August 31, 2005

Don't Go Out a Drinkin' With Text-Messaging On Your Mind

This Columbus Dispatch story warns against text-messaging and drinking:
Drinking and text-messaging don’t mix. Just ask Kiki Valdes, 24, a Miami artist. He still regrets sending under-the-influence text messages on his cell phone to a young woman he courted while in college...

The combination of technology and inebriation can be socially destructive, said Lee Rainie, the director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit group that studies the social effects of the Internet.

‘‘You’re not looking anybody in the face," he said. ‘‘There is a social distancing that makes you say things you wouldn’t say to their face."

Social scientists call it mechanomorphism: You get so used to communicating electronically that you start to treat people like, well, machines. Add alcohol to the mix and it can be embarrassing or even just plain mean.

"With texts, we tend to be more abrupt. We tend to be terse and some people interpret that as being insulting," said Scott Shamp, director of the New Media Institute at the University of Georgia, who studies how college students use text messages.
The Blogroll Algorithm

From my Aquinas side comes the desire to systematize the unsystematizeable, so I've been trying to come up with a blogroll algorithm. At the risk of taking this whole blogging thing too seriously (oh why pretend, I've already gone down that road) here is a rough draft:
If total points =
< 3: small chance
3-4: moderate chance
4-5: excellent chance
> 5: no-brainer
1) I enjoy reading the blogger: 5 points
2) Blogger is effective at communicating a Catholic view of the world: 3 points
3) Blogger asks for a reciprocal link**: 5 points
4) Blogger links to me via a long list: 1 point
5) Blogger links to me on a short list: 3 points*
6) Blogger is doctrinally dangerous = -3 points

* -   Note: This shows an admirable lack of concern over what others think since they aren't embarrassed to be seen blatantly linking to this blog. There are snobs among St. Blog's and it's no surprise that not one of them links to this blog, though that could be circular reasoning on my part. :-) And in fairness snobs like reading other snobs, so one could say they come by their blogroll honestly and aren't necessarily involved in social climbing.

** -   assuming reasonable content
__

The blogroll is by no means is complete (I just noticed today that I didn't link to Cowpi Journal despite being under the impression that all this time I had--I use bookmarks and not my own blog to hit links). And what complicates the algorithm is there are questions that apply only to one link - for example, I almost never read Mark Shea's blog (love his books!) and he doesn't link to me, so I had to add question 2 above to explain his linkage. Also I automatically link to anyone who asks since that's happened exactly once in this blog's history (not counting Mr. Viagra) -- hence question 3.
Recovery

Michelle Malkin has a thorough post on charitable efforts, including a list of charities bloggers are supporting. A good mix is Catholic Charities and the American Red Cross since the Red Cross serves immediate needs and Catholic Charities serves longer term needs:
While local agencies along the Gulf Coast anticipate that they will be provide some type of emergency assistance in their communities, Catholic Charities' niche in disaster relief is to provide long-term recovery work. In fact, Catholic Charities agencies in Florida are still providing services to help people recover from last year's devastating hurricanes.
Also, just learned that EWTN's Raymond Arroyo lost his home & family restaurant.
Songs for a Wednesday

Tom has the Thomism blues, which inspired me to try to come up with a song for Thomists. First I was thinking along the lines of "What's the matter with Thomists? They're all right-" to the tune "What's the matter with Flintstone?". Then I thought why not play with the lyrics to Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man"? It looked easier on paper so here's only the first two lines:
Sometimes it's hard to be a Thomist
Reading the scholastics instead of Drudge...
You Can't Get There From Here



Given that the media exists in order to hype, it was only late last night that I started to believe just how bad this disaster is. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the level of destruction suggests Katrina is going to be the worst storm since the turn of the last century, worse than even Hurricane Hugo or Andrew for example.

Last year, before a visit to the Big Easy, I recall reading this shudder-inducing scenerio of a hurricane slamming New Orleans. And while it's a relief it doesn't seem as bad as this article portended (it predicted thousands of lives lost) [Update: or maybe not], it seems to have missed the possibility of a levee breaking and water flooding via Lake Pontchatrain. Who would've thought that the worse problem would not be the hurricane itself but the levee breaking? (Though obviously the former was the cause of the latter.)

As for Biloxi, it's hard to imagine them getting hit any worse. It was a Cat 4 and not Cat 5 storm but it feels academic at this point. Looking out at the extremely wet weather here in Central Ohio makes the storm is easy to personify; she has traveled eight hundred miles. It makes tangible our physical interconnectedness.

Here's an excerpt from National Geographic's doomsday scenerio from a year ago:
Thousands drowned in the murky brew that was soon contaminated by sewage and industrial waste...When did this calamity happen? It hasn't—yet. But the doomsday scenario is not far-fetched. The Federal Emergency Management Agency lists a hurricane strike on New Orleans as one of the most dire threats to the nation, up there with a large earthquake in California or a terrorist attack on New York City. Even the Red Cross no longer opens hurricane shelters in the city, claiming the risk to its workers is too great.

"The killer for Louisiana is a Category Three storm at 72 hours before landfall that becomes a Category Four at 48 hours and a Category Five at 24 hours—coming from the worst direction," says Joe Suhayda, a retired coastal engineer at Louisiana State University who has spent 30 years studying the coast... "I don't think people realize how precarious we are," Suhayda says, watching sailboats glide by. "Our technology is great when it works. But when it fails, it's going to make things much worse."
UPDATE: I can not get my head around this. I can't get my head around a city being closed for a month (or longer). I can no more get my head around this than I could around the destruction wreaked by the terrorists after 9/11. It's too big. They say as you get older you lose some of your capacity for surprise since you have seen so much more, but I am just so surprised at seeing 80% New Orleans under water and hearing the words "New Orleans is closed".

August 30, 2005

Not Sure Whether to Laugh or Cry

I shouldn't laugh, but this is funny. RCIA itself, given its sad state at many parishes, might serve as both initiation and goodbye. (I speak from personal knowledge; a co-worker's relapse back into the Church was going well until the utter insensitivity of the leader of RCIA helped provoke a re-relapse.)

Anyway, as for a ritualistic song of depature, I've always been partial to "Goodbye Ladies", the song we sing at family gatherings when someone is eliminated from a card game (substituting the person's name for 'ladies' of course).
    

"And God Said, 'Play Ball: Amusing And Thought-provoking Parallels Between The Bible And Baseball'" - Gary Graf - from blog "People of the Book", listing the tenth best selling Catholic book

His wife, wearing a Bourbon Street T-shirt with a lewd message, interjected: "I just don't want to die in this shirt." - from AP story on Hurricane Katrina, via Dawn Eden

Do you remember your First Confession? I do...and despite everything the nuns and priests told me, I was scared! But afterward -- today I saw 10 kids seemingly float out of the confessional, eager as anything to fly to the Tabernacle and pray their penance. One little girl summed it up for me: "I'm so much lighter now!"... Yup. Sin's a heavy thing, a shackle that keeps one as enslaved as the Israelites in Egypt. Only reconcilation to Jesus -- via the Sacrament -- can set us free. - The Pew Lady

About Schmidt: Look, I grew up in Palo Alto, California, and go through a tin of flavored hummus a day, but the sneering condescension that pervades every shot in this film had me yelling to my friends about the elitist values of Hollywood on the way out of the theater. Oh, look at those poor people in Omaha with their bleak, meaningless lives. I've heard people talk about how sympathetic this movie was, but is there one character who isn't presented as either an asshole or a desperate loser? - emailer quoted on Terry Teachout's blog. Teachout's co-blogger comments: "I was fully prepared to like Schmidt. I loathed it...And yet I suspect that the tonal difference between this film and Election was a matter of millimeters—millimeters that just happened to fall across some crucial line separating lampoon from contempt."

