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Fictional Offering

Eric Klaber’s maternal grandfather, Bill, radiated ascetism. Lean in word and physique, his words were as spare as the hairs on his balding head.

Lean too was the family history – if anything happened before Eric's mother’s birth it must have been unworthy of mention. If his grandparents hadn’t sprung fully formed from the soil it would’ve surprised him. Only one event before their eldest child’s birth was ever mentioned, an event invoked in the hushed breath of warning: the Depression. The Great Depression left a lasting impression. The fruit of it was a frugality so sharp that years later Bill would still burn his lips attempting to smoke cigars nearly reduced to ashes.

He was a member of the Holy Name Society and relentlessly dutiful. If he wasn’t home he was at work or church. The ever-present cigar was his only extravagance, a sort of talisman he used to ward off the need for words, as if the wisp of smoke was contribution enough to the clamour of voices at family gatherings. Every night he and his wife had a single beer before bed and every year they vacationed in Michigan for two weeks where he caught fish and his wife cleaned and cooked them and his kids swam among them.

Eric’s paternal grandfather, Ernst, was nearly the opposite of his maternal grandfather. He was the center around which his father's family universe orbited. His sons and grandsons and friends were drawn to his charisma and wit and gambling prowess and hung around him hoping some of his élan would rub off on them. A widower for twenty years, he often said ‘the young keep me young’ while closing down bars into his seventies. He died the easy death of a heart attack, his exit as graceful and effortless as his life.

Ernst was generous as Bill was frugal. You’d have a battle on your hands to buy him a beer. He’d never come for a visit empty-handed, bringing a bag of groceries for the family and an old issue of Sports Illustrated for Eric.

When he was young, Eric tended to think that Bill was the holy grandfather and Ernst as questionable. After all, Ernst drank and smoked cigarettes and gambled and didn't seem all that pious. But later in life Eric couldn't help wondering if the mere physical presence of Ernst at Mass didn’t exert more earthly influence on more people than all of Bill’s marches in Holy Name Society parades and all of Bill's laconic devotion. Eric, charismatically-challenged, took after Bill and knew he'd have to make up the difference in prayer.

posted by TSO @ 22:14

November 30, 2003

A Rose or Stinkweed?

I rented The Name of the Rose over the weekend and watched it with my wife, who happens to be non-denominational, which means I'm a bit more thin of skin on how Catholicism is portrayed on screen than I otherwise would be.

I rented it because I'm halfway through the well-written book and, although it would prove a spoiler, I'm tired of movies letting me down and thought this one hardly could.

Think again.

The film depicts all the monks (except the one played by Sean Connery) as tortured homosexual sado-masochists or evil control freaks. There was also, thank you very little, an extremely flagrant sex scene with full frontal nudity. I'm sure it was integral to the plot that I see too much of the character's anatomy. Give me a break.

Obviously I should've read the reviews. But given the nature of the book - about violent happenings around a monastery - I hardly thought it would be a hatchet job on monks and chastity.

posted by TSO @ 20:30

Geographical Fortunateness

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this OHIO!

Not buying it 'eh?

I've been noticing some geographical pride among the fair Southerners among us. Jeanne of FindMeInFlorida, Lee Ann of the Literarium and Alabama, or should I say of Alabama and the Literarium (I sheepishly admit I mistook her initial comments praising 'Bama as sarcastic in nature) and, of course, the Summa Mommas down thar in Texas (no one mistakes a Texan braggin' on Texas as sarcasm. I once visited Kerrville in an attempt to run into Kinky Friedman or Willie Nelson. I ended up finding a state highway patrolman instead as I was exceeding the speed limit because the rental was far more powerful than my own jalopy. The officer kindly let me off the hook when I told him we were making our way to LBJ's ranch, which in Texas I imagine is like running up to the Communion rail. Hard to fault saintly exuberance.)

I digress. Anyway, glad to see the geographical pride. I feel the same about things Irish. As a born and bred "War of Northern" Aggressor* this is where I say, with crossed finders: "I love the changing of the seasons! How could I appreciate the summer without nearly losing my toes to frostbite? I love the gloomy, atmospheric days of clouds and rain and the bitter-cold months! What doth not kill me makes me stronger!"

*- As the Indigo Girls sang, "When God made me born a Yankee He was teasin'".

posted by TSO @ 20:03

From Today's Church Bulliten:

"Don't give up! Remember, even Moses was once a Basket case."

posted by TSO @ 12:13

Dorothy Day - Magnificat Excerpt

I've heard that the burn-out rate for social workers is very high. Their idealism is sorely tested. But part of what makes Dorothy Day a likely saint was that she never lost her idealism or faith even though I've long suspected that the poor of a rich country are much harder on one's idealism than the poor from a poor country. Which makes Dorothy all the more impressive a figure. From November's Magnificat:

Dorothy [Day] didn't romanticize the poor. She told the correspondent that he had experienced "the bitterness of the poor, who cheat each other, exploit each other."

Dorothy once received a letter in which the correspondent wrote that he had taken in "a gentleman seemingly in need". He took him home, let the man have a nap, gave him a meal, and went through the want ads with him. After the man left, the good Samaritan found that his wallet was missing! Dorothy noted that such rejections aren't easy; the crushed heart can make us more compassionate or make us more bitter. "It was agony to go through such experiences," she wrote, "but the saints would only bow their heads and try not to judge...These things happen for our discouragement, for our testing..We are sowing the seed of love - and we are not living in the harvest time...We are indeed fools, as our Lord himself was who died for such a one as this." --G. Gneuhs

posted by TSO @ 14:07

November 29, 2003

WWII and the French

I was listening to a Brian Lamb interview of historian John Keegan, and Keegan was asked what is the root cause of French dislike of the English-speaking West. I was surprised when without hesitation Keegan pointed to 1944, when the Allies liberated the French from their Nazi humiliation. (Gen'l DeGaulle once said that the French Resistance played a major role in removing the Germans, which suggests a bit of denial wouldn't you say?). The unforgivable thing America and the Brits did is save the French from the unthinkable: the devil, in the form of Hitler, owning Paris.

We are the French too. We are the victims of a fallen world, robbed of our graces by the devil and left for dead as surely as the victim in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Our liberator is Christ. May we, unlike the French, always be grateful.

posted by TSO @ 14:01

posted by TSO @ 13:27

Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Interesting John Allen column via Hernan, via Gerard:

Expressing the difference between Rahner and von Balthasar is not easy, but one way to do so is in terms of attitudes towards “the world.” Rahner stressed the presence of grace at the deepest level of every human being — the so-called “supernatural existential.” Von Balthasar saw an “analogy of being” between God and humanity, which placed more distance between the two and thus left room, he felt, for greater realism about sin. Rahner was a basic optimist about culture, so much so that von Balthasar once accused him of negating the necessity of the crucifixion. Rahnerians tend to take Gaudium et Spes as their charter, while Balthasarians often see that text, and especially subsequent interpretations of it, as dangerously naïve.

posted by TSO @ 13:18

Blog Diversity lieu of runnin'

Fat and full from a couple Thanksgiving meals (noon with my wife's family and six at my side's), I'll put off the exercise I should be doing by blogging...

I'm surprised by the diversity within what's known as "St. Blog's". You would think that the self-selective nature of blogs combined with the further grouping of hard-practicin' Catlickers would lend a certain homogeneity. Sure, the blogs here are all friendly to orthodoxy. But variations within the terrarium are fascinating.

Those with the broadest appeal, Mark Shea and Amy Welborn, combine sound Catholic understanding with pleasing personalities. They avoid a knee-jerk conservatism or liberalism.

Other blogs explore the niches - amateur writers earnestly plying their trade, diarists, seekers of camaraderie or support, a half-dozen extremely bright people weighing in on the IOTD (issues o' the day), a prig or two AWOL from St. Killjoy's, converts and cradles and an uproariously funny ex-atheist, breast and bottle feeders, teetotalers and bingers, and godly folk here or there whose blogs give off the perfume of saintliness.

Compared to the homogeneity I expected, St. Blog's nearly has the biodiversity of a good bar.

posted by TSO @ 14:44

November 28, 2003

Umberto Eco

I'm (finally) reading The Name of the Rose and much enjoying it.

On the future of books. An excerpt:

After having spent 12 hours at a computer console, my eyes are like two tennis balls, and I feel the need of sitting down comfortably in an armchair and reading a newspaper, or maybe a good poem. Therefore, I think that computers are diffusing a new form of literacy, but they are incapable of satisfying all the intellectual needs they are stimulating.

posted by TSO @ 13:45

November 26, 2003

Saints with an Edge

I like the quizzes Chris of Maine Catholic posts. I found it predictable that St. James gets few votes among the apostles for intercessory purposes. It sort of reminds me of what I felt when I entered St. John Chrysostom Byzantine Church for the first time. His stern visage on an icon in the corner seemed to say, "what are you doing here? You couldn't fast your way out of a paper bag."

Commenter Nathan says of St. James, "He's too severe for our relativistic, cushy culture." Chris says "he was a tough bird, but that was what the early Church in Jerusalem needed at the time. He was kind of a Ratzinger to Peter's John Paul II."

This makes sense to me. There are not too many fans of Jeremiah either. And Christianity is certainly not a popularity contest. But I think Ratzinger is able to combine severity with a sweetness of heart which surely can be accomplished only by grace. Severity is easy. A crossless Christianity is also easy. But that elusive combination must be from God, just as only He can effect both justice and mercy. I think it was Kierkegaard who said, "First, severity. That is to say, the severity of the ideal. Then, mercy."

posted by TSO @ 13:06

Interesting look at Andy Warhol, Byzantine Catholic. Via Swimming the Tiber

posted by TSO @ 10:41

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

American culture is so deeply niched these days, I have no idea what it means to talk about American culture, or any shared culture, except that which is dictated by corporate entities. The only shared culture we have, it seems to me, is what we buy. And, in brief, I have a really hard time taking any argument that conservatives have "won" any culture war in a society in which pornography, as 60 Minutes reported last night, is consistently the most profitable sector of countless businesses, from hotel chains to cable and satellite providers to the Internet. Yeah. That's a victory for you. --Amy Welborn

It’s amazing really. From Bach to Eminem, every bit of music is a variation on eight simple notes. The same goes for literature – the Greeks identified roughly a half-dozen different plots, and that’s all anyone has ever used. Unhappiness is the same way. There are only a handful of ways to become unhappy. Seven means to seven sorrows. --Steven of the Fifth Column, on the seven deadly sins

The only succor I took from this little exercise was that "I was wrong" doesn't seem to appear over on Disputations, the blog Minute Particulars aspires to be like when all grown up. -- Mark of Minute Particulars, whose blog Video Meliora aspires to be like when all grown up, on the absence of "I was wrong" on his and most blogs.

If my sinfulness -- and it's sinfulness here that counts, I think, rather than the discrete sins circumstances afford me -- isn't really all that big of a deal, then neither is God's mercy toward me. If His mercy isn't that big of a deal, then God Himself isn't that big of a deal, at least as lawgiver and judge, and Christ Crucified is something of a show-off. --Tom of Disputations

In My Angel Will Go before You, Georges Huber wrote, "Man has too little; God has infinitely too much, if we may put it that way;--and to spread himself he creates guardian angels and uses them to distribute his largesse." - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

Fear sickens. Secrets kill. Embarrassment liberates! - Karen of Anchor Hold

Of Matthew 25:31-46 , of " I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty.... "... in the story, those that did the good are astonished so much as the others, and thus they ask " Sir, when we saw you hungry, and we gave you to eat; or thirsty, and we gave you to drink? ". That is to say, those that helped the brother, made the good to Christ, of a way hides... but also it hides to its own eyes. It is that Simone considers this ignorance like an essential characteristic, as a necessity or to have for the Christian. He is interesting and suggestive, although debatable - like so many things of Simone. And some funny one could object then that the sermon of Jesus would be a " spoiler ": if we do not have to know it, it harms when telling us the end of history... In truth, if we read too much literally, we would say that, arrived the case and hoping that we comprise of the safe ones, we would not make the question " When we saw you hungry and we gave you to eat ", because we - having read the gospel according to San Mateo- we know ... We know? But... we would have to know it or we would have to ignore it? - Hernan of Fotos, through the lens of the Babelfish translator

With St. Benedict, let us roll naked in the nettles until we are cured of this scourge of electronic ephemera that substitutes pride, emotionalism, and modernism for the reality of life. -- Trad commenter "JG", against blogging and the internet, on El Camino Real

If we followed the Pope's advice [to Lena Allen-Shore] to "be ourself" would we be something else? I know deep down that when the Pope tells Lena to be herself that he knows that she is a follower of Christ. That something in her early years catechized her to the truth of the Gospel and it has never left her. And I truly believe that if each of us was the person that God created us to be, namely ourself, we too would hear the truth of the Gospel and coming to Christ in the Eucharist would be something that would enable us to become even more truly who we are! --Michael of Annunciations

His Holiness John Paul II, Vicar of Christ, Pius IX, Pius XII, Leo XIII, Innocent III, Nicholas I, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Bishop Fulton Sheen, Frank Duff, Christopher Dawson, Richard M. Weaver, Heinrich Rommen, Jaques Maritain, Deitrich von Hildebrand, Hillaire Belloc, John C. Calhoun, James Longstreet, and Robert E. Lee --Secret Agent Man of SecretAgentMan's Dossier, under title "People Who Definitely Ought to be Canonized"

I think there's a tendency to romanticize the persecutions of the Early Church...Some of that may be due to a sense that the only way we're going to be canonized is through martyrdom, but some may be due to a false sense of our own ability to withstand persecution. The problem is, our own ability to withstand persecution does not exist in this cosmos. Any such ability we might have is an undeserved gift from God. --Tom of Disputations

I have a sense, based on Matthew 4:8-9 and similar passages, that the world is Satan's home field, and the Christians are the visiting team. --commenter Rob on Disputations

posted by TSO @ 10:02

More Economics

The joke goes that a conservative on crime is a liberal who's gotten mugged. And the liberal is a conservative who's lost his job. Lately the dark side of capitalism, and a global economy, is hitting close to home. Ham of Bone was laid off in part due to a company rep whispering sweet nothings to a NY stock analyst (in the form of an arbitrarily chosen earnings number that was subsequently missed).

A few days ago I learned 70% of the employees at my brother's shop were laid off while the other 30% forced into contracting jobs (thankfully my brother was in the latter group). The 70% were replaced with workers from India. My brother was told by his boss that, in terms of expense, the ratio of foreign workers to US workers is 6-to-1. Pretty hard for any one man to do the work of six, although Bone always said I did the work of ten men. You were serious right Bone?

We tend to be capitalists at 90-95% employment rate, socialists or communists at 75%. The tacit agreement we make is that nearly full employment is part of the deal. But the capitalist model is if you can find someone to do it cheaper, then so be it. Which means "some" job dislocations as our economy moves forward. How to protect jobs while enjoying the benefits of free enterprise is problematic. But enough whine. At 94% employment, the US economy is healthy as all get out and it's ludicrous to the extreme to complain about a material situation that is arguably the best in human history.

posted by TSO @ 09:15

Mark of Minute Particulars has an interesting post concerning sex before marriage. The Insta and Vodka pundits claim that sex beforehand is grounds for a happy marriage.

