them, not even the children. I don't see any "don't walk on the grass" signs but perhaps rules aren't needed for this patch of heaven on earth.

March 20, 2004

Check it out...

This bboard is an excellent idea.
Rural Ireland


March 19, 2004

Words to Live by

"There's nothing to be gained by getting to the top of the pile if that pile is a pile of crap." -- Ham of Bone
St. Cyril of Jerusalem

St. Cyril is a relatively new discoveree for me, aided and abetted by one Kathy of Gospel Minefield. His 4th century words seem to come to life:
"Keep this faith ever by your side to help you on your way and close your ears and have nothing to do with any other, even if I myself should change my allegiance and preach another faith to you or an angel of darkness be transformed into an angel of light to lead you into error...
There Goes My Life

Nice country song illustrates death to self as the way to life.

March 18, 2004

Interesting article on Garrison Keillor.
Another Belloc Excerpt
With that wish came in a puzzling thought, very proper to a pilgrimage, which was: 'What do men mean by the desire to be dissolved and to enjoy the spirit free and without attachments?' That many men have so desired there can be no doubt, and the best men, whose holiness one recognizes at once, tell us that the joys of the soul are incomparably higher than those of the living man. In India, moreover, there are great numbers of men who do the most fantastic things with the object of thus unprisoning the soul, and Milton talks of the same thing with evident conviction, and the Saints all praise it in chorus. But what is it? For my part I cannot understand so much as the meaning of the words, for every pleasure I know comes from an intimate union between my body and my very human mind, which last receives, confirms, revives, and can summon up again what my body has experienced. Of pleasures, however, in which my senses have had no part I know nothing, so I have determined to take them upon trust and see whether they could make the matter clearer in Rome.
Lightning Round

Read excellent article about sloth here, if not too tired. Link via Bill of Random Notes.

It ne'er gets old.

Best blog award. (But decidedly untrue of Mark's instructive Minute Particulars.)

Here is Belloc answering an imagined book/blog critic in his magisterial "Path to Rome":
"LECTOR. Pray dwell less on your religion, and—

AUCTOR. Pray take books as you find them, and treat travel as travel. For you, when you go to a foreign country, see nothing but what you expect to see. But I am astonished at a thousand accidents, and always find things twenty-fold as great as I supposed they would be, and far more curious; the whole covered by a strange light of adventure. And that is the peculiar value of this book. "
Pondering Aloud

One of the things about blogging that naturally occurs is that there are any number of people who know more than us as well as any number who know less.

The problem is that we do not know what we do not know (reminds me of the Dilbert cartoon in which the boss asks for a list of all the unknowns). Not only is there an unequal distribution of correct vision, but there are important things we must make decisions concerning that no one knows, because the Lord hasn't told us. We look through the glass darkly.

But need this be a recipe for paralysis? Should we fail to offer an opinion or vision on the assumption that our opinion or vision may be flawed (absent some private revelation)?

"Ideological Conservatism", "Non-Ideological Liberalism" and Other Oxymorons

Joe Perez says that "spirituality focuses the attention on the inner life, personal growth, and living from the heart and soul rather than simply the head and mouth. It's less ideological and more driven by a psychological and mystical attitude towards life. This is a liberal religious perspective that's not easy to fit into blogging, so there are fewer folks doing so."

But I don't see liberals as more into spirituality than conservatives; there are plenty of interiorly-focused orthodox bloggers who post prayers and religious icons and snippets of sermons and there is nothing more mystical than believing in the Real Presence. It's mystical to believe that Church doctrine is protected from error. And it's not true that liberals aren't ideological; it's as a backlash to their ideologies that conservatives appear ideological. Orthodoxy should be non-ideological since it's supposed to be about what we've received rather than generated ourselves. The fact that conservatives are against ordaining women, for example, isn't ideological but obedience to the Holy See (and the Pope might say that he is restrained by the example Jesus provided, among other things).

Personally, I don't see the great mystery behind the presence of so many conservative blogs. Orthodoxy is the Zeitgeist of the age. If the internet was big in the 1960s, does anyone doubt that St. Blog's would look like a liberal's damp dream? It simply reflects the fact that conservatism and orthodoxy are fashionable now (partially as a result of a backlash to what obviously didn't work in the '60s and '70s).

