August 31, 2007

Fiction for a Friday

We held him in awe, naturally. He had the deep, booming voice of a football coach - he was a football coach, and a very successful one at that. He had age and the imprimatur of championships and we imagined him Moeller’s Gerry Faust but without the aw-shucks enthusiasm or corny grin. A working class town like ours couldn’t afford the white-collar enthusiasm of a rich school. Vince Lombardi was his model, a coach who went to daily Mass while never forgetting that winning wasn't everything, it was the only thing.

He doubled as high school principal. We were a football catholic school designed to win championships and souls (the former the goal, the latter where convenient). Was it confusing that the soul-winners tried to win championships while the championship-winners never tried for souls? The devout Catholic senior English & Religion teachers were frosh & reserve football coaches respectively.

We knew the pecking order. Our principal was Moses and we were his children and the other teachers were slightly older children. He read the morning announcements basso profundo as we plotted ways to improve the football program.

He called us “rubes”, a term of affection, and would alter names for entertainment purposes. “Sackenheim” became “Wacky Sacky” and he would say it with such relish! His distinguished, gray-head would bob side-to-side with giddy emphasis. Most of us kept our profile low enough not to earn a nickname.

I had him for History class and the thing I most recall him teaching us - though he taught us much - was ‘planned obsolescence’. Naïve as I was, I was blown away by the audacity of it. That a corporation would produce a product designed to fail!

I also had him for Driver’s Ed. The great ones, the teachers who were memorable because they were honored and dominating, seemed to only address me once, and that would be a line I would recall for a lifetime. Ruth Winkbiner, whom one fellow sixth-grader screamed in the midst of class “I hate you!” (You can bet I awoke from my dream-state for that!), had said to me a few months before: “You are such a dreamer!”. It was the one address that year to me personally and I might've been honored by it regardless of substance, though in this instance the substance was sublime. “I am a dreamer!” I said, pleased with this new grist for dreams.

During Driver's Ed with the football coach - he was in the passenger seat while I drove! - he noted my exaggerated body leans (to impress him with my athleticism? Might he see in me wide receiver moves?) and said, “What, do you think you’re Mario Andretti?” I dreamed of a career in auto racing.

* * *

It's twenty years later and the theme of our class reunion is: “What happens at reunion, stays at reunion.” Yes that’s precisely how I always remembered her! Twenty years later, how little has changed!

It seemed to encapsulate the class, weaned on the thin gruel of ‘70s catechetics and the praise-and-worship songs of James Taylor: our reunion would be like Las Vegas, exactly like the culture at large, spiked with a dollop of planned obsolescence and carrying the implicit promise that something might just happen that you wish concealed...
Mauve Man

From A Country Scribe comes a post with a blurry picture:


Okay, I was shooting from the hip and didn't get a good picture of this guy at the coffee shop because I didn't dare ask him if I could take his picture. Yellow shoes, mauve socks, white boxers, yellow shirt, plaid bow tie--and mauve jacket on a man who looked to be in his late eighties. Priceless.
I like that look, at least on a elderly gentleman. (Side note as we near Oktoberfest: Do old guys look better in the lederhosen & the Deutsch hats than young poseurs or is that rank age prejudice? Side note II: Did anyone else see this PBS special on European anti-Americanism and if so, what is wrong with Polish people wearing cowboy hats?) Anyway, it all reminds me of something from a novel I'm reading:
"Never mind," I would answer, "perhaps when the common people set the fashions, men's clothes may recover their old rakishness. Grooms used to be more pleasantly dressed than gentlemen, because good form for gentlemen nowadays is simply to be scrupulously clean, correct, and inconspicuous...Not that the uniform of industrialism absolves the rest of us drab creatures from self-consciousness or from taking pains. We mustn't fall short of the right standard or overdo anything; but we compose our social figures sadly, with fear and trembling, and more in the dread of damnation than in the hope of glory.

"Not in my case," Mario said, smiling broadly and straightening his shoulders. "I rather fancy dressing up and giving people something to stare at."

"I know; but you're a rare exception, a professional ladykiller, a popinjay amid the millions of others. You have the courage of your full human nature, as your father had the courage of his delicate tastes..."

-- George Santayana, The Last Puritan
Country Song Friday

Inspired by Roz's "guy" post, I offer the lyrics to new Brad Paisley song, I'm Still a Guy:
When you see a deer, you see Bambi
And I see antlers up on the wall
When you see a lake you think picnics
And I see a large mouth up under that log

You're probably thinkin’ that you're gonna change me
In some ways well maybe you might
Scrub me down, dress me up
Oh but no matter what,
Remember, I'm still a guy

When you see a priceless French painting
I see a drunk naked girl
You think that riding a wild bull sounds crazy
And I'd like to give it a whirl...

I can hear you now talkin’ to your friends
Sayin’ yeah girls he's come a long way
From draggin’ his knuckles and carryin’ a club
And buildin’ a fire in a cave

But when you say a backrub means only a backrub
And you swat my hand when I try
Well now what can I say at the end of the day
Honey, I'm still a guy

These days there's dudes getting’ facials
Manicured, waxed, and Botoxed
With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands
You can't grip a tackle box

Yeah with all of these men linin’ up to get neutered
And headin’ out to be feminized
But I don't highlight my hair, I've still got a pair
Yeah honey, I'm still a guy

Oh, my eyebrows ain't plucked, there's a gun in my truck
Oh thank God I'm still a guy
Role Models

I commented on another blog concerning athletes as "role models": My take is that it depends on what is required of the player. For example, as I've said before if a player doesn't want to sign autographs or be what is now called an "ambassador for the game" then I don't have a problem with him. We don't expect Gary Kasparov to be an ambassador for chess and kiss our @sses. I would much rather see excellence on the field than excellence in marketing.

The motivation of league officers in all seems mostly crass and cynical - the league wants to sell a product. Players are commoditized now to a greater extent than ever, so they are expected to be who they are not, leading to artificiality and provoking cynicism when the player's true colors are (inevitably) revealed.

The process tends to beget mediocrity and it is spreading like kudzu. Enron was a corporate example of this appearance-over-substance mentality. Authors today don't have to write well but must be able to sell their books (i.e. have good looks and pleasing personalities).

I would rather have sports heroes and villians (with the edifying contrast between the two) than having merely milquetoast plastic "heroes" who keep two eyes on the bottom line. For true villians, however, suspensions and banishment are good things. Pete Rose deserved to be banished from the game and that sent a powerful message to kids. Same with Vick. But not getting an autograph, on the other hand, is something kids might need to learn - i.e. the world doesn't revolve around them and players aren't consumer items. On the other hand, autographs show that not everything is for sale and that a player might, of his own volution, give something that is unearned & free - and that is a beautiful thing.

August 30, 2007

Easy-going Evangelism

Liked this post from Roz, concerning a Latin America mission trip:
My daughter tells me that this fellow "was a guy before he was a Christian." Maybe that's the secret.
The Saint Who Got Along with St. Jerome

Today's saint is St. Pammachius, a friend of St. Jerome. After describing the tensions between St. Augustine and St. Jerome, White's Christian Friendship in the 4th Century says:
With one man, however, Jerome did manage to maintain a relatively cloud-free relationship over a number of years and that was with Pammachius, the Christian aristocrat to whom six (two jointly with other friends) of Jerome's extant letters are addressed...

If cooperative and supportive Pammachius was to be one of Jerome's few long-term male friends, his closest relationship, which lasted from the early 380s to her death in 404, was with Pammachius' mother-in-law Paula of whom Jerome said she was the only woman who gave him pleasure.
(Indeed, Jerome wrote an especially long, poetic letter after Paula's death that spoke in part of her journey to the Holy Land):

A blog describes a disagreement between Jerome & Pammachius:
Pammachius was enormously disturbed by the bitter controversy between Jerome and Saint Rufinus over the teachings of Origen. He wrote to Jerome urging him to undertake the translation of Origen's De principiis, and gave Jerome very useful help in his controversial writings, but he could not convince Jerome to tone down the language of his works.
Elsewhere, Jerome defends himself in a letter to Pammachius:
If, according to the Romans 8:26 Apostle Paul, we cannot pray as we feel, and speech does not express the thoughts of our own minds, how much more dangerous is it to judge of another man's heart, and to trace and explain the meaning of the particular words and expressions which he uses? The nature of man is prone to mercy, and in considering another's sin, every one commiserates himself. Accordingly, if you blame one who offends in word, a man will say it was only simplicity; if you tax a man with craft, he to whom you speak will not admit that there is anything more in it than ignorance, so that he may avoid the suspicion of malice. And it will thus come to pass that you, the accuser, are made a slanderer, and the censured party is regarded, not as a heretic, but merely as a man without culture. You know, Pammachius, you know that it is not enmity or the lust of glory which leads me to engage in this work, but that I have been stimulated by your letters and that I act out of the fervour of my faith; and, if possible, I would have all understand that I cannot be blamed for impatience and rashness, seeing that I speak only after the lapse of three years. In fact, if you had not told me that the minds of many are troubled at the "Apology" which I am about to discuss, and are tossing to and fro on a sea of doubt, I had determined to persist in silence.

August 29, 2007

What Are You Reading?

