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I see the self-esteem movement has reached college football bowls. Give me a break - 28 bowls? It is easy to be a curmugeon on this topic but I remember a day when you didn't have bowls leaking out of New Year's Day. Now the two bowls I really want to watch are on Jan. 2nd and Jan. 3rd, workdays both. And remember when bowls were euphoniously named "Peach", "Cotton" and "Rose"? Now they have the discordantly-named "Motor City Bowl" and bowls named after potato chip brands.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:28 PM
December 31, 2002
G. Will-ikers*
Found this snippet on a hero of mine and yon Dylan's here. Mr. Will just strikes me as a plu-perfect Anglophillic Anglican!
Will is an Episcopalian who has written extensively in support of the Church and in opposition to decisions by the government and the courts to dilute the Christian influence in the public arena. He also has taken on religious institutions, including his own.
In a 1979 column, Will lamented his denomination’s revision of its 16th-century Book of Common Prayer, and prophetically suggested: “Perhaps Christianity’s many revisers are, as a matter of fact, bringing Christianity into conformity with the spirit of the age. But I thought it was supposed to work the other way.”
Will, whose theology is orthodox, is an avid reader and quoter of C.S. Lewis, also an Anglican.
* -shamelessly stolen, though attributed at least, from sir Dylan!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:05 PM
Armchair Travel
"With vacations," he continued, "there are two strands of desire. On the one hand, there is the desire for relaxation, which is almost a Zen type of emptying your mind, a freedom from anxiety and stress, etc. And then there's the idea of stimulation. Most of the time, people run those two things together, and they're completely incompatible." For him everything seems better in anticipation and in memory.
At one point, the author suggests that the hunger for travel might be better served by staying home and reading about foreign places or by looking at paintings or photographs. In passing, he says that he began to appreciate Provence only after he had studied paintings by van Gogh.
--Mel Gussow on Alain de Botton's recent book in the NY Times
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:59 AM
Chesterton on Aquinas
He had from the first that full and final test of truly orthodox Catholicity; the impetuous, impatient, intolerant passion for the poor; and even that readiness to be rather a nuisance to the rich, out of a hunger to feed the hungry....a man's love of himself is Sincere and Constant and Indulgent; and this should be transferred intact (if possible) to his love of his neighbour. At this early age he did not understand all of this. He only did it.
He was very far from being a Puritan, in the true sense; he made a provision for a holiday and banquet for his young friends, which has quite a convival sound. The trend of his writing, especially for his time, is reasonable in its recognition of physical life; and he goes out of his way to say that men must vary their lives with jokes and even with pranks. But for all that, we cannot somehow see his personality as a sort of magnent for mobs..I think he rather disliked noise; there is a legend that he disliked thunderstorms; but it is contradicted by the fact that in an actual shipwreck he was supremely calm. However that may be, and it probably concerned his health, in some ways sensitive, he certainly was very calm.
Being himself resolved to argue, to argue honestly, to answer everybody, to deal with everything, he produced books enough to sink a ship or stock a library; though he died in comparatively early middle age. Probably he could not have done it at all, if he had not been thinking even when he was not writing; but above all thinking combatively. This, in his case, certainly did not mean bitterly or spitefully or uncharitably; but it did mean combatively. As a matter of fact, it is generally the man who is not read to argue, who is ready to sneer. That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering....He was interested in the souls of all his fellow creatures, but not in classifying the minds of any of them; in a sense it was too personal and in another sense too arrogant for his particular mind and temper.
--GK Chesterton's St. Thomas Aquinas
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:40 AM
From the "There's nothing new under the sun" dep't:
Google tells me that twelve other bloggers have referred to Abe Vigoda. Including this eyebrow-raising bon mot:
Kissinger, Abe Vigoda, Jennifer Connelly....who needs their eyebrows tweezed more?
--via Hairy Toes & Lemonade Rhino
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:04 PM
December 30, 2002
Verweile Doch
Last night's long Sunday read was a scattershot affair. Fiction....long live fiction! I've a surfeit of journalism and longed to lose myself in glorious prose.
John Updike's Seek My Face ...due back at the library this week and hence I had to make a stab. I read maybe the first 40 pages and I'm not sure it's his best.
Liam O'Flaherty's Famine: A Novel
Charles Dicken's Bleak favorite novel of his is Great Expectations and I wonder if I shouldn't just re-read that one.
Also picked up some non-fiction - Jay Winik's April 1865: The Month That Saved America . It looks pretty interesting.
Saturday I spent some time with Chesterton's Saint Thomas Aquinas and Richard Drake's A History of Appalachia
Also spent some of Sunday researching the disappearance of my great-grandfather James Smith. Did he die in the 1913 flood or leave and start a family in St. Louis? I would post my speculations, but even I recognize the utter minutiae and self-indulgence that would represent to you small band of readers.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:38 AM
Beating this horse dead...
As a sort of postscript to the whole St. Thomas controversy, I should mention that the two writers of recent vintage I admire most were both great devotees of the Summa: Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy. Flannery read St. Thomas every night before retiring. Walker read the complete Summa twice. (Certainly Walker cannot be accused of not having a scientific cast of mind since he studied medicine in school.)
This is not to say that they were saints or that they shouldn't/weren't reading more contemplative stuff, but it is intriguing that two modern Catholic artists would find such sustenance in Aquinas.
Minute Particulae has a good post on the subject with links to those discussing/recussing it.
Archbishop Sheen was an agnostic on the subject, recognizing that some are "Augustine" types and others "Aquinas" folk but that both are good. This complements Steven Riddle's comment about how Augustine is more "love, then know" while Aquinas, "know, then love". (I do admire Mr. Riddle's courage in making those comments in the first place; while he was careful to say that he was not denigrating Aquinas, it is not easy in the blogosphere to communicate that notion effectively.)
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:50 AM
tight-lipped, bloodless arguments
circle; encircle
the mind (while)
Abe Vigoda visages wander
skies of unmade beds
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:15 PM
December 29, 2002
The Old Debate
I post this only that you smart folks might have some advice for a situation that I probably should avoid engaging in...
We slipped, almost by accident, onto those grounds where we profoundly disagree. My mother said that Catholicism should get back to the bible, the way it was in the beginning. Her salient point was questioning the notion that not eating meat on Friday could put you in hell. Or that a 2nd-grader who had drank water could not receive Communion if said water was drank within three hours of receiving. She says that I'm an orthodox Catholic because I did not live through "those days." (i.e. pre Vatican II). Perhaps, perhaps not. I replied that the fruits of the Church in the 50s were such that those rules did not do any harm and perhaps much good. She said she didn't buy that - Protestants were just as holy in the 50s without the "crazy rules". I said that some Protestants had crazy rules - like no dancing, no alcohol, no gambling...the argument held no sway, and I was left afterward remembering Bishop Sheen's words that to "win the argument is to lose the soul" or words to that effect.
I guess my pet peeve is the argument that the Church is not biblical, although it shouldn't because in my ignorance I once thought similarly. I should understand that sentiment instead of reacting to it in less than composed manner. How would you sound-byte such a question? Since she and many Protestants are simply allergic or otherwise resistant to Matt 16 I am avoiding Peter directly by thinking thusly:
The New Testament would seem to be a grand poem in a foreign language that has been translated, very broadly, in two different ways - one more Catholic and another more Fundamentalist. We cannot be sure in this world which is the more accurate translation, but it is unfair to call one more "biblical" than the other. They are both heartfelt interpretations of Scripture. (I obviously feel the Catholic interpretation is more accurate.)
First, I think it's important to notice who Jesus speaks to when he says things, rather than just to assume He is always speaking to everyone. Why would he speak in parables before the crowds while offering more to his apostles? And why would he tell things to Peter individually that he would not tell the rest of the apostles? Isn't this implicitly hierarchical?
Secondly, I have never understood salvation as being assured or that "faith alone" is necessary when reading the whole of the gospels or the whole of the bible. I get a sense that Christ is constantly telling us to, if not worry, then to be watchful concerning our salvation. The parables of the sower and the seed and the ten virgins and numerous others simply don't support the "once saved, always saved" interpretation in my view.
Have you noticed the Protestant view is often simply the easiest way? No need for sacraments or confessing your sins or good works? If I were making a "man-made" religion wouldn't that be what we would most want - give authority to self and strip out things in the bible that are inconvenient or incomprehensible?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:56 PM
December 28, 2002
Can't help but take a deep breath at the end of the holidays (ours just ended today). Only around Christmastime is it possible to be blessed with tons of vacation time while at the same time coming to the almost metaphysically impossible conclusion that work would be preferable. I kept up as well as I could but to be honest I felt very empty going into the 25th. I gave what I could at Mass but was surprised at how ordinary it seemed - a sparse, sleepy crowd and weak musically. (I didn't go to midnight service at the Byzantine parish because of icy roads). I reminded myself that God is present at all Masses regardless of the pageantry or the other’s enthusiasm and that the manger itself was a very humble place. It's nice to have "smells & bells" on the birthday of birthdays though.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:02 PM
Good Point
"Most people would not even cross the street to witness an unobtrusive act of patience being put into practice, but they will cross an ocean to visit the locale of an alleged apparaition." An authentic vision counts for less than a simple act of charity, says Thomas Dubay, S.M., Fire Within: St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel -- on Prayer (Ignatius Press, 1989), p. 247. Both Teresa and John said so, and so did St. Paul (I Corintihans 12:30-13:3).
-- the reader
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:49 AM
The old talk of school as a preparation for life-what a bad joke. There was no relation at all. School made matters worse. The elegance and order of school had disarmed him for what came later.
--Walker Percy, "The Last Gentleman"
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:20 AM
One longs for the drawn arterial blood of life, the scarlet blood of richness; the deep oxygenated marrow of life that Thoreau wrote of...What is super about the superficial anyway? The trick is to impregnate the ordinary with meaning - or to realize that it's already so.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:48 AM
December 27, 2002
Watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory over the holiday. I remember that scaring the bleep out of me when I was a kid. The little girl inflating into blueberry fastness was an image I could scarce let go. Watching it now is more interesting because of its obvious Judeo-Christian parallels.
I also found this to be interesting:
The only catch: to be one of the five children you have to find a golden ticket inside the wrapper of a Wonka Bar. Eventually five children get their hands on these golden tickets – including Charlie. That storyline… that idea of having a golden ticket and a spirit of entitlement somehow has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Don’t we tend to think that way about our faith and our religion? Haven’t you heard the language of entitlement in our midst at times? Its as if we think we’ve got some kind of golden ticket – and we’ve got a binding contract with God that states we get certain things, we’ve earned certain rights…
This isn’t a new problem among the religious; it’s a pretty old one. Old enough that Jesus addressed it himself. He does so in Luke 18:9-14...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:19 PM
December 26, 2002
One feels a stab of pain at the notion that winter hath officially begun just 4 days ago. It is as if you were half-way thru a college course and the instructor says, "okay, that was all preliminary. Everything from here forward counts." I remind myself of what Jesse Ventura says about the Minnesotan winters: it keeps the riff-raff out.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:14 PM
A Vomitory
Our dog is not a reader of Aquinas, and especially eschews the virtue of moderation. We found a couple stray pieces of paper that had once made up the cover of four (4) sticks of butter, one pound in all. Said doggie ate said butter. The proof came a few hours later, in an epic vomitalia that in sheer volume was something I had never witnessed by man or beast or the Minotaurus college student. A few hours and one steam-cleaning later, the carpet still stank. Carpet was summarily dismissed from service.
One pound of butter = lingering offensive smell to our guests = a new rug needed. The price of gluttony is steep indeed. Said dog was proffered butter a few hours later. He just said no.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:02 PM
Uh...gosh...I feel a little sheepish after reading Disputations' convincing post on the timelessness of Aquinas. I feel like a juror nodding my head 'yes, yes' after the last slick attorney has spoken - whether it be for the defense or the prosecution. Guess I should just shut up and read the posts and not comment, lest I prove to be a fool instead of just thought one.
As far as the Summa goes, I'm both wildly attracted to it and somewhat repelled by it. I echo Mr. Riddle's, "Myself, I cannot separate one intellectual error from another and I toss literary works aside for much less than is wrong in the cosmology of St. Thomas and I expect far, far less of them."
A sort of "time prejudice" can even be extended to the Old Testament, which can be seen as necessarily less precise vision of God given that divine revelation was still being in the process of being revealed and developed. My mother has tried to read it with much trouble, finding the myths ("there was not a worldwide flood!", she cries) side-by-side with truths an unpalatable mix. Tangentially related, I'll never forget Malcolm Muggeridge's rather amazing ability to separate historical fact from "truth", saying that it is necessary to the story that Jesus be born to a virgin, though it probably not be fact. He said the highest truths are artistic ones, though I suspect the Resurrection, and its implication for us, is one that interested him in more than just the artistic sense.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:24 PM
Blogging Conditions
Bloggodocia will continue to be light and sporadic. A scattering of posts is expected, maybe 1-3 before weekend. A front is expected to move in this weekend, providing additional fodder for posts, but blog weathermen are wrong more often than right. The Old Blogger's Almanac says to expect posts in drifts this time of year.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:18 PM
Steven Riddle of flos carmeli wrote an interesting piece on the Summa. I commented that he hit the nail on the head - I thought I was the only one to think that about the great St. Thomas. I am often put off and somewhat disappointed that he was so of his time with respect to nature & the sciences, although asking otherwise is to seek infallibility & omniscence. (A small example - not really an example because it could still be true though I think it somehow less than satisfying - is his belief in a literal hellfire). John Updike made a comment that Christianity has been amazingly shrewd w/r to human nature, while having a faulty cosmology. In that sense, a spiritual guide who answers questions that depend on the natural world would seem to lock himself or herself into her time. I concur with Aquinas' greatness w/r to commentaries and hymns. There is rarely a time I don't pray after Communion his prayer: 'Soul of Christ, sanctify me, Body of Christ, be my salvation...'.
And of the Summa, I recognize the lack is in me since there are so many who see it differently. I also take some comfort in the mere fact that the questions I have asked have been asked before, and been addressed by so great an intellectual as St. Thomas.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:13 PM
You've probably seen this but...
...whether true or not I liked this 12 days of Christmas story.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:47 PM
December 23, 2002
Hilaire Belloc, You're No JFK
When running for office, Belloc had a slightly different view than JFK on the effect of his religion on his politics:
HB: My religion is of course of greater moment to me by far than my politics, or than any other interest could be, and if I had to choose between two policies, one of which would certainly injure my religion and the other as certainly advance it, I would not for a moment hesitate between the two.
JFK: Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.
Ahhhhhh...Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover Hilaire Belloc again...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:50 PM
Interesting NY Times article titled The Boy Who Saw the Virgin
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:07 PM
December 22, 2002
"We expected a judge, and it was a Savior who was born. We expected an executioner, and it was a Child who was born. We were preparing for a rendering of accounts, we were going to "put ourselves right with God", and a Baby was stretching out His arms to us, asking for our love, protection and tenderness. All the confidence we never dared to have in God, He had in us!"
-- from church bulliten of St. John Chrysostom
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:21 PM
In Mary’s day, to have a child outside wedlock was nearly a capital offense. At the very least she would be greatly shamed. I wonder if I would I have judged Mary. I’m sure I would’ve thought, “Hmm…I thought she was holy…and here she is pregnant.” How perfectly economical is it that God should brings us his Son this way? In one fell swoop he illustrates the folly of judging others while also displaying Mary’s lack of spiritual pride in becoming a scandal in the eyes of the world. How like the Cross! St. Francis said that we share in this Annuciation every day in determining, to the extent of our freedom, if we will care, comfort and love Him.
The grand theory of Everything is humility. Humility is the solution to all spiritual problems – both the “supernaturalists” who demand a sign and clarity (or else!) and the moralists, who think through grim determination they can do it all themselves. These extremes lurch from overreliance on self to an arrogant “come down off that Cross, let me see first”. Humility is the solvent for both.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:19 PM
Maybe it’s a lesson for all of us. Churchy types of all stripes spend their hours and spill their ink and waste their bytes arguing over semantics, the niceties of ritual and the precise interpretation of papal bulls, encyclicals and footnotes.
Meanwhile, the Hollywood Guy, who probably feels as strongly about those intricacies as any other who shares his ideology, has decided, instead of going inward, to bring the story of Jesus to a world that needs it, badly, instead.
Maybe Hollywood Guy has a lesson for the rest of us.
--Amy Welborn, concerning Mel Gibson & his Jesus project
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:30 PM
December 21, 2002
Fr. Murphy
At Boolavogue, as the sun was setting
O'er the bright May meadows of Shelmalier,
A rebel hand set the heather blazing
And brought the neighbours from far and near.
Then Father Murphy, from old Kilcormack,
Spurred up the rocks with a warning cry;
"Arm! Arm!" he cried, "for I've come to lead you,
For Ireland's freedom we fight or die."
At Vinegar Hill, o'er the pleasant Slaney,
Our heroes vainly stood back to back,
And the Yeos at Tullow took Father Murphy
And burned his body upon the rack.
God grant you glory, brave Father Murphy
And open heaven to all your men;
The cause that called you may call tomorrow
In another fight for the Green again. --PJ McCall, 1861-1919
Father John Murphy of Bollavogue (in Wexford) led his parishioners in routing the Camolin Cavalry on May 26, 1798. The Wexford insurgents were eventually defeated at Vinegar Hill on June 21. Father Murphy and the other rebel leaders were hanged.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:45 AM
Wearin' of the Green
Elegiac songs of Eire
lay ‘neath sprigs of green
where the Fenians sleep
and sallow-hued descendents
sing of fair-haired boys,
lives to resolution swift-brought,
brigades of indiscretions
burnt on pyres of bravery!
Escape of the fire
of musket and fraught-peril
waxen faces waiting to be formed
far flung-souls of wildest repute
sing they the harpist’s bravest:
“with a pike upon your shoulder
by the risin’ of the moon!”
Weep to Kevin Barry while
full-throated they wonder if
war be invented for whiskey
or whiskey for war?
Sing-burn they with the energy of youth:
- “another martyr for ol’ Ireland
another murther for the Crown”
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:05 AM
Provocative and interesting post on Steven Ray's billboard:
"Christianity has always proclaimed itself superior to the state. When Christ said "render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar's, and to God that which is God's" He proclaimed an authority superior to government. (If He had not, then what right did the early Christians have to refuse sacrifices to pagan gods in violation of Roman law?). By creating a Church, he gave that authority visible form.
As civilization developed, men took their Christianity with them into the halls of state. If Christ and faith in Him is the highest reality, which penetrates into every action of men, would a state be foolish to proclaim itself independent of Him? No. Quite the contrary. So the Emperor Theodosius thought when he made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.
Throughout that time and in the millenia to follow, it was inconceivable to men that the state would have any basis of its authority that was not religious, and therefore Christian, and therefore linked with the Church. Charlemagne had himself crowned by the Pope for the same reason the French kings to follow were told by the bishops performing the coronation "By this crown you become a sharer in our ministry." This consciousness was called Christendom.
As a natural extension of these ideas, it was also natural to conclude that departure from the Christian faith was contrary to the common good of society. Fundamentalist preachers say as much, and maintain as much, whenever they hand out voter guides and 'demand' (since we're into pejorative terms) that good Christians should exercise their authority in government by voting for candidates who accept Christian teaching. As it is now, so it was then -- departure from Christianity was a blow struck at the health of the entire society, and therefore punishable. The Albigensians were seen, in this light, as being as great a threat to civil society as Shays rebellion or the Confederacy was seen to the United States. No one blames the United States for 'exterminating' confederates, or 'persecuting' farmers, or making the country 'explicitly' what Abraham Lincoln said it was. So do we, I wonder, consider religion and Christianity less important to our well being than our forebears in the first thousand years of Christian history?
I am about to greatly condense things. But with the Reformation, and the devastating wars between Catholics and Protestants that followed, it became clear that doctrinally-specific Christianity could no longer serve as the basis for a stable civil or international order. Men began to look for new theologies on which to found their states, culminating in the present Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment ideas of democratic consent and religious tolerance. But this was originally a grudging accomodation made in stages and over time by Catholics and Protestants. You may have heard, for example, of the "divine right of kings." This was not a Catholic idea, but a post-Reformation attempt to found the civil order on a direct grant of authority from God to whoever held power, trying to rest civil authority again on a stable footing. Kings being what they are, and the rising middle and merchant classes being what they were, the theory was bound to perish, as it did under Cromwell and again in the Glorious Revolution.
To a great extent, the ideas of Vatican II (and earlier Church teaching, reaching back more than a century) are an understanding of the position of Christ's Church in a world devoid of Christendom, learning as well from the instructive errors of the past which proved that heresy and division may not always be eradicated by force, but in a way that is startlingly consistent with the Church's understanding of the origin and role of the civil power from medieval days."
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:47 PM
December 20, 2002
Interesting Snippet on traditional naming patterns
Irish Naming Patterns for Children:
The 1st son was usually named after the father's father
The 2nd son was usually named after the mother's father
The 3rd son was usually named after the father
The 4th son was usually named after the father's eldest brother
The 5th son was usually named after the mother's eldest brother
The 1st daughter was usually named after the mother's mother
The 2nd daughter was usually named after the father's mother
The 3rd daughter was usually named after the mother
The 4th daughter was usually named after the mother's eldest sister The 5th daughter
was usually named after the father's eldest sister
The 11th son was named after the father's mother's uncle's cousin, twice-removed.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:45 PM
Oh, man! admire and model thyself after the whale! Do thou, too, remain warm among ice. Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it. Be cool at the equator; keep thy blood fluid at the Pole. Like the great dome of St. Peter's, and like the great whale, retain, O man! in all seasons a temperature of thine own. --Herman Melville Moby-Dick
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:37 PM
More journal entries from long ago....aka Stories from the Land of Broken Toys...
Fictional Friday
It was early '63 and I was traveling the 'government approved' road about 20 miles outside Moscow. Party officials stressed ad nauseum that I was not to stop, that I was to average 50 miles per hour, and under no circumstances was I to talk to anybody. My knowledge of Russian was only passing anyway; I was much more fluent in Moldovian. I felt for the huge pack of rubles in my pocket, and examined the pale and wan visages of the evil empire, the red sycthe against a blood-red field which signified the determination of the Russian empire to harvest her own people. The long road to Siberia was not paved with many good intentions - the struggling peasants looked bovine and desperate, a combination I'd scarce imagined. Every cow I'd ever seen looked satisfied and not in the least desperate.
My assignment was simple, albeit fraught with complications. I was to marry a young Russian woman, an 18-year old with hairy armpits and vodka-spiked breath. She was a vocal critic of Kruschev, even to the point of organizing rallys at the local grocery mart complaining about the fact that they only had one choice of peanut butter. She said she would die to choose Jif, but officials chose a third option - Siberia. However, before her re-education could begin at the gulag, a defense minister was passed a note in between saunas that explained he had a illegitimate daughter from an indiscretion many years ago...just over eighteen to be exact..
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:24 PM
Thoughts on hearing the Columbus Holiday Strings*
It seems somehow odd to see grown men and women in suits playing instruments, working so hard towards the questionable utility of pleasing us - we twenty or thirty in the small auditorium. But what a treat - an audio massage! I felt similarly when I received a "therapeutic" massage, via a gift certificate. Here was someone whose job it was to provide something of no greater utility than pleasure. Ditto about baseball players - all that time, effort and energy rolled into doing something no more important than hitting a round object with a 30-odd ounce stick. Amazing. And yet these are good things. The constant temptation is to imagine that everything must be for utility - even books! Some will not read fiction or poetry unless there be something self-improving in it; some fact or knowledge imparted. Jansenism be dead!
* - a free concert provided yearly; an audio Christmas card for us.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:35 PM
I was an impressionable youngster, a mere child of 13 or so when I first saw Natalie Wood in "West Side Story". The story held me in thrall all the way to its "Somewhere" climax - no surprise given that the 'Romeo & Juliet' formula does that to nearly everyone. But the scene in "West Side Story" that first stung my heart was when Maria fell to her knees to pray to Mary before a lit blue candle after she heard Tony had killed her cousin. There was nothing more appealing to my early teenishness than a holy girl, for they seemed so rare. The girls I knew were unctious and supercillious. (Not that we boys were any prize).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:59 PM
Unbidden, my stepson expressed the sentiment that a strong marital relationship is "impossible without religion". He has also started going to church with my wife to the evangelical service (the Vineyard). Thanks to those who've said a prayer for him.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:59 AM
I never liked O Come, O Come Emmanuel as a kid; I didn't understand the discordance between the lyrics, "Rejoice, rejoice!" and the somber, plaintive music. Now I can't imagine Advent without it.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:52 PM
December 18, 2002
Saw this interesting flick. Here's the USCCB review.
"I had no intention of making love to her: I had no particular intention of even looking her up again. She was too beautiful to excite me with the idea of accessibility."
--Graham Greene's End of the Affair
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:04 PM
Minute Particulae has a nice essay here. The following short excerpt can't do it justice, so read the whole thing.
"The shortcuts require writers to take long strides to get to their point quickly, strides that lurch over subtleties and shades of meaning, oversimplifying or even obscuring the argument. The result is that issues get watered down and you end up with lukewarm, left-handed swashbuckling.
Or perhaps, more interestingly, these same smart, passionate, informed people simply won't bring out their finest points or most compelling arguments. It's a rather strange thing to claim, but I think it's true and I'm not sure why this happens. I don't mean some subsurface bias or prejudice that will undermine a person's credibility if it surfaces (e.g. Lott?). I mean hesitating to bring to bear the aspects of an issue that touch you most deeply and compel you privately."
Two things come to mind: first, many Catlicker bloggers are writing, basically, to other Catlicker bloggers. Thus they can take shortcuts, because they are "preaching to the converted"; they don't have to fully flesh out arguments because a serious Catholic is imbued with Catholic sensibilities. If I am in favor of something unusual in the Catholic blogging community, I realize I must defend it much more vigorously and completely. That said, in a multicultural land we live in, one can fully understand the splintering into groups and the increasing "huh?" that folks greet each other with. The dropping of the classics in college and the growth of the elective system, for example, has given everyone educations that vary wildly. So how can anyone really write to a large audience about anything other than base subjects? Even history is written no longer not by the victor, but by the aggrieved. If I believed everything in the black history curriculum, I might long for reparations too, despite their blatant unfairness. (This is not to suggest that history is unknowable, but that one should scrupulously attempt to remove slant from the writing of it - that we cannot achieve perfection in this area is no reason to give up. Fatalism seems rampant - biographers give in to their bias because they believe the subject and biographer to be wearers of masks, and thus the two-fold error means nothing can be known. So they add fictional characters, ala Edmund Morris's weak Dutch. But perhaps I digress...)
How interesting that Particulae's author detects a hesitancy in "bringing to bear the aspects of an issue that touch you most deeply and compel you privately."
Very true. We all like that ace up the sleeve. Break in case of emergency. I think that hesitancy might have two fathers. One is the fear that that part of the issue that touches you most deeply and with which you identify so deeply that it is you in some way, will be opened up to criticism or abuse that is tantamount to abuse of, well, you. A second father might be the fear that what you feel passionately about could be refuted, which begs a lack of faith.
Finally, as Particulae points out, there is that enigmatic scriptural warning about the casting of pearls before swine, which I assume can only be discerned under the guidance of the Spirit since there is also a call to "go out into the world and tell all nations" of the gospel. Perhaps it is mostly a warning in the tradition of St. Paul, in not giving those meat who still are drinking the breast milk.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:20 PM
On a Collision Course
The third rail, in subway-ese, is the rail that is electrified; you touch it, you die. In the political sphere it is often considered to be the social security. Cut benefits and senior citizens, nearly all practicing voters, will swiftly effect your transition to the private sector. But the real third rail seems to be children. The desire of parents to ferociously attack anybody who causes them pain is inbred, like a mother bear protecting their cubs.
On the other side, we have a childless hierarchy, composed of bishops who consider their priests to be their charges, their children as it were.
So what do you get when an irresistable force meets an immoveable object? The "Situation". The right outcome occurred - i.e. the new sexual abuse policy. Now we can say:
Mercy on both their houses!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:30 AM
Quote Wednesday
...a miscellaneous hodge-podge of saved quotes
"In the essay Christian Reunion C.S. Lewis states that the real disagreement between Catholics and Protestants is not about any particular belief, but about the source and nature of doctrine and authority:
"The real reason I cannot be in communion with you is ... that to accept your Church means not to accept a given body of doctrine but to accept in advance any doctrine that your Church hereafter produces."
I've heard this interpreted as Lewis saying that he could assent to all Catholic doctrine, but not sign on to the belief that all future doctrine would be free from error. And yet - to have survived 2,000 years of heresies with intact doctrine would seem to suggest a pattern. Past performance might not guarantee future results, but it would surprise me that Lewis would not think the protection of that doctrine for that many years not to be in some way miraculous.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:16 AM
"He said 'One of the Fathers has told us that joy always depends on pain. Pain is part of joy. We are hungry and then think how we enjoy our food at last. We are thirsty ... ' He stopped suddenly, with his eyes glancing away into the shadows, expecting the cruel laugh that did not come. He said, 'We deny ourselves so that we can enjoy. You have heard of rich men in the north who eat salted foods, so that they can be thirsty -- for what they call the cocktail. Before the marriage, too, there is the long betrothal ...' Again he stopped. He felt his own unworthiness like a weight at the back of the tongue. There was a smell of hot wax from where a candle drooped in the nocturnal heat; people shifted on the hard floor in the shadows....That is all part of heaven -- the preparation. Perhaps without them, who can tell, you wouldn't enjoy heaven so much. Heaven would not be complete."
--Graham Greene, The Power and the Glory
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:01 AM
Melville excerpt:
"Very often do the captains of ships take absent-minded young philosophers to task, upbraiding them with not feeling sufficient 'interest' in the voyage; half-hinting that they are so hopelessly lost to all honorable ambition.
Lulled in such an opium-like listlessness of vacate, unconscious reverie is the absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature...In this enchanted mood, thy spirit ebbs away to whence it came, like Wickliff's sprinkled Pantheistic ashes.
There is no life in thee, now, except that rocking life imparted by a gently rolling ship; by her, borrowed from the sea; by the sea, from the inscrutable tides of God. But while this sleep, this dream is on ye, move your foot or hand an inch, slip your hold at all; and your identity comes back in horror. Over Descartian vortices you hover. Heed it well, ye Pantheists!" --H. Melville, Moby Dick
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:55 AM
Likewise the Eucharist
"In our world, a star is huge ball of flaming gas," said Eustace. "Even in your world," said Ramandu, "that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of."
-- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:52 AM
"True spirituality MUST have some organizing principal. It's like any other language -- this one being the language we use to communicate with God (two way, we hope). Language needs organization. It is essential to its use. Good poetry, for example, comes from a clear understanding of the function of language, including grammar and rhetoric. Good poetry 'violates' the rule with intent - not by accident or ignorance."
--quote saw on billboard
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:43 AM
He could always try blogging
Daniel Patrick Moynihan once mentioned how grateful he was for the Congressional Record, calling it the "publisher of last resort".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 6:24 PM
December 17, 2002
Oy vey...he married her for her BCS bowl game ticket. Another sign of the Apocalpyse.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:14 PM
Ye Olde Medicine Shoppe
Marvelous link via flos carmeli's medicine shop. Aquinas has told me constantly about the will but it sinks in with difficulty.
First, let me say, as I said about frequent confession, it is a law of nature that use and wont should make us feel things less keenly. We need not be surprised at this, nor distressed at it. We must not measure the value of our Communions, any more than the value of our Confessions and Absolutions, by the feelings that we have. We may be making our Communions just as fervently and as profitably without the feeling of sensible devotion as with it. Fervour does not reside in the feelings, but in the will--• in the will moved and strengthened by grace. Sensible devotion may be a gift of God, and when it is we ought to be very thankful for it. If it comes from God and is His gift, it is a very great help on our way. And so, no doubt, God gives it from time to time to those who are earnestly trying to give themselves to Him. But the times of dryness, are as needful for our spiritual growth. It is then that there is room for a truer exercise of faith, and a more generous devotion of ourselves to God.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:47 PM
Our Ultimate Feebleness
Our spectacular physical denouement - the collapse of death with its rank dissolution of blood, tissue and eventually bone - should remind us of our utter dependence on God. From belief that he will be active then, it is an infintesimally small jump to imagine Him active now, just as He was active at our ensoulment. Similarly, if Jesus rose, what small matter are the other miracle stories? To admit one is to admit all.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:41 AM
Been pondering the infinitesimal increment in effectiveness between apology number five and apology number four for Lott. One senses the law of diminishing returns at work. The senator must too, because now he's a full convert to reverse racism. Actions do speak louder than words, but...
A rough SWAG:
Apology 1 = +20%*, apology 2 = +5%, apology 3 = +1%, apology 4 = .0035%, apology 5 = -3% (just as the Clinton apology tour eventually began to weary, so might there be a backlash from too many Lottian apologies).
*-percent of people positively influenced (i.e. in favor of the perpetrator) by the apology.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:46 AM
Belloc on Academics
All of this began, recall, when Belloc met the lady with the clear gaze in the Great Bear Inn. Suddenly, we are confronted in this unlikely spot with intellectual pride, surely the sin of the fallen angels. Who are these prideful ones? They are the ones who do not notice all the wonder to be found about them. A human being is more than a mind. Unless he is more, his mind is quite a dangerous thing. The angels are pure spirits; we are the rational animals, body and soul.
Belloc describes the situation of the mind-only-gentleman in this fashion:
What! here are we with the jolly world of God all round us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having for our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function?
What does the sane man do when this happens? He yells, "Away with such foolery."
Who is it, we might ask, that thinks the world of God to be jolly, who sings, draws, paints, hammers, sails, rides horses, runs, leaps? Who has love in youth and memory in old age? Who tells us it is a "splendid inheritance"? Why, it is Belloc himself, of course, perhaps still a bit annoyed that he did not himself end up as a very pedant, though this is hard to imagine. He knew the dangers of his own "grumpy intellect," for it could lead him to this very pride from which he was perhaps saved when he could not stay at Oxford.
The "Lector" wants to get on with the walk and quit these dreary philosophical musings. But the "Auctor" has a few more things to say. He repeats, "Away with such foolery." He decides to explain the problems we have with the pedants. They "lose all proportion." Worse, "they can never keep sane in a discussion." Belloc gives us an amusing example. The pedants "go wild on matters they are wholly unable to judge, such as Armenian Religion or the Politics of Paris or what not."
A man with a steady and balanced mind, with a clear gaze, on the other hand, has three questions to ask that keep him sane. These are 1) "After all it is not my business." 2) "Tut! tut! You don't say so!". And 3) "Credo in Unum Deum Patrem Omnipotentem Factorem omnium visibilium et invisibilium." In these last lines from the Creed, Belloc thinks, all the analytical powers of the pedants, the professors, are jammed "into dustheaps," by comparison.
-James V. Schall, S.J.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:29 PM
December 16, 2002
Difference btwn NYC & D.C.
ED Crandall, the former president of American Airlines, once told me the difference between New York and Washington. He said that New York was "tough but not mean" and that Washington was "mean but not tough."
"In New York," he elaborated, "they'll fight you for every last dime and then, afterwards, you'll go to dinner together and become friends." But in Washington, "They'll give you everything you want to your face - and then, as you walk away, they'll shoot you in the back because it's fun to watch you die."
- Dick Morris in the New York Post
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:21 PM
Inspired by a post on Obhouse, Dylan asks is it coming to this?
I received the following work email:
Young Asian American Professional Network Winter Celebration
The Young Asian American Professional Network is hosting a Winter Celebration - a family gathering to celebrate Asian culture with food, fun and entertainment on Sunday, December 15.
I'm looking forward to, but not holding my breath for, the complementary:
Young Irish American Drunkard Network Unabashedly Christmas Celebration
The Young Irish American Drunkard Network is hosting a Christmas (with a nod to our Druidic past) celebration that will celebrate Irish culture with Guinness, Jameson, and Harp. On Friday, Dec. 13 extending to Saturday Dec. 14.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:39 AM
Thursdays with Belloc. Nice ring to it. Like Breakfast at Tiffany's or Tuesdays with Morrie. I'll keep an eye on this one.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:27 AM
My Blouzelinda is the blithest lass,
Than primrose sweeter, or the clover-grass.
Fair is the king-cup that in meadow blows,
Fair is the daisy that beside her grows,
Fair is the gillyflow'r, of gardens sweet,
Fair is the marigold, for pottage meet.
But Blouzelind's than gillyflow'r more fair,
Than daisy, marigold, or king-cup rare. -John Gay, The Shepherd's Week
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:02 AM
Thinking about the TSCs
I asked Bill White in what sense the traditional spiritual classics (TSC for brevity's sake) are opaque for him. He says that the TSCs, "talk past me; we seem to speak different languages....Some writing allows me to enter into it, carries me with it and teaches me to understand everything in it; then there is other language that keeps me outside...think it's as much a matter of God-given taste and aptitude. Some are Carmelites, some are Dominicans, and some (God help their souls) are Jesuits."
As an aside, his conversion shows a sobering side of Protestantism I was not familiar with - neglect of the gospels:
Sermons, such as they were, were mere exercises in concordance-jumping, and usually focused on some obscure passage in one of Saint Paul's letters, with lots of concordance-based jumping from one word in an isolated verse to another throughout the bible. A "word study". I don't remember *ever* hearing extended passages read from the gospels, nor a single sermon on the gospels. (The obligatory disclaimer applies - I realize Protestant churches vary greatly.)
It seems the TSCs are good as eating spinach is; rather than subsist on the sugary diet of works that allow my eyes to be widened in a way such as Belloc or Chesterton wrote, books that build faith - rather one should also read books that provoke the desire to, say, start fasting. We see these differences in the bible - the thrill of historical connection when reading Isaiah, for instance, compared to reading the self-improvement of the Book of Proverbs. Bill mentioned Isaiah, pointing out some of his favorite books in the bible:
For me it's the stories of the gospels. Peter's letters are favorites, too; perhaps for me it's the historical connection again. And Isaiah! A passage from him can be like a mystery of the Rosary - I stop and wander up and down through all of salvation history making connections, seeing prophecies fulfilled, the Passion foreshadowed, Christ and the Church all through it.
Started reading St. John of the Cross (who knew his feast day was Saturday!?):
Often [beginners] will beseech God, with great yearnings, that He will take from them their imperfections and faults, but they do this that they may find themselves at peace, and may not be troubled by them, rather than for God's sake; not realizing that, if He should take their imperfections from them, they would probably become prouder still.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:51 AM
Selections from Verweile Doch:
Bartender says: 'I don't like to judge people from what I see of them from back here. They're either better or worse than normal when they have a drink.'
- R. McInerny, "Lack of the Irish"
So if they're better than normal does that mean they should drink up?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:30 AM
He agreed with C.S. Lewis that Christians got along best when each expressed undiluted what he or she believed. The search for a least common denominator to bind the Christian sects together led to blandness at best.
'Is baptism a least common denominator?' Roger asked.
A Baptist was unlikely to think of baptism as optional so far as Christianity was concerned. The difficulty was to think of it as a sacrament.
'Do that you will soon be on the path of Lumen Gentium.'
Todd of course understood that the reference was to the dogmatic constitution on the Church that had come out of Vatican II. Reading it had played a major role in Roger's conversion. Admit one sacrament and the other six would soon follow and with them the priesthood, bishops and the apostolic succession...
-Ralph McInerny, Lack of the Irish
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:22 PM
December 14, 2002
Ha! Our Argentinian friend takes us to task for our vulgar tastes (although the Babel translator definitely requires one to "look thru the glass darkly").
I'm actually not a whiskey fan at all, having a once-a-year shot of Jameson's on St. Patrick's Day to properly jump start the day.
Favorite Adult Beverages* no particular order
St. Pauli Girl Dark
Guinness Stout
* - please blog responsibly. Only one drink per post.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:13 AM
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. - Luke 1:45
-Blessed are you who believed: Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah (Luke 1:20). Mary's role as believer in the infancy narrative should be seen in connection with the explicit mention of her presence among "those who believed" after the resurrection at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:14). - NAB notes
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:42 AM
Christmas Walk
dye light
in the nodding hours
dank wind Merlot chill’d,
brave lights curl pines
and whispering oaks--
a neighborhood aurora borealis.
Ranch houses wear the jewelry
of the ebulliently bulbous,
gems of blue and red raiments
recreating the plaintiveness
of youth’s last call.
Standing athwart the land of cold & dark
defiantly bright, incandescent strivers
strike the heart like carolers
of Whoville cheer.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:38 AM
Olde Travelogue, circa '99
I am passing thru the metropolis of Shade, Ohio, which thoughtfully erected a sign announcing themselves but I look in vain for a semblance of a town. I surmise that the other side of the sign said "Leaving Shade". I'll have to check on that on the way back. I kid the small towns. Country folk still have the capacity to surprise; at the local McDonald's there is an old guy dressed…for what I'm not sure, but he sure is dressed for a Monday morning. He is wearing a western suit, light beige in color, with matching piped pants and an expensive looking white cowboy hat. Does boredom lead people to these things? I pass Darwin, Ohio and then enter Minersville & spy a yard with fake deer. I go by houses with the Ohio River literally in their backyard, and on the other side of the bank a big nuclear power plant. These folks must be compartmentalizers on the scale of Clinton. I guess they can say, "I just look at the river, don't pay no mind to the Chernobyl towers". I enjoy the signs of small towns - saw one outside a restaurant that said, "Welcome. God food." Probably good too. In Racine, Ohio one said, "Free!!! Heart transplants from Jesus." Saw another small town announce "We now have soft-serve ice cream." Hey, congratulations! I also saw the occasional drive-by oxymoron, like, "West Virginia University". (Only kidding WVU!)
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:16 PM
December 13, 2002
"He'll never be a lawyer 'cuz he can't pass a bar." - a country song lyric
"Blogging with a glass of whisky on hand is neither unheard of in these parts" - Disputations
Hey, I resemble that remark!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:10 PM
Interesting Comment:
"Having lived through the fifties, and having read the other thoughtful comments, allow me a personal postscript. The Church was changing in the fifties, because the position of Catholics in society was changing rapidly. Until then, Catholics were a mental minority. A remark by FDR - as reported in Michael Beschloss's "The Conquerors' is revealing:
Just after Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt lunched with Margenthau and Leo Crowley, a Catholic who was Custodian of Alien Property. As Morgenthau later recorded, the President told them, "You know this is a Protestant country, and the Catholics and Jews are here under sufferance." Roosevelt went on to say that it was therefore "up to you" to "go along with anything I want".
This was the attitude and atmosphere of the times. Perhaps it's the reason that the Church WAS close-knit and defensive. A sea-change occured in the fifties: the JFK phenomenon was just a result of this change in American attitudes.
In any event, the Church - and its members - were effectively given first class citizenship. And so loyalties began to shift from religion to society. And the shift continues today."
-Charles on Amy's blog
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:53 PM
On the Soul
No longer need we say, with Tertullian, credo quia absurdum est. For the science of quantum mechanics has undone nineteenth-century concepts of matter, and it becomes conceiveable that whatever power has assembled the negative and positive charges composing us may reassemble those electrical particles, if it chooses. What survives (if stained) this present existence is the anima, the animating soul transcending mind and body. -Russell Kirk
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:55 AM
I may have to start a permanent corrections column. (We joke about our small home newspaper that runs a correction page. It was funny until they misspelled my wife's name in the marriage announcement.)
Reader James informs that it was Evelyn Waugh who suggested he would be worse if not a Christian. Mr. Greene could probably make a similar statement though, given his reputation.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:57 PM
December 12, 2002
Mark Shea applies a hand to Mr. Hand's Backside
Right here
Sure, I've grown weary of the constant focus on the scandal on her blog and I was particularly upset by the comments made about my hero Cardinal Ratzinger, but Mr. Hand's comments were over the top and uncharitable, as is well-stated in the post above. I greatly value Amy's honesty and intellectual abilities. She unflinchingly asks the hard questions and addresses issues on a very practical level, which seems a valuable service.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:42 PM
Looking thru the Glass Darkly
P.S. As a post-script to the vast post on the "Spiritual Classics" can surely say the greater danger lies in too little scrupulosity than too much, especially in today's world. (Aquinas didn't agree, saying that one should error on the side of presumption rather than acedia. Of course tis better not to error at all.)
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:35 PM
Concerning Pat Buchanan's article blaming everything on Vatican II...
We will never know, but it is possible the Church would now be in serious schism had it not had a Vat II. We might've split into Reform, Conservative and Orthodox wings like Judiasm did. If the Vatican had hard-lined it throughout the 60s & 70s it would've been completely irrelevant to the modern world, much as the Amish.
As it is the Church has bent, but did not break. That is a sign of strength. To have survived the 60s & 70s with all her doctrine intact, including Humane Vitae and the seamless moral dogmas is a good thing, one we can celebrate.
Can one even imagine, in this day of militant Islam, how ugly it would be for the Church if she had maintained her "error has no rights" pre-Vatican II stance on religious freedom? Is there any doubt how the Catholic Church would be compared to Islam, in their intolerance and desire to force their views on people? The Church moved sharply away from favoring theocracies during Vat II, a move that turned out to be prescient.
In short, the numbers might look even worse without Vatican II. When the writer Evelyn Waugh was asked why his being a Christian seemed not to make him one bit nicer, he said something like "you can't imagine how much worse I would be without Christianity".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:26 PM
Our Cafeteria Recognizing Today's Feast?
Should I read anything into the fact that the main entree today is "Mexican Sizzlin' Salad"? *grin*
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:02 PM
Charismatically challenged
Not being especially demonstrative (except after imbibing), I find the prostrations of the Byzantine rite and the hand raising aspects of charismatic services off-putting. (I occasionally go to the latter for my wife's, and ecumenicism's, sake). But the discomfort is salutary: if I can't be embarrassed for Christ's sake, what good am I? Everything indeed is grace.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:47 PM
Disputations makes the interesting point that, "this is true, of course, yet though in a sense St. Francis of Assisi rebuilt the Church, the gilt of Thirteenth Century Christendom comes off pretty quickly once you start examining it. It's not the personal holiness of one or even several saints that revives the Church -- nor, for that matter is a revived Church free of crisis."
Amy recently questioned the strength of 50s Catholicism, given its swift collapse in the 60s, but if St. Francis couldn't hold the 13th century one can scarcely expect the leading lights of Catholicism in the 50s to hold the fort for long. Holiness is personal, and appears in some ways non-transferable. I think it was Chesterton who said that a new barbarian invasion occurs every generation - in the form of children.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:58 AM
Regarding the Spiritual Classics
It perhaps wouldn't surprise y'all to say that Bill White's words resonate with me: the traditional spiritual works opaque to me; these "lower" works often help me to place building blocks on which to build a better spiritual life. Boy, he said that well didn't he?
By "traditional spiritual classics" I'm thinking along the lines of Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life, Dom Chautard's Soul of the Apostolate, Teresa of Avila's Way of Perfection. I've not read enough of St. John of the Cross to say, but I suspect he would be in the same group. The lack is within me I'm sure. I'm not speaking, by way of example, of Thérèse of Lisieux's marvelous The Story of a Soul. Although classics are by definition timeless, the relative popularity of St. Thérèse compared to, say, a St. John of the Cross, suggests that God providentially provides saints that speak to our times. St. Thérèse speaks to us moderns.
A Baptist pastor continually preaches the following thing on the radio (I don't have a specifically Catholic radio station in tuning distance so I listen to the local Christian one):
"Christians have to spend more time remembering their position in Christ, not their condition."
In other words, focus on who you are - God's - and not your condition, which is often disconcertingly poor. It is interesting to this cradle Catholic that even Protestants have problems with legalism and "position vs. condition". This is stereotyped as a Catholic "works" problem. I've sometimes wondered if the best way to go about becoming a Christian is to start out as an evangelical and really nail the "grace uber alles" into your heart and then become Catholic and experience the fullness of it. For the gratuitousness of grace is the bedrock upon which everything draws. It was enlightening to me that even a Protestant minister must remind people to remember their position and not condition. Most of the Christian music I hear actually defines the word "schlock", but the thing that the evangelicals do well is to pound the simple message home that one is given a gift and that one should be grateful for that. All sense of duty must flow out of gratefulness, it seems to me. Or as is found in Cantalamessa's Reflections for Advent:
The gift comes before the commandment. It is the gift that gives rise to duty and not vice versa. The law does not generate grace, but grace generates the law. This is such a simple and clear truth that we tend to forget it. - Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap.
I'm quite allergic to sentiment in religion. The idea of creating our own religion is an anathemna as is using religion as a crutch, or as a way of dealing with death. I trust not my feelings and I recoil at the thought of presuming on God. And must internalize the great gift. And one must error on the side of presumption, rather than discouragement.
By the way, that ol' hard-ass'd curmugeon Derbyshire discussed sentiment relative to animals in NRO yesterday:
I myself am more philosophical, with a quiet faith that the large natural order of things is reasonable at some level inaccessible to mere human minds. I am also temperamentally opposed to sentimentality about animals, and in fact to sentimentality in general. It was Dostoyevsky, I think, who described one of his characters as "evil and sentimental." Just so.
This is all a long-winded way of saying that I find most of the classic spiritual works tend to make me focus on my condition, rather than position, although that is an unfair generalization. (This is not to infer that this in any way is Bill White's issue with the spiritual works, I am speaking only for myself.) But after reading parts of some of them, I'm not sure they have the benefit of improving my behavior... Try constantly not thinking about a pink elephant and my guess is that it'll be something you think about.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:12 AM
The Ever-Interesting Barzun...
By way of preface, Barzun describes the myth of the American Indian as the "noble savage" and then relates it to how Roman historian Tactitus portrayed the Germanic tribes of the first century in such a way to shame the people of Rome...
The fine barbarians in Tacitus were used as models in Luther's Germany to stimulate resentment against the foreign authority of Rome, and these two attitudes, favoring the Indian and the German, combined to change the western peoples' notion of their origins. For a thousand years they had been the sons and daughters of the ancient Romans. Now the idea of different "races" replaced that of a single, common lineage. The bearing of this shift is clear: it parallels the end of empire and the rise of nations. Race unites and separates; We and They. Thus the English in the 16th century began to nurse the fetish of Anglo-Saxonism, which unites them with the Germanic and separates them from the Roman past. We shall see how a similar notion influenced politics in France up to and beyond the 1789 Revolution...
The conviction moreover grew that the character of a people is inborn and unchangeable. If their traits appear odd or hateful, the theory of race justifies perpetual enmity. We thus arrive at some of the familiar prejudices and hostilities of our time. "Race" added the secular idea of inborn difference to the theological one of infidel and Christian. -Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:54 PM
December 11, 2002
Poetry Wednesday
Farewell, green fields and happy groves,
Where flocks have took delight;
Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves
The feet of angels bright; - William Blake
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:51 AM
Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix'd; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.
Thus let me live, unheard, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye. - Alexander Pope
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:43 AM
He ate and drank the precious Words --
His Spirit grew robust --
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was Dust --
He danced along the dingy Days
And this Bequest of Wings
Was but a Book -- What Liberty
A loosened spirit brings -- --Emily Dickinson via Tenebrae
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:37 AM
Been pondering the unseemly CIA killing, the one in Yemen where a vehicle containing six suspected terrorists was blown up. Our Dominican priest was upset by it, and said so in a sermon, intimating that this was no different from assassination. The problem is that it is police work, but what if the country in question does not welcome you with open arms and doesn't provide the opportunity of arresting them?
Terrorists play by a different set of rules and we are left either playing by their or...or what? WWII saw the targeting of civilian populations - certainly something way outside the "gentleman" rules of war. And now again with respect to armies doing "police work". I have no answers, but I say this by way of a preface to another transition, as told in Barzun's Dawn to Decadence. In 1525, Charles V defeated Francis I in a great battle at Pavia, in Italy, and by accident Francis was taken prisoner. The fuedal notion was war as a tournament, a contest between two knights. It was expected that a ransom be paid for Francis, so that his honor lay intact:
But Francis, as his behavior soon showed, seems to have had inklings of a more modern, more national conception of war...
Francis, although he had given his word to stay put, decided to escape... He was caught, Charles was shocked, unbelieving. How could a Christian gentleman who had given his word act like a varlet? The transition from princely conduct to raison d'eetat, from knight to head of state, from medieval to modern was painful. - Barzun
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:05 PM
December 10, 2002
The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober.--William Butler Yeats
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:36 PM
Perhaps it is a ratings week and I missed the news, but Flos Carmeli has a post on one of my favorite subjects. Sex. In lieu of having it, I'll read about it.
Seriously, he was reacting to an article by a Jesuit and his essay is well-written and convincing. My initial reaction was to take issue with a comment such as, "Victorian society for all its renowned repression, was in fact every bit as sexually charged as modern day society". One difference is that we have the birth control pill and an accompanying lack of shame, both of which contribute to a new sort of sexual license. But then I read on and Mr. Riddle brought up the valid point that Islamic societies have gone to ridiculous measures to stem the impulse. Besides which, Jesus said to lust in your heart is to commit adultery, which, of course, is not affected by a pill.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:22 PM
Here is Shawn McInerny's review of Paul VI's biography. Am looking forward to Amy's take on the John XXIII books she's reading.
I'm currently reading Barzun's wonderful Dawn to Decadence. He has a wonderfully idiosyncratic style. Also want to continue with Flannery O'Connor's letters - Habit of Being. Preversely, I tend to hoard my best books in the sense of not wanting to read them because a) they may not be as good as I anticipate and b) the very act of consuming them diminishes them in the sense that they'll be over that much sooner!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:45 AM
Still excavating remains from the journal. 500+ pages - remember what you paid...
Twas 1844 and I was a simple Irishman with children taught the landowner's language at the "hedge school", so-named because education was forbidden and they had to hie thee to the hedges. I learned some too, and with my youngest Bridget’s help, with whose help I do write this now. My wife Bridget has been gone most of a decade, lost giving birth to the one who took her name.
I was born two miles from the Irish Sea, where oft I would go to catch perch and clams. We’d smoke aged seawood in leeward winds and run-sail in our grand papa's crude dingys. I’d stare at the agate sea until my mind was blank and the waves became as music. We would go to Mass at the church built in stones ten centuries old and dream of the Hill of Tara and hero Patrick’s burning the Druid altars. Sometimes the Sheridan girl would come with us, named like every other Eirean girl for the Blessed Mother. So fair she was that the Blessed Mother herself might be jealous, such be the beauty of this blackhaired Iberian.
In the daily toil we found the work man was meant to do – we free’d our mind from mental hardships and strife by dint of sheer effort. Work all day with your body and your mind is oddly satisfied, like a child’s by a mother’s lullaby.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:52 PM
December 9, 2002
Et macula non est in te -Cant. 4:7 via Old Oligarch
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:03 PM
I was with eight thousand Christian music fans at the Michael W. Smith concert, singing in Latin.
Well, okay, a line from Angels We Have Heard on High:
Gloria, in excelsis Deo!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:14 AM
...a moment of nostalgia
Jennifer Juniper vit sur la colline
Jennifer Juniper assise tres tranquile
Dort-elle? Je ne crois pas
Respire t'elle? Oui mais tout bas
Qu'est ce que tu fais, Jenny mon amour -Donovan
My seventh grade science (!?) teacher played this many times for us in lieu of examining slides under a microscope.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:32 AM
skeins of snow litter the dark field
ruts and mounds of muldering leaves
a moonscape landscape
the sky a cryptic shade
imprinted with doubt.
scourged trees sway in penitential bows
silverbacks coated with silver
croak, groan in the bending wind.
cold that demands Normandy invasion planning
gloves, ski-masks
smooth-soled shoes a mistake;
errant lurches from a pent-up dog
close-calls on ice
unpleasantness squared.
windy & nineteen degrees
thirty-seven in Galway.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:28 AM
On taking the dog for a walk
Obi trips the land fantastic
knows not fear of dark or cold
skitters from post to post
bladder at the ready
firing urine at the usual suspects:
small trees, wayward leaves, and urban landmarks.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:02 PM
December 8, 2002
To Journal or Not To Journal* - John Adams on Keeping a Diary
"Have you kept a regular journal?" John wrote John Quincy in 1783. "...We think, and improve our judgments, by committing our thoughts to paper." "Without a minute diary, " John wrote his grandsons in 1815, "your travels will be no better than the flight of birds through the air; they will have no time behind them."
The family project [of keeping journals] continued into the fourth generation, although by then the family grew sick of it. Charles Francis, Jr., thought introspection had been 'morbidly developed by the journalizing habit.' When he reread his own youthful diary, he was embarrassed by "its conceit, its weakness and its cant". He burned it all...
-Richard Brookhiser's America's First Dynasty
* - gag. I succumbed to making a noun a verb.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:50 AM
All is Relative...except for things that aren't
Enjoyed flos carmeli's take on the weather:
It amazes me that anyone likes cold weather. I get slow, stupid, relucant to do anything, and terribly anxious. Oh wait. . . I'm describing my base state of being. I have long considered that I would like to move back to Virginia in (as they say) the fullness of time. On his trip, I have decided otherwise.
Sounds like my base state of being. What is ironic is that I've often felt like a good move would be from Ohio to Virginia, and to thus shorten and de-sting the winter and also to enjoy the surreal beauty that covers much of that state. Steven Riddle wants none of the cold of Virginia. But if you are used to Florida I can see how Virginia looks chilly, just as the Minnesotans must grin at my Ohio complaints. It does wear off eventually - my Maine friend, after eight Ohio winters, is no longer laughing at the mild winters. He's now as convinced as the rest of us that the weather sucks.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:32 AM
Progressively Abled
Caveman, thru circumstances of time and geography, lived short, brutish lives in chronic hunger, cold, etc. And the poverty of their lives was matched by the poverty of their spiritual existence - by a dearth of Revelation, knowing not the consolations of grace, the Spirit, Jesus and not even having been given the Law, which, imperfect as it was, was an improvement over the pagan notion of religions which imagined the deities cruel and heartless. The idea of "God is love" was still foreign. The progressive nature of revelation is comparable to the evolution of a seed developing into a young plant developing into an oak. The tiny plant has the worst time of it – it is subject to degrees of cold and is vulnerable to an extent the mature oak is not. That is nature. So why should God not show us, through the physical laws, his plan for the spiritual? Is it because we think we are better than the oak, that human life is more precious and that humans should be coddled? The problem therein is that we are told that we were coddled and that we, via Adam, spoiled it. We were born to a greater dignity. But we chose the harder way - the progressive revelation path.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:23 AM
The Minstrel-Boy
The Minstrel-boy to the war is gone
In the ranks of death you will find him
His father's sword he has girded on
And his wild harp slung behind him.
"Land of Song!", said the warrior bard,
“Though all the world betray thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard
One faithful harp shall praise thee."
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's steel
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery! "
An emotionally stirring and inspirational song, "The Minstrel Boy" was written by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) who set it to the melody of "The Moreen", and old Irish aire. It is believed by many that Moore composed the song as a memorial to several of his friends he had met while a student at Trinity College and who had participated in the 1798 rebellion of the United Irishmen. Due to its popularity, the song was a favorite of the many Irishmen who fought during the U.S. Civil War, primarily on the Union side.
- Lesley Nelson's Folk Music Site
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:49 AM
December 7, 2002
The Big Question
CNN's Evans and Novak used to preface the last question for their guest with: "Next, we will ask the Big Question", said with proper ominousness. Amy asked that today:
Columnist David Carlin has a good column concerning Nancy Pelosi, a piece that also gathers in former Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, and could have, but didn't throw in Tom Daschle as well, all Catholics of A Certain Age, given their Catholic educations in the supposedly Golden Age of the 1950's, when all was well, and solid and everyone knew what Catholic meant - and it certainly didn't mean supporting abortion. Carlin quite reasonably asks - was this Golden Age really so Golden, if it could produce a generation thick with Catholic pro-abortion politicos? He writes:
"It certainly looked healthy on the outside, but inside a cancer was eating away. What was this cancer? If we could identify it, we would go a long way toward understanding how to restore American Catholicism to real health."
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this, because it really is an intriguing question.
I know when and why my mother left the Church...Whether she is representative, I don't know. And I'm also unsure of the extent of her knowledge of theology & the catechism. I suspect weak. As one Prot put it, "you Catholics have 20 minute answers for every question". That is both our blessing and curse. It's a blessing given that there is an ocean to play in, for those who have the intellectual stamina to play in it. It's a curse to those who, like my mother, want soundbyte answers to our knotty issues - the sexual issues. Should it be surprise that the Church's difficulty in coming up with convincing answers in the sexual arena, combined with a sexual revolution of the '60s would damage the Church? Look at Nancy Nall - isn't most of her anger directed at Church policy on gays, birth control, -i.e. sex? The pope understands this and in Love and Responsibility tries to take a more "personalist" approach rather than just relying on natural law arguments.
Perhaps the weakness is that American Catholics find an undemocratic Church a scandal in of and itself. Democracy is in our blood; dissent as natural as breathing. Tocqueville wrote about us in 'Democracy in America': "Two things must here be accurately distinguished: equality makes men want to form their own opinions; but, on the other hand, it imbues them with the taste and the idea of unity, simplicity, and impartiality in the power that governs society. Men living in democratic times are therefore very prone to shake off all religious authority; but if they consent to subject themselves to any authority of this kind, they choose at least that it should be single and uniform."
My mother dates her break with the Church to 1968, and the confusion born mostly because authority became fractured and no longer uniform. She went to a priest after Humane Vitae about the use of birth control and the priest told her, "it's okay, that's not really a sin". Tocqueville continues, "Religious powers not radiating from a common center are naturally repugnant to their minds."
The tendency in a democracy is to hold one's opinion as gospel, unless there is a single, uniform authority. Once the strong unity of doctrine of belief and dogma broke in the mid '60s, the centre could not hold. Once that authority was fractured in '68, by dissenting priests and even bishops, we began down a path Alexis de Tocqueville presciently predicted.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:15 PM
December 6, 2002
Is this a good message to send?
Too funny...from via Amy. Not sure a beer label is the best place to put the words "sin boldly".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:52 PM
Peggy Noonan's latest
"Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plane, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves." So wrote James Joyce at the end of his great short story "The Dead." They are famous words; it's a famous passage. Joyce's snow didn't fall over the house, or the city, or over his sensitive characters in a neighborhood in Dublin. Snow was falling all over Ireland, and touching everyone, as if they were together.
Bad weather, bad news makes you part of something: a community of catastrophe. You see your neighbor, and this time you don't just nod or keep walking. You call over, "Wow--you believe this?" And you laugh. You make phone calls. Weather makes you outward.
And then when the storm passes or the earthquake is old news, people retreat back into their aloneness with their own thoughts. They get quiet again. It will take another snowstorm or a hurricane before the ad hoc community of catastrophe springs up, and makes them a member of something.
On a totally unrelated matter, it looks like ol' Emerson is firmly in Shelby Foote's camp of art uber alles as far as one's priorities.
Artists must be sacrificed to their art. Like bees, they must put their lives into the sting they give.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, via Mirari
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:44 PM
Although silence is golden, in lieu of polishing that medal I'll post this thing, written back in '99 (as was the Brenner piece). It is proof positive that ye olde journal is nearly completely mined:
Remembering imaginary Uncle Coot
We were sitting in a duck blind, drinking sour mash and cheap wine. As a kid I pondered the rope-like sags in his neck; it looked like some sort of corrugated cardboard. He had hands with skin soft and pink on one side and brown, reptilian on the other. I stared as his hands wondering how they got the way.
There was something in Uncle Coot I longed to emulate although I wasn’t quite sure what it was. It wasn’t the drinking, although I’d done that in quantities and eventually found that I’d get too far behind in my reading if it continued. It wasn’t the perennial bachleorhood - Coot hadn’t had sex since the Ford Administration. It wasn’t the duck hunting, because the inertia it took to get up at 6 am and stand in the middle of a Tennessee bog was hard to overcome. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, try as I may. It might’ve been that care free attitude or that rebel streak. He smoked Camel cigarettes and never once worried about lung cancer or lip cancer or cancer of the esophagus or cancer of the lining of the throat. He didn’t much care for the Surgeon General, saying that “that sum-bitch prolly's afraid to go outside.” Ol' Uncle Coot was an earthy sort and I miss ‘im.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:48 AM
Been pondering Amy's claim that the teaching on religious freedom changed and on the debate going on over at Catholic Convert questioning the continuity on "no salvation outside the church". Perhaps the continuity or non-continuity is not ultimately important. Certainly to non-Christians, the bible has many contradictions. They see the God of the OT as wrathful and stern, while the NT as merciful and loving. And even if we limit ourselves to Jesus' words alone, there are paradoxical messages concerning the issue of salvation. It certainly isn't surprising that the Church would reflect that over the ages. Jesus's purpose was surely to "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted" by forcing us not to either be too comfortable with our own salvation nor with losing heart. This is the delicate balance that every Christian faces.
Jesus appealed to us with both a carrot and a stick. The Church, thinking with the heart of Christ, attempts everything she can to help us reach salvation and will emphasize one or the other to the extent that she feels it will be effective. To that end, she tailors her message, much as the Gospel writers did with their respective audiences.
See this interesting article on the subject:
During World War II a certain nun had a reputation for being very honest. Her convent in occupied German territory had secretly offered asylum to a number of Jews. If found out, it would mean death for both the Jews and all the sisters. When asked by a German officer, outside the convent, whether there were any Jews inside, she answered that there were not, and the officer left. I have not met anyone willing to say that she erred in her action, though what she said was not literally true. Some have argued it was true in the sense that she had no certain knowledge of all the ancestry of each person, or their inmost beliefs, but she did know that, to the government that the officer represented, a Jew was a person who deserved to be torn from his home and family, worked as a slave, and then killed, so she could honestly say there were no persons like that there. So she made an inerrant statement that was not true in the common literal sense.
It should not be thought that the sister in question sinned venially or acted against the moral teaching of the Church in making such a judgment. Paragraph 2488 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
“The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.”
And is followed by:
“Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.”
The truth is eternal, but error may be time and circumstance dependent. So to say that someone was protected from error when they said something, does not necessarily guarantee that it was true in the sense that most people might interpret it at that time.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:16 PM
December 5, 2002
A two-fer
It is a sign of my natural preversity that a handicapped lot prohibited by red traffic cones seemed an irresistable parking target. (I didn't.)
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:59 AM
Reminder to self
Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.
This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.
Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God's likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition. - from The Documents of Vatican II
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:36 AM
Luminous people chanced our lives, people who seemed to live richer, and not just materially. Two that come to mind are as different as the sun from the moon - the Brenner's & Aunt Mary. The Brenner's were ethnic and I loved ethnic because we were as plain and ordinary Americans as there ever could be. I hungered for myth, for family histories and old graves, for stories of the old country or Civil War veterans. We had none, zero, our family tree evaporated inside three generations like a slither of ice in the sun. Grandpa’s dad died in the flood of 1913. Our ancestors came over from Ireland due to the famine. One line stories, no faces, no names. The great myth of Irish storytelling seemed lost on my relatives. We were now utterly Americans, invisibly middle-class, everyman’s man. We ate hamburgers and hotdogs, belonged to the majority religion, spoke without accent, went bowling, read the local newspaper, watched the local news.
The Flood of 1913 was the only history anyone cared about, and it riveted me. Every time I passed the river into Hamilton I would imagine the waters turned surly, nasty, angry. These boringly benign waters were once Killing waters! I noted the high watermark and then tried to conjure it higher, nearly wishing another flood.
The Brenner's may’ve been as American as we were but they pretended otherwise, & I lived it too. Their parents were German immigrants, they had been to Germany, had living relatives there. They sent mail to the Communist East, and the thought of officials censoring it thrilled. They told of “Checkpoint Charlie” and the horrible Wall where people tried tunneling, ballooning, anything to get over it and usually failed, shot in cold blood. I imagined ways I would try to escape. I dreamt of going there, visting West Berlin and trying to escape into East Berlin, and wandering into the East German countryside, hiding there because I was good at hiding. I was small and thin and thought myself clever.
The Brenner's lived like Europeans - they went to the opera, to plays, to the symphony. They traveled, made and drank wine out of dusty ancient bottles, and rattled off words in German. Mary Ann taught me the song Give My Regards to Broadway with a Brooklyn accent. I thought it was the coolest thing and never forgot it.
Aunt Mary was the opposite. She never traveled, never drank, and though she read I couldn’t remember a thing except a spiritual book or two. She lived in an old part of town. Everything about her life was different from ours. Her house was old and deathly quiet, with quaint furniture and books behind class cages as if they were too dangerous to let out. She had a basement - something we never had - and the creepy downstairs fed the imagination. She served different foods from us - like hot cereal. That was exotic to us. She served strange dishes on old plates. Mary made even spinach taste good. But nothing, at no time before or since, tasted like city chicken. Served on a kabob it woke me up to food as something more than just something to do before going back out to play. Food as the main entertainment. Poor aunt Mary was always hobbled and one would think would have little to offer a child. She lived a simple lifestyle, and it going to her house was like going on a retreat. Like a monastery, her house was spare of words, spare of ornament, and the morning chants were sang by whipporwills which I listened to in rapt atttention. Aunt Mary and the Brenner's showed two sides of life. Life lived restrained, disciplined and bereft of ornament or one rich, baroque, full of travel and wine and art. Simple vs complex, nature vs city, active vs contemplative.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:24 AM
Last Rites
Charles Baudelaire inhaled the scent of fleurs de mal
ignoring, it seems, divine decrees,
and yet he lay beneath his funeral pall
muni des sacrements d'eglise.
Belief must baffle minds which think
assent should show itself in deeds,
that logic of the lucid sort must link
the mind and will of thinking reeds.
Not so, God's mercy disobeys our laws
and we, thank God, are shriven without cause.
- Ralph McInerny in Crisis
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:47 AM
Vater unser im Himmel,
Geheiligt werde Dein Name.
Dein Reich komme.
Dein Wille geschehe, wie im Himmel
so auf Erden.
Unser tägliches Brot gib uns heute.
Und vergib uns unsere Schuld,
wie auch wir vergeben unseren Schuldigern.
Und führe uns nicht in Versuchung,
sondern erlöse uns von dem Bösen.- in German
- the Lord's Prayer in 1221 languages
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:49 PM
December 4, 2002
In fairness...
I do think that the penalty "driving while black" exists while "driving while Irish" does not exist. I think that black drivers are more likely to be pulled over and harrassed by police officers. But I think that the criminal justice system is on the whole fair to minorities, with the possible exception of death penalty cases. The criminal justice system is more unfair to the poor than to be blacks- to be rich is to afford good legal help. But then to be rich is also to afford better medical care. Utopia does not exist, otherwise we'd all move there. Liberals should cogitate awhile on why it is that so many want to move here.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:28 PM
On EWTN (Franciscan University Round Table), heard a screenwriter describe art as the closest thing we have to God since it expresses mystery. God is not the catechism, she points out, to which I heard Scott Hahn say to her, "that's in the Catechism!" - i.e. that God cannot be contained in a book.
That darn Richter show has me mentally substituting "Irish" for "black" now whenever I read something about bias. For example, saw this on another blog:
I am dismayed at the dearth of black characters in many of the current TV shows and movies.
Come to think of it, I am dismayed at the dearth of Irish characters in many of the current TV shows. And I don't get to watch "Ballykissangel" anymore. It's no longer on BBC America.
Flos Carmeli maintains radio silence. Is this a pentential act? At Mass today, the priest's purple robes reminded me this is a pentential season. That I needed to be reminded is not good.