During the recent sex abuse scandals, many were amazed to discover that the bishops – advised by the science of professional psychology – believed predatory gay sex with teenagers was a curable disease. Today, we shake our heads and opine wisely, “That kind of activity is incurable, you know.” Actually, we are wrong and the bishops were right. While it may well be true that modern science finds pedophiliacs and predatory gays incurable, it is not the case that pedophilia or homosexuality are incurable. They can be cured, they just can’t be cured with the tools of modern science. The bishops’ error lay not in thinking these conditions curable, but in thinking the cure lay in modern science. It didn’t. - Steve of "Fifth Column"

The reason why we sometimes see beauty as a detraction from God is because of pride and conscupiscience. The reason why we don't see the radiance of being or, the splendor of value is because we have made ourselves and our pleasure the existential center rather than God. That is why some may rather read a good theological book rather than being with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. If we give each value its proper value-response, we should recognize its splendor the way it is intended. Since God is the source of all values, we must give Him admiration and reverence, the mother of all virtues. - commenter on Disputations

According to Martin Luther, faith alone saves. In his sermons, he insisted that we can commit adultery one hundred times a day and still be saved, as long as we had faith...But that’s just bad theology. Faith doesn’t save, marriage saves. Faith is a product of marriage. Faith comes from trusting the Bridegroom and remaining faithful to Him. Faithful living is what you do after you take the vows. - Steve of "Fifth Column"

We live in the shadows of bad mid-century exegesis, which was divorced from both traditional commentaries on Scripture and the rule of faith, but well-versed in the past two centuries' philological advances and the findings of comparative near Eastern studies. A typical feature of modernist exegesis is premature imputation of sinful motivations when they are not there. This tendency is the pendulum swinging the other way in reaction to the opposite tendency in 18th & 19th century traditional exegesis: namely, the tendency to gloss over the sinfulness of the holier figures in Scripture, and to stretch these pietistic interpretations beyond textual warrant...It's part of the reason why reading the New Jerome Bible Commentary can be as factually enlightening as it is dogmatically sterile...So often, a morally superior reading is neglected because it is often more difficult or slightly more obscure, and the hearty bread of the Word of God is watered down into porridge. - Old Oligarch

[That] brings to mind a source of growing irritation for me: the talk of grace being “free.” For one thing, when evangelicals use it it often sounds like a sales pitch (”… and the best part of it is, it’s all absolutely FREE!”). But more importantly, it isn’t really true. Grace is a free gift, see, but you have to choose to receive it, which means giving over your life, your possessions, and everything else to God. It might even mean martyrdom. It might be worth the cost, but it’s not like it doesn’t cost anything. It has already cost me some things. When I think it over though, the problem might be in interpreting the word “grace”, which comes from Latin gratia, meaning “gift.” Gifts are free in the sense that you don’t pay money for them; but they aren’t free in the sense of a “free lunch” or “something for nothing.” Think of the context which gifts occur. A date gives you flowers. A dinner guest gives you a bottle of wine. Your mother gives you a Christmas present. Your estranged spouse gives you a peace offering. All of these people are giving in the sense that they don’t demand payment, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want anything. They want to have a relationship with you. And relationships, as we know, have costs. - Camassia

My mouth is watering after reading this description of Mark Shea's book about the Blessed Virgin. Secret Agent Man has been helping edit the book and asks for our prayers. Go see why this book is so interesting and I'll just stay here and get those prayers started. - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

It will be my second real Fall, far from the autumn of California "where the leaves fall not - land of my people forever." At Christendom there is a different aspect of Elvendom to be found. Soon I will be walking through the dark towards a star of fire tangled in the trees like the solitary lamp in a dark church, and between the falling leaves I will discern notes and spectral voices. When I reach the clearing, though, this forbidding air of Faërie will disperse, and there will be Peachy with his concertina and Sheila with her tin whistle and, if she can be summoned, Christina with her harp that the wind plays when she's not looking, that breathes inanimate music and reveals the architecture of the air. In Christina's hands that harp becomes a tower full of bells, or a wheel spinning thread out of flame. When the song ends a bodhran will strike up a running rhythm in the shadows, and my violin will turn fiddle and dance a reel instead of a minuet. And then there will be the singing of a score of voices while the sparks shoot starward. Let 'The Four Green Fields' be sung, and 'The Black Velvet Band'... - Meredith of "Basia Me, Catholica Sum"

August 29, 2005

In the Unlikely Event...

..that anyone reads this blog & not Flos Carmeli, then check out Steven's write up on Brad Paisley. Nice to see I'm not the only one to appreciate Paisley's blend of humor and spirituality. And speaking of country music, I cringe when I hear that Alan Jackson line about not knowing the "difference between Iraq & Iran" because I fear that neither will the rest of us eventually.
Finally!

Someone with more books than Steven Riddle, who guestimates 20,000. Scott Hahn has about 50,000. Sorry Steven.

And don't worry, I'm not using that as an excuse to buy another book.
"It's just an exhibition, not a competition. Please no wagering."- David Letterman
Update: From Smock Mama via email: "my hubby says that to the intellectual the size of one's personal library is akin to the size of one's personal anatomy for nascar aficionados."
The '60s Were Great   ...for about ten minutes?

One thing that interests me about the '60s is how the decade brought improvements artistic and moral but both lasted for about as long as free Guinness would at an Irish festival. It reminds me how I was very skinny as a youth and then I gained poundage and for all of ten minutes at the age of 21 I was at my ideal weight.

Some of the folk music, such as Bob Dylan's stuff, was an improvement over "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?" (which I understand was a big hit). And politically speaking, who wouldn't take the '60s Martin Luther King over the '50s Gov. Wallace? But it's stunning how quickly openness and vulnerability morphed into exploitation and decadence. Martin Luther King gave way to Malcolm X and then worse. Bob Dylan gave way to acid-dropping rockers and then worse.

It might be a stretch to suggest a parallel in the Church but perhaps Vatican II showed a similar cycle: an improvement, an openness, but one that was quickly exploited and debased during the late '60s and early '70s. And eventually perfectly upstanding words like peace, justice, and openness became tainted by association.
Something We Agree On...

Nice write-up on Pope St. Pius X from Karen of "From The Anchor Hold".

Update: Last night I was reading "Saints and Sinners: A History of the Popes" by the respected Eamon Duffy and, not surprisingly, he was underwhelmed with Pope St. Pius X, who was more interested in pastoring than in making intellectuals happy, though it seems to me that you don't serve anyone well if you suppress the truth. And Duffy was particularly critical that the Pope was unhappy with those who ascribed the authorship of the Pentatuech to anyone other than Moses.

After reading that critical biography of Pius, perhaps I'll dip into this.

August 28, 2005

Reconciling Cross and Gospel

From Fr. Bloomfield:

Is this [our Crosses] the Good News of the Gospel? We’re just meant to bear these Crosses until they finally kill us? NO! Christ bears these Crosses with us; He holds us up, and supports us, and ultimately makes these burdens sources of grace and life. How do we do this, though? How are we meant to bear these Crosses, when we don’t have the strength on our own?

The real Good News is that Christ desires these burdens for Himself. Don’t hold in the weight of the Cross; cast it upon Jesus in love and in humility. By daily offering to Him the Crosses of our life, we grow in love of God and neighbor. Three ways stand out as excellent means to “offer up” the Crosses that we bear...[here]
Blog Lightning Round

      - unedited thoughts at a fast clip

  • Water under the sun, even in a blow-up pool, looks good.

  • Overhead by a fellow parishioner: “If this is a Baptism, where’s the baby?” (It later became apparent an adult was being baptized.)

  • “Sola Scriptura” is a Latin phrase.

  • I'm a sucker for Augustine/Aquinas comparisons.

  • Thomas More’s wife in the movie “A Man for All Seasons”: “You’ve done all that God could reasonably want.” Thomas replies, “Love asks more than reason” (or words to that effect).

  • To Be Resolved: There is nothing more civilized than enjoying a cup of coffee while reading the paper on a summer morning on your back porch.

  • Freshman year of college you couldn’t go a weekend without hearing the Beatles’ album with the song “All You Need Is Love”. To play it now feels a sort of treason, as if to water down its association.

  • The end of a vacation is the end of "irrational exuberance" in Greenspan's language and it’s appropriate it shares the end of August. Summer bears a disproportionate burden and I’m always pleasantly surprised when she delivers. The splendor of that twenty-mile bike ride through flea-speck Amlin, Ohio has resonance. As does the long hike through eighteen sun-drenched holes at Tartan.

  • Exercise is good, but futile in creating the "new worlds" that book, film & prayer engender and which shock one into a humility born of wonder.

  • Sweet memory is my wife and I “stepping out” on Saturday morning and bringing home Perkins instead of a McDonald’s breakfast. She laughed when I reported that the sign outside Perkins says “World’s Greatest French Toast” as if I my credulity was proof of my being too suspectible to advertising. The pancakes are only “world famous”, a step down. Both were good but the omelet was even better. Yum.

  • Went to St. Margaret's church festival and heard the band perform AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” which caused an inward cringe. It’s harder for me to treat songs as completely innocuous, for whatever reason. (Call it Puritanism or growth).

  • Does Katrina & The Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” really count as rock music Rad Trads would disapprove? [Update: Written before I heard about the hurricane Katrina. No joke intended.]

  • Best hip-hop song ever is Pray by MC Hammer

  • When my stepson was thinking of making a career change into the military, his evangelical pastor offered to fast in addition to his prayers. Humbling. “I don’t have the gift of fasting,” joked a family member but I suspect that might be the point.