...or why's my bookbag so heavy?
Prince of Darkness - by Robert Novak
The Last American Puritan: The Life of Increase Mather - Michael Hall
It's All About Him - Denise Jackson
The Memoirs of a Failure. With an Account of the Man and His Manuscript. (William Wirt Dunlevy) - Daniel Kittredge
Nearer My God - William F. Buckley
The Bad Catholic's Guide to Wine, Whiskey & Song - John Zmirak
Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings - Houselander
Witness - Whitaker Chambers
The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova
Parody Blog...

updated with post titled "Local Man Experiences 'Dark Night of Soul' Before Breakfast". Pretty self-explanatory.
Sixty Second Vignettes   :lightning round!
     ...each read in sixty seconds or less or your money back.

My, but how much bookish-goodness is on display on the cover of the book "The Last American Puritan"! You can see in the left background fine bindings of an antiquarian library. Wouldn't mind having that painting hanging in my bookroom, but you never see reproductions like that for sale on art.com unfortunately. Just folks like John Dean & John Belushi & Marilyn Monroe. (And now I suppose Anne Nicole Smith.)
____

I was amused by the idiocy of this "joint husband/wife confession" idea:
Husband: "Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I've had lustful thoughts about other women."

Wife: "Forgive me Father for I have sinned. I just knee'd my husband in the groin in a confessional."
____

I don’t seem to miss a thing when it comes to the falling off of summer’s zenith. It seems coarse, bad form, like noticing every detail of an aging woman. But I can’t help but see that the moon’s placement is farther west at the same time as a month past. And even though on paper the sun is expected to shine till 8-something pm, already at 6:30 there is no sun on the back porch because she’s sitting low enough in the sky to catch all the neighbor’s huge sycamore tree.

But who could have regrets? Time is so perfectly fair. The summer is parcelled in exactly the same measure to the Southern Hemisphere as the Northern and I’ve had plenty of time to run and bike and garden and just read. Sure I wish I’d made it to one Reds game this year but then they have played so bad. Until lately. And there's always September.
____

The hummingbirds still come to the feeder even if the lightning bugs are gone. We have two females, one named “Curious” for her tendency to look around while feeding. The other I think is named “Scaredy” since she won’t actually sit at the feeder but prefers to gather the sugar water with wings beating in preparation for foes.
___

Heard '80s song Chaka-Kahn on the radio and my mind slipped a gear, propelled backwards in time without my consent and I trod somewhat fearfully on the long-past ground thinking that I could fall into bad habits again merely by hearing a song.
_____

In TIME's Mother Teresa piece, there's the line: "She wrote in 1951 that the Passion was the only aspect of Jesus' life that she was interested in sharing: 'I want to ... drink ONLY [her emphasis] from His chalice of pain.' And so she did, although by all indications not in a way she had expected." I suppose this goes under the heading "be careful what you ask for", right next to the Sons of Thunder saying that they could drink the Cup Jesus would drink, without knowing it meant martyrdom. But it's consoling and unnerving at the same time; Christ isn't as complacent as we are. That He acts beyond the threshold of what we even can ask for is a good thing in the long run, which is the only run that matters. Easy to say I know. Being something of a glutton for punishment, I emailed the Baptist pastor my previous thoughts on the darkness of Mother Teresa and he responded like this:
I am absolutely astonished at the "spin" people are putting on this!!! I simply can't believe what I'm reading. To live a life devoid of peace, joy, faith - is nothing to be admired. Her works, absolutely - but the life described in her writings is the polar opposite of the entire New Testament.

I am blown away by the rationalization I am reading from people simply trying to defend the undefendable.

As I said - I am truly astounded. And I honestly, sincerely mean that.

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!
But all of this is just a preface to Steven's marvelous post, in which he quotes an author saying, "Preparing us for a love we cannot conceive, God takes our lesser notion of love from us one by one."
____

The great Budweiser man, Jonah Goldberg, (he formerly of simple tastes) is going high rent on us. He admits to be something of a "foodie" now and actually watches one of them thar cooking shows. I can understand where he's coming from though. As you age, fast food just doesn't work as well as it used to. Food was never that important to me but as I get older I get fussier. To be pleased with O'Garlic Poor Boys seems… well, like a long time ago.
____

Had to deal with another Ford recall, this time some sort of possible leak that could result in an engine fire and the burning down of your house. That’s all. My wife was necessarily paranoid for our dog's sake and the ‘black pony’ (my car) was relegated to outside the garage until fixed.
____

I like camping but tend to like the idea of it more than its execution. It's surely too harsh to say that "camping is work punctuated by tedium" but it's too good a line not to make a post titled "Sixty Second Vignettes", what with small barrier to entry.
____

Speaking of things that sound good on paper - how about golf? I generally play once a year and that pretty much satisfies the itch. Played my sister and father and sis played well. I think it’s her shoes. Very classy looking. I played much better than expected which leads me to believe the secret to golf for me is not playing it very often. The less I play, the better I play!

Never has mankind devised or even thought of designing a more pleasing golf course than the little 9-hole par three we enjoyed. I like how it’s intended to get you to the 19th hole (in this case the 10th hole) very quickly. I think every bad golfer can agree that that’s the true goal of golf – to get it over with and have a beer in the clubhouse. Now don’t get me wrong, I love golf. I love the feel of the golf club, the swing, the arc of the white ball over green valleys, the straight and true drive and the occasional good putt. But when I’m actually doing it I often love it a bit less, which usually comes as a surprise. Golf teaches you that all highs are transitory and all lows likely to persist. (I jest.)

August 28, 2007

         

Different hemispheres of the brain govern the propensity for intuitive artistry and inductive science. Extreme atrophy of one of the lobes can cause exaggerated aesthetism or nerdish scientism. Acute distinctions between the arts and sciences are artificial and unscientific. One dead lobe creates the National Endowment for the Arts and another dead one creates Planned Parenthood. - Fr. George Rutler, via Jeff of Curt Jester

curious what the poetry scene/s will be like. here in wexford, i've belonged to a group and found that generally poets tend to write less from their biography. which is something i knew from reading international poetries. but somehow i experience that fact differently as a workshop participant. i've been bringing in some personal lyrics and they contrast with the historical and nature-focused and community focused poems brought in by most of the other poets. my recent tendency toward the personal lyrics seem not only american but also protestant in their individualism. stray range stir angst stars sang to feel rather than merely intellectually understand the self's constructedness. - poet Heidi Lynn Staples who moved from America to Wexford, Ireland & now to Dublin

One of the principal marks of an educated man … is the fact that he does not take his opinions from newspapers... He knows that they are constantly falling into false reasoning about the things within his personal knowledge . . . and so he assumes that they make the same, or even worse errors about other things, whether intellectual or moral. This assumption, it may be said at once, is quite justified by the facts. - H.L. Mencken, via "Daily Eudemon"

Christianity is not a "religion of the book." As the Compendium shows in question 18, "The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors who wrote what he wanted to teach us. The Christian faith, however, is not a 'religion of the Book', but of the Word of God – 'not a written and mute word, but incarnate and living' (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux)." - Rich of "Ten Reasons"

A good friend of mine, a lifelong Presbyterian, introduced me to Peter Kreeft a half-dozen years ago. Because of that introduction and our subsequent conversations, my friend is at least partly responsible for my reversion, or at least my taking the Faith much more seriously. He was fond of saying that the real fault line in Christendom lies not between Catholics and Protestants but between orthodox Christians and progressive agitators. - Rich of "Ten Reasons"

Both religious leaders felt the need to reaffirm the traditional teachings of the church about an invisible spirit world to a society of, in the pope's [John Paul II] words, 'rationalists and materialists'. The similarity reminded me of how, twenty years ago, I had read the autobiography of Pope John XXIII and found in it the same piety and awe of God's presence that Increase Mather had expressed in his autobiography. It is ironic that the Puritan leader of Massachusetts, to whom the pope was the Red Whore of Babylon, and these twentieth-century popes should have so much in common. The world views of seventeenth-century New England Puritans and twentieth-century Roman popes are closer to each other than either is to the secular and materialistic world view that dominates the industrialized countries of today. - Michael G. Hall, author of "The Last American Puritan"

Cheri Mantz reports in the our Catholic Herald on 87 year old Jesuit Father Bill Brennan's participation in the Pastors For Peace trip to Cuba. "I’m going to go with the next caravan," said Fr. Brennan. "My goal is to have an ecumenical service at the tomb of Che Guevara. ..." - Terrence Berres, illustrating that there's no fool like an old fool