From a purely empirical point of view, I don't think we have a basis of comparison by which we can say whether someone is "happier" in a marriage after having sex with others or not since no one can marry a person after both having saved themselves for that person AND by not doing so. How much happier would that person have been if he or she had saved themselves? That is unmeasurable. It's also beside the point for a person of faith since we can't do wrong for a good end. God must be more real to us than the realness of skin on skin.

posted by TSO @ 07:24

BBC America's 'The Office'

I saw this on Phil Albinus a few weeks ago:

I ordered The Office - Series One DVD and have been chuckling, giggling and once at four in the morning howling with laughter for the past few days as scenes from the show playback in my head.

I recorded it a couple times and have to say that it is creative and funny. The opening scene pans up a grey office building that has all the panache of ....well...a grey office building. Inside, the characters go through their day with looks of numbness. The boss is perfect foil to their greyness. Born without an embarrassment gene, the sheer exuberance of his folly seems somehow life-affirming. The show does grow on you.

posted by TSO @ 15:23

November 25, 2003

Links You May've Already Seen...but just in case

Tom of Disputations has a maddening tendency to be right, which, in charity, we must forgive. He makes an excellent case against a "race to the catacomb" mentality.

The other link you may've already seen but is worth your time is this fascinating article on Johnny Cash via Amy.

posted by TSO @ 13:20

Variations on Goldberg

Thomas the MP (as in misplaced Protestant, not military policeman) writes about Jonah Goldberg's thoughts:

Here’s more from the excerpt: ‘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.’ Note that being conservative is equated with support for something called ‘a free-enterprise system.’ It should be painfully obvious to all of us, whether we’re Left or Right, that such a ‘system’ does precious little to conserve anything. On the contrary, in just this one instance, Marx was right – the Free Market sweeps away all that stands before it. All tradition, ties of kinship and friendly association, all sense of honor and local loyalty, even the very center of human personhood, must be sacrificed to the tender mercies of the Free Market.

Perhaps so, but it's easy to say that this (fill in your own 'this') sweeps away our freedom (to hold to tradition and to maintain our ties of kinship). Does the fact that we have raging hormones mean that we don't have the freedom to be chaste? In the case of the free market, have not some souls (like the Amish) escaped its clutches? The difference between the Soviet Union and the Free Market should be startling. The former (a morally repugnant force) attempted to crush tradition and religion via force, the Free Market (a morally neutral force) attempts via a kind of seduction. Seduction may seem to us the same as force, but it isn't. Certainly the wonderful group of home-schooling mothers at St. Blog's shows the fortitude of individuals resisting societal pressures.

Churchill said that democracy was a terrible form of gov't but the best on earth. The same might be said of capitalism. But a bridled capitalism, where both labor and management have some power, would seem to be the way to go even though mandating that is troublesome. One of the negatives of a global economy is that inefficiencies are squashed, and inefficiences can be humane. For example, companies in France and Germany are having to become leaner in order to remain competitive with the U.S. and Japan. Vacation time and benefits in European companies are higher, and they are paying the price for it. Instead of America tending toward the "more civilized" European model, the Europeans are tending towards our more cut-throat model. I mentioned this (anonymously, of course) during an e-meeting with our company President and he replied, "Clearly global competition is requiring companies do more with less and European companies have come to understand that American capitalism will win in the long-term. This does not mean that individual employees will need to sell their souls to the system, and I see evidence that younger employees are finding ways to lead balanced lives, staying home with their children, taking their vacations, and finding more ways to enrich their lives outside of their job."

Capitalism has worked in the sense of a rising tide lifting all boats (shown by the fact that poorest Americans are better off than the richest Somalis?). It bothers me not one iota that Bill Gates makes billions. I don't care about disparities between the rich and poor - much of that is envy. I am interested in how many are poor and how severe their poverty in a given economic system.

What I need to study is the "small is beautiful" ideas of Belloc and more about distributism. Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies has an good post echoing many of our concerns about unions and big businesses like Walmart.

Update: more on distributism here.

posted by TSO @ 10:03

Ideas vs Technology

Interesting Times article written by Jennifer Egan:

Serendipitous love as a romantic ideal is a paean to cities and their dislocations, the unlikely collisions that result from thousands of strangers with discrete histories overlapping briefly in time and space. And online dating is not the opposite of this approach to love, but its radical extension; if cities erase people's histories and cram them together in space, online dating sites erase both cities and space, gathering people instead under the virtual rubric of a brand.

The defining fact of online dating is that it begins outside any context -- historical, temporal, physical. To compensate, dating sites offer the old-fashioned comfort of facts: income, life goals, tastes in music, attitudes toward having children -- the sorts of things you might wonder about a stranger you locked eyes with. To ask whether this lack of real-world context is ''good'' or ''bad'' is to oversimplify; online personals are a natural outcropping of our historical and technological landscape -- one more proof of the fact that time and space are ceding their primacy as organizers of our experience. Better questions might be, How do they work and how is the way they work changing the nature of courtship?
What affects us more more: new technologies or ideas? See the following paragraphs from Jonah Goldberg.
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 TSO @ 14:43

November 24, 2003

Not Either/Or but And/But

Via Amy Welborn, interesting article on AA & recovery:

In his comprehensive book "Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous," Ernest Kurtz notes that two conflicting impulses have been internalized in Western cultures -- Enlightenment secularism and its reaction, Romanticism, which places a premium on feelings at the expense of reason and science. "Thus," Kurtz writes, "in yet another paradox, moderns readily accept 'feeling' even as they resolutely reject belief."

posted by TSO @ 14:22

Interesting NY Times article on American artist John Currin by Deborah Solomon:

...a retrospective of Currin's work will open at the Whitney Museum of American Art [and] seems likely to establish [him] as one of his generation's most esteemed painters, the fashionable art start who claims to disdain fashion...

Currin made his reputation by doing the most defiant and scandalous thing he could think of. I mean, of course, that he drew a normal human head. It had two eyes, a nose and a mouth, each in its proper anatomical place...Over time, his paintings rehabilitated all the supposedly offensive no-nos that political correctness had outlawed in art -- namely, a conservative painting style based on technical virtuosity...

'Progressive ideas are just a machine for ruining art', Currin said...'No one would question the value of technique in any other field. No one would say that a tennis player would be better if only he could stop hitting the ball.'

posted by TSO @ 07:50

Absent-minded Blogger

One of the more unfortunate side effects of blogging is the tendency to want to compose posts in your head at inopportune moments, such as when you are trying to listen to your wife, or worse, during prayer.

A rationalization is to say that the blogger is like the absent-minded professor who, during real life, is distracted by his laboratory experiments. A major difference is that the professor is getting paid and feeding his family, and is involved in experiments designed to aid mankind. So I must blog less, or at least be more disciplined in letting go of posts during inappropriate times.

posted by TSO @ 06:59

The Queenship of Mary

One of the things I take from the fifth Glorious Mystery, the coronation of the Blessed Mother, is that with God all things are possible. Pope Pius IX wrote that she is "exalted above all the choirs of angels and saints." The seeming rigidity of the hierarchical structure of creation - that man is below the angels who are below God - is altered with the lifting up of Mary to a place of honor above that of the angels. This reinforces the biblical theme that the lessor often trumps the greater. It also emphasizes that to whom much is given even more will be given, since Mary's earthly role, great as it was, is somehow exceeded in heaven. As in Rev. 12:1, she is "crowned with stars": a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

posted by TSO @ 06:56

Book him Dano

Secret Agent Man has a helluva Christmas wish list. Man, I still haven't read all of Newman's Apologia. He ought to be offering a Home Library Quiz.

I also like his suggested vacation schedule.

posted by TSO @ 19:43

November 23, 2003

Blessed Margaret

One of the more haunting images at our church is the large quilt in back of church that depicts the story of Blessed Margaret of Castello. Born a hunchback, dwarf, blind and lame, the first panel of the quilt shows her and her parents riding off on three horses. The next panel shows the parents coming back with a riderless horse in the middle. They had abandoned her like some do unwanted animals.

But later panels show the great esteem in which she was eventually held due to her beautiful faith and remarkable lack of self-pity. Two shackled prisoners are shown experiencing a vision of Blessed Margaret, who often visited the sick and imprisoned.

The irony is haunting: her parents abandoned, out of embarrassment, a child who would be venerated by millions. They jettisoned what they most needed.

posted by TSO @ 11:22

Charles McGrath is, like many of us, surprised by the succes of the egregious Da Vinci Code (from the NY Times):

You could argue that this is nothing more than the continuation of an authentic religious tradition in America, where we have always been suspicious of orthodoxies -- and of Rome, in particular -- and where we believe that everyone has the right to discover and interpret the truth for himself. But what seems different in the thriller theology is the element of paranoia and distrust, and the sense that even personal virtue may not be a sufficient bulwark against being duped. Religion, in this formulation, turns out to be less about revelation than about plots.

On the other hand, at least in the Brown version, there's that welcome notion of a sexy, uxorious Jesus; Jesus the family man. What would he read? People magazine probably. What would he drive? A van, of course -- one big enough for all the kids.

posted by TSO @ 19:28

November 22, 2003

My sentiments eggsactly.

posted by TSO @ 19:14

Poetry you'll find no where else...(much to your relief):

Straight Arrows

Farmer, farmer,
what makes your lines so straight?
No double yellows
no guardrails
nothing to stop your Deere
from figure eights.


Play that Irish Music White Boy

oh but for another blast of Hooligan lung-power
where the faces beet red with the beat to
full-throating lyrics known only by the cognoscenti or the drunk
or the drunken cognoscenti
and there a sixty-plus old man with the corrugated hands my grandpa had
looked at me with the camaderie of a fellow soldier
and I was taken aback
unexpected as it was.


Bikers and Farmers

Bicyclist, bicyclist,
do you ever look up
from your bicycle tread?

do you look up
and see the shorn fields
swatched and chopped like bitten cuticles?

do you look
to the distant house in splendid isolation
its lack of pretense
caused by never being seen?

Farmer, farmer
do you look down?
and hold the soil from which you came?
Knead and lift and fluss and tuck it,
wear its scent upon your beard?

Farmer, farmer,
do you look down?
to that from which your bread is made
to which you will return?

posted by TSO @ 00:39

Your Home Library - Take the Quiz!

Test the mettle of your home library with this admittedly idiosyncratic and not to be taken seriously guide:

1. Oxford English Dictionary - all 20 volumes = 10 points
Oxford English Dictionary - small print with spyglass - 5 points
2. Boswell's Life of Johnson - 2 points
3. Complete Works of Shakespeare - 2 points
4. Gibbon's Decline & Fall - 2 points
5. Proust's Remembrance of Things Past - 5 points
6. Catholic Catechism - 1 point
7. Companion to the Catholic Catechism - 3 points
8. At least one work by both Augustine and Aquinas - 2 points
the whole Summa - 5 points
9. Catena Aureau - 5 points
10. Three bible versions - 3 points
11. At least two major philosophers - 2 points
12. A set of encyclopedias - 2 points
13. at least one art history book and poetry anthology - 1 point

30-45 - first degree knight of the bibliomanic order
18-29 - second degree knight of Things Book
6-17 - the downtown library serves most of my needs
0-5 - I have nice telephone books

Update...Thomas the Misplaced Protestant owns not only the Catechism but the Companion to the Catechism. Whoda thunk it?

Update 2... Some flaws in the ointment have been discovered. Alicia has the complete set of the "Great Books of the Western World": 'Euclid, Herodotus, Dostoevsky, etc in that set - and I have actually read most of them!'.

posted by TSO @ 19:39

November 21, 2003

Goethe & Ham of Bone

Hambone, my unemployed friend, continues his "permanent vacation". Reports of my jealousy are not greatly exaggerated. Bone claims he bought a book, which is news in itself since buying anything is something he does with extreme prejudice. It was "Conversations with Goethe", a sort of Boswell's Life of Johnson for the Deutsche set. I know next to nothing about Goethe; my reading seems to have deteriorated in quality since I started blogging. I can't remember the last time I read any Shakermon (as my wife calls Shakespeare).

Various & sundries...
Got a kick out of a commenter on Jeff's elcamino real (link at left). "JG", a Trad Catholic, urged Jeff to quit the internet and pray more. There was a marvelously unhibited "physician heal thyself" quality about it, given his own presence on the 'net. I saved the quote for a future "spanning the globe" offering.

Inclusive language seems to be St. Blog's topic du jour. I'm glad mankind has woken up to the scourge of sexist language. A lack of inclusivity shows poor sportsmanship.

posted by TSO @ 19:25

Of the Natural

Some Christians attempt to defend their stand against homosexuality on the grounds that it is learned behavior rather than an inborn tendency. I think this is a mistake. Even if a "gay gene" were discovered (which I doubt since I'm not sure how it could be passed on) it wouldn't matter because conflating a natural tendency with God's will is a common error.

Chesterton said that the one truth of Christianity that can be empirically proven is the existence of original sin and the Fall. And I think it is important for the Christian to believe that. If, for instance, Andrew Sullivan believes in the Fall, then he won't equate nature with God. A baby is born naturally selfish. You don't have to teach that. Just because something is as natural to Sullivan as his homosexual tendency, doesn't mean that God wishes him to practice it.

A sociology professor at my alma mater taught us that men are biologically programmed to spread their seed as far and wide as they can, to impregnate as many women as possible. Does that mean we should and that God okays it because it is 'natural'?

Sex, like life itself, is not a right but a privilege. Ultimately, for the Christian, God dying on a cross pretty much sums up the grim situation we find ourselves in. If the creator of the world can die on a cross, then sex looms a little smaller. But, as Muggeridge wrote, "Sex is the mysticism of a materialistic society" - we worship sex in part because we are materialists. So Sullivan is understandably in a difficult situation and I emphathize with him since I'm far from immune from materialism or sin.

What bothers me is not that Sullivan can't accomplish the ideal - chastity, in his situation - but rather rejects the goal outright. The tension in not meeting the ideal is difficult, seemingly unbearable, but we all sin, so we all have to deal with not living up to the goal.

The unfairness of it is a big problem, which goes to the larger issue of the mystery of evil. But the Beatitudes suggest, rather starkly, that the recompense for the afflicted will be greater than the recompense for the unafflicted.

posted by TSO @ 09:58

Now Playing: 'Mountain Soul' by Patty Loveless

Two coats were before me
An old and a new
I asked my sweet master
Oh what must I do

The old coat was ugly
So tattered and torn
The other a new one
Had never been worn

I'll tell you the best thing
I ever did
I took off the old coat
And put on the new

The first man was earthy
And made from the ground
We bore all his image
The whole world around

The next was my savior
From heaven so fair
He bought me this new coat
You now see me wear

I'll tell you the best thing
I ever did
I took off the old coat
And put on the new

posted by TSO @ 20:33

November 20, 2003

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

While writing, I am frequently challenged by this standard: how do I know I am really writing truth? There is no scientific measure of how sin and grace affect man; all I can know is how they affect me, along with a dim guess of how they affect others. And I'm hardly clear-sighted enough to fully perceieve the entire truth. There is nothing more frightening than nearly hitting the truth, and in doing so, writing a piece that appears truthful, and yet, seen through the eyes of God, is a gross misinterperation of it.
- Katrina of Wanderings of My Mind

I'm not in a very good mood right now. But that kind of thing is supposed to be subordinated to various Virtues, no? But how much is being charitable and positive, and how much is lying? If I told you I had a wonderful time going through the Sistine this afternoon, it would be a lie. However, instead of doing that, I could tell you about how wonderful the paintings were, how the Delphic sybil is framed by a graceful and satisfying circle because of her cloak on the one side and her arm on the other. AARARRCGHGHHG, trapped by virtue! - Theresa of Destination:Order

Elijah's Mother: 'Always work hard son. God is not going to provide you with a Golden Chariot.' Abraham's Mother: 'All this traveling and your self-importance of being the father of nations, and yet still you have not given us any grandchildren.' Isaac's Mother: 'All father and son trips aren't like the last one. Next time your father asks you to go up a mountain carrying wood on your back, just ask him if you can go fishing instead.' - Jeff Miller of Curt Jester, on what some biblical mother's might've said to their sons.