Found this compelling:
From 1946 until her death, Mother Teresa resolutely refused to give any details about the inspiration to begin the Missionaries of Charity or about the process of discernment that led to the official establishment of the new institute on 7 October 1950. Mother Teresa's silence reflected her reverence for the sacredness of the gift she received in the depths of her soul. As she wrote to her Sisters in 1993, "For me Jesus' thirst is something so intimate so I have felt shy until now to speak to you of September 10th. I wanted to do as Our Lady who 'kept all these things in her heart.'" - via Rosa Mystica
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:51 PM
Let's cleanse the palate, shall we, after that bit of unfortunateness with an excerpt of a poem from Thomas Hardy (via Tenebrae):
Wintertime nights;
But my bereavement-pain
It cannot bring again:
Twice no one dies.
Flower-petals flee;
But, since it once hath been,
No more that severing scene
Can harrow me.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:55 PM
December 3, 2002
Writing the Great American Novel
OK I'm tanned, rested and ready. I'm hungry like the wolf. 50 words a day to freedom, just a knife in the jailhouse wall till pretty soon there be a hole the size of Gibraltar. Here's my start... It looks to be an autobiography, a send-up of the whole confessional/memoirist thing. I'm going to lampoon the old Hollywood story - guy makes good, guy does booze & 'phets (slang for aphetamines, if it isn't it should), nearly loses his life, goes to Betty Ford Clinic and writes the memoir. This is going to be: guy makes okay (that's all I got so far).
The Great American Novel
…by TS O'Rama
Page 1, Paragraph 1:
The great American novel should start out with a catchy phrase or, in lieu of that, the phrase “catchy phrase”.
Tis a very American thing, isn't it, to attempt the great American novel?
I was born height-disadvantaged. At 19 inches, the other children in the natal armory were 20, some 21 inches. Fortunately I had the vertical leap of ten babies and soon was dunking basketballs in the newly formed “Pediatric Basketball League”.
(Is that 50 yet? You don't think it's serious enough do you?)
One of three children born to aristocratic parents, I was trundled off with the other youths of scions to Eton, a British boarding school of some reknown, where we learned that it was bad form to brag about where we went to school. My hand flew up.
"But then how will others know we went to Eton?"
"You will write about it in your memoir."
(When do I get into Kantian philosophy? This thing is going nowhere fast. I'm embarrassed by it. Can I get a NaMO refund?)
By the fifth grade, as the Americans vulgarly refer to it, I was studying Kant and Hegel and
***** DO OVER ****
I've got writer's block. I wrote myself in the corner there, the 5th grader studying Kant & Hegel - what the heck can I do with that?
Page 1, Paragraph 1, Word 1:
My greatest fear (is that I will always write in the first person!! Why can't I plausibly use "he" and not imagine that by using "he" everyone will think I mean me? Well, I could write it from a "she" perspective, though they tell you to write what you know and I'm not a woman, although some of my best friends are (strike that) my best friend is a woman)...
Page 1, Paragraph 1, Word 1:
Her greatest fear was that someday she would be alone in a euphemistically named rest home and the thoughts that would come unbidden would not be the poetry of Auden or even the pet names her husband, dead some twenty years, called her. No, it would be thoughts of Jenny McCarthy, J-Lo, or Serena Williams. Some sort of eternal People Magazine taking control of her synapses. This was even worse than her other fear - that she would lose control and begin yelling obscenties. And it would be just her luck not to scream the obligatory "f--K" or "d*amn", which every rest home attendant had heard for years, but given her blasted creativity there would be horrid combinations that made the attendant call the other attendants over to listen. And then they'd call her daughter and have her witness this amazing streak of expletive excess, this superlative shit.
well that's enough for day 1. Obviously I'm not happy that already in the first paragraph I've sunk to cheap profanity. Writing is hard, hard work indeed.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:33 PM
Can't Dispute That...
"We celebrate winter when it first arrives -- a thoroughly human response in the face of the inexorable -- but within a week begin to treat it like an out-of-work uncle who has overstayed his welcome." - Disputations
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:19 PM
From Mark Shea:
One of Mother Teresa's basic ways of approaching the culture she was in was to urge people toward conformity to Christ in the ways that they understood best. In short, if a person was a Muslim, she tried to urge them to be the best Muslim they could be, confident that this too was a form of pre-evangelization since all that is best in what is authentically human (and Islam is a human tradition, not a divine revelation) could also point to Christ. She got this dangerous and loony notion from Paul on the Areopagus (Acts 17). She did the same with Hindus. I don't know what her "conversion rate" was among her clientele (most of them were, after all, dying). But this was her basic approach. Certainly she did not turn away those who sought baptism, but she was not a "turn or burn" kinda gal.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:16 PM
Didn't mean to imply in that last post that St. Pio (that still sounds odd!) had it easy. The mind reels at the amount of work he did, work for souls. Confession lines queued for seeming ever. And it was done while he was in more or less constant pain. There is a sense in which our Achilles Heel must be exploited for our own gain - i.e. perfection. If one were guessing at C.S. Lewis's Achilles Heel it might be the death of a loved one since he lost his mother as a young child. And so consider the reverberation of losing his young wife - surely the hardest thing he could give up. And what greater loss for a former actor would be to lose the expressiveness of his face? Our pope carries his cross. There are many examples. I think of the ambition of Bishop Sheen. He longed for the television lights and the red hat. He lost the former and never gained the latter. But they all perservered and that is another saintly witness.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:19 PM
Still pondering the Mother Teresa link via All But Dissertations. Interesting that some take cheer from it; I had a different reaction. I felt sympathy for her, sad for her, that she lived with it for so long. It prompted renewed rumination on the variety of saints...They are "witnesses" that God exists.... The Holy Father said in Fides Et Ratio:
"In believing, we entrust ourselves to the knowledge acquired by other people. This suggests an important tension. On the one hand, the knowledge acquired through belief can seem an imperfect form of knowledge, to be perfected gradually through personal accumulation of evidence; on the other had, belief is often humanly richer than mere evidence, because it involves an interpersonal relationship and brings into play not only a person's capacity to know but also the deeper capacity to entrust oneself to others..." - Pope JPII
Perhaps this is partly why I like St. Pio so much. First, he was curmugeonly at times. Secondly, the superabundance of supernatural phenomena surrounding him tends to banish doubt. (It must be difficult to disbelieve when you're bleeding from the wrists every day, let alone bi-locating. Of couse some explain it away with science or myth - every party has a pooper.) Perhaps it is easier to entrust oneself to the knowledge acquired by St. Padre Pio, though ease is not the purpose of life. And that some our helped by saints who doubt is something that one can't doubt!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:36 PM
December 2, 2002
Celebrating and Ignoring Our Differences
Watched Andy Richter Controls the Universe, taped from last night. Funny stuff. His firm hires a black guy, in front of whom Andy makes disparaging racist remarks - about the Irish. Well, turns out the black guy is Irish. The camera pans his desk and sure enough there is enough Irish kitsch to statisfy the Home Shopping Network on St. Patrick's Day. There's a picture of JFK, a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" button, the Irish Blessing, a boatload of bumper stickers...simply hilarious. The new guy is greatly offended, tells Andy's boss, who starts to chew Andy out until the black guy says "it's not about being African-American, it's about my being Irish". The gal says, "what? Get out of here." They take it to her boss, a black women, who says, "and your point is?". They take it to her boss who happens to be Irish. They are all sent to sensitivity training. Marvelous fun. In the end Andy concludes that we have to "celebrate and ignore our differences at the same time" which is pretty much where we are today - a society who thinks it can attain color-blindness by being obsessed with race. Hi-laire.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:32 PM
Thanks to a kind reader, Lisa, who pointed out that Dostoevsky and not Nietsche said "without God, everything is permitted". I've corrected it below. Here's a link from the compulsively readable Tom Wolfe via her.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:02 PM
This story (via All But Dissertations) drives home the possibility that one can be plagued by doubts and still be devout. It's interesting because I always thought that there was a proportionate relationship between faith and behavior - i.e. if I am sure there is a God, I will deny myself pleasure. If I am not so sure, I will be less inclined to deny pleasure. If I am convinced there is no God, then I have a free license (Dostoyevski had one of his characters say "If there is no God, everything is permitted"). Yet Mother Teresa not only avoided sins of omission but also comission by actively loving despite (perhaps) not feeling loved. They say you can't give what you don't have, but with God all things are possible. Old Oligarch surprised me with this: When you feel truly gloomy about the world and almost everything in it -- as I have for the past few weeks -- these kind of articles cheer me up like nothing else can.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:56 AM
The Fascinating Movement of Salvation Ideas
The Jews were the Chosen Ones. Religious exclusivity in the form of "only we are saved" was biblical, was sanctioned. In the New Testament, things became more uncertain. The path went from "only those are saved who are (fill in your denomination)" to "only those are saved who believe in Christ" to "everyone is pretty much saved as long as you don't consciously reject Christ".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:41 AM
If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much. -Soren Kierkegaard
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:34 AM
Discontinued Items...
Been going thru ol' the "Elegy for June". Here's something I wrote in '98. Not sure if I feel any differently now.
Religion is surely the most relentless of the head-banging pursuits, especially when you ruthlessly root out any sentimentality in it. I’m not interested in feel-good religion. I can do that with a 12-pack.
It'd only take a 6-pack now. I've cut back.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:25 PM
December 1, 2002
Elegy for June
ephemeral mistress of my heart
one-twelve of the annum
a nightcap on the verandah of the year
a lilting melodic breath
on a moonful night.
you nostalgic one,
spinning webs I can scarce recall
you remind me of a 40s musical
glamorous and leggy
fresh and naive
month of my birth
day of the summer equinox
you vernal infernal month
pregnant with possibility
setting hopes impossibly high
with hormone-fed memories
of lockers and school hallways
strewn with paper like confetti
the last day of class papers old homeworks and jaundiced notebooks
suddenly wonderfully useless
icons reduced to simpering strawmen
they crinkle and burn in the summer sun
in the June sun so potent
in whose heat
responsibilities melt away
shrinking like tumors without blood
and time expands like a balloon
or the rising of the circus tents.
Sliding on our backs down the paper highway
firing the contents of our lockers
down the hall like bullets
screaming out hot bus windows
screaming to the feckless masses
in transit
singing to them-
“schools out for summer....”
“school’s out forever”
till our eyes want to bust
and the veins pop from our necks.
June, you were meant for kids.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:13 PM
Childhood and youth are nostalgic because they are the purveyors of firsts. First love, first car, first house... I remember my first house...Space that I could change, after ten years of apartments with rules against ...everything. Now I could be as unconventional as I wanna be, and I imagined framed black & white pictures of old writers surrounded by eccentric wallpaper and a dolly of pipes on an antique writing table. And a sunroom that would be a tropical rainforest - a wall of pure color - a lime green or stunning red - with a million plants and ferns and rocks and things. There would be a map room, with a mural of East Mongolia (picked quite at random), at a scale one inch = 20 yards, with old National Geographics framed and hung with care. And of course, the baseball card room, with its green turf rug and a huge stadium mural that made you think you were walking into a stadium. Most of the ideas were never executed due to time, money, money & time mixed with laziness. Some of the stuff I wanted was unavailable at Walmart or Kmart, and so were, metaphysically if not in fact, unavailable.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:06 PM
fictional foray
Daryl thought of prayer as a window, a small opening in the wall of his life. Not that his life was a prison, no it was a gracious, well-appointed space, but one a wee bit shy of air. And freedom. And so prayer was a window which he could open and he always hoped the small opening would present some kind of unexpected grace, maybe a vision, or simply the knowledge of what to do about a certain situation. However, he knew God was not fond of signs, finding them a bit distasteful. God wasn’t ostentatious, he didn’t run up and knock you about the head on things. The devil was all Vegas, he appealed crassly, urgently in need and spectacular feelings like with drugs or sex. So Daryl merely prayed, content with whatever would be provided. But he was never quite sure of where he ended and God began.
So, seated on his bed, he willed his thoughts to the window, and lifted them to God on an imaginary gold chalice and asked the angels bring it to Him. And then something remarkable happened. The window physically opened. The window, which he’d been accustomed to thinking a symbol (as described above), actually opened without any apparent assistance. His senses now told him something that plainly conflicted with science! A mass was moved, which requires energy, and that energy was not seen. He moved closer to the window and breathed the scent of roses - it must’ve been thousands, for it soon overcame his power to smell. He didn’t know what to do but pray. A sign he’d requested, and instantly felt small for having required it. How many holy saints had longed, secretly, for a sign. How many had spent their lives in monasteries, praying unceasingly, while beating down any desire for a sign. And how blest are those that do not see and yet believe. Daryl stayed by the window all day and into the night, and fell asleep, in a heap on the floor, till the next morning when he awoke to a window firmly closed and no lingering scent of roses. Panicked, he wondered - ‘did that really happen? Could I have been dreaming?’ He immediately longed for another sign, a confirming sign, just one more sign....
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:02 PM
Interesting Democrat Election Reaction in Our Sunday Visitor
As a Democrat, I admit to feeling guilty - a teeny-weeny bit guilty - about rejoicing at my party's defeat in the Novemeber elections. As a good Democrat, I should have been wailing and gnashing my teeth. Instead I had a smile on my face. Why is this? Am I political masochist?
No. Rather, I hope Democrats learn a lesson from their great defeat: Adopting a platform of moral liberalism is proving to be political suicide...
I contend that it is politically stupid to adopt an anti-Christian moral agenda in a predominantly Christian country. It may work for a short time; but only as long as Christians are inattentive. Sooner or later they'll catch on, and when they do, the party with this agenda - the Democratic Party - will begin to seem abnormal (that is to say, un-American) and will begin to pay a heavy price at the polls.
The 'abnormal', anti-Christian moralists started playing a big role in the Democratic Party in the 1972 election. That's when the gradual downhill slide of the party began. It will continue until one of two things happens: either we will cease to be a predominatntly Christian nation and moral liberalism will therefore cease to seem abnormal; or the Democratic Party will tell the anti-Christian liberals that they can no longer dictate the party's moral agenda.
- David Carlin
My natural pessimism wonders if the Democrat Party, in betting on the continued abatement of Christianity in the U.S., is not on the side of victory at least in the medium term. We know how it turns out in the long run.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:05 PM
Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor
I see the right way, approve it and do the opposite - Ovid
Ár n-athair, atá ar neamh: go naofar d'ainm.
Go dtaga do riocht.
Go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh, mar dhéantar ar neamh.
Ár n-arán laethiúl tabhair dúinn inniu, agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha, mar mhaithimid dár bhféichiúnaithe féin.
Agus ná lig sinn i gcathú, ach saor sinn ó olc.
Óir is leatsa an Ríocht agus an Chumhacht agus an Ghl/oir,
tré shaol na saol. - in Irish
Vater unser im Himmel,
Geheiligt werde Dein Name.
Dein Reich komme.
Dein Wille geschehe, wie im Himmel
so auf Erden.
Unser tägliches Brot gib uns heute.
Und vergib uns unsere Schuld,
wie auch wir vergeben unseren Schuldigern.
Und führe uns nicht in Versuchung,
sondern erlöse uns von dem Bösen.- in German
- the Lord's Prayer in 1221 languages
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:49 PM
December 4, 2002
In fairness...
I do think that the penalty "driving while black" exists while "driving while Irish" does not exist. I think that black drivers are more likely to be pulled over and harrassed by police officers. But I think that the criminal justice system is on the whole fair to minorities, with the possible exception of death penalty cases. The criminal justice system is more unfair to the poor than to be blacks- to be rich is to afford good legal help. But then to be rich is also to afford better medical care. Utopia does not exist, otherwise we'd all move there. Liberals should cogitate awhile on why it is that so many want to move here.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:28 PM
On EWTN (Franciscan University Round Table), heard a screenwriter describe art as the closest thing we have to God since it expresses mystery. God is not the catechism, she points out, to which I heard Scott Hahn say to her, "that's in the Catechism!", that God cannot be contained in a book.
That darn Richter show has me mentally substituting "Irish" for "black" now whenever I read something about bias. For example, saw this on another blog:
I am dismayed at the dearth of black characters in many of the current TV shows and movies.
Come to think of it, I am dismayed at the dearth of Irish characters in many of the current TV shows. And I don't get to watch "Ballykissangel" anymore. It's no longer on BBC America.
Flos Carmeli maintains radio silence. Is this a pentential act? At Mass today, the priest's purple robes reminded me this is a pentential season. That I needed to be reminded is not good.
Found this compelling:
From 1946 until her death, Mother Teresa resolutely refused to give any details about the inspiration to begin the Missionaries of Charity or about the process of discernment that led to the official establishment of the new institute on 7 October 1950. Mother Teresa's silence reflected her reverence for the sacredness of the gift she received in the depths of her soul. As she wrote to her Sisters in 1993, "For me Jesus' thirst is something so intimate so I have felt shy until now to speak to you of September 10th. I wanted to do as Our Lady who 'kept all these things in her heart.'" - via Rosa Mystica
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:51 PM
John Derbyshire comments on the Andy Richter show:
I happened to catch the season premiere of Andy Richter's office-worker sitcom on Fox. It was a send-up of the whole "diversity" racket, culminating with Andy trying to figure out how to "celebrate our differences" while, at the same time of course, conscientiously ignoring them. It managed to be breathtakingly non-PC (by TV standards, at any rate, which I agree is not saying a heck of a lot) while remaining good-natured. This seemed to me to be a glimmer of light on the eastern horizon, possibly — one must never be too optimistic in these matters — heralding a new dawn of common sense. When a TV sitcom can be built around the idea that the exquisitely over-cultivated sensitivities of the diversocrats are just plain ridiculous, there may yet be hope that one day out collective sanity in the matter of human differences will be restored to us.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:01 AM
my desk has stuff on it...i.e. I'm having an Andy Rooney moment
- a ‘68 Mickey Mantle baseball card
- a dented mug labeled I Got Smashed in Texas
- The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor
- postcard of a bust of Shakespeare from the Folger Shakespeare library, Washington D.C.
- signed copy of PrairyErth by William Least-Heat Moon
- a green candle
- a Lexmark z53
- a plaque commemerating my first Holy Communion
- a Schumann Piano concerto CD
- a Mike Schmidt ‘73 rookie card encased in glass
- a German-English dictionary
- a Coca-Cola stock certificate
- Ride for Vengeance by JR Roberts
- a soccer trophy from 1987
- a folk art painting of a sheep
- a totem pole pencil holder from the Kahiki, a Polynesian restaurant in town
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:22 AM
Let's cleanse the palate, shall we, after that bit of unfortunateness with an excerpt of a poem from Thomas Hardy (via Tenebrae):
Wintertime nights;
But my bereavement-pain
It cannot bring again:
Twice no one dies.
Flower-petals flee;
But, since it once hath been,
No more that severing scene
Can harrow me.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:55 PM
December 3, 2002
Writing the Great American Novel
OK I'm tanned, rested and ready. I'm hungry like the wolf. 50 words a day to freedom, just a knife in the jailhouse wall till pretty soon there be a hole the size of Gibraltar. Here's my start... It looks to be an autobiography, a send-up of the whole confessional/memoirist thing. I'm going to lampoon the old Hollywood story - guy makes good, guy does booze & 'phets (slang for aphetamines, if it isn't it should), nearly loses his life, goes to Betty Ford Clinic and writes the memoir. This is going to be: guy makes okay (that's all I got so far).
The Great American Novel
…by TS O'Rama
Page 1, Paragraph 1:
The great American novel should start out with a catchy phrase or, in lieu of that, the phrase "catchy phrase".
Tis a very American thing, isn't it, to attempt the great American novel?
I was born height-disadvantaged. At 19 inches, the other children in the natal armory were 20, some 21 inches. Fortunately I had the vertical leap of ten babies and soon was dunking basketballs in the newly formed "Pediatric Basketball League".
(Is that 50 yet? You don't think it's serious enough do you?)
One of three children born to aristocratic parents, I was trundled off with the other youths of scions to Eton, a British boarding school of some reknown, where we learned that it was bad form to brag about where we went to school. My hand flew up.
"But then how will others know we went to Eton?"
"You will write about it in your memoir."
(When do I get into Kantian philosophy? This thing is going nowhere fast. I'm embarrassed by it. Can I get a NaMO refund?)
By the fifth grade, as the Americans vulgarly refer to it, I was studying Kant and Hegel and
***** DO OVER ****
I've got writer's block. I wrote myself in the corner there, the 5th grader studying Kant & Hegel - what the heck can I do with that?
Page 1, Paragraph 1, Word 1:
My greatest fear (is that I will always write in the first person!! Why can't I plausibly use "he" and not imagine that by using "he" everyone will think I mean me? Well, I could write it from a "she" perspective, though they tell you to write what you know and I'm not a woman, although some of my best friends are (strike that) my best friend is a woman)...
Page 1, Paragraph 1, Word 1:
Her greatest fear was that someday she would be alone in a euphemistically named rest home and the thoughts that would come unbidden would not be the poetry of Auden or even the pet names her husband, dead some twenty years, called her. No, it would be thoughts of Jenny McCarthy, J-Lo, or Serena Williams. Some sort of eternal People Magazine taking control of her synapses. This was even worse than her other fear - that she would lose control and begin yelling obscenties. And it would be just her luck not to scream the obligatory "f--K" or "d*amn", which every rest home attendant had heard for years, but given her blasted creativity there would be horrid combinations that made the attendant call the other attendants over to listen. And then they'd call her daughter and have her witness this amazing streak of expletive excess, this superlative shit.
well that's enough for day 1. Obviously I'm not happy that already in the first paragraph I've sunk to cheap profanity. Writing is hard, hard work indeed.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:33 PM
Can't Dispute That...
"We celebrate winter when it first arrives -- a thoroughly human response in the face of the inexorable -- but within a week begin to treat it like an out-of-work uncle who has overstayed his welcome." - Disputations
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:19 PM
From Mark Shea:
One of Mother Teresa's basic ways of approaching the culture she was in was to urge people toward conformity to Christ in the ways that they understood best. In short, if a person was a Muslim, she tried to urge them to be the best Muslim they could be, confident that this too was a form of pre-evangelization since all that is best in what is authentically human (and Islam is a human tradition, not a divine revelation) could also point to Christ. She got this dangerous and loony notion from Paul on the Areopagus (Acts 17). She did the same with Hindus. I don't know what her "conversion rate" was among her clientele (most of them were, after all, dying). But this was her basic approach. Certainly she did not turn away those who sought baptism, but she was not a "turn or burn" kinda gal.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:16 PM
Didn't mean to imply in that last post that St. Pio (that still sounds odd!) had it easy. The mind reels at the amount of work he did, work for souls. Confession lines queued for seeming ever. And it was done while he was in more or less constant pain. There is a sense in which our Achilles Heel must be exploited for our own gain - i.e. perfection. If one were guessing at C.S. Lewis's Achilles Heel it might be the death of a loved one since he lost his mother as a young child. And so consider the reverberation of losing his young wife - surely the hardest thing he could give up. And what greater loss for a former actor would be to lose the expressiveness of his face? Our pope carries his cross. There are many examples. I think of the ambition of Bishop Sheen. He longed for the television lights and the red hat. He lost the former and never gained the latter. But they all perservered and that is another saintly witness.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:19 PM
Still pondering the Mother Teresa link via All But Dissertations. Interesting that some take cheer from it; I had a different reaction. I felt sympathy for her, sad for her, that she lived with it for so long. It prompted renewed rumination on the variety of saints...They are "witnesses" that God exists.... The Holy Father said in Fides Et Ratio:
"In believing, we entrust ourselves to the knowledge acquired by other people. This suggests an important tension. On the one hand, the knowledge acquired through belief can seem an imperfect form of knowledge, to be perfected gradually through personal accumulation of evidence; on the other had, belief is often humanly richer than mere evidence, because it involves an interpersonal relationship and brings into play not only a person's capacity to know but also the deeper capacity to entrust oneself to others..." - Pope JPII
Perhaps this is partly why I like St. Pio so much. First, he was curmugeonly at times. Secondly, the superabundance of supernatural phenomena surrounding him tends to banish doubt. (It must be difficult to disbelieve when you're bleeding from the wrists every day, let alone bi-locating. Of couse some explain it away with science or myth - every party has a pooper.) Perhaps it is easier to entrust oneself to the knowledge acquired by St. Padre Pio, though ease is not the purpose of life. And that some our helped by saints who doubt is something that one can't doubt!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:36 PM
December 2, 2002
My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish'd thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.
Oh why is heaven built so far,
Oh why is earth set so remote?
I cannot reach the nearest star
That hangs afloat.
I would not care to reach the moon,
One round monotonous of change;
Yet even she repeats her tune
Beyond my range.
I never watch the scatter'd fire
Of stars, or sun's far-trailing train,
But all my heart is one desire,
And all in vain:
For I am bound with fleshly bands,
Joy, beauty, lie beyond my scope;
I strain my heart, I stretch my hands,
And catch at hope.
- Christina Rossetti (kudos go out to Dylan for the aid)
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:24 PM
Celebrating and Ignoring Our Differences
Watched Andy Richter Controls the Universe, taped from last night. Funny stuff. His firm hires a black guy, in front of whom Andy makes disparaging racist remarks - about the Irish. Well, turns out the black guy is Irish. The camera pans his desk and sure enough there is enough Irish kitsch to statisfy the Home Shopping Network on St. Patrick's Day. There's a picture of JFK, a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" button, the Irish Blessing, a boatload of bumper stickers...simply hilarious. The new guy is greatly offended, tells Andy's boss, who starts to chew Andy out until the black guy says "it's not about being African-American, it's about my being Irish". The gal says, "what? Get out of here." They take it to her boss, a black women, who says, "and your point is?". They take it to her boss who happens to be Irish. They are all sent to sensitivity training. Marvelous fun. In the end Andy concludes that we have to "celebrate and ignore our differences at the same time" which is pretty much where we are today - a society who thinks it can attain color-blindness by being obsessed with race. Hi-laire.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:32 PM
Thanks to a kind reader, Lisa, who pointed out that Dostoevsky and not Nietsche said "without God, everything is permitted". I've corrected it below. Here's a link from the compulsively readable Tom Wolfe via her.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:02 PM
This story (via All But Dissertations) drives home the possibility that one can be plagued by doubts and still be devout. It's interesting because I always thought that there was a proportionate relationship between faith and behavior - i.e. if I am sure there is a God, I will deny myself pleasure. If I am not so sure, I will be less inclined to deny pleasure. If I am convinced there is no God, then I have a free license (Dostoyevski had one of his characters say "If there is no God, everything is permitted"). Yet Mother Teresa not only avoided sins of omission but also comission by actively loving despite (perhaps) not feeling loved. They say you can't give what you don't have, but with God all things are possible. Old Oligarch surprised me with this: When you feel truly gloomy about the world and almost everything in it -- as I have for the past few weeks -- these kind of articles cheer me up like nothing else can.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:56 AM
The Fascinating Movement of Salvation Ideas
The Jews were the Chosen Ones. Religious exclusivity in the form of "only we are saved" was biblical, was sanctioned. In the New Testament, things became more uncertain. The path went from "only those are saved who are (fill in your denomination)" to "only those are saved who believe in Christ" to "everyone is pretty much saved as long as you don't consciously reject Christ".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:41 AM
If a man cannot forget, he will never amount to much. -Soren Kierkegaard
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:34 AM
Discontinued Items...
Been going thru ol' the "Elegy for June". Here's something I wrote in '98. Not sure if I feel any differently now.
Religion is surely the most relentless of the head-banging pursuits, especially when you ruthlessly root out any sentimentality in it. I’m not interested in feel-good religion. I can do that with a 12-pack.
It'd only take a 6-pack now. I've cut back.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:25 PM
December 1, 2002
Elegy for June
ephemeral mistress of my heart
one-twelve of the annum
a nightcap on the verandah of the year
a lilting melodic breath
on a moonful night.
you nostalgic one,
spinning webs I can scarce recall
you remind me of a 40s musical
glamorous and leggy
fresh and naive
month of my birth
day of the summer equinox
you vernal infernal month
pregnant with possibility
setting hopes impossibly high
with hormone-fed memories
of lockers and school hallways
strewn with paper like confetti
the last day of class papers old homeworks and jaundiced notebooks
suddenly wonderfully useless
icons reduced to simpering strawmen
they crinkle and burn in the summer sun
in the June sun so potent
in whose heat
responsibilities melt away
shrinking like tumors without blood
and time expands like a balloon
or the rising of the circus tents.
Sliding on our backs down the paper highway
firing the contents of our lockers
down the hall like bullets
screaming out hot bus windows
screaming to the feckless masses
in transit
singing to them-
"schools out for summer...."
"school’s out forever"
till our eyes want to bust
and the veins pop from our necks.
June, you were meant for kids.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:13 PM
Childhood and youth are nostalgic because they are the purveyors of firsts. First love, first car, first house... I remember my first house...Space that I could change, after ten years of apartments with rules against ...everything. Now I could be as unconventional as I wanna be, and I imagined framed black & white pictures of old writers surrounded by eccentric wallpaper and a dolly of pipes on an antique writing table. And a sunroom that would be a tropical rainforest - a wall of pure color - a lime green or stunning red - with a million plants and ferns and rocks and things. There would be a map room, with a mural of East Mongolia (picked quite at random), at a scale one inch = 20 yards, with old National Geographics framed and hung with care. And of course, the baseball card room, with its green turf rug and a huge stadium mural that made you think you were walking into a stadium. Most of the ideas were never executed due to time, money, money & time mixed with laziness. Some of the stuff I wanted was unavailable at Walmart or Kmart, and so were, metaphysically if not in fact, unavailable.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:06 PM
fictional foray
Daryl thought of prayer as a window, a small opening in the wall of his life. Not that his life was a prison, no it was a gracious, well-appointed space, but one a wee bit shy of air. And freedom. And so prayer was a window which he could open and he always hoped the small opening would present some kind of unexpected grace, maybe a vision, or simply the knowledge of what to do about a certain situation. However, he knew God was not fond of signs, finding them a bit distasteful. God wasn’t ostentatious, he didn’t run up and knock you about the head on things. The devil was all Vegas, he appealed crassly, urgently in need and spectacular feelings like with drugs or sex. So Daryl merely prayed, content with whatever would be provided. But he was never quite sure of where he ended and God began.
So, seated on his bed, he willed his thoughts to the window, and lifted them to God on an imaginary gold chalice and asked the angels bring it to Him. And then something remarkable happened. The window physically opened. The window, which he’d been accustomed to thinking a symbol (as described above), actually opened without any apparent assistance. His senses now told him something that plainly conflicted with science! A mass was moved, which requires energy, and that energy was not seen. He moved closer to the window and breathed the scent of roses - it must’ve been thousands, for it soon overcame his power to smell. He didn’t know what to do but pray. A sign he’d requested, and instantly felt small for having required it. How many holy saints had longed, secretly, for a sign. How many had spent their lives in monasteries, praying unceasingly, while beating down any desire for a sign. And how blest are those that do not see and yet believe. Daryl stayed by the window all day and into the night, and fell asleep, in a heap on the floor, till the next morning when he awoke to a window firmly closed and no lingering scent of roses. Panicked, he wondered - ‘did that really happen? Could I have been dreaming?’ He immediately longed for another sign, a confirming sign, just one more sign....
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:02 PM
Interesting Democrat Election Reaction in Our Sunday Visitor
As a Democrat, I admit to feeling guilty - a teeny-weeny bit guilty - about rejoicing at my party's defeat in the Novemeber elections. As a good Democrat, I should have been wailing and gnashing my teeth. Instead I had a smile on my face. Why is this? Am I political masochist?
No. Rather, I hope Democrats learn a lesson from their great defeat: Adopting a platform of moral liberalism is proving to be political suicide...
I contend that it is politically stupid to adopt an anti-Christian moral agenda in a predominantly Christian country. It may work for a short time; but only as long as Christians are inattentive. Sooner or later they'll catch on, and when they do, the party with this agenda - the Democratic Party - will begin to seem abnormal (that is to say, un-American) and will begin to pay a heavy price at the polls.
The 'abnormal', anti-Christian moralists started playing a big role in the Democratic Party in the 1972 election. That's when the gradual downhill slide of the party began. It will continue until one of two things happens: either we will cease to be a predominatntly Christian nation and moral liberalism will therefore cease to seem abnormal; or the Democratic Party will tell the anti-Christian liberals that they can no longer dictate the party's moral agenda.
- David Carlin
My natural pessimism wonders if the Democrat Party, in betting on the continued abatement of Christianity in the U.S., is not on the side of victory at least in the medium term. We know how it turns out in the long run.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:05 PM
I was stunned to see Eve Tushnet's quotation of Daffy Duck: "I'm not like other people. I can't stand pain. It hurts me."
Is there nothing new under the sun? In 8th grade a friend and I had come up with a line we thought startingly original: "I don't like pain. It hurts!".
Which reminds me...back when I was on AOL and was prompted for my "favorite quote" for my profile I noticed there was somebody else with my fav oxymoronic phrase, "Credo quia absurdum". Go figure.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:26 AM
November 30, 2002
Winter’s rude embrace
a marriage of dark and cold
a shrewish bride and brutish groom
principle of double-effect negated:
she smacks with one hand
he smites with the other.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:56 PM
November 29, 2002
"Hastings and Rivers, take each other's hand;
Dissemble not your hatred, swear your love." - Shakespeare.
True Story
The sign of peace was a sign of war. The pair were slapping each other silly. The elder brother had attempted to offer the sign of peace and the younger said, "Hey, you won’t catch me raising my hands or shaking hands or any of that shit." The elder said, "well at my parish we’re all a lot older and we hug and kiss cuz you know we’re a lot closer to the end."
The end times, especially our own, tends to concentrate one's mind wonderfully.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:33 PM
Warring Cats Sleeping
fallow felines
slaybacked slackers
cast caution to the four winds
paws askew, unguarded bellies
vulnerable in slumberous oblivity
a truce in the War of the Poses
an unconscious amour
born of mutual fatigue
and the trust of closed eyes.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:17 PM
A Long and Winding Post...
A tip o' the cap to two fecund posters in the blog world - Flos Carmeli & Tenebrae. Steven's latest post about the slavery-uber-alles situation at Mount Vernon felt inexorably Christian, though reading it was a penitential act for which I hope to receive some sort of indulgence. But he hath the high moral ground. My inclination is that our society has gone from a glaring omission of attention to minorities to a catering to them that borders on the unhealthy, given that this sort of catering ups the ante and lead to a selfishness and an insatiability on the part of the aggrieved. (How much do we read about "No Irish Need Apply" signs that were posted on business across the U.S. in the late 19th century? Every group in the history of the world can point to some unbelievable atrocity committed against them. Some just know history better than others, and generally the more you know about the atrocity committed against your group, the madder you get. Knowledge of history can be a negative, since forgiveness is exercised with so much difficulty.)
But, I recognize that that attitude is not the better angel of my nature. I'm thinking that Christians have to enjoin political correctness, for example, to the fullest extent we can in order to please our brothers and sisters sisters and brothers. It seems a small price to pay to refer to someone as the "chair" or as "chairperson" instead of the "chairman" if it honestly makes someone happy (see Stevenson quote below). William F. Buckley may scream foul, but it seems like we should what we can, even if it be hopelessly inadequate. A woman I know is against the Catholic Church because of the issue of woman's ordination. Would that be enough? We ordinate a woman. The next step would be do we have enough women priests? How come there are only 10% women priests after 20 years of women's ordination? come the Church won't give women the right to choose?
But I'm digressing royally and perhaps am being unfair in making assumptions. I'm apparently squandering what spiritual benefit I got from reading Flos's post. I must run in the direction contrary to my nature. My nature is to be selfish.
(Providentially?), I just read Stevenson's comment today (quoted and approved by no less an authority than the future saint Dorothy Day) that "my duty to my neighbor is more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy". Thus we need to please, include, love and make happy everyone including those who are the least among us in numerical terms as individuals and collectively - the handicapped, minorities, the poor, et al, to the point we can. And to do so as gleefully as grace will provide. In giving in to demands by aggrieved groups in matters that may not seem important to us, we are presumably making individuals within those categories happy.
The yin and the yang...
Dylan's posts fascinate me, especially the "serenity prayer ain't for me" one. It seems to me he is right on the mark concerning our Lord and the Blessed Mother having moments of non-serenity. Yeats, in one of his poems (I believe "The Second Coming") refers to Christians as stony and sleepy, as somehow not fully alive. This is false, obviously, though we certainly are asleep compared to the beautific vision to be enjoyed in the next world, but I wonder if Yeats saw this as an aspect of Christians of his day who not only dared not to risk, but to also castrate all negative emotions. To borrow from "Desperado": "you're losin' all your highs and lows, ain't it funny how the feeling goes...". What loss or disintegration to my personality would occur if I be stripped of all my tenebrae? I must trust that it be not loss, but gain. The paradox is that the saints are more perfectly themselves than sinners! There is more diversity among the saints than among the damned.
Honesty is a good thing, though there is a tension, a dissonance between what I feel and what I should feel - like giving God thanksgiving. Am I being dishonest in thanking God when I don't feel thankful? Perhaps I should pray "Please give me the gift of appreciation." or "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief".
Better at 20?
Tis in some ways easier to be a better person at age 20 than today, because I knew less (and knew it) and needed more. I was needier in terms of money, in terms of the need for friendship, in terms of knowledge. Goethe says "Christianity gave us a reverence for what is below", but it's easier to have reverence for everybody if you're already in the below category looking up. In knowing less, I judged less. In not being able to discern between right and wrong, I was more blind to my flaws and to others' flaws. I was more respectful of authority, because I had not yet seen it abused.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:11 PM
Happy the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength - Psalm 84
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:16 PM
There is an idea abroad among moral people that they should make their neighbors good. One person I have to make good: myself. But my duty to my neighbor is much more nearly expressed by saying that I have to make him happy - if I may.
True realism always and everywhere is to find out where joy resides, and give it voice... For to miss the joy is to miss all.
- Robert Louis Stevenson
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:12 PM
Well, Amy's not fooling around here. A long dissertation on the bishops, S.U.V.s and distinctions between fallible and infallible teaching. It's a messy business...See Disputations' typically cool-headed response. Here is Avery Dulles' attempt to reconcile changes on the issue of religious freedom.
Amy sez: What some – Catholic and non-Catholic – don’t understand is that when Catholic religious leaders and teachers speak they are supposed to be interpreting Tradition for the present day, bringing it to bear on new situations. Now, granted, this is a difficult area, and one that is not infallible. Got it?
On one level, it makes little sense: when bishops teach on contemporary issues, they teach authoritatively, but not infallibly. Even – I dare say it – much papal teaching falls in this category. I’m still reading those bios of J23 (yes…) and am currently slogging through accounts of how radical Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris were in the context of previous centuries of papal pronouncements –especially on freedom of conscience and freedom of religious practice. Apologists can try all they want to say "Well, they weren’t really a change.." but they’re just grasping at straws. Yes, they were.
But the hard part is the fact that there is no dearth of misapplications and misstatements of tradition, even by bishops, and even by popes – especially the more specific the issue. Which brings us back to the knotty issue that got me started: Faith extends to all areas of life, including, for example, how I spend my money and how I treat the environment....But somehow, something goes screwy – something doesn’t seem quite right when religious leaders try to pin down that specificity and make pronouncements on economic policy, for example.
So here’s the question – how can religious leaders and teachers walk the line, balancing the commitment to help the flock understand the totality of the faith commitment, yet avoid making statements on the minutiae of life that make them look at best silly and at worst, like frantic little totalitarians?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:02 PM
November 27, 2002
Is there a place where our vanished days secretly gather?
- John O'Donohue, Anam Cara
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:46 PM
November 26, 2002
Interesting article in the New York Times:
One of the ironies of Christianity in China is that in the first half of the 20th century, thousands of missionaries proselytized freely and yet left a negligible imprint. Yet now, with foreign missionaries banned and the underground church persecuted, Christianity is flourishing in China with tens of millions of believers.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:31 PM
There it lay, in the very beginning pages of my bible! The treasure of Sierre Madre, before my very eyes – the answer to a difficulty that gnawed, as a descendent of Cain. What solace to know I am not unique in this, and that already in Gen. 4. Cain is given the choice with how to deal with God’s greater acceptance of his brother’s gift. Here is the key in how to glory in the Immaculate Conception, or St. Paul’s road to Damascus experience! Cain teaches, by his bad example, not to be envious of the spiritual gifts given to others and in respecting God’s perogative. A limited predestination view, in the Aquinas tradition (i.e. not wretched double- predestination) seems salutary in a proper understanding of scriptures.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:08 PM
Excerpts from Richard Brookhiser's The Adamses: America's First Dynasty
Interesting excerpts about Henry Adams, especially given his proudly Puritan heritage and struggles with faith. It is also interesting in light of the fact that some want to minimize or de-emphasize Marian devotion with an eye toward ecumenicalism. Mary is perhaps needed more than we think. Adams seemed to think the Middle Ages an apex of some sort, and that they were united by art, Aquinas and love of the Virgin.
...[Henry Adams] and the Lodges took a tour of Gothic cathedrals, mostly in Normandy...Seeing these buildings made him feel reborn. They seemed to make all later art 'vulgar.' ...Lives, thoughts, and art were all shaped by the age's religious beliefs. So is Adams's account of them; throughout most of his book, he is himself a Roman Catholic of the period.
He presents it to the Virgin Mary. Around her, he argues, the hearts and minds of the Middle Ages revolved....[To Adams] Mary is necessary to the scheme of the universe, for she represents the principle of love and mercy. Without her, the justice of God, and even of Christ, would be too severely regular (Adams recounts numerous tales of favors done by Mary, even to - especially to - undeserving ones). 'This is heaven!' writes Adams. 'And Mary looks down from it, into her church, where she sees us on our knees, and knows each one of us by name.'
- Richard Brookhiser
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:21 PM
Under the level winter sky
I saw a thousand Christs go by.
They sang an idle song and free
As they went up to calvary.
Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave.
With souls unpurged and steadfast breath
They supped the sacrament of death.
And for each one, far off, apart,
Seven swords have rent a woman's heart.
-Marjorie Pickthall, Marching Men
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:06 PM
Most of us know dysfunctional couples who constantly fight and then make up spectacularly. It's as if they don't appreciate the person until they fight, after which they are so miserable that in coming back together their relief is multiplied. While I (thank God!) don't have that relationship with my wife, I sometimes sense a mild version of that in my relationship with God, for I feel much closer to him after I have sinned than if I've just muddled along in typically mediocre fashion....Thus in the immediacy of post-conversion struggles during which I at times "sinned boldly" (to borrow Luther's phrase) I also felt a closeness. All this of course uses the devilish word "feel" which is of course illusory, as God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:05 PM
from verwheile doch...ruminations and factoids from the long Sunday read:
John Updike's favorite theologians are Karl Barth and Soren Kierkegaard.
I'm intrigued by the fact that religion is often considered by atheists as "wishful thinking" - something that people subscribe to make their death palatable. And perhaps that is true for some elderly. But for those of us whose death appears to loom in the far future, and given Christianity's difficult moral commands, it doesn't seem a very good explanation. Most people hardly save or think about retirement - why should we assume they are religiously motivated for something even farther away in time? Perhaps the motivation is that the believer thinks it is the best explanation for reality?
I like "hey I'm onto something!" moments, even when lived vicariously. I got that feeling reading of Scott Hahn's discovery of an obscure book written fifty years ago by a Harvard professor. It wasn't listed on and they have a decent selection of out-of-print books. Mr. Hahn found Zimmerman's "Family and Civilizations" to contain an excellent descripiton of the devolution of families in great civilizations:
- "Trustee" family where the family obligations are considered sacred and extend through time (adultery is considered a crime and a sin)
- Nuclear family where family obligations are considered morally correct (adultery a sin)
- Atomistic family where obligations are considered something to escape (adultery as lifestyle choice).
Zimmerman wrote that no great civilization began without a trustee family situation and all great civilizations ended in an atomistic family situation. No civilization was ever able to reverse the trend, i.e. go from atomistic to nuclear or nuclear to Trustee. A one way throughfare.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:58 AM
TV sitcom Friends new model of happiness?
Saw this NY Times story , on the best-selling computer game (Sims):
Interestingly, the stories generally don't seem to regard marriage as the happily-ever-after ideal. Instead, cliques are the key to paradise. In story after story, the happy denouement comes when the main character settles into her new home, furnishes it to her taste and then invites 5 or 10 people over, and they surround her with companionship and celebrate her triumphs.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:11 PM
November 25, 2002
What to do
with our unutterable smallness
victims of our own success;
we mete out meager portions of courage;
fighting tiny battles like Saint Therese.
To eat the untoward critique,
to clean the dishes unbidden,
to declench from the stray erotic dream.
But who defines tinyness?
Creation was
an act of dizzying
smallness for Him;
that He delights in it
is the message.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:55 PM
Card Dreams
Looked up an old friend – Mickey Mantle, 1961. Perenially young, the Mick was my favorite player growing up even though he'd retired when I was an infant. The Mick was it, the Oklahoma boy who filled Dimaggio’s shoes. Wearing the holy pinstripes of the Yankees, he epitomized grace, beauty and a godly above-it-all-ness. The 1961 card was my favorite, my source of solace. He looks out with that praternaturally calm visage, bat on his shoulder, eyes fixed with a look of slight amusement as if the game were merely that – a game. He has an aristocratic air; the narrowed eyes, Roman nose and thin lips. It isn’t a baseball card as much as a work of art.
My other hero was Roberto Clemente, 1971 card. Quiet, even taciturn, he let his playing do the talking. He was constantly on humanitarian missions to his home country when one went awry and a plane accident took his life – a week after he’d finished the season with exactly 3,000 career hits. It was the kind of symbolism that appealed to me, as if it an act of God. 3,000 hits exactly – neat and clean, like the way John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day: the 4th of July.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:18 AM
A wonderous Friday morning – a gulp of lectio divinio under the unlikely guise of John Steinbeck. Chapter 25 of "East of Eden" soothed a spiritual nerve. It was a long discussion of Gen 4:1-16 and the nature of free will, and it led me by the nose to the wonderful resources I’ve been blessed with. I looked up Cain in the New American Bible Dictionary, then Gen 4:1-16 in both Haydock’s Bible Commentary and "A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture". I bathed in the light of verses I had never examined so closely before, prompted by a secular source.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:14 AM
Wise Man
If I were conjuring up a wise man, I would give him a deep understanding of Scripture and an intense relationship with God. Add a generous heaping of philosophy, from Aquinas through the moderns. Test him in the fire of adversity. Give him the soul of a poet.
God, I love our pope.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:25 PM
November 24, 2002
Fallible Consciences
It was spring of '78 and I was reading May Sarton’s "Journal of a Solitude" between newspaper deliveries and fights with my sister over her infuriating lack of allowing me to get the last word (which Bill O’Reilly so generously provides his guests).
The one thing we could agree on was that anyone who wanted a newspaper before 9am was in serious need of a life. Those people should be enjoying their rest. Nine a.m. on a Saturday morning was the middle of the night and heck, they just plain didn’t need a newspaper before then. Sometimes I felt a little guilty about it but when I examined my conscience I asked "would I want a newspaper before 9 on a Saturday morning?". I said "heck no!" and this eased my conscience greatly. I was doing unto others as I would others do to me.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:21 AM
November 23, 2002
Nature dies,
the annual capitulation
insulated by our furnaces
we ignore the message.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:52 AM
My brother-in-law, God bless him, sent the family an email entitled "Must read- this is a tear-jerker". The e-mail was a meandering "Open Letter to Buckeye Fans" from an Iowa fan who, in it, struggles to come to terms with his conflicted feelings concerning the great issue of our day: whether to support OSU tomorrow. The verdict? A resounding "Beat Michigan". Days later, I'm still attempting to work up some tears. Apparently I'm an unfeeling bastard.
Example of a tear-jerker:
For a Female:
-a child is kidnapped, a tornado levels a neighborhood, man cheats on wife, anything on Lifetime network
For a Male:
-an Iowa fan tells a Buckeye fan: "Beat Michigan"
Oh....I almost forgot: GO BUCKS!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:57 PM
November 22, 2002
Steinbeck's Biblical Exegesis
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions.
And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.The LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen?
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.
- Gen 4:1-15...RSV version
character from East of Eden:
The more I thought about the story, the more profound it became to me. Then I compared the translations we have - and they were fairly close. There was only one place that bothered me. The King James version says this - it is when Jehovah has asked Cain why he is angry. Jehovah says, 'If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.' It was the 'thou shalt' that struck me, because it was a promise that Cain would conquer sin."
Samuel nodded. "And his children didn't do it entirely," he said.
Lee sipped his coffee. "Then I got a copy of the American Standard Bible. It was very new then. And it was different in this passage. It says, 'Do thou rule over him.' Now this is very different. This is not a promise, it is an order.
After two years [of learning Hebrew] we felt that we could approach your sixteen verses of the fourth chapter of Genesis. My old gentlemen felt that these words were very important too-'Thou shalt' and 'Do thou.' And this was the gold from our mining: 'Thou mayest.' 'Thou mayest rule over sin.'
"Don't you see?" he cried. "The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in 'Thou shalt,' meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel-'Thou mayest'- that gives a choice. It might be the most important word inthe world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'- it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.'
Now there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, 'Do thou', and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in 'Thou shalt'. Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be...
It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, 'I couldn't help it; the way was set.' But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey...It is true that we are weak and sick and quarrelsome, but if that is all we ever were, we would, millenniums ago, have disappeared from the face of the earth." - John Steinbeck
Note that God retains his choice, in favoring Abel's gift, as He favored the Blessed Virgin in the Immaculate Conception. God often favored the youngest instead of the oldest, the weak against the strong in Scripture, contrary to earthly thinking (especially in OT times when the eldest was the most respected).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:36 AM
All I ask is to be onto something.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:53 PM
November 21, 2002
"When college was over and Adams had to get a real job he had this to say: 'Total and complete misery has followed so suddenly to total and complete happiness, that all the philosophy I can muster can scarce support me under the amazing shock'."
-McCullough's John Adams
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:52 PM
"Never ... despair of the Mercy of God!"
-final line of the Rule of Saint Benedict
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:47 PM
NRO's Benny Nirenstein has an interesting article:
I don't know whether the gap between Europe and America has ever been so great. No one I know identifies himself as pro-American. Despite recent waves of anti-Semitic and racist violence, and Le Pen's strong showing in the French elections, Europeans believe Americans to be racist, while they themselves are culturally tolerant.
The inability of Europe to truly separate religion from state compounds the problem. No Italian politician can afford to ignore the Catholic Church. British politicians still look toward the Church of England for their moral guidance. When religion and politics mix, it can breed two extremist outcomes: One of fundamentalism as afflicts the Islamic world, and the other of irresponsible pacifism that now afflicts Europe, with an effect equally dangerous.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:52 PM
Knee-jerk No Mo'
When I look at the political parties I see differences that sometimes appear arbitrary. For example, there is no good reason the Democratic party should be so anti-life given its history of sympathy for the defenseless and given the Catholic influence (Catholics were just about all Democrats 50 years ago).
But parties have to draw clear lines, clear differences. And so one party starts flirting with pro-life or a pro-abortion stand, find it draws people and begin solidifying it in stone. The parties lurch leftward or rightward to preserve the distinction.
I make this in order to warn of the danger of viewing denominations in political terms, although they do share certain similarities in that positions are staked out. Thus, I think part of the anger I hear from Protestant circles concerning Mary seems to betray an anger well beyond what a reading of scripture would indicate (i.e. "all generations will call me blessed"). Similarly, when I hear of older Catholics who think bible reading is for Protestants, well, it makes your hair curl. As if Protestants had cornered the market on bible reading. Or on a personal relationship with Jesus (what can be more personal than eating his Body and drinking his Blood?). So to both sides I pray, let us eschew knee-jerk responses to foreign stimuli.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:02 PM
From Fotos del Apolcalypsis:
A like of spirits is usually seen in catholic atmospheres, wine mainly.... It comes from a defense (conscientious leading to militant) of the simple pleasures of life, a Christian attitude that took root in the Middle Ages (with types like St Francis... and Chaucer...) and which the Latin, southern catholicism would try to maintain against a puritan Anglo-Saxon Protestantism. Yes, this is harshly delinated, but the reader will know to mollify.... Such Anglo-Saxon converts are suspicious of this vision of the things - and it does not seem to me bad. Chesterton has, in his typical vision of the things, poetries like this one: "And Noah I have often said to his wife when they sat down to dine, ' I don't care where the water goes it it doesn't get into the wine.'
In a case of role reversal, I once played devil's advocate to a Protestant friend (who drinks). I said something like, "why shouldn't we error on the side of not imbibing since no one is saved by drinking but some have perhaps been damned?". He bristled, having grown up in a Fundamentalist household. Evidentally he'd heard that line before. Having lived with prohibitions of gambling, of dancing, of watching movies with the nudity skipped he didn't like that argument. (He once told his minister dad - who didn't have a problem with movie violence but did with sex - "You'd sooner see a breast chopped off than fondled"). Anyhow, the idea is that by making prohibitions on oneself one eventually could end up prohibiting enjoyment in general. There is a Christian book titled, "When I Relax I Feel Guilty".
And so we risk being charged with looking askance at some of the good things God has given us. What child looks at something his father gave him and says, "I'm going to error on the side of pleasing you by not enjoying what you have given me"? Obviously none of this is a license for immoderate behavior. No father gives his son a video game and then wants him to play it all day and night to the exclusion of everything.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:29 PM
Is it Politicians, or us?
I think part of the reason that politicians are so negatively viewed is that they serve a spoiled electorate and thus have to contort themselves in ways often not becoming. I don't agree with Michael Kinsley on much, but his book "Big Babies" seems truthful. His premise is that people want big government and low taxes, which is impossible. Politicians, in order to be elected, must then walk this tortured path of promising as much as possible while not raising taxes. It invites, though doesn't excuse, dishonesty.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:13 PM
"The question of whether God exists is less important than whether he is love".
- from an Advent meditation book
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:06 PM
November 20, 2002
Hey now, that ain't nice...
"A man who is converted from Protestantism to Popery, may be sincere: he parts with nothing: he is only superadding to what he already had. But a convert from Popery to Protestantism, gives up so much of what he held as sacred as anything that he retains: there is so much laceration of mind in such a conversion, that it can hardly be sincere and lasting."
-(Anglican) Samuel Johnson
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:05 PM
Which causes
cause affect so deep
they scale my cold, rational heart
and cross its ramparts?
On the banks of the Savannah
I caught sight of a bronze statue
of a woman signalling ships
waving blankets
with a dog, ears-up at her side.
For forty years
so legend goes
she waited for her missing fiancee
to come down that river.
Or in a darkened theatre
watching Speilberg-Kubric's conglomeration
a winsome lad sits
in prayer at the bottom of the New York sea
for his savior to make him real.
is love.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:05 PM
Written about a co-worker I respect
Bigger than life, there once was a nearly mythical centaur named "Dute" Holland who managed to hold together the paradox of a pluperfectly banal work life at a hokey company with a highly charged intellectual life. He refused to be a simple automaton living life in binary terms and lusting for the next issue of PC Monthly. He shuffled a job, a wife and a daughter with the feat of having read most of the Western canon. Ruthlessly logical, he was allergic to patriotism and faith for he was a realist and pessimist and could see or imagine the flaws of both. He would not be suckered. His only compromise with society was the trading of the best part of every day for a paycheck that provided everything but financial independence.
He is, of course, perfectly of his time. There is nothing in the least anachronistic about him either in his job skills or his worldview. His rebelliousness is limited to complaining about company and government, easy targets indeed. There was no sense that he was rebellious in any serious sense; he would fit the mold of any post-Enlightenment individual, subscribing to the god of rationality and the tenets of the average Upper West Side pseudo-intellectual. His sense of adventure was limited to knocking down already crumbling institutions.
He seemed to have eyes in back of his head. You would provide an obscure, unattributed excerpt from a magazine and he would refer to the author's name in the rebuttal. Or he would correctly spell the name of the book that you were currently reading and have the grace not to point out that you'd misspelled it in your note. It was as though he could see right through you. Your lame, sometimes hypocritical replies were exposed as either non-sequitors or ideological falsities.
I like Dute.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:37 PM
the unbearable
are the phone calls, of course,
demystifying last moments
a horror Poe
couldn't conceive -
notifying a 31-year old
of her impending widowhood
as death's valley almost bridged
husbands tell their wives
they have not six months
but six minutes.
what power those last words
- "i love you" -
must have in their new-found rarity
in their new-found scarcity
three words to sum a life
and carry the other forward.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:08 PM
I'd like to take a minute to thank our sponsor - Serving all your search needs.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 6:26 PM
News to Me
Pope John XXIII's last words on his deathbed, as reported by Jean Guitton, the only Catholic layman to serve as a peritus at the Council, were: "Stop the Council; stop the Council."
Found this on the internet, I wonder if it is true.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:19 PM
A Modest Proposal
The mission in life for teens - their raison d'être - is to shock parents. Particularly with music. So I propose we get ahead of the curve, since all is lost anyway (Eminem without his shock value is like Mr. T sans muscle and gold chain). The key to this particular problem is in what we find outrageous. Let us find outrageous the strains of Bach and Beethoven. Let us arrange for Mahler's 9th to be heard and let us react viscerally, saying, "I never want you to listen to that crap!".
Failing that, we will see that what passes for music will continue to freefall. Soon the clashing of garbage can lids will symbolize what youth wish to say. Eventually there might be a "Variations on Nails on a Chalkboard". Or "Fugue for Solo Organ" (insert your own joke here). Er, hope I'm not providing ideas for any record company execs.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:04 PM
Watched a C-Span 2 Roundtable concerning religion...
One author said that countries with an established Church are the least religious. Britain, Sweden, Denmark are clear examples of this. The European example has been that to establish a church is to kill it. (Though what about Spain during Ferdinand? Or Ireland in the 50s? Perhaps he was only referring to modern examples. Ireland is probably not a good example since they are Catholic in the face of opposition by the Prots in Northern Ireland...did the presence of the Orangemen make the Irish more loyal and devoted Catholics?
- Another commented that Protestants are moving towards thinking themselves as Protestant or non-denominational - in the 1950s, if asked their religion, they would say Baptist or Methodist, never Protestant. Now they are more likely to use that term and he said the reason is because of evangelical mega-churches and the fact that US culture is so "multi-religioned" now. Is this Protestant bonding because the external threat - once perceived as the Methodists or Episcopalians down the road in the 1950s -now the Muslim or atheist in 2002?
-Another said that while Protestants are moving closer together, Jews are splitting ferociously apart. He said the Jewish religion is imploding, what with the Orthodox versus the Reformed, etc..with great anger directed inside.
Finally, he said that Catholicism in America is nothing like, for example, Poland since America tends to Disney-fy religion. I would've liked to have heard more of the program and gotten lengthier explanations of some of the above points, but I proffer them for what they're worth, with due apologies for not even remembering the author's names.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:00 PM
November 19, 2002
Simple in their Ordinariness
What farmer-poets
cast doggrell upon a
wizened paper-scroll
by seal of candlewax and tears?
Who’ve left their leavenings
unread, unsaid, unfound
in that plain potato-loving soil
with faces long and fatalistic
and wit mordant, biting, slaked
by fishy ales?
So let's to Byrne’s pass
and take a stand
though we fall like heroes
our blood split like a tabby’s milk
lapped by our enemies
the brave music be our
surcease and comfort
the British musketries
be none but jigs and reels
and sing we to our deaths
till bow stands on end
and the fiddles arch to piercing no recall
no retreat.
Let the beat of the bodhran
be heard even to the English hills.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:40 PM
Pro-Lifers on campus
A year ago, the Pro-Life Cougars sought permission to put up their display in a public space previously used by groups like the National Organization of Women and Planned Parenthood. The university prohibited the exhibit, and, to obtain equal access, the group had to file a lawsuit in January.
"It’s about time the university stopped treating pro-life speech as if it were pornography." - comment from the lead attorney in the case.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:09 PM
Interesting story in the NY Times on the phenomenon:
...But is by far the Perettis' most ambitious project. "When you talk about race, it touches off a lot of people's individual issues," Ms. Peretti said.
Though much of the site's humor isn't that original — comedians like Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock have all lampooned white people's flubbed attempts at relating to blacks — the fact that the dialogue is transpiring on the Internet allows for user participation and a more honest exchange of views than is often afforded in daily life.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:05 PM
Misc Quotes
"My treasure is to be found in prodigality, and only he possesses me who gives me away. For I am indeed the Word, and how can one possess a word other than by speaking it?" - Fr. Balthasar
"If many souls fail to find God because they want a religion that will remake society without remaking themselves...a soul passes from a state of speculation to submission. It is no longer troubled with the why of religion, but with the ought. It wishes to please, not merely to parse Divinity." - Archbishop Sheen
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:09 PM
Excerpts from Beppe Severgnini in "Ciao, America":
It would be an exaggeration to say that the Roman Catholic religion had to turn into a kind of Protestantism to survive, as Mario Soldati wrote in America Primo Amore. It is true, however, that Mass in America is not for spectators, as it is in some Italian churches where actually singing or saying the responses is considered a lack of respect.
He then goes on to describe, in excrutiating detail, the sign of peace, the holding hands during the Our Father, and then...
During Communion, in the States, everything is beautifully choreographed. The communicants in the front pews get up, form a line in the center aisle, and go back to their places by filtering down the side aisles. When one row sits down, the next makes its move. Have you ever seen what happens in Italy? Everyone stands up at the same time, forming a dozen separate lines that engulf the pews like milk boiling over from a pan. Those returning to their seats - apparently aborbed in silent contemplation - bump into those who are still waiting in a spectacular reenactment of the traffic jams that enliven the working week....In Italy, the announcement that Mass is over produces an effect similar to that of a gunshot in a cattery. - Beppe Severgnini Ciao, America!
At last I have an explanation why we were nearly stampeded by Italian nuns in St. Peter's. It seemed unseemly to have bodily contact with a nun, so we waited till they made their way through.
Mr. Severgnini's theme throughout the book is the preternatural friendliness of Americans. I'm starting to understand why I like curmugeon-bastards so much:
Friendliest Countries of the World
1) Australia
2) United States
Friendliest Regions of the U.S.
1) Midwest
No wonder I liked Italy so much. The friendliness of a region or nation is generally inversely proportional to their attraction to ideas, not practical ideas like "How to build a better mousetrap" but more esoteric. Those who traffic in ideas generally are kind to people in the abstract, but nasty in person. The intellectual and the melancholic go together like cake and ice cream. Beppe goes on:
Thanking people is even more challenging. The straightforward British exchange "Thank you" - "Not at all" is strictly for beginners. Say a passerby asks you to change a dollar. You hand over four quarters.
Passerby: Thanks.
You: Not at all.
Passerby: You're welcome
You: You're more than welcome
Passerby: Sure.
You: Don't mention it.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:21 AM
Parallel Universe
Concerning "hypothetical forms of matter."
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:03 AM
Ein Prosit!
I should read the Old Oligarch more oft...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:48 AM
Reminder to Self
What makes defending the unborn so easy is their total and complete innocence. Giving money to the poor overseas or in Latin America is also relatively easy since most of the poor there are innocent victims of despotic leaders or overpopulation or bad economic policies. But many charitable acts, especially in this rich country, require that we cast a blind eye to the fact that the receiver was in some way responsible for their own mess. Of course that is no excuse not to give, since we ourselves are constantly being helped out of our own messes by Christ.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:08 PM
November 18, 2002
Advice from a Homeless guy
I thought this was solid information. Via the well-named Daily Meds.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:53 PM
via a broken music...
Political Party/affiliation: Republican.
Favorite Political, er, Person: Alan Keyes
Favorite Political Quote: WFB's "I'd rather be ruled by the first 500 names in the Boston Metropolitan phone book than by the faculty of Harvard"
Pet Issues: Adherence to the text of the Constitution. A recognition that human nature does not change. The ascendency of logical thinking. Since a line has to be drawn, why not at conception and thus error on the side of life?
Ideal Presidential Ticket 2004: W & Dick Cheney
Ideal Presidential Candidate 2008: Hmm...haven't given it much thought but maybe Jeb? Gov. Bill Owens? or Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson?
Who will the Democrats run in 2004? Gore
Favorite Gun: the ones in the "Three Amigos"
Least Favorite Politico: Albert Gore, whose view of abortion conveniently changed when his party began marching to the tune of NARAL.
Favorite Political Periodical: National Review
Favorite Columnist(s): the ususal suspects - WFB, Noonan, Will, and Jonah Goldberg.
Favorite President: recently, Ronald Reagan. historically, John Adams.
Least Favorite President: Clinton.
Favorite Supreme: Obviously Thomas and Scalia.
Favorite Senator: Phil Graham, Jesse Helms. From the udder side, where they suck the teat of the public fund, I love Robert C. Byrd. He's like watching Dan Rather, you wait for him to do something crazy. We need more eccentrics.
Favorite Governor: Colorado's is the real deal. Bill Owens deserves the nomination in '08 if he continues what he's doing. While other states flounder with huge deficits due to spending like drunken sailors during the 90s, Owens kept his powder dry.
Favorite Political Book: David Frum's, "How We Got Here", anything by Bill Buckley, "Closed Chambers" - Lazurus, "Right from the Beginning" - Buchanan
Favorite Conservative Polemicist: Bob Novak
Have you ever been assaulted by a former Weatherman or Black Panther member? Not that I know of, although one rarely bothers with affiliations during an assualt.
Favorite Experience Being Oppressed By a Liberal Teacher/Professor: I was too naive to notice. My antennae weren't up yet.
Favorite out of the closet conservative/Republican celebrity? I suppose Charlton Heston. The pickings are slim - Tom Selleck and Bo Derek & Chuck Heston? Maybe that Ray Romano guy? That's about all I know of.
Were you ever a member of the Communist Party? Nope.
Secret Political Shame: Voted for the crazy man in the attic - Ross Perot. Bush 41 gave us Souter and higher taxes. Of course, if the polls were close I would've voted Bush.
How Satanic is John McCain? He's a gamer, I'll give him that.
Political Organization(s) that Scares You More than Death, Spiders, and Death by Spiders: of course, the Disunited Nations. Also NARAL.
Things that made me Republican
Tis the banal story that so many conservative can point to. A serendipitous day at the college library led to the find of "National Review". An instant hit. "Rebellious conservatism"
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:18 PM
dylan has an interesting post on drink mathematics. Job / % Heavy Alcohol Users
Construction Workers = 20.2%
Nurse= 2.4%
Computer Programmers = 2.7%
Food Preparers = 16.2%
Janitors = 10%
Waiters = 12.1%
Grocery Stores = 5.8%
Truck Drivers =14%
Dep't Stores = 3.5%
More here
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:05 PM
November 17, 2002
a Hodge-podge of Discontinued Items
tomato vines decay in lumpen lumps
the fenian bastards gave up
before the aspergill
songs of porter and Finnegan’s Wake:
Stout full enough to stand
a night laden with tea and cakes.
flanneled before the fire
beholding books with serrate edges and
flourished Danish typefaces;
entranced, he sits, engorged on lyrics like:
"this type was first set in 1642 by …".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:59 PM
Have recently been pondering the looming crisis in health care (and, perhaps, higher education). As both become relentlessly more expensive, one sees no end game other than either a return to the barter system (i.e. you do my double bypass and I'll fill out your taxes, which, by 2011, should be considered equivalent in terms of complexity), or a disorderly decline in quality and timeliness of health care (translated: higher rates of mortality). Health care costs are exacerbated by a host of monsters: malpractice suits run amuck, and bad behavior run amuck (resulting in 'crack-cocaine' babies and the need for AIDS cocktails)...but also by a host of neutral factors: like the increasingly high relative cost of human capital and the tremendous cost of new medical technologies like artifical hearts and the like. The usual thing to do in situations like this is to debate where the pleasure/pain point is - i.e. where additional taxes or costs do not lead to significantly higher benefits. What is unique to the health care field is that it is impossible to put a value on a human life. Whereas higher taxes may provide an afterschool venue for troubled youths and one could debate the merits of that, greater health care costs may provide saved lives, which is a very different debate. Complicating it is the boomer's obsessive desire to live forever (due in part to a lessened belief in an afterlife) and the very expensive life-extending measures that result...I believe the Church teaches that we don't have to go to unnatural lengths to extend life, but that devil is very much in the details. It seems it will be very difficult to arrive at a consensus in our society as to what extends life unnecessarily and what doesn't.
Concerning the human capital cost, Daniel P. Moynihan wrote years ago that the problem with health care and education is that new technology does not help make either profession more efficient. So while most jobs can be constantly made cheaper and productivity will rise, it does not happen with human-intensive jobs like teachers and doctors because computers and robotics don't help (in fact, the need for schools to have computers and health care to have expensive lasers adds to the price rather than subtracting).
So, how willing are we to become partial serfs to health care? And the general rule is that everything we give to the gov't to do becomes not less but more expensive. Thus to universalize health care should eventually make the current social security tax look like as harmless as a summer day (in the 1950s 1% was paid to social security 'trust' fund, today you and your employer pay 15% and it's in lousy shape). But I'm not sure there is an answer since the private sector has failed, and continues to fail.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:38 PM
Poetry Friday
Huge vapours brood above the clifted shore,
Night o'er the ocean settles, dark and mute,
Save where is heard the repercussive roar
Of drowsy billows, on the rugged foot
Of rocks remote; or still more distant tone
Of seamen, in the anchored bark, that tell
The watch relieved; or one deep voice alone,
Singing the hour, and bidding "strike the bell."
All is black shadow, but the lucid line
Marked by the light surf on the level sand,
Or where afar, the ship-lights faintly shine
Like wandering fairy fires, that oft on land
Mislead the pilgrim; such the dubious ray
That wavering reason lends, in life's long darkling way.
- Charlotte Smith
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:14 PM
November 15, 2002
Here, we shoot off
every day to new horizons,
coffee shops and bars,
natural tonsorial parlors,
days, streets,
pamphlets, days, sun,
heat, love, anger,
politics, days, and sun. - Jay Wright
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:59 PM
If our faith in God is weak and slow to rise to God on account of the multitude and magnitude of our sins, we should remember this, that everything is possible with God, and that what he wishes is bound to take place, while what he does not wish cannot possibly happen, and that it is as easy for him to forgive and cancel countless sins, however enormous, as to do it with a single sin..." - St. Albert the Great
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:52 PM
Shakespeare's Measure for Measure
... title inspired by the book of Matthew (i.e. as you measure, so will it be measured to you).
The tempter or the tempted, who sins most? Ha!
Not she: nor doth she tempt: but it is I
That, lying by the violet in the sun,
Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt with virtuous season. Can it be
That modesty may more betray our sense
Than woman's lightness? Having waste ground enough,
Shall we desire to raze the sanctuary
And pitch our evils there? O, fie, fie, fie!
What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
Dost thou desire her foully for those things
That make her good? O, let her brother live!
Thieves for their robbery have authority
When judges steal themselves. What, do I love her,
That I desire to hear her speak again,
And feast upon her eyes? What is't I dream on?
O cunning enemy, that, to catch a saint,
With saints dost bait thy hook! Most dangerous
Is that temptation that doth goad us on
To sin in loving virtue: never could the strumpet,
With all her double vigour, art and nature,
Once stir my temper; but this virtuous maid
Subdues me quite. Even till now,
When men were fond, I smiled and wonder'd how.
