December 16, 2008


The good life does not have to be an easy one, as our blessed Lord and the saints have taught us. Pope John Paul II in his later years used to say, “The Pope must suffer.” Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils, but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be accepted as elements of a full human existence. Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. - Cardinal Avery Dulles S.J., R.I.P.

I do not understand suffering - but I know it is real. But a God who is in any way responsible for this terror of our lives, such a God must be terrible, a Molech consuming the children we love in contempt for any individual's striving and selfhood. But that is not the God revealed in the history of Israel and in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, a man whose life is written to echo the history of his people. Our God shows that he is with us - Emmanuel - in the slime of life, in the pain of life, in the joys of life, and in our death. I still do not know why people should die meaningless deaths, but because God is with us, he can look me in the face and I will not turn away in disgust. This story is so powerful that its symbols grip me absolutely. If all the details are wrong or ahistorical, the story itself remains true. Perhaps it is a dream, although I think not, but the story of Christmas is that life has meaning, humanity is worthwhile, and ultimately 'all will be well, and all will be well, and all things will be well". - Unknown

As I watched Smith’s eyes leave us again for that other, farther off, field of inquiry, then return, then do it again – possibly wondering how much he counted, worrying the hope of a world beyond time – it reminded me of a scene in that story he liked to read us, O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation,” when the condemned prisoner Belcher, a normally quiet man now babbling in the face of death, says of his already slain comrade lying on the ground at his feet, “It’s very queer, chums, I always think. Naow, ‘e knows as much abaout it as they’ll ever let ‘im know, and last night he was all in the dark.” Well, I think Smith counted, was worth more than any could see on earth, and I have great hope beyond worry – that on that morning when his gaze became irretrievably lost in the distance, its focus dimmed upon this world, he was eager only for the path ahead, the one followed on that “journey none of us know anything about”; and that, when my own time comes and I try to peer through the darkness woven by this trick of time, I’ll have the grace to let it go, and that maybe Smith, having gotten there first, will be able to teach me what he knows one more time. - Bill Luse in "Christendom Review"

Tucked securely under the sheets
were the small fry,
Haunted by the cranial choreography
of spectral fruit-snacks.

For a glacial forty winks
our minds became mute,
My wife, who was wearing a bandanna,
and in my night-cap, I.

- excerpt of Dylan's "The Night Before Christmas", imagined in NAB-like prose (on Meredith's blog)

Terry Gross was so subdued, so whispery-deferential during his [Bill Ayers's] "Fresh Air" interview that I wondered if he had placed a pipe bomb under her seat. --blogger at "Deafening Silence" via Terrence Berres

I’m just about finished reading almost every pertinent address, homily and message that’s come from Pope Benedict - those that I can safely assume come from his hand, at least. I told Michael the other night that my basic conclusion the dual experience of immersing myself in B16’s words and engaging in various church-related activities and events over the past week is that he is wasted on us. That is, Benedict is relentless in his call for us to focus on Christ. He constantly takes in the ways of the world, diagnoses our ills with precision, reminds us of who we are and “proposes Christ.” Just as relentlessly, he calls on the Body of Christ to get with it, to love fearlessly, to embrace the “adventure” (a favorite word of his) of witnessing to the joy of friendship with Jesus and to be courageous in assessing its own sins and weaknesses, for the sake of a more powerful, merciful witness to a wandering, hurting world. And we drone on about committees. And gauge how Jesus will fit in with our lifestyle. - Amy Welborn

It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues. - Abraham Lincoln

One of the great ironies of the stem cell debates of the last few years has been that some of the most serious attention to scientific detail and reality has come from Catholic circles, while some of the most wide-eyed messianic faith-healing talk has come from liberal political (and sometimes even scientific) circles. There is another example of the former today, with a new Vatican document about reproductive technologies and bioethics. I’m not a Catholic and am in no position to speak to the theological components of the document, and I don’t agree with all of its conclusions (on IVF, for instance) but its treatment of the latest scientific developments and of the related ethical questions is exceptionally good, and its attitude—very pro-science and very clear about ethical boundaries and the reasons for them, with arguments that reach well beyond Catholic theology—is very impressive. - Y. Levin at NRO

In a critical sense, we academicians know these men as psychopaths, and perhaps they are. They believe in sensuality, not sense; in thrill, not mere experience. Beauty is physical, and they think the world owes them a living—a free beer, a pat on the back, easy sex, and a wad of twenty-dollar bills. Responsibility has too many syllables and love is a dirty word. Ginsberg makes a disappointing Rimbaud. But when these strange men in dungarees read poetry to unmuted jazz, or steal cars and drive to Denver, or just “burn, burn, burn, like a fabulous yellow roman candle” it is with a vigor which marks the rest of us as dead, a bad penny vitality and a grubby crucifixion which make lectures and Haze-Bick existentialism seem extremely square. - literary & cultural critic John Leonard on Allen Ginsberg and the beat poets in The New Yorker

Why do I read poetry in translation? I do so in order to encounter the geniuses of other cultures. I read Leopardi to get his perspective on life, living in Italy at a particular time. What I want is the human: this man who lived and died and struggled, who got some things right and other things wrong. Do I want the translator to be invisible, transparent? No, I don't think so. Some translations I like: Marianne Moore's Fables of La Fontaine, John Ciardi's Divine Comedy, and J.G. Nichols translations of Italian poets. Each of these translators has a certain style and personality and negotiates the perils of translation with care. - Frederick of "Late Papers"

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