"Should be two kinds of men in every busy parish," Phil said. "Priest-priests and priest-promoters." The novel describes these two types, and they are both lacking. The priest-priests are those that totally and exclusively identify with their sacramental role (in the spirit of Fr. John O'Brien's book The Faith of Millions, which is still being used by Protestants to learn about Catholicism). These men are fearful and ignorant of the world and take pride in a destitution that stems from their own administrative incompetence. They tend to play up sectarian differences and are insensitive to tone when addressing books or pamphlets to the public. The priest-promoters are those like Fr. Urban: he likes good wine and food, knows how to treat businessmen, and is ambitious. Fr. Urban steers clear of controversy, proposes parish entertainment that is entertaining (without embedding moralistic content). Fr. Urban speaks the truth, not the complete truth, but the truth. An organization fueled by donations and volunteer work should be managed soundly so that the sacrifice of many will not be squandered. What's missing so far - and this may very well be the blindness of Fr. Urban's point of view - is love for Christ...The priest-priests live in fear of the world and so choose to do the sacramental bit well; Fr. Urban is not a mercenary, but really wants nothing more than to run a successful parish and to receive a little credit for a job well done. So far, I haven't heard any question in the book that only Christ is the answer to. - Fred of "Deep Furrows" on J.F. Powers's novel "Morte d'Urban"

It should be admitted that it's not a particularly Christian story. The virtues it exemplifies are natural virtues; in particular, the love that plays such a significant (and improbable) role is natural love, not Christian charity....Non-Christiany aspects are no big deal at all in a story; they only become so if the story is supposed to be somehow more profoundly Christian than any other good-vs-evil fantasy. Part of it, I guess, is what I call the Third Law of Commotion: For every action ("Rowling is an antichrist.") there is an equal and opposite reaction ("Rowling is the greatest evangelist of our generation."). - Tom of Disputations on Harry Potter

The story goes back to Sam Coleridge...Sam didn’t like the Britannica: too enlightened, too alphabetical, too Scottish. So he started his own project, the Encyclopedia Metropolitana: systematic in organization, orthodox Christian in tone, and representing the best minds of London, Cambridge, and Oxford. One of the latter was Richard Whately, who was assigned to cover two thirds of the Scholastic trivium, the Elements of Logic and Rhetoric; Whately in turn farmed out part of the Logic to a former student, the Rev. John H. Newman, then of the Established church. The Encyclopedia as a whole didn’t sell, but these two volumes did, like hotcakes. In America. As textbooks. And so the Elements of Logic found their way into the home of Professor Benjamin Peirce of Cambridge Mass. and into the hands of his precocious son Charles, who was never the same. Charles Sanders Peirce went on to become the father of American philosophy. (There are days I acknowledge Emerson; this isn’t one of them.)... For him the art of discovering reality isn’t a matter of empirical observation or rational deduction, though these are of course indispensable, but more the weighing of converging independent probabilities. This is something he had picked up from Whately’s (and Newman’s) Elements of Logic, but was now able to show is the way real work is done in the hard sciences, in which he made his living. He also argued that what passes for philosophy has been on the wrong track since the end of the Middle Ages, and that if philosophers wanted to be modern in the sense of being scientific, they needed to go back to the methods of scholasticism. - Frank Purcell
Last of the Mohicans

What is it about the clannish Mathers? The kings of the Puritans: Richard, Increase, Cotton, Samuel?

My trip to Boston a couple years ago increased my interest in Increase Mather and other early leaders of that historic town. Reading Philbrick's Mayflower further stoked it, a fire originally lit by Puritan cemeteries with the strange and wonderous art on the gravestones across from our hotel. Once I walked out there in the morning, before breakfast, in the gloam. Who were these hard souls?

The Spriett oil of Mather in this post is the cover of The Last American Puritan, and I happened across the Harvard archives while searching for the painting. It turns out Increase, a Harvard president, tried to keep the university Christian just as centuries later Pope JPII would try to keep Catholic universities Catholic.



A photograph from Harvard's archives is captioned: "Increase Mather wrote his Queries Worthy of Consideration to support the insertion of a religious test into the College Charter of 1700. This document contains a list of five questions testifying to the religious character of the College." Shades of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.


Ode to Dead Kings

Of village greens and burying grounds
and wigs and guileless smiles
like dinosaurs they roamed the earth
once upon a time...

In languished drawer'd compartments
their ink scripts darken-yellow
now catalogued and tender-kept
vintaged like bass cellos.

I love dynastic families
who chart or thwart the tides
who labor a tradition
to synthesize, demise.

Their turn on earth "when we were kings!"
cry the Adams/Mathers family,
Richard, Increase, Cotton, Sam-
Quincy, John & Henry...


The son of the last Mather listed in the poem above appears to have gone to Cleveland for commercial reasons:
Samuel Mather's son, also named Samuel Mather (1771-1854) was a shareholder of the Connecticut Land Company. One of his sons, Samuel Livingston Mather (1817-1890) settled in Cleveland in 1843. Three years later, in 1846 he was one of the founders of the Cleveland Iron Mining Company (later the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company).
He Jests Who Rarely Felt a Wound?

Rich Leonardi wrote that a friend of his was fond of saying that "the real fault line in Christendom lies not between Catholics and Protestants but between orthodox Christians and progressive agitators." And I recall Archbishop Sheen saying something along the same lines.

So it was semi-surprising to hear not just the usual shots taken at Mother Teresa by Chris Hitchens, but also from a local Baptist pastor who has a radio show. (Whose show I've heard all of ten minutes over the past year but fate would have me catch this. The pastor of my Byzantine church calls the radio station "poison", but that always seemed a bit strong to me.) While presumably Mother Teresa's primary crime was being Catholic, Burney opined that darkness can happen, but that it should abate. His lasted seven years, but then it was gone. Hers lasted 45 years until her death proving, what exactly? That he's a better Christian or that his doctrine is true? I'm certainly not without sin on things ecumenical but...

August 27, 2007

Saint of the Day - Roger Cadwallador - August 27th

In an Anglican church not far from London, Robert Bennet, a 17th century bishop of Hereford, is honored in a stained glass image on the western-most window:
The glass is described by Dr Peatling and Francis C Eeles in "Stained Glass in Surrey Churches" (Surrey Archaeological collections) as follows: "In the west most window, south side of the South Aisle is an oval medallion of white glass containing the shield of the arms of Robert Bennet, Bishop of Hereford, 1602-1617. In the middle of the right light a shield very largely in enamel paint, of the arms of Henry VIII impaling the augmented arms of Anne Boleyn, granted on her marriage."
At that time his bishopric was "most talked about and sought after and eventually obtained in 1602 by Dr. Robert Bennet, Dean of Windsor, although a month before the inhabitants of Hereford petitioned against his appointment, on the grounds of his abuse in office as Master of St. Cross." (From "The Works of Michael Drayton", pg 178.)

Bennet, whose coat of arms was of lions, would send Blessed Roger Cadwallador to a Hereford gaol where the saint was "loaded with irons night and day" for the crime of being a Catholic priest.

--Richard Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests
___________
So in addition to St. Monica, Roger Cadwallador is remembered today, a priest and English martyr. A search was made for him in June, 1605, but it was not till Easter, 1610, that he was arrested. A blog devoted to the English martyrs has the story here:
When he was near his crown he wrote, "Comfort yourselves, my friends, in this that I die in an assurance of salvation ; which, if you truly love me as you ought to do, should please you better than to have me alive a little while among you for your content, and then to die with great uncertainty either to be saved or damned. If this manner of death be shameful, yet not more than my Saviour's was : if it be painful, yet not more than was His. Only have you care to persevere in God's true faith and charity, and then we shall meet again to our greater comfort that shall never end."
On the morning of his execution, having spent some five hours in prayer, he took some broth and claret, to make himself strong, he said, like Bishop Fisher, to suffer for God, and dressed himself in a new suit of clothes as his wedding garment. On the scaffold, asked to give his opinion as to the oath, he replied that his opinion mattered little; they should regard rather the sentiments of the Church, for his swearing would neither diminish the Pope's authority nor increase the King's.
Cadwallador forgave the bishop, according to Challoner:
Today a hotel stands "on the 'Iron Cross' which was a focal point for hangings, the most notable being that of Roger Cadwallader, a Roman Catholic Priest, hanged in 1610."

August 26, 2007

Another Annie Dillard The Maytrees Excerpt:

Three days a week she helped at the Manor Nursing Home, where people proved their keenness by reciting received analyses of current events. All the Manor residents watched television day and night, informed to the eyeballs like everyone else and rushed for time, toward what end no one asked. Their cupidity and self-love were no worse than anyone else's, but their many experiences' having taught them so little irked Lou. One hated tourists, another southerners; another despised immigrants. Even dying they held themselves in the highest regard. Lou would have to watch herself. For this way of thinking began to look like human nautre--as if each person of two or three billion would spend his last vital drop to sustain his self-importance.
___

The lasting love he studied, not mere emotion, might be willful focus of attention. It might be a custody of reactions. He circled this view for years. Love as directed will did not sound like love's first feeling of cliff-jumping. Call that period eighteen months or seven years - call it anything but infatuation! It must be acknowledged and accounted for. Recently science had nailed down its chemistry: adrenaline. Then what? ... That [love] was outside science's lens did not mean it did not exist. As Maytree aged, lasting love was starting to seem more central to a man's life even than work. Even then building a career and even writing poetry! Anthropology had proved against its expectations that the ideal of lasting love and also its undeniable (if minority) presence was well-nigh universal, in culture after culture from the Stone Age on.