So haben Gerhard Schröder und die katholische Kirche ein gemeinsames Problem: Wie bringen wir die Leute wieder dazu, an das ewig lodernde Feuer zu glauben?
-Scipio of Credo ut intelligam. [I do span the globe, you know. Translation? 'So Gerhard Schroeder and the Catholic Church have a common problem: How do we bring the people back to believe in the eternally blazing fire?']

As Br. Nicholas pointed out, a person's actions flow from his character, which needs to be formed by virtues. I heard somewhere (it might have been von Hildebrand cited in Moral class?) that the man who is most virtuous, right, ordered, is going to be the least able to explain the detailed rationale for his acts. There is a point to that. In the end you need guidelines, the moral rules which act as a frame for virtue to raise up and make live. - Theresa of Destination:Order

From this central doctrine of the Gospel, the Atonement, may be drawn two contradictory conclusions. The first is that from the moment of our Lord’s death upon the Cross all evil would be annihilated; or secondly, that since He did not in his own Person destroy it instantaneously, no wonder if He should take time in destroying it in the world or in His Church. The former of those conclusions is perhaps the more natural; but the interval of gloom and sadness which overwhelmed His followers on His death, and still more their history, as contained in the Acts of the Apostles, is sufficient to show that it is not the right conclusion.
--John Henry Newman of Heaven

I think getting people to laugh or smile can be a good end, but I'm starting to suspect we aren't as particular as we ought to be regarding the means we use to get people to laugh. - Tom of Disputations

Last night, after my RCIA presentation on Mary, I felt inspired to pray the Rosary for the first time. I did it according to the instructions in the back of de Montfort's "Secrets of the Rosary", a book that has freaked me out every time I glanced through it. It was a surprisingly prayerful experience, one whose benefits I'm still enjoying this morning.
- Sean of Swimming the Tiber

Oh, and did I mention how truly baffled, perplexed, and otherwise simply DISMAYED I am that a naked woman isn't enough? As in this one woman, right here, the one, oh, I don't know, to whom I'm MARRIED??
- Thomas the MP, on the Naomi Wolf link that suggested a naked women isn't stimulating to the average porn-addicted male anymore

The real secret code that largely goes unnoticed by many Bible believing Christians is the Bethlehem code. The subtle message that is written into the New Testament that points to where the Risen Christ may be found... In Luke 2: 8 the shepherds are told by the angels who appear to them that this will be "a sign" to them...What is the sign they will witness? They are told that they will fine an "infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." A manger is a feeding box for animals. When the angels leave, the shepherds look to one another and say, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." The key phrase here is "Bethlehem" which literally means "house of bread". "Let us go to the House of Bread to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." ....All of this is how the Gospel of Luke begins... how does it end? The Risen Christ joins two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They do not recognize him. He opens the Scriptures to them. They invite Him to stay with them. He takes bread, says the blessing, breaks it, gives it to them, then physically vanishes from their site. Luke tells us quite blatantly, for the really dense reader, that they recognized Him in the "breaking of the bread". Where are we to find Jesus this day? In the bread that is broken in the Eucharist!
- Michael of Annuciations

posted by TSO @ 11:00

Allergic Reactions

I've blogged in the past about the local Protestant minister who hosts a radio show which I (preversely) continue to listen to. A fine drinking game would be to drink every time he takes a jab at the Catholic Church. He seems to be an intelligent person, well-read if only theologically, so I assume the jabs are persuasive to the average non-Catholic listener.

An example: yesterday's show he described the Russian Orthodox Church's recent denunciation of the consecration of Bishop Robinson. You would think this is a topic Catholics and "bible-believing Christians" (as he calls himself) would have something in common. But he manages to squeeze in a jab at the Church, suggesting that the RCC hasn't been tough enough on the Bishop Robsinon mess. (No credit given, of course, when the Pope made worldwide headlines with his denunciation of gay marriage.)

At some point the bias becomes amusing. But the reason I bring all this up is this: what is the proper Catholic response? My response a couple years ago was to call his show and write emails. But now I think a better response is to to quietly pray. I may be wrong, but I'm guessing that Catholicism is the invisible thorn that is keeping him from complete confidence that what he thinks is true, and we all crave complete confidence in our beliefs. A prickling conscience is hard to tolerate but is to some extent a 'cost of doing business' here on earth. (Ask Andrew Sullivan, who put up with it for years before recently leaving the church.) Since my conscience bothers me often, and did severely in the years before my re-conversion, I can empathize.

So I'm beginning to think that pro-Catholic emails or phone calls merely 'feed the beast of anti-Catholicism', and are the allergens that cause him to become even more anti-Catholic. And never argue with a guy who talks to 50,000 people every day.

posted by TSO @ 11:00

NRO Column

Derbyshire has some interesting things to say in his year end column:

I am not very confident of my own abilities in the punctuation area... Commas are themselves a vexation, and I blow hot and cold on them. One week, I'll put a comma, after every third word; the next I'll write a thousand-word book review without a single comma in it anywhere regardless of whether there ought to be one or not and without the least consideration for my reader's patience and perseverance. The semicolon is another enemy.
The actual direction my thoughts drifted was towards Charles Murray's new book Human Accomplishment...In his penultimate chapter, Murray discusses the issue of whether the rate of great achievement in the arts and sciences, allowing for population, is declining, and he comes to the conclusion that it is. Furthermore, he locates the point at which the decline began: in the middle and later decades of the 19th century.

This is one of those things that is obvious once you have been told it, even if it never occurred to you before. Just look at The Nutcracker, first staged 1892. What can our generation offer to compare with it? And look at the bourgeois values that radiate from the stage in the opening scenes: the stern Papas and stately Mamas, the kids on joyful vacation from their Latin verbs and piano lessons, the servants in their livery and pinafores, the hierarchy and order and confidence. Sure, there was another side to that world — my own ancestors were digging coal for a dollar a day while Tchaikovsky was writing out his score. In the matter of great accomplishment, though, Murray has got it right: We just don't measure up. Going down into the Chancellery bunker near the end of WWII, Joseph Goebbels took a look around at the burning wreckage of Berlin and exulted to his diary: "These flames are consuming the last of 19th-century bourgeois civilization!" He got that right; and look at what was left when the flames had done their work.

The 19th century was the greatest of all centuries for the human race, and the 20th simply didn't compare.

posted by TSO @ 19:49

December 31, 2003

G.A. Day

Okay, Irenaeus it is!

posted by TSO @ 14:54

A Story

There once was a lady who did everything right. A homemaker of astounding familial reknown, she volunteered to host holiday dinners and would bake eight desserts. Just trying to decide which to eat was exhausting for the guests.

Her house was always immaculately swept, her kids impeccably groomed. She never lost her figure or her temper. Her hospitality was such that she wanted them to talk - how quaint! - that they get to know one another better. She hated games, be they card or baby shower ones, thinking them subterfuges for avoiding intimacy.

Her lupus finally caught up with her. She had fought it so well for so long that it almost came as a surprise that she still had it. She became a different person the last two years of her life. Her hands swelled to the size of boxing gloves. She never came to holiday parties or family weddings. She never let anyone see her - one time not even her children.

Was it pride or despair brought upon by illness that caused her withdrawal? Was it that she could no longer be perfect? Or not wishing to inflict her weakness, her irritability, her fallenness upon others, as if she be a bad example?

posted by TSO @ 11:04

New Year's Eve

Since I've gotten married and settled down, (both literally and figuratively), my interest in and sentiment towards New Year's Eve has waned. I think the nadir was reached a couple years ago when we conciously decided to not even try to stay awake. Call us jaded, but never late for dinner.

The truly insane thing was that I taped Dick Clark's ball drop and watched it the next morning, as if that moment were transferrable, as if it wouldn't be harmed by the violent ripping from context. There I am, Jan. 1st, fast-forwarding through the 5-minute, 1-minute and 20-second warnings. Yeah, yeah, drop the ball! Silly!

I wonder if the waning of sentiment is a good or bad thing or merely a natural result of the aging process. I used to get stirred up by the old Irish rebel songs, ready to fight the bloody British with a glass of porter in my hand. Now I'm more blasé. Is this the stony sleep Yeats accused us of, and if so, is it a negative?

posted by TSO @ 10:24

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Be quiet, watch, and listen. You don't have the answers. The Baby does. - Amy Welborn

I am going to work hard to change my default from "I've got you pegged" to seeing people more as the mysteries they really are. - Kirsten of Summa Mamas

Superb English hymnody - Bill of Summa Minutiae, title of post.

I have a special weakness for two kinds of music: ska-punk and hard-core drug rock - Robert of Hokie Pundit, perhaps not a fan of superb English hymnody

Dean certainly is the ballerina that doesn't look so good up close. - Ono of Ono's Thoughts, on the front-running Democratic candidate

Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money. - Moliere via Akim of Empty Days

When dealing in spiritual matters, it seems best to me to use the imagery that works to bring you into the presence of God and to keep you from sin. For some, that image is a stern Father whose discipline is swift and sure, but whose love is nevertheless there. Others prefer the image of King and sovereign. Some may have other images that they cling to. In many cases the images of authority, rightful though they are, do nothing to prevent me from sinning, and may actually encourage it. The idea of a holy and righteous person translated to human terms often comes down to one who wishes to impose a ridiculous and arbitrary system of rules and measures that have nothing to do with reality. (In a very mild sense I am a rebel, I suppose.) - Steven Riddle

I've known many people faced with heavy decisions in these "issues of conscience."...[Some] decide to follow their own counsel and end up living in a way that moral theology considers to be objectively wrong. In a way, they're betting that in the end the difficulties of their personal situation will trump the ordinary expectation to follow the moral law, and that God will not send them to hell for what they have chosen to do. Is this a lack of faith and charity? Is this perhaps presumption? Is it a willful decision to go to hell? They're making a bet that I wouldn't want to make, but maybe my choices have less to do with virtue than with cowardice before the possibility of losing the bet....What I think this leaves us with is this: Even without budging an inch on the orthodox requirements of the moral law, we needn't feel at all compelled to "write off" the people who are falling seriously short of the mark of objective observance of the moral law. It's probably impossible for any of us to look at a person from the outside and know whether he's fulfilled the three conditions of mortal sin, especially when the matter at hand is one of these contentious and gut-wrenching questions. Even looking from the inside, the thing is often far from clear. In the end, it's God Who will have to untangle the knotted skein of motives and fears and desires and knowledge and misunderstanding and pressure and emotion and goodwill and malice. That's where the judgment ultimately lies, and He's the only one Who can say whether the man who's chosen to live with his contradictions has won or lost the bet. - Fr. Jim of Dappled Things

To Rayber, the picture of the modern, rational man, such love is madness. It's inconceivable. It's absurd. It's just not USEFUL. And as I read those passages over and over and over I realized: THAT'S what the saints have that I don't have. That violent, inconceivable, absurd, non-utilitarian love of God. They have given themselves over to it, let themselves be swept up in it. Just for the love of Him. Just because. They aren't worried about appearing foolish. They just love. -TLS of Summa Mamas on Flannery O'Connor's "The Violent Bear it Away"

The cantor's greeting to the congregation just before the start of Mass this morning? "Happy Holidays." -Terrence Berres

"supercalifragilisticexpialidocious mortification" -Google search request that hit this blog

I sorely wish that the stale notion of condom use as the pinnacle of sexual responsibility would die. Twenty minutes in front of any major network will inform a stale mind that it is noble or sassy to carry a condom. UARGH! As a "been there done that" voice of experience I hallucinate that I would have loved as a teen to be challenged with the truth. Maybe then I wouldn't have needed to join PETA, as the itch of injustice would have been placed higher up on the moral chain. But no one taught me. Three's Company, Love Boat, Fantasy Island and PBS got to me first. - Kirsten of Summa Mamas

I started this journal or weblog to record some of my thoughts about faith and about my journey through life. To quote Henri J.M. Nouwen from Reaching Out, "I wanted to write this [web journal] because it is my growing conviction that my life belongs to others as much as it belongs to myself and that what is experienced as most unique often proves to be most solidly embedded in the common condition of being human." Life, we’re in it together. So let’s help each other as much as possible along the journey. - Mark of Cowpi

posted by TSO @ 09:32


Here's a Difficulties with Confession link originally via Steven Riddle, and since I had to search his archives for it I thought I'd put it on my blog so that I can, in the future, search my own. Now how to refer to it so that it will be easily found. Sacramental dryness?

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Annual Video Meliora Blog Awards (held 12/20/03 in London)

Nominees mill about...Jeff Miller on the left, nominated for "Best Blog 2003"


Best Musical Accompaniment to Guinness-Drinking:

And...the award goes to....Yes! Patty Loveless for "Mountain Soul". Congratulations Patty.

Patty accepting her award


Best Film

Lawd of the Rings, Return of the King. The competition was light because I don't see too many movies. A close second was "The Last Samurai" (I do see a lot around Christmas).

Underdressed director Peter Jackson accepts award


Best Book Read in 2003

"East of Eden" by John Steinbeck

Overdressed John Steinbeck posthumously accepts award


Best Adult Beverage Other than Guinness

Spaten Dunkel


Best Gaelic Blog of 2003

Dia dhuit!


Best Catlicker Blog of 2003

Whoa, an upset! The award goes to non-homo sapian for the first time: Reginald, the Tiger Quoll.

Cousin "Mouthy" accepts on Reginald's behalf


Books Also Honored

Also liked "Drop City" by TC Boyle. I'm savoring "The Life You Save" by Paul Elie. Preversely, I tend to not read the books I most want to because, as George Strait sings, you've got to have that ace in the hole.

And as Jessica of Bookslut fame wrote:

"Everyone is offering up their end of the year lists. I know it's the expected thing to do, but I'm going to have to pass. Books are not like movies or CDs for me. I could easily offer you a list of my favorite movies of the year, as I compulsively try to see movies their opening weekend. But when new books arrive at my house, they tend to get shelved (or in my current apartment, stacked to precarious heights) to be drawn down on a whim. Perhaps in ten
years I can tell you what the best books in 2003 were."