True conservatism is supposed to be an absence of ideology, something we should strive for even while rarely attaining it. Of politics Tony Blankley wrote, "The concept of radical conservatism ought to seem oxymoronic. Only a generation ago, conservatives could credibly argue that conservatism constituted the absence of ideology. Conservatives used to argue that liberalism (even 19th century non-socialist liberalism) was fatally flawed because it exalted contemporary created ideas over the long-evolving institutional wisdom of our civilization. It is a measure of the success of modern, ideological conservatism that the phrase radical conservatism seems to make sense. And it is a substantial part of The American Conservative's mission to try to yank back the conservative designation from a movement that has morphed from Bill Buckley's Catholic, principled conservatism into a collection of radical ambitions and schemes -- some of which may be vitally needed, but arguably are not conservative."
Around the World in Eighty Blogs!

Thomas is back...I hope he won't mind if I don't change my template just yet.

March 17, 2004

Most Ironical Spam Subject Headers
    (all are actual subject headers, found in today's spam catch)

-- "info" (odds are good this spam will contain no useful info)
-- "My friend" (a spammer is to a friend what an axe murderer is to Mother Teresa)
-- "crucial herball clinic" ('crucial herbal clinic' is an oxymoron)
-- "Become popular finally" (like you Mr. Spammer?)
-- "buy origanal looking Rolex watches" (like the way you spell 'original'?)
-- "u wont regret" (I already have)
-- "Fwd: You have to check this out!"
-- "as seen on Dateline"

Least Ironic
"" ([i.e. no subject header])
Mysteries Without End

My wife has a very close friend who is a professional court-goer. At least that's what it seems. After a bitter divorce, she's been fighting to keep custody of her now eight-year old child for seeming ever.

She's recently asked my wife to take off work and fly to Chicago to show support by showing the judge that someone is friend enough to take off work and fly to Chicago and show her support.

This interests me on several levels. One is how to determine what is reasonable and what is unreasonable in a friend's request. My wife asked me and I said lamely that only she could make that determination. Would a whole week be reasonable? Would taking three vacation days be reasonable? Bone and Cal and I error on the side of hardly making requests at all, which I think is a typical "guy thing" (asking-directions-as-a-sign-of-weakness syndrome). Men don't make demands because they are more likely to fall prey to the cult of self-reliance and because part of the joy of having a male friend, as opposed to a wife, is the former doesn't make demands and the latter makes a plethora of demands. (My wife excluded, of course.)

So there's that.

The second level of interest for me is why "support" in the form of a warm body is necessary. Personally I'd be a lot more inclined to go if she'd said, "I want you to go because I don't want to go through this alone" rather than this b-s about impressing a judge.

I can scarcely comprehend that we have a system where you can lose custody of your child unless you drag a friend four hundred miles away to court. I can't comprehend that my wife's friend has been a bad enough mother (which she most certainly hasn't) that my wife's presence could be decisive. The whole thing smacks of mystery; why can't the court can't make up its mind? Their custody battles drag on longer than most death penalty cases.

I should mention that both my wife's friend and her ex-husband are exceptionally high income-earners and together have spent close to the gross national product of Bolivia on attorney fees.
Dane-geld?

Derbyshire posted Kipling's verse in response to the Spain elections.
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts
The only good thing about reading The DaVinci Code I can think of is that it isn't Atlas Shrugged. - Tom of Disputations

If we wish to know the force of human genius, we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning, we may study his commentators. - William Hazlitt

A possible tip-off may have been the uniqueness of millionaires shopping at Wal-Mart. - Michelle of "And Then?" on news that a Georgia woman tried to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at Wal-Mart.

"When the idea of 'rational sufficiency' first reared its head clearly in a Christian society, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Christian soul felt an immediate shock of horror, as faced with the concupiscence of the mind which was the completion of original sin." -- Henry Card. DeLubac.... DeLubac was talking about the slight theological aberrations which encouraged the subsequent 15th century heresy of Louvain theologian Michel du Bay who basically claimed that unfallen man could reach beatitude without the assistance of grace. The whole book is a study of how late Medieval theologians are in part responsible for the genesis of philosophies which made atheism plausible for the first time in history. Well, that's actually a "byproduct" of the study, which is about a more technical issue in the nature / grace debate and the havoc it caused when handled incorrectly. It's the kind of book that makes you want to run screaming from the practice of theology, lest you screw something up and generate a monstrous ideology. DeLubac shows how many brilliant men with good intentions ended up having a hand, most unwittingly, in some devasting intellectual movements. -Old Oligarch