Say that evolution came up with the eighteen months' infatuation. That might be long enough to get Baby on his feet and arranged for, if only by Grandpa or siblings. Then the man can go off and impregnate someone else. Why then do old people fall in love? Why stay loving? The feeling of love is so crucial to our species it is excessive, like labor pain. Lasting love is an act of will. It is a gentleman's game.
Random thoughts about her first excerpt: her larger point of frustration at our inability to change is well-taken. There is nothing more depressing than seeing the elderly as she describes.

On the micro point, being well-informed about politics (if you're not a politician) is admittedly akin to being an accountant who bodybuilds in his spare time: all that muscle going to waste. On the other hand one could look at politics as entertainment, as our national soap opera (although more predictable and with characters so stock that you'd say they need new writers).
Today's Homily

On Luke’s gospel today, “will there be only a few saved?” with Jesus saying “I do not know you” to some, our homilist attempted to steer that fine line between presumption and despair. He mentioned how there is much presumption in the modern world, and how many presume on Gods's mercy and somehow think Him incapable of rejecting anyone. Yet he said we should not fear God’s rejection and I was touched by how he took pains not to tread heavily on this Scripture for the sake of the despairing. (There are likely many more presumptives than despairers.)

In his examples of those for whom this Scripture is likely to apply he mentioned those who rely simply on their Baptism and those who "sometimes" go to Mass. He implied that the seemingly Darwinian struggle of only the strong making it to Heaven in that passage applied to those who tried to get there without Christ. Since Jesus is the way the key is to follow Him. The gate is narrow but Jesus is the gate and if you follow him you don’t have to go trying to climb tall walls to get into Heaven. He also said it is not our business who God saves. It’s not ours to know. Rather, our concern should be to share the truth of Christ out of charity.

August 24, 2007

I, Snark

I'd always taken Rod Dreher for an enthusiast concerning matters ecclesiastical and gustatory. And who could find fault in an enthusiast since it takes all kinds? But I was disappointed to learn his zeal to persecute all wrongs foreign and domestic didn't extend to his new Orthodox Church of America. Now that's dirty pool. You can't change the rules in the middle of the game, can you? Zeal not directed everywhere - including at oneself - tends to stink (like guests and fish) after three days.

Inexplicably he was included in a book titled Best Catholic Writing 2007. An anti-Catholic writer being included seems so...'80s. As in been there, done that. Is this a case where the self-flagellations will continue until morale improves? It might be unfair to say so, but the book seems to me a bit too reminiscent of the West's general tendency towards self-loathing. I long for the day when there is accuracy in advertising - when anthologies with "Catholic" in the title aren't seen as too exclusionary if they have only Catholic authors.
Lambiacs Unite!

I noticed there are a few posts on Brian Lamb on the Corner today, including this email to K-Lo:
Mr. Lamb certainly is an interesting fellow. I met him while I was walking from my neighborhood in Crystal City to the Pentagon City mall.

We passed on the sidewalk, I was alone and he was with a quite tall and handsome lady. I said hello and told him that I am a big fan, especially of "Book Notes" (the show was close to it's last with Mr. Lamb as the interviewer, IIRC).

The rest of the interaction went something like this.

Mr. Lamb: "Hi, I am Brian Lamb, what is your name and where are you from?"
Me: "Steve Esposito, from Knoxville, TN."
Mr. Lamb: "Do you live here now or are you just visiting?"
Me: "I have just been working here since 1994, but I refuse to live here. Yes, I do have a condo on Crystal Drive."
Mr. Lamb: [laughing] "Yes, I know what you mean."

The exchange was so quick that I did not notice until later that he was in full-bore interview mode the whole time, which is fine and quite interesting.
And another email to K-Lo:
You wrote "He had some insane calls? and Brian would consistently
pull them along just enough to get to the heart of their insanity."

Yes! I love it when he does that. I caught one the other day...

****
Woman: They're all just out for money.

Lamb: Who's out for money?

Woman: Bush and Cheney and the corporations.

Lamb: And what do they plan to do with this money?

Woman: They're putting in their bank accounts, so when they leave
office they can leave the country and go to where we can't get them
back and put them in jail where they belong.
****

At that point, Lamb, uh, moved on to the next caller...
* * *

This seems an opportune time to combine some of my old (2002 & 2003) posts on Brian Lamb:

I'm a fan of C-Span's founding father Brian Lamb. In beltway talk he's known as "the Spinx" for the poker-face he shows when callers say things like, "Clinton killed, he will kill again" or "the FDA wants to ban NiQuil and it's the only thing that puts me to sleep". Brian lives a sort of 19th century life; he rises at 4am and reads every major newspaper in the U.S., Europe & Asia before having a tumbler of whiskey during open lines at 7am EST. He is preternaturally calm but then again who wouldn't be if you're unmarried, have a cush job and a 58-year old's sex drive? Mr. Lamb is known for his exceptional sense of humor - he once peppered a guest with questions like, "What do you write on?" He's also been known to stretch the truth, like when he referred to Hillary Clinton as a United States Senator. (Wait, ouch….she IS a senator). NB: Much of the above, of course, is blarney.
____

There's something refreshingly anachronistic about him. Uber-liberal Michael Moore was on Booknotes Sunday wearing a Boston Red Sox cap. Lamb asked, with a straight face, what the "B" stood for.

Lamb fascinates because his life is a mystery; he's a blank slate in a world where everyone's a pundit (one wag said that America is becoming dumber but more opinionated - not true of Brian Lamb).

Even though he's a mystery, you can pick up clues. He appears to be interested in and have a respect for religion, but when he peppered Jeffrey Hart with questions as to why the Catholic Church wouldn't allow women priests, I surmised he isn't a Catholic. He asked Michael Moore for his take on religion, though he never offers his own.

Single, never married, Lamb appears to have a great love for history and for details some might think minutiae. He seems to have a mild obession with De Tocqueville and obscure Presidents from the 19th century (sounds like a "Jeopardy" category - "obscure presidents from the 19th Century, Alex!").

I'm curious about his spiritual journey. My sense is that anyone who is interested in politics for a long time eventually becomes interested in religion (often rejecting it outright, but at least they think about it) because politics is the poor man's religion, a way to effect change on the temporal plane only.
___

It would be extremely un-Brian Lamb-like of me to call to your attention that Google seems to suggest I'm the first person to have coined the phrase Brian Lamb Fan Club, from that 2004 post. (But then see my blog title. Plus, would I admire him so much if I was just like him?) Fellow Lambiac Kathryn Lopez must've googled for the phrase "Brian Lamb Fan Club" two years ago because that post got linked on The Corner once. I also share with Lamb his morbid interest in last words and tombstones, as shown in his authorship of Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites.
'Good TIME Article' Not Oxymoronic After All

I was all ready to bash the TIME article on Mother Teresa, ready to see in it the usual parade of ignorance and ignominy and bias. But I was startled by how good it is (with the disclaimer that I haven't read the unreleased book yet). Still, David Van Biema deserves much credit. (I'm surely biased, but Hitchens comes off as a buffoon.) Surely anyone who speaks of a reparative purgation has done his or her homework:
Catholic theologians recognize two types of "dark night": the first is purgative, cleansing the contemplative for a "final union" with Christ; the second is "reparative," and continues after such a union, so that he or she may participate in a state of purity even closer to that of Jesus and Mary, who suffered for human salvation despite being without sin. By the end, writes Kolodiejchuk, "by all indications this was the case with Mother Teresa." That puts her in rarefied company.
Indeed, the lack of feelings Mother Teresa had are completely astonishing - nay miraculous - given what she was able to accomplish. Aquinas said that man cannot live without pleasure and up until a few years ago I'd thought she'd gotten all her pleasure from prayer. Not so.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. God sends us saints that speak to the exact trouble of the time. The secular world declares: feelings are all that matter. God, through Mother Teresa, declares the opposite.

The period I'm especially interested in is around 1947 when she was plunged into darkness and 1961 when a spiritual advisor gave her a way to look at the darkness such that she could deal with it.

It seems an unimaginable cruelty that she live 10-15 yrs without that coping mechanism and thinking that you yourself may be the cause of the dryness. God does seem casual in his relief efforts, something Christ experienced on the Cross when he felt forsaken. The author makes the point that the darkness could've been necessary in order to keep her pride down and I understand that, but I don't understand why the 10-15 yrs without even a coping mechanism.

One could look at this a couple ways. One is that we can't *earn* a thing! Even Mother Teresa who deserved, if anybody ever did, God's felt-love - did not. So it teaches that lesson very effectively.

And I think just as we can must treat life as sacred even though a third of all embryos die in the womb due to failure to implant, we must treat everyone with utmost compassion even if God exercises compassion in a very different way that we're used to.

But I do think the article has a great power. In a world with great physical pain, it's hardly surprising that there is great spiritual pain, even (especially?) in a saint! I love Mother Teresa all the more for this.

As I told a hurting friend, Mother Teresa is to those suffering depression what St. Padre Pio is to those suffering physical disabilities. Just as Padre Pio was gratuitously given the painful stigmata to show that God is close to those physically suffering, Mother Teresa was gratuitously given a lack of closeness to God to show that those with flawed brain chemistry that God IS close to them too.

August 23, 2007

Bingo Pysch 101

It's slowly dawning on me that a big part of bingo psychology is the constant turnover of lottery games, which in turn becomes the bane of the bingo volunteer's existence since many of the game names are embarrassing to say in mixed company. But we'll get to that in a minute.