Note how when Angelo realizes he, and not she, is at fault, Shakespeare emphasizes the "I" with "lying" and "violet" in the same phrase "but it is I / That, lying by the violet in the sun". Angelo realizes in the last couple lines that he not only is the same as other men but worse given that while whores tempt other men, the virtuous tempt Angelo. It is also interesting that Angelo struggles with his identity in asking "am I what I do?" by asking What dost thou, or what art thou, Angelo?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:02 PM
John Steinbeck
Steinbeck wrote books in a variety of styles, so if one doesn't appeal to you surely another will. His prose is translucent and a necessary anodyne to a surfeit of the thick, jungle prose of another John (Updike).
It is perhaps unfair to take these passages out of context since that cumulative effect of his sentences should not be underestimated...But here goes:
"Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning," Samuel said. 'We carry them along with us like invisible tails -the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel....No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us. What a great burden of guilt men have!
...I found some of the old things as fresh and clear as this morning. And I wondered why. And, of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And I here make a rule - a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting- only the deeply personal and familiar.
Give me a used Bible and I will, I think, be able to tell you about a man by the places that are edged with the dirt of seeking fingers.
Of all the children Una had the least humor. She met and married an intense dark man-a man whose fingers were stained with chemicals, mostly silver nitrate. He was one of those men who live in poverty so that their lines of questioning may continue.
[Tom] could life and run and hike and ride with anyone, but he had no sense of competition whatever. Will and George were gamblers and often tried to entice their brother into the joys and sorrows of ventue.
Tom said, "I've tried and it just seems tiresome. I've thought why this must be. I get no great triumph when I win and no tragedy when I lose. Without these it is meaningless. It is not a way to make money, that we know, unless it can simulate birth and death, joy and sorrow, it seems, at least to me - it feels - it doesn't feel at all. I would do it if I felt anything - good or bad." - John Steinbeck East of Eden
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:18 AM
Augustine for me
What theologian are you?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:42 AM
November 14, 2002
As an oxymoron gourmand, I am fascinated by attempted reconciliations of seeming contradictions. Perhaps this is part of why I like this dylan's "I am large, I contain multitudes" site so much, although he protests of more contradictions than I see. But I'm especially interested in how grand old Christians like Victorian Prime Minister Gladstone and current artiste extraordinaire Updike manage to marry an unseemly devotion to, well, perhaps lustfulness (some can look and not lust) and Christianity. Call it envy on my part (trading one of the seven deadly for a different I suppose).
So, I happened upon this bon mot from blogesse Natalie, with a story of contradiction linked below.
Meanwhile here is her (correct) view of the male psyche:
I encounter a variety of customers working at the comic book store. The majority of them are men, the comic industry plays into the male psyche beautifully. The common hero is the underdog male, mundane in existence by day, cape wearing vigilante by night. A classic reflection of one's secret self, the longing to be something other than what one is. The second aspect played is that of approachable female. Comics are entertainment, fantasy. And given to pen, women in the comic world can perform impossible contortions while wearing the least amount of clothing and still have a personality. Even feminist Wonder Woman skips around in a near bikini. Obviously, your "real life" woman isn't going to fight crime and the forces of evil in high heels.
And here is the story of contradiction.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:39 AM
OED Update
Accept no substitute! Twenty volumes or bust! (answer: bust). The new Shorter is an illegitmate, pusillanimous version of the real thing. The value-added to my already fine dictionary does not to a sale compute. Besides, look at the sort of stellar resources online. You can have your computer pronounce a word for you.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:35 PM
November 13, 2002
Wise One
"It is charity, not creed, that creates the conditions for Christian unity." - our Dominican friar, pointing out that as necessary as the Creed is, it is not sufficient for unity. He also points out that apologetics should not be used to "prove" Catholicism but merely to show that it is reasonable (Charity does the rest). If we all focus on Christ, we will necessarily be draw to the same point, the same Body, the same Church.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:31 AM
OED update
Have not bought it yet. Stalling for time by waiting to look at it at a bookstore.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:10 AM
For purposes of clarification...
I certainly do not assume that everyone who holds a view point other than my own does so from ill will. I do believe there is Truth, I reject moral relativism, and I do not consider the moral views I hold as "mine"; they are merely given to us by the Church, who stands on the shoulders of giants like Paul, Augustine, Aquinas and Newman.
The original post was prompted by wondering what I would do in Nazi Germany. Would I have helped the Jews, been indifferent or actually wished them ill? Perhaps others have more faith in their innate goodness than I have in mine. I could see myself in a role of indifference - a shrug of my shoulders and "what can I do?" or the venal "at least it's nobody I know". We are conditioned, now, to recognize the Holocaust as the horror of horrors, but there were far too few Germans who recognized it at the time.
What bothers me is the preversity of things like this: the controversialness of the partial birth abortion ban. It seems gratuitiously preverse to deny a baby - one that looks, feels, thinks and acts like one - a full birth when it is geographically indisposed (i.e. not completely out of the mother). This suggests an evil, or a level of culpability, that is more profound than those in favor of stem cell research. (It's the "they should know better" issue).
Certainly ignorance is, to some extent, protective. If you don't know something, you can't be held responsible for it. So the many pro-choicers out there who are pro-choice through invincible ignorance are not (thank God!) going to be held accountable. Ultimately where "invincible ignorance" ends and responsibility begins who can know but God?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:40 AM
Rank of my favorite founding fathers at age 12:
Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Washington, Hamilton
Rank of my my favorite founding fathers circa 2002:
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:33 PM
November 12, 2002
She stands like Patience on a monument. - Shakespeare
I don't know why but that just resonates with me.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:22 PM
Gestational Bloggings
* the bible and the scarcity principle
* knee-jerk oppositionism as illustrated in the Miss America and the issue regarding abstinence
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:22 PM
Latest Google Search
"mexcian creation stories"
I wunder if I shuld start intintionally misspelling words sinc apperently one of mine led to this visit. Nihil Obstat note bene.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:02 PM
The Perils of Blogging
By way of All But Dissertations I've learned of the new Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. It's a two-volume set that comprises 1/3rd of the master 20 volume set. Since I will never (ok, never say never) buy the 20-vol set, this is sorely tempting. I've found it for $90 out-the-door price (regularly $150). One third of the whole OED for $90 is pretty amazing. The full OED is $995 for purposes of rationalization.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:52 PM
From The Observer on the popularity of young writers:
The mark of this new literature is that it’s accessible without being dumb. Literary, but also pop...In the book world, David Foster Wallace may have perfected that kind of sensibility a decade ago, but the kids have taken the ball and run with it.
Writers like Ms. Smith don’t feel they have to give up on a mass audience in order to say serious things. We’re reaching the end of an era in which obscurity plays as intelligence; date its demise from the publication of Jonathan Franzen’s takedown of super-convoluted postmodern novelist William Gaddis last month in The New Yorker. And yet it’s not that the new literary stars are rejecting the ethos of high-toned literary deconstruction they learned in their college English classes—they’ve already assimilated it...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:30 PM
Opus Dei and Flagellation?
CS Lewis quote:
The problem about avoiding our own pain admits a similar solution. Some ascetics have used self-torture. As a layman, I offer no opinion on the prudence of such a regimen; but I insist that, whatever its merits, self-torture is quite a different thing from tribulation sent by God. Everyone knows that fasting is a different experience from missing your dinner by accident or through poverty.
Fasting asserts the will against the appetite - the reward being self-mastery and the danger pride...The redemptive effect of suffering lies chiefly in its tendency to reduce the rebel will. Ascetic practices, which in themselves strength the will, are only useful in so far as they enable the will to put its own house (the passions) in order, as a preparation for offering the whole man to God. They are necessary as a means; as an end, they would be abominable...In order to submit the will to GOd, we must have a wil and that will must have objects...
Doubtless we all spend too much care in the avoidance of our own pain: but a duly subordinated intention to avoid it, using lawful means, is in accordance with "nature" - that is, with the whole working system of creaturely life for which the redemptive work of tribulation is calculated.
The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: buy joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast....The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
-CS Lewis, Problem of Pain
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:27 PM
November 11, 2002
Painting, like spirituality, is liberating. Both are expressions of one's distinct and deeper relationships with the world - and with God.
-artist Fr. Jerome Tupa, OSB
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 6:44 PM
But let concealment, like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
We men may say more, swear more: but indeed
Our shows are more than will; for still we prove
Much in our vows, but little in our love. - Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:08 PM
Quiz mania
The quizzes are edging towards parody. I'm waiting for "Which pop-up ad are you?". But hey I loved "Which Founding Father Are You?". Maybe I'll try to think up one of my own: "Which Papal Legate are you?"
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:54 PM
Excerpt on Evangelical Theology
Precisely because modernization has created an external world in which unbelief seems normal, it has at the same time created a world in which Christian faith is alien. It is the inability to resist this oddness that is now working its havoc on the Christian mind. The Christian mind in the midst of modernity is like the proverbial frog in the pot beneath which a fire has been kindled. Because the water temperature rises slowly, the frog remains unaware of the danger until it is too late. In the same way, the Church often seems to be blithely unaware of the peril that now surrounds it.
What makes the disappearance of confession in academic circles almost inevitable, barring an occasional episode of rebellion such as that mounted by Karl Barth and his allies, is that there is now an insurmountable coalition between the Enlightenment idea that it is the subject who defines reality and the universities that are now structured not only to make this idea normative but also to make its orthodox alternative unacceptable.
The disappearance of theology, in both Church and academy, is itself one of the fruits of modernization and . . . it has little to do with the way that theology is being constructed per se. Furthermore, the unraveling of the ties between contemporary Christianity and historic orthodoxy is not the result of a deliberate strategy but is rather one of the effects of modernity that Christians have unconsciously accepted.
- David F. Wells
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:30 PM
Mark Shea Pulls No Punches
On the religious nature of abortion to the Democratic party: principle remains: the inviolable sacrament of abortion. It's the only real core belief of American liberalism. They have made a covenant with Death and the grave. Republican whores dally with it. But the Democratic party is married to it, a succubus that is draining the life out of the party with vampiric gripping strength.- M. Shea
Does Shea's polemic serve the public debate? In one sense, yes in another no. In one sense it asserts a truth that people want to forget or soften. By being so clear, he offers an implicit rebuttle to moral relativism. He also "fires up his base". One reads that and wants to go out and pray outside an abortion clinic, or contribute to a pro-life charity. The American Revolution would not have been fought if not for firebrands like Thomas Paine. Their contribution is undervalued; few will be moved to action on an issue seriously if it is couched in academic language or is in some way softened. People respect strong opinions - Paul Wellstone had many conservatives who spoke well of him.
On the other could alienate those who are on the fence. I'm not sure how many fence-sitters there are on the subject; Bill O'Reilly said he knew a few and said pro-lifers should be aware of this and tone down the "rhetoric". I'm unconvinced. One can catch more flies with sugar, but it seems like the flies aren't taking it. That's why I contribute to the Center for Bioethical Reform and their rather radical attempt to communicate the truth about abortion on the most visceral level - by trucks panelled with billboards of aborted children. America tends to care about only what it can see (i.e. we would've have gone into Somalia except for CNN's pictures).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:10 PM
Shakespeare Trivia
Five references in his plays to St. Peter, four to St. Paul....I knew Shakespeare was a papist! (Just a joke).
Others include: one to Patrick, two to Anne, one to Michael. St. George and his day actually beats all with eighteen references.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:56 AM
The Coming War
Nope, not Iraq. An internal one. I don't mean to sound incendiary, but there is something happening in America that is not too well reported - black prejudice.
Given the sordid history of race in our country it is perhaps our just dessert in some ways. It is typical that oppression corrected still rankles generations later - often in ways more hate-filled than the actual recipients of the outrage. There can be a sort of a delayed-reaction. And so innocent Northern Irish die because of their ancestors.
African-Americans have endured generations of white prejudice and the irony is this: just when white America has more or less gotten over prejudice (it can, of course, never be completely erradicated; prejudice is like unemployment numbers - you can get down to a certain level but never go below that) - black prejudice against whites has grown and will continue to grow. There is a New York City councilman who said that he wanted to go out in the street and find any white person and just slug them. A councilman!
The proximate cause of race riots might be reparations. Whatever you feel about the merits or demerits of the idea, there is an implacable stonewall of disagreement on both sides. There is no way reparations will happen. Politically it is dead. But, if you watch the C-Span and see members of the black caucus discuss it, you see that they feel this is an issue to go to the mat on. One senses that their base will not be satisfied with anything less and will perhaps take matters in their own hands if the black caucus can't. They are serious as the proverbial heart attack about it.
Maybe I'm all wet. I pray so and hope that riots won't happen. But I think there is a growing disaffection of whites by blacks, fueled by left-wing politics and chip-inducing (as in chip on your shoulder) Black Studies programs at universities. That growth can only have negative results.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:04 AM
One can take much humility in the fact that Jesus called us sheep. It should tend to dampen our pride for our positions, be they political or religious, although they don't much - myself especially. I've too much of that cussed John Adams in me. Besides, in this day of moral relativism, it is helpful to remember that some policies are right. For those in those in antebellum times, there was a correct view of slavery (i.e. its evilness) that was arrived at either by circumstance of birth (i.e. the North mainly) or by conversion or ultimately war.
As a white male with a middle-class income, I perfectly fit the Republican demographic. My credibility is slim with those like Ono, whose heartfelt discomfiture at the rejoicing in conservative quarters over the election illustrates what I said in my DC triplog - the tyranny of tradition and culture. I haven't yet "stepped outside the box" of my culture much. Sure, the arguments of the conservatives sound utterly convincing to me, but is this a result of true open-mindedness or am I a product of my background? How can I ascribe the latter to those who are liberals but not to myself? You can't tell me that it's a coincidence that 80% (or so) of Protestants never become Catholics and vice-versa. If the claims of Catholicism were equally compelling with Protestantism then one would expect approximately 50% of Catholics becoming Prots & vice-versa.
I wrote about the African-American lady on the tour bus who loves Clinton and is furious at the "crucifixion" he received at the hands of Republicans. She is as surely in her demographic as I am in mine. Real credit goes to converts for they are the brave ones who go against the wind. I don't mean to sound too deterministic, or too close to denying free will, but cradle Catholics should certainly ascribe no pride to the fact of their being Catholic, nor white 39-yr old men to their conservativism. I guess that is why converts like Scott Hahn electrify - it cost them something. And that is why someone like a Justice Thomas oozes credibility.
Obviously, being a Republican has nothing to do with being a Catholic. If the Democratic Party were tomorrow to become the party of life and the Republicans pro-abort, I would become an instant Democrat. And there would be something purifying in that independence, which now I can exercise only in limited areas (like the death penalty).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:08 PM
November 10, 2002
On the Viewing of Icons
Dove of the first Pentecost
falls on us too;
our affirmation
be our Confirmation.
Note the iconography:
the torches above their heads
look like the torches of blood upon His wrists.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:57 AM
Writings about Nothings.*
We came to the gates of the parking garage at nearly the same instant. My gate opened a half-second or so before hers, but I was in the merge lane and she had the right-of-way given an equal playing field. I waved her on. She waved me on. I waved her on again and she went. In the elapsed second we had become aware of the complexities of the situation.. She waved me on because she was playing by the rule of "whichever gate opened first got to go first". I waved her on due to the dual weight of my being in the merge lane and that she was female, with its attending chivalric requirements.
The leaves now surrender in the French fashion; they fall in great waves, subject to a moderate wind. The forest floor is bathed in the yellow litter and I come up on a 12-point buck just off the path. He stares, immobile. I walk by and watch as he eventually becomes comfortable enough to cross the path, not twenty feet from me. I momentarily indulge a delusion of grandeur, like I’m St. Francis and the animals love me. It is, by the way, uncanny how our German Shepherd will come up to bedroom to lie quietly when I begin to pray.
* - the new, upscale mall that opened recently puts a period behind titles, like they did back in the 19th century. Hence the period.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:13 AM
dylan started a new form of blogger comedy...possible titles for your autobiography. I liked Stand Up Tragedian and Misanthrope's Concerto. Tom Arnold has a good one: How I Lost Five Pounds in Six Years which is reminiscient of my spiritual story.
Possible titles for my autobiography
Eleven Thousand Miles Run, But Not All at One Time
My Other Book is a Classic
Desperately Seeking Unemployment So I Can Catch Up On My Reading
My Heroes Have Always Been Misanthropes
Too Much Falstaff, Too Much Hamlet
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:31 PM
November 9, 2002
Choice? I'm For It.
I am pro-choice - before conception. I think people should be allowed to choose whether or not they want to have sex.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:15 AM
[It] is something of a faith vs. reason paradox, in that it is utterly unreasonable to think Sen. Mikulski will abandon her objectively evil vote magnet of a position, yet our faith insists on the efficacy of prayer. Reason can only watch when faith operates in that region between improbable and impossible.
- via Disputations
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:55 PM
November 8, 2002
Apologetically Speaking
..But it is also certain that always there is people "of good will". There are times to speak and to be quiet, and those times to speak are "to give reason of our faith". And it is certain that one knows something of those rare cases in that the discussions are not crossings of words with guts tightened, but souls that learn to communicate, to know themselves and to be considered; and that, as the same G. B. Shaw in a letter to Chesterton: "the intellectual passion to him is after all the most entrancing passion of all." -via fotos del apocalipsis
I liked the phrase "crossings of words with guts tightened". What a beautiful phraseology, and so aptly descriptive (much of the time) unfortunately.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:27 PM
Nobody does it better....the eminently readable Peggy Noonan on the Dem's search for a mission statement.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:07 PM
Pondering Percy
"After the lunch conference I run into my cousin Nell Lovell on the steps of the library - where I go occasionally to read liberal and conservative periodicals. Whenever I feel bad, I go to the library and read controversial periodicals. Though I do not know whether I am a liberal or a conservative, I am nevertheless enlivened by the hatred which one bears the other. In fact, this hatred strikes me as one of the few signs of life remaining in the world. This is another thing about the world which is upsidedown: all the friendly and likable people seem dead to me; only the haters seem alive.
"Down I plunk myself with a liberal weekly at one of the massive tables, read it from cover to cover, nodding to myself whenever the writer scores a point. Damn right, old son, I say, jerking my chair in approval. Pour it on them. Then up and over to the rack for a conservative monthly and down in a fresh cool chair to join the counterattack. Oh ho, say I, and hold fast to the chair arm: that one did it: eviscerated! And then out and away into the sunlight, my neck prickling with satisfaction."
- Walker Percy, The Moviegoer
In a later book Percy has a character comment, "liberals and conseratives need each other...what would they do without the other?" which again implies that "only haters seem alive" and that without the other they would slip into narcoleptic stupor.
On the larger view, imagine a world in which there wasn't a fight between the devil & God, between the angels and demons...hard to imagine. All drama is conflict - where there is no conflict you have no plot...without plot, no stories...without stories....?
"The storyteller is a pale metaphor for God who creates our world and us, falls in love with his creatures, even obsesses over us because we don’t act right, and always reserves the right to say the final word." - Andrew Greeley
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:04 PM
Interesting Review of Johnathon Franzen's "How to be Alone"
Bestselling and National Book Award winning novelist Franzen (The Corrections) urges readers to say no to drugs, but not the pharmaceutical kind; his opiates are those "technology offers in the form of TV, pop culture, and endless gadgetry," soporifics that "are addictive and in the long run only make society's problems worse." Franzen's just as hard on intellectual conformity-on academe's canonization of third-rate but politically correct novels, for example. As a serious artist, he knows that the deck is stacked against him; after all, a great novel is a kind of antiproduct, one that is "inexpensive, infinitely reusable, and, worst of all, unimprovable." The problem, he says, is that instead of being allowed to enjoy our solitary uniqueness we are all being turned into one gigantic corporate-created entity, a point Franzen makes tellingly when he says that while a black lesbian New Yorker and a Southern Baptist Georgian might appear totally different, the truth is that both "watch Letterman every night, both are struggling to find health insurance... both play Lotto, both dream of fifteen minutes of fame, both are taking a serotonin reuptake inhibitor, and both have a guilty crush on Uma Thurman." -From Publishers Weekly
This sameness, this homogeniety, dampens my enthusiasm for travel. How wonderful it would've been to travel to Ireland back in the 80s or 70s - when it was a fully Catholic country. They say Ireland is twenty years or so behind the U.S. - behind in the sense of abortion laws, alienation, urban ills that we endure - I suppose this is as close as one can come to time-travel...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:57 AM
D.C. Capers
Our hotel was on Dupont Circle which is the "only intelligent life in Washington" according to one travel guide. Here lay three bookstores within sight and walking distance, one of which was open all night and day on Friday’s & Saturday’s. Never having lived even near a bookstore, this appeared to be some sort of divine recompense. In one of the bookstores I read the beginning of a novel entitled "Dupont Circle" which celebrated this self-same bookstore. We checked into our Irish hotel, Jury’s Washington, and took advantage of Kramer books (joined with a coffee shop called ‘Afterwords’). The shop had big plated windows with a bright-red "Kramer’s" in neon script. A small internet café served as a corridor to the two rooms of books that lay beneath the second-floor coffee shop where a bass cello played jazz. It felt like something out of a Woody Allen movie. I continued my tradition of being the worst-dressed person there (this place was easy; Walmart is always more difficult). I wondered for t
he first time in months if perhaps I should buy some more stylish clothes. I banished the thought, realizing it was the devil speaking.
After a leisurely breakfast at "Afterwords" we were ready for action, which in this case meant walking. We had some time to kill, since the Holocaust tour wasn’t scheduled till 11:30. Fr. McCloskey, runs D.C.’s Catholic Information Center (and aided in the conversion of one of my favorite pundits, Robert Novak). Did I mention that the CIC also has the largest Catholic bookstore in Washington? So we headed towards the address I had, which apparently was outdated. We cabbed to the Holocaust Museum.
In an age where everyone is a victim it is important to remember what real victims are like. Words fail here, because there is no way to describe the atrocities that hasn’t been said a million times and better. The four floors carry the story chronologically, beginning in 1933 and following through the end of the war to the liberation. It is comprehensive – it is not just about the gas chambers but also the story of how the Nazi’s came to power, and a large and generous wall of remembrance filled with all known non-Jews who tried to save some of those persecuted, and an exhibit to Jewish resistance (I didn’t know there was any).
All Jews were supposed to have a tiny scroll of scripture (usually the verse, "You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your might") above their door; I saw one of the small scroll holders for the first time. It looked no bigger than a doorbell!
There were the sobering exhibits like a picture of all the hair gathered by the Nazi’s. And the exhibit of thousands of shoes of the gassed. As one war correspondent wrote, "one can talk two or three shoes, or a dozen, but this?".
I walked aboard one of the cars the Nazi’s could’ve used to transport the Jews to long journeys to places like Auschwitz. Luggage lay at the feet of the train, luggage that was immediately tossed aside by the SS. "You won’t be needing anything, there is plenty there." There were models of the typical concentration camp, and the gruesome efficiency with which it worked. There was an anecdote about a man praising and thanking God in the midst of the suffering. His friend said, "how can you thank God here, of all places!?". "I am thanking Him that I am not like them."
There were too few pictures of those who perpetrated the monstrosities, although I did see a large mural of Nazis making war plans, and you look at them just amazed that they would buy into it. Couldn’t they resign their commissions? The power of tradition and culture is such that it seems to overwhelm everything, even common sense. And since no one exists apart from tradition and culture, one can must work to improve the current one. We are sheep.
I wanted to see more pictures of the perpetrators to see if one could tell any difference between them and "normal" people. Are we all that close to being blasé to unimaginable evils? That this could happen in a Christian nation is especially horrifying.
Afterwards, in the bookshop, I found a book by Dennis Prager titled, "Why the Jews?" it attempts to answer the question why the Jews have been persecuted by nearly everyone since time immemorial. Prager attempts to find a common theme.
Recovering afterward, we walked down the Mall in the cold and bought some food before ambling to our next stop, the Library of Congress (LOC). Though we had a tour there on Tuesday, it was nice to take a sneak peak since we were in the area. The building, called by some the "most beautiful building in America" is all of that to me. Russian first lady Putin on a recent visit was said to have said, "I can’t believe you have this without having had Tsars". There, on exhibition was the Mainz manuscript bible and a Gutenburg bible (one of only three perfect copies in the world). I ducked, illegally, down a hallway marked "Members of Congress Only" but had not the nerve to try the ornate door that held unimagined vistas but was also marked "Members of Congress Only". I'm of the dylan school of rebellion; tell me where I can't go and I'll make an effort to go there.
I got out of there quickly, hoping the cameras hadn’t caught me, and headed up a couple flights to the perch overlooking the Reading Room floor and a breathtaking view. A huge round magohany desk lay in the center, surrounded by concentric rings of lit desks and the occasional scholar bent over his task. On the edges lay glimpses of stacks of books of unimaginable numbers, all in precise order like a well-disciplined army of knowledge. Suddenly a young girl of perhaps twenty came in, mid-drift bared, looking no more like a scholar than Jack LaLanne. (Okay, I know I'm not supposed to judge by appearances). I thought it possible – I could be there! I could set foot on that hallowed ground! A reverie fell upon me. I hoped the tour would take us there on Monday.
We decided Saturday night to take a bus tour of the monuments, since it was clear (though cold). The 3-hour tour was narrated by a member of the local culture, an African-American woman who is head-over-heels for Clinton ("why did they crucify him?", she asked. "He didn’t do anything that JFK or FDR or any of the others did."). We stopped at the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, the Korean and Vietnam and other lesser knowns. By the end, we were hoping there weren’t any more memorials. I fell into bed that night and slept the sleep of the dead.
By Sunday I realized that a lifestyle that involves sitting all day, punctuated only by short 20-30 minute periods of stairmaster or jogging, does not condition one for multiple days of long walks. I woke up sore, my legs stiff as cardboard, my muscles the consistency of thawed hamburger meat. There was enough lactic acid buildup to start a small petro-chemical plant.
But still we gamely moved on rubberly legs to our next destination: the taxi out front. And then onto the Basillica of the Immaculate Concepcion. Upon entering and exploring, I knew I had seen no more beautiful American Catholic church than this Basillica. St. Patrick’s in New York is not close. The mosaics throughout harken to Orthodox spirituality, like icons. A dozen or more side shrines and altars are woven into the sides, private little enclaves to pray and reflect, like wounds in the side of Christ where one can meditate. The mysteries of the rosary are commemorated around the altar, all with short phrases that uniquely penetrate some portion of the mystery.
The bookstore and gift shops of the Basillica were magnificent and a sore temptation to spend. We all did, some more than others, but needless to say I was hypnotized by the quantity and quality. We headed next to the Pope John Paul II cultural center. We toured an art exhibit, then explored a room of personal effects of the Pope. Downstairs was a huge set-up of interactive contrivances.
We walked from our last Metro stop to the White House, walked all around the White House as the sun set and darkness came. I heard later from the Congressional tour guide that there are actually people in the trees on the White House lawn. This is one well-guarded family home.
Did I mention that by now our legs hung like bloody stumps from the barely extant sinews of upper thigh? By the time we stumbled back to the hotel, a warm bath and a 12-hours of sleep sounded golden. Instead we had a rejuvenating dinner at our hotel restaurant. I could feel I was at the edge of a cold and felt nauseaus. Colds are something I have much experience with on vacation (since I always try to do too much) but something I’ve been able to cheat during the past few years by the consumption of a few beers. At last I could drink with the excuse old Baptists give: for medicinal reasons only. The administration of a couple Guinnesses worked magic, and I swear it’s not psychosomatic either. Guinness is good for you!
After dinner we went to an Irish pub called the "Four Provinces" where we heard the dulcet tones of irish music played on acoustic guitar. Sandy asked for "The Rare Ol’ Times" and the song was wonderfully done.
I went to the Folger Shakespeare Library while Mark and Sandy went off the Botanical Garden/Conservatory. I ran to get there just in time for the 11 am tour. There was only one other person, an older gent. The guide, a blue-blooded, white-haired lady who was dressed immaculately gave the hour tour. It was also embarrassing how little I knew. She obviously expected us to be very conversant in all things related to the English Renaissance period. She was Alex Trebek, asking for questions. I asked if the staff there were Stratfordians. She gave a bemused half-smile and waited seemingly forever before answering. It was as if I had passed gas.
Susan, our tour guide, was an aide for a Congresswoman from the Poughkeepsie region of New York, and looked for all the world like a typical Midwesterner. I teased her about Hillary Clinton. "How could you guys have elected her?" She angrily answered, "We didn’t, we’re Republicans." Also apparently a hawk. "Let’s bomb them and ask questions later," she said about the Iraq situation. Ouch.
My favorite parts of the Capitol tour was seeing the room where the House met up until the 1860s. There were plaques where Abe Lincoln and John Quincy Adams sat. Speaking of sitting, it was cool sitting where the First Lady sits during the State of the Union Addresses in the House chamber.
The bookstores around Dupont Circle were calling, especially Second Story Books, which is the largest used bookstore in Washington. We headed back there and spent an hour or so there. I bought one $20 Updike book of short stories there but the prices were high and the philosophy liberal. Around the store Taro cards were posted. The sexuality section was larger than the religious section. We moved on to Kramer’s, where Mark succumbed to three books and paid some $50 and Sandy bought two books and $30. I escaped without financial damage.We never did make it to the huge chain "Books-a-Million". One can afford to be selective in such a bookish environment.
We arrived for the 8:30am tour of the Library of Congress just in time. The docent gave us an hour tour of the joint, which was nothing to sneeze at. I had been it already though, so it necessarily lost some of its punch. Lots of mythological figures and lots of unattributed inscripted quotes, which that first librarian, like many librarians after him, preferred we look up on our own.
The tour started 15 mins late and we had Arlington Cemetery planned so time was surreally tight. If I wanted to get down on that Reader’s Room floor I would have to accomplish something this side of "Mission Impossible" – I would have 15 minutes to get to the Madison building and get my credentials (apparently to discourage would-be Walter Mittys, they make getting on to the Reading Room floor as difficult as possible, but that only spurred me on). I ran through a tunnel between the buildings (fortunately there were many signs, though the distance was pretty good) and found room LM-140 where approvals to access the Reading Room are granted. There I waited in two different lines, one to show my driver’s license and acquire the form, a second to fill the form out and have a picture ID taken. After 15 minutes, I have the picture ID required to get on the Reading Room floor. I hurry to the floor but am denied. I have my coat with me. I ask if I can leave my coat at the security desk and the guard says
no, you have to check it. I run like hell up the stairs to the coatcheck. No one there. I realize I can just take them to Sandy and Mark, in fact I have to take it to Sandy and Mark since I am late from when I agreed to meet them. The maze-like quality of the building is now discovered, since the closest stairs and elevator do not take you to the Visitor’s Center. As they say, you can’t get there from here. I was in a no-man’s land where scholars tread, not where the visitors visit, and never the twain shall meet. There were other reading rooms here, off-limit reading rooms that held vistas of old bindings climbing to the ceilings. After asking directions a couple times I do make it to the
visitor center. I ask to at least go in the revered Reading Room (RR) since I have the pass after all...
I walked guiltily by the big imposing reference desk and librarian sitting there. To call it a desk would be to insult it; it was not a desk so much as a fortress, a large circular nautilus with a back some some seven feet tall (such that I could not see the far side of desks). I wondered around, amused by the marble water fountain there and taking a drink of it as if that were the purpose of this meander. I settled into a desk and sat in a surprising quantity of natural light, the sun coming in through the stained glass windows of the cupola above. The library was, in fact, designed to be used without aid of artificial light at all. An immense Victorian-style clock hung at one end. Collossal figures of history in the form of statues surrounded the stories above me. I sat as in a trance. I walked to the other side, as if my trip to Washington would be incomplete if I’d only seen the RR from the west side. I could smell the books, the stacks were right there though off-limits (even patrons of the RR are not allowed in the stacks – you have to request books and they are brought to you). The books smelled old, the half-mildewed scent I associate at the large huge booksales at OSU's library. I wondered if some were like that in Jefferson’s time, if any of his old books smelled that way. The researchers researched – there were perhaps a half-dozen of them. I studied my hand and then a printed map of the LOC.
Finally I tore myself away from this library of all libraries, and felt the rip of the umbillica cord. We moved on to Arlington Cemetery, and Robert E. Lee’s house. The view of Washington was riveting, and one could instantly understand JFK’s wish to be buried there. But my heart was still at Jefferon's library, wondering where his original books might be hidden...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:55 AM
Abortion & Politics
I heard one of the commentators on CNN say that Bush's real interest was a Republican Senate and not a Republican House. Why? So he can get his judges appointed. And why are the judges not being appointed? Abortion.
But today tis a feast for our sore, sore eyes! To see the Republicans sweep tis a feat unimagined! Thank you Lord, for the leaders you've given us, and for the voters who cast votes, for although all are flawed, terribly flawed, at least Cheney and Bush attempt the trajectory towards the good.
On "The View", Star Jones said she could never marry someone who wasn't a Democrat. When asked why, she said it would be difficult to raise children if both parents didn't share the same values. When asked what values specifically, she immediately said, 'the right to choose - I feel very strongly about it and want my children to share that value.'. The sound you heard was my jaw dropping. Here we have a real, living example of someone who cherishes the right to an abortion in an almost overtly religious way! It IS their religious issue! Strangely, I feel no animus. I understand her only to be tragically mislead. Interestingly, it is sometimes easier to embrace those whose views are the opposite of our own compared to those we think "should know better".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:39 PM
November 6, 2002
Schadenfreude Alert
Watching Judy Woodruff cover this election is a near occasion of sin for a conservative. Reminds me of the gruesome joy that a friend of mine used to take in watching the opposing team's cheerleaders cry after the football game was lost.
Must turn channel. Must turn channel.
Can't turn channel. See title of this blog.
There's no joy in McAuliffe-ville tonite, the mighty Clinton has struck out.
note to self: do not enjoy this too much; the lows will feel that much lower (and they will come). Still, it just doesn't get any better than this. Bush can get his judges and Schumer can go back to getting pork for his constituents.
Update: I have successfully turned the channel! "Baby steps" - say like Bill Murray in movie What about Bob?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:30 AM
Am glued to my television, watching the wonderful Peggy Noonan on Chris Matthew's show. I morph into a political junkie during elections, and so life is good right now especially given that things are still pretty wide open. The obligatory disclaimer is that I am "over" any illusion that our country will return to sanity on the life issues via political means; it will take the conversions of many hearts.
In other news...I read with interest dylan's comments on Scott Hahn's comments on Orthodox theology. I've read that it is almost inbred in the Western scientific mind to define, define, and define some more. We are very hesistant to ascribe much to mystery. Westerners long for clarity in a way that less coldly rational cultures in Eastern Europe & Russia do not. I was told by one priest that the difference between the Western and Eastern churches is perfectly illustrated by the Consecration. The Western church wants to know the exact moment the bread and wine become the Body and Blood during Mass. The Eastern church has a more vague notion of when it changes (which is perhaps a more humble attitude). The Marian doctrines also come to mind as Western theological advances. Maybe this is what he meant by the stagnancy of Orthodox theology. Their spirituality is certainly rich, and often is like a balm.
D.C. was great; may have to inflict a trip log on you. Architectural impressions ring in my head like glorious pealing bells. The Library of Congress is a building of staggering beauty; surely the most pulchritudinous public building in the USA. (Your humble correspondent applied for a card and got to walk in the hallowed reading room, where I pretended to be a scholar).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:44 PM
November 5, 2002
hich Founding Father Are You?
Hmm...I'm none too surprised. I loved this guy even before I read David McCullough's book (I wrote a high school paper on him back around '80). But it's a common affliction; I think most Catlicker bloggers are Adams types. via Flos Carmeli
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:42 PM
The cold enters by the back door;
October exits with a growl and a whip
we trade normals for twenty-below normals
buying time for the normals to fall;
The winter lengthens.
into the dark abyss
deaf and blind soccer players play;
the ball never sent true
half-hits and lucky glances
the ball advancing by grace.
Leaves in great numbers fall;
a yellow Asian carpet of hoarfrost
Believing evergreens stand athwart the winter yelling "stop!"
they keep their heads
while all about lose theirs;
calmly facing the splendid ruins of summer’s demise.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:05 AM
November 1, 2002
Commentary on Matt 12:44-46:
The controversy over exorcism in the preceding context sets the stage for Jesus to establish the superiority of his New Covenant ministry over the Old as administered by the Pharisees. Although the Pharisees expel evil spirits ("your sons", 12:27), they leave a vacuum that exposes individuals to more severe counterattacks from Satan. Jesus also drives out demons, but, unlike the Pharisees, he fills believers with the greater power of his kingdom through the Spirit (12:28). Jesus' contemporaries must prefer these blessings of his kingdom ministry to the real but limited benefits of the Pharisee's ministry; otherwise they are left vulnerable to spiritual catastrophes worse than before. - RSV-CE Ignatius Study Bible
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:28 PM
October 31, 2002
The Eucharistic Complement
I'm beginning to see Eucharistic Adoration as a necessary complement to the Eucharist. It is a liturgical fast before the feast, a discipline that creates the desire necessary to receive Communion. That, coupled with occasional periods of physical fasting, seem to be the necessary antidotes to a surfeit of religiosity for religiosity's sake.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
How often I have stoned those He sent for my good!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:22 PM
I never paid much attention to immigration issues until 9/11. But that, coupled with the revelation that the D.C. sniper was an illegal immigrant, has definitely piqued my interest.
I'm at a loss at just why it is so difficult to clean up the Immigration & Naturalization Service. For decades this has been a festering sore, with reorganization after reorganization failing.
My suspicion is that immigration reform is something that neither party wants. And the two-party system fails when neither side "wants" an issue. I think this is a case where it has failed, and most spectacularly with the Republicans. They are the party of responsibility, the "daddy" party, the law and order party. But they have gone AWOL on this issue.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:23 PM
Where Humility Goes Astray
"I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong." - Bertrand Russell
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:22 AM
Got a hit from a Google search for the following:
"brain chemistry" "facial beauty"
This blog is the only result of that search. My mother would be so proud.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:07 AM
Chez Kat has an interesting reflection on George Harrison and his claim that it is all "show". She rightly points to the marytrs. I'm reminded of a comment from my stepson:
"Religious faith is something everyone says they have, but no one really believes."
Tell that to the St. Padre Pio.
I appreciate your prayers for him.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:55 AM
On universalism:
Wasn't the Fatima apparation approved by the Church and didn't one of the children see hell with souls in it? I understand it is a private revelation, but it is a private revelation approved by the Church. The existence of Hell is probably the most difficult doctrine to believe of all, according to Peter Kreeft.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:44 AM
I love the oxymoronic quality of this post from Disputations:
The Resurrection: The women want to prepare Jesus' body; Jesus prevents them. (Or, Mary Magdalene wants to hold on to Him; He tells her to let go.)
The Ascension: The Apostles want Jesus to restore the kingdom to Israel; Jesus wants to return to the Father.
The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles want to keep a low profile; the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus, wants them to proclaim His Name.
The Assumption: Mary's mourners bury her; Mary's Son raises her.
The Coronation: Mary regards herself as the handmaid of the Lord; the Lord regards Mary as His Queen.
As my wife says, the Kingdom is "opposite world".
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:14 AM
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back...
dylan has a remarkable post about his post-conversion tenebrous experiences.
I share his sentiments, excruciatingly so. My reversion in '98 resulted in a great fervor that was spectacularly aided by the providential finding of a Byzantine church in my area and in the recovery of the beauty and truth of the Magisterium. After a long bachelorhood, marriage in '99 required enormous adjustments. I understood it that God's mission for me was my stepson's conversion, which, of course, is painfully erroneous. Conversion is God's business (including my own). My spiritual life became much more defensive rather than offensive. There was a certain bitter irony that I could not effect my own full conversion, let alone his. As marrow from a bone donor, I hoped that my new found poverty would result in his enrichment.
A lack of progress isn't as discouraging in the spiritual life as its devolution, or retraction. But one cannot judge those things. I've no doubt that without the reversion marriage and a stepson would've been much more difficult.
I wondered during the priestly scandals and the often apparent lack of guilt the churchmen felt, and I considered perhaps they were too close to the sacraments, as if such a thing were possible. As if they were taking them for granted. Humans tend to treasure what is rare. The very ubiquitiousness of liturgies and Eucharists that the serious Christian experiences can, it seems, devalue them in his head, though not in reality. But this is the wonderful reality of the New Covenant, this closeness to God without penalty. In the OT if you touched the Ark of the Covenant you were dead, unless you were the high priest.
I've come to the rather banal realization that we all have different strengths and weaknesses and that the sacraments and liturgies are not magic pills that overcome heavy lifting. They simply provide the food for the building of muscle. And I've also realized that the most effective argument the devil can make is to say, "see, you're no better off. God's word and sacraments are not efficacious." As St. Thomas says, the only thing needed for sancity is to "will it".
I remember a relative, my opposite. She was outgoing and socially liberal. She made spectacular meals at Thanksgiving, single-handedly baking for who knows how long, always with at least three desserts. She never forgot my birthday. All of this despite a life filled with pain, for she lived for 20 years with Lupus. The last two years she became a different person due to the degeneration of the disease. She became completely withdrawn, would not allow even her children to see her. She spent those years in her room, and left it only to retrieve the mail. It felt like a disaster. But was it? She who epitomized strength and duty was brought low - does this sound familiar? Is it not a message that we cannot do it on own, that our power is completely insufficient? Are we not like Peter who looks down at the water instead of at Christ?
I know this is rambling, disjointed and perhaps contradictory. There is a certain sense that after conversion we simply trade a different set of sins for the previous set. We become self-righteous. It is human nature to think, "if I can do this (fill in the blank), then they certainly can."
How can we live this Word of Life? By focusing on three very important elements...
- We need great faith; that is, the deep-rooted conviction that the grace of Jesus is much stronger than the inclination to sin which we still carry within us.
- We need great generosity in our commitment to dig out the seeds of sin, the roots of the vices we still possess.
- We need to animate our generosity with a boundless trust in the mercy of Jesus; that trust which drives us always to begin over again, even after every eventual failure.
- Chiara Lubich via the Magnificat
When Jesus fell on the way to Calvary, he did not blame God or self. He simply got back up. And while there was obviously no sin in His physical falling down, is it not a metaphor for us?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:23 AM
Ire 4
We moved on to Kilarney. The sheep we saw on the roads and in the pastures everyday began to symbolize something to me - a kind of freedom. The sheep in the moutains looked straight from the set of "Heidi", and no fences held them in. They simply grazed and went where they would, on land too rocky to till. The baby lambs looked comical, with their black stovepipe legs abutting snow white fleeces.
do you remember
the sodden glens
in the highlands of
Eire above the sheep lands?
do you remember
the gaelic one
hair held thrall
in the glue pages of
Celtic lore?
do you remember
the labryinth streets and
Galway’s bay spilling
o’er it’s banks?
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:36 PM
October 30, 2002
Tackiness not seen since Clinton
I'm nauseated by the turning of Paul Wellstone's memorial service into a political circus. But suddenly it became clear - this is their religion! I don't know whether or not Paul Wellstone would want his service to morph into a pep rally, but it is an entirely appropriate symbol of some members of the Democrat party who see politics, not God, as the instrument of righteousness. The secularization of the Democratic party has not resulted in the absence of religion in the party, but a new one - one that pays reverence to the environment, feminism and the right to kill the unborn.
"He knew that the service became more than just a remembrance for the dead when he got a call from a reporter "who wanted some Republican response to the memorial.
"I said [to the reporter], 'Do you realize what you just said?' "
"There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative. I think this ideology produces a totally false point of view, as if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association."
- Cardinal Ratzinger
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:37 AM
From the Anchor Hold has a passionate post on 'what is a Catholic'. Having been a cafeteria Catholic myself, I'm all for inclusivity. Would I have come back to the Church sooner if I felt I was out of it? I don't know. When I was a cafeterian, I felt a sort of limbo. I felt neither fully saved, nor fully damned, neither fully Catholic, nor fully not. Why? Because of mixed signals. I liked views some had that Jesus preached only against hypocrisy. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." But I also had that old Catholic grade school talking back at me. I took comfort in the examples around me, Catholics who were going wild, and I could justify my behavior that way. Sin, as preached in the bible or in the "old days", had possibly become redefined or outmoded. If the Church had stated its creed more clearly or preached more damningly perhaps I would've despaired and grown bolder in my sin. Or reformed.
Where the self-definition of Catholic begins to break down is when you publically espouse beliefs contrary to Catholic doctrine ala a Francis Kissling of "Catholics for Choice" and a Garry Wills. And for Catholic politicans who sanguinely vote pro-choice while trumpeting their Catholic roots.
But they say that the sin you haven't committed is the one you think is the worst. There but for the grace of God, go I. Their addiction to the wielding of power is equivalent, or in many cases more powerful, then the poor sinner who feeds his addiction with sex, drugs or rock 'n roll. Ex-communication rightly lies in the hands of bishops. We have to "dance with the one what brung you" and the apostolic line of bishops have brought us to this place, this faith.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:16 PM
October 29, 2002
Ireland - part 3
I limped to our B&B that night at Malahyde and played dead soldier on the long couch. The next morning, after being woken by the high-pitched scream of the B&B lady (apparently she didn't expect me to be on the couch), I groggily attended the ablutionary duties that transform one to respectability. I had for breakfast my usual, "Wheatabix", a delightfully different cereal that instantly breaks down in milk. In fact, it became a fun physical challenge to pour the milk over the wheat bisquits and consume them before they evaporated into a mushy milk. The consistency was perfect for those early mornings in the Irish fog. On good days I would ask for scrambled eggs instead of the ubiquitious fried eggs and I would fork and watch, fascinated, as the yellow blood covered the plate.
We toured a castle that day. It'd been in the family 800 years - one of, if not the, longest single-owned castle in all of Ireland. I sat in the banquet room of the castle, with all the personages of the family peering down at me, the oil paintings of 10 generations. Where I sat, breakfast had been served some 300 years ago, just before the famous "Battle of the Boyne". Nearby Cromwell's British troups butchered the Irish, including 18 members of the party that ate here that fateful morning. They ate their last meal, knowing full well it would probably be their last meal.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:07 PM
Read "Everything But Grace's" complaint about S.A.D. and whether it is real or not I don't know, so the following prescription might be placebic (if that ain't a word, it should be): First, get one of those "full-spectrum" lights that mimic the sun. There is a brand known as "Happy Eyes" that sells them. I put it in my book room since it's a great reading lamp as well. Second, I religiously take 1-2 hour hike in the woods every Saturday. Getting outdoors really helps.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:20 PM
OED or bust
I've decided this blog requires the use, nay ownership, of the Oxford English Dictionary. You might think it a needless acquisition. You might think that I'm just looking for an excuse to buy it. But surely the etymologies and date charts will allow me to much more precisely and cogently write these journal entries posts. In the meantime, eat your heart out!
All But Dissertations has a wonderful post on books as "things" which can dominate us. When we moved to a larger house I realized a dream - to have all my books massed in one huge shining army, one dedicated room instead of books scattered like little sentries in rooms here and there.
I double-shelve only the most heinous books, books next to be thrown out (yeah right, that'll happen). The double-shelving only lasts until I buy another bookcase, which is what I really resist. Books are cheap ( has $20 used books for $5 all the time) but bookshelves aren't and it is very difficult to justify that.
Since I am still relatively young, there will come a time that storage will be a huge problem, and I don't want to be one of those who stores books in his bathtub (yes, there are people who do that).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:59 PM
Whereas, fifty years ago, any early passage from the bible was assumed to be mythical or symbolic, the onus of proof has now shifted: increasingly scholars tend to assume that the text contains at least a germ of truth and see it as their business to cultivate it. This has not made the historical interpretation of the bible any easier. Both the fundamentalist and the 'critical' approach had comforting simplicities. Now we see our bible texts as very complex and ambiguous guides to the truth; but guides none the less.
- "A History of the Jews", Paul Johnson
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:32 AM
Winter as Character Builder
Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
'This is no flattery: these are counsellors
That feelingly persuade me what I am.'
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I would not change it. - Shakespeare "As You Like It"
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:53 AM
Errors o' Omission
Kudos, of course, go out to the other local bloggers with big name links. I just noticed that Disputations is permalinked on Eve (he did not, of course, mention it). I always considered Disputations more of a big name blogger though, so it's not as exciting as Dylan's breakout. I've made too much of this already, but it is kind of an enjoyable parlor game, i.e. the "politics of linking" (sing like 80s song "Politics of Dancing"). And the obligatory disclaimer applies, "it's just an exhibition, not a competition, so please - no wagering" - Letterman.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:56 AM
Blogger Makes Good I read the news today...
Kudos to Mr. Dylan (or should I say "dylan" in deference to ee?). Twould be a shame not to celebrate the break-out of the tidepool of Tenebrae, who hath slipped these mortal coils, these penny-ante ten to twenty hits-a-day, by virtue of being knighted by Eve via a permalink. Well-deserved. It is the marketplace correctly valuing him. His blog "wears well" too, whatever that means. Part of his appeal for me, I think, is the honesty and lack of "smiling-faced Christianity" that causes many evangelicals to make the group "Up With People" look like Marilyn Manson. (Though admittedly the lack is in me, for St. Paul does say that one should always be rejoicing.) But his honesty is refreshing. And his success was wonderfully anti-political. No tit-for-tat linkages, no quid-pro-quo, no financing of his Presidential Library in return for a link. And no sitemeter to boot!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:38 PM
October 28, 2002
Ireland - Part Deux
Far too short a time was spent in pleasant Ennis, a picturesque town with a big statue of the Irish liberator, Daniel O'Connel, in the town square. The pub was enjoyable, with the now familiar cast of characters, the occasional tourist amidst the haberdashy Irish and the old man with the gargoyle face. There always seemed to be a guy with a misshapen face - an exquisite example of British or Irish inbreeding - or was it simply the natural look of true United Kingdomers? I wish I had a picture, but alas could only look on afar at the bulbous noses, & chinless'd men. I also watched with fascination at the staid couples that would come in. A man and a woman, usually with quite plain, expressionless faces, came in and sat down, side-by-side, and grimly drank their drinks (he Guinness, she whiskey). It was a bit entertaining, as I tried to divine their reason for being there. It certainly wasn't to mingle, or to be social, or even to ostensibly enjoy the music - they would sit side-by-side without talking and drink. I thought it somehow romantic. American Gothic in an Irish pub. There could've been the caption, "what if Stoics drank?". My eyes went from the fine oil paintings on the walls of this richly panelled bar to the oil paintings sitting around me.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:20 PM
Old Thunder review
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:48 PM
Morningside of the Mountain
There was a girl, there was a boy
If they had met they might have found a world of joy
But she lived on the morning side of the mountain
And he lived on the twilight side of the hill
They never met, they never kissed
And they will never know what happiness they missed
For she lived on the morning side of the mountain
And he lived on the twilight side of the hill
For love's a rose that never grows
Without the kiss of the morning dew
And every Jack must have a Jill
To know the thrill of a dream that comes true
And you and I are just like they
For all we know our love is just a kiss away
But you are on the morning side of the mountain
And I am on the twilight side of the hill
- lyrics by Tommy Edwards
There is something inherently romantic in this...more so than if they had met...just as Casablanca is the most romantic movie of all time though the lead characters went their separate ways. The potential of loss, or to have never lived, infuses life with meaning and shoots it full of precarious possibilities.
...stop me before I get to Tony Orlando & Dawn...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:43 PM
Interesting Article in the Public Interest on the secularization of the Democratic Party:
The Republican party can more or less take us for granted - where else can we go? The lack of pro-lifers in the Democrat party will entice Republican politicians to move towards the pro-choice side because of the lack of consequences.
Feeling thermometers ask respondents to rate social groups and political leaders on a scale ranging from 0 degrees (extremely cold) to 100 degrees (extremely warm).....In 1992, the average thermometer score of Republican delegates toward union leaders, liberals, blacks, Hispanics, and Democrats, for example, was 17 degrees warmer than their mean score toward feminists, environmentalists, and prochoice groups (44 degrees versus 27 degrees, respectively). Similarly, the mean thermometer score of Democratic delegates that year was 21 degrees warmer toward conservatives, the rich, big business, and Republicans than their average score toward prolife groups and Christian fundamentalists (34 degrees versus 13 degrees, respectively). Of the 18 groups tested by CDS, the most negatively rated group was Christian fundamentalists.
ANES results indicate that anti-fundamentalism appears disproportionately among secularists...who, ironically, "strongly agree" that one should be tolerant of persons whose moral standards are different from one's own.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:05 PM
The Coming Of Wisdom With Time
Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
Now I may wither into the truth. - Yeats
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 12:53 PM
Steve Riddle has an excellent post on a book by Wilfrid Stinissen called Nourished by the Word. There is a freedom in Scripture that I often dare not go to play in, given a lack of trust that I will not interpret a given passage in ways self-serving. I am attracted to the idea of single interpretation though it be typically folly, because Scripture is not mine, it is everyone's, and it is not for only our time, but for all times. So it need be flexible, it need be able to say different things to different people at different times. Which it does. It is like a great Divine chord that is struck and re-struck and it sounds magnificent, if slightly different, to every ear.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:23 AM
From Sunday's Verweile Doch
He thought of the virtues of courage and forbearance, which become flabby when there is nothing to use them on.
'You're never satisifed to let the Testament alone. You're forever picking at it and questioning it. You turn it over the way a 'coon turns over a wet rock, and it angers me.'
'I'm just trying to understand it, Mother.'
'What is there to understand? Just read it. There it is in black and white. Who wants you to understand it? If the Lord God wanted you to understand it He'd have given you to understand or He'd have set it down different.'
- John Steinbeck, East of Eden
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 11:09 AM
From the same newspaper:
Father Romano Guardini worries that people are forgetting how to achieve stillness and to reach the level of concentration needed to be 'all there' - fully present - to their life experiences.
In the preface, Bolt explains that he was troubled by the thin fabric of contemporary human character, by the tendency of the typical modern man to think of himself in the third person, to describe the self in terms more appropriate to somebody seen through a window.
Bolt provides a penetrating insight amounting to a one-sentence summary of the cultural ills that best us today: 'Both socially and individually it is with us as it is with our cities - an accelerating flight to the periphery, leaving a center which is empty when the hours of business are over.'
[Bolt is playwright Robert Bolt, who wrote the screenplay "A Man for All Seasons".]
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:22 AM
Bishop Griffin in the diocesan newspaper
Today, I want to appeal to you to help the poor. I am speaking about the truly poor, those who can do nothing now to help themselves spiritually - the poor souls in purgatory....All who die in God's friendship and grace are saved, but, after death, there is a time of purification in which we achieve the holiness necessary to enter heaven.
As poor as we often feel, in seeing through the glass darkly, the bishop reminds us that there are those poorer than ourselves - those who can do nothing to help themselves spiritually...
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:18 AM
dylan at Tenebrae is a bad influence on me. After his MacArthur Park, I have this sudden urge to post "One Tin Soldier", "Billy Don't be a Hero", and "Man of LaMancha". I'll try to repress it. Remember the old Steve Martin gag, where he sings the Perry Como song? After all these years I can't get those lyrics out of my mind - "It's stick a Cadillac up your nose, it's just impossible".
Sorry. Let's resume regularly scheduled programming.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:44 PM
October 27, 2002
Now Reading...
"History of the Jews" - Paul Johnson
"Old Thunder: the life of Hilaire Belloc" - Pearce
"Lenin" - Service
"Bible Companion" - Witherup
How vast, how oceanic is the world of books! I'm truly blessed to have fallen so ridiculously behind in my reading; blessed because in the event of a recession/depression I could live for years off the livery of my library! (Although hopefully not having to resort to bibliophagy).
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:28 PM
My bishop has some very worthwhile thoughts on the praying for the dead that I mean to blog about. (Hence this reminder). One good idea is to write down a name of a deceased relative/friend each day on your calendar for the month of November, and pray especially for that person on that day.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:51 PM
On Whither Ignorance is Bliss
Knowledge up to a point is salvific - i.e. knowledge of Christ and those things taught necessary for salvation. That is the purpose of the bible after all, to give us the knowledge necessary for our salvation. Modern scholarship, however, is not necessary for that end and, in suspectible individuals, can be an anchor weighing on a full trust and certainty in God. One can say that their faith is by definition weak if they are upset by it. Here belief in the infallibility of the Church helps, since she has said that all Scripture is inerrant and inspired by God. In that sense it is a "Protestant" problem. (Or for those, like my mother, who has "issues" with the infallibility of the Church). Ronald Knox and others have pointed out that we wouldn't know the bible to be inspired and without contradiction without the Church's instruction to that point.
There is a temptation in civil law to ban what causes problems for a minority, i.e. like the prohibition of alcohol. With respect to artificial birth control, perhaps its effect on the populace at large appears, on the surface, more dangerous than to an individual family. But that is a moral issue, not a knowledge issue. Knowledge itself cannot be intrinsically harmful, since truth can do no harm. Bad scholarship - yes, but good scholarship no. Perhaps the modern biblical criticism is helpful in the sense that faith can be strengthened by its exercise.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:44 AM
One key to understanding the bible is that it was never meant merely to bring us to itself. Every principle of Scripture shows us our need of the forgiveness that Christ secured on our behalf...It is for such a relationship that the Bible was given. - found on internet, unattributed.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:17 AM
October 26, 2002
Under bare Ben Bulben's head
In Drumcliff churchyard Yeats is laid....
Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by! -William Butler Yeats
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:16 AM
Snake’s shed skin lay
like summer in humps of leaves
and mouldering memories;
she busies herself in other climes
inebriated by distance.
Summer warms no more;
no fetal bed of sun-posting down
real as a your neighbor.
Of memories sure,
scent of tomato leaves on your hands
undertow of dirt and stones
fires along the tree line
gasp-lit sighs of marshmallow-melts
sagging atop burnt-orange tips.
Hard-won leaves slowly defrock
medals shed; like tombstones lay;
Autumn cruel descends
grace revoked
the light abates
in weeks, it was all faerie’s dream.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 9:15 AM
"Too much hate from the anti-hate crowd."
- found post on a Yahoo billboard, in response to the cursing and invective of those who love women unless they are unborn women.
Remembering Ireland - dusting off the ol' travelogue - circa 1996
We drove south to Waterford, the site of our first bed 'n breakfast. The lady of the manor, Agnes, was kind and civilized, offering us tea and scones in her baroquely decorated lounge room. The rambling farm house had the added benefit of being near a pub the size of a shoebox, where a dozen locals celebrated a Saturday night in this small, randomly chosen town.
The barkeep was a shyish boy of 18ish and he was so soliticious and anti-teen that it was very refreshing. Their teens seem to be lagging behind American teens in obnoxiousness. The dogs in Ireland are remarkably friendly too. It made me think of Garrison Keilor's line about Lake Woebegon..."Ireland - where the teenagers are well-behaved and the dogs respectful". The men at the stools of the bar held forth in a strict dress code followed according to age:
over 60 - tweed hat, tweed jacket, slight limp
40 - 60 - no hat, no limp
30 - 40 - no jacket
under 30 - blue jeans & tennis shoes
No matter how hard I concentrated, I couldn't make out their muddled accented speech. They may as well been speaking Gaelic. It sounded like a cross between Archie Bunker and an auctioneer.
The next day we made a stop at the Molly Malone statue (of the song "in Dublin's fair city, where the girls are so pretty, crying cockles and mussels sweet Molly Malone"). The lascivious statue, with her bronzed pectorals immodestly covered by half cuffs of bronze fabric had none of the English prudery about her. But Molly seemed to have a quality that Mona had in her Lisian smile - meaning all things to all people. To some, Molly is a motherly figure that represents Ireland as earth mother, a symbol of Ireland par feminine that goes back centuries. To others it represents the youth and vibrancy of a city infused with music and poetry. Molly perpetually struts aside her cart of cockles and mussels, looking for all the world like a naive peasant girl amidst the busiest square in the busiest city in Ireland, never closing her eyes to the wide spectrum of indecencies, the public urinations on her, the drunks retching their huddled masses upon her... But, Molly retains the wide eye'd innocence that is so easy to retain when you're made of brass.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:59 AM
A interesting quote via Minute Particulae from Johnathon Franzen on a Gaddis book:
There were quotations in Latin, Spanish, Hungarian, and six other languages to be rappelled across. Blizzards of obscure references swirled around sheer cliffs of erudition, precipitous discourses on alchemy and Flemish painting, Mithraism and early-Christian theology.. . . it was a struggle to figure out what, or even who, the story was about; dialogue was punctuated with dashes and largely unattributed." - Johnathon Franzen
I'm not sure I get the point of gratuitous obscurity. Obscurity can be beautiful; sprinkled words of a foreign language even look beautiful on the printed page. But some of it I think appeals to the pride of the reader - I got this allusion! It's art as a glorified crossword puzzle I guess. Shakespeare wrote plays that sound obscure to us only because of the antiquated language. To people of his day, it was plainly understood, albeit laden with rich prose, foreshadowings, symbolism, etc. The very beauty and comprenhensiveness of Shakespeare perhaps spoiled the broth for later generations who could not compete. Ultimately, the moderns often have less to say but have very creative ways of saying it. But perhaps this is merely sour grapes for not "getting it". By the way, If Shakespeare wrote today, well (don't hit this link if you are offended by coarse language) check this.
On re-reading this book ten years after I wrote it, I find its chief faults to be those two which I myself least easily forgive in the books of other men: needless obscurity, and an uncharitable temper. C.S.Lewis, looking back on his Pilgrim's Regress
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:04 PM
October 25, 2002
Ha, good picture at Minute Particulae
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:56 PM
Katie Knows Best
I just did what I never do - I watched Katie Couric - and during a 5 minute profile of the sniper she did not once mention his conversion to Islam. She did say he changed his name. She emphasized his military background, spoke to fellow soldiers, etc...We *got* that he was comfortable with guns. We did not *get* the why he did it, which ultimately is the only thing of interest.
I assume this is because she, and her co-horts at NBC/Pravda, fear reprisals against innocent Muslims in this country. But this sort of paternalism is ultimately harmful. Most obviously, it is not part of her job.
Paternalism is, however, part of the Church's job. She is our parent, our mother. And she was accused, in the 50s and before, of paternalism. Now since I wasn't alive pre-Vatican II, I have no idea if what I am about to say is completely true. It is what I've heard. Second-hand. So correct me if I'm wrong. But what I've heard is that the Church, paternalistically, told the faithful just to read the Baltimore Catechism and accept the answers unquestioningly. My understanding is that there were not bible study classes; which is understandable given that scripture in the wrong hands is dangerous (i.e. it fractured the Church). Not to mention that form criticism and historical criticism has weakened many a faith (my mother's among them - she said her faith was much stronger in the 50s..especially before she decided the infancy narratives were 'made up'). it better to be dumb with a strong faith or smart, in the ways of biblical criticism, and have a weak faith? I leave it to another mother, Mater Ecclesia.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:56 AM
Comic Corner
A New Yorker cartoon depicts a forlorn looking man, down on his knees, gazing up toward heaven and praying, "Possibly due to a technical error, I seem to be getting someone else’s comeuppance."
Another cartoon shows a businessman in a suit and tie with a briefcase, walking by a homeless man sitting peacefully on a bench. They are sharing the same thought: "There but for the grace of God go I!"
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 3:10 PM
October 24, 2002
Pro mirth!...
"In human affairs whatever is against reason is a sin. Now it is against reason for a man to be burdensome to others, by offering no pleasure to others, and by hindering their enjoyment."- Aquinas
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:56 PM
You will know them by their dreams...
Dreams oft go where the day daren't, they fall into turpitude such that wakefulness itself induces scrupulosity...
"The dreams of good men are better than those of any other people." - Aristotle
"Even during sleep, the soul may have conspicuous merit on account of its good disposition."- Augustine
Aquinas provides perhaps too much information on another kind of dream.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 2:34 PM
Stop me before I schadenfreude
We had the first annual "Bobber Beer Test" today. My friend known variously as "'bobber" (short for scambobber) and "Hambone", has bragged ad nauseum (emphasis on nauseum) that he can tell a beer's age. He bought into the whole Budweiser "born-on date" thing hook, line & sinker. Instead of considering it a marketing ploy, he goes to the supermarket wading through cases of Bud in search of product no older than three weeks old. I found it somewhat amusing, but it gives him such joy to find something say, three weeks old instead of five. Why make an issue of it?
But human preversity being what it is, I finally succumbed and called him on it. I found a 5-month old can of beer that had been stored at room temperature for most of the five months. I found a 4-week old "fresh" beer that had been always refrigerated. The beers were refrigerated overnight and poured into containers marked cryptically.
"Ahh...yes...this is the real thing...fresh brew!" he said of the five-month brew, with absolute certainty.
"EEEhhhhhwwwww!" he nearly retched as he drank the 4-week old brew.
I admit I enjoyed it all far too much.
"The four-week old beer might've been somehow corrupted by the shipping process...maybe out in the sun." - his initial reaction.
"Don't you consider this test aberrant in the sense that the first taste of beer is so exhilarating than, say, a sip from the 2nd or 3rd beer?"
- his second thought.
"No, what would be aberrant would be if you didn't provide a rationalization," said me.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:59 AM
Thank you Saint Anthony!
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 7:47 AM
Converts have had a disproportionally immense impact on the Church. St. Paul, Augustine, Newman - many of the giants were converts. Part of it may be that they have been given, by grace, a vision comparable to the sudden insight Helen Keller had when she suddenly understood the meaning of words at age eight, a joyous breakthrough that happens to "cradle learners" at around age three. Her life was utterly changed that day in Alabama, changed by the opening of a world denied. Cradle learners like us take words for granted - but she had fasted before the feast.
Garcia Lopez de Cardenas discovered the Grand Canyon and was amazed at the sight....The assumption is that the Grand Canyon is a remarkably interesting and beautiful place and that if it had a certain value P for Cardenas, the same value P may be transmitted to any number of sight-seeers - just as Banting's discovery of insulin can be transmitted to any number of diabetics. A counterinfluence is at work, however, and it would be nearer the truth to say that if the place is seen by a million sightseers, a single sightseer does not receive value P but a millionth part of value P.
Why? It is almost impossible because the Grand Canyon, the thing that it is, has been appropriated by the symbolic complex which has already been formed in the sightseer's mind. Seeing the canyon under approved circumstances is seeing the symbolic complex head on. The thing is no longer the thing as it confronted the Spaniard; it is rather that which has already been formulated- by picture postcard, geography book, tourist folders, and the words Grand Canyon. As a result of this preformulation, the source of the sightseer's pleasure undergoes a shift. Where the wonder and delight of the Spaniard arose from his penetration of the thing itself, the sightseer measures his satisfaction by the degree to which the canyon conforms to the performed complex.
-Walker Percy Message in the Bottle
The convert seeing the Church in its true light for the first time is like someone seeing an infinitesimally small fraction of the light of God. But that light is transformative. Supernatural grace allows those who think they have seen the light to be renewed to see it as if for the first time. Cardinal Newman once wrote a woman who was enthused by her conversion; he said it was great news, but may it continue over time.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 4:51 PM
October 23, 2002
I don't see much EWTN, mostly because reading is a more efficient use of time given the slowness of the verbal, but there are a couple shows that I compulsively watch. One is "Catholic Authors" with Fr. McCloskey. The other is "Franciscan University Presents" a talk show with a Franciscan priest, Scott Hahn and another professor at F.U. (oops).
One topic was "Reaching out to Lukewarm Catholics"; the professor confessed that he felt like the topic was somewhat cheeky since most of us are lukewarm Catholics, at least compared to the saints. He sighed, "I would that the gap narrow between my own sinfulness and the virtuousness of the saints". Scott Hahn quickly retorted, "we do too!" before adding the obligatory disclaimer, "as I do hope for myself too".
There were substantive exchanges I could post here, but one of the more interesting ones was discussion about evangelization techniques. The guest argued that people are swayed mostly by your behavior, your peacefulness, your love. Doctrine is a side issue. Scott argued about people's thirst for truth and quoted Chesterton's line about open minds. I thought about this while reading Nancy Nall's comments about how the Catholics who frequent Amy's blog turn her away from coming back to church. On her website, she argues that she could never become a Republican because of the way they dress (I guess). There are many people like this, people who apparently think that by becoming ...Catholic or is somehow tainted. One would think that the decision to become a Catholic or Republican would be based on the truth of it. As I commented on Amy's site, whether I see Christ in me or in others is irrelevant. What matters is whether I consider Christ truthful. The truthfulness of Christ compels me to be Christian, and the fidelity of the Catholic faith to that Truth compels me to be Catholic.
So, does behavior conform once the truth is known, or does good behavior lead to knowledge of the truth? To the first, one can say "no" since the devil knows the truth. And to the second, many of us know holy Mormons or Muslims. Either way, as one old philospher once said, "don't live like a tomcat while you're looking for answers", suggesting a linkage.
People don't ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.- Robert Leavitt
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:43 PM
So much as you have of inward love and adherence to his holy light and spirit within you, so much as you have of real unaffected humility and meekness, so much as you are dead to your own will and self-love, so much as you have of purity of heart, so much, and no more, nor any further, do you see and know the truths of God.
-William Law via Tenebrae
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 1:31 PM
Old Poems, dusted off
I drank the dram proffered by profs
dressed in plaid imputing glam
to previously dull subjects to wit:
it seemed plausible to give your life
to a study carol and an obscurity
like 18th-century economics
amid grand trees and tenured security.
arid as the craterous moon
dry bone dust
borne aloft on directionless winds
across a sparkling venue
to Paradox.
arid as the last tundra
misquitoed details swarm
entracted distractions
piss flies demand
a share of blood
just a small share,
till volumes it becomes.
Throw the shackles
wind the thymes
free the smallness
duc in altum!
Put together beak and
Carraway and find
a seedy bird! be silly as
the created world,
as the three-toed sloth!
Hie thee to the ocean floor
lit by aphorismic animals
indeterminately shaped
neon bodies flashing
like made-up words
they flit about unknown to man.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 10:22 AM
The mind isn't meant to be open forever anymore than the mouth; as the mouth shuts upon meat, so the mind upon truth.
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 8:56 PM
October 22, 2002
I am always approaching my end,
looking for the hidden one.
Tongue-tied in time for my nani's deeds,
I have done my trembling,
but the soul must be an All in All,
laid out in one sentence,
over the Pool, over the absolute intention,
even the knowledge of death.
This, before you,
is the life
of a dark and dutiful dyeli,
searching for the understanding of his deeds.
Let my words wound you
into the love of the emblems
of the soul's intent. -Jay Wright
posted by T.S. O'Rama @ 5:11 PM
Steve Riddle on the riddle of free will:
...this is an interesting proposition, but it is contingent upon a hidden axiom which is integral to the conclusion. [He] assumes that all reality is a single closed system and not a series of infinitely contingent systems. If the former is true, the conclusion (no free will) holds; however, if the latter is true, then a choice, or a bifurcation point, can be known, but the spinning out of the system totally contingent upon it. In other words, God knows all the pathways, all the bifurcations, and our choices are free, but the end result is still known in God's mind without restricting free will. God knows the end results of every single choice and does not dictate (in the vast majority of cases) which choice is made. In this sense free-will can be called an illusion, but it is an illusion with the depth of reality of imaginary numbers, which are, in no way, imaginary.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 2:36 PM
October 22, 2002
I liked this Vatican art, though others thought it ugly beyond ken. It recognizes our "unfinishedness" and displays an attitude of encouragement from our Holy Father, his individual attention given to ordinary Joes like us. I have no idea what it really means - I thought it about losing our stoniness and becoming who we are meant to be. But the Pope is in stone.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:34 AM
Woe who taketh arms in life
And retaineth hands of strife,
Better far books of whiteness,
Where psalms are seen in brightness! -Cellach, 6th century
Ancient Irish poetry from Cellach, king of the Irish province of Connaught, who wished he’d remained a student instead of king.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 8:41 PM
October 21, 2002
Four Green Fields
"What did I have?" said the fine old woman
"What did I have?" this proud old woman did say
"I had four green fields, each one was a jewel
But strangers came and tried to take them from me
I had fine strong sons, they fought to save my jewels
They fought and died, and that was my grief" said she
"Long time ago" said the fine old woman
"Long time ago" this proud old woman did say
"There was war and death, plundering and pillage
My children starved by mountain valley and sea
And their wailing cries, they shook the very heavens
My four green fields ran red with their blood" said she
"What have I now?" said the fine old woman
"What have I now?" this proud old woman did say
"I have four green fields, one of them's in bondage
In stranger's hands, that tried to take it from me
But my sons have sons, as brave as were their fathers
My fourth green field will bloom once again" said she. Tommy Makem
The 'fine old woman' represents Ireland and her fields the provinces of Munster, Leinster and Connacht. Her fourth green field, the northern province of Ulster remains 'in strangers' hands.'