I'm also loving "Habit of Being" - the letters of Flannery O'Connor.

posted by TSO @ 14:07

December 30, 2003

the Blogosphere

What Saddam Hussein was reading and writing.
Via Amy Welborn, the Kitna cap.
NRO interviews author of A Travel Guide to Heaven
And from Jonah Goldberg on LOTR:

The battle lines could not be clearer: Good vs. Evil. But even faced with this obvious fact, Tolkien demonstrates that man is weak. Men make excuses and refuse to look at the reality of a situation. They rationalize, they say "not me," or "this will pass." Hobbits, Elves, Ents, and Dwarves do the same thing too, but these noble creatures, alas, are as unreal as the Orcs; in a sense they too are simply extended metaphors illuminating different aspects of man's nature. Evil knows its intentions and has the will to see them achieved. Good is plagued by doubt. The whole book is intended to illuminate the nature and dangers of that doubt, whether it's the question of whether or not the men of Gondor and Rohan have the will and moral clarity to fight or whether Frodo has the will and strength to resist the ring of power. (See Steve Hayward's excellent review). Good must be chosen of free will. And free will means choices, and choices introduce doubt. Evil has no such problems.

posted by TSO @ 08:59

Overheard at a dinner party:

"I'm upset with the Lord. How could he make my mother suffer so, when she's been such a strong Catholic all her life?" said the practicing Catholic.

"The Lord had nothing to do with that!", the non-practicing Catholic said ardently. "You can't blame the Lord for things like that or you'll be blaming Him every day."

Suffering is, of course, a mystery. When I was a child, I wanted to be close to God but not too close since I saw how He treated his friends. (Mostly his son, but also, to my 10yr-old mind, the Irish famine and the Jewish Holocaust.)

The most persuasive answers for me are three:

1) Rock-hard acceptance of the reality of the Fall and original sin, which altered everything in some unfathomable way. Whether creation was somehow physically altered is problematic, but I'd like to think so. Regardless, the Fall teaches that the default condition for man is gracelessness and woe.

2) Purgatory. Purgatory makes earthly suffering worthwhile (see quote in post below). Fr. Groeschel once said that he couldn't believe people didn't believe in Purgatory. "What do you think this earth is -- Club Med!? This is the beginning of our Purgatory!" said the good friar.

3) Trust in God. Pain is felt under the dentist's drill and yet good comes out of it.

posted by TSO @ 19:54

December 29, 2003

Can I Use My Dog as a Character Witness on Judgment Day?

William Luse wrote that delusions of grandeur keep him going. Felt similarly the other day since our animals, Obi and Lil' Puss and Sam, follow me around like the Pied Piper, or, I momentarily delude, Francis of Assisi. I doubt St. Francis felt pride for his animal magnetism.

A friend wrote of pet envy:

"When I enter the bathroom, for example, our dog lies right outside the closed door. My husband has come to detest her--ostensibly because "she sheds so much," but I really think it's because she prefers me clearly and unashamedly to him or anyone else."

posted by TSO @ 16:40

Viva the serendipitous Sunday reads. Started out with Sixpence House, because it is a library book and library books tick with temporality. The author, Paul Collins, commented piquantly on Emily Dickinson, which led me to Untermeyer's Lives of Poets, which led me to this interesting quote (though, perhaps because I'm no mystic, I don't understand the last line):

There is an embarrassing affectation, a willful naivete in many of [her] poems, as though the mature person were determined to remain not only a child but a spoiled child. At times she conceived herself as the supremest sufferer; she calls herself "Queen of Calvary" and "Empress of Calvary"...Born in the same year as Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson would have outraged her English contemporary; Christina Rossetti would have found her style incomprehensible, her spirit incredible. Here was a woman, presumably Christian, who not only questioned her God but dared tease, berate, rally, and fling herself upon Him in a burst of petulance. Yet it was the wayward Emily Dickinson rather than the worshipful Christina Rossetti who was the true mystic. One, with meek gratitude, returned to God all she had dutifully learned about Him; the other, less submissive, gave Him back a conception of Himself that was a unique creation.

posted by TSO @ 21:19

December 28, 2003

Amusing holiday moment: mom inadvertently wrapped some of the Christmas presents in Jewish wrapping paper. "But there's a star on it!" she said. "Star of David!" says sis.

- the ecumenical gift-wrap

posted by TSO @ 09:46

December 27, 2003

Early Purgatory

Had someone tell me they'd prefer to do their suffering in Purgatory, and not two days later I happen across this: “He who purifies himself from his faults in the present life, satisfies with a penny a debt of a thousand ducats; and he who waits until the other life to discharge his debts, consents to pay a thousand ducats for that which he might before have paid with a penny.” -St. Catherine of Genoa

posted by TSO @ 09:45


Tan Books has a Mission Program that allows you to leverage generosity with gain (i.e. 30% off already reduced books if you give $35). Any engineers out there know the weight-bearing limit (in terms of numbers of books) of an upstairs bedroom?

As penance for triumphalist tendencies, a shout out to frequent commenter and Guinness drinker Thomas the Misplaced Protestant, who has a blog.

posted by TSO @ 13:06

December 26, 2003

The thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices...

posted by TSO @ 14:01

December 23, 2003

On Grace
You do not see your glory, and yet it is within you. If you have an unpolished diamond, you do not yet see how precious and beautiful it is, though it has the same value now as when it is polished. Likewise the beautiful and divine perfection, which grace communicates to you, is within you, hidden and concealed.

As long as you do not see God face to face, you cannot see the image of His Divine Nature in you. Grace is, so to speak, the dawn of the light of the Divine Sun; you must only wait till this Sun rises. Your glory will delight you the more, the longer it has remained hidden from you. Until then, you must, according to the words of St. Paul, walk by faith and not by sight, believing the unfailing promise of God.

In grace you have the pledge - indeed, the root - of your future glorification in soul and body. If you still sigh in the servitude of the flesh, if you still feel depressed by suffering and frailty, sigh with the Apostle after the freedom and glory of the children of God, when even your flesh will partake in the spiritual qualities of the glorified soul.

The Glories of Divine Grace, Fr. Matthias Scheeben

posted by TSO @ 10:11


If I were a character in The Lord of the Rings, I would be Celeborn, Elf, King of Lothlorien, husband of Galadriel and grandfather of Arwen.

In the movie, I am played by Marton Csokas.

Who would you be?
Zovakware Lord of the Rings Test with Perseus Web Survey via Summa Minutiae

posted by TSO @ 09:41

Political Ramblings

Our mayor, Michael Coleman, just became the first big-city mayor to endorse Gen. Wes Clark for President, which leaves me wondering.

Wes Clark? Who is Wes Clark? He was a Republican throughout the 80s, his character is questionable (according to his fellow generals), and this is who the mayor supports? Clark (and by extension Coleman) smell like political opportunists.

Fellow Midwesterner Dick Gephardt has been a friend to labor for seeming ever. This is how the mayor treats his friends? My guess is that Coleman wants to curry favor with Charlie Rangell and Bill Clinton since he has higher aspirations than mayor of Columbus.

But, in fairness, the Real Politik of it is that only Clark or Dean will win the nomination. And if you're a Democrat and think that Dean will lose 47 states then you pretty much have to support Clark or fall on your sword.

I'm of the "anybody but Kerry" school. A pro-death Catholic politician is a scandal.

posted by TSO @ 09:30

John Updike talks about writers he has met:

At Harvard I stood with crowds of other students to hear, and to glimpse in the mysterious flesh, anthology presences like Eliot, Sandburg, Frost, and Wilder. After his lecture in Sanders Theater, Eliot, a gem of composure within a crater of applause, inserted his feet into his rubbers, first the right, than the left, as we poured down upon him a grateful tumult that had less to do with his rather sleepy-making discourse on poetic drama than with the fabulous descent of his vast name into an actual, visible, and mortal body.

Evasive temperaments are drawn to the practice of fiction. Their work is done far behind the heat-shield of face and voice that advances against a room of strangers. The performance can be a shambling and ingratiating one as much as a cocksure and intimidating one, but performance it is: a pity, for these anonymous devoted readers who press affectionately toward a blind man are his lovers, who have accepted into themselves his most intimate and earnest thrusts. I would like to meet, I suppose, Vladimir Nabokov and Henry Green, but recognize the urge as superstitious, a seeking of a physical ritual to formalize the fact that we already are (I write as a reader) so well met.

posted by TSO @ 16:02

December 22, 2003

That Which Does Not Kill Us...

Bill of Summa Minutiae feels the love from St. Linus Review. Perhaps they've seen the spam poetry that has found its way on this blog, for I've not been similarly blessed. This, of course, makes me want to write better spam poetry. Inspiration is not something you can will, but I'll try now. I will not compromise my craftlessness for a shot at St. Linus Review.


To the regathering sea
we traveled far to see
and strained our nets
the sand's poor bets
to find our shells sans fee.

To the replenishing screen
I travel near to scream
and strain my net
for just one catch
of something that isn't obscene.

2 Thin of Skin Update: I have since been asked to mention St. Linus Review. I can't rule out that it was a "mercy invite".

posted by TSO @ 15:25

From the People-are-so-darn-interesting File:

She's a reader big on John C. Calhoun, loves Florence King a fashionista.

Some days I long to improve sartorially, but I lie down until the feeling passes. The wicked prejudice that brains and fashion-sense are inversely related is plainly false.

posted by TSO @ 15:13

Makes Sense

I'll sign on to the charitable Secret Agent Man's 50-50 solution to the Cardinal Martino flap... In other blog-in news, congrats to Davey's Momma.

posted by TSO @ 13:28

Interesting NY Times articles


For many working-class and poor families, extended-family visits are the organizing principle of social life. According to the 2002 General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 41 percent of poor and working-class people spend a social evening with their relatives often, from once a week to as much as every day.

For many middle-class children, however, visits with relatives are infrequent. Instead of spending time with aunts, uncles and cousins, hectic schedules of soccer games, piano lessons, basketball practice and other activities are the organizing force of daily life.

Too often, the better-off view those who have less than them only in terms of what they can offer, or even teach, the poor. During this holiday season, it would do many Americans good to consider what they can learn from the poor and working class about family, connection and taking time to be.
And here:
[Doubt's] demarcation from faith is not as precise as these descriptions suggest. Doubt can become a rigid orthodoxy in its own right. In contemporary life, as Ms. Hecht seems to know, doubt has become almost axiomatic (as if it were a matter of faith).

Meanwhile faith itself is riddled with doubt. As Ms. Hecht points out, many religious texts (like Job or Augustine's "Confessions") are also accounts of doubt.

In his recent book, "The Transformation of American Religion" (Free Press, $26), the sociologist Alan Wolfe suggests that evangelical Christians in the United States cannot be thought of as they once were. Religion, he argues, has been transformed by American culture to become therapeutic, individualistic and less interested in doctrine than in faith.

Nor is faith always unreasonable. Religious beliefs were fundamental to the abolition of slavery in the 19th century and to the civil rights movement in the 20th. Faith may even be latent in some of science's triumphs, inspiring such figures as Newton and Kepler. The conviction that there is an order to things, that the mind can comprehend that order and that this order is not infinitely malleable, those scientific beliefs may include elements of faith.

Reason also has its own problems. Isaiah Berlin argued that the Enlightenment led to the belief that human beings could be reshaped according to reason's dictates. And out of that science of human society, he argued, came such totalitarian dystopias as the Soviet Union. Reason then, has its limits.

Some of those questions may remain even after contemporary battles cease: how much faith is involved in the workings of reason and how much reason lies in the assertions of faith?

posted by TSO @ 08:49

The Bush-Haters

Been reading about the remarkable campaign of Gov. Dean, who's tapped into the white-hot Democratic anger towards President Bush. Since Bush has been a huge spender, signed steel tarriffs and a Medicare bill, it seems there's one major reason for the anger. Iraq. Is it all just about his diplomacy skills, or the idea of the war itself?

What surprises me about this is why the war isn't seen as a "tough call". I'm also surprised by knee-jerk supporters.

When the inspections were ended in '98, there was a feeling that Saddam could be ignored and the agreement made at the end of the Gulf War swept under the rug. I know I wasn't pounding on doors saying, "hey, hey we got to have those inspections!". Out of sight, out of mind, I wasn't worried about Saddam. But would the Bush-haters really prefer our typically undisciplined approach to foreign threats? I'm not suggesting Bush is always consistent - merely that in this case the war could be seen as the disciplined and logically consistent consequence of the past twelve years of dealing with Saddam.

I'm not sure anyone BUT Bush would've gone to war in Iraq, in part because it's personal, or "persnal" as he might say. His dad felt the sting of criticism that he hadn't ended the first Gulf War properly; his legacy would've been ruined had Saddam developed and used WMDs. He was told over and over that he hadn't finished the job. And he wasn't given the opportunity given his failed re-election in '92.

But it's not just "persnal". The current President is disciplined, and has a strong will. Most politicians don't have the spine that he does, which makes his enemies all the madder. When I was a kid and verbally fought with my sister, the worst part was when she acted like it didn't bother her. Bush gets up early every morning and pounds out five 7-minute miles. One senses that he doesn't like messes, or threats about which he could have done something. So it's a natural fit that he would want to tackle Iraq. 9/11 gave him the additional impetus since the idea of a "democratic citadel" in the middle of the Middle East seemed as irresistible as it does unlikely. Like mild Canada right there next to Iran and Syria. Don't we already have Turkey as a citadel of democracy in the Islamic world?



Dreams, at least my dreams, are never fantastical. They have a foot in 'it could happen' while possessing a robustness that real life lacks. More novelistic than many novels, dreams effortlessly riff and vary outside of time and writer's block. They are written to please. Sensing flagging interest, the Dream-maker sows something unexpected in a real-time fashion.

Transportation difficulties rarely present themselves. I was somewhere, then, inexplicably, just outside Bronx Stadium at dusk. Plots twine and twist and make merry or ill.

I set here to write about the dream but am already losing it; it's evanscenting itself. Like trying to grasp water.

posted by TSO @ 17:16

December 21, 2003

One of the reasons I like to listen to Garrison Keillor on "A Prairie Home Companion" is that he manages to "contain multitudes" - to be both humorous as well as spiritual (obviously I can't speak for the state of his faith or soul). But on his show, he goes from a LOL satirical piece to a sweetly singing "Silent Night". Sort of Curt Jestian? Keillor said on yesterday's broadcast, "we see the world clearly as children and then spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture that vision."

posted by TSO @ 17:15

posted by TSO @ 11:11

Throw the Damn Ring, Frodo!

Went to The Lord of the Rings today and was pleasantly surprised. Can’t compare the movie to the book because I haven’t read the latter, but my expectations weren’t high since the first two incarnations offered interminable battle scenes combined with a lack of closure. But the pure visual grandeur of the movies made them a must see, especially for a matinee price of $3.50 – equivalent to $1 per movie hour. Semper frugal Hambone would be proud.

I really liked this installment. This movie had the closure the others lacked and the battle scenes were creative enough to sustain interest. One of the characters (I think the dwarf) said, “Death is certain. Chance of success small. What are we waiting for?” Funny. Finally found out how the creepy Gollum got that way. Nice twist – he used to be a man, or perhaps still is though malformed by his evil. The variety of characters show every gradation of sinfulness. Gollum at one end and Sam (Gandalf I take to be a God figure) the other of the spectrum. Sam is one heckuva good friend.

The attractive power of the ring reminds me of the “ultimate entertainment” of David Foster Wallace’s novel Infinite Jest. Wallace gruesomely describes a video tape so addictive that watching it means death, since viewers will not break away for food or water.