I have to say that I had a rather benign, albeit irritated attitude towards the novel until I started really researching some things - like the art. I saw that almost everything Brown says about Leonardo and his art is wrong, with the truth easily found in 5 minutes of Googling, and, for more substantive evidence, in 15 minutes in the library. Wrong - not just interpreted an a unique way - but simply wrong. I was actually rather shocked. Stupidity? Brazen? Cojones? I can't judge, that's for sure, but....no wonder he's no longer giving interviews. - Amy Welborn

Churches traditionally have often overdone it on the guilt so there's kind of a backlash in the more liberal denominations. But guilt is part of being human, unless you're a sociopath. Martin Luther wrote that the realization that God forgives you is what inspires good works to begin with. Otherwise they become an onerous task, because you're never going to be perfect at them. - Camassia

I once heard the great philosopher Alistair MacIntyre say of one of JP II's encyclicals on moral thought, "Veritatis Splendor," that it was the deepest and most subtle philosophical meditation on truth since Kierkegaard. - Michael Novak on NRO

The real reasons are far more sinister: first, html software is specifically designed to block caring, other-oriented language that is respectful of the marginalized. Second, blogging manuals are kept in a locked archive in the Vatican. Third, the wimples worn by women religious were designed by male hierarchs to impede their peripheral vision so they couldn't find the "enter" key on their laptops. The consequences are inevitable. -- Diogenes, via Domenico Bettinelli, via Don of Mixolydian Mode answering Commonweal's query on why there are so few liberal religious sister's blogs

Fr. Whitt argued against a carrot-and-stick understanding of the prayer, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." Forgiveness that is conditional, he said, isn't forgiveness. God doesn't say, "I'll forgive you if you forgive these others," which is more of a taunt than an expression of mercy. Rather, our failure to forgive is one of the things we need to be forgiven, and only the forgiving can receive the forgiveness God bestows on everyone. -Tom of Disputations

President Bush is not a Roman Catholic. I thought that was common knowledge but a few of my fellow bloggers in St. Blog's Parish seem to feel that George W. should hold to the same Catholic ideology and moral beliefs that they do! (It's interesting that the "progressives" hold George W to these standards unconsciously, while at the same time exempting themselves from Catholic beliefs winillynill as they choose..) --Elena of "My Domestic Church"

A Nation Under Lawyers? - title of post by William of "The Catholic Book Collector"

About the works and salvation thing...it's like this... Somehow my 8 and 10 year olds had never jumped rope before so they each got one for Christmas. When they first tried it they swung the rope around with such force that it slammed into the ground a second after they had jumped. They both seemed to take this approach at first and they both failed many times. Finally, after trying to give them tips I showed them how to swing the rope in more relaxed way. When they tried it - it worked! They had to learn to cooperate with the physics. I think our efforts work best when we let grace do it job. :) -MaryH at Ever New

When the Faith is restored, the Holy Office will shut "St. Blogs" down. -Sulpicius Severus of the Catacombs

For Aquinas, "the Son is not punished by the Father, but tormented by men; and it is not his suffering in and by itself that makes satisfaction but the loving obedience with which he endures the suffering inflicted on him." -Fr. Terry on Camassia's blog

I lost my innocence by attending school. It doesn't matter that it was a Catholic School or that my mother was sending me there at great expense. The school and its environment choked out of me the early innocence and pure faith that I had had as a young child and I didn't get that faith back until I was in my 30s and then after great difficulty and hardship....You just can't be immersed in your equally immature peer group that long without losing that innocence. Couple that with dissident and heretical teachings i.e. "It's Ok to have sex outside of marriage as long as you are committed to each other." (uh right. A brother at my Catholic High School told me that one in religion class one day,) and you have the recipe for cynicism. And this is why we chose to homeschool folks. -Elena of "My Domestic Church"
Special St. Patrick's Day Edition

Limerick
I once had a box full o' spam
interspersed with emails from Pam
I deleted too much
without meaning such
and now I'm in a bit o' a jam!