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 2:04 PM
See Peter Kreeft on the controversial topic of the historicity of the bible. My mother wants to throw Noah overboard, considering the story not true and therefore on par with Aesop. I argued for the inspiration of biblical accounts while couching it in terms of: 'whether or not it really happened is besides the point - is it inspired?' But Kreeft considers it important, so I better reconsider. I have done precious little research on the flood, specifically concerning the animals coming in the ark in pairs and presumably re-populating the earth. My scientist uncle considers this bolderdash (bowlderdash?) from an evolutionary, botanical, etc standard which it may well be. Anyway, this inter-familial debate becomes my debate whether I want it to or not, so I found this Kreeft thing and thought it might be of interest.
postscript: I bought her Mark Shea's book on interpreting the bible correctly, Making Senses of Scripture last year.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:50 PM
Selections from Verweile Doch
Therefore, the case endings in Proto-Indo-European, since they, too, must have begun as separate words, are signs that this language, too, was just one more of thousands of end products of millennia of change from the Ur-language. - John McWhorter, The Power of Babel
It was this that threw him off, her having to aim to be what she was. - Walker Percy The Last Gentleman
The engineer, on the other hand, read books of great particularity, such as English detective stories, especially the sort which, answering a need of the Anglo-Saxon soul, depict the hero as perfectly disguised or perfectly hidden, holed up maybe in the woods of Somerset, actually hiding for days at a time in a burrow of ingenious construction from which he could notice things, observe the farmhouse below. Englishmen like to see without being seen. They are by nature eavesdroppers. The engineer could understand this. Walker Percy's The Last Gentleman
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:08 PM
Blue coat planted
in unconcious soil,
brusque air falls upon thy medals
your cool, Victorian age
dew-fallen to frost
our Odyssey retreating.
Remembrance, the jewel we gave
tarnishes; valour shed like trees falling
in forests though no one heard
still be valour.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:33 AM
Woe is he
who picks at sins like festering sores
as if the Sinless one’s scourging
were done without effect.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:30 AM
Found this quote from John Henry Newman in this month's Magnifcat. It reminds me of another quote I heard, something along the lines of "love is beautiful in dreams, harsh in reality."
In books, everything is made beautiful in its way. Pictures are drawn of complete virtue; little is said about failures, and little or nothing of the drudgery of ordinary, every-day obedience, which is neither poetical nor interesting. True faith teaches us to do numberless disagreeable things for Christ's sake, to bear petty annoyances, which we find written down in no book...It is beautiful in a picture to wash the disciples' feet; but the sands of the real desert have no luster in them to compensate for the servile nature of the occupation.
And here he sounds a little like Tim Drake:
The art of composing, has in itself a tendency to make us artificial and insincere. For to be ever attending to the fitness and propriety of our words, is (or at least thdere is the risk of its being) a kind of acting; and knowing what can be said on both sides of a subject is a main step towards thinking the other side as good as the other. Hence men in ancient times, who cultivated polite literature, went by the name of "Sophists"; that is, men who wrote elegantly, and talked eloquently, on an subject whatever, right or wrong...Such are some of the dangers of elegant accomplishments; and they beset more or less all educated persons.
- Cardinal John Henry Newman
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:54 AM
Via Ad Orientem, via Widening Gyre...(you knew I'd have to post this):
The Pelagian Drinking Song
Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.
And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.
But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.
And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.
And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Especially barley brew! - Belloc
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 7:37 PM
October 20, 2002
Furthering my Apostolate of Bad Poetry:
* Vive la Difference *
Marie said
‘Let them have cake"
He said
Let them have my Body.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 7:35 PM
The Cliffs of Moher
The wind bereaves wayward souls
hugs at the corners; unrolls pageants
where bitterns ‘round battered lighthouses
hale-gust promontories sound-crush
winds forty miles prey on
tummy-crawls to vertiginous falls
organs fastened to skin and skeleton
by the barest of margins.
Eire robs your heart,
wraps it round your ankle,
stolen by the Gaeltacht poetry
Guinness and silent Green hills,
meandering in the mid-distance and
clasping to her knoll
unbearable poignancies.
-Back in ’96 I was on a forsaken hill in Ireland, as lost to earth and kin as this world can offer. The green undulating hills were big enough to offer invisibility, but not so high as to make the climbs difficult. There in the old air I pondered the white fleece of visiting sheep and rams, some with horns and stares of unnerving alertness. What was I looking for on those unbeaten, scat-scattered paths?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:20 AM
October 19, 2002
Lyrics to Irish tune ("chune") Risin' of the Moon
Oh come tell me Sean O'Farrell, tell me why you hurry so
Hush a bhuachaill, hush and listen and his cheeks were all aglow
I bear orders from the captain, get you ready quick and soon
For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon
At the rising of the moon, at the rising of the moon
For the pikes must be together at the rising of the moon
And come tell me Sean O'Farrell, where the gathering is to be
At the old spot by the river quite well known to you and me
One more word for signal token, whistle out the marching tune
With your pike upon your shoulder at the rising of the moon
At the rising of the moon, at the rising of the moon
With your pike upon your shoulder at the rising of the moon
Out from many a mud walled cabin eyes were watching through the night
Many a manly heart was beating for the blessed morning's light
Murmurs ran along the valley to the banshee's lonely croon
And a thousand pikes were flashing by the rising of the moon
By the rising of the moon, by the rising of the moon
And a thousand pikes were flashing by the rising of the moon
All along that singing river, that black mass of men was seen
High above their shining weapons flew their own beloved green
Death to every foe and traitor, whistle out the marching tune
And hoorah me boys for freedom 'tis the rising of the moon
'Tis the rising of the moon, 'tis the rising of the moon
And hoorah me boys for freedom 'tis the rising of the moon. - J. Casey
This poem was written to commemorate the 1798 Irish Rebellion; plotters agreed to meet at the rising of the moon with their pikes (weapons) on their shoulders. The result may have been predictable, but the courage and determination shown by the men of '98 became a watch-word for later generations. This is my favorite Irish tune.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:59 PM
October 18, 2002
The Healing Improvisation of Hair
Wind in the cottonwoods wakes me
to a day so thin its breastbone
shows, so paid out it shakes me free
of its blue dust. I will arrange
that river water, bottom juice.
I conjure my head in the stream
and ride with the silk feel of it
as my woman bathes me, shaves
away the scorn, sponges the grit
of solitude from my skin, laves
the salt water of self-esteem
over my feathering body.
How like joy to come upon me
in remembering a head of hair
and the way water would caress
it, and stress beauty in the flair
and cut of the only witness
to my dance under sorrow’s tree.
This swift darkness is spring’s first hour.
- Jay Wright
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:59 AM
It often happens that Satan will insidiously commune with you in your heart and say: "Think of the evil you have done; your soul is full of lawlessness, you are weighed down by many grievous sins." Do not let him deceive you when he does this and do not be led to despair on the pretext that you are being humble. What was the purpose of His descent to earth except to save sinners, to bring light to those in darkness and life to the dead?- from the Macarian Homilies via Tenebrae
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:03 AM
I've always had a soft spot for professor E. Michael Jones. His critiques of modernity have just enough truth to absorb you, albeit with enough conspiracy theory to repel most casual readers. He also adheres to the commandment "never bore". His view is usually a libido-centric view of things (Degenerate Moderns was a crowd-pleaser for the smoke of satan folks, as well as for me). Anyway, I keep waiting for him to cross the line - he came close here but perhaps now he really has:
Urban renewal was the last-gasp attempt of the WASP ruling class to take control of a country that was slipping out of its grasp for demographic reasons. The largely Catholic ethnics were to be driven out of their neighborhoods, where they were to be "Americanized" according to WASP principles.
Can't judge it unless I've read it though.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:09 PM
October 17, 2002
Sadly, this appears to be life imitating art...This is very close to the "ultimate entertainment" described in David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:56 PM
A Dream
It was a cavernous bascillica, a sort of coronation hall - with endless red carpet leading to the altar. He was in the very last pew. Behind, in the exit rotunda, was a sign that said "God's meal is done." He walked up to Communion late, and fought the urge to run up the long aisle since the 97-year old priest in the bright, heavy straining vestments waited. The pastor smiled patiently, his posture stooped. He gave him the Body and said 'take and look at it through the light'. He did and could plainly see a seed embedded in it! 'May you grow spiritually as a tree,' he said. The communicant ate half of it and immediately the other half became a steel ingot depicting the Crucifixion. He ate that too, despite its seeming hardness.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:58 AM
Remembering Rome
The "Church of 40,000 Bones" as my friend called it was actually Santa Maria della Conceizione. Here, not quite entombed, were over 4,000 monks who donated their bones as the raw material for macabre decorations that illustrate biblical imagery as well as the brevity of life. (For example, the sacred heart with a crown of thorns adorns the walls via a unique combination of bones.) When I read about this place I imagined it much more dark and dreary, a Halloweenish place. But I thought it was about as cheerful as you could make it, especially if you forgot for a minute the archway decorations were bones. The message is the "as you are/ so was I/ as I am/ so shall you be" and is intended to give a sense of urgency in the spiritual life. The psalmist asks in Psalm 30 what profit is there in his death - "Will the dust praise you?" and I thought this place really tried to have these dusty bones praise God by showing the faith of these holy monks had in not fearing death but by taunting it and saying "where is thy sting?".
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:52 AM
Samuel Johnson wrote a series of sermons for his friend John Taylor. One of them deals with trust in God. Trust in God is an essential part of the Christian life. But suppose that a man does not feel trust. Ought he to try to deceive himself into thinking that he does feel it? Ought he to try to manufacture feelings of trust by sheer will-power? Johnson's answer is that he ought to behave as if he did trust God, and that means obeying God. He who obeys will find sooner or later that he does trust. "This constant and devout practice is both the effect, and Cause, of confidence in God. Trust in God is to be obtained only by repentance, obedience, and supplication, not by nourishing in our hearts a confused idea of the goodness of God, or a firm persuasion that we are in a state of grace." A problem for Johnson was that, although he had no trouble seeing that his attitude toward God ought to be one of trust and dependency, his constant struggle since infancy with his physical disabilities had instilled in him a strong habit of self-reliance and rejection of help from others. Habit and theory were thus at constant war. He also found it difficult to participate in public worship, especially when it involved sermons, since he often knew more about the sermon subject than the preacher, and had to resist the impulse to contradict him. Public prayer was less of a difficulty, and private prayer still less. - Bate's biography of Samuel Johnson
If thou appear untouch'd by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham's bosom all the year;
And worshipp'st at the Temple's inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not. -Wordsworth
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:45 AM
Fire Sale....All Bad Poetry Must Go*
Portrait of a hero
'the Mick' with bat in hand
how comfortably he holds his gaze
and surveys the outfield land.
Against a darkened sky
the pinstripes shine so bright
and 'neath his cap a brim of green
gleams out into the night.
* - to make room for more bad poetry!
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:33 AM
Leaving St. John’s
a holy old woman saw me leaving and said:
"I believe there is some Holy Bread up there for you."
I thanked her
the words a balm
I imagined those words said again
at the juncture of this life and the next.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:32 AM
Like a fish in Peter’s net
I suffer and flap noisily
in the light and death-to-self
fighting He who saves
craving the dark water of sin.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:31 AM
I do beseech you, either not believe
The envious slanders of her false accusers;
Or, if she be accused in true report,
Bear with her weakness, which, I think proceeds
From wayward sickness, and no grounded malice. - Shakespeare, Richard III
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:14 AM
On Hypocrisy
"....It's crucial to understand that a Christian isn't a hypocrite, for example, simply because he condemns fornication and then commits it himself. He needs to repent and do penance, but the sin itself does not make him a hypocrite.
Hypocrisy is a layer of three sins: the arrogant judging of another person; the sinful act itself; and deception about the act. You don't become a hypocrite merely by saying one thing and doing anohter, but by affecting a virtue you don't have. - Erick Scheske in Our Sunday Visitor
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 7:42 AM
Rejoice, thou barren that barest not. Break out and cry, thou that travailest not; for more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband. -Gal 4:27
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:51 PM
October 16, 2002
Someone once told me that they will get religious when they have a need for it - when they are old and facing death and need something to keep them going. I reacted to this idea of "God as a device used for my mental health" as an allergen. I overreacted and thought ill of the person; I began to distrust feelings to the point where positive feelings were nearly despised. My reaction was surely partially a recognition of that utilitarian view of God in my own life. ("He protestheth too much..."). I accused myself of praying only for the peace of mind instead of love for God.
Lord, protect me from what I have thought in the name of self-protection; of preferring to error on the side of seeing you as a God of justice, rather than mercy. This self-protection, this desire to pass the test rather than to love you is worse than the fellow who imagines his need for God a mental health construct. Strategems made me see thee in the most stringent terms, a wrathful God, so that if you turned out to be Mercy, all would be bonus. Prudence be damned, all have sinned, all is misery, only thou art grace. Thou art Mercy or I am doomed...
The idea of life as a test is enervating and debilitating; life is a choice, true - Adam and Eve had to choose and one could call that a "test", but it's about a relationship, about love. "Test" is Old Testament, it is the Law. With the wiles of a good test-taker, I've too much notion of 'grading on the curve' and too much imbued with playing percentages, finding Pascal's Wager distasteful while unconsciously (or not) playing the game, forgetting the purpose of the Law is that "grace might be sought, and grace was given that the law might be fulfilled" [Augustine]. I must rejoice in the free gift, in the good news, in Love for "we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free."
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:51 PM
Dylan rips these things off like there is no tomorrow, always dense with allusions and punctuated with piquant details. Fearing risk of comparison, I think I'll pass on doing something similar.
I do believe in intellectual submission to the Church, partly because it is the hardest thing. There is a preversity in me that imagines that which is hardest must be the best. That isn't necessarily so, but it usually is. I'm no joiner either; I did my time in a fraternity in college (which confirmed it). In my experience, the lowest common denominator wins.
I remember years ago telling my non-Christian brother-in-law that Christianity requires intellectual submission. He leapt at that a little too gleefully. I think he thought it meant throwing away reason and accepting a literal six-day creation. I regret that I didn't add, "but you never have to accept anything contrary to reason." But I was still in my credo quia absurdum phase.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:27 PM
Facing Winter's Death
Think you I can a resolution fetch
From flowery tenderness? If I must die,
I will encounter darkness as a bride,
And hug it in mine arms.
- Shakespeare Measure for Measure
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:51 AM
Poem o' the Day
Saint and hermit send
each other news by seagull.
Herebericht is safe within his lake,
islanded from demons, speaks
with the fresh-water fish about
the scent of home, its wholeness
of moss and quartz.
Otters sit outside his hut
and toast him with sunken wine.
He sniffs at the pebbles.
They smell jaspery.
They smell of Heaven.
The gull they send between them
carries no messages
scrolled around its leg.
Instead it is itself illuminated:
every feather written on in script
which only they can read.
- excerpt from poem by Bill Herbert
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:15 PM
October 15, 2002
Rain is holy water to lovers -McKeun
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:10 PM
Not too often, while dreamily browsing a book catalog, do I spy something as eye-popping as this: "The Early Church Fathers", a 38-volume set coving the first 800 years of of the church, regularly $1,100, marked down to $299.99. I don't need something like that, being hopelessly behind in my reading as it is, but it is a remarkable deal at $8 a book. An review says that the works are all translated and edited by Protestant scholars and divines, so the footnotes, prefaces, and profiles of these Church Fathers and their works tend to be shrouded with Protestant leanings. Alas - everything is sectarian, even pre-Reformation. Why should the early church fathers be different than the bible itself?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 8:40 PM
Quotes, we've got quotes..
"The secret about the scientific method is this: Science cannot utter a single word about the individual molecule, thing, or creature in so far as it is an individual but only in so far as it is like other individuals. The laymen thinks that only science can utter the true word about anything, individuals included. But the laymen is an individual. So science cannot say a single word to him or about him except as he resembles others.
A man is after all himself and no other, and not merely an example of a class of similar selves. If such a man is deprived of the means of being a self in a world made over by science for his use and enjoyment, he is like a ghost at a feast. He becomes invisible. That is why people in the modern age took photographs by the million: to prove despite their deepest suspicions to the contrary that they were not invisible."
- Walker Percy, Message in a Bottle
"There is no wrath that stands between God and us but what is awakened in the dark fire of our own fallen nature; and to quench this wrath, and not his own, God gave his only begotten Son to be made man.
God has no more wrath in himself now than he had before the creation, when he had only himself to love. The precious blood of his Son was not poured out to pacify himself (who in himself had no nature toward man but love), but it was poured out to quench the wrath and fire of the fallen soul, and to kindle it in a birth of light and love."
- William Law via Tenebrae October
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:46 PM
Fundamental Thoughts
One thing most fundamentalists have in common is that they a rock-hard faith. I mean undentable, diamond-hard faith. Their combined faiths could not only scratch glass but pierce the devil’s blackguard soul. Their faith resides not just in the traditional sense – i.e. faith capitalized as Faith (in God) – but faith in their own visions. Each has a surreal belief in their vision. And I think they go together. My friend believes this stock can only go up - no doubt – and though it may not go up, he resists utterly the folly that he could be wrong. Even when it falls contrarily, he considers it a fault of the market. He has the same undoubtable belief in God, and that is infinitely desirable. I don’t know that you easily get one without the other. He has since lost thousands in risky stock options, but he says that this just points to the prevalence of bad opinion.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:27 PM
Nonsensical Tuesday...a fictional foray
In a moment of pique, I quit my well-paying job to become a greeter at WalMart. I’d always envied those grey-haired sentries, ever-present at the threshold of department store greatness. It was dawn, spring of ’01 when I first arrived; I stationed myself far enough away from the entrance to give the customers a sense of belonging but close enough to reassure them with the prospect of guidance. No one visited that first hour and I felt the stab of nostalgia.
WalMart was where I spent my youth and it’s a truism that wherever you spent your youth – be it prison, ballfield, battlefield – there becomes the talisman of sweet remembrance. I meditated on Walmart's marvelous self-containedness - there was furniture to sit on, food to eat, books to read, and aisles and aisles of self-replenishing goods. At the entrance of the in-store McDonalds sat Ronald in Eastern contemplativeness while that indefinable smell constantly triggered scent and memory glands. Customers (or clients as we were instructed to think of them as) arrived often disshelved and tattooed, with big hair and large bellies – proffering a vision of life underexamined yet lived.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:25 PM
"But there is another criticism that stands out as particularly pernicious: That the prayer life of Christians isn't important enough for the Pope to waste time on."
Here is a voice of reason. Personally, I love that the Pope is interested in our prayer life. He probably sees much better than we do that bishops come from the ranks of priests, priests from holy parents, and holy parents from prayer. He's aiming for the root cause instead of just lopping off the whole American bishopry. One can't legislate holiness.
I think the current helplessness we tend to feel with respect to our society, culture and leadership can be turned around into a blessing...the times I feel truly humble and reliant on God are when I am helpless.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:25 AM
Sometimes, it is as if the thorn not only becomes a rose, but the rose is dependent on once being a thorn. Let me try to 'splain (as Ricky would say).
I've been musing about the fact that two giants of the Church - St. Paul & St. Augustine - both preached theologies completely and radically different from what they believed in their pre-converted lives. Augustine, who lived a randy early life, is accused of being 'anti-woman', but he wrote in a way that recognized a danger, a precipice that he wished others avoid; thus his fondness for the virtues of celibacy. St. Paul, who was a relentless believer in the Law, ended up preaching its contrary. The irony that he should be the apostle of the Gentiles is rich. And yet, who better? He understood the futility of the Law completely and experienced the contrasted reality of the Risen Christ like few could. In a sense won't we look forward, in an age of doubt and apostasy, to a greater joy when we experience things made clear? Won't the joy be incomprehensibly greater for having experienced its converse?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 6:03 PM
October 14, 2002
the Real Thing
Wow. This excerpt about the great Ted Williams speaks for itself:
If I had to sum up what he showed me, it was the difference between politesse -- Ted wasn't big on that -- and what was the large, true-blue, right thing to do. It was later, too, I understood this was pattern with Ted. He had to rough up the people he meant to help.
No one ever wrote, for example, that when Darryl Strawberry spiraled out of baseball in a gyre of alcohol, cocaine, and litigious women...when his imminent return to the Yankees was sadly scuttled by another acting out -- a D.U.I., or getting kicked out of rehab, or something (Straw's woes are hard to keep straight now)...the first call he got was not from his lawyer but from Ted Williams, who barely knew him, but who invited Darryl to come live at his house.
This was also pattern with Ted -- hiding the generosity of spirit that made him a great man. Maybe he assumed it would be misunderstood. Or worse still, too widely understood. "YER MAKIN' ME A DAMN SOCIAL WORKER," he yelled at me one time. This was the fact he wouldn't let me print:
For years, personally and secretly, Ted had been keeping a lot of guys in business -- guys too old to qualify for baseball's pension, or they didn't have enough time in the majors, or they didn't have the talent and never made it to the majors -- and mostly they were guys too proud to ask, but he knew they were just scraping by. He'd call them up. He'd tell them he was collecting for charity -- the Jimmy Fund for kids with cancer, or his museum, something -- and they'd hem and haw about how things weren't great with them, just at the moment, might be tough to pitch in...."DAMMIT, I CALLED YA!" Ted would bellow into the phone. "SEND ME A CHECK FER TEN BUCKS, SONOFABITCH!"...Then, when he got their check with the number, he'd deposit ten grand into their account.
- by Richard Ben Cramer
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:42 PM
Today's special...(inspired by Kat Lively & Dark October)
99 Personal Revelations Marked Down to 16
1. The first heroic deed of my life was being born and shucking the amniotic fluid for air
2. Agree with Churchill's axiom that if "you are 20 and conservative you have no heart, and if you are 40 and liberal you have no brain".
4. Find the philosophies of Edward Abbey & Henry D. Thoreau way too attractive for my own good.
5. 33-min 5 mile personal best
6. Believed in the myth of the "noble savage" as a youth
7. Believed in the myth of the "noble savage" as an adult when I read that the typical hunter/gatherer worked 15 hours a week
8. Liked the song "Fat-bottomed Girls" but careful to add, "but not the words, of course"
9. Wrote following poem at age 10 and was swiftly accused of plagiarism by Sally Jurgensen: "Fierce sometimes is the rain/ bursting on the windowpane/ Rain is racing down the road/ Dripping wet is the olive toad! / But all the rain is far away / For I am in my house to stay". Consider this the highlight of my writing career.
10. Said poem lives on in the lives of many first-graders (my mother is a teacher and makes them write that poem)
11. In college, considered the phrase "fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life" flat out wrong.
12. John Updike can flat out write
13. Cardinal Ratzinger fascinates me
14. Like making lists
15. Am saddened that the Indigo Girls no longer thank God on their CD sleeves.
16. Find that it is easier to have the right opinion, than to do the right thing.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:42 PM
Memorable Quotes from Verweile Doch*
'I guess the last bad habit a man will give up is advising.
'I don't want advice.'
'Nobody does. It's a giver's present.'"
The sectarian churches came in swinging, cocky and loud and confident...The sects fought evil, true enough, but they also fought each other with a fine lustiness. They fought at the turn of a doctrine.
- John Steinbeck, "East of Eden"
* - "verweile doch is German for "linger awhile", which is what I call my long Sunday reads.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:45 AM
Read an electric "99 Theses" from the masked blogger (I won't link to it since I'm unsure of how much "pub" he wants). It eliminated my need for caffeine this a.m.
It offends my sensibilities that in Gaelic whiskey means "water of life". That water is taken, thank you very much. But one of my interests has been how to integrate transcendental experiences within a Christian life, like, for instance, alcohol. Outside of spiritual experiences such as prayer, transcendental experiences for me include writing, sex, love, running and alcohol. As one ages, there is a certain diminishment in many of the above...Not to mention that the number and quality of transcendental experiences are inversely proportional to the quantity of one's family obligations.
The obligatory caveat is, of course, that pleasure is not the purpose of life anyway.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:28 AM
Quote Corner
The strongest human instinct is to impart information. The second strongest is to resist it.
- Kenneth Graham
People don't ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.
- Robert Leavitt
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:26 AM
On a sunny, bittersweetly warm-turning-winsome day last week I headed to Oktoberfest and the Klaber Orchestra. I ordered a Warsteiner dunkel, and the 30-something woman asked who was on my watch. I showed her & said "Padre Pio." Awkward silence ensued. "Bet I’m the only one here with a Padre Pio watch, eh?". No answer. Bleeding mystics aren't for everyone.
I wandered over to a huge outdoor screen which showed the Bengals in action (more or less). At the nearby Bier Garten tent I heard the unmistakable sounds of the chicken dance. Both sights were humorous and fetchingly silly.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:11 AM
The Balance of the Helmsman
"While it is right that, in accordance with the example of her Master, who is "humble in heart," the Church also should have humility as her foundation, that she should have a critical sense with regard to all that goes to make up her human character and activity, and that she should always be very demanding on herself, nevertheless criticism too should have its just limits. Otherwise it ceases to be constructive and does not reveal truth, love and thankfulness for the grace in which we become sharers principally and fully in and through the Church. Furthermore such criticism does not express an attitude of service but rather a wish to direct the opinion of others in accordance with one’s own, which is at times spread abroad in too thoughtless a manner.
Gratitude is due to Paul VI because, while respecting every particle of truth contained in the various human opinions, he preserved at the same time the providential balance of the bark’s helmsman. The Church that I – through John Paul I – have had entrusted to me almost immediately after him is admittedly not free of internal difficulties and tension. At the same time, however, she is internally more strengthened against the excesses of self-criticism: she can be said to be more critical with regard to the various thoughtless criticisms, more resistant with respect to the various "novelties," more mature in her spirit of discerning, better able to bring out of her everlasting treasure "what is new and what is old," more intent on her own mystery, and because of all that more serviceable for her mission of salvation for all: God "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
- Pope John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:37 PM
October 11, 2002
Scarlett's Father
His wife's demise
be his dementia-
the rose of Death on O’Hara’s tomb
lay atavistically
‘on e’ry Irish heart
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:34 PM
More Muggeridge
If western man continues to attempt to satisfy himself thru power or money or eroticism or indulgence in drugs, his life will destruct in such a way that it will be clear to him that such a life is not viable" – Malcolm Muggeride
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:50 PM
duty without love
is unbearable
love without duty
duty resting on love
gives life.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:34 AM
Items from the Kitchen Compost Bin...
I'm at a loss at why I like Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky so much; it seems vaguely disconcerting. I used to like Monet. I used to like Renaissance art. Now I'm liking the moderns more and more, which feels vaguely perilous. It suggests I'm too much of my time and that my dreams of being a 19th-century type are just that. I wonder what the type of art you like says about you - especially when it evolves. Steve Riddle seems the most 19th-century among the St. Bloggers's. He rises early, drinks the dram of silence and contemplation, breathes old poetry and has a Southern chivalric manner.
I once started reading a short bio of Klee, hoping he wasn't some sort of terrible person. I like artists to be moral and sane. I was always put off from reading "The Confederacy of Dunces" when I learned the author committed suicide because it was as if his world view was tried and, sadly, failed. Similarly with atheistic authors. As if depression and a lack of faith were "catching". A prejuidice I must overcome.
Suitcase full of apologetic writings with titles like: "Against Sociobiology" and "Why a Bible Translation itself is an act of Church" and the sobering "Death of Christ in the Church – Why Ecumenicalism No Longer Matters". Hie thee to prayer and the healing of Eucharistic Adoration.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:32 AM
What glee to find this for only $1 at a library book sale. Poetry is sort of an antidote to contemporary life. George Will once said he reads fiction as an antidote to a "surfeit of journalism". I sometimes feel the same, drowned in the news, and the prosaic, utilitarian words of a business-oriented culture.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:21 AM
This looks good...
The Comic World of C. S. Lewis is Lindvall's topic, and his examination of this renowned apologist ...reveals an unexpected perspective on the primacy of humor as a gateway to God.
"What is funny about us is precisely that we take ourselves too seriously." That quote from theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, aptly selected by Lindvall as a chapter opening, capsulizes the springboard for C. S. Lewis's dive into the comical.
Lewis always cuts to the heart of Christianity. His high esteem for laughter, whether generated by a joke, satire, good food and drink, or a convivial party, reflects his belief that play and pleasure are gifts from God, and in fact, that these are hints of the Kingdom of God.
Lewis observed that humans are stuck between two worlds, a natural one and a supernatural one. God, he said, had set out "to make an organism which is also a spirit; to make that terrible oxymoron a 'spiritual animal.' " The tension between flesh and spirit is the source of our best kind of laughter, because it fundamentally affirms our relationship to God.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:29 PM
October 10, 2002
Like cans of Budweiser with "born-on" dates of a while back, so too are some of my postings of late. Here is my Mexican trip log, cannibalized from last year's journal:
The adrenalin began flowing at the Mexican airport, where the first impression was that we weren't in Kansas anymore. We were deep in the heart of Mexico, deep in a state capital drenched in the colors of their flag - red, green and white. This was no silly border excursion, no weak Cancun trip (no Florida warmed over and served with a Spanish accent). This was the real thing, the nerve center of Mexico where the main economy isn't tourism.
We met our avuncular host, Jacob, at the airport. He was loquacious and proud of his country, shown by his frequent disclaimers that most Mexicans are not "banditos" and by his intense interest in pre-modern Mexcian culture. Jacob reminded me a bit of our baseball sportscaster Marty Brenaman - never at a loss for words and having perfectly coiffed hair.
Unlike Cortes, who came to Mexico City in the early 16th century by long and tortuous route, we arrived by plane (while complaining, of course, on how long it took). You could see the dense city of 25 million souls hemmed in by the mountains, like a big green skirt. Our foray into the foreign met odd foreign signs like "Buenes y Sabarro" and swarms of green VW bug taxis. Dense canyons of buildings covered the land till the reach of the mountains, at which point shacks and shanties sidled halfway up the hills, their inhabitant's laundry hanging out on rooftops suggesting a kind of vulnerability.
That Friday we descended into another time to an old church. I saw a priest hearing a confession out in the open as if it were a common thing. I saw paintings of Jesus and Mary that exuded an inexpressible warmth. There was an electricity in these beginnings, these firsts: like the first church, the first sight of the city, the first arrival to the hotel, the first meal.
We visited the Shrine at Los Remedios ("the Remedy") on Saturday just one day after the feast day (Sept. 1st) when 10,000 pilgrims come here for a celebration of Masses and devotionals and food and fireworks and high-wire acts. There was a little courtyard with various rooms containing religious articles and walls papered with petitions, prayers and pictures, all home-made. I'll not soon forget walking into that courtyard of glass-eyed folks, staring impassively at us like we were visitors from Neptune. It was like a movie set and we were the "Three Amigos" wandering where we didn't belong, here with our gaudy white tennis shoes. I wanted to interact with the Mexicans and get a better sense of who they were, and what made many of them so pious.
I bought a rosary at the shrine and asked the local padre to bless it. He looked like a tall Sancho Pancho and wore a white Dominican-like robe. He took a pine bough and dipped it in holy water and proceeded to brusquely bless the rosary and then me. Earlier, at Mass at Los Remedios I witnessed Mexicans with tears in their eyes. They appreciated the faith. It was by their example and the knowledge that soon I would be seeing the image of Our Lady of Gaudalupe that made me ask impulsively if the padre would hear my confession, with comic results.
"Could you hear my confession?"
Quizzical look ensued.
"?Confessiono?" I figured adding an "o" at the end might do the trick.
Wasn't the Church supposed to be universal anyway? I guess when we all knew Latin.
"Jdkjfedkjdkjkjf," said the Padre in Spanish, or words to that effect.
"Hablo English?" I asked.
The good padre looked pained but concerned, and I was quite sorry by this time that I had brought the whole thing up. We seemed to have reached a stalemate, and I started to back away saying, "that's okay", although I realized immediately the inanity of that - I could've said, "free spaghetti!" for all he knew. He didn't leave me off the hook and instead came over and warmly led me by the hand out into the courtyard searching all around. Finally he found Jacob and I understood he was to translate.
"I just asked if he could hear my confession," I told Jacob.
Jacob said some Spanish words back out at the good Friar and then Jacob to me laughing, "I hear your confession. You tell me!".
Over the length of the trip we saw at least ten churches. All of them were beautiful though markedly different. The Cathedral at Zocala Square was a feast for the eyes of epic proportions. Ornate gold altars and side altars repeated like endless eaves of finely decorated libraries. The Cathedral was dark, magisterial and and not for impressionable young children. Another church, Juan Diego's uncles', was the oppposite. It was light, and airy and simple. There were no reliquaries but an easiness and it emphasized the gospel accounts of Christ riding on a donkey and being born in a manger and God's gentleness and mercy. The yin and the yang?
Zocola Square is second in size only to Red Square in Moscow. The imposing square is surrounded by gargoyle'd buildings and one expected to see a bullfighter or matador at any moment. Zocola felt foreign - it pulsated with foreignness. At one end loud opera music blared, at the other side there was a loud Indian drumming. The place felt like the setting of a lost empire or somewhere Indiana Jones would feel at home. The square was not quite safe -rogue tour guides and pick-pocketing banditos roamed - but had, glamour, with pistole-toting police guarding the Mexican treasures from American riff-raff. I clambored up the stairs to a sumptuous room only to receive a curt, "no moleste!". I said,"Vamous?" and he said, "si". Later, at the bottom of the stairs, I offered a "Beunes Dios" (good day) at a stiff-necked policeman and received my first 'gracias'. It was then I knew I'd connected with the Mexican people and was now one of them. The fabulous murals of the Palace were stunning and encyclopedic but the severe time period alloted to the square made 'hurry-travel' necessary.
The next day we loaded up the bus and headed for the reason we came - Guadalupe. The mysterious story of the image fascinates. It, like the Shroud of Turin, comes as close to a "smoking gun" for faith as you can get.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:18 PM
College is the nexus of time and energy; never will you have more of either. This results in really well-made homecoming floats and clever party favors.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:14 PM
My friend lets me get away with inconsistencies. I know that he knows it - and I like him all the more for it. Is that a flaw in him? He's a strong Christian and I'll often say something stupid for which I'll eventually get around to apologizing. But the funny thing is, he never points out my inconsistency, my sin. He may offer silence, but never accuses. Never preaches, unless asked. Words pale next to action, including, ironically, the phrase itself.
Blogging is an interesting exercise because for all its vaunted speed, it gives us tantalizing choices on whether or not to be silent. In the "real world", in real time, these choices are often made without thinking, since speech happens so much more quickly than writing & posting does. Blogging gives one a chance to think, which it is often accused of not doing.
This post is not inspired by Disputations. Personally, I found Disputation's criticisms of those who criticize the bishops enlightening. He makes good points. I'm not making a judgement on the specific arguments since I found both sides compelling. I just think silence or challenging the argument are better ways to go rather than the third choice, which is to reflectively criticize those who criticize given the Pot, Kettle, Black situation. But what of the case of bishops? That is more complex. They are given a special position of authority. John said of the bishop, "Exhort him, challenge him, correct him if you must, but do not try to replace him." Sounds reasonable.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:50 AM
Where the faeries live
‘neath many the odd-looking stone
be they not stones at all
but shape-shifted swans that longed
for a sedentary existence.
Of feint gypsies
I’d fain meet
there in the green sea-kettle marshes
where croaking brown-coat frogs
bestride busy-fiddlin' pub craickers
by skirt-wearing lacross-playing lads
down at the County Down -
Till the bare juts of cliffs
Where folly-spray waves terminate
crashing infinitely
the mist rises like incense
the air aghast with the spectacle below
where sweet Eire ends and the sea begins
a scandal for sea and land alike
the mutual breakage of continuity
lay there the craved border
where ships were let go to where they will
for monks, green martyrs
to lands near or distant.
How foreign it feels to me still!
waited on by the brogue-ish dark-haired waitress
how foreign compared to our grocery
the long tired walk to the Milk
in the service of merchandising
that I might buy something else on my journey..
the haggard looking cashier,
seemingly bored and boring
ahh, to see Christ in her or me!
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:02 AM
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.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:01 AM
Children are innocent and love justice, while most adults are wicked and prefer mercy. - Chesterton.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 8:59 AM
Seventy times seven
oh blessed alliteration
oh holy equation
the number of our salvation.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:09 PM
October 9, 2002
Love is a sort of seventh day, so thinking can rest. - from Camelot
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:07 PM
The entrée’s to choose from at the lunchtime cafe were "baked fish" or "beer-battered fish". The yeasty Yugoslavian woman asked what I wanted. "Beer-battered fish, the beer on the side." Dedicated to (is that a Guinness he be drinkin'?):
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:06 PM
Red Hanrahan's Song About Ireland*
The yellow pool has overflowed high up on Clooth-na-Bare,
For the wet winds are blowing out of the clinging air;
Like heavy flooded waters our bodies and our blood;
But purer than a tall candle before the Holy Rood
Is Cathleen, the daughter of Houlihan.
-- William Butler Yeats
* - inspired by a phantom avatar...->
Hint: "Superior, they say, never gives up her dead / When the dark of October comes early."
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:01 PM
Today, I shan't criticize those who criticize others, lest I be guity of the same! But since this post is an implicit criticism of those who criticize the criticisms of others, I'm left doing the very thing I claimed I wouldn't do. Please read "today" as "tomorrow". Thank you, the Mgt. :)
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:03 PM
I was going to blog Fr. Fessio's letter but I see Flos Carmeli has beaten me to it, which is just as well since he has a larger audience. This is one endeavour I can jump on board with both feet and no reservations. Pope John Paul II has tried to insure that Catholic education remains "Catholic" with uncertain results. Perhaps tis best to develop alternatives like Thomas Aquinas, Fransican University and now, perhaps the crown jewel, Ave Maria. This was a no-brainer; I took great joy in writing the check.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:42 AM
Catherine Crier was on Imus yesterday and had some interesting things to say. Her new book, "The Case Against Lawyers", talks about how the legal system has run amuck. She mentioned how prescient De Tocqueville was in 1840 when he said that Americans will eventually lose their liberty to lawyers and become as "timid, industrious sheep", afraid to do anything outside the box...
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:09 AM
Blarney Wednesday
I once worked for a university in the capacity of amateur historian sans history degree. It was a coveted position and mercifully light on duties. The goal-state was for me to have a keenly decorated office (something suitably 19th century) that would impress passerbys and potential recruits with the stacks of ornately-bound books, quill pens, and wafting pipe smoke. The position was created in 1985 in response to the "Utility Uber Alles" movement that attempted to equate human life solely with production and function. In making humans functionaries we would make them less than human, since the role of pure functionary had already been filled - by animals. The only societies in history to have shown a deep respect for leisure were the ancient Greeks and the societies of the Middle Ages – both recognized that man should not be defined by his work. The idea was to create an anti-Utility-Uber-Alles to spite the revolutionaries who lobbied to abolish literature, poetry, isometrics and Pauly Shore on the theory that they had no practical application. So the Amateur-Historian-Without-a-History-Degree was a double spite in the face of the establishment, for whom credentials rule. I walked around campus with a professorial air, in a plaid suit jacket with patches on the elbows and a insouciant beard. I smelled rebelliously of 1950s Funk & Wagnalls Standard Edition glue. My office consisted of walled eight-foot bookshelves that fingered out into a little cove with twenty or so black-and-white renderings of campus scenes and literary artists (T.S. Elliot, Henry Thoreau, Shakespeare, etc..). A few autographed pictures of myself and various writers were prominently displayed – there I am mugging with William Least Heat Moon, giving Garrison Keillor a wedgie, and beating Ayn Rand with a wet noodle.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:01 PM
October 8, 2002
Has Blogging Jumped the Shark?
Tim Drake and Dylan of Error503 have left the blogging world and your gut tells you that this is a case of "Gresham's Law". Both of them seemed like quintessentially quality people.
Dylan left quietly with hardly a word, like Maria in the Sound of Music after the Captain came back with his fiancee.
Tim left in a blaze of glory, firing all his guns at once.
His heartfelt missive has the ring of truth about it:
Admittedly, I've also grown tired of the entire blogging trend. Perhaps it's just me, but isn't it a prideful thing? You're saying to the world - "Hey, HEY - look at me! Look at what I have to say. It's so much more important than what X or Y has to say." How does blogging contribute to the world if eventually everyone in the world has their own blog and is talking only to themselves? Isn't this the eventual outcome of blogging?
Blogging tends to be a very self-centered exercise. You're filled with delight when other bloggers notice you and link to you. You get excited if your site tracker shows that you have more than 99 unique visitors on any given day. You hit the roof if The Corner mentions you.
Undeniably true for most of us. But must it be a prideful thing? I'm very attracted to GK Chesterton's view of "art for the masses" - that we should all be artists, writers possibly, no matter how poorly done. (I highly recommend Thomas Peters' book G.K. Chesterton on the Arts). To some extent the blog is your art. Don't all artists say, "Look at me?". Isn't the urge to create inborn? "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly," Chesterton said. He consistently defended the amateur against the professional, or the "generalist" against the specialist.
In using the term "art", I am using it very loosely of course. It is, no matter how bad, a small act of creation. Aren't our creative instincts and powers, no matter how flawed, also part of what makes us "the image and likeness of God"? No matter how long a dog looks at his food bowl, he will never artfully arrange it so that it will look aesthetically pleasing. That we are artists is part of what it means to be human - and that it often points to ourselves is true, but good artists don't start out good artists - they start off bad artists and get better.
Perhaps I protest too much. Tim's note had much truth. For me, the blogging thing began when a Catholic writer I admire enormously and enjoy reading in Our Sunday Visitor had a blog link off her website. Her blog was riveting, in that she said some unpredictable things and gave insights that were often "too honest" or "too spicy" for publication, often of a personal nature. Since then she has garnered a huge audience and now her posts reveal little of herself. I'm not "dissing" her; with a large audience comes greater responsibility. If I thought I was influencing a large audience, I would be more careful with my words and probably be more interested in exposing chicanery...
On the breaking up into high school cliques, that, unfortunately, is as inevitable as the day turns into night. There is no way to avoid those of a like mind congregating or of politics rearing its ugly head. That is human nature in action - it reminds me of John Adams quixotian quest to avoid the formation of political parties. I like Adams all the more for his quest though.
Tim's post certainly offers much to ponder. I wonder if that little SiteMeter isn't the devil in disguise? A fellow would-be author and I were discussing writing. I said, "I wouldn't want to write just to get paid. I have to give them something important. But it can't be preachy...". He said, "To the contrary, you should write because you have to. You should write just for yourself, for no credit, even if no one is watching - that is pure." Interesting....
"But it must be admitted that writers, like other mendicants and mountebanks, frequently do try to attract attention. They set out conspicuously, in a single line in a play, or at the head or tail of a paragraph, remarks of this challenging kind; as when Mr. Bernard Shw wrote: "The Golden Rule is that there is no Golden Rule"; or Oscar Wilde observed: "I can resist everything except temptation"; or a duller scribe said in defence of hobbies and amateurs and general duffers like himself: "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly." To these things do writers sink; and then the critics tell them that they "talk for effect"; and then the writers answer: "What the devil else should we talk for? Ineffectualness?" - GK Chesterton in The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:02 PM
I liked this from Pleroma's site: is not the assent to a set of propositions at base, but trust in the living God. If this was made more clear, then perhaps unbelievers would understand that we don't say people are damned for having the wrong ideas, but rather for not being reconciled to God.
- comment
Lindsey makes a hard and fast division between "mystic experience" and "propositional faith", and says that Christianity is all about propositions and therefore cannot be mystical at its core. I disagree. It's true that Christianity is an historical religion. It teaches that God has personally intervened in human history for the salvation of mankind. We don't believe in an abstract "divine principle," we believe in a concrete, personal God, a God who acts and participates in actual human events. Lindsey is right that orthodox Christianity stands or falls on the proposition that God's intervention in history - the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus - is a matter of actual, historical fact.
But to say that Christianity is a "propositional faith" is ultimately misleading. When the Bible talks about faith, it is not talking about intellectual assent to a set of propositions. Faith in the Bible refers to a relationship of trust and dependence on a person. To be sure, if you don't believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you're not going to give Him your trust and obedience, because you don't believe that He is alive. Logically, the proposition "Jesus rose from the dead" is prerequisite to "I love Him and trust Him", but experientially and spiritually the love and trust in Him are much more important.
Salvation is described in various ways: deliverance from hell; forgiveness of sins; going to heaven; being freed from slavery; and so on. All of these are true as far as they go. But the core of salvation is the experience of union with God, and the Bible and the Christian Tradition tell us that that experience is not to be deferred to the afterlife, but that we can begin to experience it in this life as well. It may seem that the Bible is more concerned with sin and its forgiveness than with mystical union with God, but that is because sin is our immediate problem, and it is sin that is preventing us from experiencing union with God.
Sin is the reason we need salvation; and the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are how our salvation has been accomplished. So far, Christianity may be called both historical and propositional. But when we turn to the question of what it means to be saved, how salvation changes us, and what kind of life we are being saved for, Christianity turns decidedly mystical.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:46 PM
A postscript: Perhaps the supreme example of not trusting our senses is the Eucharist. My senses tell me one thing, my faith another. If I must choose between them, I choose faith, God willing.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:30 AM
Bill Mahrer’s constant boast is that he "keeps it real". The bible is replete with cases of the seeming real or the expected not being perceived or happening. It is a constant thread that what we deem real is not real at all. Is it not funny that after the Resurrection Jesus was not recognized even by those most close to Him. How perfect is that? Is that not an exclamation point on the intangibility of God, and how he determines when we see Him and when we don’t? Was there a better way to tell us not to trust our senses?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:06 AM
Damp Georgian earth,
what claims lay still-born
in your red clay pining?
Brave and Blood-staunched men
lay singeing in autumnal heat;
Bare-backed riders sing songs of loss of woe of misery
while ghosts wonder why
the Lost Cause be elegiac
while Grant's prosaic.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:04 AM
Just because...
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:19 PM
October 7, 2002
Stop me before I...
via Kat Lively, via someone else, via someone else, we see a new form of blogger "comedy" developing, that of taking old songs and imaging slightly re-worded sequels (answers below):
- MacArthur's Green Environment in an Urban Setting
- Could it be the Whiskey
- One Silvery Metallic Element Obtained Chiefly from Cassiterite Soldier
- Scarlet and Saffron
- I am strongly attached to Rock 'n Roll
- Silk-ear'd Sam
- Girl Named Bob
- By the Time I Get to Alberta
One Tin Soldier, MacArther's Park, Could it be the Magic, Crimson & Clover, I Love Rock 'n Roll, Cotton-eye Joe, Boy Named Sue, By the Time I get to Phoenix. Sorry you had to see this.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:21 PM
The angel of the Lord seized his head and carried him off by the hair to Babylon where he set Habakkuk down on the edge of the pit. ‘Daniel, Daniel,’ Habakkuk shouted, ‘take the meal that God has sent you.’ And Daniel said, ‘You have kept me in mind, O God; you have not deserted those who love you’. Rising to his feet he ate the meal.
- Daniel 14:31-42
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:11 AM
One need but look
at slack-jaw'd cowboys
at the local strip-joint
hard, steely souls
impervious to wonder
suddenly transfixed, meditating
before the altar of perceived holiness
an appreciation rarely felt.
You could depend upon it:
the little-boyness
of awe and appreciation
when images of untethered breasts
hang like notions of free gifts
in the air.
How to substitute these free gifts
for lasting ones?
How to find wonder and appreciation
when the muscle memory
still holds
to the flesh's siren calls?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:08 AM
I may have this wrong but...
A non-Catholic I know says that life is hard enough, and neither the Church nor individuals should make it harder for us or themselves. Thus the Church is condemned for its birth control decision, because it undeniably makes it harder for people to have unrestricted sex. And saints who wore hair-shirts or flogged themselves are also condemned by her (didn’t John the Baptist wear a hairshirt and eat locusts spritzed with honey?) The thing that is missing here, I think, is that the unbelieveable inter-connectedness of creation. The unbelieveable but true thing is that a monk wearing a hairshirt and fasting is somehow doing us good. Their prayers and sacrifice help us slackers in some mysterious, mystical way. To use a gross analogy, it’s like an economy and you’ve got one guy spending like crazy, making for more jobs and higher wages for many. Jesus is the ultimate example of this, of course. Jesus’ death on the cross would make no sense if it weren’t that his suffering somehow "made up" for other people’s sins. His death did not seem to help people directly, anymore than a monk starving himself would. It’s a great unseen economy.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:04 AM
"Brewed in accordance with
the German Purity Law of 1516"
reverently sayeth the dark bottle.
Ensue the hearty laugh!
Ironic, at least,
these Germans,
adorers of order and obedience
would produce
rebellious Luther and sulpherous Nietzche
Does a love of order
produces its opposite?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 8:54 AM
Saw Flos Carmeli's comments on the devil, and it is true the devil is inestimately clever, which is why I shy away from acceptance of the Medjugorje apparition. Still, true humility would seem to be the one thing the devil could not use. Humility is the weapon we have, because through it we allow God to have power over us and God's power obviously trumps the devil's every time.
By the way, in regards to the Blessed Sacrament: the late Bishop Sheen was asked by Time magazine if there was an unforgiveable sin. They said, "you seem to be pretty there anything unforgiveable?" Bishop Sheen replied, "Desecration of the Blessed Sacrament". I'm convinced that Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a thing we must do.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 6:30 PM
October 4, 2002
Looking Up Words and Etymologies At Random and Segueing Them*
flail he wrote
from Latin’s "flagellum"
meaning to whip to
lupus erythematosus
a disorder of skin irritations
not signaling optimum health
where optimum was born in 1879
quite a semaphore
Greek for signal,
at least if you are spermatozoal:
the motile male gamete
and I think we know what they mean by that.
The schnozzle
is Yiddish for nose
but I wouldn’t fustigate them for it.
call me an Occidentalist:
pertaining to Asia
but not an octapeptide
a late-bloomer in 1961
protein fragment with eight chained amino acids
a place of ridotto?
From 1722, a public entertainment of music and dancing
yeah baby watch those peptides dance!
* written with dictionary in hand, springing from piquant word to piquant word and attempting segues.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:35 PM
Inscription in our vestibule
If you are willing to bear serenely the trial of being displeasing to yourself, you will be to Jesus a pleasant place of shelter. - St. Therese
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:53 AM
PostScript on the Medjugorje
Flos Carmeli blogged about my post on Medjugorje. What I said to my mother, immediately, was that prayer is not 100% efficiacious, in the sense that the Pharisees were great pray-ers but to little effect, given that the Gentiles "would enter the Kingdom before you". But I felt a little uncomfortable "dissing" prayer, especially given the presumably fervent prayer inspired by a direct message from Mary might induce. So I jotted that post out asking not for opinions if the apparation is true or false but asking to what extent can the devil use good means to a foul end? Just about everything but prayer and fasting, one would think. But, as I told my mom, prayer can lead to self-righteousness in the sense of thinking oneself better than those "others" who don't pray. Perhaps the answer is this: everything but humility. If the Medjugorje messages said, "humble yourselves before your family & neighbor" instead of the unceasing requests to pray, perhaps that would be off-limits as a demonic strategy.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:30 AM
"Thought and language are metaphysical, and [Stanley] Jaki loves to quote E.A. Burtt's assertion that 'the only way to avoid metaphysics is to say nothing'."
-from a review by M.D. Aeschliman in National Review of A Mind's Matter: An Intellectual Autobiography by Stanley L. Jaki
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:00 AM
Had remarkable experience at the BookPhil, a used bookstore in a house downtown. Outside was a sign saying "All Welcome except Christina Johnson who CHARACTER ASSASSINATED me at a city council meeting and …..". But like all stories, this had another side. In person, her bitterness was obviously directed at somebody other than Christina – her ex-husband. The books were cheap, but the conversation dear. She divorced her husband of 37 years because he was reclusive and anti-social. He would not talk or give money to his children or grand-children. When she wanted to show books to a customer, he would ask her to tell him when so he would not be there. She called her 91-year old mother in Britain if it was okay to divorce him and she gave her okay, saying times have changed.
Is there an inverse relationship between intelligence and kindness to strangers? The man was brilliant, but also brilliantly self-centered. He had a heroic career in the British air force during WWII and has many inventions to his credit. But what does it credit a man to gain the whole world but....
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 8:57 AM
"How much noticing could I permit myself without driving myself round the bend? Too much noticing and I was too self-conscious to live; I trapped and paralyzed myself, and dragged my friends down with me, so we couldn't meet each other's eyes, my own loud awareness damning us both. Too little noticing though - I would risk much to avoid this - and I would miss the whole show. I would wake on my deathbed and say, 'what was that?'."
- Annie Dilliard, on her childhood.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 8:56 AM
My mother's devotion to Medjugorje is nearly unbounded. The messages from Mary are treated as gospel, the messages from our Holy Father as "purely human invention" in her view. But, if it be truly the Blessed Mother, who can blame her really? Just as the direct words of Jesus have a greater authority and suasion than Paul's, so would the Mother of God. I read a secular website that said that the modern Church reforms herself not by papal proclamations but by Marian apparations. Lourdes and Fatima have done more for the faith than most any Catholic leader. This secular site says that what matters most for the Church is not the identity of the next pope, but the next huge Marian apparation that the Church recognizes. It could be Medjugorje, or another. Perhaps one that hasn't begun yet.
So she is convinced the manifestations are of a supernatural order, and concedes they could be satanic. But if that were the case, why would the devil urge prayer and fasting on us? A strange means to a diabolic end.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:17 AM
October 3, 2002
Interesting and well-written poem from Flos Carmeli. I recall Baudrillard's comment about our society having a sort of simulacrum fetish; "everything now is destined to reappear as simulation." Not sure if I mentioned it before, but a friend in his mid-30s is back in law school and is a little surprised at how well-endowed nearly all the co-eds are now. Perhaps a combination of augmentation surgery and the "wonder" bra. I think number two on the list of all plastic surgeries is augmentation. What does that say about us? Is a silicon implant not a simulacrum, an artificial construct? Are we so far from involvement with plastic dolls?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:01 AM
Warning: Spoiler info in this review (though this movie is over a year old):
Saw the movie "The Others" Saturday night, a film heavy-laden with atmosphere of dread and fog machines gone wild. It was worth the price of admission (disclaimer: free in my case) just to see a leading Hollywood actress dressed demurely in long skirts and modest blouses for the most of the film. That was truly shocking. It was also surprising to see Nicole Kidman reading the bible and teaching her children to pray the rosary, even if she had gone mad killed her two children. Hey you take what you can get. My dad's instant analysis was that it was rated "G" for "goofy" and he was right in that the plot mainly concerned a communication problem between the living and the dead – the living wanted the curtains open, the dead wanted them closed. Unfortunately, by the time the dead realized they didn’t need the curtains closed (because the children were dead and no longer reacted poorly to light) it was too late and the living left.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:51 AM
Otis Campbell was probably the most sympathetic and endearing character on the old Andy Griffith show. Otis displayed a firm sense of right and wrong by locking himself up when he had too much to drink. How many of us would send themselves to jail? Sure he had a drinking problem, as well as an anger management problem but Otis was mostly easy-going. He was always the soul of modesty. You never saw Otis thinking he was smarter or better than anyone, not something you could say of Aunt Bee or Barney. Excepting Andy & Opi, is there anyone who doesn’t like Otis best?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:43 PM
October 2, 2002
farm house in the distance with porch light on
On a long ride thru Outskirts, Oh
Hard-pack dust-singes tires
I drink hard-tack sun
eat gravel for breakfast
shit grins
yellow John Deeres go by
mini-dust storms rally
former lives fluff
up spit-fire rain nails dust-ups to
hard-tack ground.
At the end of the long gravel line
unhusked corn lay in hoary piles
klieg-like lanterns of longing
draw this moth:
"No Trespassing" signs
usher utter unattainability.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:32 PM
'But where can we draw water,’
Said Pearse to Connolly,
‘When all the wells are parched away?
O plain as plain can be
There’s nothing but our own red blood
Can make a right Rose Tree.' - W.B. Yeats
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:28 AM
A veritable fertile crescent of bloggings today from the ususal suspects. Flos Carmeli applies hammer to nail when he says about saints: I'm convinced that part of this is because they have become detached from their image of self.
Hard-won distance from self seems often fleeting. Aquinas bluntly said words to the effect that if you care what others think, rather than what God thinks, you are not on the Path. Dorothy Day wrote, God sees Christ, his Son, in us, and loves us. And so we should see Christ in others, and nothing else, and love them. This again, results in cognitive dissonance for me. Getting it in my skull that God sees Christ, his Son, in me. But that is an absolute prerequisite to loving others, for it is in the experience of unconditional love that one can love unconditionally.
During my time of separation from the Church I was not only more lenient with self but more lenient with others. It is natural (that is to say not supernatural), since when one is getting away with something, one wishes and hopes the same for others. If one is withholding something from self, natch he will begrudge those not playing by the rules. We vacilitate between the Prodigal son and the elder brother. The trick is to be an unaccusatory elder brother. Our recent popes, imho, have been vintage non-accusatory elder brothers. John XXIII, Paul VI and our current Pope all are lenient on the discipline side of things, which perhaps during my period of truancy helped bring me back. Something about flies, sugar & vinegar. So I would have a hard time criticizing the Pope.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:47 AM
Remembering the Gallarus Oratory
Galloped their souls
on steeds straight for heav’n
lean sinewed Christians
hell-bent on the goal.
Their Gallarus stones
bore the imprint of faith
impervious and lasting
like alms, prayer and fasting.
Today's quote
An old Italian saying goes: "The situation is hopeless, but not serious".
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:35 AM
I appreciate tackiness as much as the next guy, as long as it's done in good taste. By that I mean "tongue-in-cheek" tackiness or Elvis-tacky, the kind of tackiness that is so over-the-top that we know it's a joke. Give me pink flamingos, a velvet-Elvis or a gaudy beer sign any day. But don't give me fake deers. What happens when money and bad taste meet? You get what we've got - a family of faux deer in the neighbor's yard. The deer are just realistic enough to know that they intend this as an aesthetic improvement, but not so realistic that anybody who's had less than a 12-pack would not know they were fake. Plus they are 'artfully' arranged them, with a doe or buck (I don't wanna know) leading a pack of Bambi's. They are the neighborhood Hezbollah's, art terrorists bent on leveling and degrading our living environment. Everyone crossing Main St. is treated to their display. I wake up with night terrors, drenched in cold sweat, thinking what can I do? I ask myself 'what are the natural predators of artificial deer?' and it hits me - artificial deerhunters! The next day I order full-size plastic statues of a man and two sons, dressed in camoflauge and orange flapjackets, brandishing rifles pointed at the neighbor deer. Hope they don't miss!
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:14 PM
October 1, 2002
There we were, in nostril-hair territory, in the 3rd row of a ten-thousand seat hall for the Garrison Keillor reading. How nice to take that long walk to the 3rd row! We sat in anticipation until he was introduced and walked out on the stage looking a bit dissheveled, like someone getting up from bed and squinting into the morning light. He was dressed Johnny Cash-style in all-black except for white shoestrings and bright red socks.
He would occasionally flip open the right side of his black jacket as if it were a nervous tic, revealing a pocket with some sort of paper in it. (Later he would read from it, paying tribute to a couple celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, unusual in that he is 77 years old, she 67).
His face is truly unusual, like Lurch's on the old Munster's TV show. His features are compacted; nose, mouth and eyes gathered in the low-center of his face with that prominent jutting chin. He said that as a boy he looked like a toad who was changed into a boy only the transformation wasn't quite complete. He seemed gangly, sort of like the headless horseman, with thinish arms and wide hands and shoulders. I couldn't get over the thought that here was a man who got paid, handsomely, for simply putting words on paper.
He started eccentrically, as I think we all hoped, just like you hope your favorite recording star will play the song you've heard on the radio a thousand times just a little bit differently. He came to the front of the stage and suggested we start off singing a song together. He chose "God Bless America". The audience sang while he softly harmonized.
Then the reading from his new book began and he told of the summer he turned 14, and all the words he'd come up with to describe a fart and how amazing that the word "Saturday" had the word 'turd' in it. And it got bawdier. His deep, resonant voice reminded me of Saturdays spent listening to a Prarie Home Company. When the reading we found ourselves singing at his request: "you must remember this...a kiss is still a time goes by." The sentimental old bastard.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:46 PM
Updike quotes
"I think Joyce and Kafka have said the last word on each of the two forms they developed. There's no one to follow them. They're like cats which have licked the plate clean. You've got to dream up another dish if you're to be a writer."
"After the war (first world war), Edith Wharton became distressed by much of the contemporary world and found the nineteenth century 'a blessed refuge from the turmoil and mediocrity of today - like taking sanctuary in a mighty temple'."
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:43 PM
Protestin' ain't what it used to be....gosh, don't you miss the 60s? I watched Michelle Shocked play guitar on C-Span with her primary school-age daughters beating empty milk jugs. The only drugs appeared to be the highly caffeinated beverages of the yuppie college audience...
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:46 PM
Many of my hits...
come via inexpert usage of search engines.
photo of pam tills 2002
terri gross middlebrow
firing line malcolm Muggeridge order video
methinks thou protesteth shakespeare
private anal video
"joseph epstein" chicago -snobbery
"Irish not Gaelic"
I guess I should be thankful more people don't know the secret of the "s and +s.
"Molly, I do declare, would we get anybod' visit 'cept for strangers with their car broke down on I-95?"
"I reckon not, but they're welcome jus' the same!"
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:08 PM
I've been thinking lately about recent divisions within "St. Blog's Parish". Blogging is a mixed bag I think. The problem is that it is a 24-7 controversy-generator because controversy creates hits, and hits are seen (falsely) as a sort of affirmation of our worth. I believe controversy can be good or bad; the openness of the air can help an infected wound and also often brings out truth - but it can also be negative, in that it emphasizes our differences and divides us into camps. St. Thérèse said that God often led people in ways that were not her particular way of choice and she had to accept that. As do we.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:02 PM
Thinking aloud...
On my drive into work I occasionally see Somalia immigrants dressed in their Muslim garb. Before 9/11, they were almost inspiring to me. Their discipline was attractive, and their countercultural attitudes and garb. Imagine, praying five times a day! To drop whatever you're doing...
After 9/11, while I bear no ill-will towards them, I am less impressed. Their culture is no longer that attractive to me. My idle interest of one day going to Syria or Iran and visiting those strange mosques has lessened dramatically. Holiness is charismatic. All else is dross.
I'm sure just as my interest in Islam lessened, non-Catholics are thinking similarly about the Catholic Church. Where once there might've been curiosity and interest in her beauty and depth, the priestly scandal has turned many off. Holiness is evangelistic.
I am a poor sinner, part of the problem instead of the solution. And when people try to tar the Church by saying how unholy her members, I defend her by saying, "would you get rid of the Presidency because of Nixon & Clinton? Would you say that police stations, because some police officers are corrupt, are irrelevant?". True enough, but I sometimes wonder if I am too comfortable in that.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:44 AM
To live of love, -what foolishness she sings!"
So cries the world. "Renounce such idle jov!
Waste not thy perfumes on such trivial things.
In useful arts thy talents now employ!"
To love Thee, Jesus! Ah, this loss is gain;
For all my perfumes no reward seek I.
Quitting the world, I sing in death's sweet pain:
Of love I die!" - Saint Thérèse of Lisieux
Saint Thérèse - Pray for us!
Mother Teresa was always quick to point out that she was named not for the great St. Teresa of Avila, but the little St.Thérèse of the Little Flower.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 5:23 PM
September 30, 2002
Question appropriated from the Livelywriter site:
I don't watch the television show "Survivor," but I did notice they allow each contestant to bring one "luxury item" to the deserted island with them (make-up, a book, etc.). If you were to go to an island for three months, what five "luxury items" would you bring and why?
I'll slightly modify this to what ten books I would bring...
1) Bible (NSRV or New King James...I love the Jerusalem Bible but for the Psalms).
2) Catechism
3) Shakespeare Complete Works
4) "Civil War: A Narrative" - Foote
5) an anthology of poetry
6) "More Matter" - John Updike
7) "Confessions" - Augustine
8) "Habit of Being" - by Flannery O'Connor
9) "Dawn to Decadence" - Barzun
10) William Carrol's History of Christendom
11) Don Quixote - Cervantes
12) "My Cousin, my Gastrinolgist" - Lehner (just kidding!)
I would like to bring something funny by David Lodge...Actually I could probably get by with the four food groups of literature (history, humor, a novel, & spiritual):
Cervantes for humor and novel, Bible for the spiritual, and Foote & Carrol for history.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:19 PM
Sed Contra has the definitive post (given the facts we know) on the Gerard controversy, and says it very convincingly without the rancour of some of the other commentators. A post like that really makes much of the commentary seem like "noise", most especially my own drivel. In fact, I'm going to delete my posts on the subject. They only confuse the issue.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:57 AM
Quotes from the "Long Sunday Read"
aka Verweile doch
Every Sunday I retire to the womb of my library and there, amid the thousand or so volumes, find wisdom where 'ere it lay. These struck me:
Sad and humous from John Toole's Confederacy of Dunces:
'What you mumbling about in there, boy?' his mother asked through the closed door.
'I am praying,' Ignatius answered angrily.
'I think it's wonderful you praying, babe. I been wondering what you do locked up in there all the time.'
'Please go away! Ignatius screamed. 'You're shattering my religious ectasy."
Walker Percy asks in The Last Gentleman
"Is it possible to come to believe in Christ and the whole thing and afterwards be more hateful than before?"
Flannery O'Connor from her letters on beat poets (written in 1959, near their zenith):
"Certainly some revolt against our exaggerated materialism is long overdue. They seem to know a good many of the right things to run away from, but to lack any necessary discipline. They call themselves holy but holiness costs and so far as I can see they pay nothing. It's true that grace is the free gift of God but in order to put yourself in the way of being receptive to it you have to practice self-denial. As long as the beat people abandon themselves to all sensuation satisfactions, on principle, you can't take them for anything but false mystics. A good look at St. John of the Cross makes them all look sick."
And another striking comment:
"If any of my kin take to reading Freud or Dostoevsky in their old age, I am going to leave home..."
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 11:16 AM
Interesting commentary from yesterday's NY Times on why people want to write novels...
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:20 AM
Long criss-cross rows of
cut-path grass
sun-kissed and dew-blissed
long gravel-winding drives
carrying the scent of life
sandalled and happy
full of pregnant meanings
and fullsome silences
meadows ripe for the ransacking
expansive lawns of dotted picnic tables
buttercup’d fields ground-swollen with bees
robed, ribbed grasses heather-high
glib crickets and harrumping toads
while the plaintive horizon hangs
with unshed tears.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 2:10 AM
September 28, 2002
Silly Saturday...a weekly ficitional foray
When I was very young I worked in John Quincy Adams’ administration as a quill-fetcher. My job was to keep the President supplied with quills and ink. "To Patagonia!" he would oft cry, when the demands of the office grew too heavy. "To Patagonia, there my rescue be effected!". When he was especially disturbed he would add, "Get me to my livery!", and to the horses we would fly, scent of clover rising in our nostrils.
Adams would often enough go to Massachusettes where he would find succuor in the clapboard walls of a simple Unitarian church. He would ascend the lectern and read from the Holy Books.
He regularly called former President Monroe for advice and counsel. Often it was for betting advice. The greyhounds ran every Thursday, and he knew little about dogs. Monroe’s clipped British accent gave away his patrician background. He was of the last vestige of the founders while Adams was part of the next generation. Adams always thought the accent was feigned and resented it.
I rubbed shoulders with Calhoun and Clay by way of Adams. Not to mention his crotchety old father who thumbed Thucydides greedily, cider at his elbow. Calhoun loomed as a bellicose presence, smart as a whip, with a deep, resourceful pride that occasionally frothed like a oil spigot. Clay was more concillatory. Clay’s eye for the ladies once got him in trouble. He said "physical intimacy, like political office, should not be sought, nor declined". His wife pulled a Ruth Buzzi on him after that, and women had lots more in their purses back then (folded-up hoop skirts are extremely heavy).
Calhoun’s wounded, deep-set eyes put fear in me. "Slavery is natural. The ancient Greeks and the Roman Republic both had slavery". I shuddered - if he thought that way, how could not the entire South?
"If this brilliant Yale-educated Southern leader feels this way.." Adams’ voice trailed off. "Oh why must all the great orators be Southern?".
I mumbled something about the nature of the Cavalier culture and the oral tradition of the South but I soon gathered it was merely a rhetorical question.
"The devil’s greatest ploy is to convince that ‘it is natural’," I said. "That is the most compelling of his lies."
Adams played with the stubble of his chin-beard.
"Yes, men are comfortable with the natural, feeling it from God and therefore without culpability."
"Conveniently ignoring the Fall, of course."
"Yes…forgetting that what feels natural to fallen man is different from the natural to prelapsarian Man..My you are a precocious one. How old are you?"
"I’ll be ten next month."
"My word."
We lapsed into a thoughtful silence while he chewed his fine Virginian cigar.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 1:22 AM
I think of the pagans
their Norse mythologies
like children coloring
drawings sometimes resembling truth.
They who've not the Light mutely ask
'why should they have difficulties'?
Rich in Revelation
but never satisfied
expecting push-button answers
and neon clarity
and hard-slate certainities.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:13 PM
September 27, 2002
Poetry Friday
Beneath branches
Mystic of the mesotherm,
watcher of north wind darkening day,
he walks beneath arching branches;
a folly of leaves paves his path :
trees blush,
as if his will brought boorish gusts to bear upon this place
and rendered it repentant, rougissant --
his hope hastened hither the tempers of wuther and whack,
of botherbuss and bluster :
declamations of the light's decline.
- © 1991, 2002 by dylan_tm618
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:04 PM
Boffo quotes from GS's Blog
In heaven there are no upright, successful types who, by dint of their own integrity, have been accepted into the great country club in the sky. There are only failures, only those who have accepted their death in their sins and who have been raised up by the King who himself died that they might live. -Robert Farrar Capon
Any soul, even laden with sins, captive in its vices, held by its pleasure, imprisoned in its exile, locked up in its body, nailed to its worries, distracted by its concerns, frozen by its fears, struck by manifold sufferings, going from error to error, eaten up by anxiety, ravaged by suspicion, a stranger in a strange land, and counted with those who go down to hell -- every soul, I say, in spite of its damnation and despair, can still find reasons not only to hope for forgiveness and mercy but even dare to aspire to the nuptials of the Word: as long as it does not dare to sign a covenant with God, and to place itself under the yoke of love.... For the Bridegroom is not only a lover: he is Love. You will say: yes, but also is he not honor? Some affirm this: as to myself, I never read anything of that kind. I have read that God is Love. - St Bernard.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 2:42 PM
I can still hear, faintly but hauntingly, the faith profession of Sean Roberts of Swimming the Tiber, reciting the Nicene Creed to his parents. Hard not to get a lump in one's throat. Prepared with notes he'd written, including: I want you to know that the church believes, and I believe in a way that I never before thought possible, in [at this point, recite the Apostles Creed].