Also caught a western on TV - Riders of the Purple Sage. One of the reasons I like westerns is that the characters are laconic and only say things when things need sayin’. At the dinner scene between the protagonist and his love interest there are few words and few words seem necessary. There is an economy with the language and truths are dispensed in disarmingly simple ways.

Ed Harris is an underrated actor. At one point, another character goes on a meandering spiel pledging his truthfulness to Ed Harris’ character before asking him “so, do you trust me?”.

“Reckon I do. Might’ve saved your breath.” Pitch perfect.

Later he falls in love with the woman who knows but won’t tell the name of the man who caused his sister to commit suicide. But he finds something else on the way to vengeance:

“--And I give up my purpose. I can’t kill a man just for hate. Hate ain’t the same since I loved you."

posted by TSO @ 22:26

December 20, 2003

More from Flannery O'Connor (from "Mysteries and Manners")

The fiction writer should be characterized by his kind of vision. His kind of vision is prophetic vision. For the Catholic novelist, the prophetic vision is not simply a matter of his personal imaginative gift; it is also a matter of the Church's gift, which, unlike his own, is safeguarded and deals with greater matters. It is one of the functions of the Church to transmit the prophetic vision that is good for all time, and when the novelist has this as a part of his own vision, he has a powerful extension of sight.

It is, unfortunately, a means of extension which we constantly abuse by thinking that we can close our own eyes and that the eyes of the Church will do the seeing. They will not. We forget that what is to us an extension of sight is to the rest of the world a peculiar and arrogant blindness, and no one today is prepared to recognize the truth of what we show unless our purely individual vision is in full operation. When the Catholic novelist closes his own eyes and tries to see with the eye of the Church, the result is another addition to that large body of pious trash for which we have so long been famous.

It would be foolish to say there is no conflict between these two sets of eyes. There is a conflict, and it is a conflict which we escape at our peril, one which cannot be settled beforehand by theory or fiat or faith. We think that faith entitles us to avoid it, when in fact, faith prompts us to begin it, and to continue it until, like Jacob, we are marked.

The writer may feel that in order to use his own eyes freely, he must disconnect them from the eyes of the Church and see as nearly as possible in the fashion of a camera. Unfortunately, to try to disconnect faith from vision is to do violence to the whole personality...The tensions of being a Catholic novelist are probably never balanced for the writer until the Church becomes so much a part of his personality that he can forget about her - in the same sense that when he writes, he forgets about himself. This is the condition we aim for, but one which is seldom achieved in this life....

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Philip Trower Excerpt (from "Turmoil and Truth")

Obscurities in [seeking the theological meaning of scriptural texts] are due to the mysterious nature of the subject matter, or, according to St. Augustine, are deliberately put there by the divine author himself. "The Sacred Books inspired by God were purposely interspersed by him with difficulties both to stimulate us to study and examine them with close attention, and also to give us a salutary experience of the limitations of our minds and thus exercise us in proper humility". God does not disclose the full meaning of what he is saying to mere cleverness or sharp wits.

posted by TSO @ 09:02

Reasonable people can disagree about what constitutes protection of human dignity. But it could get out of hand:

House Bill 12158 - Concerning Ethical Treatment of Tyrants

Tyrannical detainees must be cleaned, shaven, provided a suit and tie by Joseph Abud clothier. Any filming of the tyrant must be preceeded by a lightly-chilled apertif and a gift of fresh flowers (out of season only).

Tyrannical detainee (TD) will have right of first refusal concerning use of unflattering photographs. Lighting will be Streisandian. Close-ups (as defined in Appendix Z-3) are prohibited.

If TD is sensitive to camera glare, custom-occluded optical light, available at agencies listed in Appendix C-2, must be used.

posted by TSO @ 15:20

December 19, 2003

Pictures of Ireland via Bill of Summa Minutiae.

Altar, Catholic Cathedral, Dublin

This image of an altar, with the sun appropriately lit on "Jesus" and "Ecce" (i..e 'Behold Jesus'), reminds me of the time the sun perfectly lit up an image of Jesus in a church window during the words of Consecration. The ancients constructed their sacred places so that the sun would enter during the solstice. How much more appropriate for the Lord of Light.

Nothing seems more homelike and restful than a neat and cleanly Irish village, near the Dublin or Wicklow coast, on a fine day in summer, when the sun is cloudless and the sea breeze tempers the gentle heat of the flower-perfumed Irish atmosphere.

The villagers can hear the drowsy hum of the bees as they "swarm" on the cottage roofs, and the soft note of the cuckoo, deep in the summer woods. At such a time in the day, along comes the buxom old fishwife, with a heart like an angel and a tongue like a fend, leading her donkey through the village street.

"Have ye any fresh mackerel today?" inquires the good housewife.

"Av course I have, an' what ud I be doin' wid scale fish?" answers and queries the piscatory peddler.

"Give me half a dozen, thin," says the "vanithee," mildlly.

"Half a dozen o'mackerel! Yerra, what d'ye take me for? Ye'll have a dozen or nothin, Mrs. Leary."

"Well, a dozen be it, thin. Anything for a quiet life," responds the victim.

The exchange is duly made and the fishwife leads on her animal and cart, crying out at intervals, "Fr-r-r-esh mack'ril! Fr-r-r-e-s-h m-a-c-k'ril!" until finally she disposes of all her load and returns home rejoicing.


posted by TSO @ 11:15

Fridays with Flannery

Poorly written novels - no matter how pious and edifying the behavior of the characters - are not good in themselves and are therefore not really edifying. Now a statement like that causes problems. An individual may be highly edified by a sorry novel because he doesn't know any better. We have plenty of examples in this world of poor things being used for good purposes. God can make any indifferent thing, as well as evil itself, an instrument for good; but I submit that to do this is the business of God and not of any human being.

I have found that people outside the Church like to suppose that the Church acts as a restraint on the creativity of the Catholic writer and that she keeps him from reaching his full development. These people point to the fact that there are not many Catholic artists and writers, at least in this country, and that those who do achieve anything in a creative way are usually converts. This is a criticism that we can't shy away from. I feel that it is a valid criticism of the way Catholicismis often applied by our Catholic educational system, or from the pulpit, or ignorantly practiced by ourselves; but that is, of course, no valid criticism of the religion itself.

Christian dogma is about the only thing left in the world that surely guards and respects mystery...The Catholic fiction writer is entirely free to observe. He feels no call to take on the duties of God or to create a new universe. He feels no need to apologize for the ways of God to man or to avoid looking at the ways of man to God. For him, to 'tidy up reality' is certainly to succumb to the sin of pride. Open and free observation is founded on our ultimate faith that the universe is meaningful, as the Church teaches.

And when we look at the serious fiction written by Catholics in these times, we do find a striking preoccupation with what is seedy and evil and violent. The pious argument against such novels goes something like this: if you believe in the Redemption, your ultimate vision is one of hope, so in what you see you must be true to this ultimate vision...The beginning of an answer to this is that though the good is the ultimate reality, the ultimate reality has been weakened in human beings as a result of the Fall, and it is this weakened life we see. And it is wrong, moreover, to assume that the writer chooses what he will see and what he will not see.
--Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners

Update: Marvelous excerpts and commentary on The Violent Bear it Away at Summa Mommas

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Premature Exclamations

You've probably heard about the Saints football player who was fined $30,000 dollars for calling his family after scoring a touchdown. That was one expensive phone call. Should've dialed 1010220. I can't work up much outrage - I rather admire the ingenuity of hiding a cellphone in the goal post. The sheer audacity of it is far more impressive than dance steps or fist pumping.

After celebrating his first touchdown reception, wide receiver Bill Trumpy was told by his coach, "act like you've been in the enzone before".

I suppose. But it's joyful to see others joyful.

From now on I think I'll do a little celebration in the endzone of a particularly good post.

Nah, nevermind.

posted by TSO @ 18:29

December 18, 2003

Furthering the Cause of Evangelization

Or not. My brother-in-law, not a Christian, sent me an email concerning Cardinal Martino (he's never mentioned or sent me an email before on any church matter):

This makes me sick ... Why was this story run in the first place, and why does the Vatican allow him to voice views like this ...

Saddam deserves to and needs to be executed for the betterment of society.

Thankfully, the Vatican's not in charge of much anymore...
Always on the defensive, we Catlickers. Usually self-inflicted.

posted by TSO @ 09:40

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Saw a magazine at the Jewel the other night. 500 Fabulous Christmas Ideas. Could write my own magazine....500 Bad Ideas... #408 - Live on caffeine, Sudafed and left over pieces of cake from the Baby Jesus Birthday Party at Church. Try to use vitamins, soy drinks and lots of Lubriderm around the eye-lids to undo the damage... #1 - Neglect spiritual life. Put spiritual reading on the same shelf with the bills that you’ll pay the first week in January. Try to cram all of your prayer time into multi-tasking activities only. (i.e. praying while driving, doing laundry, etc.) Don’t waste time that could be spent on superfluous details of ‘holiday’ celebrations. - Ellyn of Oblique House

How can we be happy confronted with images like these? We can get used to mass graves, to iron maidens, to torture videos. But the tongue depressor! Not the tongue depressor! Foul Americans! - Mark of Irish Elk, poking at Cardinal Martino's criticism that the U.S. treated Saddam 'like a cow'.

The thing is, I never liked "church people," and churchiness. I guess I still don't, and I'm not sure why. Most expressions of piety leaves me cold. I think it's because religiosity seemed to me to be a shield against life, and the true experience of God. I felt, though, that Percy and Merton and even Kierkegaard knew something of life that lots of church people in my earlier life did not. Rightly or wrongly, I experienced church people as being afraid of life, and running from it. You couldn't say that about those men. Merton esp. got to me, because he had lived the kind of life as a young man that I was living, in a way, or at least that I aspired to live. And he saw the hollowness of it, and conveyed it to me so intimately and convincingly. One reason I love this blog so much is Amy writes with such love for and devotion to Christ and the Church, but also without sentimentality. I find that liberating. - Rod Dreher, on Amy's blog

For me, Cardinal Martino's statement is no more a threat to my faith than the spectacularly sinful life of a 15th century Cardinal or Pope. Same Church, the saints and sinners all exist on the same plane. It is a mystery, yes, and one worth unpacking - if our faith is revealed incarnationally, through stuff and words and music and yes, people, how do we see through the (always) less-than-adequate stuff and the (frequently) ridiculousness (and worse) of the people to Christ? - Amy Welborn

For some reason it is easier to get people to believe this about the negative impact of sin than about the positive impact of good works. - Ben on Disputations

Maybe we're more familiar with the former? - Tom of Disputations, responding to Ben

Angels think we wee humans are simply adorable. The Guardian Angels in particular want to make us even more wee and adorable. If they do their jobs right (which they cannot do without our cooperation, of course), we end up like the little children to whom the Kingdom of God belongs...Let’s love the small things, then, and let’s start with the Infant Jesus.- Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

War is, at its very best, medicine, not food. And it is to the health of society as an amputation with a rusty saw and no anesthetic is to medicine. Yet, what is remarkable is how much energy we are willing to put into finding ways of saying, "Let's get real! Amputations with rusty saws and no anesthetic are a necessary part of life! Don't bore me with the kumbaya crap about trying to diminish the number of rusty saw amputations. In fact, let's talk about just how slowly and painfully we'd saw off the healthy limbs of the Enemy! Because it's the only thing those bastards understand!" - Mark Shea

My conclusion--some people are just more active than others and more imaginative. In my experience those often "diagnosed" with ADHD (even the adults) are highly imaginative and interesting folks that most of the pack (read unimaginative and boring) would rather have drugged into submission. Ritalin makes these gifted individuals into zombies. - Michael of Annunciations

Anyone with a decent classical education knows that artistic achievement and moral character go hand-in-hand. Art is about Bildung, whether on the part of the artist or the audience. Contrary to the commonly-quoted but misunderstood sense of the late-modern apophthegm, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," I've always maintained that people who intentionally make ugly art -- not bad because of poor technique, but bad by design -- are generally artists with screwed-up souls....Conservatism -- both political and ecclesiastical -- needs to crawl out of its foxhole and develop a better lingo on this problem. We all know that when Card. Mahoney builds a monstrosity of a cathedral that deconstructs everything about the sacred synaxis and feels like something between fallout bunker and East Berlin chic, that something is spiritually wrong with Mahoney, and the architect, and with everyone who dotes on this wreck as the next best thing." - Old Oligarch

"Nemo dat quod non habet" - No Latin maxim has changed the way I think about my life today and my future ministry more than that one. The translation is "one cannot give what one does not have." In earlier days in the seminary, they paraphrased the principle this way: "Nemo dat what he ain't got." The flip-side of the argument is just as powerful. One can only give what one has. If persons are bitter, depressed, fearful, angry, and/or judgmental, those will be the things they will "give away" in their interactions with others. God surely wants us to spread the Gospel message. But we can only do that if we are living in the heart of the Gospel, the Paschal Mystery. - Steven Matteson of In Formation

Let a thousand shapeless plaid jumpers bloom. - Matthew of Shrine of Holy Whapping and Notre Dame, welcoming rival Ave Maria.

posted by TSO @ 09:36

Add another voice to the consensus of praise of Mel Gibson's The Passion. I'm listening to Fr. Groeschel on tape, and he says that the movie will be an incredible catalyst to conversion; that the images are burnt in his mind months after. His praise is, therefore, of the typical order of magnitude concerning this apparently amazing film. Since my rating of a movie is usually inversely proportional to my expectations going in, I'd prefer to hear a few more negative reviews.

It appears the Pope has seen it too. (Peggy Noonan article via A Son Becomes a Father)

posted by TSO @ 13:05

December 17, 2003

Calicker Day at NRO

NRO has articles by Catholic authors today - Michael Novak and Joseph Pearce.

posted by TSO @ 10:53

Baseballis Maximus

I re-org'd my books last night and came across an old friend.

When I was a child, the bible of baseball record books was the massive MacMillan edition of “The Baseball Encyclopedia”. It was – and is – the Oxford English Dictionary of baseball stat books. Every player ever to appear in the major leagues is in the book. The pure gratuitousness of it is best expressed by this: every pitcher’s at bats, hits, batting avg and home runs is included, not simply his pitching record.

But this was the Cadillac of books - far too expensive for a ten-year-old. One Christmas I got one almost as good –Turkin and Thompson’s “The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball” - which contained a truncated record of every player ever to appear in the major leagues.

I nearly trembled when I first sought the entry for my great-great uncle Harry Wilke. Larger than life, I pored over his entry scores of times, imagining every at bat. I looked up the entry again:

Wilke, Harry Joseph.
b. Dec. 14, 1901 Cincinnati, Oh.
1927 Chi NL 3rd basemen 3 games .000 batting average

The entry packed little, but much. Born in my home town, if he couldn’t play for the home team then the Cubs were the next best thing - what tradition! My relative played at historic Wrigley Field. Surely he wasn’t given a chance to prove himself – how could he in three games? Maybe he faced a pitcher like Burleigh Grimes, who was allowed to use the spitter even after it was outlawed. Or he was injured, ala Wally Pip.

This was a book to be savored and treasured. Its cover barely hangs on after so many years of use and mis-use. The dust-cover is surely dust in a landfill by now. The introduction, preface, and even the endpapers were lovingly examined – apparently even by my mother who scrawled her maiden name twice before writing her married name. (She tended to doodle when she was on the phone. Obviously she wasn't particular about where she doodled.)