  • UPDATE on song "Walking on Sunshine": "That song was actually covered by the Christian ska band The Insyderz, who started out as Salvation Army missionaries in Detroit. The song was crying out for a ska/punk cover, and it works pretty well for Christian bands, being about how much the singer loves their significant other (with God generally being considered pretty significant)." - Robert of Hokie Pundit
    Moving the Church

    I mentioned last week how the author Garry Wills said that the Church is moved by saints, hinting that some of the problems he has with the Magisterium will only be overcome when a saint comes along (I'm guessing he wasn't among those chanting "sainthood now!" after the death of Pope John Paul II).

    What he says is true to some extent. A progressive Catholic in our diocesan newspaper said as much, pointing out how theologians are always disrespected until they are honored. The classic example is St. Thomas Aquinas, who sniffed of heresy until after his death. There are also theologians like Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar were persona non grata until they were suddenly invited to Vatican II and treated with much respect. So yes, that's the way things work.

    But - and it's a large one - you don't know which theologies are authentic in real time, unless the Church speaks. Many think they know and many place their opinions above the Church's anyway so it's not an issue. But one cannot know. And to be in the dark is a cross to bear, perhaps not the heaviest one, but one nonetheless. The temptation is to want to be ahead of Revelation.

    What is also interesting to me is that Garry Wills seems to be making a truth claim in favor of the Catholic Church (an unlikely position for him to be in) when he says that saints move the Church. Because if we take the larger perspective, we find that you don't have to holy to move Christianity. One of the seminal figures in Christian history was Martin Luther, and even most Lutherans wouldn't think of him as particularly holy or saintly. Certainly the fact that his first bible translation excluded the book of James implies that he felt himself not only above the Church but above Scripture, which means that - inadvertently, of course - he was putting the Catholic Church on par with Scripture by treating parts of both as worthy of rejection.
    Latest George Strait Country Song:

    Hope is an anchor and love is a ship, time is the ocean and life is a trip
    You don't know where you're going, ‘till you know where you're at
    And if you can't read the stars, well you better have a map
    A compass and a conscience, so you don’t get lost at sea
    Or on some lonely island, where no one wants to be

    From the beginning of creation, I think our maker had a plan
    For us to leave these shores and sail beyond the sand
    And let the good light guide us through the waves and the wind
    To the beaches in a world where we have never been
    And we'll climb up on a mountain, y'all we'll let our voices ring
    Those who've never tried it, they'll be the first to sing

    - latest George Strait song, with the lyric "I ain’t never seen a hearse / with a luggage rack"
    Why Do I Torture Myself ...

    ...by watching This Week's Bad News With George Stephanopoulos?

    The legs this Cindy Sheehan story has is inexplicable, as inexplicable as the legs the Swiftboat story had during the presidential campaign. I suppose the left has found its answer to MADD, only it's been rechristened as: "Mothers Against Their Sons Enlisting In The Army And Getting Killed, Especially If They Don't Like the Commander-In-Chief".

    But I digress. I wanted to share this bon mot from fellow Catholic Cokie Roberts: "...even the Pope, who is not known as particularly friendly to women...". (It's always family members that hurt the worst ain't it?) And here I had no idea the pope was a misogynist! Why the heck did the College of Cardinals elect a pope who isn't friendly to half the human race? There's an outrage for you.

    Roberts went on to explain that the big problem with the RU-486 pill is that poor women won't have access to it until it's widely available, which means poor women will not have an equal opportunity to sin.

    Like I said, I'm a glutton for punishment sometimes. /rant
    Violence in the Bible

    I cheated on my blog by commenting elsewhere on violence in the Old Testament so here's a recap.

    A great mystery is why the Flood: Why would God kill his people? Perhaps to get through to us the message of His sovereignty. Perhaps as an example to teach us how bad sin is. (Most of us tend to look upon physical violence with horror while looking on moral violence (i.e. sin) with precious little horror; centuries ago people were more concerned about moral health than physical, so we naturally consider them barbarians.) To me, it's much more interesting to me whether these people went to Heaven or not, than why God killed them.

    Violence is not unique to the OT of course. In the chapter 5 of Acts Ananias and Saphira were killed because they were holding back money from the community. And personally I don't think it's tragic UNLESS they went to Hell. That is what is unimaginable. And St. Augustine thinks they didn't. From Orchard's Commentary:
    "The grave punishment was exemplary, to show the respect due to the Church, and preserve discipline, both so necessary for the persecuted infant community. Ananias and Saphira had received the Holy Spirit and many graces, 'yet it is to be believed that after this life God spared them, for his mercy is great'. (St. Aug. Sermon. 148)

    August 27, 2005

    Motiveless

    He loves us not
    that we might love Him
    for being Love itself
    he comes by it honestly
    .
    Dialogue from the film A Man For All Seaons

    In the movie, the servant Matthew would seem to have little to offer the brilliant Thomas More, as we would have far less to offer Christ. But see this marvelous exchange:
    Sir Thomas More: "I shall miss you Matthew."

    His servant Matthew: "Oh no sir, you see through me, I know that."

    More: "I - shall - miss - you."

    [Later, Matthew to his wife]: "Miss me? What's in me for him to miss!?"

    Later, Sir Thomas upon being seen as too lawyerly in trying to escape the snares of his enemies says:
    God made the angels to show Him splendor, as he made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity, but man he made him to give Him wittily the tangle of his mind...It's God's part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping.

    August 26, 2005

    Regional Differences

    I was listening to travel writer William Least Heat Moon on C-Span's In Depth and he said that despite the fact that so many U.S. cities look almost identical (i.e. McDonald's on every corner, Walmarts, etc...) they retain remarkable diversity in terms of the people.

    That's been true in my micro experience, in my move between Cincinnati and Columbus, two Ohio cities a scant hundred miles apart. You might think that all large Ohio cities within a hundred miles of each other would be alike but you'd be wrong. I imagined Columbus a "Cincinnati North" but there are a thousand little differences, some trivial but some enough to give the places a very different feel.

    One difference is that the ice cream man that comes around in Columbus is not Mr. Softee, and he plays a horrible tune which I've blocked out due to PTES (Post Traumatic Earworm Syndrome). When I see the ugly Columbus version of an ice cream truck my aesthetic sensibilities are offended. It's like nails on a chalkboard.
            

    The real thing -- I always pine for my youth when I see cheap imitators. Note the elegant design, the large amount of white space, the artistic Mr. Softee icon. Can you say c-l-a-s-s?

    There are also differences political, religious, visual and social which some might argue are more important than ice cream truck varieties. I grew up in the most conservative county in Ohio, one that gave Bill Clinton only twelve votes (I jest, but only slightly). I now live in a county that can't make up its mind between Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals. Religiously, there are twice as many Catholics per capita in the Cincy area as Columbus. Geographically, Cincinnati has a lot of hills while Columbus is as flat as a dollar bill.

    Columbus is startlingly mild-mannered compared to Cincy (which to anyone on the east coast will sound hard to believe, like saying that Mississippi is hotter than Texas in the summer). The difference is most obvious in Cincy's radio talk show hosts who wallow in controversy and aren't afraid to offend, compared to Columbus's, who avoid offense like the plague.
    Minding The Mysteries

    I found this messianic passage from Tobit a spur to try to concentrate on the mysteries on the rosary more strenuously, seeing prosperity as the Glorious Mysteries and the chastisements as the Sorrowful ones:
    Happy are those who love You,
    and happy are those who rejoice in Your prosperity.

    Happy are all the men who shall grieve over You,
    over all Your chastisements. -Tobit 13
    March of the Penguins

    Saw the National Geographic documentary “March of the Penguins” and arguably ne’er a harder life has any animal. The emperor penguins of the Antarctic have their arduous way of survival down pat, but one that involves the males losing half their weight by going four months without food and the females taking frequent fifty mile hikes in fifty-degree-below-zero weather. The thought occurs: There’s gotta be an easier way. But they’d rather fight than switch, so they remain in that unforgiving environment, huddled against the cold, taking turns being in the center where the warm thirty-degree-below-zero “heat” is. And all in order to bear baby penguins. It was an inspiring film from the standpoint of overcoming obstacles and community cooperation. But mostly it was inspiring to see the warming notion of self-sacrifice.

    It was interesting to note how the baby penguins go from babies to adults. They spend the first year of their life warmed and fed by their mother and father. But then both parents leave and for four years the babies grow up together in the ocean waters, seemingly oblivious to care. No long hikes in the bitter cold like their parents, no long periods without food. No, these difficulties are only encountered in the raising of little penguins. Then, like a switch, they begin the difficult life of adults. Apparently without complaint. And I was impressed by the fact that so many of us human beings have a lot to learn from these penguins who are so willing to gallantly sacrifice themselves for children.

