January 04, 2017

Dazes of Holly

This, that, and another thing:  Christmas Day began with 8am Mass at Sacred Heart with a new guy, a huge Grizzly Adams priest with full black beard. He sang part of Mass, which seemed appropriate given the organist/cantor couldn't sing due to a cold or something. Adams gave an inspiring homily and I thawed. "O Come All Ye Faithful" is so good when four full verses are sung, the last in triumphal Latin, as if we singers sudden acquire the gift of tongues, so foreign does that language sound to these post-Vatican II ears.

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A few days after Christmas, we received quite a production number from grandsons 6-yr old Sam and 4-yr old Will. Music ("Blame") via Alexa, strobe lights from Sam via a flashlight, and dancing from Will. Hilarious and impressive and harrowing all at the same time (the latter because interest in acting and stagecraft is not exactly a great thing given Hollywierd).

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A couple days ago I read this Pope Francis-like offering from a novel by Lydia Millet:
Watching her protect a ratty mouse, a dog-eared, broken-spined, finger-smeared picture book, it's almost possible to believe that everything in the world is precious, that each humble item that exists has a delicate and singular value. 
It's possible to believe that all matter should be treated tenderly.


My wife is working on cleaning up garage. She curiously judges her vacations by how productive it is while I judge a vacation day by how leisured it is.



Passed up the chance to buy an old restored farm house in the country.  The hard part was taking it on faith that even the glories of the interior would get stale, that tall ceilings and marvelous entry way would become commonplace (or cluttered beyond all recognition). I was set on making my wfie's country dream come true but ultimately recognized that it has to be a 2-way street. To go into a house buy hoping the inspection would fail, well, that speaks volumes in itself.



Peggy Noonan writes in her book of a dead fireman on 9/11, a Patrick Byrne, who shared her grandfather's name and my great-great-grandfather's. Even the middle initial, "D", matches in my case. I include this riveting information only because my uncle reads this page.



Sometimes I feel discouraged praying to saints given there's so little in it for them. I notice some people "bribe" saints by promising to spread their fame to others if their prayer is answered, but I don't know that many people. I can't offer a saint intellectual stimulation or a shared depth of spiritual things or a shared holiness. Friendship in a natural level presumes a shared enjoyment in each other - how does that work on a supernatural level?

But really the sheer essence of love is not getting anything for it.



I finally had enough time today to order a frame for Bill Luse's farm painting. Only after about 8 years or more.

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It's sort of startling how little human nature has changed such that ancient Greek philosophers from 2500 years ago can write the following (from "The Porch and the Cross: Ancient Stoic Wisdom for Modern Christian Living" by Kevin Vost):
To get carried away beyond true need is to walk over a cliff. Even with shoes, if you go beyond the measure of the needs of the foot, you will think you need gilded shoes and then shoes with purple embroidery. The sky is the limit once a thing moves beyond its true measure.
Females are called “ladies” or “mistresses” right after they turn fourteen. If they see they are valued as nothing but bedmates for men, they place all their focus on their appearance and place all their hopes on luring a man. We should rather take care to make clear to young women that they are valued not only for their attractiveness, but for appearing modest and showing self-respect in their dress and manner.
Sheep don’t show how well they have eaten by vomiting up their grass before their shepherd, but by digesting their food and producing wool and milk. So too for you, don’t regurgitate philosophical propositions to non-philosophers, but show them the actions such propositions lead to in one’s life, once they are digested.
Be on your guard when faced with apparent pleasures...call to mind two times, not only the time in which you’ll enjoy that pleasure, but the time afterwards when you’ll berate yourself for your action.
Speaking of regret afterwards, our conscience can seem to be a pain but John Henry Newman had a rather high view of it, via Fr. Robert Barron:
John Henry Newman refers to the conscience as “the aboriginal vicar of Christ in the soul,” in part because it mediates the presence of the God who knows and judges even the most intimate affairs of the heart..."For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). This in itself is a good thing, for it proves that the transgressor is in the presence of God.


Started the New Year with a Latin mass. It'd been a full two months since my last one, so it felt time.

In Bruce Springsteen's new memoir, he says the Church of his youth was mysterious, and now is welcoming. That pretty well describes the changeover from Latin to English in the mass as well. Springsteen said he believes in Jesus but "I no longer believe in his godly power. I believe deeply in his love." And I think for a lot of people that is the sense of it. To hold that Christ is both powerful (for example, to judge) and loving is the mission of the church and not an easy one in this age.

I think part of the mystique of the Latin mass is reassures one of God's power and majesty. The English mass assures one of God's accessibility, perhaps, at the cost of seeing his power. (That power, incidentally, includes the power to forgive sins.) The foreign language alone, the Latin, reminds me that I'm not God, that he symbolically speaks in a different tongue, that his thoughts are way above mine.

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Ronald Knox on the mystery of free will, mentioning how our will can't simply be predicated by motives nor be attributed to mere brainless whim. If the latter, how can there be punishment or merit? If the former, if motives are tyrants that force us into doing what we do, then there is "no room left to put anything of ourselves into it.":
Neither of these two positions will do. Just as there is no explaining of the way in which subject and object interact upon one another in our knowledge, so there is no explaining of the way in which our will and the motives that inspire it interact upon one another when we choose between two courses of action. It is a mystery, and we must bow to it.
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Funny novelistic line (Jonathon Lee's High Dive):
He struggled sometimes to shake the idea that his early life had been all about an excess of sex and a sense of bottled potential, and that these things had, in the rich tradition of life's droll jokes, been replaced by an absence of sex and a sense of wasted potential.

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