The preface starts with the phrase, “It took an earthquake to start this book”, an attention-getter. Hy Turkin felt his chair shake and concluded it was an earthly tremor. He phoned the newspaper and and his report, complete with name and address, was printed. A neighbor, S.C. Thompson read the account and introduced himself to his neighbor and they found something in common: a love for baseball history.

For this ten-year old, death was something that happened to old people. It was sad and slightly creepy for the preface to end with a sentence beginning with, “Following the deaths of Mr. Turkin and Mr. Thompson..”. This was the first book I owned written by the recently dead. But I paid no nevermind.

In 1990, after having had a “real job” for five years, I purchased the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia. But it doesn’t hold a candle to Turkin and Thompson's labor of love.

posted by TSO @ 09:46

Quizzical Thoughts

Tom of Disputations threds the thin line between satire and sincerity with a Baskins-Robbins quiz providing 31-derful ways of affirming that the quiz-taker is indeed wonderful.

Cynically, I assumed that he is spoofing the quizzes. (Personally, I got affirmed recently via Zep 3:17. The Advent readings really are wonderful*.)

Donning my reportorial robes, I asked the source. Tom says, "Actually, it's an early Christmas present for quiz takers who are tired of getting "Gender Nazi" or "Jingle Bell Rock."

* - The readings from Isaiah are consoling and as a pessimist (Fr. Groeschel admits the same), a season that tells me I must rejoice (as we were told on Gaudete Sunday) is good thing.

posted by TSO @ 08:54

Snippets from the Land of Broken Toys

Cutbacks to our office supply budget have been enjoined. We'll not have those fancy-schmancy pencils anymore! We'll write with bark and like it. Beginning today only "best value" items will be available, aka "cheapest", such as remanufactured toner cartridges.

I just hope they don't try to recycle the toilet paper.

A friend emailed: "It's a pitiful sight to see highly paid professionals descend on a recently vacated cube to try to salvage whatever office supplies might have been left behind. One guy almost broke my arm trying to get a 3-ring binder away from me at the bottom of a scrum."

Are shin guards a tax-deductible office expense?

posted by TSO @ 20:09

December 16, 2003

That Humility Thang

A loved one (disclaimer: not my wife) believes in UFOS, and started a recent phone call with, "I know UFOs exist".

I told her I neither believe nor disbelieve. There's no scientific proof. I didn't know what to tell her concerning her fear of how the discovery of UFOs could affect church doctrine. Inwardly I was marveling that this was one of her concerns. I have difficulties with doctrines and scriptural passages and my own salvation, but the effect of UFOs isn't one. I was momentarily envious, since I thought it'd be nice to trade mine for hers.

I was going to email her and say that she couldn't *know* UFOs exist, only that she has *faith* that they exist since she is taking another person's word for their existence. I managed to gin up enough curiousity to Google for the Catholic Church and UFOs, and no less a personage than my hero Padre Pio had this to say: “The Lord certainly did not limit His glory to this small Earth. On other planets other beings exist who did not sin and fall as we did." Not that Padre Pio is Thomas Aquinas, but I felt humbled; a bit of comeuppance.

Next on the humility tour was this man's want list. And I call myself a reader? I read Dick and Jane. Check out the philosophy - can you say 'original sources'?

The third stop on the tour was learning that someone I respect is apparently a registered Democrat. Not that there's anything wrong with that, many of my best friends are Democrats, grin. Just that it seemed unlikely from him. That tendency to label again.

posted by TSO @ 13:28

Go Figure

Sad story. Got to wonder what the parents were thinking in keeping a pet Bengal tiger, let alone a tiger with a hole in its cage.

I'm fascinated by the thinking, or lack thereof, that goes on. Like parents who would okay their child's visit to Michael Jackson's ranch. Or an actor who trusts MTV. It's sort of a man bites dog story. The lack of cautiousness and anxiety must be exhilarating, although it can lead to tragic endings. As a child I often slept in the rear dash board during long family trips. Parents now would be pulled over for child abuse. While out playing, we'd jump twenty feet down into an old swimming hole (something they've since closed down due to a child's injury). We were blissfully ignorant.

This is part of the reason I'm fascinated by Ono's "Catholics for Kerry" website. "Catholics for Kerry" has a "man bites dog" aspect for me. (I'm not, of course, equating the parents of the boy allowed to go to Jackson's ranch with Catlicks for Kerryites, of course. Merely that their stories are interesting.)

As is the story about people who keep tigers as pets. That's illegal in my part of town, so I figured this could only happen somewhere blessedly rural, far from the madding crowd, somewhere where freedom is exercised (though not always judiciously). A map confirmed that Millers Creek is located in rural North Carolina, near the lush Appalachian mountains.

I'd like to travel to off-the-beaten track places like Millers Creek. I'd like to go to Palestine, WV and see the hometown of Private Lynch. Maybe Waco, Tx too, home of the Koresh group. I recall going to a black Pentecostal church and the feeling of being "other" (I was one of three whites) was electric. One blogger wrote that he prefers reading blogs by women, maybe because of this sense of otherness. The problem is that a public blog necessarily changes the voice of a woman blogger. Men might like to hear the unadorned, frank talk that goes on in woman's private gatherings, but that's not likely on a public blog.

posted by TSO @ 11:15

A Natural History of Self-Indulgent Posts

As a connoisseur and practitioner of self-indulgent posting, I thought I'd offer this field guide so that you too can spot self-indulgent posts in their natural habitat - the blog. Some SIPs are camouflaged, shy to parade their self-indulgence in the klieg lights. This post will help you sniff them out.

1) Use of words "I", "my, "me". I have a problem with this. If I did a word count on blog personal pronouns, I could be one of the top offenders. You don't see Shea or Welborn beginning every other sentence with I. At least I don't think so.

2) Poetry. More people write poetry than read poetry, which suggests it's a dying art form though you wouldn't know it from some blogs. Typical camouflages and ruses include attempting to spike the entertainment value by adding a picture and/or some explanatory notes explaining the "deeper significance". Don't be fooled. The writer is trying to turn your attention from the fact that he or she had the audacity to inflict another poem on the world.

3) Short stories. I used to have a feature called "Fictional XYX", where XYZ was the day of the week the fiction piece appeared. "Fictional Friday" had a nice ring to it but often the inspiration to write it came on a Monday or a Saturday, hence the variability in the title. No one reads these. They are very hard to disguise, the elephants of the SIP world. Even Kathy the Carmelite, who read all my stuff when she was reading my stuff, never touched the fictional pieces. "I don't read fiction," she said. Smart gal.

4) Political posts. Political views are like...hemmmm....buttocks. Everyone has them. Few change their politics after the age of 30, so these posts either preach to the choir or turn someone off. Shared political views between like-minded friends is a fine pleasure though, like fish barrel shooting.

This should get you started. Be aware that even solipsists look both ways before crossing the street. The natural predators of SIPs are POPWs ('posting other people's words'). POPWs, especially from smart folk like Flannery O'Connor or Thomas Aquinas, atone for a multitude of SIPs.

posted by TSO @ 06:23

Two Cents' Worth

Rod Dreher, of Amy Welborn commenting fame, recently said that he was a practitioner of NFP but was upset by the lack of support from both hierarchy and fellow parishioners when he tells them how burdensome it is. Either he encounters looks of disbelief (from those not taking Humane Vitae seriously), or looks of disbelief (from practitioners who think it the most wonderful/easy thing in the world).

Maybe I'm too much of an individualist, but I really don't look to the Vatican or anyone to make it easier for me since I think it's possible only by grace, much as priestly celibacy is possible only thru grace. I don't expect my bishop or my fellow parishioners to somehow force more grace into me, much as I might like that to happen. Alternatively, it might just mean that I'm community-challenged.

Update: Reader Jeanne has some interesting comments:

Rod Dreher had an article in the Our Sunday Visitor some time ago saying how hard it is. I think it depends on the person. I think you're right. It can only be done by grace. And I know that all my contemporaries didn't bother. There was very little support. A person can have a siege mentality and maybe a triumphalistic approach when there's no support. Nowadays, you have to go it alone in many ways. One problem with Rod is that he has no community around to support him in any way. His wife has found community as women find it easy to relate to others. Men by their nature tend to be loners in charge of their territory and let no other man come into that territory.... But Rod goes on about all kinds of things that are painful because he can't find people who think like he does. He's also suspicious of others anyway.

posted by TSO @ 17:50

December 15, 2003

Enjoyed this quiz (via Steven Riddle). Gotta love these questions:

Q: What's your opinion of Burning Man? Answer: White people fetishizing primitivism, can you get more bourgeois?
Q: Postmodernism began when... A: Dr. Seuss wrote The Cat in the Hat (I actually chose the Warholian answer).

You are a Tortured Conceptual Artist. Your fellow
postmodernists call you an anachronism, but
you've never cared much about the opinions of
others. After all, most of them are far too
simple-minded to appreciate the nuances of your
work. They talk, while you are part of a lived

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

posted by TSO @ 14:10

Quotes from Colleen Carroll's The New Faithful

"It was this fundamental restlessness," said thirty-year-old Brother John Paul Walker, reflecting on what lured him away from a doctoral program in chemistry at Johns Hopkins. "I've learned that's the key to discernment. If you're really doing what God wants you to do, you'll have peace and you'll have joy."

Doug Galbi, an economist in his late thirties, gravitated toward the Catholic faith while in graduate school at Oxford. 'Christianity was talking about things that no one else was talking about," said Galbi, who said he sometimes wonders, "If everyone was Catholic, would I still be Catholic?"

"God has been very gracious to me in giving me a vocation that makes my Christianity alive," said [Tara] Haley, who works for Christ House, a recovery facility for people who are homeless and ill in Washington D.C.

posted by TSO @ 12:00

Dead Men Walking

I can take the Catholics for Kerry website with great equanimity, mostly because this man:

is nearly as politically dead as this man:

If I'm wrong, I'll enjoy crow pie.

posted by TSO @ 11:38

My friend Sandy always says, "just because something is true doesn't mean you should say it". (The corollary might be just because you think something doesn't mean you should blog it.) I thought of her while reading this:

I think we are all disgusted by the way George W. Bush's administration has allowed honesty and candor to seep into the genteel world of international affairs....

If the U.S. is going to right its foreign policy, it is going to have to rein in President Bush's tendency to be straightforward. It is going to have to acknowledge that honesty is a good thing when it comes to international affairs — in theory.

The administration's fundamental problem is that it is not very good at dealing with people it can't stand. The men and women in this White House are exceptionally forthright. When they come across someone they regard as insufferable, their instinct is to be blunt. They seek to be honest rather than insincere, to not sugar things up but to let these people know how they really feel.

Sometimes you've got to be slippery to accomplish real good. The Bush administration is thus facing an insincerity crisis. It has become addicted to candor and forthrightness. It needs an immediate back-stabbing infusion.

Perhaps Al Gore could be brought in to offer advice.

posted by TSO @ 21:05

December 13, 2003

And the 'Best German' of All Time Is...

Marx or Adenauer? Surely you jest.

Hope Scipio gave a nod to Cardinal Ratzinger.

posted by TSO @ 20:02


I was thinking the other day was how easy it is to affix labels. Like blogger A is mostly x, y, or z where x, y, or z is devout, cerebral, pessimistic, funny, snobbish or whatever else. When blogger A is not characteristically himself or herself, it feels forced, as if that quality is not of their essence - even when what they are doing is a good thing. Isn't that ridiculous?

The distance between who a person is (or should I say, how he presently acts) and who God intended that person to be might be large or small, and even that person doesn't know how big the distance. "Being who you are" is a difficult term with which to come to grips. You mean act the way I've always acted? You mean act the way God wants me to? You mean act the way I think God wants me to act? Potentially different answers. Lacking consistency may mean either that you are trying to be someone you are not, or you are trying to be someone you are.

posted by TSO @ 15:45


On fine family dining:

Despite all this, and in the face of grim experience, we try once a week to eat en famille.

"Yay! It's family dinner time!" the children cry.

My husband's shoulders immediately droop.

For Daddy, dining with the children is like being Howard Dean at a cocktail party for Campus Conservatives. He can scarcely speak, so great is the degree of his aesthetic suffering. Like many a clever wife before me, I see that Daddy had better get some fresh air, fast — ideally on his own and preferably in the Outer Hebrides.

posted by TSO @ 14:57

December 12, 2003

From FirstThings (Fr. Benedict Groeschel Letter to Editor):

Avery Cardinal Dulles’ characteristically clear and comprehensive article “The Population of Hell” (May) brings home a concern that many of us share with even saintly people of the past. The question of the salvation of the apparent unbeliever or of the marginal—the publicans and the harlots who Christ says will enter the kingdom of heaven before us—is often a very personal one. Most of us have friends and relatives on or off the spiritual edge. Cardinal Dulles did not refer to one important aspect of this question, perhaps because he takes the approach of the theologian. There is something to be learned from the private revelations of the mystics, whose unusual experiences of the divine have been approved by the Church.

The source of information is, of course, uneven; it is also easily dismissed and therefore often overlooked. In our time one private revelation has received the highest possible ecclesiastical approval with the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish nun who left an interesting record of her encounters with Christ as the embodiment of Divine Mercy. She recorded experiencing symbolic conversations of the Merciful Savior with a variety of types: the fervent soul, the suffering soul, and finally the despairing soul. In a remarkable account, which includes an important reference to prevenient grace and which leaves the soul free to accept or reject salvation, St. Faustina describes how an apparently lost soul is called by Christ himself at the hour of death. I included this remarkable passage from St. Faustina’s Diary in my book The Cross at Ground Zero, and it proved to be an immense consolation to many who lost dear ones on 9/11.

Is it in totally bad taste to suggest that we might consider, partly on the basis of St. Faustina’s revelation, that there may be a final divine call to conversion at the hour of death? Could this be the meaning of the promise of salvation given to the good thief on his cross? He did not walk in the straight way or enter by the narrow gate, but we have it on the highest authority that he is not to be counted among the population of hell.
More correspondence here.

posted by TSO @ 14:54

And Why Do Tall Girls Wear High Heels?

There has been much arch punditry concerning the recent chess-playing in the Democratic party. How can it be that Hillary has become the party hawk? Why did Gore support Dean? When will Sen. Kerry's wife cut off the ketchup money?

All these questions and more will not be answered on this blog.

posted by TSO @ 14:47

Spam into Gold*

Emil Bass
sent me an email
(i do not lie)
irretmievable blackbifd nwnru
which galvanized my opening
what could this mean?

Predictable as gas
emissions from a hack pol
she says
she's outgoing,
sexy and spontaneous.

At once I understood the title:
the time taken to read it
is as irretrievable
as a blackbird in the wind.


* - Spam is a metaphor for sin and the human condition, which attempts to bring to light the surface wastefulness of how we spend our time. My goal is to 'de-paganize' spam, by bringing out any innate but unseen beauty that might lurk within; by changing it from an homely sales pitch to a homely poem (though a poem completely shorn of profit motive). Spam is constructed of words, and the English language is beautiful.

Reminds me of a song...(to the tune of "Song, Sung Blue"):

Spam-sprung blues, ev'rybody knows 'um;
Spam-sprung blues, ev'ry garden grows one.
Me and you are subject to some spam now and then,
But, when you take the spam and make a poem,
You take the spam again, spam it out again.