    August 25, 2005

    Which Mary?

    The Word Among Us on Monday's feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary featured an interesting quote from the late Pope John Paul II:
    "Far from creating distance between her and us, Mary's glorious state brings about a continuous and caring closeness."
    Which Mary do you think of when you think of the Blessed Mother? Do you think of the quiet virgin who gave birth but who otherwise seemed almost ordinary, someone who never drew attention to herself and lived so modestly? Or do you think of the Mary in her glorified body, the Mary crowned in Heaven, the Immaculate Conception, the Mary of the apparations?

    It may be hard to connect these "two Marys" but I think it may also be difficult to connect ourselves and those we know now with how we'll be in Heaven, since the difference between our present sinfulness and our glorification is surely great.

    The queenship of Mary is difficult for some non-Catholics to accept but perhaps there's a rough analogy in the film Lord of the Rings. At the very end, all of "Heaven" cheers and honors the hobbit Frodo, not because of Frodo's amazing powers but because when given great responsibility he made the right choices. No one worships Frodo, knowing with Gandalf lay the power, but nonetheless there was remarkable recognition and gratefulness expressed towards him by the entire community.
    Finding Miss Luse

    Well I had the pleasure of meeting one Bernadette Luse today, daughter of the Professor, in somewhat less than ideal circumstances: She had a difficult round of golf, ending five over. But she was a professional and cordial despite it. We both agreed we'd wished Bill was here.

    The day started with an unusual celestial event - the sun was in the eastern part of the sky. And instead of moving downward into the horizon, it slowly went up! Amazing. Can you tell I'm not a morning person?

    After a long walk from the parking lot I saw a sign saying that cellphones and cameras are strictly verboten during the tournament days, e.g. Thurs-Sat. (This was a twofer as I was double-barrelled.) I turned off the cell phone and only got the camera out for very long shots, which is why the photo below looks like it was taken from the Goodyear blimp:


    Bern's in a red skirt, to the right of a sign indicating their score 

    It all started where golf rounds usually do - hole numero uno. I found myself in a gallery of one, so when Bern whispered something to her caddy causing him to quickly looked over his shoulder at me, I figured it was something like "there's that blogger my dad told me to watch out for." My goal was to keep a low profile and not be a distraction to her until after 18 holes.

    I was amazed to find that their drives on number 1 were all within a few feet of each other. Never happens when I play, where after teeing off our group scatters to the four winds of the fairway (and surrounding highway).

    She had by far the prettiest swing of her threesome, which included an Aussie named Shani Waugh and another golfer named Kate Golden. Waugh had a really interesting putting motion - she holds her left hand in a fist way up on the handle. Wierd. But effective. Golden was especially golden - when Bernadette was trying to putt on 16 someone in the grandstand was making noise and Kate looked at them and held her hands up as if to say, "shut up!".

    I made eye contact with Bern after hole 3 and she gave me the sweetest smile. I looked away, guilty that I'd caused a distraction. The difference between her game face and when she smiles demonstrates an impressive mobility of expression.

    After a tough round...the real Miss Luse
    So the holes went by and things were mostly under control until around 16, before which she was always only 1 or 2 over. But then as the putts went errant late in the day I began to wonder what I'd say. It's kind of awkward because you can't say "nice round" and "you'll do better tomorrow" sounds condescending.

    I made my own faux paus on 17 when I trudged up the hill, head down, to where they were teeing off. I finally lift my head and everyone, including the golf pros, are telling me to freeze since one of them was trying to tee off. Oops.

    After the match she disappeared into a little tent for about three or four minutes and then came out and I introduced myself and told her I was her number one fan in Ohio. Pretty cheesey, I know.

     


     



    Excellent weather

    August 24, 2005

    Missing Miss Luse




    Well I'm a sucker for undercover blog reporting situations and when the LPGA coincided with my vacation week at home (the latter is always 53 weeks from the previous one for reasons I won't bore you with) I knew I'd be scoping out the scene, if only for blog fodder. Which is not a particularly good reason of course. I'm becoming something of a blogslut. Any time you alter your vacation plans one iota for your blog then you know you're in trouble. Documenting experiences tends to distort experiences, which is why so many people take a vacation less for the trip than to look at the pictures when they get home.

    But I digress...I wouldn't miss her in the tournament of course, but today seemed a long shot as far as meeting Miss Luse. The word on the street was that you might meet a pro on the practice hole or the putting green and it was a pluperfect sunny day. (I was thinking that these pros will never realize how rare these kind of days are in Central Ohio.)

    I felt a bit self-conscious arriving alone in this golf mecca not far from Jack Nicholas's Muirfield. Old money can sniff out no money, so I had no illusions that my carefully selected Izod golf-ish shirt was going to fool anybody. But I wanted a fighting a chance. Lacking a proper golf visor, I went with my Tennessee Vols cap. After the walk from the parking lot I slunk up to the putting green in front of the well-appointed Clubhouse. Watching the girls, I felt like a stalker. I surely fit the profile: unshaven white male mid-to-upper 30s (I like to gild my profile's lily), here in the middle of the week when most white males mid-to-upper 30s are working. And since I'm in favor of profiling I didn't have a problem with it. Yes I am mostly likely to be a stalker - I don't want my Grandma being looked at suspiciously by security guards. It didn't help that I was carrying a camera and walkman in my pockets, which made me look like I was packing heat or glad to see them. Or both.


    This one's for Bob. Eat your heart out!

    I wandered to and fro through the Clubhouse to the first hole to the putting green. And then it suddenly occurred to me: I don't know that I'd know her if I saw her! I've only seen one good picture of her face, the one on the LPGA website, and I've found that as I age all attractive young women are beginning to look the same. When I was a attractive young man there seemed to be large variation in looks, but now anybody under the age of [redacted due to the possibility of older readers reading this] looks darn good.

    I'm sure meeting her father's middle-aged blogging buddy is not high on her list of things she'd like to do. I missed her today, but that only builds the anticipation. Wouldn't Ahab have been disappointed if he'd found the whale immediately? (Not to suggest any similarity of course. And I do find that sentiment much less applicable to God, Who I'd prefer to meet immediately if not sooner.) Here are some pics for your viewing entertainment. Maybe I got a picture of Bern inadvertently:


    Bern Lookalikes, Fooling the Eye


    Not Bern either 


    Nope!
    Titanic Display

       

    The Titanic exhibit here in Columbus was packed with people. There is something about it that has captured imaginations in way other tragedies haven't. My mother asked why should that be.

    I think it was mostly the tremendous loss of life though part of it is also the way it seemed almost fated. So many little things went wrong that it makes us play the "what if" games. What if the Titanic had hit the iceberg straight on (it would not have sank). What if the lookouts hadn't misplaced the binoculars? (They probably would've seen the iceberg earlier and avoided it). There are dozens more examples. There was even another ship in the area that might've come and saved over a thousand souls but for another 'what if'.

    It also seemed a potent symbol. Western society was proud of her technological innovations and for many it seemed that science, not God, was the ticket to prosperity. Science was an unalloyed good (this was before the invention of the atomic bomb), and if you squinted your eyes hard enough it seemed mankind was progressing. (Two world wars and the Hitler & Stalin regimes woke most up to the fact that human nature wasn't progressing as quickly as science.) The Titanic was billed as the "unsinkable ship", which made it almost a poster child for that time's hubris.

    The Titanic was also a luxury liner. One Christian who survived wrote something that shows the difference in attitude between today's Christians, who are very comfortable with pleasure and comfort to the point of some evangelists advertising a "health & wealth gospel", and those of yesteryear. Back then, closer to America's Puritan roots, they were far more suspicious:
    "The pleasure and comfort which all of us enjoyed upon this floating palace, with its extraordinary provisions for such purposes, seemed an ominous feature to many of us, including myself, who felt it almost too good to last without some terrible retribution inflicted by the hand of an angry omnipotence."
    The exhibit included picture & text concerning a Catholic priest who was traveling in order to officiate at his brother's wedding. And it was one of these last minute change of ship deals - a "what if" of tragic proportions. I thought only of how sad that wedding must've been (though it was surely delayed). But then I read how the priest comforted many souls as the ship went down and led an impromptu interdenominational prayer service. And it occurred to me that it was great that there was a priest on board, that maybe the "bad luck" the priest had had in transferring at the last minute to the Titanic was instead providential.

    August 23, 2005

    Journal du Jour





    It’s odd to feel rich.