Pat & Kim in the waning moments before 7pm, when bingo starts.
I found out tonight that cell phone companies charge you when
you take a picture and send it to your email account. This is,
of course, highway robbery and will make this picture among
the last I'll take with this fancy-schmancy but scam-laden cell phone.
The reason for the turnover isn't hard to discern - the average person won't win much and over time and they'll begin to develop a resistance, a prejudice, towards a particular game. But provide new, fresh games and hope springs eternal. This is sort of why some people will "reward" me by buying from me simply because I provided them a winner last time, or won't buy from me because I didn't.

Superstition is big in bingo. It's probably due to a blissful ignorance of basic statistics. Yet to play the lottery, says the writer Gabriel Zaid, "is an attempt to tune in to divine providence, to give God a chance to intervene in my life, to deny that success is due only to my effort, to pit grace against merit." (Quote is from Tony Cohan's wonderful On Mexican Time.)

So there were a lot of players pitting grace against merit out there tonight, but you should've seen coworker Kim's face fall when she heard she had to sell - get this - "Beat the Whammy". Where's the dignity? It sounded like a bad double-entendre.

Beaten down by having to yell "Beat the Whammy" every few seconds, we got a bit slap-happy. It's really hard to sound like an adult while saying any variation of "beat the whammy" and I won't even go into the vulgar motion I witnessed Kim doing. Pat, who has something like 29 ribs due to a freak of nature, told us that the extra ribs came in handy a few weeks ago when a beach umbrella uprooted in the Myrtle Beach wind and struck her in one of those extra ribs, leaving a bruise but no lasting injury.

Bingo players have a sort of innocence about them - you can't do too much wrong while playing bingo. You can't rob a bank or commit adultery, for example, especially if you're playing four or five cards at a time. If King David had been playing bingo (or at least fighting like kings were supposed to do in the spring) he'd never have had the opportunity to lust after Bathsheba. Well, maybe during the smoke break if she was there too. Although I have to say there aren't too many Bathshebas playing bingo.
It's Just Not Pretty

I really hate that Utah is kicking Ohio's ass... In our defense, we do have over 11 million people compared to 2.5 million for Utah. Be nice if the hate map was population-weighted.

(Found via Stephen Colbert's Ohio page, via Terrence Berres.)
Various

  

The bibliophagist is making me hungry. I'll have to go look at some of the inscriptions left behind in my books. I don't have many older books, though many that I do date from the Progressive Era, just before the Great War. They can be a bit over-confident. Speaking of older books, I'm reading my great uncle's PhD from 1945 on the history of Catholic education in the archdiocese. A few snippets:
The strong prejudice against the use of boys' voices and the use of the Gregorian Chant has given way to an appreciation and a free use of it...The main objective has always been to make Catholics more conscious of their glorious inheritance of Catholic musical art. Imbued with its spirit they are thereby led to participate in the liturgy of the Church.
Progressive and modern are certainly considered good things, at least better than they do to my ears today. Who could've known that the reliance on experts in the field of mental health would later help facilitate the priest abuse crisis in that bishops would be unduly swayed by the "experts"?
In September of the year 1938, the progressiveness of the school system was promoted by the establishment of the Catholic Guidance Clinic, one of the first Catholic mental hygiene clinics in the United States...The availability of its services has added another modern touch to the school system, for today the best modern educators realize that diagnostic and remedial services and guidance have a definite place in their field.
Paegentry in the form of large graduation exercises involving multiple high schools led to this statement:
To have the Catholic schools represented in such a variety of public affairs is a splendid form of apologetics for the Catholic school system. It brings to the attention of non-Catholics as well as Catholics the work of the Catholic schools. It is a means of removing eroneous notions concerning the schools and inculcating a better appreciation of them.
* * *

Last night I finished watching Masterpiece Theatre's "The Virgin Queen", about Queen Elizabeth naturally. Bleh. Or meh. Or whatever word it is that describes a lukewarm reaction. I never know how much history to trust in these type of shows. My hunch is very little. In Dr. Warren Carroll's book on the history of Christendom her final days were lonely and wretchedly desperate, the sort of end that people in the 17th century took as evidence of disfavor with God. In the movie while the consternation of her final days was depicted, there was at peace in her final moment. Her ring was found to have been made into a clasp, concealing a picture of...drumroll...her mother Anne Boleyn. Whether that is historical I have no idea.

* * *

TIME magazine has an article on Mother Teresa and an upcoming book here. They also discuss/recuss Billy Graham's experience with U.S. presidents:
Back in 1955, when Dwight Eisenhower had become Graham's first real friend in the White House, he used to press the evangelist on how people can really know if they are going to heaven. "I didn't feel that I could answer his question as well as others could have," Graham told us. But he got better at it with practice. John F. Kennedy wanted to talk about how the world would end--more than an abstract conversation for the first generation of Presidents who had the ability to make that happen.
* * *

On a lighter note, my brother-in-law authored a funny parody on the Parody is Therapy blog concerning an Arizona school punishment for carrying a sketch of a gun without a license.

* * *


Why is the Dalai Lama hipper than the Pope? This video suggests part of it might be ignorance of the D. Lama's teachings on sex.

Perhaps part of the reason Buddhism is so popular these days is that baby boomers and subsequent generations are averse to suffering in a way prior generations were not. Thus, religion is seen as less a desire for truth than a desire to explain or mitigate suffering. Stephen Prothero author of Religious Literacy wrote: "If you ask something simple like, 'What is the problem that Christianity solves?', the answer would be sin. If you ask what problem Buddhism solves, the answer would be suffering. Are sin and suffering the same? No, in Christianity suffering is in some senses a good thing, in Buddhism there is no sense in which suffering can be considered good."

* * *




I was in the 'octagon room' recently at this library in Hamilton and later came across this 1913 flood photograph. It shows "water almost a third of the way up the building's walls. The solidly-built octagon room withstood the ravages of the flood, but a north wing and stack area were both destroyed." My great-grandfather died in this flood.

August 22, 2007

Mystical Body
I longed for the Blessed Sacrament and the beauty of the liturgy of the Church, and this longing was made bitter to me by the perverse idea I had fostered, that the Blessed Sacrament had been put out of my reach because it had been put into the hands of the hard and righteous people in whom I felt I could have no part. It did not dawn on me that in condemning others wholesale as Pharisees, I myself was a Pharisee. Had anyone suggested this to me, I would have been dumb-founded, for I prided myself on condoning the sins of the most disreputable people - people who, I am certain, were far less guilty for their sins than I was for mine, since many of them had grown up without any knowledge of God. Without knowing it, I was being patronising as well as Pharisaical.
__

Then, for the third time, I "saw" Christ in man...I was in an underground train, a crowded train in which all sorts of people jostled together, sitting and strap-hanging workers of every description going home at the end of the day. Quite suddenly I saw with my mind, but as vividly as a wonderful picture, Christ in them all...

The "vision" lasted with that intensity for several days..I saw the reverence that everyone must have for a sinner; instead of condning his sin, which is in reality his utmost sorrow, one must comfort Christ who is suffering in him. And this reverence must be paid even to those sinners whose souls seem to be dead, because it is Christ, who is the life of the soul, who is dead in them; they are His tombs, and Christ in the tomb is potentially the risen Christ. For the same reason, no one of us who has fallen into mortal sin himself must ever lose hope.

It would be impossible to set down here all the implications of this "vision" of Christ in man; it altered the course of my life completely, and in a sense took away my difficulty about the Blessed Sacrament's being put into the hands of sinners. I saw that it is the will of Christ's love to be put into the hands of sinners, to trust Himself to men, that he may be their gift to one another, that they may comfort Him in each other, give Him to each other. In this sense the ordinary life itself becomes sacramental, and every action of anyone at all has an eternal meaning.
__

It is not the foolish sinner like myself, running about the world with reprobates and feeling magnanimous, who comes closest to them and brings them healing; it is the contemplative in her cell who has never set eyes on them, but in whom Christ fasts and prays for them.

--Caryll Houselander, pg. 37 of Caryll Houselander: Essential Writings

August 21, 2007

Parody blog updated...

...with a spoof of some people who are anti-Motu Proprio for no apparent reason.
Fiction for a Tuesday Eve
Before Albert Arnold Gore blamed every odd natural thing on global warming, some blamed the same on men walking on the moon. Ern said things were never the same after we monkeyed with the moon.

We were sitting in a wood-panelled breakfast joint, the kind frequented by truckers and smokers, when he mentioned his long deceased brothers & sisters. Gus & Ed were opposites; Ed was a hard-driving drinker who’d regularly get tossed from his brother-in-law’s bar. He & Ern'd just take their business elsewhere.

Every New Year’s Eve Ed looked for the biggest rock he could find and heave it up towards some window, usually that of a cousin's house since just about everybody in the neighbor was related back then, back in the 1940s & '50s. The next morning, hung-over, he’d be found faithfully installing a new one. There was something oddly inspiring in that - the miscreant willing to pay for his sins.