Sorry, I must be reading way too much spam.

posted by TSO @ 13:37

Pretty soon they'll need an Oxford Companion to Oxford Companions.

posted by TSO @ 13:09

Magazine Article

I received a complimentary issue of a magazine called "The Latin Mass" (I think that was the title). Inside was an article praising the Baltimore Catechism, which I thought interesting and somewhat persuasive. But there was also a long article explaining how bad Vatican II was for the Church and the evidence given was a long litany of familiar statistics: priestly and religious vocations down, down, down, Mass attendance down, etc...

And while I'm sympathetic to the traditionalists, the problem is that you cannot assign a cause and effect. Since we don't have access to a parallel universe, we can't see how things would've had turned out without Vatican II. Perhaps things would be worse. Flannery O'Connor argued that a tenuous connection to the Church is better than no connection and it's possible that if the Church had been "stricter" we'd have only a remnant left. An Amish-like church.

The '60s culture affected nearly every institution and every person. There was and is no way to prevent the Zeitgeist from impacting you, either positively or negatively, which should provide additional motivation to want to change the Zeitgeist. Every Protestant denomination suffered likewise from the ravages of the 60s; it wasn't uniquely a Catholic problem. Once the elites in a society acquire bad ideas - i.e. lose their faith - their misconceptions tend to have a trickle-down effect.

God intended that men and women should impact and influence other men and women. There is no such thing as a "splendid isolation". One can no more hoard spiritual riches as one should material. The great spiritual poverty of the 60s affected nearly everyone, including the Church, but it strikes me that blaming Vatican II for our spiritual poverty just doesn't work.

Update: Just after writing about the possibility of a remnant church by too strict an approach, I see this from Wry on Amy's blog:

The priest I treasure most highly, the one who brought me into the church, was a "hard" man disliked by some parishioners. And he did have crusty qualities, like brushing you off if he was busy. But he told me after all my dithering about whether I believed everything and whether to join or not that I *shouldn't* join! "We already have enough bad Catholics," he said. "We don't need any more. Good night."
And he put his black hat on and walked into the night.
It was the beginning of my true conversion. Placed before that real choice: Yes, No - I realized how much I wanted to say Yes. Another thing he said: "You learn your faith on your knees." I had been spending hours pouring over books trying to find the answers and solve the debates in my head, but I began doing the stations of the cross instead. I took some private lessons from this priest to make up for the RCIA I had missed. I joined the church on my birthday, and it was the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

posted by TSO @ 10:04

Goethe Quote

Offered by Ham of Bone:

Many are full of esprit and knowledge, but they are also full of vanity; and, that they may shine as wits before the short-sighted multitude, they have no shame or delicacy - nothing is sacred to them. Madame de Genlis was therefore perfectly right when she declaimed against the freedoms and profanities of Voltaire. Clever as they all may be, the world has derived no profit from them; they afford a foundation for nothing. Nay, they have been of the greatest injury; since they have confused men, and robbed them of their needful support.

After all, what do we know, and how far can we go with all our wit? Man is born, not to solve the problems of the universe, but to find out where the problem applies, and then to restrain himself within the limits of the comprehensible. His faculties are not sufficient to measure the actions of the universe; and an attempt to explain the outer world by reason is, with his narrow view, vain. The reason of man and the reason of the Deity are two very different things.

posted by TSO @ 09:43

Beating the Flu Bug

My wife is beginning to catch a cold or flu and is fishing for ideas to stem it. I offered Bone's sworn way - by eating garlic. I also printed this post from Two Sleepy Mommies. But I really liked Erik's comment on Pansy's post:

I swear by my formula for fighting colds and flu. The center of the system is well-made espresso. Drip coffee not only will not do, but is a step in the wrong direction. Milk drinks are only tolerable before 10am, otherwise they will only weaken you.

At the first sign of symptoms, I drink shots of espresso in regular intervals throughout the day. I drink lots of water, and take Vitimin C. I get my rest and avoid red wine, greasy food, ice cream, and so forth. I have a Tablespoon of good cognac before bed. If I have any nasal congestion, I eat wasabi. I eat a lot of garlic, too.

I continue the espresso cure (actually, I do that even when I am completely well, too) act as if I am not sick at all. I drink a good chilled Sapphire martini, eat normally, drink red wine with dinner, finish with ice cream, stay up late, work hard, and all of that. Generally it works well and I am fully recovered in a day. If it is a particularly nasty bug, a cigar might be required.

It sounds crazy, but I do not get sick as often or as hard or as long as most people. Perhaps it is my constitution, but I think it is more to do with attitude. People are getting wimpier and wimpier. I imagine that in a couple of decades most of the population will be too caught up in feeling ill that they will not be able to leave their houses.
I think he manages to hit all the major bullet points for effective cold relief/prevention:

1) Include an exotic ingredient for placebo effect. The wasabi and garlic work here.

2) Increase your will to live. Anecdotal evidence suggests that having a strong will to live strengthens your immune system. At least that's why I treat myself to Kellogg's Corn Pops and Guinness (separately, of course, and for medicinal purposes only) when I start to get ill. Erik's line "a cigar might be required" is the plu-perfect will-to-live ingredient.

3) Appeal to one's pride. "People are getting wimpier and wimpier" is operative here.

posted by TSO @ 08:56


Nicole links to a book and article on the subject by Sr. Kathryn James, FSP.

posted by TSO @ 14:43

December 11, 2003

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I was in a shop over the weekend and for the first time ever the assistant, the fair, young assistant, I may say - unasked and unsolicited - offered me.. . .the senior's discount... I tottered home to contemplate my new-found antiquity, although I probably should have stopped off to buy some Geritol. The two people I've mentioned this to so far have both wanted to know if I actually took the discount. Of course, I took it. It's a discount. I'm even cheaper than I am old and broker than I am proud. If they'd offered a fat-and-ugly discount I would've taken that, too. - John at the Inn at the End of the World

We're supposed to "take up" our crosses, not construct, deconstruct, invert, implode, or otherwise tamper with them. They are uniquely ours and they represent our share in working out our own salvation, but also our share in the salvation of all who surround us. Paul told us that he "made up what was lacking in the sacrifice of Christ." What could possibly be lacking in that sacrifice? It is a puzzlement, but I accept it as truth and from it conclude that we all have some duty to do the same. One thing we present to people that may "be lacking" is a sense of the immediacy and the intimacy of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. As we toil through Advent and thirst with the ancient peoples of the desert, awaiting our Salvation, we can take steps to make His presence known. Among those steps is taking up our crosses, not begrudgingly, but thankfully--knowing that by this sign we are saved and we proclaim salvation. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

I have to say that what concerns me these days is not so much the presence of heresy but rather the growing belief that these arguments are unimportant. Say what you will about Hans Kung; at least he believes that doctrine matters. Kung, like many of us, may suffer from pride, but I would hold that the greater danger these days is sloth, a sense that it doesn't really matter what Christians believe as long as we love each other. - Peter Nixon on Amy's Blog
I do owe more to the parish than just the balance on my building fund pledge. Tonight is the parish's annual meeting. If I belonged to some other parish, I might be at the meeting, thinking there was some point to attending. As I've said before, after being on the Parish Council, Dilbert is funnier than ever. - Terrence Berres

Many people think the Lenten call to examine our lives in light of the Ten Commandments is a guilt trip based on fear. But the reality is that examining our conscience in light of the Ten Commandments is the only ticket out of guilt and fear. Why? Because the Ten Commandments presuppose that we are to be taken seriously as moral agents who can choose both sin and virtue and be persons who act out of love, not just react as victims. The Ten Commandments treat us like competent grownups and call us to act like it. The practical result of refusing to be treated like a competent grownup is to regard oneself as a helpless child who can only be acted upon. The practical result of that is to make everybody a "victim" and nobody responsible. And the practical result of that is guilt, fear and simmering resentment against all those "other people" who act upon poor me. When you sin, you can repent and be done with it. When you are a helpless victim, you can only whine and seek damages. - Mark Shea

Maybe the problem is thinking sins are relative to some arbitrary and ad hoc rulebook, rather than to our very nature and being. - Tom of Disputations

The answer to the question "what does this passage of scripture means?" isn't "what the author intended it to mean", but "what the tradition of the Church understands it to mean". The SAME Holy Spirit both inspires scripture and its interpretation by the Church. Hence, patristics would be what is indispensable to the study of scripture, not historical-criticism. - commenter Ben on Disputations

The filioque is usually thought of as an issue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Yet it was argued at greater length than any other point between the Lutherans and the Patriarch [in the 16th century]. The Lutherans said they agreed with the Catholic position. The Patriarch explained the Orthodox belief on the relationship of works to justification in what sound to me to be the same as the Catholic position. Which raises the question in my mind why there are ecumenical dialogues on these issues if there are more than just two interested parties to each. It appears that an accord on the filioque between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches might further divide that Catholic Church from some Protestants. Likewise, an accord on justification between the Catholic Church and Lutherans might further divide the Catholic Church from the Orthodox Church. - Terrence Berres

From the desire of my blog being read...Deliver me dear Jesus. From the desire of my blog being praised...Deliver me dear Jesus. From the fear of my blog being forgotten...Deliver me dear Jesus...That Mark Shea may notice every blog but mine...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it...That others may be pithier than I, provided that I may become as pithy as I should...Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. - Jeff of Curt Jester, a prayer for humility

The Old Testament...was written from the perspective of Israel, not of God or some disinterested third party. From the perspective of Israel, when Israel flourishes God is rewarding His people; when Israel is led away captive, God is turning His back on them. When Israel is faithful, God seems happy; when Israel is faithless, God seems angry. Does that mean Israel's faithfulness makes God happy, or her faithlessness makes Him unhappy? No. God's love is unchanging. It is Israel that changes, and when you change your experience of God's unchanging love changes. The analogy I like is from St. John Fisher. Sunlight is warm and cheery when you're healthy, harsh and bitter when you're sick. - Tom of Disputations

The purpose of the Church is to bring the Gospel to people where they are at, not where we would like them to be. The goal of the Church is the same as it was fifty years ago: to bring the Gospel of salvation to as many people as possible. The difference is that the Church believes that this can best be accomplished in means different from those employed in the past. One can argue as to whether or not these new means are effective or how effective they are, but the fact remains that the goal is the same. --Chris of Veritas

The [saints] are not robots or Stepford saints. But that sly voice still whispers--if you abandon yourself, you'll be nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Choose YOU. Choose yourself and YOUR will. That's the dangerous choice. Faced with Jesus and the Devil, most, if not all, folks would easily choose Jesus. But faced with the false choice--Jesus vs. self? Well, then that's a more difficult decision. -TLS of Summa Mommas

posted by TSO @ 11:25


My knowledge of history is somewhat ad hoc and often concentrated on individual trees rather than forests. So it was refreshing to be given a bigger, grander picture of the events leading to the Reformation by Fr. Benedict Groeschel. Groeschel argues that the cause of the Reformation was partially the horrible, pathetic spiritual condition of the Catholic Church, which was was aided by events of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. There was the Black Death, the Plague that killed half of Europe - including two-thirds of the clergy and three-fourths of the religious communities. Its destabilizing effects were like an atomic bomb blast, a nuclear war.

But there was also William of Occam. From Fr. Groeschel's talk:

The Greeks, the Romans, the Jews and agreed (and many of the Oriental religions), as well as the early Church Fathers, that there were certain qualities of being that were part of the very essence of God - unity, truth, goodness and beauty. No one ever said this more clearly than St. Augustine. St. Thomas never denied it. Being, and ultimately being in its absolute form, is One, True, Good and Beautiful. There is a certain rightness to things that can never be altered.

William of Occam made the great mistake behind the Reformation. The mistake of the Reformation was not about the authority of the church, it is much more elemental than even that. Occam said that God had to decide what was right or wrong. That he had to decide that honesty was good and stealing was wrong. And Occam said that God would never make a mistake, because of his divine wisdom. So they ended up in the same place, but you got there the wrong way. He presented into philosophy and human thinking the idea of arbitrariness. God could decide that this or that was wrong. And it came to an incredible, unthinkable error. Now, Lutherans and the Calvinists got themselves out of this error long ago - politely. That God could decide, before a human being was created, apart from anything they did, that they were going to heaven or hell. That was based on William of Occam. God has to decide. It violates the very notion of goodness. Now Luther bought it lock, stock and barrel. Luther taught that before you were conceived it was determined whether you were going to heaven or hell, and that faith was a sign - a symptom - that you were going to heaven, but it didn't get you there. There wasn't anything you could do - completely arbitrary. And Calvin did something very interesting. He took a step back towards Catholicism. Although Calvinism is less liturgical and sacramental than Catholicism, in terms of spirituality it is closer to Catholicism than Lutheranism. (Read "The Catholicism of Jonathan Edwards" - even though Edwards probably never even saw a Catholic.)

This is how they got halfway back. Calvin taught if you were going to hell, that's it, goodbye. But if you were going to heaven, you could lose it. You could drop the ball. You could be lost. That's why Calvinism has always had a much stronger emphasis on spirituality. Now, as I've said modern Lutherans and Calvinists don't adopt these doctrines in the sharp and frightening way they were held. And it was a dark time. There was the Black Death, and the Hundred Years' War. A hundred years of war! Ripping Europe to pieces. The English land-grabbing France. And the war ended in less than a year by a girl, operating on a private revelation, Joan of Arc. In one year, by raising the siege of Orleans, Joan ended the hundred years' war.

posted by TSO @ 09:23

The Sacramental System as Espoused by Frosty the Snowman

I was watching the old animated Frosty's Winter Wonderland, sequel to the classic Frosty the Snowman, when I thought how similar the saga to the story of sacraments.

If you recall, Frosty had a hat, which when removed effectively killed him, turned him into a lifeless snowman. The hat was a physical symbol joined with an underlying reality - the children's love. Frosty's wife was created because Frosty was lonesome and couldn't go indoors with the children. The children had Frosty; their love for Frosty's wife must've been inadequate because the hat given by the children did not effect a change. It was only when Frosty made his wife a bouquet of frost flowers - an outward sign of an inner conviction - that she came to life.

Jack Frost (the devil figure) whipped Frosty's hat off in order to inanimate him. But Frost was overcome when Frosty's wife made a snow corsage and placed it over Frosty's heart.

The children's hat sans love was superstition. Frosty's wife's love without a work did not avail. It was faith with works that worked.

Next week - Frosty's eschatology. Pre Trib, Pre Mil, Dispensationalist? Stayed tuned.

posted by TSO @ 07:29

Touchstone Links

Some good links here and here concerning Naomi Wolf's anti-pornography article in the New Yorker.

posted by TSO @ 17:11

December 10, 2003

A Marvelous Order

Once a year the Columbus Symphony comes to my place of work and offers a free concert. I'm always awed by how well they play; their crescendos perfectly crescendo, notes are never held too long or not long enough. They play with 'soft, soft hands' - nimble and quick when needed, graceful and gentle otherwise. And there is this marvelous order among so many moving parts.

This year they had it in the lobby outside the lunchroom, perhaps only a dozen listeners. I was three feet from the first chair violinist, a guy who'd always appeared as a tiny speck from my seat far in the back of the Ohio Theatre.

