March 28, 2006


The contrast between the end of the Inferno, the lowest circle of hell, and the hopefulness of the first glimpse of Purgatory is stunning. The Purgatorio is a poem "rising again from Hell's dead realm."... This yearning for ascent towards heaven begat in me a powerful motivation for turning the next page just to see what comes next. Moreover, the Purgatorio acted as a truly Lenten reflection, provoking myself to self-examination and even minor penance....Reading through the first two books, I've realized a pitfall of any education syllabus that includes Dante. The Inferno is almost always the only work of Dante assigned, so students will only get the Christian dystopia of a hopeless Hell. Even the Purgatorio doesn't portray the Christian ideal, but only those in the journey towards it. A reader won't encounter an encomium to true sanctity until the final book, the Paradiso. Thus, anyone in a "great books" course which tries to cram the whole Western canon into a semester will rarely encounter any depiction of a Biblical hero or Christian saint even if Dante is on the book list! - Kevin Jones of "Philokalia Republic"

The word "apostle" means one who is sent, and all who are called by Christ are also sent by Christ. An apostle is ever so much more trustworthy than a religious genius. A genius may have flashes of insight and come up with a brilliant spiritual scheme, but what he has to say is finally and uniquely his; I cannot enter into it or trust it completely. An apostle's role is much more modest and, therefore, more credible: "I have been told something that I must tell you. Make of it what you will." - Fr. Neuhaus in "Death on a Friday Afternoon"

Is there such a thing as a noble relativism? There are certainly suspicious kinds. I'm incredibly tired of armchair psychoanalysts' admonitions about the dangers of certainty. The self-congratulations of "nuanced moderates" who claim to be above the rough-and-tumble absolutist extremists likewise chafe me. Moderates are just extremists who are in power. - Kevin Jones on Amy Welborn's blog

Oprah: Stealing pears was your most base moment? How can you possibly argue that? For cripes sake, you're sleeping with every other woman in the book in your teenage years. And they were just...pears. Augustine: It was about motive. I had no need for the pears and no appreciation for the pears. I could have seen them as beautiful objects of God's creation, but I didn't. - blogger at "Ironic Catholic" imagining St. Augustine on Oprah

I'm not, by nature, "a joiner" of many things. However, Maslow must be given some cred and I must exercise my belongingness needs somehow. Might as well do it this way. After all, said B-Team has many stellar B-Teamers, who blog on all manner of important and weighty subjects, from many different perspectives (including--gasp!--some with which I agree) and do so passionately, elegantly and brilliantly. Obviously, they need me to balance things out. This, obviously, is an Electronic Work of Mercy (wait for Vatican 3, I'm just ahead of the curve in this regard) on my part. In fact, I consider it a ministry.- Joe of AMDG

Dreher at times strike me as a guy who hasn’t been living the crunchy con game long enough. It’s hard to describe, but he occasionally comes off as a little too excited about the crunchy con lifestyle, like a young man who thinks he has found his dream job, but hasn’t been doing it long enough to realize all its hassles. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

We can distinguish between the man who obeys the law because of the benefits of being law abiding and the man who obeys the law as a discipline for developing the virtue of justice. If you want to love-and-do-what-you-will, but you know you don't love well enough to trust that what you will will be loving, then you obey the law as a means of training, of developing the habit of doing the right thing so that you will in time desire to do it apart from any question of law. - Tom of Dispuations

The reason the novel ends as it does with the priest only saying "yes" he does have something to tell Lancelot, but not with the actual message, is that Percy as an artist and novelist does not think that he has the authority appropriate to communicating the truth that saves. Notice again the parallel with the end of both The Last Gentleman and The Second Coming . Percy's conviction here is Kierkegaardian, most forcefully expressed in Kierkegaard's "The Difference Between a Genius and An Apostle." Percy the novelist is not an apostle. If there is genius in his work, it is merely immanent in its ability to diagnose the pathology of modern man. Thus Lancelot's confession. The message in the bottle that saves must come from the transcendent authority that the priest participates in. -John O'Callaghan on Amy's blog concerning the Walker Percy novel "Lancelot"

Playboy was launched in 1953, and this female image managed to draw, simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have since come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment. We are now accustomed to seeing the two tendencies combined—witness Britney Spears—but when Hefner was a young man they still seemed like opposites. Hence the surprise and the popularity of Playboy. The magazine proposed that wanton sex, sex for sex’s sake, was wholesome, good for you: a novel idea in the nineteen-fifties. - New Yorker article, via Eric of "Daily Eudemon"

Human beings will ritualize. They just will...We will invest places and things and even garb with symbolism and meaning. And in the context of the Catholic Church, what all of this does - this rich, layered ritual and ceremony - is keep everything steady. It embodies 2000 years of people believing in Christ and trying to express what that means. Some of us snicker at those who are positively enraptured with the minutiae of ecclesiastical garb and ritual, and some of that interest can get rather weird and off-subject, but I think one of the reasons people do get so intrigued in it all is because of the meaning those gestures, pieces of metal and stone, and even fabric, folded just so and bearing this or that color - bear. Forgive me, but it is like a code. Or, like a treasure box, perhaps? The more you dig, the more you see what things mean, and how, in the context of say, the 14th century, this gesture or vestment or ceremony evolved as an expression of faith, and keeping it going, hanging on to it, is a sign of continuity with that same faith. Not that it doesn't need to be cleaned out at times. Not that it can't ever get in the way. But when you think about the alternatives - Ritual-As-You-Go that runs just as much risk, and perhaps even more - of pointing to us rather than God, of physical objects that communicate nothing more than here and now, of a bunch of fellows in suits, perhaps, coming forward to get - what - a pen holder?...This is better. It says a lot more, and it speaks loudly, not just of the present, but of where we're rooted. - Amy Welborn

Derbyshire: "We all know, of course, that humor is perishable, and that what made our parents -- or even our younger selves -- laugh can leave us stone faced. There are degrees of perishability, though, and the very best humor can stay funny for decades. I thought Sellers was in that league. Nope." Warren Bell: "I think I've written here before about the disaster that is viewing Blazing Saddles at age 42, after having wallowed in its glory at age 13. I think our memories tend to put a rosy glow around things we laugh at, and then in revisiting, the reality destroys the glow...So how much is the fault of memory, and how much is our own evolution in life? Is Sellers less funny, Derb, or are you?" - The Corner

I agree with Dreher that the Chartres Cathedral is more conducive to spirituality than a shopping-mall megachurch, but there is a reason why Chartres is full of tourists and the megachurches are full of worshippers. What if this is as good as it gets? - Spengler of "Crunchy Con"

Thank God for the blogworld, always there to inspire me, or to irritate me, or to make me look up an answer, to provoke me to think. And thank God for Sundays, when we are required to pay Him a little attention. Without that anchor coming around once a week, I don't know how many Christians keep their feet on the path, on the Way. I'm lucky; I can go to near-daily Mass, which is a little cycle of love and life. The bigger weekly cycle of Love and life is absolutely essential to a Christian life. - ThereseZ of "Exultet"

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