    But the sun makes it so, for there’s not a millionaire in southern California with so much beauty in front of him right now.

    My wife’s landscaping skills have borne a rich harvest, a sweet profusion of yellows and purples beside a fountain constantly replenishing itself under a sunsational sky with a rock star sun, the sky a tingle blue, the tangle of greens around a grotto of stones, the water cascading from level to level to level. The wind hits the poplars and they glint a thousand times, their leaves signatories of glories, white-hot suitors of surrounding greens.

    The ash looks like a stevedore, soliciting and shapely, reminding me of Hillerich & Bradsby’s finest. The cornflowers are bound with string to keep them from straying wildly. They look stiff, like wallflowers at a party. But then the shell shock of sun on skin and leaf and light lit of radiance falls from the sky on them and me and they look so...happy. If nature is an elaborate parable then what does it say that so many completely different environments shed so much beauty? Rain forests and deserts, mountains and plains – all unquenchably beautiful.
        

    Beauty is experienced as a pleasurable good, as something that is pleasant to experience, as something that satisfies the appetite. But we often misapprehend a pleasurable good as a useful good, as something that is good because it lets us acquire some further good. We don't always recognize, for instance, that looking at the physical beauty of another person ought to suffice; the pleasure of apprehending a beautiful human body is itself the good we are apprehending, not the opportunity to use the beauty of the body to obtain some other, carnal good. This idea is at least consistent with the fact that so many people find the beauty of nature conducive to contemplation in a way the beauty of other people is not. In general, the sight of a green tree against a blue sky is not perceived as the means to some other good. - Tom of Disputations

    I once attended an open forum facilitated by someone who, for better or worse, had been put in charge of Catholic Ministry to Young Adults in the diocese of Wellington. At one point in the evening, he asked everyone what we thought the Church could offer to young people. When my turn came, I said: "Old people."

    ...(Haven't they noticed that hundreds of thousands of youth are gathering in Cologne right now, ready to rock with an old man in his seventies? People, get a clue . . .) - Sancta Sanctis (do go read the whole post)

    After reading various efforts in recent months of blog-poetry, I debut with my own poem - written at least 25 years ago. My 10th grade English teacher thought it had more depth than I had. I had scribbled to complete an assignment as the teacher walked in the room. It is a Haiku:
    The balancing branch
    It may fall when I pass by
    Think I'll take my chanc's
    ---J Curley of Bethune Catholic

    On one of the days, we used this song, brilliantly composed by Jessica (with a little help from her friends) to the tune of "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)," and sung by Holly ten (yes, ten) times, as the kids moved through the Learning Centers. Enjoy!
    "When he was born, well his mother knew he’d be
    Yeah he’d be the one who defended the truth
    And she raised him, yes she raised him up to be
    A good Christian like good mothers try to do.

    But Augustine, didn’t like theology
    He liked to drink and party all the long day through
    And if you struggle with sins of impurity
    St. Augustine’d be the role model for you

    But his mother prayed 500 times
    And then she prayed 500 more
    So he’d be the man who laid 1000 sins
    all down at Heaven’s door...

    Well Augustine, he wrote many useful things
    Telling all the faithful Catholics what to do.
    “You are great Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    Our hearts are restless, Lord, until they rest in you.”

    Because his mother prayed 500 hours
    And then she prayed 500 more
    So he’d be the man who laid 1000 sins
    all down at Heaven’s door

    --Emily of "Holy Whapping"

    The "total war" state is a fiction created by the defenders of total to explain why they too must be as dirty as those they fight. When I see newsreels of freaky Muslims burning American flags and chanting in some strange Arab jive about the "Great Satan" I think, "Dude, those people suck." But the fact that people suck, or their parents suck, or their children suck, does not render them combatants. - commenter Loudon on Amy's blog

    'Nobody can prove the existence of God - otherwise faith would be meaningless' ...stands in direct contradiction to the doctrine of the Catholic Church: "1. If anyone says that: the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema." -- Zippy refuting a commenter on Amy's blog

    Nota Bene: I know perfectly well what is meant by "the Christ of faith" and "the Jesus of history". I have staked the purpose of my life, my very existence, on the proposition that the two are identical. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog. - Patrick of Orthonormal Basis

    If, as the headline writer interprets him, he means displaying crucifixes, before we get to government buildings, I'd suggest we start with our church at St. Al's....In practice, we have a crucifix on Good Friday, and the rest of the year Jesus and the Amazing Liturgical Color Dreamcoat. - Terrence Berres

    I have always wanted to be one of those clean desk people...But this desk? It's fallen prey to the forces that infest every flat surface in my house: Horizontal Magnetization. No matter how I struggle, my flat surfaces become immediately stacked up with stuff. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

    "I am happy to be with them, to confirm their faith and to enliven their hope," [the Pope] added. That statement is striking, and an answer to those who fret about celebrity worship and wonder why the Pope-focus. He knows why he's there. - Amy Welborn

    August 22, 2005

    Pope St. Pius X - August 21

    Yesterday was the feast of one of the more fascinating saints of the last century: Pope St. Pius X. A highly educated anti-Modernist, he was a champion of the common man. He once reacted to news of a modernist critic with a smile, saying, "Come, did he not allow that after all I was a good priest? Now, of all praise, that is the only one I have ever valued." He also once said that the elite were "abounding in wisdom of the world yet utterly reckless and foolish in matters of religion" which seems a characterization that gave them the benefit of the doubt.

    It's heartbreaking to read of how impotent even a saint and the pontiff of nearly a billion Catholics was/is against the world; all his efforts to prevent what would become World War I were for naught; he died suddenly a few weeks after the outbreak. It literally broke his heart. And yet the knowledge of his helplessness is an impetus to working with our current Holy Father, who faces a similar seemingly hopeless cause in trying to reverse Western Christianity's spiritual decline.

    I was watching the progressively misguided Garry Wills on C-Span's "In Depth" a week or two ago and he said something most of us would agree with. He said that the only way to move the church is the witness of a saint, which makes a kind of sense because sanctity carries with it a kind of authority. (Which also reminds me how ill-advised the Anglican church was in choosing to elect a gay bishop who had ditched his wife and children for his male lover; doesn't exactly inspire confidence.) So Wills hinted that it would take a saint to allow gay marriage, woman priests, and presumably abortion on demand. But what was interesting is that works both ways. And the only papal saint of modern times was somewhat of a "backward-looker" in the eyes of the world. Sometimes it takes a saint to recover what was lost?

    Perhaps St. Pius might be termed a Traditionalist today but without a hint of the awful "New Oxford Review" about him. He was surprisingly non-rigorist considering the reputation of the ultra-orthodox - he opened up Communion to all children from the age of reason on and he encouraged frequent, even daily, Communion. He also promulgated use of the Vulgate and my first reaction was a but - but that doesn't reflect the latest manuscripts and Scripture scholarship (although admittedly St. Jerome had access to manuscripts we don't have). But he was always a pastor first and an academic second and there's something godlike in that because God Himself is pastor first which I think was shown in the Old Testament, where He condescends and is willing to use the imperfect instrument as a conduit to the better.

    Finally, since I'm a nut for incorruptibility, the following is taken from the Wikipedia online encyclopedia:
    On 19 May 1944, Pope Pius X's coffin was exhumed and was taken to the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix in St. Peter's Basilica for the canonical examination. Upon opening the coffin, the examiners found the body of Pius X completely preserved, despite the fact that he had died 30 years before and was not embalmed.

    August 21, 2005

    A Short History of STG

    STG began as a humble one-man operation and has expanded into teams of researchers combing millions of blogs for quotable quotes. Nah, it's still a humble one man operation.

    I come by it honestly, the desire to cull quotes is apparently inbred. I still own an index card file full with quotes culled & pasted from newspapers or magazines. (Effect hoary old man voice) - that's what we used to do when I was a kid, back before the Internet.

    My great-great grandfather Milligan left his children a valuable collection of postage stamps as well as large books of hand-written quotes; the kids fought over the stamps except for my great grandfather who went with the quotes. I'm poor for this reason. (This paragraph is fictional.)

    Wayne Gretzky says you miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take and I miss 100% of the posts I don't read so don't hesitate to send nominations for STG inclusion, though publication is not guaranteed.

    Fine Print: STG not available in Oregon.

    UPDATE: "You're more than just STG to us, Tom! - Mary at St. Blog's Parish Hall .. Isn't she sweet?

    August 19, 2005

    Introducing...

    ~ Calvinist Magazine! ~      Summer 2005 | 8.1

       ....the ‘zine only the Elect read!