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:43 AM
Eucharistic Adoration - the Answer?
The earliest records of the Blessed Sacrament being preserved in the Church are from the 4th century. By the 8th century the practice spanned continents and cultures.
St. Francis is credited with beginning adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass in an attempt to draw the faithful's attention to the abiding presence of Christ dwelling among us....In more recent times, Mother Theresa was a strong advocate of Eucharistic Adoration and felt very strongly that it was a means of conversion and reform....There are youth movements that have adopted the Eucharistic Adoration as a focus for conversion and holiness... - from our church newsletter
Uh, St. Francis....Mother Teresa...? Can any spiritual practice have a better pedigree? I'm convinced. Sign me up! I think this is the answer - the balm of Gilead. In some ways I feel closer during E.A. than the Eucharist because of the quiet and privacy and length of time given during EA as compared to the Mass.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 9:21 AM
Poem Found at the Confluence of Fotos & Babelfish*
evocative of their childhood chaqueña
in the gallery of Flowery street 681
in the center of Buenos Aires
lowering the stairs
by the general have gone away by clouds
but serves to appreciate of what treats.
I ran into one of those gratuitous recitales
with a conjuntito of tango
those "bitter" cortazianos personages
apostatized of the humanity and the cosmos
as consolation and psychic food
to prevail and to affect, through the elegance
of here cerquita and yesterday just
to ayunar as God commands.
- Hernan Gonzalez and TS O'Rama
* - while putting Fotos del Apocalipsis' site thru the BabelFish translator, I came upon wonderously strange, fragrant phrases that have a certain innocent brokenness to them while also possessing the exoticness of the foreign (i.e. the occasional untranslateable word which often enough "fits" anyway). None of the words in the poem are my own; only the arrangement of the phrases.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:41 PM
September 26, 2002
Beating the EWTN horse...groaners for all
20,000 Leagues under the (Holy) See
Modernist on a Hot Tin Roof
I Love St. Lucy
Gone With the Second Vatican Council
Coal Miner's Lay Aposolate
Swiss Guards: Men in Tights
That horse must be glue by now.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 10:34 AM
Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13 & Prov. 3:27
Like a stream is the king's heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases him, he directs it.
To do what is right and just is more acceptable than sacrifice.
Refuse no one the good on which he/she has a claim . . .
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:55 PM
September 25, 2002
There are probably words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. - Thoreau
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:50 PM
For a friend, whose rather eccentric definition of life is that "which cannot be frozen and unfrozen and live."
Geneticist Lejeune talk at the Louisiana State Legislature.
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 3:42 PM
Gems from C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain"
The golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for the eye to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance 'makes heaven drowsy with the harmony'.
Always it has summoned you out of yourself...if you attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you. 'The door into life generally opens behind us', and 'the only wisdom' for one 'haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work' (G. MacDonald). This secret fire goes out when you use the bellows: bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, and then it will blaze.
"God loveth not Himself as Himself but as Goodness; and if there were aught better than God, He would love that and not Himself" (Theol. Germ., XXXII)
- CS Lewis, "The Problem of Pain"
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 12:58 PM
Methinks the Americanist Protesteth Too Much
The contraception discussion on Amy's blog is riveting. I can add little other than:
* That something was prohibited for the wrong reasons does not necessarily mean that what was prohibited was not prohibitive (in God's eye). Ha. In other words, the reasoning behind decision-making is not binding, while the dogma is. I'm unsympathetic to attempts to say that JPIIs reasoning for sticking with NFP is that he would have to admit the Church was "wrong". God writes straight with crooked lines.
* I'm also unsympathetic to those who would say that the Church contradicted herself. To those outside the Christian faith, the bible appears to be contradictory. It's not surprising the Church would appear to also, to those outside the fold. In fact, we should expect that. God allows the free will of even popes to extend to the very cliff-edge of apostasy. The fact that there are 20,000 Christian denominations suggests the bible is not patently obvious. Why should we be shocked that Church teachings are not patently obvious?
posted by Thomas O'Rama @ 4:57 PM
September 23, 2002
Interesting post from Dappled Things on the liturgical
obedience of Americans versus Europeans.
That is the liturgical ideal (and maybe I'll blog on
that some other day). In a perfect situation, that's
what would happen. I think my problem (one shared by
plenty of American Catholics of whatever stripe) was
to absolutize that ideal and to forget that the
Liturgy exists in the midst of a living People who
have lived the Mass for centuries.
There is a funny book (bestseller in Italy) by an
Italian who is quite familiar with the U.S. and writes
about the "culture shock". He says that what amazed
him was how seriously and innocently Americans treat
traffic signs and laws. He says that in Italy, every
law, stop sign, traffic light is to be individually
interpreted. The Italian (and perhaps this is a
European trait) considers if this red stop light is
meant for him personally and for this situation. If
there is no traffic, he rides on thru. The author is
amazed that Americans wait at red lights even though
there is no traffic.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:37 AM
Flos Carmeli has a nice review of Amy Welborn's "Book
of Saints". I recently bought this book for my niece.
I hope she likes it.
There was a time my stepson wouldn't pick up the bible
or CS Lewis or Chesterton or anything with the "taint"
of religion, he would and did pick up a book on
saints. He had watched a movie about a saint and
became interested enough to peruse my library and,
without any prompting from me (though surely the Holy
Spirit), he picked up and read one of my books on
saints. The attraction, of course, is their idealism
and uncompromising love for God as shown by their
actions. That is so attractive in this world of
political expediency and "reasonableness". The
authenticity is what he thirsts for, and the saints
had it.
But if we're honest I think there's also a gothic
element in many saint's books that can make the
stories intrinsically interesting to today's kids. By
gothic, I mean some of the more purient martyr stories
that involve violence - the flaying of the flesh or
repeated attempts to kill, etc. Those stories will
grab the interest of kids - as does the exhibition of
saint's relics. I haven't read Amy's book yet, but I
hope she hasn't "tamed down" the stories and removed
the more estoteric, even weird stuff since that may
attract the kids initially. As I recall, "Butler's
Lives of Saints" didn't pull any punches. But what do
I know? Amy taught school for years and is more hip to
what kids want than me!
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:47 AM
Another Der-Hovanessian Offering
How to Grow a Sailor
Let the children be held
Around the waist
As they float on placid
Water. Let them shout:
Let go. Let go,
Full of trust
Of liquid light.
Let them grow up
In love with depth
And mystery. Let them
Float over nights
Raked by a metallic moon.
Let them go to sleep
Hearing old stories
Of islands reached
Only by full blown sails.
- Diana Der-Hovanessian
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:30 AM
Tell me, what precisely is the magic that adheres to
the phrase "place to myself"? And why when I do a
search on Google, it returns over 19 screen-full of
hits? Is there some message in that? Do we desperately
seek family only in order to relish the few times we
have the "place to ourselves"?
First 20 or so Example of Google Hits on the phrase
"place to myself":
I nearly had the place to myself
I had the whole place to myself.
I am looking for a room of my own in a shared place or
a place to myself
by chain of events I did have the place to myself
I have the place to myself
I almost had the place to myself
I'm at home with the place to myself
had the entire place to myself
But I finally, for the first time in...EVER, I have a
place to myself
And again I had the place to myself
And then I think, "I have this place to myself", and I
start to feel much better.
I am back to having the place to myself
I was in luck, I had the place to myself.
I FINALLY have my place to myself
After a while, I'll forget what it was like to have
the place to myself
I know exactly how you were feeling, I love when I
have the place to myself and I make it clean and it
smells good and my dinner is for me, big salad, YUM.
Of course, I've had the place to myself all summer,
but I still really love that.
Luckily, I had the place to myself
Not that I don't want a boyfriend, but at the same
time it's nice to have the place to myself...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:46 AM
September 21, 2002
One of the more inane yet joyous-songs of all time?
"I love to laugh" - from the Mary Poppins soundtrack.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:18 AM
On our dog Obi (aka 'Budja') in the Water*
No more a weirder sight than Budja, with his thick,
muscular 100lb body, furiously defying sinking in the
water. No more odd sight than our doggie in a strange
environment, left to his own instinctive devices,
there in mid-Lake Hope.
Yet there he be, big as life, surfing the surface,
attemping to levitate his ungainly dog-body atop the
Looks like he’s working too hard, I feel sorry for
him. He’s huffing and puffing, stream-linin’ towards
you like a bead on a wire, but then abruptly he turns
tail and runs back to shore like his lungs are burnin’
or something.
But I recall his flared nostrils coming at me like two
steam engines and how cool it was that he seemed
"worried" that daddy was too far in Lake Hope. Dang, I
thought, he’s worse than Mom.
So there was Budj, not content with a duckless lake,
still ready to go aquatic, pacing the ship’s bow &
stern like a nervous new father.
Budj in the water is like a football player on a
baseball diamond, like a professional wrestler in a
ballet, like a guitar at the symphony. Yet his
enthusiasm was enough to carry the day.
* - self-indulgent post alert
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:17 AM
The View from the Core has a good post on comments.
I have no tolerance whatever for blogroaches.
I agree. I cringe at some of the mean-spirited
comments on Amy's blog & others. Fortunately, some of
the more "tidepool" blogs have an audience who don't
seem as intent on shedding heat...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:35 PM
September 20, 2002
A Ninth Century Irish Poem:
The Scholar and his Cat
I and Pangur Ban my cat
‘tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night
Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will
He too plies his simple skill.
‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.
Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in it’s net.
‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.
When a mouse darts from its den
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!
So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
in our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.
Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light. - anonymous
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:12 PM
Nihil Obstat Take Note
....or how two egregious misspellings could change the
There is, at least in the Google universe, only one
website which contains the misspelled words
'languoruous' and 'appropos'. This one. And this was
the pathway of one visitor, who apparently likes to
spell things the way I do, and who just might've
clicked on Flos or Disputations or Dylan, or who
might've clicked on Peter Kreeft's site and become a
convert to Christianity, sired a devout son who became
a priest - a priest who eventually became the first
Pope from America, which led to the conversion of the
U.S., which led to a revival in Europe, which led
Or maybe he just said, 'what the...' and clicked away
thinking, 'that dude can't spell'.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:07 PM
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:00 AM
By way of preface, this poet writes about the little
known holocaust of Armenia and ensuing diaspora when
thousands of children became orphans and the skies
were littered with the ashes of burning books - used
for fuel.
’What day will you have back again’
Antranig Zarougian wrote,
‘on your dying day,
if it were given, if it were given
to relive again?"
"Not my wedding day,
he answered himself. "Not the day
of the birth of my child.
Not the hour of my greatest success.
But one day from my lost
Childhood. Any day."
"Don’t choose a special day"
Thornton Wilder advised.
"An ordinary day
will be extraordinary enough."
And this is the day,
Driving rolling along
Not cut down, smiling in the sun
The day we’ll have back.
by Diana Der-Hovanessian
I found a book of this poet in the "Gotham Book Mart"
(with the slogan 'Wise Men Fish Here') in the diamond
district of Manhattan. She is wonderful; I'll have to
share more.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:49 PM
September 19, 2002
I love the name of this blog:
There's a sort of oxymoronic quality to it. And do you
get more Irish than "Maureen O'Brien"? Sounds like
something out of The Quiet Man.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:30 PM
John Fiesole of Disputations has an intriguing
The Fiesole Policy is simply this:
I am wiser than the people I am older than.
It recalls the old saying: "Young men say more than
they know. The middle-aged tell what they know. Old
men tell less than they know."
Think of the advantages of being young and stupid. You
are constantly learning! And everyone you meet has
something to offer you. (We've all met persons with a
sub-70 IQ with beatific smiles, who are
preternaturally nice and likewise know a few high-IQ
curmugeons.) With knowledge and age comes a greater
demand for virtue, in the sense that you are in a
position of giving rather than receiving. I'm not sure
there is anything I can offer our learned Dominican,
Fr. Hayes conversationally speaking. I can't give him
some insight into the gospel he hasn't heard before,
or some piece of wisdom he hasn't already read. If we
spoke, it would be either small talk or some pearl of
knowledge from him. In other words, I am dependent on
his largesse in terms of sitting down and having a
conversation. He must either suffer my small talk or
suffer a question he's already heard a million times.
A friend of mine still hangs out with singles who are
a few years younger than him. He eats lunch with them
once a month, but says he really doesn't want to
anymore. The conversation is banal. "All they talk
about is where they are going, where they just were or
who they are meeting later this week. Or celebrities."
The universe of "interesting things" seems to shrink
as one ages, since my friend (and I commiserate) can
no longer feign interest in the latest sitcom.
Religion tends to dwarf other subjects of interest
such as sports. But are we not poorer for having less
in common with our fellow man, even if it is fluff?
Natural affection wanes and true love must take its
"I went to a doctor of philosophy
with a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his
he never did marry
or see a B-grade movie
he graded my performance
I swear he could see through me - Indigo Girls song
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:52 PM
How we can know the way A Greek philosopher, (and the
usual Chinese wise person of histories...) would have
answered something as "there is no a way" or "you must
find it yourself", etc. Or simple and a humble "I
don't know'". Jesus however says this enormidad: "I am
the way, the truth and the life "answering Thomas..
and Pilate, and all. (excuse the Spanglish) from fotos
del apocalipsis
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:37 AM
Interesting comment on the Mother Blog (Amy)
[Sullivan writes] -"Personally, I've never been
embarassed by the presence of physical miracles in the
Gospels and believe them. But my own faith certainly
doesn't rest on the need for such manifestations of
divine power. For growing numbers of people, however,
miracles are integral to the conversion experience and
the lived faith. Just as in Jesus' time."
Another quotation comes to mind: "The jews want a
sign; the greeks demand wisdom." Like Sullivan, I find
myself in the greek camp on this and think the Church
provides wisdom sufficient for faith.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:34 AM
TS O'Rama's Email Etiquette
We have a new email policy. Please take note.
All emails will forwarded to a lay committee, who will
determine the intent of the sender and consider how
private the correspondence was intended to be. The
party of the first part (moi) will receive the
recommendation and then review said email - parse it,
interpret it, deconstruct it, re-construct it,
post-construct it - and then make a judgement on its
publishability. An appeals process is still in the
All of this, of course, is contingent on my actually
receiving an email. I'll never forget my first blog
email. I had been bloggin' away for a little over two
months, relishing my lil' tidepool, when my first
email comes across. Whoa! Look at this! With tremblin'
hands I clicked to it and opened it up, wondering what
I might've said that would provoke such an extreme
thing as the sending an email.
"Can you change your background color? It's too dark
for my computer." * to my ears.
* this email transcription was not sent to the lay
committee. All emails prior to Sept 19 08:20:18 GMT
have been grandfathered in.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:33 AM
Great posts from Steven Riddle on various & sundry
.....Scripture no longer is a vehicle for entering into
prayer, it is an elaborate complex of semantic games,
archaeological discussions, historical-critical
methods, and any number of other pieces of scholarly
folderol that serve only to keep me from the core of
what I should be doing. That said, I have to say that
there are many of substantially different personality
who may be able to integrate these things seamlessly
into a glorious and beautiful faith-life.
That is part of my fascination with Scott Hahn and my
own learned Dominican friar Fr. Hayes. They can swim
in the muck and mire of the historical-critical
commentary and come out smilin' on the other side! Of
course one can never judge another's heart, but both
appear to have this wonderful heart-head connection
that Aquinas and Augustine had. How envious I am! That
would seem to be the way it should be, the way we were
designed. Faith and reason side-by-side in glorious
company. On the other hand, if one must choose, choose
the heart! For Aquinas' vision stands as a warning to
us all: all his writings were as straw compared to
Frank Sheed, of "Theology & Sanity" fame had some very
interesting things to say about the knowledge of God
and love of God. I'll have to quote him.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:21 AM
I've read with interest the commentary on Andrew
Sullivan....When my wife and I were practicing
artificial birth control I still received the
Eucharist but always felt "tainted". I felt like there
was something wrong, even though 80% of Catholics use
the pill. Well how much worse must a practicing
homosexual feel! The disconnect must be surreal, so I
can understand Sullivan's desire to have the Church
change. The sex drive cannot be overestimated. It is
often, surreptiously or overtly, the organizing
principle around which our philosophies are arranged.
Thus for the person who is promiscuous the Church is,
definitionally, wrong.
The problem is that we moderns cannot hold together
the fact that something we do regularly could be
intrinsically wrong. It's a problem with authority,
naturally, but it could also be a lack of humility in
not being able to say, "even if I can't personally do
fill-in-the-blank, I will recognize that I am the one
that is wrong and not the Church". A friend laughed
when we started NFP saying, "you'll change your
opinion after your fourth kid", implying not only that
it wouldn't work but that we would change our minds on
the rightness of it. I said that it was true, we might
not be able to handle it, but that it would still be
wrong. But would I? Would I give up the Eucharist in
that case? I would have to recognize that I could not
live up to the standards but not to move the standard.
To be in the state of mortal sin is intolerable, so
perhaps we would all do the same thing - find someone
to tell us what we so long to hear - that we are in
the state of grace.
I have much more of a problem with Garry Wills and
John Cornwall and Fr. McBrien then Andrew Sullivan.
They (presumably) don't have the sex drive in the way.
And their credibility is higher than Sullivan's, who
has honestly admitted his homosexuality and somewhat
undermined his agenda. I empathize with Sullivan -
he's held together somewhat fragilely. His much
publicized bouts of horrible depression must make him
think that sexual activity will keep those demons
Ultimately perhaps it comes down to a lack of trust -
faith - that God will not give us more than we can
handle, as St. Paul says. Second, a belief that
universal norms can be held to universally. And third,
the faith that even if the laws of the Church did not
lead to optimum mental and physical health we still
must follow. A perhaps flippant example of this last
point is when my evangelical friend showed me an
article which said that "looking at woman's breasts
for five to ten minutes a day lowers a man's blood
pressure" and promotes health, wealth, and longevity,
blah-blah-blah. Well that's not an option. And
besides, those studies are always wrong.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:54 AM
Powerful Advice from Justin @
"It is a simple fact. If you study apologetics for too
long without the proper frame of mind, your
relationship with God goes to the dumps! Don't deny
it... you know exactly what I am talking about. Where
God becomes more of something you argue about than a
Being with whom you have a relationship. It is really
sad... REALLY sad. When you read Scripture, instead
soaking in the pure word of God for YOU to grow with,
you search for lofty and profound verses to support
your "argument."
It is at that time that something good, has turned to
a work of Satan Himself! God doesn't want us to know
about Him, He wants us to KNOW Him! At the Grotto in
Portland, every year they have the "Festival of
Lights." Thousands of people come to hear choirs sing
every day from all faith traditions, and to see an
awesome light display... While there a few days before
Chirstmas with my family, we were listening to a chior
from the "Church of Christ." They were very good. Of
course there were many Protestants there. My mother
wispered into my ear, "I wonder what they all think
about the 'Mary stuff'?" At that point I smiled,
looked up at the Blessed Mother, and whispered back,
"Mom... it really doesn't matter what they think about
For a long time now I have found myself moving out of
the "argument" stage of my study; the stage were God
and His teachings are things one simply argues about
and a relationship with Him becomes secondary.
Apologetics can be an Idol... and most let it get to
that stage for a time--even if they don't realize it.
Since the summer, I haven't read one book dealing with
apologetics and very little by way of theology. When I
have read Scripture, it has been simply because God is
in it and He wrote it, so out of love for Him, I want
to know more about Him. I haven't read it with the
desire to "know" the right arguments. Instead, I have
spent time with God and when I read, I read the works
of St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St.
Therese, and others who's simplicity and love for God
is FAR more profound than all the books of theology
and apologetics to be found in all the world ....
I would like to recommened to you all a book called,
"The Soul of the Apostolate." It is addressed to those
who engage in evangelization work and it will tear you
down and build you up again. Be Still and Know that He
is God, Justin"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:31 PM
September 18, 2002
Verweile doch, du bist so schön...
Linger awhile, for you are so beautiful.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:32 AM
This is cool - I got linked on this Spanish site! It
appears to be the Paul VI paragraph & the Muggeridge
De un post de TS O'Rama, de Video meliora, proboque;
Deteriora sequor :
.... [el sentido de la oportunidad de Pablo VI]:
promulgar la Humanae Vitae justo en el peor momento de
la historia occidental...
Not only is the author of this site (Hernan) fluent in
at least two languages, but the site design is
extremely attractive (Steve Riddle's is easy on the
eye too).
My stepson is in Mexico (about 40 miles from Mexico
City) for a Spanish-immersion program affiliated with
Ohio State. He'll be there ten weeks...He'll be
visiting the Guadalupe shrine as part of the program,
which just flat out amazes me. I went with a church
group there two years ago, and never in my wildest
dreams did I think my stepson would end up there! He's
not Catholic and struggles with Christianity in
general. Please pray for him and that my poor example
be not an obstacle to his conversion.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:20 AM
Tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me I
- Edgar A. Poe "The Raven"
the Master Egalitarian
To the swamps where knowledge lay
mosquitoes breed and rile
existential questions importune
every itch West Nile.
For thou hast hid these things
from the wise and clever,
yet revealed them unto babes
till thou be our heart's endeavour.
To Humility's seat we go
- for that which once was lost
Knowledge is a spring no more
but carries a humble cost.
Dwelt there in the half-light
sweet Jerusalem's Psalm
dare we demand before the Throne
Gilead's righteous Balm?
I was thinking when I wrote this how we have to submit
our intellect to God, and must accept the perpetual
half-light that even the saints walked in...The fact
that the saints walked in the half-light makes it so
much easier - who am I compared to them?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:14 PM
September 17, 2002
Going thru old writings and found this....imagine if
William F. Buckley had a blog!
Professor Galbraith upbraided me yesterday for my
suggestion that our sojourns to Geneva be shortened to
six weeks. He chided thusly: 'Oh it's to be Denmark on
Tuesday, Belgium on Wednesday, eh?'"
Posted by WFB 2:35pm May 6, 2002
Survived 'Frontier House' on PBS, the premise of which
was to see how three modern families might fare in the
Montana wilds, circa 1880. A thought: Mrs. Glenn could
travel the summer Shakespeare circuit as the Bard's
'Katherina' and be eminently believeable...
Posted by WFB 10:48pm May 5, 2002
Rich and the kids seem to be doing well at NRO. Rich
informs me that he and Mr. Dreher have to shave now
and no longer get carded regularly when purchasing
alcohol. Jonah, like the Beatles, appears to be in his
'dark phase', probably due to his recent marriage to
Yoko. I've been told that even 'serious' adults are
compulsively reading 'The Corner'. Would it be
uncharitable to suggest that they could find a better
use for their time?
Posted by WFB 6:28pm May 5, 2002
Many "blogs" display a disdain for civil discourse
and, to the extent they say anything at all, say it
rather coarsely. This ensilage of words in great
quantities evinces the current 'quantity over quality'
zeitgeist and beg imprecisions such as the use of the
word 'blue' when 'cerulean' is obviously meant. I
intend to ensile my thoughts here as the spirt
Posted by WFB 10:32am May 4, 2002
Buckley had a great affection for British
wit/author/convert Malcom Muggeridge and had him on
his Firing Line show frequently (how's that for a
Muggeridge once wrote:
When the devil makes his offer of the kingdoms of the
earth, it is the bordellos which glow so alluringly to
most of us, not the banks and the counting-houses and
the snow-swept corridors of power . . . Sex is the
mysticism of a materialistic society - in the
beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word;
with its own mysteries...its own sacred texts and
scriptures - the erotica which fall like black atomic
rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us,
stupefying us. To be carnally minded is life!
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:06 PM
Silly Wednesday (one day early)
I'm sitting at my old-fashioned typewriter (or so I
imagine), the one that race-types gorgeously
professional type romantically called "Times New
Roman". Smartly, it creates little artworks called
'characters' out of thin white space; any of 26 of
which when placed in a non-random order communicates
stuff. Amaze-in'!
So here I am, at this old Remington, the kind that
gurgles and pitches, speaks and whirls, jiivvies and
jives at the end of a line…whiiirrrrrl - back to a
fresh white line. All that potential, a line has the
potential of a life, with everyone having the same 26
letters and various punctuations available to them.
With those humble materials, we all fashion a
semblance of order on a blank, vacumous space.
What would Shakespeare think of this? Almost 400 years
have passed since the Bard of Avon scribed his
thoughts painstakingly on parchment with the ink of a
sow's breath, upon the scummy tableau of an animal's
skin. He once sat upon rustic hills of dank England,
breathing the dung of sheep, and producing the most
hallucengic prose man has ever seen - the inky,
fragrant prose that carried the mind off the English
empire to new and heady places.
Note: Obviously the Bard didn't scribble his thoughts
using those media. Merely poetic license!
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:05 PM
Uh..yeah...well I read "David Copperfield" in high
school, man
"Historically the stuff that's sort of rung my
cherries: Socrates' funeral oration, the poetry of
John Donne, the poetry of Richard Crashaw, every once
in a while Shakespeare, although not all that often,
Keats' shorter stuff, Schopenhauer, Descartes'
"Meditations on First Philosophy" and "Discourse on
Method," Kant's "Prolegomena to Any Future
Metaphysic," although the translations are all
terrible, William James' "Varieties of Religious
Experience," Wittgenstein's "Tractatus," Joyce's
"Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," Hemingway --
particularly stuff like in "In Our Time," where you
just go oomph!, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy,
Don DeLillo, A.S. Byatt, Cynthia Ozick--the stories,
especially one called "Levitations," about 25 percent
of the time Pynchon. Donald Barthelme, especially a
story called "The Balloon," which is the first story I
ever read that made me want to be a writer, Tobias
Wolff, Raymond Carver's best stuff -- the really
famous stuff. Steinbeck when he's not beating his
drum, 35 percent of Stephen Crane, "Moby-Dick," "The
Great Gatsby." And, my God, there's poetry. Probably
Phillip Larkin more than anyone else, Louise Glück,
Auden." - David Foster Wallace's reading material
I think to be a serious writer, one has to have been a
serious reader. You are what you read.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:01 PM
This Catholic Writer's conference sounds marvelous!
Ralph McInerny is my hero - why the devil didn't I
go!? A mere two hours from Steubenville and I chose to
camp in the woods, which can be done any old time
(well, short of cold weather).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:27 PM
Bob Greene
Read about columnist Bob Greene's fall from grace via
Nancy Nall. (Is it a tendency among journalists to
become corrosively cynical? To be constantly immersed
in what is sick in society - since virtue doesn't make
news - probably isn't too spiritually healthy. It
dovetails with the idea that our job influences us to
the point where we risk becoming it).
Bob is one of my mother's favorite columnists, and his
seeming innocence and "boy next door" attitude
appeared incompatible with middle-aged forays with
teens. But then looks are always deceiving (eg: the
priest scandal). I don't judge him. There but for
grace go I.
I remember reading a Greene column that lamented how a
sense of wonder evades us as we age. When we were
kids, everything was new and we were capable of being
surprised. The capacity for awe seems so crucial in
keeping us honest, in keeping us from sin. For the
middle-aged and elderly, may God surprise us.
I'm kind of surprised at how large Nancy Nall's
readership is, btw. But heck, Nancy is interesting. I
guess things really exploded for her when featured on
Amy Welborn's site, and now she has at least 100
regular readers, many of them "Amy-Catholics" (like
myself) who have stayed, despite her cynicism and
liberal view of things. Surely there is some jealousy,
given I was able to retain my obscurity even after Amy
linked to me. (There is a sense of anti-climax to this
blog now, as if I had my turn at bat and should step
away gracefully, thankful I got that shot). There is a
certain deliciousness in the objectivity of blogs -
the stats don't lie. I always loved it about baseball
that you could check the back of a baseball card and
tell if someone were a .260 hitter or .290. (I'd love
it if God gave out report cards every week...St. Paul
says we cannot even accurately judge ourselves and I
believe it). Of course all this is pride, pride and
more pride. But as Chris Matthews says, "what is it
that motivates men but competition?". So we should
thank God for low blog stats, because if we care-
unless it be out of concern for His glory - then we
obviously couldn't handle fame, or what passes for
infinitessimal quantities thereof.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:24 PM
"He has always struggled with his sexuality, and deep
down we sense that in a bizzare way he enjoys the
struggle "like the souls in Dante who deliberately
remained within the purifying fire".
- from an Iris Murdoch novel
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:55 PM
Okay I'll admit it. I am a secret fan of Pope Paul VI.
Perhaps because in his indecisiveness I see some of
myself; I can emphasize. This man who was thrust into
the malestrom of it all by good Pope John XXIII and
the Holy Spirit was assigned an extremely difficult
task and he saw it through. I'm reading Hebblethwait's
biography now, and you have to love Paul's humility.
He was so different from our current Holy Father yet
but both are so saintly.
One could say his sense of timing was off; Humane
Vitae was promulgated at just about the worst possible
moment in Western history and the defections from
trust and belief in the Church were massive. But that
he made the decision in the midst of a storm makes it
all the more poignant. He stood like Don Quixote,
making seemingly impossible demands of the late 1960s
moderns. Or perhaps I should say he stood like Christ.
Malcolm Muggeridge wrote:"It was the Catholic Church's
firm stand against contraception and abortion which
finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . As
the Romans treated eating as an end in itself, making
themselves sick in a vomitorium so as to enable them
to return to the table and stuff themselves with more
delicacies, so people now end up in a sort of sexual
vomitorium. The Church's stand is absolutely correct.
It is to its eternal honour that it opposed
contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think,
historically, people will say it was a very gallant
effort to prevent a moral disaster."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:34 AM
On Reading
It could be, then, that we are just starting to
appreciate the potency that reading possesses. It is
an interesting speculation: that the cultural threats
to reading may be, paradoxically, revealing to us its
deeper saving powers. I use the word saving
intentionally here, not because I want to ascribe to
reading some great function of salvation, but because
I want to emphasize one last time the ideas of
transformation and change of state. The movement from
quotidian consciousness into the consciousness
irradiated by artistic vision is analogous to the
awakening to spirituality. The reader's aesthetic
experience is, necessarily, lowercase, at least when
set beside the truly spiritual. But it is marked by
similar recognitions, including a changed relation to
time, a condensation of the sense of significance, an
awareness of a system or structure of meaning,
and--most difficult to account for--a feeling of being
enfolded by something larger, more profound.
Working through these thoughts, I happened upon an
essay called "First Person Singular" by Joseph
Epstein, wherein he cites Goethe as saying that "a
fact of our existence is of value not insofar as it is
true, but insofar as it has something to signify." To
this Epstein adds concisely: "Only in art do all facts
signify." He communicates in seven short words much of
what I have been belaboring here: Facts signify
whenever one believes that existence is intended, that
there are reasons that, as Pascal wrote, reason knows
nothing of. - Sven Birkerts "Readings" &
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:57 AM
"Ravelstein held that examples of great personalities
among scientists were scarce. Great philosophers,
painters, statesmen, lawyers, yes. But great-souled
men in the sciencies are extremely rare. 'It's their
sciences that are great, not the persons.'" -
Ravelstein - Saul Bellow
Ravelstein is actually the late Alan Bloom, professor
at Univ of Chicago and writer of "The Closing of the
American Mind".
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:53 AM
The Consolations of Rain
I claim to love the change of seasons even though, at
the cost of seasonal symmetry, I wish winter were only
one month long. But just as the surfeit of summer can
eventually tire one, so can the surfeit of religious
consolations and universal Church feast days. I can
understand, more readily, the need for feast and fast
and its alternating rhythm. I believe CS Lewis
suggested in "The Problem of Pain" that it's possible
the physical world exists for metaphorical reasons
only. Thus I should gain a clue from nature. And
nature, over the micro camping trip, told me that
unrelenting good weather is impossible to "live up
to". The weather was surreally good for Ohio; the
quality of sunshine was markedly clearer and the sky
shone with that Westernish blue with nary a cloud. One
cannot be as buoyant as the weather required; desire
is infinite, capacity limited.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:48 AM
The Err503s have been brutal today...I'm thinking this
site should be renamed to Dylan's.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:07 PM
September 16, 2002
Back in the saddle again....
Twas a grand experiment. Two and 1/2 days without
internet, television, radio, music, newspaper...Hiking
and reading mainly. Reading has a sort of insatiable
aspect to it; I read some of Summa Theologica and
couldn't put it down, although I'm not sure I got that
much out of it (the lack being in me). Still, hanging
in the air of those solid volumes was the ineffable
scent of truth. I strove to find the low-hanging
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:19 AM
Google hit
A visitor came by way of the search for "bell curve
for women's belly size". Isn't the internet amazing?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:25 PM
September 15, 2002
Ruminating on Ruminating
Oh to have a two hour block once a week available to
ruminate, to think, to plan, to dream! A block during
which to pull together the disparate threads of our
personality, to recognize our contradictions (dreams
are about such – our desperate nightly gambol to make
sense via nonsense…I see my dog dreaming and wonder
what has him so agitated – the squirrel that got away?
What disparate strands must his dogginess resolve at
the end of the day – that he longs to run free but his
master always has him on a leash?).
Thoreau referred to this block of time as having a
"margin to life", those white borders of emptiness
framing each page of our life script. He longed for a
wide margin, but a thin margin will do. Keeping a
journal is a nightly attempt to ruminate, to organize,
to let go of grievances against others but also
against self. We all attempt consciously or
subconsciously to make our lives artful, which is a
way of saying to make sense of it, to realize that we
are moving forward. To have nothing wasted is the aim
of great art.
Ruminating is especially effective while walking. A
hike in the woods is the perfect setting. Thoreau said
to "trust no thought arrived at sitting down", which
may sound extreme but there is something about the
beauty of the surroundings that provoke one to
appreciation, which is the ultimate aim of rumination.
To appreciate where we are, what we’ve been given and
where we are going. How can we serve God without
appreciation, without thankfulness? If we can get into
our heads His dramatic love for us, then we are
thankful, and if we are thankful then we our more
willing to serve. When we were newly converted, how
easy it was to serve Him and others: we were so
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:35 AM
Interesting article via Gerard: infinite, but our capacity for pleasure is
not. By adapting to ever-richer indulgences, we only
narrow our options for pleasing ourselves. Restraint
may yield higher returns.
But authentic happiness, as Seligman defines it, is
not about maximizing utility or managing our moods.
It’s about outgrowing our obsessive concern with how
we feel. Life in the upper half of one’s set range may
be pleasant, but is it productive or meaningful? Does
it stand for anything beyond itself?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:41 PM
September 11, 2002
I read a post debunking the stigmata in part because
it first occurred (at least in St. Francis' case) on
the hands instead of the wrists. The writer also asked
why it took thirteen centuries to happen, etc..
My two cents is that God is not static and is
constantly capable of surprise with the single
constant goal: winning our love. Thus, it doesn't
surprise me that for 13 centuries no one received the
stigmata since cultures are so different that
something that might repel one culture might attract
another. The stigmata spoke to that medieval culture
in a much more powerful way because that culture
valued the wounds of Christ more, having had the
luxury of centuries of reflection and meditation on
the gospel. It was a gift to that culture. That is not
to say that the middle ages were necessarily "holier"
but just that what moved the holy was different. For
God to have caused the stigmata on the wrists would
have made no sense to medieval people and thus would
not have effected His ultimate purpose - to motivate
us to love him, not to provide scientific evidence.
It's not surprising that Jews near the time of Christ,
for example, might've mis-read who Jesus was since
they understood there was only one God and G*d surely
wouldn't stoop to the level of not only allowing
himself to be named but also possessing a human
nature. Yet the Cross was a dramatic gesture that
motivates millions to a greater love of God, since a
God that suffers for us is a God much more easily
loved than a more deistic one.
Bottom line is that for those open to God, he responds
- in the now and 'just in time' (although he is
outside of time) - to what moves a culture, if they
ask and our receptive.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:42 PM
Perhaps I should mention that I subscribe to the
"Quote Protocol" as established by - forgive me - was
it Disputations or Minute Particulae or? Anyway, they
mentioned that quotes and excerpts are there primarily
because it is something they struggle with, not as
admonishments to the great unwashed masses who read
them. Similarly (especially given this blog's tiny
readership), I often use it for my own purposes and
put quotes or make comments that I don't live up to
precisely because I don't live up to them - i.e. they
are there to remind me.
I've always been an inveterate collector of quotations
(I still have hundreds on index cards at home - I was
pretty anal when I was younger), and so this blog
seems like a nice repository for them (although I
wanted to be able to quickly do a search for a
half-remembered quote on the main page, but because it
loads so slow I had to only show 20 days' history, so
now I have to check archives, etc...I know, life is
tough, get out the violins!).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:20 PM
Here's a quote Steve of Flos Carmeli probably knows,
since he's a fan of St. John:
"To come to the knowledge of all, desire the knowledge
of nothing." – St. John of the Cross
Blogging will recommence next Monday; I will be doing
my Eustace Conway imitation during the interim and
heading for the woods for a long weekend.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:24 AM
I was in a meeting in a large auditorium and in the
middle of it this guy walks up, appropos of nothing,
and hands our Vice President a note....The VP gave it
back to Matt and asked him to tell us. Our curiosity
piqued, he said that New York and the Pentagon were
struck by terrorists: "I know this sounds like a Tom
Clancy novel...but" and then he showed a picture of
the smoking World Trade Ctr buildings on the huge
screen above the stage. Jaws dropped...muffled cries
of surprise. Our shop closed up around noon..At
confession later the priest told me to pray for those
who had no time to prepare themselves. That, not
physical death, is the greatest tragedy, along with,
of course, the many children who will have to grow up
without a parent.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:42 PM
September 10, 2002
pores broke ope
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:33 PM
Fictional Foray
I remember duck-hunting with old Uncle Coot, a
lifelong Norwegian bachelor who, upon hearing of my
impending nuptials, gave me the keys to his old Ford
and said, "run, son. Run like the wind." I didn’t take
him up on it, due to the sedation of my 401K drip and
the near-vesting of company medical benefits.
He said it wasn’t that I sold my soul that bothered
him, it was how easily I’d sold it. A tear came to my
eye the next morn, when in the ebullient May light I
could see the charred edges of our magnolia bushes,
and a big patch of blackened vegetation just beyond
the welcome mat. Coot had been a little tipsy the
night before, his imagination a bit overtaxed, and I
reckon he thought he was out west again, where you can
have campfires in your front yard since your front
yard’s normally a hundred acres.
Uncle Coot didn’t have a social security card or a
birth certificate or anything reeking of beaucracy, so
no one knew how old he was when we celebrated his
birthday. He always used to sneer the lyrics to a
Merle Haggard tune: " keep your retirement, and
your so-called social security.....think I’ll walk off
my steady job today". Coot never held a steady job, or
any job really, so it was kind of ironic when he sang
it, although no one ever pointed that out to Coot. I
thought it was really cool that he could have a blind
spot that big, but then everything about Coot was big.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:21 PM
We don't need no..
Thomas Jefferson thought America would be a good
nation only as long as we were agricultural (in the
small farmer sense) and well-educated. We're neither.
Higher education is falling prey to the same "we're
just here to serve you" malady as the media. Instead
of insisting that "we have something of value that you
need" (as the newspapers should insist), higher
education is saying "what do you want, sweet eighteen
year old?". Grade inflation is rampant at colleges, as
is an elective system run amuck, insuring that a kid
can go through college with nothing but chips on their
shoulders the size of boulders due to immersion in
women's studies & black studies.
*end of old fogey rant*
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:19 PM
"Alas! Where is human nature so weak as in the
book-store! What are mere animal throes to and ragings
compared with the fantasies of taste, of those
yearnings of imagination, of those insatiable
appetites of intellect, which bewilder a student in a
great bookseller’s temptation hall?" – H. Beecher,
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:15 PM
Sublimination, they say, is the answer. Much of the
best art in the world is the product of man’s
sublimated sex drive. I’m not sure I get it.
My initial reaction is that sublimination is writing
with all sorts of "just under the surface" sexual
references, like a hastily dug grave for the newly
entombed ‘lust’. Just a thin covering of topsoil. A
random example: "Summer lay herself at my feet; I sat
entranced as she danced around me, her fulsomeness
exceeding the festooned cups of measure, the sun a
giving lover, reaching around trees and crevices to
evince a brash longing."
None too subtle. But that isn’t really art either. I
guess the answer lay in the fact that sex drive unused
is a potential energy source, energy that can be used
for entirely unrelated purposes. Thus, the boxer
abstains from sex before the big bout. But the saving
of energy is not just physical, it is apparently also
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:13 PM
From the mountains, there cometh my strength
Just finished the riveting book, The Last American Man
by Elizabeth Gilbert, the true story of Eustace Conway
who left his comfortable suburban home at the age of
seventeen and moved into the Appalachian mountains.
For the last 20 years he has lived there. It interests
me on several levels; his unqualified absolutism and
idealism, the effect of constant absorption of the
natural (i.e. God's) world on the pysche, and his
independence, especially his refusal to let the
culture mold him.
We are all, more or less, prisioners of our time and
culture. And the funny thing is how little we realize
that. We don't know what we don't know, and when we
most think we are objective we are often being the
least. This book emphasizes how conformist our culture
Eustace isn't content to live in the woods by himself
- he wants to change the culture (like we do, for a
different reason). And so he holds camps and goes to
schools across the country preaching his simplicity
and 'back to nature' messsage. Check out how this
excerpt resonates (the author is questioning why he
has so little time for what he is preaching):
'Have you ever wondered,' I asked, 'if you might
benefit the world more by actually living the life you
always talk about? I mean, aren't we supposed to live
the most enlightened and honest life we can? And when
our actions contradict our values, don't we just screw
everything up even more?"...
"Whenever I go into schools to teach, I tell people,
'Look, I am not the only person left in this country
who tries to live a natural life in the woods, but
you're never going to meet all those other guys
because they aren't available.' Well I am available.
That's the difference with me. I know I present people
with an image of how I wish I were living. But what
else can I do? I have to put on that act for the
benefit of people.'
'I'm not so sure it's benefiting us, Eustace.'
'But if I lived the quiet and simple life I want, then
who would witness it? Who would be inspired to
Another excerpt:
"What remains after all this activity? That's the
question Walt Whitman once asked. He looked around at
the galloping pace of American life and at the growth
of industry and wondered, 'After you have exhuasted
what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and
so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy,
or permanently wear - what remains'?
And, as ever, dear old Walk gave us the answer:
'Nature remains."
Or God. So it is fascinating watching Eustace's quest,
the quest we all trod in learning over and over again
that all is loss but Him.
A review of the book.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:05 AM
The majority of men are subjective towards themselves
and objective toward all others. But the real task is
in fact to be objective toward oneself and subjective
toward all others. – Kierkegaard
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:41 AM
West Texas forecast, more of the same
sunny & mild, no chance of rain…
The tractor keeps rollin’
the dust rises high
creating the only
cloud in the sky.
He’s prayin’ for rain through a cloud of dust – from
country song by Brad Paisley
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:15 AM
September 9, 2002
Percy on "CA"
The phrase "Catholic Authors" sends a chill up my
spine, given its perfect nexus of two loves. But
"Catholic Authors on Walker Percy" is, as the kids
say, da bomb. (Did I really just say that?). Fr.
McCloskey's show on EWTN features Catholic authors
from Blaise Pascal to C.S. Lewis (stretching the
definition eh?) to the most modern offering - Walker
Walker was one of those rare types who was very
familiar with science and pyschology and at the same
time with St. Thomas Aquinas (having read all of Summa
Theologica). That's a nice combination for our age -
devout Catholic and pyschotherapist. As is Benedict
Groeschel, btw. So I reveled in the half-hour
I liked Walker Percy's analogy of our situation: we
are on a desert island and receive a message in a
bottle. Some of us expect the message to be a
detailed, empirical message that a sociologist would
appreciate. A full understanding of our situation.
Instead the message in the bottle (revelation) speaks
to us very directly with words like "go to the North
shore and wait for a boat". Now that message may be
true or false but speaks to those who understand the
plight they are in - marooned on a desert island. It's
highly relevant to them.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:09 AM
Liked this poem entitled The Wise via Dylan. Reminds
me of this doggrell I once wrote:
Oh the dignity of the dead!
how quiet and decorous
taking neither too much space
or time
ever-gentle, non-complaining
bones giving mute empathy.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:50 AM
Poetry Friday
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true. -
Thomas Aquinas
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:36 PM
September 6, 2002
The fort of Rathangan
Once it was Bruidge’s, it was Cathal’s,
It was Aed’s, it was Ailill’s,
It was Conaing’s, it was Cuiline’s
And it was Maelduin’s;
The fort remains after each in his turn – Kuno Meyer
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:34 PM
'I am a believer in invisible ancestral influences’,
Tom Hayden writes, 'and I imagine that few people of
Irish heritage anywhere in the world do not share that
belief, at least privately.' – NY Times book review
Born to Clan na Gael
near the cliffs of Moher
held fast by the thatch of mud huts
meld with candlewax.
Turf fires smelt peat to matter
indissoluble to Catholic souls
with nothing but the wind to evangelize,
and only our young to catechize.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:26 PM
What Chesterton might say, via Mark Shea.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:29 PM
Speaking of making my head hurt is an email
response to the universe link:
Mr. Smarty-pants physics professor made my head hurt.
So tell me: If a tree falls in the forest, and one
person is there to hear it, but it scares him so bad
he runs headlong into another tree and sustains total
amnesia, but fortunately he has his audio cassette
recorder on and records the sound of the tree falling,
but unfortunately he leaves the tape in his shirt
pocket while he's subsequently in the MRI machine and
the magnetic waves erased most of the tape, but
fortunately the whole episode was caught on videotape
as a potential "Jackass" episode, but unfortunately
the video ended up on the cutting-room floor, and the
editor forgot to remember anything about it later, did
the tree make a sound?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:33 PM
Interesting article on the universe for you science
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:40 PM
More Fodder for Amy's Question: Then Why Bother?
Bill O'Reilly interviewed a Baptist minister who
described himself as "a Baptist who lives in the
south, not a Southern Baptist". He is also a professor
at some posh eastern university/college whatever.
Anyway, they talked about the "hate mail" O'Reilly
received in response to his comments on the Bible. The
Baptist minister sat there nodding his head in
agreement with everything Bill said. Even when he
related how as a child in Catholic school he was
taught that the stories of the Bible are nothing but
allegories meant to tell us that we should be good to
each other. They were in full agreement that the heart
of every religion is to love God and your neighbor as
yourself--as if they had intimate access to the TRUTH
that so many others had missed or want to negate for
their own ends. I just sat with my mouth hanging open
in unbelief at these two men negating the belief
systems of billions and reducing those beliefs down to
a one line truism. O'Reilly is no more representative
of Catholicism than one of my cats. Indeed, either one
of my cats, if he or she could speak English, would
probably make a better apologist than either man I
listened to for cats know that life is more than
merely not fighting with one another or having a
sentimental regard for the Great Cat above, even if
Bill and the Baptist minister don't. - Kathleen Gavlas
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:24 AM
I was in a church in London in 1996 and was struck by
this statue of a woman who lay on the floor either
dead or in a posture of supine obedience. I took a
picture though I didn't know the story behind it or
whom it depicted (St. Cecilia). Then, last year, in
the Catacomb of San Callisto, we came across that
statue, at least another reproduction. Her body was
found in this particular catacomb, a marytr beheaded
during the Roman persecutions. The tour guide explains
that there is a visible line on her neck (symbolism
for how she died) and one of her hands one finger is
pointing (symbolism that there is one God, instead of
the Roman formulation of many gods) and her other hand
holds out three fingers (symbolizing the Trinitarian
three persons in one God).
From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The form is so natural and lifelike, so full of
modesty and grace, that one scarcely needs the
sculptor's testimony graven on the base: "Behold the
body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw
lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble
expressed for thee the same saint in the very same
posture of body." If it were art alone, it would be
consummate art but Cicognara bears witness that in the
perfect simplicity of this work, more unstudied and
flexuous than his other productions, the youthful
sculptor must have been guided solely by the nature of
the object before him, and followed it with unswerving
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:01 PM
September 5, 2002
Quote from priest in EWTN forum:
"Your salvation is in the hands of God. You are asked
to place your faith and hope in that God, who alone
knows your eternal destiny and whom alone you can
totally trust. Thus, there can be no greater certainty
than that in your faith and hope in God saving you.
And remember that the faith and hope are themselves
also gifts from God. There is no purely human
knowledge of one's eternal destiny that can contain
the infinitely greater certainty contained in your
faith and hope through Christ our Lord."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:53 PM
Charity Uber Alles
I don't enjoy these fights about the Cathedral or the
pedophilia issue or any of these "controveries" that
constantly arise. When I join the fray it doesn't
engender any of the "fruits of the Spirit" in me. But
I think some things are worth fighting for, or
discussing, although I tend to think the number of
minds changed is miniscule. Is the L.A. cathedral
important? Maybe, maybe not. Is the pedophilia/bishop
issue? Yes, in my opinion. If the laity had raised
heck about it 10 years ago, I don't think we'd see all
the priest-shuffling we've seen since then and perhaps
a few chldren wouldn't have been molested. Evil
thrives when the good do nothing.
The apologetic debates get mind-numbing. The
Protestant-Catholic debate has been going on for what,
500 years? But if we truly want full communion don't
we at least have to try to present the case that the
Catholic faith is reasonable? Recently a local Baptist
radio host talked ad naseum about the fact that the
Council of Trent damned him to hell by the use of
"anathemna"'s or "curses", and he wanted to know
whether the Church still taught that. If the Church
did, he had us because his listeners would laugh at
the outrageousness of that. If it didn't, then the
Church had changed its teaching and thus infallibility
was nonsense. So I called up and got on with "Pastor
Bob" but I wonder if that was the right thing to do. I
think his show, in the style of Rush Limbaugh, is to
gin up controversy, and I was inadvertently 'feeding
the machine'. Besides, we all know that actions speak
much louder than defenseless words. On the other hand,
isn't it crucial to present both sides?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:24 PM
From the Magnifcat:
Men Fishing in the Arno
"Of secret desires yet keeping a sense
Of order outwardly, hoping
Not too flamboyantly, satisfied with little
Yet not surprised should the river suddenly
Yield a hundredfold, every hunger appeased." -
Elizabeth Jennings
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:16 PM
Hie thee to the Middle
Read an interesting post on the Particulae blog about
the L.A. Cathedral controversy. I think part of the
problem is that modernity has made all art political,
and thus we are all (understandably) hyper-sensitive
to "what are they really trying to say with this?".
We all know what was going on when the tabernacle was
moved off-center, sometimes even out of the church
proper - it was a move to de-emphasize popular piety
and Eucharistic adoration. The thinking went that
piety didn't often translate to holiness or good deeds
or (especially) social justice concerns.
Balance is necessary. What did Hawthorne write?
Something like, "humans say 'yea and nay' but God's
way is in the middle". I butchered the quote but you
get the idea. So we look at the L.A. cathedral with
jaundiced eyes ("Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me
twice - shame on me") because we had been had before -
we know that art makes political and theological
statements and we long for a brave orthodoxy.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:39 AM
Kudos to a fellow blogger (he knows who he is) who
hath retrieved from obscurity - at least for me -
these old-timey words:
* sapient
* bibliophagy
* sobriquet
Aren't words beautiful?
He also mentions a deliciously esoteric-sounding read:
Essential Portuguese Grammar
I've never seen the word "essential" used in proximity
to "Portuguese Grammar" but now I have.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:48 PM
September 4, 2002
the Hidden
I cannot do justice to the bliss that attends getting
even a single string of dialogue or the name of a weed
right. Naming our weeds, in fact, seems to be exactly
where it's at. I've been going out into my acre and
trying to identify the wildflowers along the fringes
with the aid of a book, and it's remarkably difficult
to match reality and diagram. Reality keeps a pace or
two ahead, scribble though we will. If you were to ask
me what the aim of my fiction is it's bringing the
corners forward. Or throwing light into them, if you'd
rather. Singing the hitherto unsung. That's applied
democracy, in my book. And applied Christianity, for
that matter. I distrust books involving spectacular
people, or spectacular events. Let People and The
National Enquirer pander to our taste for the
extraordinary; let literature concern itself, as the
Gospels do, with the inner lives of hidden men. The
collective consciousness that once found itself in the
noble must now rest content with the typical. - John
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:21 PM
On the Drying Qualities of Paint
It's almost midnight and I can't quite turn off
C-Span. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle is doing
his "campaigning by driving around" thing. Every
August he drives the highways and byways of South
Dakota and just talks to people. Sure, it was like
watching paint dry. Sure I was hoping for a miscue of
some sort. I don't know, the sight of Tom Daschle
walking into a 7-11 and looking for a certain type of
"Twizzler" stick was just d*mn compelling, I'm sorry.
So too was his preternatural calm and easy-going
Dakota manner. He mentioned his hobbies and they all
sounded wonderful - he loves being outside, loves to
fish and hunt, loves to read, etc... Not uncommon
interests I know, but they dovetail with mine. And
finally, I just couldn't quite get my arms around the
fact that this gentleman is contently pro-abort. I
mean, he's no Kennedy...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:16 AM
Silly Wednesday*
There, upon my wall, ne’er a finer red pub appeared:
"P . E G A N" it said, writ large in the fine white
letters upon a strip of Eire-green. Fine molded
columns were carved to the left and right, and two
old-fashioned bicycles, one festooned with a wicker
basket, stand in front of the two windows. In the
doorway, a door cut in two with the bottom half
closed, two gents stand in a pose of public house
friendliness. Below the picture a familiar monthly
grid was displayed (February 2001 - I’m a bit behind).
I wonder: what would these two think to find their
cheery non-sober mugs upon the wall of a house in the
middle of Ohio in the middle of the States?
So I asked ‘em. Called ‘em up. Tracked down all the
"P. Egan" pubs I could find through an Irish ad
directory and then called it and asked about the two
chipper fellers. One was a part-time sheep farmer
involved in the "Troubles"; in between pasturing sheep
he smuggled guns to IRA extremists (which is saying a
lot ya know, to some the phrase is redundant).
"What’s yore favorite ale?" I asked, to change the
"Ach, like I the (indescipherable), except on Friday’s
when it’s (indescipherable).".
I called the other one, a younger man, in his mid-30s,
whose hair was still dark and had about him the manner
of the manor. He explained that he liked to go to the
States now & again. I asked whereabouts.
"I’ve been to New York, L.A. But my favorite city is
Columbus, in Ohio".
"How did you know I was from Columbus?"
"I didn’t!"
"Come on. Columbus can’t be your favorite city."
"Why not? The sky is azure between clouds that sit
like pillows. There is a wonderous bronze statue of
Christopher Columbus downtown. His jaw is set like a
martial man, standing athwart history and yelling
‘Go!’. The Scioto river rushes like a colossus over
the landscape, the great southern boundary that
separates a Centre mall from "little Germany". The
city sits like a jewel in the middle of Cornfield,
USA, a megapolis of ‘scrapers rising from the ground
at right-angles."
"But plenty of cities rise out of cornfields at
"I don’t compare to Columbus to Kansas City or
Sacramento. I compare her to the cities near the
Yangtzee in 17th century China I’ve never been to
China or lived in the 1600s, but I’ve seen pictures in
Nat’l Geographic. If you compare fair Columbus to 17th
century China, she looks positively other-worldly."
"How is it that you chose China to compare her to?"
"China, schmina. You’re missing the point completely.
You measure everything, set up elaborate hierarchical
models…you want to know if Ted Williams was a better
hitter than Lou Gehrig and why. You'd be critical of
Jennifer Lopez's toenails."
"Not likely!"
"Ha, you say that now. You’d frown at the wrinkles on
her little toes. See, it’s not about toenails. It’s
that to the extent you see, you do not see. You look
at Columbus, and Lopez, with your eyes, and jaundiced
eyes at that. Sophistication is the paintin’ that
learning puts on tin structures. Still tin underneath,
like the lean-to I lived in outside Boone, North
Carolina. Split an oak to put shingles on it; still
tin underneath. Get it?"
"I think so."
"The radical thing is divine innocence. God’s not
parceling his love out based on the latest numbers
manufactured by angels in the Division of Statistics.
Yes, the hairs on your head are counted but that’s a
different Bureau and is completely independent of the
Quantity of Love Committee."
"Since you brought up the subject of God, did not
Jesus love John the most?"
"Yes, but that was with his human nature. Two natures,
"So what does all this have to do with the price of
tea (near the Yangtzee) in China?"
* - can you guess where the blarney begins?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:03 AM
Labor Day weekend, we hardly knew ye
But oh for those glorious days I was free! I landed in
Casa de’ O'Rama, a little piece of real estate, earned
by merely planting (not a flag) but an ez-folding
chair, and in minutes I was contemplating the lovely
of lovelies, that Waldenesque lake in front of me,
decorated with the summer confetti of tree blossoms. I
sat there in the reverie, beneath shielding tree
limbs, as a soft breeze whispered and Thoreau called.
My bare feet propped atop the cooler, I drifted off to
a wholesome rest before being awakened by marauders
and quiet-thieves, four teenage knaves bent on fishing
and gabbing. I moved along unbothered, there would be
more private shoreline ahead. And so I alighted upon
another part of river, lit a cigar and felt a degree
of ownership never felt when I hike – ownership
conferred merely by a chair.
Down the long path with summer’s glory at the height,
and I could not help feeling that here was an
aesthetic beauty not easily repaced; one cannot easily
imagine being so impressed by winter’s stoicisms. What
would I do without it? Had I become too accustomed to
her charms?
The day was set up by a long, hard run down the bike
path, 45 minutes in the sun, with the headphones
giving reason to dance. I had finished the "Johnson
County War" that morning; late model Westerns being
this dreamer’s delight. It was four hours but could’ve
been four minutes for it’s power to engross. The
combination of variations on the endless theme of good
versus evil and the power of the scenery captivate.
After Mass on Sunday, I read voraciously. "The Last
American Male" is the current read, the true story of
Eustace Conway, who has lived off the land for the
last 20-plus years. Snippets of Kerr’s "Decline of
Pleasure" provided nothing but the latter.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:05 PM
September 3, 2002
How do we get to know [Jesus]? Read the scriptures.
Not just the Mass readings every day, but read the
gospels every day and every night. Did you know that
one of the three general grants of indulgence is for
the reading of scripture--and if that reading is for
more than a half-hour each day the indulgence is
plenary? Such is the power the Church recognizes in
the transformative capabilities of the Word. - sage
advice from Flos Carmeli
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:52 PM
One of the things I was thinking of in the post Amy
linked to was motherhood. That is a practical example,
since motherhood and sanity don't always go together.
I know two elderly women who had the traditional huge
"Catholic" families while paying dearly in terms of
mental health. They were apparently bitterly depressed
and horribly overworked. (Now we take Prozac and have
small families). I wouldn't be here but for the
sacrifice of one of those elderly women.
The Byzantine authors seem to presuppose that good
mental health is a natural by-product of faith but I
don't know. Certainly St. John the Baptist's diet of
locusts couldn't have been the most advantageous
physically - and isn't that the point? That health,
certainly not physically and perhaps not even mental,
is not the most important thing. Radical, but surely a
non-starter in terms of evangelization. That's no
Prayer of Jabez.
The gracious link from the Mother Blog has left me
with heretofore unimaginable numbers of visitors.
Self-indulgent posts like "what I did on (non)Labor
Day" will wait till the tide ebbs.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:58 PM
Love (and write about) Your Enemies?'s hard to give an account of your religious
beliefs without sounding mawkish. William James
understood this. Though he claimed to admire the
pious, in ''The Varieties of Religious Experience'' he
distanced himself from them with an occasional twinkle
of irony. The irony can be detected in the list of
moods he says are indicative of true spirituality:
solemnity, serenity, cheerful gladness, tenderness.
Religious discourse ''favors gravity, not pertness,''
he wrote. ''It says 'hush' to all vain chatter and
smart wit.''
Still pondering this NY Times piece...writers have to
reflect their millieu and environment, sometimes to
their joy? I'm not pointing fingers here, because Lord
knows I'd have nine more pointing at me, but Updike
might be able to write about his joy - sex - and be
able to rightly point out that it is what is on
society's mind and therefore must be "dealt" with it.
If the ending of the story is negative towards
adultery, then he can write his fantasies secure in
the knowledge he has done the Christian service. Dante
was said to have something of an "anger management"
problem and no doubt took a little schadenfreude at
some of the damned he was portraying. Some of his
enemies were thinly disguised indeed. But isn't that
cathartic and isn't each writer 'following his bliss'
and thus producing something beautiful even if the
means might be a little ignoble? "Men of few words are
the best men" . Shakespeare
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:06 PM
September 2, 2002
A Byzantine Perspective
Our Byzantine Catholic parish included a long article
on what is the "real crisis" in the church, and it is
persuasive. I couldn't find it anywhere online but
Hegumen Nicholas and Stavrophore Maximos make the
point that all of us are called to form what St. Peter
refers to as a 'royal priesthood' and points out the
errors in so-called 'conservative' and 'liberal'
There was a time within living memory when the
institutional Church seemed much stronger...The
'conservative' is acutely aware of the comparative
weakness of the current institution. His solution is
to bring the institution back to its former glory by a
program of moral and doctrinal discipline....The
conservative and liberal error in that they both view
the Church primarily as a thing rather than a mystery.
They both tend to see the Church through the prism of
the secular world. Consequently, both are obssessed by
the organization of the Church, especially with the
institutional priesthood...The world can only
comprehend the Church as a means to some end.
Conservatives to make it more moral, liberals to make
it more modern....[The Church] is not a means to an
end. It is the end! The Church is the goal of all
creation: to be incorporated in Christ. Membership in
Christ is a sacramental fact, which is to say, it is a
It is here we face the real priestly crisis.
Christians do not want totally to consecrate their
lives to God. Monasticism and martyrdom are no longer
the models. Instead the models are drawn from secular
systems of moral or pyschological 'improvement', so
that the ideal Christian is no longer seen as the
saint but as either the moral paragon, or perhaps
worse, the well-adjusted person . We do not want to
measure ourselves against eternal life...Moral and
pyschological health are no longer seen in their
correct perspective as indicators of a more profound
sanctity with its roots in eternity. They are viewd as
goals in themselves. It is as though salvation in
Christ was merely designed to make us better or
The ordained priesthood is drawn out of this other
priesthood (that of the laity) and exists to serve it
by ensuring that its holiness becomes concrete in the
lives of Christians.
In other words, we cannot expect the instituitional
priesthood to be holier than the charismatic
priesthood which is its source. The clergy do not
create holiness. At best, they can only express it. If
the people of God prefer not to exercise their
priesthood it is inevitable, and even perhaps
desirable, that all other orders in the Church should
also suffer. The Church can never be reformed purely
as an institution. That would be a terrible curse: to
have a well-functioning organization which will come
to an end with the rest of the world! God has given us
not an institution but a mystery; not a thing that
will finish and die, but a life to be lived eternally.
This view seems dead-on. I posted a quote from
Ratzinger a few days ago (via Mr. Dylan) that pointed
out the constant tendency of humans to see the Church
in strictly moral terms. But morality is not an end in
itself. This Byzantine view is such a healing one
because it recognizes the "reason for the season" -
i.e. everything: Christ.
Lots to discuss & recuss here, but one thing is that I
can see constantly that emphasis on spirituality
'done' for our mental health - as an end in itself.
Some of the saints weren't the most mentally balanced
folks, so that article was telling since our culture
does preach 'health uber alles'. A friend has told me
that she doesn't trust many of the saints because they
were 'crazy'.
And Prayer?
This is interesting to me is where prayer begins being
about "us", our health & happiness and not about
pleasing God. If prayer leads to scrupulosity or
depression, then of course it is not of God and should
be discarded. But if some time of prayer is 'boring'
or is not fun in the sense of focusing on Christ
instead of ourselves and our needs (I'm thinking of
the rosary here, and its mediations on the mysteries)
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:48 AM
I'm intrigued by the fuss raised over Nihil Obstat in
general, and his/her identity specifically. That
blog's popularity somewhat befuddles me. I suppose I
should see the "service" performed by Nihil as a good
thing, given that some readers not sympathetic to the
views expressed in St. Blog's blogs might be put off
by a spelling or grammatical error.
But how we humans love a mystery. Won't there be an
inevitable let-down when their identity is exposed?
Isn't it smart of God not to totally reveal himself
(not that we could absorb it anyway) given that we
love to search?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:15 PM
September 1, 2002
I look on the South Carolina beach...The exhilarating,
ribald sun and sonic waves still jolt. The
sense-memories linger; the canvas bigger than life, a
Vacationers stand fixed, in mid-stride, now miles away
sitting in mundane offices, assuming identities.
Grey-flanned men swimming upstream like death-bound
But there for a minute, sat I. A beach philosopher,
watching the waves. An older gentleman asks:
"Solving the problems of the world?"
"No, my own are enough!"
Taxidermed there on a cube wall, it hangs forlornly,
ripped from context and ghostly pale. An 8' by 10' of
the scene from our balcony, sky empty and
hierarchical, ocean blue and bracing. All pale
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:38 PM
August 30, 2002
Every day and every hour, every minute, walk round
yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image
is a seemly one. You pass by a little child, you pass
by, spiteful, with ugly words, with wrathful heart;
you may not have noticed the child, but he has seen
you, and your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain
in his defenseless heart. You don’t know it, but you
may have sown an evil seed in him and it may grow and
all because you were not careful before the child,
because you did not foster in yourself a careful,
actively benevolent love.
- Dostoyevsky "The Brothers Karamazov" via Simon
Russel's blog
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:30 PM
Touchstone Article
The Thomas Merton article provided by error 503
touched a nerve.
Taking drugs is one of the most self-centered actions
possible. A person can find detachment from the use of
drugs only during the high, and during this time his
ability to reason—the ability that separates him from
the animal, that makes him in God’s image—is faded.
I thought what was bad about drugs is that they do
harm to the human body, both in their addictive
properties (enslaving us) and their physical damage.
Is the high itself bad? I guess it depends on the
extent the drug obscures reason. If it totally and
completely occludes it, I could see that (because you
can no longer be responsible for your actions). But if
it is a partial eclipse, then...? As an aside, I'm not
defending drug use. I simply think that if the thing
about drugs that is wrong is that it impedes reason,
well, other things than drugs do that.
For don't we partially eclipse reason all the time?
Joggers/runners do it on long runs. (The old joke with
much truth goes: after a fight with your wife, go out
for a good run. After 2 miles, you'll forget why it
was so imporant to you, after 5 miles you'll forget
what you were arguing about, after 10 miles you'll
forget you have a wife). Every night, for 7-8 hours,
we shed rational-thinking for sleeping & dreams.
Eve's vast post acknowledges this in the context of
rock music and the validity of the "ecstatic
experience". Sexual activity is sans reason. The use
of alcohol is nearly universal. What separates us from
animals is reason, but nearly all of us intentionally
flee from it (at least partially) at regular
Dappled Things quotes Thomas Merton (speak of the
devil) saying this:
The salvation of man does not mean that he must divest
himself of all that is human: that he must discard his
reason, his love of beauty, his desire for
friendship... A Christianity that despises these
fundamental needs of man is not truly worthy of the
But is it not inhumane to divest oneself of all that
produces detachment in other ways than via love: i.e.
through travel, rock music, physical exercise, etc.?
We are animals too. On Star Trek the most inhuman
person is Spock, whose reason was always unclouded.
Aquinas, who believed bodily pleasures much inferior
to intellectual ones, said:
"Bodily pleasures hinder the use of the mind by
distracting it, occasionally conflicting with it, and
sometimes (as in the pleasure of drinking intoxicants)
by fettering it."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:14 AM
on Contraception and other Controversies
The Church tries to draw lines that allow her
fisherman's net not to be too loose (i.e. to forsake
its mission to save souls and protect the deposit of
faith) and not too tight (thus that souls lose heart),
and those lines are always controversial. The fishies
in the net say, "draw the lines tighter! draw the
lines tighter!" the fish outside the net say, "make
the holes bigger! loosen the net!" Thus alas it has
always been, we flit between being either prodigal
sons or the resentful elder brothers. I think our
present pope, as well as Pope John 23rd, were simply
wonderful at being neither prodigal nor resentful -
they guarded the faith while not unduly offending the
fish outside the net.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:01 PM
August 29, 2002
Visits to this blog have slowly doubled over the past
three months, from "nuclear family-size" numbers to
"slightly extended family size". My still near-total
obscurity allows honesty, since if I say something
stupid I will lose like three readers, whereas a Mark
Shea or an Amy Welborn might lose a hundred. For the
Gen-X'rs out there who think that "authenticity =
obscurity", then welcome to one of the most authentic
places on the web.
Many visitors come this way by putting "Video meliora,
proboque; Deteriora sequor" in the search engine. Go
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:25 PM
Which way to the bathroom?
SR of Flos Carmeli fame says, Go to almost any
protestant Church and you will be made warmly
welcome--in most cases embarrassingly so."
Very true. At the evangelical church my wife goes to,
they nearly jump on & hog tie any stranger they see.
You feel self-conscious, like "red meat". A big fellow
stands at the door like a bouncer, glad-handing as we
Now here's an amazing thing. My wife received a memo
with detailed statistics saying that only 10% of new
visitors actually join the church (something like
that) and so the note says hospitality and initial
greetings must be increased. It's not in the realm of
possibility that the preaching wasn't what they were
looking for, or the music, or the doctrine. The
problem was the people - the congregation isn't
friendly enough. It seems cult-like in its artificial
The document for greeters was 3 pages long and left
nothing to chance. It was on the order of this: "Shake
their hand warmly and enthusiastically for at least 10
seconds. Introduce them to at least four other people.
Invite them afterwards to lunch. Tell them you would
be glad to do their grocery shopping & laundry for
them if they come back." I exaggerate only on the last
one. It was sort of eerie.
If your only goal is church membership, if that is how
you define success, then I can understand their
a) get them in the door - have free car washes, etc...
b) when they get in, introduce them to as many people
as possible, so that they will become fast friends
with one of the members.
c) make sure they have as an emotionally satisfying
experience as possible
I love the Mass. I love the "take it or leave it"-ness
about it. I love the fact that it's all about God:
hearing the word and then consuming the Word. And I
love that it sort of goes on it's timeless way, with
nothing to offer but Christ - little in the way of
music or good preaching. (Obviously I wish the music
and preaching were better, but I love that the Church
doesn't define herself by those). There is a Don
Quixote aspect to the Church. Her refusal to
thoughtlessly modernize, or get rid of priestly
celibacy, or let marketing representatives determine
the liturgy, or to involve itself in cheap advertising
ruses - all that makes me love the Church even more.
It REALLY lives by faith.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:07 PM
Eve Tushnet has an intriguing vast post:
You can't ignore, suppress, or dissolve the passions.
You can only guide them. Even catharsis doesn't really
do the trick--first, because catharsis can sometimes
be simple exhaustion, but second and more importantly,
because catharsis must somehow appeal to the passions
while drawing them toward reason. Thus the end-result
of reason must be continually supported, either by an
ebb-and-flow cycle of catharsis, or by a more constant
attraction toward reason and self-government. In other
words, we have to keep wanting self-government; if we
reason our way there without any emotional forward
thrust, the reasons alone simply won't motivate us
This is one of the many ways rock music can operate:
It can oppose one passion with another. The example
that springs to mind is using pity to oppose lust.