Ed and Gus alternated playing Santa Clause most years, a sort of St. Nick equivalent of “good cop, bad cop”. Gus made the kids get down on their knees and pray – ‘you too Ern!’ he said one year and Ern probably needed it. Gus had whiskey on his breath but was the jolly sort. I wondered if the kids even noticed the difference between Santas, so mindless in the anticipation of what they would receive. Ern didn't say.
         

That Thomas [Aquinas] proved so successful in applying this method, using revelation to point out errors in the reasoning of past philosophers while keeping what was true in them, can be seen in the judgment of non-Thomist experts in ancient philosophy. The famous Aristotle scholar A.E. Taylor, for example, says that “the so-called Aristotelianism of Thomas is much more thoroughly thought out and coherent than what I may call the Aristotelianism of Aristotle. . . . By comparison with the Thomist synthesis of Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine, how comparatively incoherent and loose is Kant’s synthesis of Hume and Leibniz.” - Oakes of "First Things"

Yesterday I read an essay ("Girls Gone Mild") about girls returning to modesty in dress and chastity in conduct. The author, Wendy Shalit, was taken by surprise at the tongue lashings she received...I had decades of first-hand contact with people committed to trying to achieve happiness and freedom through such “open” or “free” sex. In fact, so committed were these people that those who held contrary views—even those who did not criticize promiscuity or preach chastity, but simply wanted to quietly live chaster lives—were not simply considered wrong. They were routinely mocked, ridiculed, savagely attacked. And among one another, they not only praised freedom, in the form of exhibitionism and promiscuity, but they also were touchy and judgemental of one another; always on the lookout for signs of insufficient “freedom”... I stood there listening to them, and suddenly it came to me with a shock that their attitude towards sex was, in fact, a sort of puritanical prudery. They were just as judgemental, frightened, scornful, indignant; just as quick to take offence and be shocked, at people who professed or practiced different sexual mores from their own as the most obvious stereotypical blue-law 17th Century Puritans. - blogger at "Forest and Mote"

I used to think that hanging out after a game waiting for player autographs was like stalking, but not anymore, because I was sitting in a hotel waiting for the Reds to come down and go to the ballpark, and that felt more like stalking. -- Reds fan blogger "Daedalus"

As bad as the partisanship is - and as infuriating as the bald denials of partisanship are - that’s not what’s most notable about the content of the NY Times and, I suppose, other papers like it. It’s that the content is so, well, feminine...Their model reader is an affluent, educated, secular, 30-something stay-at-home mom who used to live in the city and work, and still likes to think of herself as being worldly and cultured. (The content, which these days consists mostly of semi-literary features, is perfect for this segment. Plus, just look at the ads.) These readers are generally not Deaniacs, and are not going to be turned into Deaniacs by reading a few Krugman or Frank Rich columns - they are classic Clinton soccer moms, just with a bit more money and a bigger status-hunger. The Times, in other words, is just a business looking to refine its market segment, and I think the people who are not part of this segment (he-man news junkies) are simply misunderstanding the shift. - commenter on "buzzmachine"

I was at that time in my “Lutheran” phase, immersed in the writings of Martin Luther, Martin Chemnitz, Robert Jenson, Gerhard Forde, and Carl Braaten. Justification by grace through faith was a burning evangelical concern for me. The sola gratia, sola fide spoke to my heart, as it speaks to the heart of anyone who suffers from depression and self-hatred. In Zahl I met a kindred evangelical spirit. I had the privilege to talk to him at a SEAD meeting in Alexandria and was much impressed by his lively faith. It does not surprise me that he has become the Dean of the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. I have occasionally wondered if Paul does not sometimes fall into antinomianism, but … what the heck … that’s an occupational hazard for anyone who pushes the sola gratia envelope. Prozac and twenty years later … The message of sola gratia still speaks as powerfully to me today as it did in the 80’s, but I have lost my Lutheran accent. I began to lose it in the mid-90’s. I ultimately found it impossible to reconcile the monergism of Luther with the synergism of the Church Fathers. If I have to choose between Luther and the Church Fathers—and ultimately, everyone who wrestles with these questions does have to make a choice—the Church Fathers win, every time. - Al of "Pontifications"

As a younger man, I once wrote, “The redneck substitutes blanket skepticism for wisdom.” Now that I’m getting older, I’m beginning to think the redneck ain’t so dumb after all. In fact, the real wise man understands that he knows very little when contrasted with everything there is to know. I suspect the Internet and its suffocating avalanche of information makes every person a bit wiser in this respect. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

This is probably related to (though as a cause or effect I do not know) the decline in dynastic thinking in modern society. Only a very small percentage of people in our current society have family estates or businesses which have existed for many generations, and require people to think in terms of bearing, raising, educating and training the next generation in order to carry things on. Not that people don't think about "the next generation"; but it the general attitude I hear around the corridors at work (which I take to be a more standard milieu than our friends from church or among homeschoolers) seems to be that "the next generation" is simply something that happens. One may or may not produce a few members of it, but generally it's a strange and separate entity which tends to spring up, demand video games and college tuition, and then go off to do its own thing. If people think about "carrying on the family" it generally seems to be as a somewhat backward desire usually expressed by aging parents who want grandchildren to spoil before they are too old to enjoy it. - from Darwin Catholic, pondering why affluence=less kids

Praying in a sacral language is something almost connatural to man; anthropologists and sociologists of religion find the phenomenon in every culture. Even when the vernacular is employed (as in the Anglican Communion), the language of worship is always somewhat different, more elevated, more conducive to lifting the mind and the heart to God. As I was trying to understand "praying in tongues" many years ago, a Catholic charismatic said to me: "Father, it is important to me that I pray in a language in which I have never cursed another human being." That is a tremendous insight, which gave me an even greater appreciation for the Church's "preferential option" for the use of Latin. -- Fr. Peter Stravinskas via "Ten Reasons"

Atheism isn’t what it was in the eighteenth century. Now, the focus of the attack is not the Church, which is no longer dominant, but religion itself. The disdain one used to hear for ‘organized religion’ extends now to the individual believer’s faith. . . . To reduce the influence of religion, it is [now] politically necessary to attack it in the private sphere as well as in the public square. -- Harvard University's Harvey Mansfield from "First Things"

Any man who strives to be someone worthy of respect must accept that he will at some time be a hypocrite. - via "Heart Speaks to Heart"

In a way the health care establishment occupies the place in society the Church occupied in the Middle Ages. If you study a medieval city, you bump into a Church-related person or institution at every turn—not merely the clergy or houses of religious orders, but courts, tithe collectors, and a host of miscellanous employees. Consider the Canterbury Tales: not only is there a parson and a prioress, but a clerk of Oxenford, a summoner, and a pardoner, all of them part of the Church’s establishment. Likewise the Church provided a set of values and moral standards, which, while not always followed, were more or less universally recognized. In modern America, you can live your life without running into the Church, but you can’t avoid the health care establishment. There are doctors and nurses and hospitals; there are also the related bureaucracies, insurance companies, and firms that supply the health care system in ways great and small. As the Church collected tithes on all sorts of property, so health care takes its toll from every company’s revenue and every worker’s paycheck. And the religion of health provides the set of moral standards that are unanswerable. - Henry of "A Plumbline in the Wind"

Every manifestation of hip — from Walt Whitman to the Harlem Renaissance to the Beatniks to Kurt Cobain — has this in common: it lives for now. That’s what makes it so cool, whether it’s a heroin junkie playing a saxophone (see Charlie Parker) or a speed junkie who dies walking outside on a cold, wet night wearing nothing but a t-shirt (see Neal Cassady). Compare that to the American marketplace. What does it want? It wants people to live in the present, preferably with no thoughts about the past and definitely no worries about the future, including second mortgages and 18% APR credit cards. - Eric Scheske
High-larious

Zippy had one of the all-time, all-star best retorts I've ever seen, one that I wish I'd have thought of.

Of course you'll have to read this post and the comments in order to appreciate the following punchline, but if you're interested in the subject of wealth and poverty then it's light lifting:
When I google:

itsa secret is totally ignorant about how google works

I get 11,900 hits.

August 20, 2007

The Death of Chick Flicks

My theory of 70s music postulated that for Gen-X'rs & Y'rs romance is dead, and this may actually be true. Check out this TIME magazine article:
What now, for example, are the differences a man and a woman have to overcome to get together? Their lives look pretty alike. They worry about what they do, about whether they're maximizing their talents, about what others think of them, about the way they look, about if they will be able to make the money they need. A love interest is no longer an alternative to or solace from the rat race; she's another rat. As such, it's perhaps understandable that a suitor expects to be able to pull her over for a quick mating session and then get back on track. Where is romance in all that?

And it's not just happily-ever-after that has changed. The global nature of dating--the access to a limitless pool of mates just a click away--means that people feel they hardly need to overcome difficulties in relationships. If the whole getting-together thing proves too hard, they can just move on. Juliet's a Capulet? Bummer. Back to Facebook. Finding a soul mate is no longer a determined steeplechase over every obstacle. It's a numbers game--about as fraught with epic drama and desperation as recruiting a new middle manager for the nonperishables division. Perhaps it's not surprising that the romantic movie that most touched a nerve in viewers last year was The Break-Up.
___

It's notable that while there's a black hole where romantic love used to be, man love is all around. Not homoerotic love, although there are hints of that too in, say, 300. This is the kind of sacrificial, I'll-do-anything-for-you love that we associate with young lovers. Ocean's Thirteen is essentially the story of what guys will do to avenge the frilly-shirt-wearing Vegas moneyman they adore. (One of them writes him love letters!) Spider-Man 3 is as much about Peter Parker and erstwhile best friend Harry Osborn getting back together as it is about Peter and Mary Jane. In Knocked Up, the courtship that's most fun to watch is that between the two potential brothers-in-law...