    --Including an excerpt from our sister mag, Calvinist Romance:


    _________________________________________________


    In This Issue:

  • Elect If You Are, Damned if You Aren’t

  • Tiptoe Thru the Tulip

  • Reform Your Church - Leave It!

  • Free Will and Other Oxymorons

  • Why You Are Predestined To Read This Article

  • He Ain't Heavy, He's My Damned Brother

  • Supralapsarianism & You

  • Kudos to our founder
  • And Cal-toons too!

       --('Calvinist Romance' art credit: Third Grace)
    ___________________________________________________

     
    Next Month:


    (via Cartoonist Kevin Giovanetto)
    ____________________________________________________

    Note: Some brain cells were killed in assisting the making of this post.
    Journal Excerptables

    Vacations spent at home have a special sort of magic to them, open as they are to the four winds and breezeworthy as a midsummer field. Art looms larger than in regulation life and so much free time gives off the impression of possibility.

    Since anticipation is a pleasure, let me count the events: Reds game on Sunday, a visit to the ‘rents on Monday. On Tuesday the great Bernadette Luse plays golf fifteen minutes from my house and while I’d rather meet her father it is said you can see the parent in the child so I’ll make do. And to see excellence of any kind is a kind of magic. To watch her play will be akin to watching Kreskin work: just as there is no way on God’s green earth I can bend a spoon with my mind there is no way I can get that white ball from that tee to that hole in as few a shots. (To quote Perry Como, 'It's impossible...to stick a Cadillac up your nose, it's just impossible...') Sometimes I feel a bit mournsome that the great athletic genes I’ve been given lay dormant although I'm comforted that the genes appear close enough to invisible in me as to give others very little sense of waste. My claim to athletic fame is playing B-league Fraternity basketball on a struggling team and being given by the coach a "license to drive". I took him literally and ended up with a charge. Such is life among the elect.

    Wednesday is mostly a day fragrant with the must of bookstores and the jigs of Irish music, not necessarily in that order. Thursday I am signed up for Bingo from 6-10. I hope earlier in the day to watch the LPGA’rs. Friday I plan on visiting my alma mater, lots of biking and running. Saturday we’ve got a party at my wife’s friend’s house and afterwards, or more accurately before, this vacation will be in its death throes...
    Irish Song Friday

    Now playing: Makem Brothers, Who Fears to Speak

    The phrase sean-bhean bhocht is Irish for "poor old woman", symbol of Ireland.

    O! The French are on the sea
    Says the sean-bhean bhocht;
    The French are on the sea,
    Says the sean-bhean bhocht;
    O! the French are in the bay,...

    To the Curragh of Kildare
    The boys will they repair
    And Lord Edward will be there
    Says the sean-bhean bhocht.
    Lyrics here
    I, Blogger   --  say like "I, Claudius"

    It's kind of fun to blogify a word or phrase within a classic text. For example, change the word "government" to "blog" in the Declaration of Independence:
    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ... --That to secure these rights, Blogs are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Blog becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Blog...
    Or...substituting "bloggers" for "gods" in The Illiad:
    Now the bloggers were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden floor while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink, and as they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked down upon the town of Troy. The son of Saturn then began to tease Juno,talking at her so as to provoke her. "Menelaus," said he, "has two good friends among the bloggers, Juno of Argos, and Minerva of Alalcomene, but they only sit still and blog on, while Venus keeps ever by Alexandrus' side to defend him in any danger..."
    From Dickens' Great Expectations, substituting blog for references to Miss Havisham's house:
    For such reasons I was very glad when ten o'clock came and we started for the blogs; though I was not at all at my ease regarding the manner in which I should acquit myself under a blogger's roof. Within a quarter of an hour we came to the blog, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it.
    DH Lawrence in "Sons & Lovers" blog for 'reading' and 'learning':
    She hated her position as swine-girl. She wanted to be considered. She wanted to learn, thinking that if she could blog, as Paul said he could blog, "Colomba", or the "Voyage autour de ma Chambre", the world would have a different face for her and a deepened respect. She could not be princess by wealth or standing. So she was mad to have blogging whereon to pride herself. For she was different from other folk, and must not be scooped up among the common fry. Blogging was the only distinction to which she thought to aspire.
    Edgar Allen Poe, substituting blog for wine or drinking in The Cask of Amontillado
    He had a weak point -- this Fortunato -- although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in blogs...In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen , was a quack, but in the matter of old blogs he was sincere...It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been blogging much....
    Murdoch's Prose

    It's eerie to the point of painful (given the type of death she would experience) to read the following passage from Iris Murdoch, who died after a struggle with Alzheimer's (from her novel "Bruno's Dream"):

    "Philosophers say we own our own deaths. I don't think so. Death contradicts ownership and self."
    Other excerpts:
    "Do you think one must worship something?"
    "Yes. But real worship involves waiting. If you wait He comes, He finds you."
    ~
    Do you know, Nigel, that there is a spider called Amaurobius, which lives in a burrow and has its young in the late summer, and then it dies when the frosts begin, and the young spiders live through the cold by eating their mother's dead body. One can't believe that's an accident. I don't know that I imagined God as having thought it all out, but somehow He was connected with the pattern, He was the pattern...
    ~
    Inside the railings the uncut grass made the cemetery look like a field, or more like a ruined city with its formal yet grassy streets and squares: Ostia, Pompeii, Mycenae.
    The Bush Seminar, Circa 2500 A.D.
    ...We are pretty sure George W. Bush existed, even discounting all American documentation which would necessarily be directed towards a particular audience and reflect bias.

    However, the respected historian JosephsusDude does make mention of Bush: "In the year 2000 Jeorge W. Bush was elected President of United States."

    We don't think Bush said many of things attributed to him and we believe figures such as Saddam Hussein were likely invented by Bush Administration in order to go to war.
    Meanwhile, Closer to Home...

    It's pretty ironic that after I tilted at Protestant minister windmills I open my own Catholic diocesan newspaper and find enough raw meat to make your average agnostic happy. At least in my Protestant minister's newsletter there's no chance you're going to see an article on how there was no connection between King David and Jesus (dismissing the genealogies as silly attempts to link the unlinkable).

    So I continued my "annoy-via-emails" ministry, writing to Catholic Times & the bishop excerpted below:
    ...I'm writing about the latest column about Peter, where Fr. Hummer explains how there is much doubt about what "the rock" means.

    No there isn't. Not if you're Catholic. The Church has definitively interpreted THIS passage for us. But you wouldn't know it from Fr. Hummer's column....

    Flannery O'Connor said of the Eucharist: "if it's just a symbol, to hell with it". And to paraphrase, if Peter wasn't called "the rock" because of Christ's intention to found a Church, then the hell with the church! Because that would make the church a purely human institution just as the Eucharist, if a symbol, would be merely bread.
    Part of the reason I so admire and love Pope Benedict XVI is that he is a Scripture scholar who hasn't lost his faith. Modernity is all skepticism and no consolations. Compare and contrast Fr. Hummer's article (not online but here's a good column that is, regarding a downsized exec) with this random excerpt from Fr. Farrell's "My Way of Life", a summary of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas:
    The sacraments are a wonderful gift of God to men. Through them, the power of Christ's Passion is applied to the souls of men for their salvation. Through the sacraments men are reborn and remade into the likeness of Christ. Through the sacraments men become the children of GOd and heirs of heaven. Because they are effective signs of the grace which they signify, they give men an easy way to obtain the grace of God. They are another tender sign of God's mercy. He has not left men to wonder whether they have obtained the grace of God or can obtain the grace of God. No one need roam restlessly through life seeking in out-of-the-way places for some uncertain sign of God's mercy. The sacraments are the visible signs of God's love for men.
    And the Church itself is also a visible sign of God's love for men.

    August 18, 2005

    Lightening the Proverbial Load

    It's been far too long since the last installment of "Why is My Bookbag So Heavy?", mostly because the answers are pretty self-evident since I blog about them (i.e. "Two Towers", Thomas Sowell's latest, an Iris Murdoch novel).