How so?
Reason (ratiocination) isn't the only means of
attaining wisdom. Ecstatic experience is one terrific
way of gaining insight, even if one needs to return
from the ecstasy in order to articulate the insight.
Rock, like other art, is able to "take you places."
Interesting. (So those who took LSD were right after
all - their vehemently telling us they learned
I don't view the emotions as opposed to reason such
that stimulating one necessarily reduces the other. So
perhaps much of my disagreement with Bloom should be
traced to that disagreement.
And that is the key statement. I get a different
feeling from Aquinas, who, although sees pleasure as a
'good', he doesn't like pleasures that fetter the
rational mind, such as an excessive use of alcohol (or
I guess an excessive use of rock music?)... "bodily
pleasures are often more intense than intellectual
pleasures, but they are not so great or so lasting.".
- Aquinas
As I said before, there's also a lot of rock that's
just fun. Some of that fun comes with an admixture of
raunchy or critical or regretful or resentful
elements; I don't ultimately think that matters too
much. Rocking out is about pure physical joy. It's
like running or eating chocolate...bawdiness without
grossness is always fun. No pleasure is really "pure"
in the sense of "unmixed."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:40 AM
I know you're all tired of this...but
If the Pope truly acted like a CEO, he would do
exactly what you said. He would go to the victims, get
some photo-ops, apologize, etc. Click off the
checklist provided by the media to say, "I care" (ala
Bill Clinton). The Pope does care, but he has a wider
perspective than the spoiled American view. We are
used to fast food, fast service, and get on this now!
Personally, I'm glad that the war brewing in the
Middle East and the plight of persecuted Christians in
so many parts of the world get the lion's share of his
attention. - quote Roger Cuomo on Amy's board
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:43 AM
What is prayer? It is commonly held to be a
conversation. In a conversation there are always an
"I" and a "thou" or "you." In this case the "Thou" is
with a capital T. If at first the "I" seems to be the
most important element in prayer, prayer teaches that
the situation is actually different...
Conversion requires convincing of sin... in this
"convincing concerning sin" we discover a double gift:
the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of
the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is
the Consoler. - Pope John Paul II
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:00 AM
I've a bit of Don Quixote in me. I love a good
We seek to have a mission in life. It is bred into our
DNA. He must be a hero or die, preferably at the same
time. "To protect and serve" is the policeman’s motto
but should be everyone's. Listening to Seamus Heany’s
CD of "Beowulf" reminds me of it. We were born to slay
Grendels. To grossly switch metaphors, we were born to
stand at the blackjack table and at some point put the
chips down and say, "this is it. This is where I make
my stand".
Marriage, these days and perhaps always, is an
essentially heroic act. It takes a reliance on God’s
grace that comes close to being imprudent. (Except
with you honey!). Flannery O’Connor said something
about how brave an act marriage is in her book "Habit
of Being". (got to find that quote).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:20 PM
August 28, 2002
I was dramatically underweight as a child and young
adult. Rail-thin, I was good only for cross country
when it came to sports. After college I bulked up, and
for about ten minutes I was in fantastically good
shape. Now I carry an extra 20lbs or more and have for
How easy, in the spiritual life, to be an unrepentant
bastard for a good part of life, and then for 10
minutes be "good", before becoming a self-righteous
prig. From prodigal son to elder brother. Ahh, the
challenge of the spiritual life.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:18 PM
Email Received
The following email represents millions of Catholics.
What can one say? I have a very close relative with
similar views, as I suppose many of you do. How can we
reach out to our disaffected Catholic brothers and
[I'm upset at]..the rejoicing going on on Amy's page
over the priest who refused to marry the Planned
Parenthood worker. Michael, Amy's husband, has
suggested that pro-choice Catholics be excommunicated.
As someone who is pro-choice, this tells me I'm not
welcome in the church. At all. And as someone who once
wrote a check to Planned Parenthood, I guess I'm going
straight to hell
I understand that Catholic hierarchy has decided a
human soul is born at conception, but I'm not so sure.
At any rate, I see it as a matter of faith, not fact
(my Jewish friends are firmly in the choice camp, and
their rabbis back them), and I really don't see what's
wrong with a person making a distinction in their
private lives between their own faith and that of
others. I certainly don't buy every one of the
church's teachings, and I'd bet most Catholics don't,
either. Antonin Scalia doesn't; I wonder if his priest
is leaning on him to get with the program. Bet he
Besides, Planned Parenthood helped me get birth
control when I was a 17-year-old moving toward sex
with my boyfriend. They sat me down and talked to me
about what I wanted and how to make the best decision,
then gave me a medical exam, blood tests and a
prescription for birth-control pills. It's hard for me
to see this as anything other than an act of kindness.
P.S. Partly because of what I learned at Planned
Parenthood (and in my public school, which also taught
birth control), I've never been pregnant accidentally
and have never had an abortion. Amazing how that
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:17 PM
Stop me before I blog again
Cranky Prof sez:
"I have been interested to read the pro and contra
bloggages and comments about Josemaria Escriva - and
that no one brought up any opposition to Padre Pio
when I attended that canonization this summer. Believe
me, there was opposition to Padre Pio inside his order
up to the canonization (and it probably continues).
There was plenty of secular hand-wringing about the
inappropriateness of canonizing wonder-workers in the
modern world and speculations that this pope only
likes to canonize people who are anti-intellectual and
do good works (I think I blogged something about Edith
Stein/Theresa Benedicta of the Cross being a nice
counter-example to that one)."
Okay, let's start off with this: who do the truly
saintly admire most? Answer: perhaps their opposite.
St. Therese of Lieseux wished she were like those
other saints, those martyrs, those who had "big" gifts
to bring Jesus (until she realized she could
symbolically feed all the parts of body of Christ by
being the 'heart' of the Body).
So isn't it natural for John Paul II, who is saintly
and intellectual but not gifted with "wonder-working"
or famous for corporal works of mercy (at least in the
sense as a Mother Teresa) to lean towards canonizing
saints with these attributes? Is not Mother Teresa the
perfect complement to the Pope? One serving secular
needs, one serving spiritual needs, one an
intellectual and poet, the other not, etc...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:54 PM
Isn't it Ironic? think that a blog called Disputations would
remind us of the dangers of a belligerent mindset? Oh
but contraire, I can hear you thinking, to dispute is
not to be belligerent. Chesterton was very good at
that, Belloc not. Is it only special personality types
(or those who grow up in large, boisterous families)
who can agree to disagree without being disagreeable?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:38 PM
Random Thoughts & Commentary
Interesting discussion with my science-loving uncle,
who loathes (too strong a term, but you get the drift)
fundamentalist Christians. Here's a paraphrase of some
of it:
Me: "I think they are wrong, but at least they are
erroring on the right side of things. I would rather
error on the side of attributing to God creating the
earth in seven days and rapturing people up, ending
the world tomorrow, than taking the other side, which
is the danger of thinking God can't act, that He
couldn't end the world tomorrow...In other words, the
greater danger is the intellectual's contentment that
supernatural forces don't exist."
uncle: "If Jesus came back today how many people would
believe him? Probably not many of us. Just the poor,
like back then."
Me: "Actually there were well-off people who believed
in Jesus, like Nicodemus and many of the early
martyrs.... Jesus, after all, backed up what he was
saying with miracles.."
uncle: "He would have to do so in a different way
today." (implying that miracles no longer 'cut it')
This last part reminds me of what Friend B (from
below) thinks of miracles. Pure hogwash. He says that
miracles are simply events that science can't yet
explain. He said miracles in old times are mostly
explainable today in naturalistic terms.
But if you don't believe in the NT miracles, what does
your faith stand on?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:35 PM
What I'm thinking of Reading
* Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern
Science By: Heisenberg
* Why Catholics Can't Sing: Day, Thomas
* Ciao, America!: An Italian Discovers the U.S. By:
Severgnini, Beppe
* Paul VI: The First Modern Pope By: Hebblethwaite
* Conclave (I forget the author's name).
I would appreciate any feedback relative to these
I'm also considering buying the following for my 7-yr
old niece:
* The Loyola Kids Book of Saints By: Welborn, Amy
* ABC's of the Rosary By: O'Connor, Francine M.
.....along with a glow-in-the-dark rosary, like the one
my great aunt bought me twenty-some odd years ago as
well as the out-of-print A Child's Book of Poems by
Fujikawa, a book that gave this 9-yr old a love for
words that has never stopped.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:35 PM
Bloggin' like it's 1999
Today appears to be a blogalicious day. You bloggers
out there, and you know who you are, have provided a
wealth of opportunity to reflect. I'm reeling from it.
There's Dylan's link from Touchstone on Merton (a must
read for moi), there's Flos Carmeli's hi-laire
'deliver me from' blogsessing ("blog" + "obsessing
over it"), there is a riveting piece on how revelation
proceeds from Mark Shea. There is the Cranky
Professor's "I like talking to invisible friends"
admission, there is the Ol' Oligarch's book
recommendation on "Physics and Philosophy", there is
Disputation's post on beauty...there is more...there
is a surfeit. Please, no mo' blogging!
Okay, I'm over being vaklempt.
1. On the matter of Mark Shea and revelation. One of
the comments said, (and I'm not surprised by this),
that Mark risks flying without Reason, i.e. we fly on
the two wings of revelation and reason, and Mark is
dangerously close to committing the treason in
discounting reason. But I think Mark is simply giving
God His due, and understanding what Jesus said to St.
Peter: "your thoughts are not God's
are thinking as man thinks". And in Job, where God
says "were you with Me at the creation of the world?".
2. Okay, the other thing was the post on "beauty" on
Disputations. Beauty, in the physical and auditory
sense (and in others too, of course) are recognized
the world over, to the point of it being
scientifically proven. For instance, it is a universal
phenom of facial beauty that there be 'symmetry' with
respect to our features. The more symmetrical, the
more attractive. Researchers have also found that
isolated tribes completely unsocialized by Western
culture still pick women with the best hip-to-waist
ratio as the most attractive. With respect to music,
the movement away from and then back towards "home" or
a specific note is pleasing to the ear, as is the tone
system that we are all familiar with. Atonal music is
a creation in modern times and is a flagrant disregard
for what the human ear "naturally" finds good. So it
seems beauty has a built-in component to it,
hard-wired if you will.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:12 PM
Viktor Shklovsky wrote that "habit devours objects,
clothes, furniture, one's wife and the fear of war...
art exists to help us recover the sensation of life."
Defamiliarization is crucial; that's what he thought
literature was all about.
So how does one 'defamiliarize' oneself with the
gospel message, the Mass and sacraments in order to
see them with fresh eyes? How does one prevent pure
habit from devouring us? Only through prayer. Prayer
serves to recover not only the sensation of life but
its actuality.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:34 PM
August 27, 2002
A nearly impossible thing has just happened. I just
read something on "the crisis" that actually breaks
new ground (for me at least). From Tim Drake's blog:
"..the attitude of Pope John Paul II towards religious
congregations, female as well as male, is somewhat
Darwinian. He is content to let the healthy groups
prosper - Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity are
a prime example - while letting the unhealthy ones die
out of their own accord, like sick caribou amid the
- Paul Shaughnessy, S.J.
Tim Drake asks:..perhaps, like the religious
congregations, the Holy Father has taken a similar
approach with the bad bishops - allowing them to die
on the vine or, in some cases, even allowing them to
do themselves in, rather than to feed into the media
frenzy even further by issuing an all-out call for the
wholesale resignation of a handful of bishops?
This is a fascinating line of reasoning. If Paul
Shaughnessy is right, and the Holy Father prefers that
healthy religious groups prosper rather than nursing
semi-heretical religious corpses, then why wouldn't he
let the same thing happen to countries? Why shouldn't
the pope focus on third-world nations like Mexico
rather than cater to America, who, in the eyes of some
members of the Italian curia, is simply reaping what
we have sown? A sick society will produce sick
leaders, so isn't it rational to assume that a
wholescale lopping off of the bishops who caused the
problem would only be replaced by bishops no better?
If we look through the world's eyes we would think
America so important, given our financial and
political clout. God needs us. (Reminds me of Belloc's
wrong thought - that Europe is the faith.) If we look
through the eyes of faith, we see just the opposite -
the poor and defenseless are the most important. Our
Holy Father perhaps is giving us the medicine we
deserve. The local church needs to be accountable for
its actions.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:11 PM
Emailed Nancy Nall this on her comments on her blog:
Very interesting piece on the newspaper bidness...You
obviously know more about it than I'll ever know, but
given how increasingly polarized the country is (red
vs blue states) doesn't it mean that in order for a
paper to have any "color" or interest, it needs to
reflect either "red" thinking or "blue" thinking, thus
alienating half the reading populace?
Perhaps the model here is the Washington Post and
Washington Times, which both have their respective
readerships and both have "color". Unfortunately most
cities can't support two papers, so we are left with
one drab, colorless one, which, in some ways, is worse
than having a paper of the wrong ideological ilk.
Now you might say, rightly, people need to be open to
other points of view. But is it right for a
left-leaning person to support a newspaper (by
subscribing to it) that continually espouses and
promulgates issues like conceal and carry laws,
corporate welfare, the death penalty and pro-war
stances? Similarly for a right-leaning person &
Successful papers seem to come out of, and reflect,
the community, but communities now are so
multi-cultural with so many competing values that an
urban newspaper is left holding the bag. Maybe this is
part of the popularity of blogs, which reflect a
"community" so well (i.e. Amy on Catholicism). You can
say it is the 'echo chamber' effect, people love to
hear their own opinions spewed back at them, but I
think it's more subtle than that. I may not always
agree with Amy, but I know where she's coming from and
that makes all the difference.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:10 AM
Offending Everybody
My take on the Dreher piece and Cardinal Law situation
is this:
First off, I am not a parent, and so I think I lack
some of the absolutely burning-white rage that parents
would more naturally feel since they can imagine their
son or daughter being abused. No one but another
parent can fully understand the love a parent feels
for their child - it is a "non-transferable emotion",
and is life-altering.
But the dirty little secret is that American society
has become more feminized, and women value safety uber
alles, sometimes at the expense of freedom. The fact
that we are moving in this direction is shown, in a
small way, by the fact that when I was a child none of
us wore bike helmets. We also went on long car trips
many states away while comfortably ensconced in the
back car window for heaven's sake. Drinking and
driving was relatively common and the penalties nearly
non-existent. Car seats and bike helmets and M.A.D.D.
are wonderful things, but it is true that parents
nowadays have an increasingly smaller tolerance for
risk and the bishops were blind-sided by this.
We can say, rightfully, how in the world did society
allow serial drunken drivers to cause so many
accidents without serious punishment? We say the same
thing about the bishops now. They didn't get it - now
they do.
So you had a collision of two completely different
worlds - the prelates and other non-parental types who
are more comfortable with risk, and parents who are
tightening what "an acceptable risk" means. Bishops do
not have children and have spend much of their adult
lives in mostly all-male environments and thus have
not caught on to the "safety uber alles" model. That
is not excusing them at all; they acted atrociously.
But maybe it was part of their thinking. They are not
as "plugged in" to the culture. They don't watch Oprah
The overriding important matter is that the
"priest-shuffle" stop, and I personally can't imagine
that the bishops will ever try that again. So I
consider where Cardinal Law is serving is irrelevant
to whether or not "priest-shuffling" continues (since
it won't continue either way). There may be a
vengeance, a blood-thirst out there for Cardinal Law's
throat, and I think that is God's job, not ours.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:27 PM
August 26, 2002
"Beauty is to enthuse us for work, and work is to
raise us up." - poet Cyprian Norwid via John Paul II's
"Letter to Artists"
St. Bernard explained it by saying that God loves us
not because we are good and beautiful, but because his
love makes us good and beautiful. A fundamental idea
arises from the two meanings that fills the human
heart with hope, that is, God is ready to receive you,
to begin again with you, regardless of your history,
your past, your experience of estrangement and
infidelity.... A God who is prepared to start all over
again with us. - Msgr. Bruno Forte via "Dappled
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:13 PM
It's like this you see...
I like Mark Shea's clarity of language and his
willingness to address tough issues. Here he is at his
best in his blog:
"Is it about oxen that God is concerned?" St. Paul
asks this question and assumes that we know the
answer: No.
Biblical revelation concerns itself solely with our
salvation. It does not pretend to be a science book of
Everything. For Paul, "death" refers to human death,
not the death of oysters. He gives no hint that the
sin of Adam results in the death of anybody but human
beings. It is reading into, not out of, the text to
assume that he has in mind the suffering of animals at
the hands of carnivores.
Scripture simply does not commit us to the idea that
no living thing died before the fall. It has in view
only human death. My suggestion: Read C.S. Lewis' The
Problem of Pain for an attempt to wrestle with that
I would be interested in what he thinks Romans 8:19-23
is about though.
Quick Quote
An infallible definition is never new revelation. It
is merely a clarified description of old revelation.
Thus, infallibility is a negative charism, not a
positive act of inspired prophecy.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:16 PM
I was amused by this article about filmmaker John
Waters, who has 'marshalled his life into rigid
routine' including drink:
He makes it a point to drink every Friday night, 'like
a coal miner with a paycheck in his pocket', and
arranges his home life to accommodate his
compulsiveness.- John Leland NY Times News Service
Reminds me of what you get when you marry a German and
an Irishman....a punctual drinker.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:29 AM
Riveting NY Times article titled In God They Trust,
Sort Of.
Our very own crosses, Garry Wills & James Carrol
appear and are considered "apologists" for the faith,
which, I suppose is like calling Genghis Kahn an
apologist for peace and tranquility.
The quote below does have the whiff of recognition
about it and I'll have to think on it. More grist for
my suspicion that writers are natural wretches,
although Flannery O'Connor is the exception that
proves the rule:'s hard to give an account of your religious
beliefs without sounding mawkish. William James
understood this. Though he claimed to admire the
pious, in ''The Varieties of Religious Experience'' he
distanced himself from them with an occasional twinkle
of irony. The irony can be detected in the list of
moods he says are indicative of true spirituality:
solemnity, serenity, cheerful gladness, tenderness.
Religious discourse ''favors gravity, not pertness,''
he wrote. ''It says 'hush' to all vain chatter and
smart wit.''
In other words, religious sentiment can be deadly to
the literary impulse, which must be as willing to
traffic in vain chatter and smart wit as in solemnity
and uplift.
Jesus certainly had a smart wit, though he was a
religious leader (not to mention God), and not a
follower or a writer.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:14 AM
August 25, 2002
"First, severity. That is to say, the severity of the
ideal. Then, mercy."- Kierkegaard
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:11 AM
This piece from Dave Armstrong looks interesting
asking why Pope John Paul II doesn't more forcefully
discipline dissenters. I haven't read it yet, but want
to. Mainly I just didn't want that last post so
prominently 'front & center'. The next few posts can
be looked upon with a similar jaundiced eye...ha.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:10 AM
the Brain's Machinations
Even my subconscious (i.e. in the dream state)
understands now that it must look away from sexually
explicit material. So this has resulted in some rather
elaborate ruses to get by the censor. You would think
that it would be as simple as dreaming of someone
holding a gun to your head saying, "You must look at
this pictures!", but I guess that is too crude or
unbelieveable. The latest one really took the cake.
The one magazine I trust implicity and read
cover-to-cover is Crisis. So you can imagine my shock
and dismay when the latest issue arrived chock-full of
nubile females in the altogether. The mental-wrestling
in this dream was fierce, but eventually I had to go
through the whole magazine and 'look' at those
pictures on the theory that something would eventually
explain this mystery. When I woke up, I realized I'd
been had of course. I think even my subsconscious now
knows that Crisis isn't Playboy. But it is fascinating
the lengths the brain (or devil?) will go to in order
to get one to give in to lust.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 6:50 AM
I'm sick of cynicism. And I tire easily of
contemporary arguments btwn Republicans and
Damnocrats, and I'm a little tired of the
bishops/scandal stuff, although I recognize its
This is a prelude to saying how sad I am to have come
to the end of McCullough's "John Adams". How
refereshing it is to read something that, although not
haiography, is at least respectful of the subject. I
so long to read about heroes instead of our current
crop of spineless leaders, from Cardinal Law to Bill
Clinton. For some of the same reasons I loved James
Robertson's bio of Stonewall Jackson.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:36 PM
August 24, 2002
A New England Bachelor
My death was arranged by special plans in Heaven
And only occasioned comment by ten persons in Adams,
The best thing ever said about me
Was that I was deft at specifying trump.
- Richard Eberhart
...and it gets much harsher.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:21 AM
Short Sketch of Fr. Hayes
A large man he is, with a full-belly laugh and a large
beard to go with it. He speaks fluent Irish, not
Gaelic, for Gaelic is only used by the uninitiated.
His huge, Santa-like belly might give you pause to
think him a glutton, but he isn't; he explained that
gluttony was what the Romans did – eating as the end
all and be all, such that you throw up in order to eat
again. One can’t accuse anyone of gluttony merely by
being fat; his calmness and huge appetite for study
might point merely to a weak metabolic rate.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this jolly Dominican in
the fiercely orthodox St. Patrick’s Church, where
battles rage over whether the women should wear veils
and the confession lines form to infinity.
I didn’t know that he had gotten his undergrad in
biology and then went on to be a lawyer before finally
becoming a priest. An odd, if interesting, turn of
events. Born of an Italian father and Irish mother,
his family was torn in two when someone died. The
Irish half would have a wake, a jolly and exuberant
celebration of his or her entry into heaven. The
Italian half would stand like black-clad statues,
somber in their desire to show respect for the loss,
and resentful of the base Irish display.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:49 AM
I once read of a saint, or so it seemed to me.
Accounts of his devotion to the Lord and doing his
duty surpass my poor powers of imagination. I could
offer a hundred anecdotes of his dedication,
intelligence, or how admirable and worthy of respect
he was. A man’s man.
Before I read a biography my prejuidice showed; I
thought him a redneck, hilljack, dumb and reckless.
His name was Thomas, and a more devout soldier one
could scarcely imagine. His solace was the solely in
the Lord and he prayed nearly always. Even the deaths
of his first wife and first child could not shake the
beautiful and resolute faith in Christ.
He read Shakespeare or the scriptures to his wife
every night when he was home, sitting in the parlor of
their Virginian home. He wasn’t home often enough
though, due to the war that raged.
He remains to me a source of fascination, for this man
who I so admire was on the wrong side of the Civil War
and the wrong side of truth. And it seems a scandal to
imagine someone so close to God could, at the same
time, be so wrong about slavery and about Catholicism.
His name? Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson.
How discouraging that even the devout can be so
mistaken, can so misread the will of God. And while we
cannot judge hearts, we can see and understand
sacrifice, and on that score Thomas J. Jackson was
nearly without peer.
I visited his tomb in Richmond last year and stood a
few paces from his remains. If I had lived at that
time, I would surely not have rated an audience with
him. But with the democracy of death, a hundred and
forty years later this soft, lazy, Yankee Catholic -
verything he wasn't - can stand a mere ten feet from
his bones.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:43 PM
August 23, 2002
Reason to Rejoice
"The presence of Christ's sacred humanity in heaven is
itself a perpetual pleading, our names are better
written in his sacred wounds than the names of the
twelve tribes on the gems of Aaron's pectoral, and his
heart's desire for our salvation is before God
always." - A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture
It nears poetry; breathtakingly beautiful in its
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:29 PM
"Son of man, can these bones live? O Lord, thou
knowest." Ezekiel 37
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:25 PM
How to Have Fun With Nigerian Scammers Without Really
A SAFE FOREIGN ACCOUNT....blahblahblah"
One time I responded with Aeschylus in the original
Greek, excerpted here for your enjoyment:
"Dear Sir:
Iô ouk oid' hopôs humin apistêsai me chrê, saphei de
muthôi pan hoper proschrêizete peusesthe: kaitoi kai
legous' theossuton cheimôna kai diaphthoran morphês,
hothen schetliai proseptato. aiei gar opseis ennuchoi
pôleumenai es parthenônas tous emous parêgoroun
leioisi muthois "ô meg' eudaimon korê, ti partheneuei
daron, exon soi gamou tuchein megistou; Zeus gar
himerou belei pros tethalptai kai sunairesthai Kuprin
thelei: su d', ô pai, mê 'polaktisêis lechos to Zênos,
all' exelthe pros Lernês bathun leimôna, boustaseis te
pros patros, hôs an to Dion omma lôphêsêi pothou."
I actually received an email back saying, "Sir I do
not understand you!". I'm sure they thought I was
totally on board, ready to send them a couple grand,
but just had a couple nagging questions involving
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:15 AM
Journal of a Soul
I've been keeping a journal since June of 1998 in a
single Word document that now stretches for a
mind-numbing 500+ pages. Prior to that, I have lots of
poems that functioned as pseudo-journals, since they
reflected what was on my mind (I've noticed that the
typical entry is either a rant or a praise. The
praises are about just three subjects: the beauty of
nature, women, or God - and nowadays always the first
or the last).
Flos Carmeli has an interesting post on keeping a
journal. He's right that writing out your white-hot
anger and letting it dissipate on the harmless skillet
of a Word document works, at least for short-term
annoyances. Humor really helps defuse, and I try to
use humor and exaggeration. But it is the chronic
situations, like a bad relationship with a co-worker,
that writing about doesn't seem much to help because
there is an aspect of "Groundhog Day" to it - the
ventilation doesn't 'work' because the situation that
lead to the flame-up simply reoccurs continuously.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:15 AM
Vat I
I've been meaning to do a little research for a few
weeks now, although it is admittedly an indulgence of
something close to superstition. (Along the lines of
seeing some kind of portent in Thomas Merton's sudden
In 1870, while the fathers of Vatican I were voting
for papal infallibility, a terriffic thunderstorm
broke out causing a window in St. Peter's to come
crashing down, the pope shielded from its fragments by
the canopy of the papal chair.
I'd like to check out all references in the bible to
'thunderstorm' and see in what context it normally is
The Catholic Encyclopedia interprets it thusly:
On Monday, 18 July, 1870, one day before the outbreak
of the Franco-German War, 435 fathers of the council
assembled at St. Peter's under the presidency of Pope
Pius IX. The last vote was now taken; 433 fathers
voted placet, and only two, Bishop Aloisio Riccio of
Cajazzo, Italy, and Bishop Edward Fitzgerald of Little
Rock, Arkansas, voted non placet. During the
proceedings a thunderstorm broke over the Vatican, and
amid thunder and lightning the pope promulgated the
new dogma, like a Moses promulgating the law on Mount
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:57 AM
Ratzinger is awesome
The temptation to turn Christianity into a kind of
moralism and to concentrate everything on man's moral
action has always been great. For man sees himself
above all. God remains invisible, untouchable and,
therefore, man takes his support mainly from his own
action. But if God does not act, if God is not a true
agent in history who also enters into my personal
life, then what does redemption mean? Of what value is
our relationship with Christ, and thus, with the
Trinitarian God? I think the temptation to reduce
Christianity to the level of a type of moralism is
very great even in our own day ... For we are all
living in an atmosphere of deism. Our notion of
natural laws does not facilitate us in believing in
any action of God in our world. It seems that there is
no room for God himself to act in human history and in
my life. And so we have the idea of God who can no
longer enter into this cosmos, made and closed against
him. What is left? Our action. And we are the ones who
must transform the world. We are the ones who must
generate redemption. We are the ones who must create
the better world, a new world. And if that is how one
thinks, then Christianity is dead.
-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, courtesy of Dylan's blog:
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:15 PM
August 22, 2002
The Pope & Youth
A Catholic who wants the Church to become more liberal
on its sexual policies said to me, "I don't understand
how all those kids flock to the Pope so much when they
don't agree with what he says!" (I assume she meant
they use birth control and have sex outside of
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:01 PM
Blogs to Come: Journal & Vatican I
Maybe tomorrow I'll blog about the mental health
benefits of keeping a journal while exploring possible
spiritual detriments of the same. This was prompted by
a magazine article I read that suggested that venting
in a journal or diary can make you feel better and be
happier, but can result in you loving your partner
less, perhaps because negative feelings about their
behavior which are buried constantly come to light.
This is can be a good thing, since resents deferred
are resents that build up or implode, but it also can
result in a morbid self-absorption on hurts, real or
imagined. (Let's keep aside for the moment of what
their definition of 'loving a partner less' is, since
it suggests love as purely a feeling rather than
action). If one uses a journal to vent or complain,
perhaps that only serves to reinforce the sense of
injustice that you feel in being wronged, rather than
in forgiving that person and "moving on".
Also want to blog about the thunderstorm at Vatican I.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:31 PM
Dog Haikus
Dylan at 503 blog asked for bad haikus. Here are a
The cat is not all
Bad; she fills the litter box
With Tootsie Rolls.
You may call them fleas,
But they are far more; I call
Them a vocation.
I am your best friend,
Now, always, and especially
When you are eating.
"A well-trained dog will make no attempt to share your
lunch. He will just make you feel so guilty that you
cannot enjoy it." H. Thomson
"Won't be long means nothing to a dog. All he knows is
that you are GONE." - Jane Swan
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:42 AM
And now for something completely different
Baseball was the mysticism of my youth; the lore, the
history was closely associated with the Communion of
Saints in my mind. Babe Ruth was as real as Mike
Schmidt; it was the sport where tradition mattered.
Over the past few decades baseball has proved (as if
proof were needed) that any institution - be it law
enforcement, a church, the Presidency of the United
States - is only as good as society itself, the pool
from which it can draw from to populate its human
component. And while the past was no golden age, I
resist notions that there are no moral differences
between eras or that degeneration in society, as in
individuals, is not possible. My father used to say
that those things are cyclical, but just as the stock
market can rebound and then go to "lower lows" so can
a society. Look at ancient Rome. And I certainly
recognize my part in that, given that I am not the
person my forebears were.
So it should not be surprising that baseball has taken
a hit too. The strikes are bad enough; the one in 1994
fundamentally changed the way I viewed the game. It
changed from being an avocation to becoming
"background music", a purely aesthetic experience
beholding the green blades of astroturf beneath the
sun. No longer did I care that much about statistics,
or compulsively check boxscores. I quit collecting
baseball cards. Inter-league play was another knife,
because it showed the owners & players were on the
same team on one score - anything for a dollar. That
farce they call an All-Star game has been stripped of
any meaning because the players no longer consider the
other league that "great other". Mystery was shelved.
This coming strike is, therefore, much less painful. I
was innoculated in '94 when the World Series was
cancelled. They've so damaged the game that I now root
for its destruction, so that something newer, cleaner
and less expensive can take its place.
Bring on the wrecking balls!
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:32 AM
Dappled Things has a good discussion going about TSM
("Traditional Sexual Morality"):
My correspondent hits on another problem with a lack
of natural-law principles in our ethical debate. The
Christian moral code begins to look like an arbitrary
set of rules and taboos, more or less unrelated to
each other, with no support beyond this or that
biblical text (for the evangelical) or this or that
remembered injunction from the catechism or grandma
(for the Catholic). "The rules don't make sense
because they're not supposed to makes sense: this is
just what good Catholics do (or don't do)." The
problem with this is that the best we can hope for is
that people will do the right thing simply because
they're told to. The "why" gets lost, and we're left
with positivism and arguments from authority.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Pope Paul VI's
committee on birth control recommend to the pontiff
that proscriptions against artificial birth control be
lifted, partly on the basis that natural law was a
weak argument (recall these were Catholic
theologians)? While I'm no expert on natural law, I
think intellectual arguments in the face of hormones
are usually a poor match. E. Michael Jones' book
Degenerate Moderns: Modernity As Rationalized Sexual
Misbehavior nicely illustrates the hoops intellectuals
will go through to justify sexual license. Certainly
Garry Wills is unconvinced, and he presumably has an
excellent grounding in natural law.
Personally, my re-conversion to traditional sexuality
morality occurred in the context of seeking a closer
relationship to God and realizing that I was
out-of-step with my Christian (both Protestant and
Catholic) concerning sexual morality. The final step,
that of abandoning contraceptives, occurred only when
I completely accepted the authority given to the
Catholic Church.
Blind obedience is unsatisfactory, although some would
say the merit received is higher ('blessed are those
who don't see and still believe'). Surely during the
Old Covenant there were laws which made no sense but
which Jesus said must be obeyed (Matt.23:1-2 - "The
scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so
practice and observe whatever they tell you").
Ultimately I think the important thing is to show
church teaching on sexual morality is not
unreasonable, which is how natural law can help - not
in proving to Protestants or anyone else that TSM is
correct but just getting to the point that they can
see it as a reasonable belief.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:46 PM
August 21, 2002
Saint Patrick, reformed Brit
All but Dissertations has an interesting link about
the greatest Brits of all time. Despite my bardolatry,
I have to go with St. Patrick, who was born in
Britain, and who converted the Irish to Christianity
without bloodshed, leading to the development of the
Irish monasteries that saved civilization, as written
by Thomas Cahill's book How the Irish Saved
Besides, what is great art (Shakespeare) or great
military leaders (Churchill) compared to the loss or
gain of one's immortal soul?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:15 PM
Ground Control to Major Tom
Walker Percy, in his wonderful non-fiction book Lost
in the Cosmos argues (much more persuasively than I
can communicate here) that artists have trouble with
"re-entry" to the real world after experiencing the
other-worldly sphere of pure creativity. Thus they are
prone to addictions, suicides and other evidences of
maladjustment as they constantly re-adjust to the more
prosaic world that the rest of us, more or less
permanently, inhabit.
You can see this plainly in addictions, where the
person begins to prefer to be permanently under the
influence. But I would argue that you can also see
this in the spiritual life, where we desire to be
permanently under the drunkeness of spiritual highs or
consolations. St. Therese is a wonderful tonic here.
In Story of a Soul she writes:
I have been convinced for a long time that, though of
course one must not despise anything that helps us to
be more closely united to God, such inspirations,
however sublime, are worth nothing without deeds....
[If these inspirations] make the latter self-satified,
like the Pharisee, [they] would be like someone dying
of hunger at a well-spread table.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:06 PM
August 20, 2002
more Google hits
"The Sexual Life of Catherine" + review
+isometrics +Christianity
video - riding bike through manhattan singing
Hope they're not too disappointed.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:56 PM
Some really beautiful religious art here. I love the
expression of the woman in Alonso Cano's The Miracle
at the Well.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:18 PM
Email response:
"What did St. John Vianney or one of the other great
confessors-of-sinners have to say about our mixed
motives? You might find some talking points there.
I myself worked for a pro-life 800 hotline for my last
5 years in grad school. I realized about 3 months
after I started that at least part of why I
volunteered was one of those bargains with God - you
know, "God, I'll do this if you'll stop my friend the
pro-life activist from dying from cancer."
She died anyway. I kept going for another 4 years,
until I left town. I had other mixtures in my motives,
but I also came to understand that the work was more
important than me, but that parts of it might not
happen without me. So, mixed motives and all, it was
best to talk to those people on the phone." - M.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:12 PM
Want to be a spirtual child of St. (Padre) Pio?
Below is from the Padre Pio Foundation...I like the
attitude of it, that you can't simply put your name on
a list or donate and receive blessings like some sort
of heavenly ATM machine:
Padre Pio once told a friend of the Foundation that if
someone wants to be his spiritual child they must be a
good Catholic and receive the sacraments often. Then
you ask him in prayer to accept you as a spiritual
child. He is the only one who can grant your request.
No one else. Again, he said you must be a good
practicing Catholic and you must not "embarrass" him
before Jesus and Mary. Ask anyone who is a spiritual
child of Padre Pio how they know they are a spiritual
child and they will most likely tell you, "they just
know" or "they feel it in their heart" and probably
won’t be able to explain it any more than that. Some
say that there are lists to be placed on but being
placed on a list can’t be the way of knowing you’re
accepted. It is Padre Pio who must accept you and no
one else.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:47 AM
In a fit of nostalgia I woke this morning recalling
one of my favorite poems as a child. As an American
remnant of the Irish diaspora, would it be a stretch
to suggest its appeal for me is the result of some
sort of atavistic hangover? (I can hear the snickers
from here).
I doubt kids today read it. Educators would probably
consider it too nationalistic and/or mawkish.
The Long Voyage by Malcolm Cowley
Not that the pines were darker there,
Nor mid-May dogwood brighter there,
Nor swifts more swift in summer air;
It was my own country.
Having its thunderclap of spring,
Its long midsummer ripening,
Its corn hoar-stiff at harvesting,
Almost like any country.
Yet being mine; its face, its speech,
Its hills bent low within my reach,
Its river birch and upland beech
Were mine, of my own country.
Now the dark waves at the bow
Fold back, like earth against the plow;
Foam brightens like the dogwood now
At home, in my own country.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:25 AM
More on St. Therese
How great is the power of prayer. One could call it a
queen who has at each instant free access to the king
who is able to obtain whatever she asks....For me,
prayer is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a
cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as
well as joy; finally it is something great,
supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to
Jesus. - St. Therese of Lisieux via Flos Carmeli site.
For Therese, Mary's way of life and faith is devoid of
ecstasy, miracles, even words. The Virgin, Therese
noted, 'marvelled at' the prophecies which the
venerable Simeon uttered about the baby Jesus when he
took him in his arms. For Therese, Mary's attitude
showed 'a certain degree of surprise on her part.' For
Mary, as Therese saw her, and almost certainly for
Therese herself, simple faith was allied with a
certain kind of ignorance, of perplexity overcome with
a heroioc effot, and of battling on in a perpetual
half-light....Perhaps she would have acknowledged the
view of some mystics, that the reason why the risen
Jesus did not appear to his mother was because she did
not need this particular sign and because her faith
remained totally pure." - Jean Guitton, "The Spiritual
Genius of Saint Therese of Liseiux
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:02 AM
August 19, 2002
Altruism & Authenticity
In order to protect identities, heretofore a close
relative will be "Friend A" and my intelligent friend
(hopefully that's not narrowing it down too much) will
be "Friend B". Friend B is a Gen-X'r and values, like
many of his generation, authenticity uber alles. He
also questions whether there is such a thing as
altruism in the truest sense. He says that good acts
are motivated either by:
a) the high you get from helping someone (aka 'the joy
of giving') - OR -
b) to avoid hell or to lay up greater treasure in
So I'll have to ask him what, if possible, an
"authentic" altruistic act is (surely the Cross, but
I'm not sure he really believes it). Friend A, by the
way, volunteers for "Meals on Wheels" and has done
other charity work and is completely at loss at the
concept of the "joy of giving", finding none there.
I guess I am most interested in how to reach out to
the Gen-X'r. I'm thinking altruism, if in its proper
context, should be a response to God. A recognition of
the familial relationship we have with everybody and a
desire to please Him rather than to avoid punishment.
That in pleasing Him you should get a psychological
'pay-off' shouldn't make the charitable act
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:52 AM
See particulae for more particulars on assumptions
concerning the Assumption.
How's that for alliteration?
Obligatory disclaimer (as if this needs to be said):
obviously God can do anything, so that is decidedly
not the issue. I've long puzzled, for instance, how
the idea of the virgin birth can give people trouble
while the Resurrection doesn't. Given belief in the
Resurrection, it seems an absurdly small stretch to
believe that the miracles of the loaves & the fishes,
the Eucharist, and the virgin birth are true.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:17 PM
August 18, 2002
I've long struggled with how the theory of evolution
has forced us to consider that death - for sure animal
death and pain - existed before the fall and so we've
been tempted to re-interpret St. Paul's words as
meaning a spiritual death. I suppose science can
correct our biblical theologies, but then at least
since Galileo that has occurred and of course science
and theology can, of course, in no way contradict.
When I emailed Amy Welborn about this about a year
ago, she said the Church needs to really look at this
issue because it never has addressed it in light of
the new discoveries. She said Teilhard de' Chardin
(I'm too lazy to check for spelling) tried, but she
felt he was off the mark in his diminishing of the
role of sin.
No less than Cardinal Ratzinger recognizes this need
and has been begging the Pope to give him leave to
retire so that he can personally study this
issue....There is a book I've recently purchased, "The
Joy of Being Wrong" that I haven't read yet but tries
to snythesize antropological issues with the concept
of original sin.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:12 PM
"I belong entirely to everyone. Everyone can say
'Padre Pio is mine.'" - Padre, now Saint, Pio
"If the morbid Renaissance intellectual is supposed to
say, 'To be or not to be - that is the question," then
the massive medieval doctor [Thomas Aquinas] does most
certainly reply in a voice of thunder, 'To be - that
is the answer.' Chesterton's "St. Thomas Aquinas"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:46 PM
August 16, 2002
"I am not deprecating your individual talent, Joseph,"
the Bishop continued, "but, when one thinks of it, a
soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the
result of a constantly refined tradition. There are
nearly a thousand years of history in this soup." -
Willia Cather "Death Comes For the Archbishop"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:18 PM
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice... cold
Speaking of Disputations, he says his posts on alcohol
garner more comments than anything else....Hmm, I
muse. What is the special connection between alcohol
and Catholics, if any? I was reading Tom Hayden's
"Irish on the Inside" recently and he goes on for
pages blaming the Irish propensity to drink on 1690
(i.e. the Battle of the Boyne). Seriously he blames it
on sexual repression and the English, the latter
having caused an environment of hopelessness. Why must
everything be about political or sexual repression?
Can't one drink out of the sheer enjoyment of the
thing? Or to loosen the strings of a tightly-strung
Watched the "Biography" tv show on John Wayne the
other night. And it was said he loved to drink, and
was down in Mexico on a 2-week binge and couldn't be
found when WWII started. Implied was: oh, how
terrible! That's not the John Wayne we know and love!
But I was sort of envious. It sounds like the man was
merely on vacation. The dirty secret is that men
drank, and drank heavily in the 40s, 50s & 60s. Much,
much less now (although I'm sure college students do
their part).
Consider Thomas Aquinas' tremendous output of
theological writings. When I contemplate all the
thinking and study that went into them and the tales
that sound apocryphal (that he had the entire bible
memorized) it makes my head swim. It makes one
completely understand his affinity for the Songs of
Solomon - it is the love poetry that must've driven
his prose. One needs the yin to that sort of yang, all
that thinking about God must be counter-balanced by
resting in His love. Someone once said one should
spend twice as much time in prayer as in apologetic
And the consumption of a fine microbrew ale is also
like poetry: an anti-intellectual act that soothes the
side of the brain responsible for logic and math, by
exercising the left, full of fire and creativity and
the Song of Solomon.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:15 PM
Concerning John of Disputations post on the needful
connection btwn Mary's Assumption and her lack of
original sin (i.e. sin as the cause of death):
1) It might be semantics, but can it be left that
original sin is the cause of the physical corruption
of the flesh, which, both parties can agree did not
occur to Mary?
(Both parties meaning those who believe she did die
and those who believe she didn't).
2) It is true that the Assumption can be unmoored from
original sin by pointing to the examples of Enoch &
Elijah. But what that does is show how the Assumption
is not an unreasonable article of faith. Since we
believe she was assumed to heaven either way, either
while still alive or after death, it does not speak to
the sin=death scenerio.
3) It is true that Christ died and was sinless and was
without original sin, but wouldn't you say that His
was a 'special case' in the sense that it was his
divine mission to die?
I'm persuaded that Mary did die first, but I'm
wondering how John reconciles that with his comments
implying that theology requires that she not die?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:43 PM
the Assumption
"God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his
covenant could be seen in the temple." - Rev 11:19
"During the Second World War, while I was employed as
a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian
devotion. At first, it had seemed to me that I should
distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my
childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to
Saint Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that
true devotion to the Mother of God is actually
Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted
in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the
mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption.
And so, I rediscovered Marian piety, this time with a
deeper understanding. This mature form of devotion to
the Mother of God has stayed with me over the years,
bearing fruit in the encyclicals Redemptoris Mater and
Mulieris Dignitatem.
In regard to Marian devotion, each of us must
understand that such devotion not only addresses a
need of the heart, a sentimental inclination, but that
it also corresponds to the objective truth about the
Mother of God. ...The Mother of Christ the Redeemer is
the Mother of the Church."
- John Paul II, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:58 PM
August 15, 2002
Universal speculation via Mark Shea's blogspot.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:23 AM
No Doubt
I see the Foote comment has sparked some interesting
commentary, which was its purpose. Disputations and
Steven Riddle at Flos Carmeli have weighed in.
The novel has been held in low regard by some
Christians in the past - in John Adams' era it was
considered the vice of the weak-minded, while poetry
was held up as the standard.
I do agree that Foote is not the arbiter of what makes
for good literature, but in fairness he is extremely
well-read. On Brian Lamb's show he said he's read
Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past" nine times,
which, given its length, is surreal. He's read
basically everything (unlike Walker Percy, who had to
be nagged constantly to read Dante past "Inferno" or
any of Proust). He's also sits on the Modern Library
board, which is a pretty elite group. That having been
said, you are right, it's mere conjecture on his part
since it is certainly subjective.
I think SR and John are dead right about how moderns
look through lenses of doubt. But not only that, but
those who author AND determine great art are almost
always doubters simply because they are the elites,
and the elite are no longer Christian. So, there is
some self-selection going on. It's sort of like how
journalists tend to be politically liberal because
those who are interested in 'creative' things like
writing, art, etc, tend to be more liberal.
John Updike has a quote about writers here.
One last thought: I'm not sure Shakespeare should be
given a pass on doubt, his later works were very
pessimistic, which I think is ultimately an
unChristian attitude since we know how it all turns
out. God wins.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:30 AM
At Disputations:
Beauty is that which, being seen, pleases; when
someone encounters the beautiful, he desires to rest
in it. A novel about resting in beauty is unlikely to
be a great novel; it may be very poetic, but it
probably won't be very interesting. Novels tell
stories, and stories are about conflicts, and where
there is no conflict -- and only the perverse are
conflicted about resting in beauty -- there is no
So yes, the modern evidence is that great novelists
are not greatly devout; even the great Catholic
novelists have not, as a class, been marked by their
sanctity. But I think it's wrong to interpret this
evidence, as some do, as meaning that Catholicism is
somehow opposed to great novels, much less to great
art. Rather, I think that doubt strengthens a desire
to novelize, while trust weakens it. (Provisionally,
I'd say doubt and trust work the other way round on
the desire to versify.)
Obivously a novel has to have conflict but that surely
doesn't preclude non-doubters from writing beautifully
of conflict, does it? The greatest conflict of all
time is the spiritual one between good and evil and to
describe that I'm not sure why being a doubter
'helps'. (As a unrelated aside, I'm interested in the
connection between doubt and sanctity, in that there
is more merit in 'not seeing and still believing'.
When I read recently that Mother Teresa was racked by
doubts at times.) Bernanos, in "Diary of a Country
Priest" understands the great spiritual battles hidden
in the ennui of our lives and and that is why some
call it the most Catholic of novels. Ralph McInerney
said recently that in this novel Bernanos, who was
fiercely conservative (to the point of being a
monarchist), goes where many other Catholic novelists
(including Mauritain and Powers) fear to tread.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:12 PM
August 14, 2002
From National Review on Hebron, where Abraham is said
to be buried:
"This city that feels like an entrance to hell is said
to be the point where Earth is united with Heaven: the
very portal to the Garden of Eden. The chibur alluded
to in its name (Hebron meaning 'bridge') is also the
eternal joining together of the four married couples
buried here: the three patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac &
Jacob) and their three wives, plus Adam and Eve, who
lie in a cave perfectly preserved and surrounded by
the scent of paradise....There is, finally, not much
to see. Abraham's cenotaph is behind an iron grille.
The cave itself, which has an outer and inner part, is
inaccessible, which is just as well. Stories from
medieval times tell of those who attempted to
penetrate the underground halls hearing strange
voices, feeling a wind of unknown origin coming from
below, and sometimes dying suddenly or going mad or
dumb. If this is the place where Heaven joins with
Earth, then it is no place for mortals..."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:29 AM
Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli makes the point that
definitionally beauty & goodness are inseparable,
otherwise one is just a facade of one or the other.
Works for me. Now wither nature is fallen is something
I've struggled with... "The apparent amorality of
nature, so wonderfully portrayed in Frost's "Design"
is not suggestive of a lack of goodness, but perhaps a
lack of understanding on our part." Probably so. These
are muddy waters.
Cut & paste from previous emails on the subject, which
is lengthy as a day is long...
That is precisely the heart of the matter. Aquinas
claimed the physical world is NOT wounded - that only
man is wounded in his alienation from God and nature.
Can I look around and really see the physical world
with its reliance on naked strength as the way to
survive as good? That is the challenge. A physical
world free from mishap would require miracles at every
moment of every day - and miracles are a departure
from the natural; they would then be, in fact,
While the whole division between "natural" and
"supernatural" is useful for common discussion, I'm
inclined to say it's really a relative way of speaking
about things. I'm inclined to say the "real" division
that we can cite, in discussing that which exists, is
between created and uncreated. I think this is a
better way of looking at things, for it here that the
difference is most profound. On one side of the divide
you have God, on the other side, absolutely everything
else. Angels, demons, different levels of existance,
the earth, man, beasts, you name it. An angel may be
of a more subtle substance, but it's still a creature
that had a beginning.
God on the other hand, and His "energies", which
refers to that of God which we experience, and can be
known by the human being (typically refered to as
"Grace", a reference to His benevolence towards
mankind), are not created.
I think understanding God in "energetic" terms is
important, because it has a bearing on how we view
this world. The cosmos as we know them, while
obviously still subject to the providence of God, lack
the fullness of God's Presence, which confers
immortality and incorruption. The vision of St.John in
the Apocalypse, is of a "new creation", a renewed
world where God will be "all in all" - we read about
the "new Jerusalem", which will need no lamps, because
they will be illuminated by God. What this is telling
us is that there is another world coming, and that it
will be a world glorified by God, for it will be His
manifest abode.
So like I said before, making deductions about how we
should act, based on bad data, from bad minds, makes
no sense. Nor should we be surprised that the very
things that the Christian tradition often labels as
being sins, are in fact (in a worldly p.o.v.)
precisely the things that will make you "get ahead".
Stealing, oppression, pride, lust, gluttony, etc.
Human nature transfigured by God, on the other hand,
even if we only have the beginnings of such a renewal
(the renewal of the mind), see's the situation
This whole subject makes me think of the stories told
by ancients (actually I think one such story was told
about the first "Buddha" in India), of people who
spent all of their time living in palaces, being
sheltered from the outside world, so that when they
first stepped out of their palaces (often without
permission), they were shocked to find that the world
was not a nice place at all, and were scandalized that
people were going hungry, dying, etc.
I think something similar to that is going on in the
case of most sceptics who approach Christianity, but
it is happening in reverse. They're used a world that
is consumed by death, and in fact are unaware that the
Church, and the Apostles themselves, were so bold as
to speak of the devil as being the "god of this world"
or the demons as being the "rulers of this age" or the
anti-christ as being the "prince of the air", etc.
The creation itself, is basically good, because God
made it. However what most people encounter as being
"Christianity", fails to properly explain our dilemma
as creatures and as human beings. What is totally
understated (perhaps out of pride, or because they
think such a view of things is "childish" or
"supersticious") is how comprimised this world is, how
death exists as a poison wrapped up in it's fabric,
and the real influence and literal existance of evil
spirits, in particular their prince, satan. There is
not enough emphasis that this "basically good
creation", is ruled by these forces, for reasons that
go back to mankind's beginnings. And everything,
including the conclusions people reach solely through
carnal reasoning, is poisoned by this. Indeed, so many
things taken for granted seem so obvious in this
scenario, that there could be any other meaning for
things that exist in this physical world, just doesn't
occur to them.
This whole matter reminds me of the stories of the
19th century Russian Saint, Seraphim of Sarov. There
exist many sayings of his, stories about him from
those who knew him, and so on. St.Seraphim lived in
the woods for much of his life, the very forest
becomming his church, and he would kneel motionless
for incredible amounts of time, totally consumed in
prayer. Saints are called such, because they are made
"holy" by their communion with God, the root the word
"holy" in Hebrew being "seperated" - just as God is
totally seperate from all other things (they being
created, He being the uncreated, the eternal.) A
particular feature of people we honour with the title
of "saint", is that they experience "glorification"
even in this world. That means, they would enter into
periods of particularly intense discourse with God,
and when they did such, it was as if the very laws of
nature we take for granted, did not apply to them
In the case of Saints like St.Seraphim, they would
often remain in a state of prayer for incredible
periods of time, days upon days, with neither food nor
drink. They would manifest the glory of God at many
points, inexplicable radiance coming forth from their
bodies. Another famous example was the early Church
Saint, St.Simeon Stylites. He was a profound ascetic,
who had totally and utterly renounced the world, and
stayed in prayer upon a pillar - a "stylite", an old
pillar that once supported a building. He would
sometimes not take food or water for weeks, and show a
total indifference to the elements.
Other manifestations like this are common to Saints,
even outside of these deep states of "theoria" - for
example, the Saints often manifest a certain quality
which cannot be explained, which brings consolation by
their very presence, or can drive those totally
dominated by evil to either repentence or revulsion.
One interesting example in the case of St.Seraphim,
was the fellowship he had with wild beasts. The
animals did not fear him, nor acted with hostility
towards him. He was even known to sit serenely, as a
gigantic brown bear approached...but it had no malice,
but was his friend, and St.Seraphim would smile and
feed the wild animal as if it were a pet.
The Church is a place where healing takes place, a
hospital for the sick. But it is not only men who are
waiting for their final redemption, but also the
creation itself. When you look at the example of
Saints like St.Seraphim, or St.Anthony (considered by
many to be the "father of monasticism" - an early
Christian who fled worldliness by living in the desert
as a solitary, who also was so sanctified that wild
beasts were not adversarial towards him), you get an
idea of how another world is possible. In fact,
glimpses of it are seen, here and there, even now.
The author from Time magazine is obviously unaware of
all of these things. But then again, so are many
professing Christianity. Perhaps the hardest part of
all of this, is that modern westerners are mentally
shackeled by post-industrial ideas about technological
progress, and more remotely, by the "renaisance",
which really was a renewal, but a renewal of a
fundamentally pagan (carnal) view of the world, in
which the sick patient is called healthy, and from
there on in to "attain health" is to make one's self
all the more ill.
In the face of this pious materialism, with man
sitting as the crown idol amongst all the others it
has erected, there is very little room for shrugging
your shoulders anymore, or being honest enough to
admit that you "don't know". Thus you have everyone,
whether it be people professing to be "Christians" or
others professing atheism, sounding pretty sure of
their respective explanations about everything...
totally unaware of the fact that the last century has
taught us how quickly today's certainty will become
tommorow's quackery. It is pride which will always
convince people that they are somehow special, exempt
from the faults of their ancestors, even though they
still indulge in the same games that they did.
I am content to say that I can tell you something
about our past (only because it is preserved in the
Tradition of the Church), but what I can say has more
relevence to the "why" than the "how". If your primary
concern in life is to live rightly, and sucessfully,
you'll cherish this most necessary knowledge.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:26 AM
Still pondering this beauty & truth & goodness stuff.
I want to see the connection as inseparable but...
As an adolescent I loved Thoreau's "Walden". I thought
it the most magical piece of literature. Now I have
misgivings about the somewhat misanthropic sentiments.
Certainly the message to 'simplify' is a great one,
but sometimes what most appeals to us is that thing in
the literature or art that appeals to our special
vice, our Achilles heel. If Thoreau appeals to
slothfulness or lack of generosity, I might see it as
a great 'truth' and revel in it. In other words, it
can be very beautiful to have a worldview constructed
that appears to fit what we consider it should be.
Let's take a look at nature herself - astonishingly
beautiful, right? And good, indeed good - but good
before the Fall, right? Nature can be pretty ruthless,
amoral, in the whole sense of prey or be preyed upon.
Natural selection isn't pretty. Can't art be beautiful
but deadly, like some gorgeous but poisonous coral?
Satan was the highest of angels before he fell and
presumably could produce something beautiful in
imitation. St. Paul writes in Romans 8 that all
creation groans in anticipation, seemingly implying
that this physical world is inadequate to what even it
was intended to be. He seems to have come close to
saying that nature was fundamentally altered by the
Fall, although Aquinas would never accept that
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:20 PM
August 13, 2002
Interesting article on Seasonal Preferences
Summer's tide is high and soon will turn. That's how
it always is. On July 4, the entire summer lies before
us. A few short weeks later, we're on the homestretch
to Labor Day. Among us, there are those who will cling
by our fingernails to the last shred of summer right
through September and others who are secretly already
a little sick of sand, chlorine, endless days and
bored kids. Which camp are you in?
Some scientists believe that a person's outlook may
come down to neurotransmitters in the brain.
Craig H. Kinsley, an associate professor of
neuroscience at the University of Virginia, said his
friends accuse him of being "an evangelist for the
brain.'' He believes that everything from whether you
like chocolate or vanilla to whether you enjoy
relaxing on a beach is related to the brain chemistry.
People who can't sit still, who crave new experiences,
who desire new challenges and who are bored with
summer relaxation may be driven by their brain's
appetite for a neurotransmitter called dopamine.
Kinsley said that dopamine is released during new
experiences and enhances good feelings. Some of us
have a greater need for dopamine than others. Those
who are more content with a relaxed, low-key routine
apparently have sufficient supplies of dopamine and
don't need more, Kinsley said.
Dr. Michael Nuccitelli, a psychologist and executive
director of SLS Health in Brewster, N.Y., said
chemicals play a role in people's reactions to
everything, but environmental factors play a role in
how people feel about summer.
One of those factors is wealth. If you can afford
beach houses, camps for your kids and summer toys such
as boats or jet skis, you probably like summer better
than someone who can't afford such luxuries.
Nuccitelli considers himself a risk-taker, an
adventuresome type, but he's not a big fan of summer
because he can't stand the heat.
Dr. Nicholas DeMartinis, a psychiatrist at the
University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington,
Conn., said that whether you mourn the demise of
summer probably has a lot to do with whether you're an
outdoorsy person.
"A lot of people find summer less stressful,'' said
DeMartinis. "One of the best antidotes to stress is
getting out and exercising. People may do less of that
in the winter and it's easier for stress to build
For those who are reactive to light, the days also
grow shorter, which can lead to seasonal blues in the
fall and winter.
Some people will find any transition rough-going.
"These may be people with a more obsessive-compulsive
personality, not a disorder,'' said DeMartinis. "They
like to do things the same way, over and over and
over. You start changing things and it's stressful.''
As for thrill-seekers, DeMartinis, they may be as
likely to enjoy winter as summer if they are skiers or
In, general, Kinsley said, human beings weren't really
made for a two-week beach vacation.
If you go back to early man, the competition for
resources and for mates defined us, Kinsley said. We
needed time for rest, but rest amounted to a good
night's sleep. And then we were ready for more
"The animal, humans included, were not designed nor
were we shaped by the crucible of natural selection,
to just sit around,'' Kinsley wrote. "We crave
stimulation, work, competition. Or most of us do.''
Perhaps that means that those of us who are able to
look - without nausea - at the fall clothes already in
department stores are more like our prehistoric
And those of us who long to sit on the beach till
sunset in October have accepted change. You could even
say we've evolved. By Kathleen Megan The Hartford
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:36 PM
The Lady of Shalott & Flos Carmeli have had some
interesting posts, especially Flos' comments on Keats.
I have started, but not finished, "Dawn to Decadence"
which makes the case that art has suffered greatly
over the past 500 years due in part to modernism. I
guess the stuff of art comes out of the muck and mire
the culture has handy - since the Enlightenment we've
had less to work with in terms of "healthy" (i.e.
good) thinking and that must and is reflected in art.
Now I'll really butcher this concept, and I don't even
hardly believe it but feel compelled to offer it. A
year or two ago I read that art over the past 200
years have consciously intended to skew (i.e. like
surrealism) creation because it is rejecting the
Creator and also his creation. In other words, the
fact that paintings no longer mirror nature was done
in a way to devalue creation, devalue the earth,
reject the line in Genesis where God says, "it is
good". Now I don't know what to think about that
because I certainly like Monet and Dali and others.
But it was interesting, given how the increase in
"non-real" art has followed the decrease in faith
since the Enlightenment. Art glorified God for many
centuries and there was a fierce resistance when the
humanists came in and made man the central subject.
And from there artists began to paint 'fractured" man
(like Picasso), which was to symbolize the monster
that he considered man to be (or especially women).
Shelby Foote to Walker Percy:
"One of the things I've most admired about the
Catholic religion for is its unwillingness to
compromise and its essentially realistic outlook. But
the Catholic intellectuals seem to destroy all this.
Here we've been better than 500 years (since the
Divine Comedy - which, incidentally, is as much a
spiteful paying-off of personal animosity as it is
'Catholic') without a single devoted Catholic writer
producing one big lasting thing in the field of poetry
or fiction; adn yet, mind you, these intellectuals
insist that the advantage lies with writers with an
orthodox background to fall back on; it gives them a
scale of reference, they say. It ought to be true; it
out to - but look at the result. Graham Greene, or a
bare handful of minor poets like Hopkins.."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:40 PM
August 11, 2002
At the risk of pulling this out of context:"It is
pretty generally recognized that woman is 'by nature'
more sentimental, and man more sensual." - K. Wojtyla
"Love & Responsbility"
By sensual, he means more along the lines of enjoying
the senses rather than limited to the sexual. And by
sentimental, he means of the feelings and emotions
rather than simply nostalgia.
I wonder if the reason the church doesn't attract as
many men (i.e. Podles thesis that the Church is
feminized) is partly because the liturgy has been
stripped of many of the 'sense' sensations if you will
- the 'smells and bells'. The Eastern rite and
Orthodox Judiasm both have strong male participation
and both have liturgies that appeal to the senses.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:33 PM
I am back. Thursday and Friday were glorious
self-appointed sea dog days, days spent under a
glittering, unquenchable sun, days spent continuously
outdoors from 10 am to 6 or 7 pm, days which landed me
in the surf, on bike, btwn the pages of a book or
quaffing Guinness or drinking Corona as the sun's
corona faded. The other days were more or less pinched
by responsibility, and tested my ever-weakening
tolerance for chatter. Chatter this, chatter that.
Lots of social bookings. "The Imitation of Christ",
written for monks I think, has it that unnecessary
talking is nearly sinful. Jeesh that sounds appealing
sometimes. (And that is supposed to be a cross?). The
actor Larry Hagman never speaks on Mondays - a whole
day of complete silence. (I read it years ago in the
Nat'l Enquirer so you know it's true). I thought it
odd. Now.... But of course I am doing the equivalent
of chattering here, never letting a thought slip by
So a week later, 50 miles of bike rides and a 12-pack
later here I am – inflight – carrying back a better
man? Surely the break in routine was precious. What
did I learn? Valuing hope over experience, I always
imagine that from vacations will spring a well of good
ideas that I can take back to 'the real world'.
It seems the problem with purity is that the greater
the purity the more affected you are by impurities. So
in trying to shield myself from nudity via R-rated
movies and any other kind of soft-porn has apprently
left me particularly vulnerable to 'beach shock'. The
shielding seems to have resulted in more keen
antennae, such that the merest whiff of viva le’
difference is detected. And so, returning to the beach
this year was like laying before a drug addict this
huge spread of the latest pharmaceuticals.
Fortunately I could behold the Cross and it is so
catechetical – one finds many assurances. One is love,
of course, and there is also the sense that he will
accept our buffets and stings willingly (indicated by
the posture of open arms). The vertical nature of it –
the fact it leads from ground skyward – neatly
incarnates the doctrine that Jesus is the bridge
between heaven and earth and there is no getting from
here to there without Him.
My beach reading was Clive Clusser's "Inca Gold",
JP2’s "Love & Responsibility" and Dineson’s "Out of
Africa"; a perfect admixture of good, bad and saintly
writing. (You guess which).
And I noticed that after a week of relaxation, of
white sand and white sun, of Guinnesses, after long
bike rides to puffy sand beds with elliptical petals
shading me, of hard runs down a hard-packed beach to
any good tune I could find, that well, I liked it. One
day I rode around a retirement community with
conflicted emotions. On the one hand it was a
retirement community, symbol of tragic things (i.e.
loss of freedom, diminishing bodily powers, enforced
artificial community, etc) and yet also at once
attractive (i.e. no job, beautiful island, quiet,
peaceful pathways and spacious balconies).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:32 PM
I must be off for vacation in South Carolina, blogging
will resume on Aug. 12!
Will leave you with a quote, forgive me for not
remembering which blog I got it from. It is from one
of his letters:
J. R. R. Tolkien
"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is
Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete
and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate
completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act
of faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise.
Frequency is of the highest effect. Seven times a week
is more nourishing than seven times at intervals. Also
I can recommend this as an exercise: make your
Communion in circumstances that affront your taste.
Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and
vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois
crowd, ill-behaved children -- from those who yell to
those products of Catholic schools who the moment the
tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn -- open necked
and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with
hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to Communion with
them (and pray for them). It will be just the same as
a Mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and
shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could
not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five
Thousand -- after which our Lord propounded the
feeding that was to come."
I went to Mass after reading this and...yes...there
were many loud children behind me. I smiled.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:00 PM
August 2, 2002
of the Rosary
Some interesting posts on the Rosary going around on
Disputations, Steven Riddle's & GoodForm among others.
I have something of a scattershot approach with
prayer, hoping the variety gives me maxim receptivity
to what God wants to say. I consider the rosary a
wonderful tool in the prayer toolbag even though often
my concentration is terrible with it. There is great
consolation in the asking Mary to pray for us at the
time of our death and of its imminence in the grand
scheme. It's also good to review the human events in
the family life of Jesus & Mary, as all families
remember their history and we are a part of that
The Joyful mysteries teach me that beneath the surface
of the seemingly banal - a Jewish girl saying her
prayers, a visit to her cousin, a baby born and
presented - lay spectacularly universe-altering
events. It serves to remind one that our lives, at
times banal, are never really so.
Insights are infrequent, but they come. I always
considered the Resurrection the greatest of the
mysteries but then it occurred to me that it was the
Crowning with thorns. For which is greater - power
exercised or power restrained? ('Schindler's List' has
a great pardon scene that illustrates this). That God
would approve of Jesus' submission to the baptism of
John, how much greater must be the Father's
approbation when his son submitted to the crowning of
thorns? In Japanese culture one would rather die than
be humiliated, and so there is a sense in which this
humiliation was greater even than His death.
The rosary also forces me to think about HIM instead
of the petitionary prayer that seems to be the
'default' prayer of life and even the reading of
Scripture can be about us, in the sense of reading it
historically or apologetically or ....i.e. not
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:20 PM
What a difference a translation makes....Dostoyevsky's
Karamazov can come off as either humbly seeking his
sonship of Christ or presumptively making demands on
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:47 AM
Walker Percy, in a letter to Shelby Foote on the
Catholic novels in this book:
What is it about? Screwing and God (which all Catholic
novels since Augustine have been about) - to use
"Catholic" somewhat loosely since you were right the
other day about me not being a Catholic writer as
Flannery [O'Connnor] was.
She [Flannery O'Connor] is a minor-minor writer, not
because she lacked the talent to be a major one, but
simply because she died before her development had
time to evolve....That, and I think because she also
didn't have time to turn her back on Christ, which is
something every great Catholic writer (that I know of,
I mean) has done. Joyce, Proust, and I think
Dostoevsky, who was just about the least Christian man
I ever encountered except maybe Hemingway. The
Jesuitical strain, as Joyce said, can be injected the
wrong way. Inject it the right way and you've killed
the artist; he's guilty of idolatry and has comitted
the greatest sin of all - putting something ahead of
his art, avoiding the total commitment, keeping soft
inside while pretending to be tough....Don't take
personal offense at any of the above; I don't consider
you a Catholic writer at all, except in your spare
time out of hope of heaven."
More Foote:
"..The best novelists have all been doubters; their
only firm conviction, the only one never shaken, is
that absolute devotion and belief in the sanctity of
art which results in further seeking, not a sense of
having found. THe part of any writer's book which
says, 'Look here I've found the answer' is always the
weakest.'" It was Dostoevsky's doubt that made him
great - Ivan is a portrait of his doubt, as Mitya is a
portrait of his lust.."
Unfortunately we don't have WP's replies; he obviously
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:32 AM
That rarest of hothouse flowers, true peace of mind,
found me yesterday amid the fields of Athenry, in the
bowels of my sweet liberty, my library, where I found
four hours of John Paul II’s "Love & Responsibility"
and Steinbeck’s "East of Eden". It was there I found
repose and respite, there I found safety in my God,
safety in the form of hope. My fruit so often sucks or
lay stillborn, and I cannot help but notice it. How
can I not, when Jesus tells of seeds that were choked
by worries or cares or carried off by the evil one?
How can one not stand, paralyzed, in the middle of the
field, willing oneself to bear fruit, desperately
wanting to see fruit so that we can know that weI love
Him since His test is stark: "they love Me who love do
My will."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:27 PM
August 1, 2002
Okay, this is going to be a real struggle of a post.
Exceedingly politically incorrect to boot. But, as
Bill O'Reilly says, 'tell me where I'm wrong'. I want
to be wrong. It was provoked by Dissertations & her
riveting post on the literature & orthodoxy,
mentioning how T.S. Eliot's earlier works are
generally considered better than his later, more
Christianized works...
Point 1: The Feminization of Christianity
My reading lately has consisted of Leon Podles, "The
Church Impotent" which tries to explain why
Christianity, as opposed to say Islam or Orthodox
Judiasm, struggles to attract men in terms of church
attendance and other outward signs of commitment.
Priests, for instance, tend to have lower testosterone
levels than average. Podles argues that Christianity
has been feminized soon after the heroic age of
martyrs and the Church Fathers.
Point 2: Genius as Masculine
IQ tests have shown men to have a more extreme range
of intelligence (or lack thereof) than women. The bell
curve seems to include lots more points to the right
side (i.e. geniuses) and more points to the left
(dunces). And although women have not had nearly the
opportunities men have in the arts, still the Joyces,
Shakespeares, Dantes, Beethovens, Bachs are nearly
universally male.
Point 3: Combine the two and ...?
Okay that was going nowhere. Let's move to a different
solution. Walker Percy & Shelby Foote argued about
this incessantly in their letters (published as "The
Correspondence of W.P. & SF") and Foote argues that
art requires that nothing be placed before it, which
is what religion also requires. Hence the
incompatibility. You cannot serve both art and God.
I'll try to find exact quotes tomorrow.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:07 PM
Can barely keep up with all the quality blogging going
on out there. All but Dissertations has a lengthy but
riveting post on the literature & orthodoxy,
mentioning how T.S. Eliot's earlier works are
generally considered better than his later, more
Christianized works. I wonder if Christianity as
practiced emasculates us somehow (i.e. in Origen's
case it was literal!). Thoreau was never enamored of
religion because he wanted to grow wild 'according to
his nature' and that wildness certainly can produce
great art. Yeats, in one of his poems, says Christians
are stone-faced and slumbering.
She writes:
As the editor of Mozart's letters says, "It was a
paradox that the same person who wrote such sublime
music used such language. But it was the case."
The awful produces the sublime.
The orthodox produces the sub-par.
What are we to do?
Of course, I would prefer to be called slumbering and
produce horrible art than lose my soul, so the point
is perhaps moot.
P.S.: Err 503 has a crucial post to read: here
(JP II's letter to artists).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:28 AM
Quote on Amy Welborn's site:
In a game of rock-scissors-paper, evangelical
Christianity seems to trump Catholicism these days.
And Catholicism trumps Orthodoxy (which is why the
Russian Orthodox are so defensive).