After an early [Superbad] screening attended by Rogen, who co-wrote it, and Apatow, who produced it, a young guy stood up in the audience to address the filmmakers. "I love this movie," he said. "I'm here with my future wife, and we learned a lot tonight." The new model for intimate human relations is the platonic love of one emotionally underdeveloped adolescent boy for another. God help us all.
Mother Angelica is So Much Like St. Paul

I recall Raymond Arroyo saying that when he was writing his book about Mother Angelica she said something about not emphasizing her sufferings lest they scare people off.

I was reminded of that while reading today's selection from St. Gregory in the Lit of the Hours concerning St. Paul:
They have nothing but patient scorn for the enemy who moves against them, but they sympathize with their weaker fellows and bring them back to the safe way, opposing the former lest they lead others astray and fearing for the latter lest they completely lose sight of the truly upright life...

When beset by so many struggles, [St. Paul] guards the camp, he tells us, with great watchfulness. Immediately he adds: 'Besides these outward difficulties there is that daily weight upon me: my anxiety for all the churches'...He endures the attacks without, inasmuch as he suffers flogging and chains; inwardly he experiences fear, since he is afraid that his sufferings may be a stumbling-block not to himself but to his disciples. For this reason he writes to them: 'Let no one be shaken by these trials, for you know that they are our lot.' Amid his own sufferings it was the fall of others he feared, lest the disciples, seeing him flogged for the faith, might refuse to acknowledge their own faith. What an immensely loving heart! He thinks nothing of what he himself suffers and is concerned only that the disciples may be led astray interiorly.
* * * * *

All-pro Cincinnati Bengal Mike Reid gave up his NFL career to write songs, including this country song, heard on the radio today:
We have come to this place in our love
Where faith must be stronger than fear
For if true love is our destination
Thru every storm it must always be clear
The surest way to get there from here

CHORUS:
Is to walk on faith
Trust in love
Just keep on putting one foot down
In front the other
when the valley so wide
We stumble in stride
And everything inside wants to give up
Walk on faith trust in love

Farther on beyond the shadows of our doubts
We will live where true love never dies
Though the road we must travel is uncertain
There is a truth in our hearts that never lies
It is by such grace we are bound to arrive

August 19, 2007

The Great Cincy Bookstore Tour

Our grand book adventure was perfectly timed. Not set for Thursday, when I had the “2 hr drive-hangover”, and not later Friday after a long bike ride which would, undoubtedly, have left us pressed for time. Instead we had the leisure and energy to find two bookstores, the first of which caused me to laugh quietly upon entering because it had to be a joke. Over-priced used (very used) paperbacks does not a bookstore make; it had all the ambience of a used car lot. With some navigational help from dad through the miracle of the cell phone, we quickly headed to destination two, the Germanically-named Duttenhofer's Books, at 214 W. McMillan Ave on the U.C. campus. The guy behind the desk looked like a Duttenhofer and lamented that he has “more books coming in than going out”.

(Since I have this fancy cellphone I figured I might as well use it. When in Rome... So I snapped a couple pictures with it and those are the ones you see in this post.)

It was love at first sight, or smell, for it’s hard to recall which came first when entering the book-lined palace full of the pixie-dust of forgotten voices. Specializing in the rare and antique, there is something exhilarating about browsing in a place that the owner himself couldn’t tell you what he has. It’s like there are unexplored lands that even his computer couldn’t detail. And oh the Ohio books. And the fiction by authors from a hundred years ago. And the Miami books. And...well, perhaps one could substitute old bookstores for universities in this ode:
____
Flower-sprung from mesas
of the prairied land.
Star strewn along the hills
and by the seas-
the quiet-bastioned citadels
of Peace
and gunless fortresses of
freedom – stand the universities.

-- Percy MacKaye

August 18, 2007

Various

Here's a funny line from an email that is surely something a melancholic would say: "Like I needed 107 questions to verify that I am one melancholy baby?"

***

A quote from Goethe on beggars who promise to pray for the rich, via this First Things post comparing Catlicks & Protestants:
When one is in the right mood, it is really touching to see someone who, despite a direct relationship with the highest being, is unable to entreat for himself a reasonable improvement in his own condition, but nevertheless believes himself able to be the patron of another, making an appearance before God, accompanied by his many clients, with his supplications.
He meant it financially, but taking it spiritually - welcome to my world Goethe!


***

I must say I am cheered when Christianity co-opts something pagan and “baptizes” it. Normally it works the other way. Our universities started out Christian and then became throughly paganized. So it always does my heart good to think we won one – that if a pagan Roman who worshipped Jupiter would come back today and find a priest wearing his robes, well, that would just shock him and he’d say, “hey, doesn’t anybody worship Jupiter anymore?”. One cherishes small victories. My mother's annoyed by priestly robes since they were apparently just borrowed from pagan Rome, and she would prefer they wear their black suit with white RC collar. Which, truth be told, I do think looks sharper from a purely sartorial viewpoint.

But I say it’s nice to say that Christians notched that victory. Especially now that we’re losing a lot. We’ve not only lost marriage as a sacrament but we’ve also lost it as an institution. Which isn’t too surprising actually. If it’s not sacred, then it’s a piece of paper. If it’s a piece of paper then why do it? A sacrament promises invisible grace. Help from God. With faith, it makes it worth doing simply for what you’ll get out of it. Same thing with the Eucharist. If it’s really Jesus, then people will go to Communion because it’s in their interest – they’re getting something out of it. In churches where it is merely a memorial, only a remembrance, it becomes infrequently received (monthly or a couple times of year) and it becomes de-emphasized. Jesus knew human nature well enough to know that if you tie a reward to something, people will be more likely to do it. The Eucharist today, if taken seriously, would draw people in. As it did Scott Hahn as told in "Rome Sweet Home".

Many long to strip religion of mystery when mystery is the very thing people are starved for. The reason the occult and New Age and obscure Jewish mysticism are so popular - and Catholicism not - is partly because now nuns dress like everybody else and the Mass is said in English and there’s no incense or bells and everything is just so….predictable. We were born to seek mysticism in religious rituals. It’s the way God made us, or at least some of us - like C.S. Lewis anyway. To deny that is to cause people to seek it elsewhere, where they will be harmed instead of helped.

***

I'm really going to have to be on my best blog behavior these days. No more spam poetry or self-indulgent fiction. At least not this week. It looks like this blog has made a real, live, Catholic diocese website. All it will take is one person from Wichita to complain and I'll be taken off. (Dad & I argued over which of us had the biggest bruise of all-time; I said the one I'm getting still getting over is obviously the larger. I'd post a picture of it but unfortunately it's in a place that can't be published on a blog linked by a Catholic diocese. With greater responsiblity comes greater responsibility. Something like that.) But I'm impressed by the Wichita diocese because ours, by comparison, is so milquetoast. Ours would never link to a "controversial" organization like Karl Keating's or, thank God, Commonweal, let alone bloggers. I think we link to the Vatican and a couple very innocuous sites like the NAB bible. While on this subject of blog self-consciousness, I'd like to thank Elena for this undeserved award.

***

I know a couple where the female is a progressive and the male a traditionalist. (Not my wife & me by the way.) And I always thought that she drew blood when she said of her husband: “Would you have believed in Jesus if you were around then?” It’s the classic way to make the traditionalist fall back on his heels, the accusation that “you only believe because your parents believed”. But today I thought about how easily that can be turned around on its head. He could respond to her: “if you were a believer during Jesus’ public ministry, would you have still believed as he was dying and in the period before the Resurrection?”. Or: “Would you have believed in Jesus in 50AD or 90AD when false Messiahs appeared? Would you have believed in Menahem ben Judah or Theudas or Simon bar Kokhba, all said to be Jewish “messiahs” after Jesus?"

* * *

As Ham o' Bone famously once said, "there's too much hate in the anti-hate crowd." Edwards calls Coulter a she-devil before sayingCoulter engages in hateful language. Meanwhile Republican nominees don't touch Ann Coulter but Dems line up to see the hater at Daily Kos. It's a standard past double, heading towards triple.

August 17, 2007

Hear Belloc Sing!


Twas a thrill to hear the great man's voice and, as the cliche goes, he didn't sound the way I'd expected.

Chesterton's voice, for a fee, can be heard via an audio CD found here.

August 15, 2007

Various

I was kind of surprised to find that choleric came out as my secondary temperament (at 13%). Maybe that's because I'm comparing myself to all the full-blown cholerics in the land of St. Blog's (I'm thinking especially of Kathy Shaidle & Karen Hall) and by comparison I feel downright sanguine.