    But I thought I'd report some recent successes - books I didn't buy! These are books I actually resisted - thus saving money, shelf-space and my shoulders. I either didn't have a large amount of confidence in ever reading them, or they seemed too costly, or, as in the case of the Ratzinger bio, I borrowed from the library:

    Ireland : A Novel - Frank Delaney
    Poems of Christina Rossetti
    Pope Benedict XVI : A Personal Portrait - Heinz-Joachim Fischer;
    1962 Missal by Barionus Press
    Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Fifth Edition (Thumb Indexed, 2 Volumes) - William R. Trumble;
    Our Culture, What's Left of It : The Mandarins and the Masses - Theodore Dalrymple;
    That's not to say I escaped totally. Having not bought a book in at least a month, there was a lot of pent-up demand:
    "A Stay Against Confusion : Essays on Faith and Fiction" Ron Hansen;
    "The Last Voyage of Columbus : Being the Epic Tale of the Great Captain's Fourth Expedition, Including Accounts of Swordfight, Mutiny, Shipwreck, Gold, War, Hurricane, and Discovery" Martin Dugard;
    "In This House of Brede" Rumer Godden;
    "Garlands of Grace: An Anthology of Great Christian Poetry" Regis Martin;
    "Here. Now. A Catholic Guide to the Good Life." Amy Welborn;
    Don't Do As I Do - Lesson 421,021

    For reasons I can only attribute to natural preversity (the same reason I occasionally read Nancy Nall), I listen to a Bob Jones-educated Baptist pastor who discusses various & sundry issues on an admittedly entertaining radio talk show.

    He says he has lots of Catholic listeners, for which he is grateful, though not quite grateful enough not to resist Catholic bashing though one man's Catholic bashing is another man's simple declaration of differences. He says he has a "large file" he keeps of thin-skinned Catholics (no doubt including moi) who claim he is unfair to Papists, though he vehemently protests that.

    (One time he read all the anathemnas (he referred to them as curses) from the Council of Trent against Protestants. That was a fun show. I called up and told him that only applied to the original reformers themselves, not intended for today's Protestants.)

    But anyhow, yesterday he talked about how a bishop who heads a USCCB ecumenical council was a hypocrite because he wants to join with other Christian denominations to work against Fundamentalists, the latter a group in which our Baptist pastor includes himself. What kind of ecumenical spirit is that he asks? So that's fine and fair. But then he goes into a spiel about how Rome thinks of herself as "Mother Church" and that all Protestants are "rebellious children" who at the time of the Reformation "got mad and left". He said it all in a mocking tone, as if Rome was utterly condescending. "Rebellious children" was said about five times. I'm sure all the Protestants out there got that none-too-subtle message. So my kneejerk reaction was an email:
    Bob, it is high-larious how you Catholic bash even while protesting you don't Catholic bash. It's just too funny. On today's show you made several references to the Roman church calling Protestants as "rebellious children", "teenagers", who "got mad and left". You obviously want Protestants to think "boy, that Roman church is condescending and uppity". (By the way, you of all people should know that a truth claim doesn't make you uppity, right?) But you spun with more spin than Al Franken.

    I know that you know that the Catechism speaks of Protestants with great respect calling them "our separated brothers and sisters in Christ" or "our separated brethern". I wish I had a dime for every time I've heard the phrase "separated brothers and sisters in Christ"... But no one who listened to your church would think that after your chacterization.

    Thought experiment: I'm a Catholic host talking about Fundamentalists on the radio. Which of the following is more fair, more respectful and, yes, more Christian:

    Version 1:
    "Fundamentalists refer to themselves as "bible believing Christians" which suggests that the rest of us just don't get it. We're too stupid to interpret the bible on our own, but they can just fine, no reason to have any such nonsense as a church doing any interpretation."

    Version 2:
    "Fundamentalists believe in a strictly literal interpretation of Scripture and do not believe the apostles passed down anything other than what is in the Word of God."

    Both arguably present a Catholic view, but one is far less incendiary. A Protestant could hear version 2 and not take offense. But a Protestant hearing version 1 probably wouldn't.
    Sending this email was the definition of insanity (i.e. doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results) since I think I actually expected different results. Why can't I just pray for him? It seems so counterproductive for Catholics to "push back" or be thin of skin. He sent me a huffy reply that ended with "lighten up why don't you?" and I have to admit that he's probably right.
    Sounds Almost Walker Percyian

    The Wall Street Journal recently had an article about the problems workers have with "re-entry" after a vacation. (Which reminds me of Walker Percy's book about how artists and writers (and those who love them) have problems with "re-entry" into the seemingly dimmer world of reality after encounters with art).

    One of the strategies for vacationers was to bring work along or in some way make vacations less appealing. Very interesting:

    It used to drive Jane Genova nuts to take exotic vacations -- or even to visit places a lot nicer than her home in Connecticut. Destinations seduced the executive speechwriter and drove her to plot, in detail, ways to stay and make a living in places like Barcelona.

    And it made her re-entry back to her normal life something other than a soft landing, even though she enjoys her work. "I slide into an angry depression if I take time off to do something great," she says.

    So, Ms. Genova bought a small cottage in a modest neighborhood a few blocks from the shore. She tempered it further by bringing work along. That helped narrow the gap between her work and play, and rid her of the obsession-depression cycle.

    "There was no daydreaming," she says. "This was New Jersey." Anything more exotic and she'd make herself vulnerable, even messing up the vacation before she got there.

    Vacations are supposed to replenish us after a long period of work, providing a furlough from the office grind and its back-stabbers, ball-droppers and glory-scrapers. But it's still hard to get away from that one workplace nut-job: yourself...The line between work and play has become so blurred that work isn't just work, it's the anticipation of work while at play...That's why vacations for many people barely resemble the resuscitating respite they should. According to a survey conducted last fall by the Families and Work Institute, 42% of Americans do some form of work while on vacation, while only 14% of Americans take a vacation of two weeks or more. It takes the average person three days to begin to relax. That means people taking off just a week relax for only about four days -- provided they don't tense up in anticipation days before they actually return.
    UPDATE: Roz of Exultet fame responds:
    What does it say about the way we've constructed our lives that it cripples us to spend a couple of weeks truly relaxing and enjoying ourselves? It makes a modicum of sense to decline a vacation because we genuinely can't spend the time away, though that in itself should startle us into second thoughts. But avoiding legitimate refreshment because it emphasizes how miserable we are the rest of the year is stupid and suicidal.
    It is amazing on the face of it. It's like sawing off one of your legs because you don't want to be reminded how much fun it is to walk. But perhaps it makes a sort of warped sense. Since we work at least 5 out of 7 days, work is the default "mode". If we worked 3.5 out of 7, vacation might have more of a chance in not being seen simply as a utilitarian "rest up for work" time.

    August 17, 2005

    Books

    I was searching for info about an anthology of Christian poetry titled "Garlands of Grace" & came across lots of other little tidbits in these micro reviews by First Things:
    To demonstrate the singular hold the Qur’an has in Muslim society, Cools tells of "a woman who for thirty years communicated exclusively" with quotations from the Qur’an.
    ~
    Certainly it is important for the Church to understand psychology and whatever truths experimental science uncovers about the soul. At the same time, it seems as or more crucial now for psychology to understand the Church. The truths that theology and philosophy can teach it about the motivations of the human heart may be just what psychology needs to sort out its own internal discord.
    ~
    [John C.] Calhoun’s sophisticated theory of the "concurrent majority" as the American republic’s alternative to both despotism and anarchy holds much that might appeal, if they understood it, to both liberal and conservative parties today. His adamant insistence upon conciliation as the alternative to conflict might also, just possibly, have avoided the Civil War and, as Lincoln phrased it, put slavery on the road to ultimate extinction.
    ~
    Richard Neuhaus on Irish Murdoch
    ~
    I liked the unusual word sequence "holy exploitation" in this liturgical book description. Sounded almost oxymoronic.
    Blogging About Our Animals .... so you don't have to

    His mouth is pregnant with half-dead locust. He carries and presents it for our viewing pleasure, its long transparent wings and ugly wide body a specimen worthy of our attention. He stalks them with feline delicacy, lifting his paws far above the grass as if disdainful of what he might step in, like Felix Unger making his way through Oscar Madison's room. Then he has this little hunch and he puts his paws together as if in prayer before his Pounce de Leon.

    Our dog has some sort of tickle spot on his back such that scratching it results in his doing an Irish jig on the kitchen floor. His paws come with nails which makes it sound like a tap dance. We sing: "doggy-dance, doggy-dance, dog-e-dance!"


    The neighbors have this sharp little path. Our pets sometimes stray here.   Posted by Picasa
    Blogfast 2005

    I plan on a blogfast beginning immediately.










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    Okay, it's over.


    But seriously, I'm a bit surprised at the lack of posts lately among many reputable, long-established bloggers. Without mentioning any names, such as Jeff C., Bill L., Camassia, Bill W., Steven, Tom & others, I daresay I hope the lack of posts is not due to the summer sag in site statistics (say that five times fast) because we know that the blogger's credo is: if I can help not hurt one person, then it's all been worth it.