Why? Because our world seems to have rejected a
sacramental view of things. The Orthodox expansive
liturgies and huge emphasis on "mystery" (they call
their sacraments 'mysteries') are 'more sacramental'
if you will than Catholicism. In other words, low
churches drive out high churches in the 21st century,
and Orthodoxy is a high church compared to the RCC
liturgies, and evangelical Protestantism is low church
compared to the RCC.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:28 AM
Read a comment (DW) in Flos Carmeli's blog that had me
laughing out loud and feeling guilty afterwards,
knowing it to be uncharitable to our separated
brethren, but a classic in every sense. I'm only
saddened I cannot use it in polite company since it is
so scathing:
How can one not love a guy (the writer James Joyce)
whose response to being asked whether he had become a
Protestant was to say that he did not give up a
rational and coherent absurdity in order to embrace an
irrational and incoherent absurdity, and that he had
simply lost his faith, not his reason? As a Catholic,
I certainly disagree with his describing the Faith as
"an absurdity", but one must admit, the quote is
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:23 AM
Interesting quote in David McCullough's "John Adams"
in light of the "Fiction Monday" post below:
Why was it that a nation without wars to fight seemed
to lose its honor and integrity, Adams pondered in one
leter to Rush. 'War necessarily brings with it some
virtues, and great and heroic virtues, too,' he wrote.
'What horrid creatures we men are, that we cannot be
virtuous without murdering one another?'
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:23 AM
Let me be damned, let me be vile and base, but let me
kiss the hem of the garment in which my God is clad;
let me be running after the devil at that very moment,
but I am still thy son, O Lord, and I love thee, and I
feel the joy without which the world cannot be and
Too many riddles oppress man on earth. Solve them as
you can, but see that you don't get hurt in the
process. - Dostoyevsky "Brothers Karamazov"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:37 PM
July 31, 2002
Remembrance of Communions Past
My life is but a string of Hosts
since the age of reason
for only thou who is Life
comprises life sans treason.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:12 PM
Flos Carmeli has a good blog on what makes a Catholic
novel. Words are helpless things, easily misconstrued
indeed. Even clear words and sentences such as in Matt
16 can be shrugged off. (A Baptist pastor once told me
that Christ giving Peter the keys to the kingdom was
an 'obscure' passage that would've been repeated
elsewhere in the NT if it were important). Words are
symbols of larger things and therefore are necessarily
Thanks for that thought-provoking post, SR. I suppose
I am still thinking along the lines of Amy Welborn's
question of how to evangelize the culture and how art
could play a role. Flannery O'Connor once said she
wrote very harsh novels because that is what it takes
to get through to people these days (I'm
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:40 AM
John Updike can flat-out write. But his books teem
with vivid sexual imagery, at least for a writer who
happens to be Christian (he even won the Campion award
given to him by the Catholic Book Club). I'm
fascinated how he can, sans scruples, reconcile
writing hard-core salacious stuff with his
Christianity. I've wondered: am I being puritanical in
no longer reading him?
I've gotten hints in the past of how he reconciles it.
In a footnote in one of his non-fiction books he
basically writes off the Gospel of Matthew, saying it
depicts a harder, harsher Jesus than the other gospels
and so it apparently doesn't count.
Here is what Karol Wojtyla says in Love and
Responsibility about the line between art and
Art has a right and a duty, for the sake of realism,
to reproduce the human body, and the love of man and
woman, as they are in reality, to speak the whole
truth about them....[and] sexual aspects are an
authentic part of the truth about human love. But it
would be wrong to let this part obscure the whole -
and this is what often happens in art.
Pornography is a marked tendency to accentuate the
sexual element when reproducing the human body or
human love in a work of art, with the object of
inducing the reader or viewer to believe that sexual
values are the only real values of the person, and
that love is nothing more than the experience of those
values alone.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:03 AM
Just as there is a danger that faith become merely
intellectual, and not personalized, there is the
danger faith be only personalized without intellectual
assent. My 21-year old stepson seems to be of the
latter. He loves science and is open-minded enough to
realize that it strains credibility that this is all
an accident. But he tends to take a very utilitarian
view of religion, considering it something he may
believe "when he needs to", i.e. when nearing death,
or for purposes of fostering mental hygiene or
happiness. He identifies with Mark Twain's quote that
religion is something that everyone knows not to be
true, but believes it anyway. He goes to church
services sometimes and tries to have a relationship
without the underpinning of intellectual assent. God
works with that just as he does with everything else,
which is why I so love the "hound of heaven" imagery
so much.
I don't mean to be hard on him. Everyone's motives, of
course, are mixed with self-preservation. After all,
trying to avoid hell is that. And the constant danger
is that prayer and the Mass become something for me
rather than for Him. In my past I held fast to
Tertullian's quote, "Credo quia absurdum" ("I believe
because it is absurd"), which comforted somehow
because I found in Tertullian that resonance that
'hey, yeah, I know this seems impossible to believe'.
Now I distance myself from Tertullian's quote, fearing
it would be misconstrued as advocating the divorce of
faith and reason. But my helplessness was and
continues to be the most valid faith experience I can
have because the moment I forget my total dependence
on Him is a lost moment. And I held on to Jesus,
always finding Him and his story credible.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:51 AM
Our Holy Father, in his pre-papal book "Love and
Responsibility" has some interesting things to say
about art and the line where pornography begins. He
admits the need for literature to reflect reality and
sexuality is obviously a part of reality, even
sexuality misused. Really great books are great
because they can be interpreted multiple ways, often
in seemingly opposite ways - almost to the point where
an agnostic can read it and interpret it as
"pro-agnostic" and a Christian can read the same thing
and think it "pro-Christian". I recall a convert
friend who read Percy's "Love in the Ruins" totally
differently after he converted and "Love in the Ruins"
had absolutely no part in the conversion. Percy was a
sort of Christian existentialist, which seems to me
almost a contradiction in terms. Don't get me wrong, I
love reading Percy, and am deeply appreciative that
someone so talented was also a believer - but I wonder
how truly "Catholic" his novels can be considered when
an agnostic sees them in sync with his/her worldview.
I realize the purpose of art is not to proselytize.
But this is sort of personal to me since I have
agnostic friends who could seemingly be reached by art
- they are hugely turned off by a more direct approach
- but art that to me is transcendent to them, well...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:35 PM
July 30, 2002
Google hits
I'm fascinated by how visitors from Google
accidentally find the site - it must be more eclectic
than I thought. Here's what some typed into the search
engine and landed here:
St. Therese hairshirt
does trickle down economics work
lake cumberland nudity
"david lodge" email birmingham
scat eat
cults in the mojave dessert
Can you say some of those on a Catholic blog?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:45 PM
My Turn for a Mea Culpa
I hit my own link to the "Blogs for God" guy and he
assiduously noticed it via tracking and visited my
site. Unfortunately my whine was a pretty recent post,
and he didn't fail to miss it. I was unfair to him in
assuming that he got some of his blog list here. He
says the links seem to have been holdovers from Martin
Roth's web index.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:22 PM
Fiction Monday
Winston Churchill, on the eve of battle, enjoyed a
brandy at 10 Downing with President Roosevelt. He lit
a Royal Tannebaum cigar, special issue, and sat in the
cherry-wooded room surveying the works of the
"Should the bombs fall, we can retire to the
basement where I have a collection of stamps that has
left me positive febrile! Oh all the old monarchs,
their pictures in winsome miniature portraiture!"
And so the bombs rained, and Goering’s raiders took
evil delight while FDR pondered the upside-down Wright
brother’s plane.
"What think ye sir, most benefits a man?" asked FDR.
"What do you mean?"
"What are the permanent things, what should absorb a
man. Stamps? War?"
"Good point you. War, for all its disaster, occupies a
warm place in man’s heart, for it is there virtue is
nurtured, honor born, sacrifice given, and glory-"
"Though it be a incredible immoral waste."
"Indeed, war is, I suppose, the thing that gives men
no excuses. They cannot say, ‘this does not matter’,
for their country, their lives are on the line. Men
live only when the stakes are high, they merely
survive when the stakes are low."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:56 PM
July 29, 2002
I usually attend an Eastern Byzantine Catholic
liturgy, which is similar to the Orthodox liturgy that
Dostoyevsky would've attended (except for language of
course). And I can see what he means by Orthodoxy's
emphasis on mystery & mysticism....The gospel readings
are usually the miracle stories of Jesus, rather than
the parables. And the heavy use of incense and singing
(even the gospel is sung) leads one to a more mystical
experience rather than an intellectual one. The
emphasis is more on obedience and our sinfulness and
need for grace. Less practical or utilitarian and more
monastic in flavor, there is not the slightest hint of
political concerns or social justice but a sort of
pure faith that presumably leads to "doing the right
thing" in the business or political sphere.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:54 AM
I whine, therefore I am
Come on, every blog in Christendom appears at this
self-appointed blog index except this one. Oh, and our
favorite nemesis Nihil Obstat. If Nihil did, that
would really transcend reason.
I've taken a preverse sort of joy that this blog
infinitely approaches total obscurity because I refuse
to ask anyone to link to it or in any way be
"political". Whatever tiny merit it might have, I want
visitors to come by it honestly. The wonderful
democracy of blogs is that hit counters don't lie, and
I use it as a sort of very rough indicator on the
possibility of a writing career.
Obscurity hopefully allows me to be a little more free
with my posts, and maybe more honest, having no
reputation to protect or audience to please. In my
opinion no one even approaches Amy Welborn's site
UPDATE: I am now on the site so all is
well with the world and total obscurity has morphed
into nearly total obscurity.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:37 AM
the Grand Faith
"My name is Avercius, a disciple of a holy shepherd,
who pastures flocks of sheep on mountains and on
(and) who possesses huge eyes, which he casts down
Faith led me everywhere
and everywhere served a fish from a spring as
(a fish) which was enormous and pure, (and) which a
holy virgin grasped.
And she (Faith) bestowed it among friends so that they
could always eat it,
as they had excellent wine and as they gave it in its
mixed form with bread.
While present I, Avercius, said that these (words)
were to be written here,
when I was in fact in my seventy-second year.
Let everyone, who understands these (words) and who is
in unison (with them), pray on his behalf." - AVERCIUS
Dated somewhere about 200, -- a time when it was not
safe to make too open profession of Christian faith;
hence Avercius phrases his confession in mysterious
language which has a double meaning, yet is easily
intelligible to one "who understands."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:02 PM
July 26, 2002
Psalm 132 says, "For the Lord has chosen Zion; he
prefers her for his dwelling. 'Zion is my resting
place forever; in her will I dwell, for I prefer
And so was the great comfort of Israel, that they were
the Chosen ones. But now, in the new dispensation, God
desires the salvation of all and prefers to dwell in
all. So I can rejoice because God chooses to dwell in
useless me, a Gentile, and I can rejoice for having
been baptized and have access to the sacraments. If
the sacraments are efficacious then how can one not
feel chosen? For there is no merit in being Catholic
by birth...
I see the attraction of the "no salvation outside the
Church" types, who see the Catholic Church as the new
Israel and its members as the new Chosen ones. For
there is a great attraction to be chosen, to be called
by name, to be singled out in some way. Love usually
means exclusivity in humans - we choose one spouse
among all the others - whereas with God love means
inclusivity. But wow, what a tension - I long to
believe in universalism, but I can't seem to do that
without denigrating the sacraments, and therefore
Christ, because that would be saying the sacraments
have no special efficacy. God is not bound by the
sacraments but if he routinely works around them then
isn't it like what they say about miracles - if they
happened all the time then they wouldn't be miracles,
i.e. special?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:30 PM
Garry Wills....I see he's provoked 28 comments on
Amy's site. He's a really interesting dude.
1) He's an intellectual with the highest credentials.
He's not a knee-jerk liberal on political matters (he
wrote for Nat'l Review a long, long time ago), so you
would think he would be broad-minded enough to be
credible on other matters. The fact that he is
Catholic also gives him credibility in that you would
think he would be fair to the Church. Here, you might
think, is the perfect writer for the Church - someone
who's fair-minded, broad-minded, not a Church
Triumphalist nor a Jack Chick....
2) He's still Catholic. That amazes me, given that he
believes the Church is wrong about just about
everything that the modern world holds dear (i.e.
birth control, abortion, etc). I just don't "get" why
he's still Catholic except as a superior marketing
ploy - the New York Times adores a someone from inside
since they don't have to be accused of
anti-Catholicism. It seems like just as it is hard to
be an Amishman and believe that modernity is okay, it
seems strange that someone who is Catholic should not
believe the Church has infallible authority. I mean,
isn't that what sets Catholics apart? The truth claim
that the Church has authority given to it via
apostolic succession?
I've decided that the faulty premise, and it is a huge
one, is that the fact he is Catholic gives him
credibility. That could easily be a detriment rather
than an advantage. He probably was hit by nuns in
grade school in the 50s and never forgave them for it.
Many who grew up during that time have axes to grind
against the institutional church. Plus he might've
fallen to "Justice Souter" disease - i.e. someone who
falls in love with his press and moves to the liberal
side of things.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:37 PM
July 25, 2002
Russel Kirk's "Principals that Have Endured"
Kirk wrote that certain principles endured over time,
having arisen from centuries of trial and error in
human experience. They included:
1) belief in a transcendent order and natural law;
2) affection for variety and mystery over uniformity,
egalitarianism, and utilitarianism;
3) recognition of natural hierarchies and talents over
4) belief that freedom and property are connected;
5) preference for prescription, custom, and convention
over rational or economic planning
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:50 PM
More Dostoyevsky
"He was hypercritical of Western Christianity, which
he said had 'distorted the image of Christ' in both
Catholicism and Protestantism. A Russian nationalist,
he suggested his country not look to Europe for any
sort of enlightenment:
"I assert that our people became enlightened long ago,
by taking into its eternal soul Christ and his
He foresaw disaster in the West because of a failure
to be faithful to Christ, and, in contrast to the deep
universal brotherhood characteristic of a genuinely
Russian vision, he 'concluded that the comedic
multicultural identity of Europe’s bourgeoisie and
intelligentsia simply could not be taken seriously as
the natural or proper form of human unity'." From the
Vatican website
Interesting both in light of the West (a disaster, as
predicted) but also in his overconfidence w respect to
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:22 AM
More Eucharistic overtones... mentioned by our priest
Bethlehem means "City of Bread"...a manger is a
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:10 AM
Been over-commenting over on Amy's blog;
evangelization is a topic that is both fascinating and
crucial, so I just couldn't help myself though I
really don't have the answer:
One of the glories of modern medicine has been pain
management and the ability to relieve suffering. The
typical person suffers far less, and dies far later,
than the typical person a century or two ago, which
tends to induce less concern about eternal things.
Suffering & the threat of death concentrate the mind
remarkably. Was it Socrates who said that if you have
a shrewish wife then at least you'll have philosophy
(religion)? Now you just get divorced...
And then there is our scientific mindset. I'm a firm
believer that your type of work begins to warp who you
are (sometimes in a good way, so perhaps 'warp' is a
bad word choice). Something you do day in and day out
for the best part of every day influences you to a
great degree. Edward Gibbon wrote, "as soon as I
understood the principles, I relinquished for ever the
pursuit of Mathematics; nor can I lament that I
desisted before my mind was hardened by the habit of
rigid demonstration so destructive of the finer
feelings of moral evidence which must however
determine the actions and opinions of our lives."
That "mathematical hardness" is something that now
courses through our veins in this computer age, this
age of "rationality". Why do so few scientists believe
in God? Thomas Edison said he couldn't believe in God
because his training was to believe only what he has
scientific evidence for. But God steadfastly refuses
to be "proven" for it would no longer be a
relationship of faith & trust and would remove our
free will.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:05 PM
July 24, 2002
Comments from Amy's blog
"I'm always reminded of Our Lady's pleas for prayer
with the heart. Or when she asks for prayers for the
"unbelievers" we find that we who think we believe can
also be considered in that category since her
definition of this type are those who do not feel
God's love in their hearts. Amazingly simple..."
"Frank Sheed once gave an example of a man who had
never shaved before discovering a razor. The man would
discover that the razor cuts and use it to cut wood.
He didn't cut very much wood, and he ruined the razor.
Sheed goes on to say that one cannot use one's life
rightly nor serve one's fellow man without a true
knowledge of purpose."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:55 AM
Amy Welborn's asking the hard questions...
My sense is that modern society is very utilitarian.
Therefore, to the extent that Christians are no
different from anybody else then there is less desire
to explore Christianity.
I can think of two remedies: one is "no salvation
except thru the Church", which basically promises the
consumer something he/she can't get anywhere else. (I
think the Church has tried that and feels that
argument has lost it's potency.) Or there is Eve
Tushnet's solution which is to love Christ and then
the Church will be something you love because of its
relationship to Him.
But that's the story of all time isn't it? Threat of
punishment, or attraction of love? Two ways to come to
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:02 PM
July 23, 2002
Dostoyevsky constantly mentioned that he absolutely
detested the idea of salvation as a judicial or
forensic act - but stressed instead the mystical
conversion experience. - Jay Rogers
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:43 PM
The ever complex Thomas Merton
It is a timeworn literary conceit, but some writers
seem to be several people....a kind of multiple
personality disorder keeps turning up in writers-and
writers with a religious bent seem particularly
susceptible, as they keep in play not only complex
human realities but divine realities as well.
Dostoyevsky, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, and many
other distinguished names attest to how common a
phenomenon this is. But of all the great modern
religious writers, no one harbored within himself a
larger cast of dramatis personae than Thomas Merton.
Even for a man not vowed to silence, Merton's several
dozen books would have been an extraordinary output.
But adding the journals...can a man committed to the
wordless apophatic way and a forgetting of self be
preoccupied with recording-and publishing-every
thought and act?
Merton made a gradual turn from a convert's effusive
gratitude to the type of critical stance usually
associated with cradle Catholics. Partly this was a
reaction to monastic restrictions and a widening and
deepening of his knowledge of human nature. But there
was a more rebellious element in him as well. Merton
sometimes took pride in what he regarded as the fact
that poets and monks are marginal people. The Trappist
life occasionally seemed good to him because it
represented the greatest nonconformity in the world.
Merton is beyond doubt one of the great spiritual
masters of our century. His personal turmoil and the
misjudgments in his social thought notwithstanding, he
is a forceful reminder that what may appear the most
rarefied of contemplative speculations have powerful
and concrete implications for the world. God dealt
Thomas Merton a difficult hand. His greatness as a man
lies not only in that he was able, more or less, to
keep several different persons together in difficult
times under the banner of "Thomas Merton," but that he
provides an enduring witness to all of us much less
gifted seekers who have to shore up our own
fragmentary lives in quest for the "hidden wholeness."
- Robert Royal
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:22 PM
Xenia, Ohio to Corwin, Ohio on bike began the fourth annual, the bike trip that
traverses small, unseen Ohio towns like Corwin, Spring
Valley and Oregonia. As far back as the 17th century
one exercise fan wrote, "Oh, how much misery is
escaped by frequent and violent agitation of the
body!". Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both
recognized the mental benefits of exercise and
described those who tend to sit around and think all
day as likely to be "melancholic". But to me it was
just a great excuse to take a half-day off work, which
in itself reverses melancholy. Not to mention the
enjoyment derived from the long exposure to sun and
other natural phenomenon like snakes, herons, beavers,
lily-padded lakes, small waterfalls and strangely
attired bikers.
In fairly fast time (unless measured by other bikers,
who apparently traveled at a rate of speed that made
the tree’s leaves blur), we arrived in the
euphoniously named Spring Valley. Oh to live in Spring
Valley, where it is eternally spring! It’s a little
Mayberry of a town, with a small ice cream & antique
shop called the "Spring Valley Mercantile Exchange".
There, behind a counter, a slow-moving man makes the
sweets that keep the bikers going. An olde picture in
the shop shows the Exchange in feister days,
displaying a banner that said: "Spring Valley Against
the World!". One can only imagine what the little
Mercantile was fighting for or who won.
We re-entered the bike path under blazing sunshine.
The threat of rain appeared a distant bad memory. We
continued along towards our goal of Corwin, the
half-way point, or mile 14. We rode by a masterwork
vista of several farms dotting the landscape and a
large white house on the hill looking as pristine as
We came to a proverbial fork in the road, or at least
an animal with a forked tounge. Mary gave a whoop and
a yell at a huge lumpy snake in mid-path..Mark could
not tell us the type of snake, but it looked like a
rattler, for its tail shook and sort of rattled and
its head cocked up and menacingly danced from side to
side. It might have been a cobra, come to think of it,
for it had that sort of look about him. Dangerous as
sin. Soon another biker happened by, one dressed in
the inexplicable fashion of bikers these days – in a
tight suit of loud colors, this time red, white and
blue. The biker was stopped dead in his tread when he
saw the snake. He confessed his great fear of snakes.
Mary, in a nice understatement, said something like,
"well I guess you’ll be stuck here".
Onward we pressed, but Mark noticed a disturbing
development. The sky behind us seemed a swollen black
and blue, like some sort of horribly disfiguring
injury. It looked angry as some sort of huge pus
abscess, soon to be drained all over us. We moved on
to Corwin, had ice cream & cokes, and waited for the
inevitable. Which came in buckets and buckets. And so
we were stranded in the small Corwin Peddler for at
least an hour and a half.
Our long national nightmare – being trapped with
strangers at a claustrophobic shop in Corwin, Ohio -
finally ended when I convinced Mom & Mark to take a
chance and ride in the slight drizzle. Apparently all
the other bikers felt similarly, for they all passed
us within a matter of a minute or two never to be seen
And so we traveled back through Spring Valley, I
noticed confirmation of Tom’s law of inverse
patriotism – those who have little show the most,
those with grand houses the least. I passed by houses
the size of small cabins with big flags and
window-sticker red, white & blue’s. I recall that when
I drive through some of the poorer neighborhoods in
Columbus, there are all sorts of flags & decorations
but when I drive by the McMansions, well, flags are
more rare. But then there are more pink flamigos in
poorer neighborhoods too, so maybe it doesn’t prove
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:08 PM
July 22, 2002
Currently reading the Pope's Love & Responsibility, a
wonderful tonic for the sexual ethic quagmire:
"Beauty is essentially an object of contemplative
cognition, and to experience aesthetic values is not
to exploit..Thus sensuality really interferes with
apprehension of the beautiful, even of bodily, sensual
beauty for it introduces a consumer attitude to the
object; 'the body' is then regarded as a potential
object of exploitation."
"[The sexual life process] has not a consumer
orientation - nature does not have enjoyment for its
own sake as its aim."
"The sexual urge in man is a fact which he must
recognize and welcome as a source of natural energy -
otherwise it may cause pyschological disturbances. The
instinctive reaction in itself, which is called sexual
arousal, is to a large extent a vegetative reaction
independent of the will...An exuberant and readily
roused sensuality is the stuff from which a rich - if
difficult - personal life may be made. It may help the
individual to respond more readily and completely to
the decisive elements in personal love. Primitive
sensual excitability (provided it is not of morbid
origin) can become a factor making for a fuller and
more ardent love. Such a love will obviously be the
result of sublimination."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:41 AM
The great debate...
Modernism - by James Akin
Pope Piux X dubbed Modernism "the synthesis of all
heresies." Modernists viewed doctrine not as a means
of obtaining supernatural knowledge, but as a symbol
of an unknowable ultimate reality or as a symbol of
human religious expression. Because they do not
contain genuine knowledge of the supernatural,
theological dogmas are relative and may adopted or
rejected based on whether they exercise power over
people's imaginations. Those dogmas which are found
productive to people's religious sentiments are to be
accepted, then abandoned when they are no longer found
satisfying. Dogmas may thus change over time, either
being completely rejected or reinterpreted and given a
meaning different than what they originally had.
Since dogmas do not give us knowledge of the
supernatural and religion is best viewed as an
expression of human religious aspirations, no real,
objective knowledge of God is possible. Intellectual
arguments in favor of his existence are useless, as
are arguments based on miracles or fulfilled
prophecies. In the Modernist view, the only knowledge
we can have of God is subjective, found in individual
religious experiences (which are binding on only those
who receive them).
Since God is found primarily or exclusively in the
human heart - in subjective experience - he is
profoundly immanent in the world. Modernism has a
tendency toward pantheism (the doctrine that God is
identical with the world or a part of it), emphasizing
his immanence at the expense of his transcendence.
Because theology does not give us knowledge of the
supernatural, Scripture is best viewed as an
expression of profound religious experiences had by
its authors, but not as a sure guide to a knowledge of
God and his ways. Scripture is not free from human
error and contains much symbol and myth. Since it is
historically unreliable and based on human religious
sentiment, there is a gap between what it records and
what actually took place.
In view of the fact that theological dogmas are
relative, all Christian denominations are equal. Even
non-Christian religions are valid expressions of man's
religious yearnings. It follows that the Church should
have no special relationship with the state and that
the state has no duty to uphold and promote the true
religion. Instead of openly acknowledging that the
state's power comes from God (Rom. 13:1) through Jesus
Christ (Matt. 28:18), the state should be indifferent
to all religions and to those with no religion.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:26 AM
Ravelstein said it
"I was always drawn to people who were orderly in a
large sense and had mapped out the world and made it
coherent. We had a buddy back in the States who liked
to tell us, 'Order is charismatic.'
"On especially enjoyable days I suffer an early
afternoon drop – fine weather makes it all the worse.
The gloss the sun puts on the surroundings – the
triumph of life, so to speak, the flourishing of
everything makes me despair. I’ll never be able to
keep up with all the massed hours of life-triumphant."
- Saul Bellow's "Ravelstein"
The summer ignites a certain carelessness – the sun
flings herself so freely, cold beer feels better
against summer’s hot skin, and the languorous vacation
days extend brotherly even into the work week…Nature
feels so over-the-top now.
I come by my back-to-nature roots naturally. At 11, I
was already deeply attracted to stories like that of
an L.A. architect who became a farmer in Iowa. The
show, "Apple's Way", was shortlived. But it activated
some sort of primeval purity button in me, as did
"Little House on the Prarie" and "the Waltons". I
mainlined those shows and they still have an
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:57 PM
July 18, 2002
One year, in a vain attempt to recover the white trash
within me, I bought an old pick-me-up truck and a
bumper sticker that read, "Work is for people who
can't fish". I didn't put it on since I thought it
intellectually dishonest given that I haven't been
fishing since I was a pre-pubescent (aka rugrat, drape
crawler). I still have the bumper sticker, a symbol of
the road not taken (i.e. the unshaven, divorced me
with a beer belly the size of Manhattan). Last
Christmas, in a vestigal thirst for redneckdom, I
asked my parents for the tackiest lawn ornament they
could find (I suggested starting in the pink flamingo
aisle). Call it a late, late, late adolescent
rebellion. Well come Christmas, you can imagine the
effort it took to paint a smile on when I opened the
gift and found a handsome, tasteful bronze-green
leprechuan. I display it proudly next to the shrubs,
but it's not what I had in mind. There's no neon.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:44 PM
"In the dark little library I became a crabbed squire,
a cranky country hobbyist, a 19th-century minded
custodian of uniform sets of Balzac and Dickens, O.
Henry and Winston Churchill." -- John Updike, "Toward
the End of Time"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:18 PM
Read an interview about a member of the French
Resistance during WWII. Some of the hero's friends
joined the Resistance, some actively supported the
Germans, and many stayed quiet and kept their heads
down. Was it surprising who did what?
"I'd asked if he was surprised when the guy betrayed
the group. No, he said, he wasn't really surprised by
anyone's behavior during that desperate preriod. 'Even
the kids in my high school," he said, 'I could have
predicted beforehand how almost every one of them
would act. It wasn't so different from how they'd
always been before'.
At the time it seemed a stunning thought: that by our
routine behaviors and seemingly banal choices, we
reveal what we're ultimately made of. But of course it
is absolutely so. It is by the incidental tests, day
by day and hour by hour, that we establish what we are
about; and, indeed, how we will respond when most
severely tested."
-Harry Stein
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:05 PM
Our Dominican priest has a different view of the
Church than non-Catholics or perhaps even some
Catholics have. He stresses the great freedom of
belief – how wide the pasture of what one can believe
is - because the Church’s doctrine are fences on the
far edges of the landscape pointing to the cliffs.
There are many theologies and one doctrine. An example
he mentions is the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin –
the doctrine - and whether she died first or was taken
up before death - the theology. (He pointed out that
it shouldn’t be irrational that Mary, whom the angels
called blessed, should be taken up to heaven when
Elijah and Enoch were in the OT). Another example is
the idea of limbo for unbaptized babies. You can
believe they are in heaven. Or not. But then what kind
of thing is that? If I am a mother who lost an
unbaptized child, you could probably guess what I'd
So, there is a freedom of belief, one that Fr. Hayes
finds good. Why? I like to believe the answers are all
nice and neat in print, without holes or inventions;
maybe because I don’t then have to depend on Somebody
for the answers? The bible says the Holy Spirit will
teach you. But I look around at the variety of beliefs
and think: how do you know if the HS teaches you? The
Church I can believe. Me? Protestants haven't gotten
very good results from that type of thinking...
Thomas Aquinas would sometimes lean his head against
the Blessed Sacrament during long times of prayer over
difficult issues, as if in a gesture for help. That we
must sweat and pray for truth is surely just another
evidence of the Fall - why should our fallen state not
extend to truths we might've forgotten?
Father Hayes says he has been taught by God in his
heart, things he knows. I would that I had his
confidence. Instead of faith being a set of answers at
the back of a math book, it is a relationship of
dependency upon the Deity. And though I know we will
not be held accountable for believing a falsehood in a
some matter which the Church allows latitude, it would
really rankle. And I'm not sure why - maybe pride.
Perhaps it is a question of not being properly
thankful for the truths we do have. The Catechism is a
very rich diet. The problem many of us cradle
Catholics have is that we have no appreciation for the
truth given to us because it was too rich a diet for a
5th or 8th grader or high schooler. Doctrines were not
appreciated, instead they were scrutinized for
inconsistencies or omissions. For a Simeon or the
apostles after the Resurrection, the NT was simply
breathtaking in its revelatory power.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:43 PM
July 17, 2002
Via All But Dissertations "Women's clothiers shrink
sizes to flatter buyers' vanity." link
Perfect metaphor for our time...shrink standards to
make us feel better. SATs too low? Let's dumb them
down. Morality too difficult? Let's loosen...
Standards and sizes make us uncomfortable because they
reveal the truth...they are too objective by a half.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:44 PM
Interesting comments from Steve Mattson:
"The emphasis on having the "right" ideas for oneself,
in one's head, is prevalent....
The answer to liberal Protestant and Catholic
intellectuals and conservative Fundamentalists is
faith. Not fideistic, naive, unthinking faith. But
faith in Christ who promised the Holy Spirit would
guide the Church into all truth. At the end of the
day, faith is an act of submission and obedience more
than strictly intellectual effort.
Faith requires our willingness to have the Truth
enfold us instead of striving always to prove to
ourselves that we're smart enough to be saved. In
other words, salvation (like faith) is not rooted in
propositions, but in a Person. When faith gets reduced
to "truths" we trot out for review, instead of
confidence in the person to whom we must submit all we
are and hope to be, we don't yet know the Truth that
sets us free.
As Catholics, we embrace mystery as part of our faith.
So we must trust, we must have faith, in Him who said
He would guide the Church into all truth. That does
not mean each of us will have all truth-- nothing, in
fact, is less likely. However, the Church makes up for
what we lack. In fact, as St. Paul said, the Church is
the Pillar and Bulwark of the Truth. I don't know
about you, but I'd say that's real good news. I'm glad
I don't have to work it all out for myself.
In contrast, the desire to possess tidy faith
formulations that can pass muster with the world (on
Wills' side) or Sola Scriptura (on the
Fundamentalists') is vanity. In the end, it produces
more pride than love. And it leads to the lifeless
faith that Amy described so well."
My take on this is that it is true, we defer to
Christ's Church for truth, but the maddening thing is
that we must admit even the Church "looks through the
glass darkly" as St. Paul wrote. Israelites of OT
times surely thought they possessed truth, and they
did in a sort of elementary way. But the hard fact
remains: can we not say that Christianity has
developed such that we no longer persecute those who
do not believe as we do? From "errors have no rights"
to religious freedom? Two hundred years from now it's
hard to believe that those looking back will cast an
eye on us and think not that our doctrines were wrong,
but that they were crude. And that is humbling, which
is to say, saving.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:29 AM
From the Rat's blog: "There are five reasons for
drinking: the visit of a friend, present thirst,
future thirst, the goodness of the wine, or any other
reason." —attributed to Père Sirmond, 16th century
Sounds like Père had been drinking...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:58 PM
July 16, 2002
From John Derbyshire in the Corner:
"As soon as I understood the principles, I
relinquished for ever the pursuit of Mathematics; nor
can I lament that I desisted before my mind was
hardened by the habit of rigid demonstration so
destructive of the finer feelings of moral evidence
which must however determine the actions and opinions
of our lives."---Edward Gibbon, Memoirs of My Life
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:19 PM
July 15, 2002
Heard Tammy Bruce, a pro-choice lesbian, defend Dr.
Laura's famous "homosexuality is deviant behavior"
comment on C-Span yesterday. She's for free speech,
and is basically a libertarian except in the case of
prostitution and drugs (since those are not victimless
crimes, in her estimation, but apparently abortion
is). She said she was tired of being lied to by the
left. Rosa Parks wasn't a tired old lady who didn't
want to go to the back of the bus but a leader in the
NAACP who staged it. Betty Friedan wasn't a bored
housewife, but an activist in the Communist
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:08 AM
Okay I'm over my whiney, Kumbayi moment. I got a
little vaklempt there. The damned are damned but God's
mercy is great. Case closed.
P.S. I suspect that my concern for other's salvation
is more a concern for self, in the form of worry over
my own soul. Would that I trust God enough to say like
Job (albeit in a different context) "though you slay
me, yet.."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:44 AM
Been listening to a lecture on tape about Early
Christianity by Luke Timothy Johnson and he has an
interesting definition for a religious experience
(i.e. in contrasting it with a aesthetic experience).
If one goes to church and hears a magnificent sermon
on the Good Samaritan and afterwards you tell the
priest how much you liked the sermon but then your
life doesn't change, then you had an aesthetic
experience. If you go to the symphony and hear Mozart
and then go home and buy a violin and begin study, you
had a religious experience. Then funny thing is, he
said, that you can never tell whether you are having a
religious experience at the time you are experiencing
From the Gratuitous Nonsense Dep't
I worked briefly for the Mexican government in the
Mexican Immigration Service (MIS) in ’89. I was hired
to stop the flow of illegal Americans crossing into
Matadoros, Mexico. I was given a badge and a gun and
told to shoot anyone with blonde hair and blue eyes.
Brown-haired Americans should be interviewed to
determine if they are Mexicans before being jailed.
My first day on the job was unsettling. I saw what
looked to be an obviously American family in a
late-model van crossing the border. I stopped them.
"What business do you have in Mexico?" I asked.
"We are here on vacation," the driver said.
"How do I know you’re not here to steal Mexicano
"What Mexican jobs?"
I stammered, "I ask the questions."
Damned if this North American family didn’t proceed to
run the barricade. They had entered Mexico illegally!
My first customers. The dust rose up like a fog and
they were gone.
I called it into my supervisor.
"No, no no! No one from Ohio comes to Mexico for a
job…they come to escape non-stop rain!"
From then on I was ready. A family with Indiana plates
drove up.
"State your business," I said.
"We are here on vacation."
"Aren't you really here to escape the constant clouds
of the Midwest?"
"Well, to be honest, yes."
"And you expect me to believe you will leave sunny
Mexico and return to 300 days of cloudy weather in
Fort Wayne?"
They made a run for it too. Had my gun ready, but I
didn’t shoot. I figured they were right. I’m now
working at a specialty supermarket for gringos in
central Mexico.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:23 AM
I read the bible with one hurt: I identify too
strongly with the underdog. That is, of course, an
American trait. I pity those born before Christ who
had to live under that onerous Law and for their
existence as old wine in old wineskins and not "new
creations" in Christ. I feel sorry for the pagans who
lived outside Israel, or before her time. For those
who did not possess the "Ark of the Covenant" in
battle. For those who weren’t the Chosen People. I
feel sorry for those Israelites who didn’t recognize
Jesus as the savior. I even have some pity for Judas.
The idea of predestination, in the form of grace
withheld, pains most of all: (Aquinas said that God
predestined some to hell in the sense of not providing
grace - they, of course, exercised free will in
sinning, thus damned themselves - somehow that feels
unsatisfying. Imagine reading Aquinas and it being a
'near occasion of sin' - ha).
It seems in order for us to be appreciative, we need
to see ourselves in relation to someone who has less
than we. Thus the new Christians can feel joy at
losing the Law and gaining the Spirit. Thus the
Israelites can feel euphoria in acquiring the Promised
Land or in just knowing they are the Chosen people. Is
the notion of exclusivity something humans need to
feel in order to know they are loved? We marry one
person only in order to show that person they are
special and beloved?
In short, I long for fairness, while living in utter
unfairness. For it is utterly unfair that I live in
physical comfort, after Christ...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:52 PM
July 12, 2002
One for the ages:
"The worst thing you can do is exactly what I ask." -
my boss.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:53 PM
Great post from Amy Welborn on Garry Wills' Papal Sin
"You're too smart to believe in God".- a co-worker.
The fact that intellectual elites have largely
abandoned religion has made the rest of us, quite
naturally, sensitive on the subject. Just as a boy who
is continually told that he is weak and puny will try
to develop muscles, so there is a natural reaction to
defend the faith intellectually, i.e. on the terms
that the "other side" sets. My motives (as always) are
mixed? I want to defend the faith to people I respect
but in doing so I also want to defend myself. Pride.
I've often wondered about the connection between truth
and hubris. Does God do us a favor in keeping us in
the dark for humility's sake? On a "Catholic Authors"
program on EWTN, the guest said that the great danger
is the middlebrow. Those who are brilliant tend to see
how little they know; those at the other end also know
they don't know much. But 'tweeners...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:18 AM
"Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not
know that I was their healer." - Hosea 11:3-4.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:55 PM
July 11, 2002
Great post on Blog for lovers on play as a virtue.
Scroll down for best results.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:55 PM
July 10, 2002
Post-vacation Euphoria drying up....
...but oh that it be true that for one grand and
glorious moment, that I escaped the quotidian, there
on that blessed ground, that holy ground, upon an
emerald lake under a giving sun. Oh to think, as I
wind down the slate gray stairs with the exposed
insulation, oh to think that I was there...and
vicariously I fly to it again, with our dog in the
lake, swimming, a life preserver on him, oh the
caninity! Oh to be flopping, flapping in the coddling
waters of Lake Cumberland....Oh to have been on that
pontoon with Aquinas and a beer and the spectacle of
it all...the stratified rocky cliffs, the benevolent
water, the shade-giving trees....It doesn't matter
that I'm not there now, just that I was and glimpsed
it and can reclaim it. Like that happy Lab that leapt
when his owners returned, so Shakespeare's words jump
and sprite to mind!
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise . . .
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea...
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:59 PM
Nancy Nall blogged about the pledge. I admit to a
little schadenfreude, or joy in another's pain, when I
see liberals contorting in anger over something George
Bush does (i.e. breathing), or now about the pledge
controversy. Conservatives went through purgatory
during the Clinton years, so there is a sort of rough
As a Christian, you can bet I enjoyed the
Congressional marionette show and their rush to pledge
allegiance to their re-election. In other ten years
they won't even bother...
Personally, I wonder if a little ol' fashioned
hypocrisy isn't a good thing now and then. For
instance, it's been said that some of the Catholic
bishops were hesitant to discipline wayward priests
because they themselves were wayward. So to protect
against hypocrisy children had to be abused. Now that
just ain't fair.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:40 AM
"Our noise for some seconds passed beyond excitement
into a kind of immense open anguish, a wailing, a cry
to be saved. But immortality is nontransferable. The
papers said that the other players, even the umpires
on the field, begged him to come out and acknowledge
us in some way, but he never had and did not now. Gods
do not answer letters." - John Updike writing about
Ted Williams
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:26 PM
July 9, 2002
FYI, here's the original Touchstone article.
Lee's response to my email:
Both in the OT and NT the bridegroom analogy is
applied to Yahweh/Christ and Israel/the Church,
emphasizing: that there is only one God, and that he
has only one Church. It was not consistently applied
to individuals until after Bernard, who popularized
Receptivity does not equal femininity. Obedience is a
military virtue.
John was a Son of Thunder. His femininity (and
homosexuality) is a modern invention.
Gibbons and others project the state of modern
Christianity back into patristic times.
Critics of my book have not pointed out any factual
errors in my data. I am looking for the truth of the
matter. The only modifications I would consider my
thesis are:
1 the rise of courtly love may be more important than
Bernard's mystical theology, but they quickly got
mixed up.
2 The Eastern churches have to be studied to see if
they show any signs of feminization when they are not
under Western influence.
I cannot believe that God created half the human race
to less fit for salvation - I am not a double
predestination Calvinist. Thanks for the comments
The ugly point, however, is that it appears (on the
surface at least) that some are less fit for salvation
by their very nature, and so his quibble seems to be
with numbers, given that 50% is too high a threshold
(or else it is because he is a member of that 50%).
We have a very learned, highly orthodox Dominican
priest at our parish who told us that receptivity is a
feminine aspect, which is the reason priests are male
- i.e. they are an icon of Christ and Christ is the
initiator, pollinator...He said it is hard for lay men
to deal with this imagery.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:35 PM
A Spiritual Reading List
How many have you read? Here's why...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:24 PM
the Podles Controversy
Leon Podles dates the feminization of the Church to
when "Bernard of Clairvaux taught that the
relationship to the Christian soul to God was that of
a bride to a Heavenly Bridegroom. In this he continued
an allegorical exegesis that goes back to Origen.."
This was actually rather bluntly stated by Christ, who
referred to Himself as the bridegroom in Matt 9:15,
Matt 25:1-13. "Similar OT imagery depicts Yahweh as
the husband of Old Covenant Israel (Is 54:5, Jer 3:20,
Hos 2:14-20). Jesus takes this role upon himself and
is now the divine spouse of the New Covenant Church
(Jn 3:29, Eph 5:25, Rev 19:7-9)." - Ignatius Study
Like it or not, humans are stuck in a passive role
given that we are receivers and not initiators. If the
male role is to initiate (if only in a biological
sense, but that is important given that God created
the idea of gender) then that is explicitly a role
given to God. We have only to wait and respond. I
would say that Christianity, if feminized, comes by it
honestly at least with respect to the bridegroom
Podles also says that the "age of the martyrs evinced
no great signs that Christianity was especially for
women but Gibbon, in the "Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire", wrote that "The clergy successfully
preached the doctrines of patience and pusillanimity;
the active virtues of society were discouraged; and
the last remains of the military spirit were buried in
the cloister."
It's difficult not to surmise that just maybe women
are better people and that's the reason they are more
religious. Rather than bending and twisting
Christianity to gain male adherents why not recognize
that there are all kinds of inherent advantages that
religious people have that others do not. For
instance, people whose father abused them have a hard
time believing in God, while those with a strong
family are more likely to believe. Poor people in
aggregate have a greater faith than rich. Those born
with a rational, scientific-type minds seem to
struggle with faith (scientists have about a 10% rate
of belief in God).
Bottom line is that religious faith has all types of
natural fetters, and we can only assume that God will
reward each according to the faith given to him or
her. That more may be required of a woman or a man
with less testosterone is, I don't think,
unreasonable. It could be argued that the least
masculine figure among the apostles was John, who also
was the one most loved by Jesus.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:59 PM
July 8, 2002
Sex & the Church
Amy's having quite a blogcussion on the Leon Podles
controversy. I am fascinated that Podles allegedly
lays the blame for a feminized Church at the feet of
Hans von Balthasar and Pope JPII. I'll have to read
more about that. It seems like one of Gerard's
contentions is that sexual sin should not be viewed
horrendously. Amy Welborn in the past has said
something similar - that the Church is too hard on
sexual sins at the expense of other types of sin.
Michael Jones has a very interesting view of the
question; he's a hardcore "see everything thru the
lens of sex" type, but then men are supposed to think
about it every six seconds. I've heard many others
claim that the Church is obsessed with sex, but then
so is modern society. Perhaps the Church has to be
obsessed with whatever society is obsessed with.
Crocker's take on it seems to be that the Church has
guided a middle ground despite the seemingly
sexophobic Augustine (and St. Paul?). Crocker points
out that the influential theologian Origen actually
had himself castrated. So I guess Augustine does look
a little moderate compared to Origen.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:10 PM
What I Did on my Summer Vacation
Wednesday shone jewel-like, empty of duty. It began
with clipping some of the errant limb'd maples out
back. Then I sat in the hot shade and even hotter sun
and melted beneath God’s beauty-earth, eventually
merging my chair with the tomato plants…..ahh…'twas
nearly 2:00 before the clock lent some sense of
urgency, so I threw the bike in the truck bed and did
the whole, expanded bike path. It ended with the
pleasant sound of church bells, pleasant until I
discovered they were connected to a cemetery instead
of a church. On the ride back I listened in the long
heat to NPR & Terri Gross interviewing the makers of
"Frank Sinatra & Hollywood". Heard outtakes of the Rat
Pack recording a movie tune, Frank restless and ready
to go back to Jersey. A metaphor for us all. There
amid the passing farms I felt the unlikeliest of
emotions – longing. Later I would feel it more
profoundly when stopped at a Pizza Hut forty miles
north of Lexington, KY. While waiting the obligatory
twenty minutes, I ran a pluperfect rural route.
Shortly after take off, I noticed, there upon a hill,
a white house with wrap-around porch and a truck set
jauntily on a dirt drive. Something in it, maybe the
whiteness of the house, or its nearness in look to
Tara of "Gone With the Wind" set me off and I
experienced an ache of longing akin to pain. At the
end of the lane I came to a house with a huge yard
full of automobiles, a motley crew of perhaps fifty
cars in all states of rust; they were crowded together
like some sort of car lot from hell. I thought: only
in America that such wealth could marry such lack of
Thursday was July 4th, brutally hot even by 10:30am,
so I tarried barely a minute before leaving the scene
of the supposed parade (apparently not a 10am start).
By 11:30 we were on our way to the Red’s game. We had
nice seats; with only 16,000 fans the blue lay
unoccupied and downright breezy. No body heat here.
Unforunately the Redlegs lost a 4-3 lead with 2 outs
in the 9th, but that was a technicality. Watching a
game and caring about the outcome (at least in July;
September's different if it's still a race) is like
going to a symphony and being upset that the last note
was an e-minor.
Friday morn we set off for Elizabethtown, KY (known to
locals as "E-town") and ended up at a desultory
campsite with a weed-eaten pool and neighbor camper
blaring the Broadway soundtrack from "Momma Mia". But
the redeeming quality was the farm behind us, and so I
sat upon a huge tree stump while the girls showered,
and stared as dusk molecules slowly greyed the slate.
The barn was red and grey and peeling and one support
leaned slightly, and a tree leaned in sympathy with
the crumbling barn as if for purely photogenic
reasons. A closer tree, with an exotic look about it,
gave off the impression of the African savannah. The
unbearable part of the tableau was that the tree and
barn sat atop a slight hill that did not allow any
view beyond them. And so there was that inscrutable
mystery – what lay just over the hill? Uncomfortable
with mystery, I tested the fence for voltage (editor’s
note: the low-tech way – put hand against it) and then
climbed o’er the barbwire and advanced a few steps
before seeing that there were people walking into the
house. A sometime respector of private property, I
climbed back to the tree stump, forever wondering what
lay just over that little hill. (Probably more farm.)
On Saturday we discovered a minor ponc. Lake
Cumberland wasn’t 20 minutes away but 2 hours. I
wasn't in charge, I was just along for the ride. So we
packed up everything and headed southwest. Away from
Louisville to deep south Kentucky. After a drive in
the brilliant sunshine we made Cumberland and
fortunately found a camping spot. More work ensued,
which made me think: one goes camping to trade
drudgery and cooking and cleaning one’s home for
drudgery and cooking and cleaning one’s campsite. Viva
le’ difference. By 2:30 we were all set up and ready
for action. The camping vacation would begin
officially right now! Since all the "funtoon" boats
were rented out, we settled for two fishing boats. We
swam in the emerald green water in a private cove
surrounded by picturesque rock cliffs… Cumberland has
that irresistable feature of having a million
"fingers" or coves and thus there is always a new
vista or private island just ahead. We split the calm
waters at a good pace and cut across other boat wakes
and oogled a dead fish with pop-eye’d eyes...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:35 AM
Oy vey...Nihilstic Obstreperous (intentional sic) has
landed. Well they say there's no such thing as bad
publicity. She found a niche, so there you go. There
must be a market for schadenfreude else she wouldn't
have visitors. Good time for me to go on vacation and
avoid plural's. <- Just teasin' N.O.!
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:44 PM
July 3, 2002
No bloggin' for awhile. Lake Cumberland calls. A long
weekend. Blessed bliss...
Written in 1909 on 1860s baseball:
"Baseball was then just coming into its own. It was no
child’s play either, in the original package. Curved
balls were undreamed of….There were no great padded
gloves, either…".
The curveball was only 35 years old when he wrote
that, but the interesting thing here is that the
‘great padded gloves’ of 1909 were NOTHING compared to
today’s gloves! Now we would call the 1909 gloves a
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:59 PM
Re: Amy Welborn's blogcussion (i.e. blog discussion)
on faith...:
"In believing, we entrust ourselves to the knowledge
acquired by other people. This suggests an important
tension. On the one hand, the knowledge acquired
through belief can seem an imperfect knowledge, to be
perfected gradually through personal accumulation of
evidence; on the other hand, belief is often humanly
richer than evidence, because it involves an
interpersonal relationship and brings into play not
only a person's capacity to know but also the deeper
capacity to entrust oneself to other's, to enter into
a relationship with them which is intimate and
enduring." - JPII Fides et Ratio
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:24 AM
July 2, 2002
Funny stuff from National Review Online:
"The sun is hot, the beer is cold, and the thoughts
are long and languid. It is vacation week at the
We do this every year. Fourteen or so of our closest
immediate family members, plus a parasitic teenage
guest or two, pile into a large house near the Corolla
Lighthouse. Huge stores of provisions are loaded in:
the better parts of pigs and cows; eggs, fruits,
vegetables, bags of candy bars, cookies, and enough
beer and wine to stun a Russian division.
Vacations like these, of course, are much about
family, and more than one friend has observed that
their own families could not gather under one roof for
much more than a holiday meal. They ask the secret for
success. The answer is fairly simple: People are like
nations, and nations get along best when they are
given space and respect, no matter how little they
deserve either. During the day, we are a group of
individuals: walking, running, sunning, swimming,
fishing, reading, doing business over the computer,
practicing musical instruments, and in the junior
division chasing chicks. These are undertaken alone or
in small clusters. We all gather for the evening meal,
at which time it is imperative to know which subjects
to avoid."
Poem Illustrating the Plight of Christians Who Find
Themselves Astride the World & the Kingdom, Full
Citizens of Neither.
Deep 'side an Irish lea
lies a mermaid
in a capricious pose
half-reclining, half-sitting
as her half-and-halfness dictates.
She takes her coffee with cream:
Half & Half naturally-
and is half-way committed
to the cause of boycotting tuna
for the fish in her sympathizes
but the woman in her
loves her Starfish.
Longing for love
she sighs a wistful sigh
for neither the marlins satisfy
nor the fishermen that happen by.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:26 PM
July 1, 2002
Various & Sundry
My summer resolution: instead of eating two big meals
each day, I'll eat lots of big meals each day.
Am I being legalistic if I worry if I’m too
Nothing is more attractive than other people’s
Heaven is...turning on C-Span and finding yourself at
the beginning of an hour long interview with William
F. Buckley. Bank error in my favor.
The best Catholic magazine on the market: Crisis.
Couldn't put down the latest issue.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:31 PM
June 30, 2002
The unbearable lightness of riding, 2 hours, drunk on
sunshine. Found that elusive ‘perfect’ rural road,
that rarest of beings in urban Ohio. How difficult to
retrieve from its obscurity! To the end of a
seven-mile bike path, then veered off and went miles
down a semi-country road until there it lay like a
perfect jewel in the sun. I knew it immediately. I
knew it as if by some sort of muscle memory - here was
the road of perfection. I turned and followed it for
three blessed miles, passed by only one car, a road
capable of summoning songs shot through with
nostalgia. Unbidden came "Oklahoma!", and it was an
"Oklahoma" moment, a corny moment, a moment those
ordered fields stretched out to infinity, the soil
roiling in the midday heat with Norman Rockwell farms
scattered here and fro, silo’s strong and silent and
seeming permanent, giving mute voice to a purity lost.
I felt I was moving in the Mojave desert - so desolate
and dry and sunny it was - but I was surrounded by
new-born green fields and an occasional ancient oak.
Here you can see the whole evolution of civilization -
from thick forest to meadow clearing to farm to small
town. You take Manhattan. I’ll take dusty Midwestern
fields and old red barns under an unbending sun.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 6:00 PM
June 29, 2002
Advice received concerning on the Summas
The two works have different purposes. The Summa
Theologiae was written for Catholics, especially for
beginning theologians who have a solid grounding in
the philosophy of Aristotle. The Summa Contra Gentiles
was written earlier and is dlirected towards
convincing Jews, Muslims, and heretics of the truth of
the Catholic Faith. There is a lot of interlap between
the two works, but you'll find that the same subject
is often approached in a slightly different manner
because of the different purpose. Also, I found that
the Summa Contra Gentiles is more difficult in some
places. For example, in the proofs of the existence of
God, if you compare the two works you will find that
the Summa Contra Gentiles is wordier and more
involved--in the Summa Theologiae he has really
cleaned up the arguments and has done away with
superfluities or questionable premises.
: I think a better introduction to St. Thomas would be
any of his works on the Scripture--there is no
comparison to his commentaries, and they are more
accessible than the Summas. Also his Catechetical
Instructions (There's a beautiful volume being
published by Roman Catholic Books) are an excellent
beginning and reflect his thought in the Summa, but
they were written as sermons, so they are much more
accessible than the works written for students of
theology. - Reb
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:39 PM
The link for the Cardinal Ratzinger mug is working
now. If I buy it I'll have to hide it from my
evangelical wife. (Apologetic discussions tend to
provoke more heat than light; we emphasize our common
beliefs rather than differences). Some men hide porn,
I hide Karl Keating and Hilare "bellicose" Belloc.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:09 AM
June 28, 2002
Re: Amy's site - It beggars the imagination that
people should be surprised that on a Catholic blog
there is criticism of St. Rudy of New York, the former
mayor. If it follows that most of Amy's readers are
Catholic, then you would think that it follows that
they believe that abortion is wrong, i.e. murder. So
how is it that we are supposed to take in the
disconnect that we should celebrate and/or vote from
someone who is pro-choice but would provide us better
gov't? Should we trade a tax cut and lower crime for
the greater crime of abortion?
I think it must be that whole East coast Catholic
versus Midwest Catholic difference. East coasters have
no problem with the Mario Cuomo and Teddy Kennedy. The
Midwesterner is somewhat more likely to vote pro-life
(witness the current two Ohio senators). Ultimately,
of course, it won't be solved by politics anyway. It's
a heart issue; a matter of conversion. It's easy to
get discouraged when half of Catholics vote for
Clinton. Amy Welborn's pretty orthodox, so you would
expect an orthodox audience. So when even she is
getting snarked for linking to an anti-Rudy article,
then I think, damn, what hope have we. We've lost our
saltiness, this correspondent most definitely
included. I continually forget what T.S. Eliot wrote:
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:47 AM
June 27, 2002
Nancy Nall blogged an interesting piece on the Amish
and on an article from the Fort Wayne newspaper.
Granted the Amish are prejudiced and ill-educated, but
aren't they also an experiment of life before TV?
Shouldn't they be different because of that (besides
just being superstitious & prejudiced?). Everyone says
TV and movies have altered us; shouldn't they have
longer attention spans at the very least? Seemingly
affected by neither Nietsche or TV (but automobile's,
yes) the Amish could be a test of Jonah Goldberg's
I remember years ago on my first visit to Berlin, Ohio
seeing a beer can near one of their fields and being
*shocked*. I shouldn't have been. Not that beer is a
specifically American thing, but our culture is so
dominating and so assimilating that I should rather be
surprised when any of us put up the least resistance
to it. I recently finished "Crossing Over: An Exodus
from Amish Life" by Ruth Garrett and she talks about
the massive switch of going from full-body covering to
buying lingerie at Victoria Secret. Sadly, the book
barely touches on her sudden exposure to movies and
television and what effect they had on her if any (she
loves movies though initially by the violence).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:11 PM
June 26, 2002
"We look not to what is seen but to what is unseen;
for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is
eternal." - 2 Cor 4:18
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:37 AM
Robert Bauer of Hokie Pundit asks if we can be
Christian and follow the American dream. He says: "To
my Protestant sensibilities, it seems as if you're
saying "um, so long as we don't kill anyone and put
our $5 in the plate every week, it's all good." Also,
if I'm understanding him correctly, he's asking why
all Christians don't give up all their money and
become missionaries because Jesus and the disciples
lived a pretty austere life, and were told to even
reject their families. Several times they went out as
beggars with only one tunic apiece.
I wade into these murky and dangerous shoals by saying
my take on it is that first and foremost we are
radically damaged due to original sin. Damaged beyond
belief. And so therefore we start life in a huge hole
but have the ability, via baptism, to receive grace.
Now just as Jesus healed sometimes very quickly and
sometimes more slowly (witness the man whose blindness
gradually dissipated), so does our growth via grace
sometimes move fast, sometimes slow.
The point is that we don't heal ourselves. We don't
say to God, "I'm going to be a Mother Teresa" and move
to Calcutta. Rather God says to us, "you're going to
be a Mother Teresa..." Why? Because a) maybe that is
not God's plan for us (i.e. bloom where you are
planted) and b) we can't manufacture the grace
necessary for that tremendous sacrifice. That has to
come from Him. Just as priestly celibacy is possible
only from Him. Someone who doesn't have a vocation to
the priesthood and yet attempts
see the results.
All of this is hopefully not an excuse for our
laziness and/or sin. And the danger, of course, is
more likely that we will miss God's call than we will
volunteer for something God hasn't called us to - but
the point is that it imprudent to do something
'heroic' (that might have more to do with our
self-glorification than His) without his backing.
"Story of a Soul" by St. Therese of Liesux makes the
point that little things mean a lot to God.
Also, don't we, in a sense, test or tempt God if we
put ourselves in a situation that demands his grace?
Does the Christian scientist who refuses medical help
to their child because they prefer to rely on God's
help not error from a lack of prudence? Is that
different from someone who, without perceiving a
definite call from God, gives away all their money?
I may sound dogmatic here, and I don't mean to. I'm
still trying to sort it all out. I do agree that we
are called to much more than $5 in the plate and to
not kill. But that's where "Story of the Soul" is so
powerful because it convincingly argues that when we
hold our tongue instead of criticizing someone at work
or refrain from talking behind someone's back those
are little acts of praise that sound large in heaven.
Obligatory Disclaimer: As Bill O'Reilly says, "tell me
where I'm going wrong". It's very possible I am dead
wrong about all this and should hie me to a monastery
and wear a hairshirt. In fact, I have a feeling
Dorothy Day would disagree...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:14 AM
Catholic blogger email on seeing saints 'in context':
I mean to write about that someday. What are the
limits? Of course we can't judge people of the past
according to our own standards. That's ahistorical and
unfair. But then what happens? If we rationalize OT
violence, or the violence of the Crusades (I know, I
know... a small part of an extended war between Islam
and the West which Islam came very close to winning)
or the Inquisition or the forced baptisms of untold
natives from the Gauls to Native Americans, why not
rationalize contemporary sexual laxness? Why not gotta see it all IN CONTEXT of a
sexually permissive culture, so that means it's all
And in a sense it is, I the extent that the
culture defines us, we're less culpable for our
failure to live up to the ideals of Christ...but it
doesn't make any of it okay, and it doesn't make any
of it a reason for celebration...right?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:30 PM
June 25, 2002
From Amy' s site, excerpted letter from Cyprian:
"Considering His love and mercy, we ought not to be so
bitter, nor cruel, nor inhuman in cherishing the
brethren. Lo! a wounded brother lies stricken by the
enemy in the field of battle. There the devil is
striving to slay him whom he has wounded; here Christ
is exhorting that he whom He has redeemed may not
wholly perish. Whether of the two do we assist?"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:21 PM
Merton is the pluperfect opposite of a fundamentalist
and the study of extremes is interesting. The health &
wealth, smiley-faced Christianity with its allergy to
the idea of anyone but Christians will be saved is at
one end, and Merton's flirtation with Eastern
religions and disgruntled, independent demeanour is at
the other...Merton loathes those who subscribe to any
sort of Catholic sacramental "magic". I just finished
a book about the Amish, and all is not as it appears
(surprise). The idyllic privitism and purity some
picture just ain't so.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:07 PM
Email response:
I know - Merton had an independent, critical spirit,
which I'm sure he hoped the monastery would help mold
and even..overcome. He went in some interesting
directions at the end of his life, that's for sure.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:55 PM
I'm reading Thomas Merton's last journals ('67-68) and
it is positively purgatorial. It's hard to endure the
juxtaposition of his early, inspiring work The Seven
Storey Mountain and his last journals. They are
certainly honest. And so what if he's not a saint?
Just because you are a monk (or bishop) doesn't make
you better than anyone else. Merton comes off as an
Edward Abbey - crabby, nature-loving, beer & bourbon
drinking, hater of America, etc...Maybe all heroes
have feet of clay and I should get over it. It's
certainly a familiar pattern - the bright-eyed,
idealistic youth moving towards a cynical, curmugeonly
older age.
Merton on his monastery: "Is this institution worth
preserving? Maybe - but let someone do it who do it
who knows how and is interested. Not me!"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:39 AM
Veni Sancte has a very interesting post on 1968, the
year of the Church's Maginot line (i.e. Humane Vitae).
He says that "The teaching of the Church is shaped by
human experience and human experience is shaped by the
teaching of the Church. What happens when the circuit
is disrupted? Especially difficult is finding the
source of the disruption. The teaching Church is
blaming the learning Church and the learning Church is
blaming the teaching Church. If history is any guide,
I would place my money on the learning Church as
coming out ahead. When the learners are telling the
teachers that what they are teaching is not the
learners’ experience of human existence, nothing can
be taught."
But I don't think the learning Church is protected
from error. And therein lies the difference. The
teaching Church has no choice in teaching that
contraception is an evil, if she believes it to be so,
regardless of what the learning church thinks or
"experiences". The choice in how hard to crackdown is
whether or not the Church wishes to risk becoming a
remnant, like the Amish. And in these days when
bishops act like CEOs, one senses they won't take that
path. And so we will probably continue to muddle
through with an increasingly polarized Church.
Interestingly, Islam & Mormonism are two fast growing
religions that have in common they ask a lot from
their adherents. The perfect way to marginalize
oneself as a Church is to be weak and capitulate and
ask nothing...(Jesus must've understood this in asking
that we become perfect as the Heavenly Father is
perfect). Mormons, of course, are expected to do two
years of missionary work and fast from caffeine,
alcohol, etc...Muslims are expected to pray five times
a day and fast one month a year. So I don't quite
understand why Humane Vitae should've been the
lightening rod it has become in the sense that
practicing it be considered so unreasonable. My wife
and I use NFP and don't find it unduly burdensome.
Perhaps the point is that American Catholics find an
undemocratic Church a scandal in of and itself.
Democracy is in our very blood now; dissent as natural
as breathing. Tocqueville wrote in 'Democracy in
America': Two things must here be accurately
distinguished: equality makes men want to form their
own opinions; but, on the other hand, it imbues them
with the taste and the idea of unity, simplicity, and
impartiality in the power that governs society. Men
living in democratic times are therefore very prone to
shake off all religious authority; but if they consent
to subject themselves to any authority of this kind,
they choose at least that it should be single and
My mother experienced the confusion in 1968, and the
confusion was born mostly because the authority became
fractured and no longer uniform. She went to a priest
to confess her use of birth control and the priest
told her, "it's okay, that's not really a sin". This
disconnect was what turned her off. In the next
sentence Tocqueville writes that "Religious powers not
radiating from a common center are naturally repugnant
to their minds." It was at this point my mom became of
the "learning Church" and dissented from the teaching
of Humane Vitae. The tendency in a democracy is to
hold one's own opinion as gospel, unless there is a
single, uniform authority. And because that authority
was fractured in 1968, by dissenting priests and even
bishops, we are still suffering the consequences.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:23 PM
June 24, 2002
Cranky Professor brings back pleasant memories of
Rome...(Fade to flashback music)...I've this vivid
memory of the pushy Italian nuns at St. Peter's who
formed an impentetrable line for Communion making it
difficult to merge...Instead of waiting for the rows
ahead of them to empty, they came up from rows back.
Charitably, we chalked it up to their great hunger for
the Eucharist..
We searched for our grail, the little French
restaurant run by lay missionaires called "l' eau
Vive" where the cardinals of the church party and
where, after dinner, comes the ritual singing of Ave
Maria in French, sung in such sweet and childlike
tones that the hair on your skin stands up. We found
the little restaurant, where JPII frequented before
his papal promotion and where discreteness is the
word, but not easily. I ask various people where "Le
Monterone" is...A policeman knows but isn't telling,
another local tells but doesn't know. The pleasure of
looking and finding was greater, and it is that little
area of Rome I consequently remember most - the little
café Le Euastochio where big shots sip cappuchino,
where religious shops line the square like a geiger
counters triggering the nearness of the eccleciastical
One night in Rome venturing out after a couple glasses
of wine (the in-room refrigerator had provided the
wine at no immediate cost other than my signature on a
sheet of paper), I walked in the light rain to a new
(i.e. hundred year old) church. I peaked inside it's
slightly ajar doors, and inside were the comforting
images of saints. I stealthily moved in and saw that
some sort of singing practice was going on. The
language barrier being such, I could make out nothing
of their sounds; it was completely opaque. I felt like
a voyeur, an outsider, and lurked in the shadows. A
man in his late 40s, with a look of annoyance, began
the long trek down the aisle. Reading body language, I
scattered. I bolted out the door, delighted that I'd
provoked a response, and then observered from a
distance as the man looked left and right and left
again, and then closed the church doors completely. I
was on vacation, and if I could enter the locals
lives, even in a perfectly annoying way, then at least
I was impacting.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:46 AM
Interesting blog from Eve Tushnet on "How one becomes
what one is".
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:20 AM
Another from the NY Times:
Contrary to all appearances, Catherine Millet
considers herself no libertine. Being French and an
intellectual, however, she has a particularly precise
definition of that term. "I don't think I am a
libertine in the literary, 18th-century sense of the
word," said the 54-year-old author of "The Sexual Life
of Catherine M.," a surprisingly dry memoir, given its
clinically detailed descriptions of group sex and
seemingly innumerable affairs energetically pursued
over the course of two decades by Ms. Millet.
Yet her own conclusions about sex are much more
mundane. "For a long time, people said that
procreation was the point of sex," she said. "Today
people tend to think that the point of sex is
pleasure, orgasm. But sincerely, I don't think there's
any point to sex at all. People think there's some
secret they'll discover in that black box of sex,
which will help them to live better or make them
happy. And in fact there's nothing, nothing, nothing
there at all."
Re: that last paragraph. Isn't this the perfect mirror
of our whole materialistic mindsight? It reminds me of
someone who has studied biochemistry and de-mystified
the body - it's just cells....there's no soul
there....She went about her "research" in the most
clinical, empirical way imaginable and came up empty.
What a great metaphor for modernity.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:35 AM
NY Times piece on work:
I happened on one of those online lists showing which
wire-service articles have been e-mailed most
frequently. The leader of the pack, by a great margin,
was a Reuters article headlined ''Boring, Passive Work
May Hasten Death: Study.'' In the prior six hours, it
had been e-mailed 870 times....Apparently a nation of
people sitting at their desks and avoiding whatever
simple operations they are supposed to be performing
found a certain resonance in the idea that, as the
study put it, ''the meaningfulness of work may be an
important contributor to the mortality experience.'
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:14 PM
June 23, 2002
Thoroughly enjoyed my birthday celebration at
Mecklenburg Garden’s Restaurant in downtown (and I do
mean downtown) Cincinnati. Set amid tenement buildings
and urban color, we survived the walk into
Mecklenburgs without incident. The restaurant oozed a
sort of tangible Germanness, though it might’ve been
my imagination since it didn’t exactly have an
apostolic line of succession – i.e. there were breaks
when it was something other than a German restaurant.
But it didn’t matter, since we enjoyed tremendously
good food and company. I chose the beer with the most
syllables, as good an indicator of a great beer as any
other for any beer company confident enough to call
themselves"Fahrenesbruder Dunkel Scheinheimer Bier"
(or whatever it was) must be good. After all, by the
time you get done saying the name you could’ve had a
Bud Light. But the beer lived up to its name. As did
the steak. And dessert. Ohhhhh..! St. Thomas wrote
that "bodily pleasures are often more intense than
intellectual pleasures, but they are not so great or
so lasting" and that is true, but surely doesn’t mean
we should ignore the God-given bodily ones.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:10 AM
June 22, 2002
My wife's professor (at a Catholic college) said that
St. Thomas Aquinas 'hated women'. News to me. One
'example' she used is when he chased a prostitute
around the room with a hot poker (a prostitute
provided by his parents to try to prevent him from
becoming a Dominican). Michael Novak says no
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:23 PM
June 21, 2002
Self-indulgent Bloggin' Exhibitionism is
Sayeth Eve Tushnet:
The final nifty characteristic of blogs that I
discussed was the personal nature of the writing. Now,
this can be either a bug or a feature. It is just
creepy to detail every moment of your life, or worse
yet, to air your dirty laundry in public--who is
reading your site? Why are you writing it? I think
last night I sounded more critical of personal-life
blogs than I really am--when they're funny, their
appeal is pretty much the same as Dave Barry's. But
there are some blogs that really do suffer from
exhibitionism, and that's lame.
"But Momma, that's where the fun is..." - Manfred
Mann's 'Blinded by the Light'
"One of America's specific problems is fame and
glory... partly on account of its extreme
vulgarization. In this country, it is not the highest
virtue, nor the heroic act, that achieves fame, but
the uncommon nature of the least significant destiny.
There is plenty [of fame] for everyone, then, since
the more conformist the system as a whole becomes, the
more millions of individuals there are who are set
apart by some tiny pecularity." - Jean Baudrillard
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:17 PM
Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard (re: Walker Percy &
"Make no mistake, I have nothing against wine. When I
visit my wife's relatives in Tuscany, I drink their
Brunello with an urgency that could be better
addressed by an intravenous drip bag. Likewise, I have
no quarrel with beer. These six-pack abs didn't build
themselves. They're imported--from Milwaukee.
[But] a good bourbon is the ideal slow-and-steady
pick-me-up. Bourbon is the spirit most likely to put
you in an easy sipping rhythm with all its attendant
benefits: the relaxation and conviviality, the brief
waylay in that magically lucid state that resides
somewhere between stone-cold sobriety and
Walker Percy was a seminal bourbon fan for whom
drinking Scotch was akin to "looking at a picture of
Noel Coward," a whiskey he said assaulted the senses
"with all the excitement of paregoric." Thus he
advocated bourbon's analgesic benefits to help Joe
Suburbia cope with existential questions such as, "Is
this it? Listening to Cronkite and the grass growing?"