* * *

I really liked Mr. Curley's beautiful Assumption post today. I had half a mind to just cut & paste the html (attributing it to him of course) because I liked the look of it.

* * *

The countries of baseball: a map of the USA carved up by fan loyalty.
A Philip Dick Variation on the "Four Temperaments"

I was reading this New Yorker piece about Philip K. Dick when it occurred to me how complementary the four temperaments are. One of Dick's novels could be seen as variations on that theme:
The gift of Dick’s craziness was to see how strong the forces of normalcy are in a society, even when what they are normalizing is objectively nuts. In “Clans of the Alphane Moon,” from 1964, a mental hospital in a remote solar system has been abandoned by its keepers, and the lunatics have, over time, proliferated and organized themselves into a strange but functioning and interdependent country: a clan of paranoids supplies the statesmen, the Skitzes live in poverty but have wild poetic visions, the Deps provide a depressed realistic appraisal of the future, and the manics are the warriors. It’s weird, but it’s a working society, not a suicidal one. And a society that in some ways resembles Dick’s own, that of the Johnson-Nixon years.
The Deps could be the melancholics, the Skitzes the phlegmatics (i.e. sensuality, sloth), the paranoids the sanguines (i.e. "self-will, control, anger, haughtiness, superiority") and the manics the cholerics.

August 14, 2007

Email & Link...

Email from Gregg the Obscure which you may find helpful also:
FYI, I found a Catholic-oriented temperament sorter at http://www.4marks.com/temperaments.html. Takes about ten minutes and results are plausible.
He also shared an excerpt "of a Jewish prayer to be prayed before reading Psalms, it wouldn't take much of a change to make it a great Catholic prayer":
"May You not take us from this world before our time, before completion of our years (among them are seventy years) so that we can rectify anything we have ruined. May the merit of King David, of blessed memory, shield over us and for us, that You may be patient with us and wait until we can return to You in complete repentence. From your treasury of undeserved grace, be gracious to us".
* * *
Elsewhere, a remarkable post here here (via Disputations here), about growing closer to God. The typical dynamic is to think we fill up in prayer and spend in service; what if it were somehow reversed, or at least service was a kind of prayer?
Spanning the Temperaments...

No Spanning the Globe this week as I've been remiss in the preparations towards that end; instead we'll "span the temperaments" from the book The Temperament God Gave You:

Choleric:
Spiritual gifts: zeal for souls, fortitude, knowledge.
Spiritual weaknesses: self-will, control, anger, haughtiness, superiority.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Paul.

Sanguine:
Spiritual gifts: Joy, mercy, magnanimity, gratitude.
Spiritual weaknesses: self-love, envy, seeking esteem and human respect.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Peter.

Melancholic:
Spiritual gifts: Piety, long-suffering, wisdom.
Spiritual weaknesses: timidity, scrupulosity, judgmentalism, despair.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).

Phlegmatic:
Spiritual gifts: Peace, understanding, counsel, meekness.
Spiritual weaknesses: sensuality, sloth, complacency.
Saints who share your temperament: St. Thomas Aquinas.

August 13, 2007

Blast from the Past in More Ways than One

Went to my great uncle’s parish for the first time Sunday, just over an hour away, where he pastored for two years before his death in 1973. On the way down I listened to a sermon* he'd practiced on tape for a Baccalaureate Mass.

His lifelong dream was to pastor instead of administrate but I suppose he had too much German in him (he was half-German and half-Irish and very smart) and they had too many priests back then. Finally in 1971 his dream came true.

The music at Mass was a Haugen-Haas-fest, as syrupy as the day is long. A six-piece band gathered before Mass at the front right side; a keyboardist, a drummer, a violinist and a base cello among others. Small towns are always a couple decades behind so if this was 1987 I wasn’t too surprised. What was surprising was how they sang! The man next to me, in his seventies if not eighties, sang as lustily as a chanticleer. The young mother on my other side did likewise, and had such a good voice that I quit singing and simply listened and enjoyed her gift. Rarely if ever have I heard a RC congregation so given to singing. The songs seemed corny but how could I begrudge them given their enthusiasm?
_______

* - "It is good to see you graduates of the class of 1972 with your parents, family, friends and teachers, and to be with you here at the celebration of the Eucharist. After completing the four years of your high school education, it is most fitting that you assemble here around the altar to join in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, for Catholic graduates not to do so would be most shameful, for we Catholics never do anything that really matters without the Mass. For us it is the Mass that matters. Surely you owe so much to Almighty God for his graces and blessings and favors throughout these four years, and certainly you will continue to depend on Him, so entirely during the years to come, that first and foremost you should be drawn towards him at graduation time.

And so on this Baccalaureate Day, we join in the celebration of the Eucharist: with Christ we offer to almighty God this supreme act of worship in sincere thanksgiving and in humble petition. In thanksgiving to him for everything throughout your years of schooling, and in humble petition for the direction, the guidance, the help, the assistance and the strength that you will need as your life away from Fenwick unfolds and blossoms and brings forth fruit.

That briefly is why we're here this evening. To worship our God, to thank him, to ask his help. And now what I have just said so far could really suffice for the Baccalaureate sermon. And yet I suspect those who asked me to give the sermon this evening expect at least a somewhat longer one. However there isn't really any need for my saying much more. Oh, a lot more could be said. But after all you are about to be graduated. You have had long years of schooling and the education you have received here at Fenwick has fully prepared you for whatever awaits you in life. What then can I, in the Baccalaureate sermon, expect to add to that preparation? But if I am to give some last words of advice, it might well be the words and advice of Christ Himself.

We have before us today the acccumulated wisdom of this 1972 graduation class. Their class is a class of the space age, brought up amidst moon landings, laser beams, cancer research, heart transplants, computers, poverty, war, racism, you name it. We are certainly living in interesting days, in exciting and difficult times, and in a challenging age. But, in a way at least, I envy you. Because your generation will be living in an even more interesting, challenging, exciting and difficult times and then you will be given the chance, the opportunity to do something about the world we messed up, and about which you are so critical. You will have a part, a tremendously important part in straightening out that world, no matter who you are or where you are or what you are.

It is your wish and it should be your prayer, as it is our wish and our prayer, that you will be blessed by God in helping to solve the problems of your age. I say blessed by God because without God's help those problems will not be solved. And that brings us back to the remark I made about the advice given at that first Baccalaureate sermon, given to the first graduates of that first Catholic school: I refer to the sermon, the sublime discourse, which our Blessed Lord gave to his apostles at the conclusion of the first Mass, there at the Last Supper. We can indeed, by way of analogy, liken it to a Baccalaureate sermon. The apostles had been enrolled, as it were, at his school. They were trained and educated by him for three years. And when their course was complete and he was about to leave them and they were about to be on their own, he celebrated Mass and gave them what we might call their first Baccalaureate sermon. And now as you await graduation and leave your alma mater and go forth on your own, you too might well give some thought to what Christ told his graduates at their Baccalaureate Mass.

It is a beautiful talk, so rich in every way. Read it sometime, as recorded in the Gospel According to St. John. Christ covered many points; we shall not now refer to them all. I shall merely recall to your attention a few of the words, of his thoughts. You have heard them many times. But you may not have thought of them as being addressed to you, at your Baccalaureate. In that talk he likened himself to the vine, and thus to the branches of that vine. He commanded his apostles, and he is commanding you now, to live in him, as a branch lives in a vine, and to bring forth fruit and more fruit; the fruit of good life, of good example, of leading others to good. A Fenwick graduate, a man manly in every sense of the word, and a girl, queenly in every way, is still respected and admired and wields power, and is bound to bring forth fruit abundantly. And in that talk He gave his commandment of love, and he repeats it to you this evening and once again adds: "This is how all will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another". And how needed that commandment of love is today, in the midst of a world steeped in prejudice and bigotry and hatred and war.

In that talk he tells his apostles, and again he tells you: "Do not let your heart be troubled, have faith in God and faith in me." Now my dear graduates, life will not always be easy for you, not by any means. There will be times when life will be hard. Sorrows and trials, troubles and difficulties, temptations shall come into your life just as they come into everyone's life. But that should not frighten you. Have faith in God, faith in Christ, and with that faith in your heart there's never any reason, really, for being troubled. Christ tells you that and he's not kidding.

Christ told his apostles and again this evening he tells you, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He also said, "I give you my assurance, whatever you ask the Father he will give you in my name, ask and you shall receive and you shall be full."

If you remember those two statements and act on them, your life is bound to be a beautifully happy and divinely thrilling success.

Christ is the way, without whom there is no going, he is the truth, without whom there is no knowing, he is the life, without whom there is no living. He is the way you must follow, the truth you must believe, the life you must live. If you are floundering or seemingly lost, and that can happen, remember: “I am the Way”. If trials and errors beset you, and they will, remember: “I am the Truth”. If you need hope, vitality, courage, strength, and you will, remember: “I am the Life”.

My dear graduates, if you remember and act on that statement of the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and if you pray to God as Christ directs you at this, your Mass, with Him, then you can't possibly lose. As we join now in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, this celebration of the Eucharist, thank Almighty God, ask him for what you need, pledge anew to Him your undying loyalty. May the Father bless you and Christ be with you and the Holy Spirit direct and guide you.