Foreign Leaders Support This Blog!
Mary McAleese, President of Ireland : "Mo sheacht ngrá thú!"
Cicero: "I applaud any blog that quotes my countryman Ovid."
Boutrous Boutrous Gali: "From a long-named man to a long-named blog - I salute you!"
Vladimir Putin: "Nyet!" (translated meaning, "I read him daily between my morning vodka and afternoon briefing on American progress tracing Saddam's oil contracts..")

....But of course you can't please everyone.....

Jacques Chirac: "It is not true that I profited from Mr. O'Rama in the 'Oil for Blog Posts' program."
Gerhard Schroeder: "I feel about him the way I feel about flat American bier."
Prime Minister Chretien: "I prefer Ono's blog."


O Tommy Boy

...the pipes, the pipes are callin'....from glen to glen and to the streets downtown....for I must go to Veteran's Memorial and drink a Guinness...

Oh to be a piper on St. Patrick's Day.


March 16, 2004

According, therefore, to the measure of one's faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God's name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.
Tidbits from Ronald Witherup's "Bible Companion" ...which will probably strike my readers, who are far more theologically astute than me, as obvious
The danger is that we will try to force the OT into a preconceived Christian mold that does an injustice to it. It is unacceptable, for example, to think of the God of the OT as a vengeful God whereas the God of the NT is all loving. God is often portrayed in the OT as incredibly patient and understanding despite Israel's stubbornness and failings, and the NT contains many references to judgment and eternal punishment that must be placed into the total picture of its message...There is a back-forth flow between them that will remain somewhat mysterious, yet we will be able to appreciate both testaments uniquely for what they say about God and God's relationship with humanity.

*
Because God's message applies to all times, and not simply to our own, the interpretation of any passage in a given era might be different from previous or later interpretations.

*
The Bible basically provides a means measure the quality and direction of our lives....The canon provides a moral measure of how we stack up against God's expectations.

*
In each instance [of the OT], the covenant [creation, Noah's, Abraham's, Moses', David's] is violated by people. They sin, and God threatens and punishes. But a few good souls always remain with whom God can begin again. And so the pattern continues...until the NT era.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, Christians believe that God has changed the pattern. The NT perspective on salvation history is that in Jesus Christ God has acted definitively with a "new covenant" that can never end. Now, because Jesus' obedience to God's will was perfect, there can be no other covenants. There is no longer need for the pattern to continue in exactly the same fashion. Instead, salvation has been assured in the person of Jesus Christ. But those who believe in him are expected to live out salvation by lives that reflect it. The NT thus does not envision a lad back view of salvation history as if God has done it all, with the result that we human beings need do nothing else.
I've struggled with this concept of differences between different eras, but, of course, God can do anything he wants. To be born in this era of grace, I'm sure Martha would say, is a good thing, and ought to lead to a greater spirit of thankfulness and praise. Everything I've learned from God I've had to re-learn. Many times.
Novak on John Paul the Great
I once heard the great philosopher Alistair MacIntyre say of one of JP II's encyclicals on moral thought, "Veritatis Splendor," that it was the deepest and most subtle philosophical meditation on truth since Kierkegaard. "Centesimus Annus" is the greatest work among all papal letters on the free society, cultural, economic, and political; add his companion encyclicals, "Laborem Exercens" and "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," and you have the most distinguished body of reflections on the social and economic order produced by any religious body in any time. His path-breaking discourses on the theology of the human body may be the so far least noted of the bombshells he has left for future generations to unpack.

A priest friend of mine who is no admirer of Pope John Paul II at all, ...told me some years ago that he prayed every day that the pope will go soon to the heavenly destination he has devoutly longed for. My priest friend describes himself as a progressive Catholic, and the church of his romantic dreams he describes as the "Vatican II church." Every day that John Paul II's clear memory of Vatican II, at which as a young bishop (then archbishop) he was a leader, replaces those romantic illusions with a more accurate and rigorous reading, my priest friend dies a little.

"Father Dick," I want to tell him, "It's okay. You're not losing an illusion, you're gaining a more vigorous reality. Buck up! Look at what the world has gained these last 25-plus years! Promise you, he's not likely to live more than 17 more years, when he reaches 100."

Then I imagine 100,000 Poles singing in unison: "Stolat! Stolat! May you live 100 years!"