Lest one think Percy was an unrepentant lush, he
added: "If I should appear to be suggesting that such
a man proceed as quickly as possible to anesthetize
his cerebral cortex by ingesting ethyl alcohol, the
point is being missed. Or part of the point. The joy
of bourbon drinking is not the pharmacological effect
of C(2)H(2)OH on the cortex, but rather the instant of
the whiskey being knocked back and the little
explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of
the nasopharynx and the hot bosky bite of Tennessee
summertime--aesthetic considerations to which the
effect of alcohol is, if not dispensable, at least
secondary." Link
"Omar Khayyam's wine-bibbing is bad, not because it is
wine-bibbing. It is bad, and very bad, because it is
medical wine-bibbing. It is the drinking of a man who
drinks because he is not happy. ... He feasts because
life is not joyful; he revels because he is not glad."
GK Chesterton more here
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:44 PM
June 20, 2002
Christianity is the only religion which has ever
united in a common faith, equally clear, complete, and
steadfast the common people and philosophers, the
ignorant and the learned. It affords a singular
phenomenon in the annals of humanity. - "Causes and
Cures of Unbelief" by James Cardinal Gibbon
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:32 AM
St. (Padre) Pio said that he was just "a monk who
prayed" and that prayer is our only weapon....St.
Therese on that subject courtesy Amy Welborn.
Our Dominican priest had much to say last night on the
OT/NT connections..
1) Cain offered God 'the fruits of the earth' - i.e.
bread and wine - which God rejected. Abel offered the
perfect sacrifice (unblemished lamb), acceptable to
God. We re-enact this when we go to Mass, admitting we
are Cains by bringing up at the Offertory the fruits
of the earth, but after the Consecration we offer the
unblemished Lamb (Christ). If the Eucharist is just a
symbol (i.e. bread and wine) then we are offering what
God rejected in the OT.
2) In the OT, the image of the serpent healed the
snakebit. In the NT, Jesus in the form of man, "made
sin for us", heals us.
3) John's gospel promises that God will teach us the
Scriptures. There is great freedom in the gospels.
"But there are also many other things which Jesus did;
were every one of them to be written, I suppose that
the world itself could not contain the books that
would be written." (John 21:25) The catechism exists
as boundary, to warn us from areas the Church has
proven not to be fruitful.
Abel's blood "cried out for vengeance" while Christ's
blood cries out for mercy.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:40 AM
A young life on the front lines of love and sex...a
poignant blog entry.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:03 PM
June 19, 2002
Charity is the queen of virtues. As the pearls are
held together by the thread, thus the virtues are held
together by charity; as the pearls fall when the
thread breaks, thus virtues are lost if charity
diminishes.- St. Padre Pio
Saturday is St. Thomas More's feast day as well as my
birthday. Since my actual first name is Thomas, I have
a special affinity for this great saint. Between the
apostle, Thomas Aquinas and Thomas More, it's an
embarrassment of riches.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:31 PM
The nice thing about blogs is they don't just give you
a chance to write, i.e. exercise the right side of
your brain, you can also do it with the
presentation....Hence the search for the perfect
template never ends. Note the new art feature, stage
left. Hopefully it won't affect load time too badly,
if so let me know.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Blogs
Look at Emily's blog will ya? Is this not full of
order, harmonious, easy on the eyes? Is this not what
I am looking for in my life? The pacific blue and
links-in-boxes inspire me to clean out my closet or
Check out the gothic look of this blog. Celtic cross &
all and he's not even Catholic. Oliver Cromwell is
spinning in his grave (I just saw the movie Oliver
Cromwell starring Richard Harris by the way).
I like this page of Louder Fenn's. Tolle lege indeed.
You don't have to tell this bibliophile twice.
Thanks to Veni Sanctespiritus and Lively Writer for
the link to this blog.
Most honest blogger award goes to Joyce Garcia of Holy
Weblog! fame. Her FAQ section is a hoot and contains
the bawdy "Show us your hits". My, my.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:39 PM
Recent neuroscientific findings link the brain's
frontal cortex - larger in humans than in animals - to
inhibition, the ability to control impulses. It's this
capacity for mental restraint that makes us uniquely
responsible for what we do. The difference between
'is' and 'ought' is one only we can understand. Humans
alone create a moral world. -
Marc Hauser [author of "Wild Minds: What Animals
Really Think"]
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:17 AM
Old but good stuff from Jonah Goldberg of NRO fame:
There is a split in the ranks of intellectuals about
how much ideas affect culture versus how much
impersonal events affect it. Did society become
secular, self-indulgent, morally subjective, etc.,
because Nietszche & Co. introduced a bunch of bad
ideas? Or did society become all of those things
because material prosperity, education, birth control,
the automobile, etc., made such changes inevitable? To
some extent it's a bit of a nature-versus-nurture
argument, in that everybody agrees there's at least
some of both going on.
But most of the time, conservatives ignore the fact
that the automobile did as much to destabilize
communities as rock and roll or Allen Ginsberg. The
problem is that it's very difficult to argue with the
car — but it is not only easy, it's fun to argue with
hippy-dippy beatniks. Intellectuals like to fight
ideas, not gadgets. This is especially true of
conservatives, since we favor individual liberty and
economic freedom; in a free-enterprise system, there's
no acceptable policy position against the walkman or
the cellular phone. There are plenty of people on the
Left who want to ban cigarettes, certain foods, even
the automobile. On the Right, we may entertain
censorship of ideas (as does the Left; the difference
is, we're just too dumb to lie about it) but censoring
innovation is strictly and rightly verboten.
Unfortunately, we can focus so much on the perfidy of
ideas we convince ourselves that if we can just prove
to the world why these ideas are bad, everything will
be fine. It's like the guy who looks for his lost car
keys under the street lamp because the light is better
there; academic nihilism may not be the chief cause of
moral decay, but we can see things clearly there, so
that's where we do the fighting.
Leaving aside the well-documented stubborn refusal of
millions of people to let go of their bad ideas,
culture is not just a collection of ideas. Almost
every custom and tradition anywhere in the world —
from the use of cutlery to burying our dead to the
languages we speak — was begun out of some practical
necessity. (Go read Hayek if you want a smart person
to explain all that.)
Anyway, the point is that technology changes the times
we live in but it doesn't change human nature (at
least not yet). One of the challenges, today more than
ever, is the need to recognize the problems which come
from convenience. For example, many college kids today
— and maybe even more journalists — think that if
something isn't on the web, it doesn't exist. The
truth is that the web excludes vastly more information
than it includes. But because it is easy to use, we
rely on it. This may be the greatest instance of
socially imposed amnesia since the Russian Revolution,
or the revolts of the iconoclasts or the Luddites. It
is certainly the most successful one. At the same
time, we think that simply because the web makes
something easier to do, it means we should do it.
Think of it this way: Hard work leads to character.
There isn't a person in the world who's written on the
topic who doesn't say something like that. Now imagine
if you could take a pill that would automatically make
you very smart and in perfect physical shape
overnight. Intelligence and physical strength used to
be well-recognized by-products of character building.
With the pill, there's no building — just the final
product. That pill would be more dangerous to a
virtuous society than any "if it feels good do it"
doctrine coming out of Brown University.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:42 PM
June 18, 2002
C.S. Lewis wrote about "a particular recurrent
experience which dominated my childhood," a kind of
"intense longing acute and even
painful..yet the mere wanting of it is somehow a
delight." Unlike other desires, Lewis says, which "are
felt as pleasures only if satisfaction is expected in
the near future," this desire contines to be prized,
"and even to be preferred...even when there is no hope
of possible satisfaction...this desire is so unusual
because it cuts across our ordinary distinctions
between longing and having."
I felt this too - I used to think it somehow unique or
rare - but in adulthood I shrugged it off as some kind
of inchoate pre-pubescent sexual longing...I like
Lewis' description.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:33 PM
June 17, 2002
A Friend's Conversion Story
"There was something raw about the images of women in
Walker Percy's "Thanatos" that I liked perhaps a
little too much. The first time I read "Love in the
Ruins" (early '80's) I was a devout agnostic. As a
recent convert to Catholicism (less than a year ago) I
can say, without giving anything away, that it struck
me *completely* differently when I recently reread
There was no defining moment, where the scales fell
from my eyes and golden rays of enlightenment shone
through newly opened doors of perception.... it was
much more mundane than that. I have reconciled
(finally) the idea that you (I mean I) could
distinguish what you believe from what you can prove
to be true. There's that Freethinker element, which
rejects authority and dogma in favor of rational
inquiry and speculation, and which traditionally has
had way too loud a voice in the old mental
Which is kind of why I stress the strict definition of
agnosticism, which merely holds that you simply can't
"Know", but you can still believe. My fiancee, who has
been Catholic her whole life, invited me to attend
mass a couple of years ago, and "yikes!" I found it
enriching. As it continues to be... When I went
through RCIA classes a year ago I had many rewarding
conversations with a deacon from the Josephinum (now
he's a priest in KC, Kansas) about how the Catholic
Church reconciles and makes amends for its sometimes
distasteful history. Still learning, -JD"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:37 PM
June 15, 2002
Journal du jour
A weekend feature of more or less random journal
entries from the past four lieu of fresh
Slipping into the glove of the summer equinox, a
low-rider house reminds me of the houses on Capri, or
those squat against the Florida sun with the brine
smell of the near-ocean...then comes the clean smell
of the laundry detergent at the Estero Laundrymat,
proof that even in Paradise they have to clean
Meandered past houses that shone in the escaping
natural light with preternaturally clipped grasses
that soothe and relax, as order always does. Death,
taxes, and Perot’s short-clipped never-out-of-place
hair. The grass does not extrude an inch upon the
sidewalk - are their lives so orderded or is this
compensation for disordered lives? I’d love a lawn and
garden worthy of such meditation, but too often the
time spent meditating on its glory is a small fraction
of the time spent accomplishing that condition.
After a few sundry raindrops, I continued for a visit
to Ohio Village. A bit farther back in time I went,
first the 1940s era exhibit inside the Historical
society, followed by an outside visit to the old
buildings and a patriotic speeches by guys dressed in
period clothes. A horse-drawn carriage came by a very
fast rate of speed and and I idly imagined the
headlines if lawsuits weren't the issue:
Pedestrian Killed by Horse-drawn Carriage at
Historical Society
A pedestrian-horse accident claimed the life of a
visitor yesterday, according to an Ohio Historical
society representative.
"We like to keep things exactly as they were in 1862,
and back then if you were in the way, you got yourself
run over," said the Historical director. "They didn’t
molly-coddle you back then. And he isn’t the first one
you know."
The Society has recently come under fire for the
accidental lynching of a young black man.
Man has been divided for the millenium over questions
that have perplexed the wise – how should we govern
ourselves (politics) and what is truth (religion).
Politics and religion. Religion and politics. Walker
Percy once wrote "It crossed my mind that people at
war have the same need of each other. What would a
passionate liberal or conservative do without the
With religion, differences have been made of
hairsplitting distinction causing liberal Baptists to
scorn their conservative Baptist neighbor. And now to
this panoply of divisive issues we can add one more,
one of hairsplitting (or at least hairwetting)
dimensions: rain. To rain or not to rain is the
question, but just don’t ask it in front of a mother
and daughter with a combined age of an impressive 155
years. It has been said that into each life a little
rain must fall, and into their lives this damp,
discordant subject has reared its dripping head.
Yes, to that long grey line of controversies such as
"how many angels can fit on a pin?" and "how does
trickle-down economics work?", we add "how much rain
is too much rain?". My mother and grandma are
absolutists on the subject, and therein lies the
problem. No rain is too much for Grandma, no number of
sunny days too many for Mom. They have reached an
A short look of how man has evolved may illumine this
touchy subject. Over most of the past 20,000 years,
rain was considered so important it was deemed a god
and sacrificed to. It became so because it was so
intimately connected to the livliehood of the first
agriculturalists, farmers if you will. Rain meant
crops would grow, drought mean crops would die.
Theoretically a lack of sun could also cause crops to
die, but the sun never seemed to be a problem.
However, for the millions of years prior to the first
agriculturalists rain was a nuisance, making it more
difficult to find and catch prey. We see the two
groups still today - Mom is a hunter/gatherer on the
subject, and Grandma an early agriculturalist.
Mom showed her hunter/gatherer tendencies early. For
most of the early 1970s she sang to her children songs
like, "rain, rain, go away, come back some other
day!". That sounded a bit disingenuous to our young
ears, for if truth be told there didn’t seem a day she
did want it to come back.
Grandma, on the other hand, comes from a long line of
farmers going back to west Ireland. She lived on a
farm, and through a depression, and rain was like
money except it couldn’t be stored. Her parents sang
and composed pro-rain ditties like, "Rain, rain why
can’t it rain?" and the classic "Let that be a rain
cloud and not a dust cloud".
Ireland, you see, is the land of milk and honey, if by
milk you mean rain and by honey you mean rain. The
Irish have learned to deal with the unrelenting rain
over the centuries by drinking a lot. An awful lot.
They developed one of the smoothest whiskey’s
(Jameson) and one of the best ales (Guinness). They’ve
never invented much else, and that should tell you
something about a rainy climate. But I’m not here to
insert my admittedly sunny-day bias. I can have an
opinion and not let it affect my reporting, for this
is a no-spin zone. I report, you decide.
Alas we see that the roots for a great conflict were
sown. Just as the pro-slave South went on its merry
way during the antebellum period while the North
became increasingly abolitionist, so did Grandma and
Mom become even more fixed in their beliefs: that rain
was intolerable and that sunny days were tragic.
What is the solution? A civil war? No! Perhaps as
simple as avoiding the subject.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:53 PM
Our priest weighed in on the bishop's shuffling bad
priests around. He said (I'm paraphrasing): 'you ask
what were they thinking? Probably not much. Or to the
extent they were they had absorbed the culture into
their decision-making. And our culture lacks common
sense. An example: a wealthy businessman, widely
respected for his ability to make money, was caught in
a massive tax fraud. You ask why? What was he
thinking? He didn't need more money. The thing he was
praised for was the same thing he was denounced
Sounds like the bishops may grandfather in the 'zero
tolerance' policy. They've apparently chosen to throw
o'er their own to please the media. I guess in the
rock-paper-scissors game the media trumps clericalism.
A phyrric victory of sorts for the parishioner in the
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:22 PM
June 14, 2002
Poetry Friday
That crazy herdsman will tell his fellows
That he has been all night upon the hills,
Riding to hurley, or in the battle-host
With the Ever-living.
What if he speak the truth,
And for a dozen hours have been a part
Of that more powerful life?
His wife knows better.
Has she not seen him lying like a log,
Or fumbling in a dream about the house?
And if she hear him mutter of wild riders?
She knows that it was but the cart-horse coughing
That set him to fancy. - excerpt from W. B. Yeats poem
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:46 AM
Interesting post from Thomas Hibbs on National Review
Online today:
Catholic schools, the majority of which are under the
control of the local bishop, have many virtues, but
they typically produce graduates who are theologically
illiterate, but who — because of their affiliation
with Catholic education — think that they already know
everything about the Church. Asking your average
graduate to say something intelligent about, say, the
trinity or the communion of saints, would prompt
responses akin to those Jay Leno receives when he
walks the streets of L.A. quizzing ordinary citizens
about American history and current events.
In their indifference to doctrine, many American
Catholics are already more American than Catholic.
Tocqueville observed that the effect of democratic
culture upon religion is to deflect the believer's
attention away from specific and divisive doctrinal
issues toward general moral principles. The vague
pantheism he predicted is evident precisely in the
popularity of the vacuous term "spirituality" as a
replacement for "religion." What many Catholics
apparently believe about the core doctrinal issue of
the Eucharist is that it's just a symbol. But if you
don't believe that what the Church teaches about this
and other fundamental issues is true, why, especially
these days, remain Catholic? As Flannery O'Connor once
remarked in response to the suggestion that in our
enlightened age no one could continue to believe
traditional Catholic teaching about the Eucharist :
"If it's just a symbol, then to hell with it."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:34 AM
One of my five readers suggested that I go with layout
of dark letters against a light background for easier
reading...Since she represents 20% of the readership,
her voice caries much weight. Anyone second the
motion? I'm not too fond of the way italics look...
Stolen from another blog
"It's a battle to death between gluttony & sloth. The
main reason I'm not fatter is that I can't eat while
I'm sleeping."
Humorous comments on the perils of book ownership.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:24 PM
June 13, 2002
When I was in the throes of my agony, i.e. surgery at
the age of seven, I remember Dad saying: "I wish I
could take your place". I was struck by it and never
forgot it. The notion of self-sacrifice was still
completely foreign to me then (as a matter of fact I’m
not too familiar with it presently either). Mom added,
"Me too." And I was never sure whether she meant she
wished dad could take my place too or herself…
When I was young we had a neighbor who was a severe
alcoholic. I was told he gave up alcohol every Lent
and then drink wildly on Easter. My first reaction was
to cringe and think "legalism!" or "what's the
point?". But it occurred to me that he gave up the
most important thing in his life for forty days every
year. He put God ahead of thing that almost defined
him. How many of us can say that? The point is not to
not have pleasures, but to acknowledge there is
something more important that pleasure. And our
wild-eyed neighbor did that every Lent.
My wife recently laughed at me for writing the worst
poem ever on the eve of our vacation to the Great
Smokies. Funny, we bonded more over my lame poem than
others that might've attained mere mediocrity.
Cusp, cusp,
cusp of vacation;
sweet rim of a Tuesday night
lipp’d edge
of freedom
momentary as a a dandelion’s flower
black asphalt’s answer;
tarway to heaven.
Don't say I didn't warn ya.
I woke up one morning recently to find all my clothes
either slightly too large or too small. The ones too
large were hand me-downs from dad. The ones too small
were hand me-ups from my stepson.
I was reading an Updike novel to my wife one night,
and we came across the phrase "deer scat" and since
then we use it to amuse ourselves in unlikely
situations. Example: she pays the bills and then
leaves an Excel spreadsheet of them for me.
"I see you left some scat on my desk last nite," I
She laughs.
When I write her a check for my half of the bills, I
write in the memo portion, "scat payment".
I know, too much information.
"Draggin’ my chains….draggin’ my chains….well I'm
movin’ in slow motion, but it’s motion just the same.
Well I may not be free yet, but I’m draggin’ my
chains" – Pam Tills song.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:48 PM
Got mixed emotions about these PenPal appeal for cash
on some Catholic blogger sites. On the one hand, one
feels the urge to contribute since they are allies in
the culture wars, bedfellows for truth. And heck even
Subway sandwich 'artists' have tip jars. (Why not
McDonald's grill cooks?) On the other hand, and I'm
obviously flamboyantly jealous, but it seems an
outrage that they should be paid to pontificate.
Certainly blogging is child's play compared to writing
a book. Let them get paid for their books (that sounds
like 'let them eat cake'), although admittedly in a
culture that is skewed and somewhat not ready for
truth their books don't get their due. Still, I like
Amy Welborn's decision to use her blog to point to
them. In a recent column Jonah Goldberg hinted that
with blogs you pretty much get what you pay for. Which
is why they are (say it with me)!
Current Reading
Theology and/or "deep" books are the crack cocaine of
my reading world; likely to keep me wired tightly and
up at night. Since I am more comfortable than
afflicted, theology tends to afflict more than
comfort. I can't read Chyrsostom and feel good about
myself. A recent example: Jesus said that those who
error or lead others astray in small matters will be
called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. This would seem
to imply good news. That those who are imperfect or
who might lead people astray will at least go to
heaven. But nooo, Chrysostom & Augustine say that the
"least in the kingdom" could still refer to hell (I
forget why, I can find the exact wording if anyone
wants to know). Part of the reason is Jesus' making
the smallest sins large (i.e. equating lust with
adultery). Perhaps this is another way of them saying
what Jesus said about the rich - the impossibility of
being good without God, how it's impossible to earn
heaven. And if so, that is a good thing. But it's not
for the scrupulous.
The best antidote to theological reading is something
earthy, funny and slightly irreverent (and/or a cold
dark beer). And David Lodge is fitting that bill
perfectly in "Small World". He makes marvelous fun of
clueless academics. I'm also reading Harry Stein's
surprisingly engaging "How I Accidentally Joined the
Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and Found Inner Peace". I'm
almost done with Jean Baudrillard's pompous,
look-down-my-French-nose review of America. These
books you don't have to take too seriously -
Baudrillard because he's such an elitist know it all,
Stein because he's funny and sticks to uncontroversial
topics (for me) and Lodge because he can flat out
write. I used to read Kinky Friedman and/or Mark
Leyner but now find them a little
too...too...scatalogically childish?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:08 AM
St. Pio
to be canonized this weekend!
I will stand at the gates of Heaven but will not go
through until all of my spiritual children have
entered. - Padre Pio
On the subject of saints from Amy Welborn.
What an honest and revealing reflection.... No wonder
she's so esteemed in the blogging community. It's also
In response to Mark Shea's post: I think we're
Catholic ultimately because it is the shortest path to
holiness or sainthood, which is the only thing that
So isn't the fact that these bishops act little better
than your average CEO so discouraging in part because
of their great access to grace and yet non-cooperation
in/with it? Given all the Masses they say, and all the
prayers that are said for them, it seems to show at
the very least the resistability of grace. Now that is
"You're nobody till somebody blogs you..."
Thanks to Praise of Glory and Zounds and Tim Drake for
the links.
Gosh they have good taste.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:11 PM
June 12, 2002
The humorous Hokie Pundit (example: rejected title for
Abortion: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love
the Womb) has an
interesting inquiry: Can We Live Both the American
Dream and Obey God's Will?
I asked a similar question (concerning military
service) of an Catholic columnist (not our Amy Welborn
btw), who replied, interestingly:
If it is quite unthinkable that Jesus would be a
soldier, and if Christians are supposed to imitate
Christ, doesn't it follow that Christians should not
serve in the military?
There are, it seems to me, only two ways of getting
around this difficulty. One way is to say that the
non-military life of Jesus was purely accidental; that
in other circumstances he would have taken up arms.
The other way (and this is the way the Catholic Church
has traditionally dealt with the difficulty) is to say
that there are two levels at which the "imitation" can
be pursued. The higher level is that followed by
priests and religious; the lower level is that
followed by ordinary laypersons. The "hihger
imitation" attempts to stay very close to the life of
Jesus, including the rejection of arms; the "lower
imitation" doesn't come nearly that close, and permits
-- in addition to marriage and wealth -- military
I don't know if this second way of answering the
difficulty is philosophically satisfactory, but it
certainly has been the traditional Catholic way.
Vatican II called into question the distinction
between the higher and lower imitation of Christ...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:30 PM
June 11, 2002
Normally bishops serve. One of the Pope's titles is
"Servant of the servants of God". And so it is
disconcerting that now lay people have to carry our
shepherds, forgive them their sins (in a sense), and
bear them as burden. And perhaps that is healthy
thing, both in terms of our exercising our strength to
forgive and also in the sense of not expecting from
them what only God can deliver.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:23 PM
Well, Amy Welborn has hit the nail on the head today
on "The Situation".
"The need for the approval of the secular media and
the elites in the cities in which the cardinals and
Important Bishops have their big houses and attend
their Important social events. The need to be
perceived as "progressive" ideologically, in education
and everything else."
That's it! The bishops have been sucked in by the left
& right-coast elites. Money, wealth, prestige, status,
caring about what others think....Aquinas was so
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:18 AM
Let's Go Take a Hike
All is patient in the woods. The spider waits by her
web, "let the prey come to me" she says. Tiny red
wildflowers wait with patient regard for bees to
visit. Oaks of huge circumferences stand stolidly,
more permanent than houses. Leaves under the canopy
stand at horizontal attention, table-top straight to
receive every bit of sun that leaks down. Metallic
beetles, florescently green, flit about like little
green goblins, or hotrodders showing off their new
paint job.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 7:50 PM
June 10, 2002
"How much misery is escaped by frequent and violent
agitation of the body" – 18th century pro-exercise
tract (the first?)
I'd like to live the "dumb life" for a week & avoid
reading, writing, thought in general, & the
'data-smog' and live the body-life instead: hiking,
gardening, biking, tipping a pint, listening to music.
Nice to be brainless for awhile, though I feel vaguely
guilty. On the positive side it is life as festival;
on the negative, life as animal.. But the truth is we
are animals too.
Tis always bothered me that one’s disposition and
tendency to sin or not to sin can be as provisional as
whether you’ve had that meditative 45 minute run that
Kosturbula writes of in the "Joy of Running". The
author Lauren Slater believed in the power of stories,
and of the word (small 'w' I think, unfortunately),
until along came her little pill, Prozac, that became
her savior. Best get out the wide-angle lens and see
that, in the big picture, God makes up for whatever
losses we produce. If the 45 minute run makes you a
better Christian, then use it. With or without Prozac
He loves us.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:44 PM
Another interesting Baudrillard comment on religion &
It is not by chance that it is the Mormons who run the
world's biggest computerization project: the recording
of twenty generations of living
souls....Evangelization [has] progressed thanks to the
latest memory-storage techniques. And these have been
made possible by the deep puritanism of computer
science, an intensely Calvinistic, Presbyterian
discipline, which has inherited the universal and
scientific rigidity of the techniques for achieving
salvation by good works. The Counter-Reformation
methods of the Catholic Church, with its naive
sacramental practices, its cults, its more archaic and
popular beliefs, could never compete with this
Au Contraire! It is our bishops, not beliefs, that are
undermining the faith at the present moment. (end of
cheap shot).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 6:54 PM
June 9, 2002
Fr. Hayes, our brilliant Dominican (he got degrees in
biology & law before becoming a priest 12 yrs ago),
said an interesting thing the other day. He said that
God will hold us accountable for our use of time
(suggesting, of course, less TV), but went on to
recommend we learn a trade, something like carpentry
or wood-working or leather crafts...something of the
hands, a sort of tangible, physical learning. I was
reminded of this while reading Jean Baudrillard's
America. Baudrillard wrote that "everything now is
destined to reappear as simulation. Landscapes as
photography, women as the sexual scenario, thoughts as as television. Things seem only to
exist by virtue of this strange destiny. You wonder
whether the world itself isn't just here to serve as
advertising copy in some other world."
The line "thoughts as writing" hit home. It reminds me
of Mark Shea's tagline about never having an
unpublished thought. I felt it too on a recent trip to
the Smokies, where we would do a photo-stop and the
image was beautiful but it didn't represent a
memory...for we weren't there long enough to enjoy it
in the moment. Anyway perhaps Fr. Hayes was right in
suggesting we make something that isn't a copy...
something concrete made for its own sake...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 6:32 PM
Poetry Friday
A Poem Named "Spot"*
Kansas saw-grasses whisper and wave
in the unbearable 1800s wind
I listen to Dixie songs first as irony
till the simpleness wins my heart
crystal voices selling honesty
be they so or not, I am sold
I Fly Away to unbearable earlier ages
Kansas saw-grass waving on the prarie
little houses, yes.
*Flannery O’Connor wrote that she would name her dog
‘Spot’ as irony, her mother would sans irony. FO said
she figured it didn't matter much in the end.
In the history of man
we few
we hang like half-done hangman scrawlings
our tombstones
holding yet one date.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:18 PM
June 7, 2002
Why this thrall of blogdom, this heady rush, this
swoon of reading ones words in a public forum – this
seeming nudity in public? Why the need to reveal?
Reassurance that we have something worth saying?
Reassurance is like a sponge that sops up attention
while never quite filling it. This seemingly universal
thirst to blog is interesting to me. I like to think
my motives are the same of any other frustrated
writer, exacerbated by all the left-brain thinking
required as a computer programmer. I recall St. Thomas
Aquinas’s words of warning that as long as one cares
what others think of you then you are far from the
kingdom. And no one lived up to that better than him.
Can you imagine an intellectual giant being sanguine
about being called the "Dumb Ox"? That modesty and
reluctance to show-off is such a sure mark of the
saints. St. Therese of Liseux had to be dragged
kicking & screaming to write her autobiography. Yet
Chesterton had great reverence for even the most
mediocre artist because they were engaging in an
activity that reflects our dignity in being created in
the image and likeness of God. You'll never find a dog
arranging the food in his food bowl in an
aesthetically-pleasing manner...
John Updike on writers:
"From the admission that a good writer might be a
scoundrel it is but a short step to the speculation
that a writer is necessarily something of a scoundrel.
A raffish and bitter scent clings to the inky
profession. Seeing truly and giving the human news
frankly are both discourtesies, at least to those in
the immediate vicinity. The writer's value to mankind
irresistibly manifests itself at some remove of space
and, often, time."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:52 PM
Which is the Most Difficult To Believe?
1) Resurrection of the Body
2) the Trinity
3) Pauly Shore is a good actor
4) unconditional love
I agree with our priest, who says number 4....
The temptation towards Jansenism is acute but natural
given our conditon.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:08 PM
Interesting comment from Steve Ray's board: "All sins
are highly subjective and as St. Paul says, we are
poor judges of even our own sins, let alone the sins
of others." I've always simultaneously liked & cringed
at the idea that Padre Pio, soon to be St. Pio, was
able to point out unconfessed sins in the confessional
- it's our own blindness that somehow most defeats us
and most comforts us. Defeats us in that it prevents
us from holiness, comforts us in that we cling to our
blindness and sins for fear of suffering.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:14 PM
June 6, 2002
Brush with greatness Updike parody at Eve
Tushnet's blog
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:21 AM
Crisis of Faith the real Crisis
Catholic author Walker Percy had one of his
characters, a priest, say to a man who didn't feel he
should serve Mass because of his lack of faith:
'Don't worry,' he said, doing a few isometrics in
the hall, pushing and pulling with his hands. 'It is
to be expected. It is only necessary to wait and to be
of good heart. It is not your fault.'
'How is that, Father? I ask him curiously.
'You have been deprived of faith. All of us have. It
is part of the times.'
Over the past 40 years the American bishops have gone
from a dogmatic, authoritarian style to a more
pastoral, "kinder/gentler" style. An unfortunate
side-effect seems to have been a crisis of confidence.
And that confidence was a belief not just in God but
in sin - that sin was evil and that discipline
necessary. A priest fooling around with a kid was
shocking not primarily because it was against the law
but because it was a mortal sin. What is prison
compared to losing your eternal soul? And so when
someone loses their confidence, they tend to hang out
with the crowd, they adhere to the culture for
support. One senses that in the way the bishops
pandered to the left in the 70s - the call for U.S.
unilateral disarmament and the flirtation with
socialism while being relatively quiet on abortion.
That drive for approval from the intellectual left was
a warning sign of the lack of confidence. The culture
at the time most of the bad priests were committing
their acts was the 1960s & 70s when sexual license was
rampant. But then in the 80s with the advent of Reagan
and a conservatism, the culture become more
materialistic, more pro-business. And so most of the
bishops, influenced by this culture, became CEOs. And
what do most CEOs do? They think short-term. They put
off/hide bad news from stockholders as long as
possible. Sound familiar?
I hope our leaders can find that ever elusive middle
ground. Not dogmatic, cruel or needlessly
authoritarian, nor confused, unconfident and
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:05 PM
June 5, 2002
I had always believed in God's love and God's
omnipotence. But once I put the two ideas together,
saw the unavoidable logical conclusion (Rom 8:28), I
could never again see the world the same way. If God
is great (omnipotent) and God is good (loving), then
everything that happens is our spiritual food; and we
can and should thank him for it. - Peter Kreeft
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:21 AM
Check this out from Slate magazine of all places:
"Who'da thunk it? Hollywood takes celibacy more
seriously than most members of the elite Eastern
media, whose by-and-large reaction to the church's
pedophilia scandal has been to opportunistically
attack a celibacy doctrine they see as outdated and
nonsensical. It's startling to see putatively liberal
moviemakers portray celibacy as a noble, selfless,
even rational endeavor. Of course, it's possible that
the Hollywood message is more subversive and
underhanded than that: Only superheroes are fit for
lives of celibacy, and as we've learned, not all
priests are superheroes."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:55 AM
Read a fascinating article about a series of
experiments showing, impossibly, that simply by
observing photons changes the path they take (from
Discover magazine). It gets even wierder when the
physicist claims that it appears past events can be
changed likewise. Whether true or not, the article
insists that the universe is a much more interactive
place than we can imagine. A week later I read that
one of the Vatican's top scientists (I forget his
name, but he heads the Vatican astronomy dep't) said
that his notion of God is not as an autocrat. God as a
jazz improvisationalist I guess...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:56 AM
June 4, 2002
Amy Grant news
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:18 PM
June 3, 2002
a story
The smell of aged tobacco lay in every crease and
corner of the 40’s style dance hall. It was there
dreams had begun, chance meetings to marriages, and
where adulterous boundraries were crossed, the
juxtaposition of their physical geographies seemingly
without penalty – just the unreal sense gratification
of the sword in a new sheath, a key and a lock not
supposed to fit – but they do! His humble body,
nothing special, not something held dear – what is it
that its part fit another lock? Every seven years
every cell in his body would be swapped - in seven
years it would be as if he hadn't done it, another
self had.
What to do with that awful knowledge that locks and
keys fit without consequence? But what if the
impossible happened – a baby? Well you can prevent
those. But skin on skin is intimacy! And she hates the
pill...But anyway there was that a fellar he knew in
Birmingham who knew of a clinic. They’d do it for
cheap, just the sudden removal of tissue, another
geographic boundary crossed without consequence. Her
body, her tissue. Moved to another location. He
thought, what is her husband but tissue grown big?
What would it mean if he were missing? What if it be
if he speeded up the process, arranged his death-date
a little sooner on the tombstone, that stone all march
to? He puzzled over it. He couldn’t figure where
evil’s geography really lay. The law says you could
kill that baby minutes before it was born. The law
doesn’t make sense…He wondered if the law knew what it
was doing, and if it could be wrong about it all, even
that fatal juxtaposition of his body in hers...
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:21 AM
May 31, 2002
"I know what you mean about being repulsed by the
Church when you have only the Jansenist-Mechanical
Catholic to judge it by. I think that the reason such
Catholics are so repulsive is that they don’t really
have faith but a kind of false certainty. They operate
by the slide rule and the Church for them is not the
body of Christ but the poor man’s insurance system.
It’s never hard for them to believe because actually
they never think about it. Faith has to take in all
the other possibilities it can." - Flannery O’Connor
"Habit of Being"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:18 AM
Islam intellectually bankrupt? go here
Eve Tushnet rates the charities: here
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:41 PM
May 30, 2002
I love that there is a Cardinal Ratzinger fan club.
And boy do I want one of those kitschy "Cardinal
Ratzinger Fan Club" coffee mugs with the slogan
"putting the smackdown on heresy since 1981". But alas
the link to buy is broken...
A quote:The loss of joy does not make the world better
-- and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of
suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary
is true. The world needs people who discover the good,
who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and
impetus to do good. We have a new need for that
primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That
the world is basically good, that God is there and is
good. That it is good to live and be a human being.
This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which
in turn becomes commitment to makng sure that other
people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.
-Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth, pp. 36-37.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:49 AM
May 21, 2002
My brush mit greatness (alias D. Connaughton) on Eve
Tushnet's blog. Also: who knew?
Interesting blog-o-rhythmn from Amy Welborn:
Feminist Brenda Walker is arguing that
multiculturalism is a threat to liberal values and
social freedom and refered to current and future
immigrants such as 'conservative Catholics and
Conservative Catholics? Gee, she couldn't mean
Hispanics could she? Why doesn't she just come out and
say it then: "You know, our right to get our unborn
babies killed might just be threatened if we let in
too many Mexicans." I hate to bring this up, but one
of the dark sides of 19th century women's suffrage
movements was a distinct nativist tone to much of the
argumentation. The push was for middle class
Anglo-Saxon women to be able to vote in order to
balance out the waves of African-Americans and mostly
Catholic and Jewish immigrants.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:08 PM
May 20, 2002
To those who loathe the bourgeoisie,
I offer this advice to thee:
Get very rich or very poor,
And you won't be bourgeois anymore. - Clifford D. May
A happy childhood leaves you hideously unprepared for
life. - Kinky Friedman
posted by TS O'Rama @ 10:49 AM
May 15, 2002
Entertainment Uber Alles
"Day was turned into night, and light into darkness: -
an inexpressible quantity of dust and ashes was poured
out, deluging land, sea, and air, and burying two
entire cities, Herculaneum and Pompeii, while the
people were sitting in the theatre." - Dion Cassius,
lib. lxvi in preface of Lytton's "The Last Days of
posted by TS O'Rama @ 1:14 PM
May 13, 2002
good stuff from Mark Shea's blog:
"I Have Said Elsewhere...
that mercy, in addition to being God's greatest
quality is, when demanded of us, his most appalling
one. We love the idea of mercy for ourselves. We hate
it and regard it as a travesty of justice when applied
to others, especially others whose sins hurt us. I
recently wrote that part of the duty of laypeople is,
of course, to extend forgiveness to the priests and
bishops who have so agonizingly betrayed us. I got
complaints back from folks saying, in effect, that we
are under no obligation to forgive if they don't
acknowledge their sin. This attitude, in addition to
being flatly against the model of Jesus Christ and St.
Stephen, who forgave their unrepentant murderers, is a
formula for modeling the American Church on that happy
land known as the Balkans, where people remember
everything and learn nothing.
Yes, the perp may go on living in denial till the day
he dies. But if we forgive, we do not have to live
with his having endless power over us till the day we
die. Refusal to forgive is like taking poison and
expecting the other guy to die.
And from another Sheaite entry:
A priest I know once pointed out to me that one of the
marks of the satanic is that it claims to see right
through you, to identify you with your sins and pin
you to the wall like a bug on a card. The devil, in
speaking to Jesus, says "I know who you are!" He does
the same to us. He says "I see right through you. You
are your sins. This is who you really are!" In
contrast, Jesus never does this. Indeed, in the
miracle of grace he distinguishes us from our sins and
frees us from them. Peter says, "Go away from me, for
I am a sinful man" and Jesus doesn't say, "You're damn
right you are! You sicken me!". He liberates Peter
from that. He calls him by a new name and gives him a
new life.
Something that troubles me about the way in which we
treat sin is this tendency to speak as though our sins
name us. "Now we know who Jesse Jackson--or Cardinal
Law--or Whoever--really is." The answer of the Faith
is, "No you don't. Not when you are naming people by
their sins." Sin is what destroys persons. It's not
what constitutes them. To the degree that we sin we
are not who we really are. Doesn't mean that we can't
sin, of course. Radical evil is a reality. Nor does it
mean that we should not speak clearly of evil when it
is committed. But when we say that "This is who X
really is" we are in fact delighting in evil and
rejoicing in a lie. The point of the gospel is not
that our sins name us, but that Jesus comes to free us
from our sins and really name us. It's a reality we as
Catholic will have to cling to, not least because of
the temptation we will feel to indulge it as more
betrayals from our clergy come to light.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:23 PM
May 1, 2002
I think the search for humility in the bishops is a
vain search, for the humility gene is one they simply
don't have. They are politicians, and we know that an
admission of guilt from a politician requires a
DNA-stained dress. The best we can hope for (and I
think it HAS been achieved) is that they will not
shuffle bad priests any more. They have gotten that
message, even if they will not publically confess
their sins. I have come to peace with that because I
confess my sins in the privacy of the confessional and
therefore will give them the right to do the same.
I think clerics look at the laity the same way a
customer service manager looks at customers. Lay
people require priests to work for them, they are
needy. My uncle is a pharamcist and he says they all
secretly loathe working with 'the public'. Isn't that
what clerics do? But isn't that quite human? The
customer makes demands, often unreasonable. As one
customer service manager I know says, "The customer
isn't always right, but the customer is always the
customer". I'm not excusing this mentality at all, but
I think anyone who works with the public everyday has
to fight against an "us against them" mentality.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:10 PM
April 30, 2002
"Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas.
As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on
in the formation of some tremendous scheme of
and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of
which the
expression is capable, becoming more and more human.
When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined
scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a
when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he
says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own
imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed
but contemplating all, then he is by that very process
sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the
vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass.
Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly
G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, Ch. 20
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:59 PM
April 17, 2002
From Nat'l Review Online:
"Um, this is getting really weird. One month ago, a
red heifer was reportedly born in Israel. Rabbis
checked her out and found her to be unblemished.
Apocalyptic types hardly need to be reminded that an
unblemished red heifer is needed for the sacrifice to
purify the Temple Mount for the rebuilding of the
Jewish temple, in anticipation of the Messiah's coming
(or Second Coming, depending on which way you swing
theologically). The Temple Mount, of course, is
currently occupied by the Al-Aqsa mosque. You do the
math; I'm headed for the hills, and hoping this is a
hoax." Go here
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:21 PM
April 12, 2002
"The line separating good and evil passes not through
states, nor between classes, nor between political
parties either -- but right through every human heart
-- and through all human hearts. This line shifts.
Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even
within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small
bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best
of hearts, there remains . . . an un-uprooted small
corner of evil."- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Gulag
Archipelago, "The Ascent"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:05 PM
April 9, 2002
Reflections on pedophile priests.....
Nietzche was so pious as a youth that he was called
'the little pastor'. Stalin was a seminary student. Do
intensely spiritual environments produce either a
Satan or a Judas or a Nietzsche or, contrarily, a
Gabriel or Peter or Aquinas? Do religious communities
produce either great saints or great sinners, whereas
laymen & women are more likely to be mired in
Don't we humans only respect 'scarcity'? Did the
priests begin to treat the sacred as profane due in
part to their overfamiliarity with the sacred? Isn't
that why God had the high priest only visit the Holy
of Holies once a year in the O/T?
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:38 PM
Knowing her to be my mother
only by virtue of her holiness
for if she were a sinner
she would pick and choose.
But she chooses all to mother
as her son chooses all to save.
Confident only in her holiness
I gaze upon Purity;
for the fruit of her perfection
is her perfection's source.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:36 AM
March 26, 2002
St.Therese of Liseux struggled with the fact that she
never committed a mortal sin, distraught at feeling
she wasn't as dependent
on God as someone who HAD committed a mortal sin.
Le' Difference btwn Mary & Eve
Eve disobeyed God and consumed fruit, Mary obeyed God
and bore fruit.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 11:35 AM
"Excessive confidence in the ability to understand the
will of God, is irreverent because it fails to
recognize human
limitations. Reverence means understanding the
between the human and the divine. " -
Paul Woodruff
"We shall say no more, 'Our god,' to the work of our
hands." Hosea 14:7
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:52 AM
March 13, 2002
My results (I would've preferred more Aquinas):
1. Augustine (100%) Click here for info
2. Aquinas (75%) Click here for info
3. Spinoza (63%) Click here for info
4. Ockham (57%) Click here for info
5. Plato (54%) Click here for info
6. Mill (45%) Click here for info
7. Sartre (43%) Click here for info
8. Kant (42%) Click here for info
9. Rand (41%) Click here for info
From EWTN's Philosophy maven:
"I get along with St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas
very well. St. Augustine is very concrete. After all,
he wrote an autobiography. Anyway, he never held that
man is totally corrupt. At the same time Augustine is
a realist when it comes to human nature. He believes
that man is a sinner, not a very popular position
today." - Richard Geraghty
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:15 PM
March 11, 2002
Received this email on the St. Margaret mystery:
Our patron saint officially is St. Margaret of
although she is not the saint the parish founders had
in mind in the beginning, nor is she the St. Margaret
who appears in the Stained Glass Window. How did the
mix-up happen? The Italian families who emigrated
to the United States from Pettorano sul Gizio wanted
dedicate the parish church and the parish itself to
St. Margaret they knew as the patron saint of their
town (which would actually be St. Margaret of
They simply knew her as St. Margaret. Presumably,
when asked which St Margaret she was, the founders of
church could not say. Bishop Hartley, who was aware
of several St. Margarets, apparently concluded that
patron saint of Pettorano sul Gizio would have to be
St. Margaret of Cortona, since she was an Italian.
The Parish was named St. Margaret of Cortona, but the
window and the statue of St. Margaret that is carried
the Festival Procession are both St.Margaret of
The Feast day of St. Margaret of Antioch is July 20,
hence, our parish festival is the last weekend of
The feast day of St. Margaret of Cortona is on
February 22.
The mix up was never corrected, thus our parish which
should have been named St. Margaret of Antioch, is
actually called St. Margaret of Cortona.
There is a picture of St. Margaret of Cortona that was
brought back from Cortona Italy in 2001, in the
of the church, and the statue directly in front of the
is of St. Margaret of Cortona, who dedicated
her life to prayer and penance.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:13 PM
Many of my mother's ancestors immigrated from Ireland
during the height
of Irish immigration - the 1840s. Similarly, my
great-grandmother on my
father's side immigrated from Germany during the
height of German
immigration - the 1880s. Our Irish forebears left
because of the potato
famine - why did she leave?
The name "Hatti" is very rare among German surnames,
but the Old High
German spelling of Hatti, "Hesse" is common. Why she
was "Hatti" and not
"Hesse" isn't clear, but to begin the story of our
ancestor we begin with
the fall of Troy in 677. The Assyrians migrated out of
northwest up the Danube into Europe. Roman annals
within a few centuries
were filled with the name Chatti, or Hatti, which
later was changed to
"Hesse". The people of Hatti were numerous in the
current areas of
Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Kassel, and Hesse-Humburg,
which happen to be in
southwest Germany, about 100 miles north of
Baden-Baden, the reputed
birthplace of Amelia. Fifty years before Amelia's
birth, an Anastasia
Hatti was baptized at the Gamshurst Catholic Church in
Baden, Baden.
Could she be a great aunt of Amelia's? (See here and
here. )
We don't know Amelia's parents birthdates, so they
might've been
somewhere between young children or older teens when
the German
Revolution hit Baden, not far from the romantic Black
Forest and Rhine
River. It was the year 1848, and riots broke out in
the streets and for
months 'the monarchies of central Europe looked as
fragile as a house of
cards'. Poor harvests, which drove the price of bread
sky high, was the
proximate cause. Germany was just a collection of
states then and was
not yet a nation and Catholics were only about a
quarter of the
population. The mighty Prussian state in the north of
Germany began
exercising its power, and in the year Amelia was born
Prussia and Austria
won a war against Denmark and gained the northern
territories of
In 1866, when Amelia was two years old, Prussia looked
south and declared
war on her state. Baden was quickly swallowed up in
what was called the
"Six Weeks War". The German nation now existed in
theory if not in fact;
that would come five years later when Wilhelm was
crowned and Otto von
Bismarck was made the Prime Minister. Bismarck
disliked the recently
formed Catholic political party known as the "Centre
Party". "He
objected to the existence of a religious party because
it seemed to stand
for allegiance to an authority other than the national
state," said one
biographer, and considered Catholics a "separatist"
group and, along with
social liberals & Jews, as 'enemies of the Reich'. He
attempted to end
parochial education, expelled the Jesuit order and
deported many clergy,
but ended up uniting Catholics even more strongly and
by 1880 Bismarck
had had enough. The hatred of these laws (known as the
was still felt over the nation, especially in the
southern Catholic state
of Baden, when Amelia was sixteen and about to
emigrate. The religious
situation didn't give many Catholics a reason to stay.
And Germany's
economy at that time was weak at best. The reason most
Germans immigrated
then was due to this economic situation, especially
when compared to the
United States. It was made worse in part because of
very high birthrates.
Germany was by far the youngest country in Europe, and
there were too
many mouths to feed on most farms and not enough of an
industrial base
yet. Southwest German inheritance laws forced parents
to divide their
farms equally among their children, which quickly
resulted in properties
too small to live on. America looked pretty
Amelia must not have been too hung up on her
Germanness. Or maybe she
got tired of waiting for a Prince Wilhelm. Unlike most
of her fellow
immigrants, she would marry outside her nationality -
to an Englishman
(or Irishman?) named James H. Smith. Eleven long years
passed in
America before she married at the age of 27, which at
that time was very
long in the tooth. (I think it's far too young).
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:12 PM
Ohio is debating whether to teach evolution and/or
intelligent design in schools.
Historically, I think that both sides in the school
debate have reason to be defensive.
The scientific side has ample evidence of religious
blindness going back
to the Scopes trial. But what is less known is that
the religious side
also has good reason to be on the defensive. As Thomas
Dubay points out
in his book, "Faith and Certitude': "members of the
secular academe are
assumed to be free to think and say and publish just
what they wish. Not
so. Scholars must hew the officially accepted line in
their fields or
they are consigned to the sidelines by their peers who
convention programs and publish journals....The
eminent physicist and
astronomer Robert Jastrow finds strange the reaction
of scientific minds
to the accumulating evidence that the universe did
begin with the 'big
bang'. 'All recent evidence points to this scenario',
says Jastrow, 'but
scientists are unhappy with it. It turns out that the
man of science
reacts as the rest of us do when our beliefs conflict
with the evidence.
We paper it over with meaningless phrases.'"
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:10 PM
"Paul made the breakthrough between the universal
destination of the
Gospel and the universal condition of sin. Christian
theology would call
Paul's synthesis the doctrine of "original sin".
Christian theologians
and preachers have, unfortunately, not yet succeeded
in developing and
presenting a coherent anthropology of original sin.
Part of this
challenge is to derive a correct exegesis of the
highly symbolic creation
narratives which contain fundamental truths in a very
ficitional genre. Despite the evident commonness and
frequency of sin,
it reamins something of a mystery, still dominating us
rather than we
dominating it." - Msgr. Herron in Catholic Times.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:04 AM
February 18, 2002
From the time I was a child, I loved oxymorons. I
relished terms like
"jumbo shrimp", "military intelligence" and "giant
dwarf". Some have a
weakness for puns, I liked oxymorons and collected
them. How fortunate
then to be a Christian and a lover of oxymorons, for
how rich is the
bible in them. Mary is the Virgin Mother.
Christ is God made man. Moses was an Egyptian-raised
Jew. David was
the runt of the litter made king. Abraham and Sarah
were the infertile
couple with descendents "as numerous as the stars of
the sky". Paul was
a Pharisee-Christian.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:02 AM
It was my great secret. The time Mom was right. I
couldn't bear to tell
it, couldn't bear that she could say "I told you so".
And so I thought
it would be buried with me, but I shall tell it now.
On October the 30th, 1987, the water towers next to
the Continent
Apartments were sabotaged by Iranian fundamentalists
upset that America
had a higher standard of living than Iran. They
punctured gaping holes
into the towers and flood waters surged toward my
apartment, number 319.
I had just arrived home that evening, preparing for
the two or three
trick-or-treaters I expected and hoping to play some
basketball on the
court out front given the freakish 70 degree
temperature. A frozen pizza
was unfreezing in the oven, while last night's
Letterman played on the
VCR. Larry "Bud" Melman was involuntarily touring
Tierra Del Fuego.
I was reclining on my gray couch, (a couch that
incidentally was saved
and still exists in my present home) when I noticed
the ominous sight of
a wall of water climbing the big picture window next
to me. I leapt out
of the couch despite a lunchtime 4-miler (of course I
was a 25-year old
in the prime of life) and saw the water surge to the
top of the window,
such that I felt like a goldfish trapped in an
aquarium. Water seeped
into the corners of the apartment and the carpet
became soaked.
I had no windows to look out of but the southern
exposure, so I couldn't
get a good grip on where the water was coming from,
though I almost
immediately suspected the water towers that Mom had
warned me about on my
very first day (-May 16, 1985, as well as on the 18th,
23rd, 31st, etc..)
The towers lay just to the northwest, and that was the
only explanation I
could come up with to cause water flooding well-nigh
over thirty feet
I ran to the kitchen for what I supposed was my last
meal; the pizza was
not quite done but still good, thank you very much.
Frozen pizza has an
unnecessarily bad reputation. I will admit it was hard
to concentrate on
eating while being underwater and hearing sirens.
I skipped dessert in favor of rescue. It occurred to
me that some of my
baseball cards might be getting wet, so I ran to the
bedrooom and pulled
out the huge wood case I stored over 10,000 cards in,
and, to my great
relief found that none were wet though the case itself
was soaked. I
stuffed my Rose rookie card in my pocket, the
sentimental one I bought at
a card show because Pete wouldn't answer my letter
begging him for one.
I ran to the Sauder bookcase and wasn't sure which
books to try to save.
The Baseball Encyclopedia was too big and Thoreau's
"Walden" was already
wet. I saved "The Main Spark", a biography of Sparky
Anderson, mostly
because it was handy. My failure to plan was a direct
result of not
taking Mom's warning about the possibility of the
water towers coming
down. I wrapped "The Main Spark" quickly in Reynold's
Wrap, tucked it
under my arm, and fled.
I tried to open the door but the water pressure was
too strong, so I went
in my bedroom and broke the window and swam through
it. Years of
Fairfield YMCA swimming lessons had prepared me for
this very moment, and
I was ready. At last I knew why it was important for
me to graduate from
"Minnow". I held my breath and fought for the surface
while holding "The
Main Spark" to my rib, the torrent carrying me past
the basketball nets
to the roof of the Continental Athletic Club where I
sat and waited for
The damage to the Continent Apartments was $1.3
billion for insurance
purposes, $50,520 in actuality. Fortunatly, since I
lived on the top
floor, most of my possessions were salvegable. My grey
Cavalier was
located two miles away but seemingly no worse for the
wear. She started
on the second try.
The wire services never picked up this story and so
was mostly not known
outside Columbus. Many think that the reason the
national news didn't
pick up on it was because the perpetrators, Ahmed and
Muhammed, were
pro-choice Democrats who believed that Michael Dukakis
should be the next
President. This was the time before O'Reilly. There is
little doubt in
my mind that FoxNews would've covered this.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:00 AM
"The storyteller is a pale metaphor, I have often
thought, for God who
creates our world and us, falls in love with his
creatures, even obsesses
over us because we don't act right, and always
reserves the right to say the
final word.
Does God really obsess over us? Anyone who claims to
be God and doesn't
obsess over us (and the birds of the air and the
flowers of the field) is a
fraud and a phony. As Elie Wiesel remarked somewhere,
God made humans because
he loves stories, and our lives are the stories he
I would like to think that the illumination in my
story is that we live in a
cosmos that is finally, however oddly, implacably
forgiving; that it is never
too late to begin again; that there are always second
(and more)
chances; that it is possible, Ulysses-like, to go home
again; that we will
all be young again and all laugh again; that love is
always and necessarily
renewable; and that life is stronger that death." -
posted by TS O'Rama @ 8:54 AM
February 4, 2002
Sweat, Blood
on me a little
Garden Blood
find me
a Pharisee
mired in debts
calling in debts.
Blood crimson
seek me out
find my hovel
my eyes defect
they cannot see
else I would come
to thee.
That I cannot be John
let me be Andrew
or Thomas
Oh but the inconsolance
the unbearableness
of the Wait
of not knowing where I stand
Of having no art
to influence You
no sophistry, argument, excuse, no beauty
of having no weapons
but which thou hast given.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:59 PM
January 24, 2002
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again; and now,
under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our
business. - T.S. Eliot
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:41 AM
January 21, 2002
Saw the Mark Twain special on PBS and was struck that
a four-hour
two-part special could omit a book Clemens spent
twelve years
researching, two years writing and later called his
important book" - his story of Joan of Arc. I was
what their 'spin' would be on such a seemingly unusual
undertaking for a
secular ex-river boat captain. But they simply ignore
it. How like PBS.
And Ken Burns.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 12:41 PM
January 18, 2002
"From what troubles we are saved, my God, by the vow
of obedience! The simple religious, guided by the will
of her Superiors alone, has the joy of being sure that
she is on the right path; even when she is sure that
her Superiors are mistaken, she need not fear. But the
moment she ceases to consult this infallible compass,
she goes astray down barren pathways, where the waters
of grace soon fail her." - St. Theresa of Lisieux
posted by TS O'Rama @ 3:25 PM
January 11, 2002
Quotes from or about Bishop Sheen
"'I think the closer we get to Christ the closer we
get to one another.
That is why one feels very much at home with a real
Christian. Our
differences as Protestants and Catholics are lovers'
While fully aware of modern biblical scholarship, he
chose, as did the
Church, to reject almost all of it. Fulton wrote
simply, 'He will not
allow us to pick and choose among His words,
discarding the old ones, and
accepting the ones that please our fancy.'"
"Sheen could not repress his basic optimism. 'There
are wonderful times
in which to be alive because 30 years ago, and in
other days, when we
were moral, when we had a spirit of work in the United
States, not a
spirt of sloth and avoiding responsibility, it was
easy to be good, it
was easy to be American, it was easy to be Christian.
Today it's hard.
You're being tested. Dead bodies float downstream - it
takes a live body
to resist the current. And that's why these are great
days. They are
struggle, and I love them."
from the author, Thomas Reeves:
"The True Believer is, of course, a familiar character
in history. It is
important to observe that he is capable of great good
as well as great
evil. There is nothing intrinsically bad in seeking
meaning to life and
trusting wholeheartedly in an institution or book or
philosophy that
claims to have the whole truth. By the same token,
cynicism, doubt,
indifference and selfishness are not always, as some
believe, evidence of
enlightenment and goodness."
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:31 PM
We pulled in the parking lot with some trepidation.
We'd heard that
the friend of Mryt's had had her car broken into on a
Sunday night in
this very parking lot. The neighborhood was poor but
had the cache of
charisma about it, like a movie set. The church was
called "Higher
Ground Always Abounding Asssembly" and we were there
to hear the choir
"High Praise Company".
We walked in feeling self-consicous given our extreme
whitness. Three
black youths stood by the doorway and looked us over.
Once inside, we
took our conspicuous seats in the sanctuary, which was
dominated by a
circular stained glass window of Christ tending sheep
and huge twin glass
structures on either side with large amounts of water
streaming though
them. It was hypnotizing. The concert was scheduled to
start at 7pm,
but Carole, the black friend of Myrt's, warned us that
these things don't
start on time. That was the first thing I noticed -
the laid-back
attitude towards time. The Irish used to be called the
black Englishmen,
in part because of a similar relaxed attitude towards
time. By 7:40
things started up. I felt like an extra in an Eddie
Murphy movie.
We started up with a praise and worship service. Much
clapping, lots of
following directions on lifting hands up (and they say
the Mass is hard
to follow?). We had to turn to our partner and repeat
to them
spiritual-slang phrases that the pastor had expressed.
I turned to
Steph. But then the leader had us do it to the person
on our right, who
in my case was a large black guy. He was probably
thinking, "damn my
A large black man in an all-brown, shiny leather soon
strode up to
the front and said "Y'all know I have the hardest job
today. I got get
some money out of you. Colored folks need to support
their own." (Steph
later told me that she thought this meant we wouldn't
have to
"Will every man here willing to give $50 or $100
please stand up."
No one stood for a bit, then three or four extremely
men stepped up and put money into a purple-clothed
inlaid basket. (Of
course nearly everyone was very well-dressed; the gent
beside me was in a
suit and tie and cufflinks while I wore dockers and a
denim shirt).
"Will every man here willing to give $20 please
After some uncomfortable moments, ten or twenty men
made their way
to the front.
"Okay. Now, I want everyone here who is not a woman to
stand up."
Hmm…how do I get out of this one? I stood up. I was
now triply
conspicuous - I was white, ill-dressed and standing.
"Who is willing to give $5 or $10 to the Lord?"
Most went up, including a rare white man. (I'd guess
there were 3
or 4 besides us out of a couple hundred or so people).
I went up too,
and donated $5.
I sat down with relief and was surprised that he asked
for $3, $2,
or $1 donations. Three or four younger guys came up
and donated that.
They then did the same routine with the ladies, though
Steph and Myrt
cheated by giving their $5s for Carole to bring up.
By 9:00 the choir finally came up and began their set.
The songs
were not your daddy's gospel - they were much speeded
up with lots of
percussion. No "Amazing Grace" here. They were all
self-written tunes
that allowed the singers to display the range of their
voices, which was
spectacular. The songs often expressed lines like
"Praise and Glorify
Him" over and over and over that had an almost
mesmerizing effect, like a
chant almost.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:29 PM
One Thanksgiving weekend, my wife, her three sisters,
and mother
ventured to a cabin deep in the woods of Hocking
county in the
Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. They would be
renting it for
just two nights and so drove up the long, gravel drive
so typical of
country residences with a sense of anticipation.
Unknown to them,
nestled in those hills lived a stray tomcat,
redneck-thin and just shy of
two years. He lived by his wits and little else, and
surely not for
On the first day, my wife's sister Karen walked down
that long
spirally drive and noticed the plucky tomcat walking
towards her, begging
for attention and food, whichever came first. The
owner happened to be in
the vicinity and warned Karen he'd soon be putting a
bullet in the cat's
head since he didn't much like strays. She didn't
doubt him; he looked
like he was born with a gun and an appetite for
killing. She brought him
up to the cabin, and they noticed with amazement the
little eight-pound
wonder was not intimidated in the least by our
hundred-pound dog, a
German shepherd-mix my wife rarely leaves behind.
The new member of the cabin had dark tiger stripes
down the length of his
back and humorous tall legs, one of which was nearly
all white and the
other white only to the ankle sock. He looked like
he'd gotten up late
for work and put on a calf-length tube sock on the
right foot and an
ankle-sock on the left! A respiratory infection had
him sniffling and
snorting; his eyes leaked and gave off a shiny glow.
By a process of elimination, all the sisters but one -
my wife -
offered reasons they couldn't take the stray in. My
wife called and
asked if we could add a second cat to go along with
our dog and I
couldn't say no. She returned with the strikingly
beautiful new animal
in tow.
The country cat was tough and routinely drove our dog
Obi to the
point of insane barking. The little piker was afraid
of nothing. But
what name to give him? Long whiteboard sessions led to
results. Winston, Seamus, Sir Tuneces, Hobbes, Piker,
Lazarus all came
and went. His behavior had noticeably cooled since
being locked 24-7 in
the family homestead, so it was finally decided that
Mr. Hyde would suit
this Jeckel puss. The name was picked hours before his
Great Escape,
when he found the door open at 2a.m. and calmly
strolled out with the
insouciance of …well, a cat. Our son had not
completely closed the back
door and the cat was nothing if not an opportunist.
The timing was
especially fortunate for him given that he was
scheduled to go under the
knife the next morning and experience the pangs of
becoming half a cat -
i.e. neutered.
And so the days went by and an at-large Mr. Hyde made
scarcer than a dime in Scrooge's outstretched palm. My
wife put Mr. Hyde
on the FBI's Most Wanted Pet list and littered the
neighborhood with
posters. She also visited the death camp, I mean kitty
shelter, to see
if he had turned up there. Given her obvious
determination (and threat
to get another cat), I went to a childhood friend, St.
Anthony - the
saint who helps find lost things - and asked if he
might help. She went
directly to the Father, a bit sheepishly but knowing
that not a hair on
our heads goes uncounted.
The next afternoon, six days after Hyde's
disappearance, my wife's
brother Joe was delivering packages for UPS about a
half-mile away from
our house and across a busy thoroughfare. A stray
tomcat walked right up
the drive towards him, begging for love or food,
whichever came first.
Joe, a cat-lover, thought it a disgrace that someone
would leave a tomcat
run loose. He remembered my wife Steph was missing her
new stray, so he
made a mental note to check a picture she'd emailed
him. He went home
and checked it and that was the positive ID he needed.
He called Steph
at work and she called me and then rushed to pick up
her still sniffling,
still snorting cat. He was back, back from the seeming
dead, and
rechristened "Lazarus" for his remarkable rebounding
abilities. He
wasn't able to avoid his rescheduled date with the
knife though, and so
now Lazarus is less interested in the lady cats in the
Obi, meanwhile, is sharpening his barking abilities
while experiencing
the downside of a cat not de-clawed!
posted by TS O'Rama @ 2:27 PM
"Different theological approaches exist in the Church,
as shown by the
different religious orders. I couldn't be a Jesuit,
for instance. They
lead with their will and expect that their intellect
will eventually
follow. Dominicans lead with their intellect and then,
if they are of
good will, expect their will will catch up. At the
risk of sounding
irreverent, I've got to know why it's true first
before obeying." - Dominican Fr. Hayes
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:50 PM
November 14, 2001
"There's Hawkeye and Trapper John back in Korea. I
never did like those
guys. They fancied themselves super-decent and
super-tolerant, but
actually had no use for anyone who was not exactly
like them. What they
were was super-pleased with themselves. In truth, they
were the real
bigots, and phony at that. I always preferred Frank
Burns, the stuffy,
unpopular doc, a sincere bigot." - Walker Percy, The
Thanatos Syndrome
"But when he invited me to serve Mass routinely, I
refused. I told him
the truth: that since I no longer was sure what I
bleieve, didn't think
much about religion, participation in Mass would seem
to be deceitful.
He nodded cheerfully, as if he already knew.
'Don't worry,' he said, doing a few isometrics in the
hall, pushing
and pulling with his hands. 'It is to be expected. It
is only necessary
to wait and to be of good heart. It is not your
'How is that, Father? I ask him curiously.
'You have been deprived of faith. All of us have. It
is part of the
'Deprived? How do you mean?'
'It is easy enough to demonstrate," he says, shrugging
first one
shoulder high, then the other.
'Sure. Just consider. Even if the truths of religion
could be proved to
you one, two, three, it wouldn't make much difference,
would it? One
hundred percent of astronomers have discovered that
the universe was
created from nothing. The explanation is obvious but
it does not avail.
Who can handle it? It does not signify. It is boring
to think of.
Ninety-seven percent of astronomers are still
atheists. Do you blame
them? They are also boring. The only thing more boring
would be if the
ninety-seven percent all converted, right? It follows
that there must be
some other force at work, right?" - Walker Percy, The
Thanatos Syndrome
posted by TS O'Rama @ 9:20 AM
Took a micro-trip to OSU last week for their annual
booksale and stopped on the way back to my car at the
luxuriously-appointed faculty hall, drawn in by the
sight of statuary and art. I tried to check out the
pieces without giving myself away as a faculty
wannabe. I slipped into their private library, checked
out the book selection and made my way downstairs to
the "Colleagues Bar" where rows and rows of perfectly
arranged liquors of every description waited for a
faculty member's nod and made me suddenly thirsty.
On my way back, at 2nd & High Street, a pair of black
gentlemen in their 40s were engaged in fisticuffs. It
was a hypnotizing sight, two fully grown men swinging
wildly at each other on a Friday afternoon. Perhaps
they lacked jobs and needed the discipline of the
daily grind to squeeze the life, er, aggression out of
them. The driver ahead of me honked her horn and the
two men stopped fighting, as if they'd heard a police
siren. Then they shook hands.
posted by TS O'Rama @ 5:46 PM
November 7, 2001
Heard a NY Times columnist today say that the Northern
Alliance often gather around a television (hooked up
to a portable battery) to watch women's
tennis....Hmm.....considering that the average Afghani
is lucky if he sees a woman's neck, this has to be
pornography to them. I have this vision where the
Northern Alliance is watching some young tennis player
and saying, "THIS is what we're fighting for men!"
Interesting quotes
"Consider the abysmal problem of the relation between
God's Kingdom and earthy power (into the ultimate
depths of which probably only Reinhold Schneider has
the courage to descend today): whether, for example, a
call to arms by the Church, a blessing of weapons, or
taking up the sword of this world is an expression of
the courage of the Christian faith or, on the
contrary, the symptom of an unchristian and faithless
anxiety; whether something that can be defended and
justified in a hundred ways with penultimate reasons
drawn from faith (quite apart from the lessons of
Church history - but then what does Church history
teach?) will collapse miserably before the throne of
judgment of the ultimate reason - because what of
course appeared to be God's weapon in the hands of
God's warrior against God's enemies is now suddenly
exposed as Peter's desperate sword-waving against the
high priest's servant, whose side Jesus takes in order
to expose such brandishing of weapons for what it was:
anxious betrayal." - Hans Urs von Balthasar, The
Christian and Anxiety
"It crossed my mind that people at war have the same
need of each other. What would a passionate liberal or
conservative do without the other?" - Walker Percy,
The Thanatos Syndrome
"The subtle signs that Denise [daughter] was
exercising patience--the slightly deeper breaths she
took, the soundless way she set her fork down on her
plate and took a sip of wine and set the glass back
down--were more hurtful to Enid [mother] than a
violent explosion." - Franzen's The Corrections
"Christianity has always proclaimed itself superior to
the state. When Christ said "render unto Ceasar that
which is Ceasar's, and to God that which is God's" He
proclaimed an authority superior to government. (If He
had not, then what right did the early Christians have
to refuse sacrifices to pagan gods in violation of
Roman law?). By creating a Church, he gave that
authority visible form.
As civilization developed, men took their Christianity
with them into the halls of state. If Christ and faith
in Him is the highest reality, which penetrates into
every action of men, would a state be foolish to
proclaim itself independent of Him? No. Quite the
contrary. So the Emperor Theodosius thought when he
made Christianity the official religion of the Empire.
Throughout that time and in the millenia to follow, it
was inconceivable to men that the state would have any
basis of its authority that was not religious, and
therefore Christian, and therefore linked with the
Church. Charlemagne had himself crowned by the Pope
for the same reason the French kings to follow were
told by the bishops performing the coronation "By this
crown you become a sharer in our ministry." This
consciousness was called Christendom.
As a natural extension of these ideas, it was also
natural to conclude that departure from the Christian
faith was contrary to the common good of society.
Fundamentalist preachers say as much, and maintain as
much, whenever they hand out voter guides and 'demand'
(since we're into pejorative terms) that good
Christians should exercise their authority in
government by voting for candidates who accept
Christian teaching. As it is now, so it was then --
departure from Christianity was a blow struck at the
health of the entire society, and therefore
punishable. The Albigensians were seen, in this light,
as being as great a threat to civil society as Shays
rebellion or the Confederacy was seen to the United
States. No one blames the United States for
'exterminating' confederates, or 'persecuting'
farmers, or making the country 'explicitly' what
Abraham Lincoln said it was. So do we, I wonder,
consider religion and Christianity less important to
our well being than our forebears in the first
thousand years of Christian history?
I am about to greatly condense things. But with the
Reformation, and the devastating wars between
Catholics and Protestants that followed, it became
clear that doctrinally-specific Christianity could no
longer serve as the basis for a stable civil or
international order. Men began to look for new
theologies on which to found their states, culminating
in the present Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment
ideas of democratic consent and religious tolerance.
But this was originally a grudging accomodation made
in stages and over time by Catholics and
Protestants...." - anon post on bulliten board
October 28th Hocking Hills
Into the glen we sprung like faeries on furlough from
the big house. Immediately after arriving, Oblet and I
ambled for an hour, exploring the dusk-lit edges of
Acorn Acres. We shoveled the goodly leaf mold scent
into our nostrils and watched the moon rise. (Obi
might've been sniffing scat, I can never tell for
sure, for deer were supposedly not dear in this part
of the woods). Soug went to Walmart while I pyro'd a
fire for us. That night we watched the movie "Red
Planet" and then slept sound despite hearing the eerie
sound of a loudly hooting owl, a sort of archaic
baying, outside the window.
Steph made the most ingenious hazelnut coffee and we
were all comfortably ensconced by 9:30am, and I
savored the coffee while reading the rich prose of
Percy's "The Thanatos Syndrome" while Soug read
peaceably on the couch. By 10am, in the
brilliantly-lit morning, with the sound of shush-quiet
around us, I felt the nirvana of it. When I
contemplated where I could be at the time, at work in
the harried 'Wide building, with where I was, with a
plush view of longly-wooded trees that signalled
permanence and peace - I was overcome by it all and
wished the clock be arrested, stopped in its tracks,
and that this moment might linger by divine
posted by TS O'Rama @ 4:42 PM