    The only thing rattling around my head today is why Thoreau was taken so unseriously. He's dismissed as an "adolescent fling" by First Things magazine and admittedly when I liked and read him I was an adolescent, surely coincidental. But why are there so few serious, scholarly biographies of Henry D. Thoreau? Is it because a)he didn't do enough in life (i.e. wife, children, books, etc...) to warrant a full-blown biography? Is it because simplicity isn't inherently interesting to many?

    August 16, 2005

      Abbot's Blog

       
    I was reading our Byzantine Catholic newsletter and came across an article by Abbot Joseph, a monk at the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Redwood, California. And it turns out he has a blog! From his profile: "Interests: I'm mainly interested in the things of God and the salvation of your soul."   
        

    Like "Woodstock"?
    - Terrence Berres responding to Tom Kreitzberg's line, "for some people, the term 'Vatican II' refers to experiences during a fixed period of time...'

    Does it [Msgr. Clark scandal] discredit faith to the outsider?...The way this usually comes out is that when a hardliner falls, the line he or she preaches is seen as pretty much instantly discredited in the eyes of many. We can make a list from Jimmy Swaggert through Newt Gingrich to Monsignor Clark with countless in between, including a closeted homosexual or two or three. "Ah," the comment goes, "Here we go again. Another conservative proving that what he preaches is a lie. Even he can't live by it." Well, the only thing to say to that is probably - if the minority who flagrantly fail are an argument against the truth of what they say, what about those who spectacularly succeed? Wouldn't they be an argument for it? Is it necessary to privilege the witness of the former over the latter? Not for an honest person, I would think. But it's a caution, nonetheless. If you're going to be out there railing about morality, try to be no more than the most ordinary, run-of-the mill sinner, will you? - Amy Welborn

    When a young, conservative woman asked how she could stand the awful things people said about her because of her stand on abortion, she hesitated, messed with her hair, and said: "Well, it's the same way I don't care about anything else: Christ died for my sins, and nothing else matters.'' --Amy McCullough via Kathy Shaidle, emphasis hers

    Every nation has its own style of intoxication. The general run of Europeans like to get very mildly tipsy every day with a bottle of wine or a few beers over their evening meal. The British like to get blithering drunk once a week. The Russians like to get blithering drunk twice a day... and so on. The early Anglo-Saxons were noted for their addiction to "drinking, fighting, and singing." It's the national character; and with the stupid and poisonous multi-cultural project now swirling fast down the toilet over here, the Brits are going to become more fiercely protective of all aspects of their national character, even this one. - J. Derbyshire on "The Corner"

    Wow. Now I understand why Canadian Catholics always sound so apocalyptic. Victor Lams posts about a retired Canadian professor who went on Radio Canada and basically called for Catholicism to be outlawed. The transcript of his modest proposal may be found here. This guy is fascinating. He's like the missing link between Relativist Man and Fascist Man. - Meredith of "Basia Me, Catholica Sum"

    My three biggest non-reference books (excluding the Bible and text books): 1. Literature of the Western World Vol.1 MacMillan 2. Les Miserables (complete and unabridged) Signet Classic 3. The Brothers Karamazov Penguin Classic Paperbacks all of them, I keep my hardbound books at the public library for safekeeping. - Ham of Bone on "Social Engineer No. 31415926535"

    Who's looking out for me? Not just Bill O'Reilly. My daughter's reason for why I should take her clothes shopping: "You're contributing to whether or not you will have grandchildren." - Karen of "Some Have Hats"

    Yeah, I think pix are thought-provoking. Pictures are a great enhancement to a blog. Why, for example, just look at the girl glugging iced-tea on T.S.O'rama's blog! :) - joachim of "Daily Med" (lol)

    As a Catholic, I have decidedly mixed feelings about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki....Were the bombings "just" in the Catholic tradition? The part I still can't get over is how, to the best of my knowledge, there isn't much anti-US sentiment in Japan. (If I'm wrong, let me know). You'd think it would be Yankee Go Home Central. The US intervenes for Muslims in Kosovo and sends billions to help them after the tsunami, and they get blown up for their troubles. But are there gangs of disgruntled young Japanese blowing up subways to "avenge" Hiroshima? Lord knows they even have a tradition of suicide bombing to get them started. Don't ask me. - Kathy of "Relapsed Catholic"

    After the kids went to bed, I picked up a book I have never read before and turned right to this passage: "And even in your own life, was it when you tried hardest that you were most rewarded? No. God hid himself, would not allow you to trace, as if by mechanical process of cause and effect, the connection of his favors with your endeavors for him." There you have it. The rewards, the consolations, and the joys in life often come when we are at our weakest - when we least deserve it - so that we may be absolutely sure it is all Grace. - Jeff of "Hallowed Ground"

    I spent a week in Gettysburg back in 94, walking the battlefield each day with my books and cigars. Fond memories! - Bill of "Summa Minutiae"

    There are two ways to avoid being a false sign [of Christ]: don't be false; and don't be a sign. The problem with the first way is...sin speaks to the sinner in the depth of his heart, as the Psalm has it, and he so flatters himself in his mind that he knows not his deceit...So I think the way to go is "Don't be a sign." As I said, an apostle can't help but be a sign, but he can at least make it clear that he, personally, is not a very good sign. - Tom of Disputations
    From a 10,000 Foot View...

    Fortune article on buzzwords (via KTC). At the end of the day, it seems like using un-impactful words and phrases shows a lack of thinking outside the box. But that may be beyond my core competency.
    The Past is a Foreign Country

    Taking a cue from Mark's Irish Elk blog, I'll post an old photo:


    A toast to the bride in 1909

    ...found via a treasure trove of old pictures of my alma mater.

    I told my stepson I was going to title this post "A Long Way From Chippendales" but he reminded me that back then they had to hold their poses for a long time in order to get an exposure, so if the ladies look just a tad underwhelmed, it's probably that their arms are getting tired.
    Fictional Tuesday

    Gary carried justifications for bad behavior like dirt underneath his fingernails. God couldn't very well damn everybody. There'd be no sense in that. God was like his high school Physics teacher for whom a 60% carried the day. The grading curve was the greatest invention ever conceived by the mind of teachers.

    So sex outside of marriage wasn't a problem for him. The narrow way had two things against it, one of which was obvious. It was hard, uncomfortable and painful. The second was that there was safety in numbers and the herd wasn't taking it.

    He cared not for sects or gnostic truth seekers, cared nothing about little remnants who would save themselves. He knew he was not cut from their mold, knew that if God wasn't a saver of large numbers then it was all for naught because there was nothing special about him, no great love or courage that could make him think he was of the elect.

    But Christianity itself was big enough. There was a massive heft in the combined allegiances of Christians, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox. This was a herd, and it held a great attraction in the form of a leader both man and God, both weak and perfect, and the only soul who seemed capable of answering "why are we here?", the question that bothered him with increasing frequency as if Poe's Raven were whispering it into his ear each time he sinned.

    This large group, this other flock, was traveling a narrower way, a way that allowed for great lattitude in many matters (there was much internal disagreement) but on the subject of the particular sin that bothered him it was clear the herd was going the other way.

    And he didn't want to get left behind.

    So he began to follow behind, tentatively at first, and then joyfully. He was excited by the scent he encountered. Getting close to the herd seemed to get him closer to the Shepherd and the Shepherd was wildly alluring, the very essence of Truth's scent.

    He began to notice sharp divisions in the herd. They'd come to a fork in the road and take it. Some would veer left, others right. And he asked questions and they were providentially answered and he knew which of the great herds of Christianity he belonged to and the narrower way became narrower. But he was with the herd and that made it all right. But still he recognized it wasn't enough.

    It wasn't enough because it was still about self-preservation. The Shepherd had called him from the wide road of every man, to the massive Christian herd, to the narrower Catholic fold. But he found in this group they all didn't walk the same path! There were millions of paths! Individually constructed it seemed to him, each carrying little crosses tailor made. At some point he would have to be his own herd. And every time he put the Shepherd before his self-preservation his heart, which was made of 100% biodegradable Alaskan iceberg, shed a tiny drop of baptismal water.

    August 15, 2005

    Sigh...



     A field without Queen Anne's Lace is like a bicycle without a tire. This is a shot of the four acres behind our house (not our property). Isn't it beautiful even on an overcast day?  Posted by Picasa
    A Good Read Spoiled

    I've gotten into the awful habit of defiling my books by dog-earing good passages. So the better the book, the more defiled it becomes. And my copy of Many Religions - One Covenant by the former Cardinal Ratzinger has scarcely a page unmolested.

    It's only 110 pages, rich and dense, but sometimes it seems like I'm cheating by plucking the fruit of so much study, thought, and prayer. It could have been padded by a couple hundred pages in order to space the insights out in order to assuage my guilt. Of course if he'd done that I probably wouldn't have finished it.