Hans Urs von Balthasar was quoted in National Review: "Whoever sneers at her [beauty's] name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past - whether he admits it or not - can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love."

posted by TSO @ 13:08

Immaculate Conception Quote

From Balthasar via Fr. Bryce Sibley:

There was a long hesitation before Mary was exempted from the bane of original sin, since people were at pains to preserve her solidarity with the rest of mankind. This hesitation was only overcome when it was realized that her privilege (which is demanded by her mission) only deepens her solidarity with mankind. Sin brings about isolation and thwarts effective solidarity (there was no solidarity among those who shared "in eadem damnatione" in Luke 23:40), whereas innocence makes it possible to be open to suffering with others and to be ready, in love, to embrace such suffering.

posted by TSO @ 11:04

Coach Francis Says...

The Cincinnati Bengals remarkable turnaround suggests how much difference a coach can make. And how does the coach make things different? By gettting the players to believe that his formula for success is correct, even if they don't see a cause and effect.

Players might say "I don't see how 'A' can lead to 'B'" - i.e. a victory - yet they trust their coach. If they have a good one, it works.

I apologize in advance for the preachiness of this post. (Can one sincerely 'apologize in advance'?) But we listen to our coaches - Christ, the saints, the pope - and copy what they do. An example is Eucharistic Adoration. At first this wasn't something I practiced. Why go to EA when I could go to Mass? But talk about a pedigree! When I read that the practice was initiated by St. Francis of Assisi and highly recommended by Mother Teresa I realized it was something I should be doing. And I found that it has increased my hunger for the Eucharist and set up the conditions for a more worthy reception of Communion.

posted by TSO @ 11:02

Ascetism, Food and a Recipe

We may not all called to be monks, but aging demands its own ascetism. For example, I can't drink nearly as much alcohol as I used to. Nor can I eat nearly as much. I eat a tiny fraction of what I did in college despite weighing much more now. Back then I'd have meals of three McDonald's Quarterpounders with Cheese, yet tested out at a lean 10% body fat... I also understand that when you get much, much older sex becomes rare unless you take a little blue pill.

It is as if it is a built-in part of God's plan that we slowly divest ourselves of the good things of the world and increasingly whet our appetite for things spiritual. If the message is too subtle, nature lends a hand.

Speaking of food... I've noticed that some blogs feature cooking recipes, often with obscure ingredients that sound like poetry. I thought I should share one of my all-time favorite collegiate recipes:

O'Garlic Poor BoysTM
Ingredients (serves two):

--New York style Garlic bread, I buy the sub-shaped kind at Krogers
--American Processed Cheese - a pack or two, comes in those individually-wrapped wrappers
--Bologna - two packages should be enough

1) Open the garlic bread and layer with bologna and cheese. Be generous with both. Sauté. (Not really, I just wanted a French word in here somewhere).

2) Heat that bad boy at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes depending on oven strength.

Use light bologna to reduce calories

VOILA! It's that easy. Bon Appetit!

posted by TSO @ 09:24

Those Were the Days

"Mister we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again..."

So sang Archie & Edith. I was reminded of that song and its tuneful pining for the past while reading about Council of Ephesus, which said, in part, that Mary could rightly be called "Theotokos" or Mother of God. The titled was applied because the fullness of Christ's divinity was questioned by the Nestorians, but also due to tremendous "grass-root" desire. The masses of Christians at the time celebrated after Council, much as I would after an Ohio State national championship victory.

What is so striking is that I cannot imagine we modern grass roots Christians rising up and demanding something of a theologically disinterested nature. Some traditionalists are desirous of calling Mary Co-Mediatrix, so it's hardly unthinkable, but what are most laity demanding? A relaxation of the celibacy discipline. Allowance of artificial birth control. Women priests.

In other words, it's all about us. We as users of birth control, or we as women, or we as priests or potential priests.

There is something refreshing about the thought of those ealier Christians celebrating Mary's new name. They were thrilled for Mary, and her prestigious title, enough to carry the bishop on their shoulders as you would a conquering quarterback.

Mister, we could use a laity like that again.

posted by TSO @ 14:26

December 9, 2003

Just in time for Christmas

Please, please... no orders after the 18th.

Autographed shirts extra. Rules and regulations apply. Not made in China. Otherwise prohibited where otherwise prohibited. Headaches, vomiting, diarrhea may occur.

posted by TSO @ 13:51

Untethered Christians

David Brooks in the NY Times applies hammer to nail with regard to virtual candidate Dean:

Other candidates run on their biographies or their records. They keep policy staff from their former lives, and they try to keep their policy positions reasonably consistent...

He is, in short, a man unrooted. This gives him an amazing freshness and an exhilarating freedom.

Everybody talks about how the Internet has been key to his fund-raising and organization. Nobody talks about how it has shaped his persona. On the Internet, the long term doesn't matter, as long as you are blunt and forceful at that moment. On the Internet, a new persona is just a click away. On the Internet, everyone is loosely tethered, careless and free. Dean is the Internet man, a string of exhilarating moments and daring accusations.
I catch a whiff of this "exhilarating rootlessness" among some non-denominational Christians. Their relationship with Jesus is one-on-one, so what is Luther or Calvin to them? A co-worker of my wife interpreted the Book of Revelation and concluded that the end of the world would be in 2001. She's arrived with a new end date, her own history discarded. (Her own interpretations were largely borrowed, but we fool ourselves into thinking our independent thinking is independent thinking.) To go deep into history is to become Catholic, said John Henry Newman. But history is for losers; it can tie you down.

posted by TSO @ 12:35

Full of Gore

Well the big political news is Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean, showing there's no honor among taxers or thieves, to the extent there is a difference.

The stab in the back is of Machiavellian proportions; he didn't even give Sen. Lieberman the fig leaf of a phone call despite Lieberman's patient wait for Gore to decide whether he was going to run in '04 before deciding to run himself. Also Rep. Gephardt went out on a limb and endorsed Gore in '99, long before fellow Dems did. But what have you done for me lately buddy? In some way I like Clinton better than Gore. Bill Clinton is all appetite but lacks discipline; Gore is all appetite but has discipline, and so has less excuse.

Gore, unlike Sen. Breaux, changed his position on abortion after it became politically expedient to do so. Did he join the anti-life forces out of conviction or political necessity? Only his conscience and God know. But it could be that disloyalty to unborn babies has bled into disloyalty toward his fellow Democrats.

The temptation to want to use people for your own ends is perhaps nowhere as evident as it is in politics.

posted by TSO @ 10:38

The Other Keating

I was skeptical when James Keating, PHD was described as a "nationally-known speaker" in the parish bulliten. If he was nationally known then why hadn't I heard of him? But he gave a talk entitled "The Vocation of Marriage" that was simultaneously riveting and discomfiting. The hour talk went by in what seemed two minutes and there was so much food for thought that I'd wished it was recorded. That Flannery O'Connor character would've been good if she'd heard Keating talk every moment of her life. He put the smack down, which is to say he told the truth.

I won't even begin to try to paraphrase his talk but I was reminded of it after reading this from Empty Days blogger concerning Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day":

"[He became] altruistic out of desperation. Maybe it's the good kind of emptiness, when you just sort of float away from your own burdensome self like some holy air balloon."

Keating said something not too far distant. He said that we have to get to the point where we get sick of ourselves and want to go outside ourselves...want to embrace "the other". Trying to get the "other" to become a clone of ourself is a form of idolatry and mimics the demonic since that is what the devil attempts.

posted by TSO @ 15:41

December 8, 2003

WANTED: For Armed Theology

Stolen from Jeff Miller At Curt Jester. Hi-laire as always, see all here.

posted by TSO @ 15:24

From Presentation Ministries' One Bread, One Body:

As Lord Acton said, those who don't know history are condemned to repeat the mistakes of their forebears. Centuries ago, people tried to get by without Advent - only to deprive themselves of a real Christmas encounter with Christ. Even a short Advent often proved a failure. History tells us we need eery minute of Advent. The true meanings of Christmas are so great that it is a miracle to prepare for it in only three or four weeks. We must not waste even one precious moment of Advent.

posted by TSO @ 07:52

Chris has another interesting poll here concerning Medjugorje.

Last week's favorite gospel came out:

*John (41.2%)
*Luke (41.2%)
*Matthew (11.8%)
*Mark (5.9%)

posted by TSO @ 21:09

December 7, 2003


"Jesus Christ does not make more miracles than those than are necessary. The miracles are as the images of the book, as its beautiful stamps..."
-- G. Bernanos, "Diary of a Country Priest" via Hernan's blog

posted by TSO @ 21:02

Groundhog Day - Religious Film

From NY Times article:

A NEW movie series from the Museum of Modern Art, "The Hidden God: Film and Faith," features some pretty brooding stuff. There's a 1955 Danish movie about a man who thinks he is Jesus Christ, an Ingmar Bergman pastiche about a tormented pastor, a Roberto Rossellini movie about monks. These are, of course, the "intellectual with a capital I" films that audiences might expect at a religious-theme retrospective organized by a major museum. Subtitles and all that fancy stuff.

With one exception. On Thursday, the opening-night feature at the Gramercy Theater, where the series is being presented, was "Groundhog Day," the 1993 movie starring Bill Murray as a sarcastic television weatherman forced by a twist of fate and magic to relive one day of his life, Feb. 2, over and over.

Since its debut a decade ago, the film has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in "Groundhog Day" a reflection of their own spiritual messages. Curators of the series, polling some 35 critics in the literary, religious and film worlds to suggest films with religious interpretations, found that "Groundhog Day" came up so many times that there was actually a squabble over who would write about it in the retrospective's catalog.

posted by TSO @ 20:55

Lady from the Region of Light

I thought this was interesting - regarding the story of St. Juan Diego, whose feast day approaches:

If you pronouce Cuauhtlatoahtzin, Tenochititlan, Tecuauhtlacuepeuh correctly, you are speaking Nahuatl, the ancient Aztec language of Mexico. Translated they mean:

Cuauhtlatoahtzin - "the eagle who speaks"
His Christian name - Juan Dieo
Tenochititlan - Mexico City
Tecuauhtlacuepeuh - "She who comes flying from the 'Region of Light' like an 'Eagle of Fire.' This was to become "The Virgin of Guadalupe."

Who was this lady, [the bishop of Juan Diego] wanted to know. Juan Diego said she was Tecuauhtlacuepeuh. To the bishop, it sounded like "Guadalupe." The bishop knew of a Madonna venerated in Spain under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe so he called this Lady by the same name, "Nuestra Senora La Virgen de Guadalupe."
- Sr. Juliana D' Amato, O.P.

posted by TSO @ 20:24

Byzantine Characters

The tiny Byzantine parish I attend has many more interesting characters than the big suburban parish I also frequent.

There is one gentleman, in his late 40s/early 50s, who never takes off his Fedora hat or suit jacket. He looks exactly like someone transplanted from the 1940s. Two other fellows, most obviously gay, are regular, devout attendees. Judge not, I remind myself.

I recall once, as I was walking out of church, striking up a conversation with a lady who Steven Riddle said he knew. "Hello - do you know Steven Riddle?" I said, only to realize that she was in mid-breastfeed (I know Bill Luse is saying, 'not that subject AGAIN O'Rama!'). I didn't know what the etiquette was/is on talking to a woman while breast-feeding but since I shouldn't have been talking in church anyway I moved on rapidly.

One time I was asked by an usher to wield the long-handled baskets at the offertory. I didn't know what I was doing but he said "follow what I do". I followed him and did the bows where he did, but while moving down the aisle, for some reason I felt the need to smile maniacally and thank people as they donated, as if they were chipping in towards my personal book budget. The next time I was asked to do it I was able to do it with greater decorum. Small victories, ya know.

posted by TSO @ 20:18

Hernan Gonzalez has decided to close down his blog (hopefully just for the Argentinian summer). Go and read his whole post, which has a ring of poetry about it ('we go away, just'), perhaps augmented by the lens of Babelfish. If you don't, here is an excerpt:

Beunos. We go away, just. Today it is the last day of "photos of the apocalypse". It is not that it has tired me nor bored me, nor that it is not happened to me what to post (rather on the contrary). The decision comes sudden flight by labor subjects (a short term project that, if it leaves, it would clear to me just a short time that I have; and that already me is clearing it); and the summer, good opportunity comes to take (the one that writes and those that reads) vacations. Perhaps within some short time (past the summer, for example) it returns by these worlds; I do not believe that it retakes this blog, of all ways, perhaps something similar, but nonequal. We will see.

It has been something more of a year and means, about a 1500 posts, and 80 "numbers" (weeks). When I began, it did not dream that this was going to march to this rate. Memory that the first days worried to me to point subjects to post something every day, and thought that in just a short time was going I to have left without that to say. It was the other way around; as blog was taking form, it went away turning a placentera custom (and something addictive); lately, the subjects (and the rough drafts of posts) to me were accumulated, and was sorry not to have more time to write.

It is necessary to also say, something that thought recently: the abundant production - almost three posts per day, sharps, is not little... - must to the dissatisfaction largely: sometimes I reread last post, do not like too much, seem me a little idiot and she gives a little me shame, I imagine to a then visitor who enters the page for the first time and finds "that"... and I hurry to post some other thing (generally more impersonal) for "commanding" post of doubtful taste more down. The last week I saw, with surprise, that to TSO it happens to him exactly the same).

In any case, by more modest than it has been the result, the truth is that I am very contented of it to have done. Personally, it has served to me (story this in case there is some other...) to learn some things (not only in terms to sharpen the expression: also by that of which to teach is the best way to learn). Blog finished at first being something different from the imagined thing; but it is that to do it changed it to me some ideas. And - last but not least- there am good well-known people by this means.
His blog productivity - 'blogtivity' - has been impressive. 1500 posts! I shudder to think how much I have posted since I suspect the investment would not be commensurate with the rewards, both for self and the reader. Hernan's a good one; I wish him a vacation full of the good reading and good thinking and that he share the fruits.

posted by TSO @ 16:44

Hans Küng - traditionalist?

I found this amusing, if a bit like shooting barrelled fish. Written in Spanish (thru the lens of Babelfish), via the reader.

...a clear sign of traditionalistic mentality is its rigidity, its resistance to change to itself, its refusal to rectify. Küng is a good example of it. He never thinks that the Church has recognized sufficient faults of the Christians of the past, but never recognizes himself as having been mistaken in something; he requests dialogue, but he thinks outside as if infallible; he denounces the 'inquisitorial climate' in the Church, but adopts a condemnatory tone of the discrepant one. Thank heavens it was the theologian Ratzinger and not Küng who arrived at the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith. Otherwise, authoritarianism would be something more than a temptation.

posted by TSO @ 21:37

December 6, 2003

The Saga of Mike Corkins

Baseball cards were the Ur-books for me. They were the breasts at which I nursed, portable and potable, able to comfort the rational side with sublime columns of agate statistics and nourish the artistic side with photographs that were minor works of art. There is my '72 Topps Frank Robinson, a moment frozen in time, his swing arrested, his blue spring training jacket billowing in the wind. How could you feel homesick after looking at smiling Frank?

I say homesick because I went to Camp Campbell Guard for a week at the age of 8, the first time I’d ever been away from home. It was a Darwinian hell, like prison but without the rape. Think Midwestern equivalent of a British boarding school. I toted that black box of baseball cards - in the shape of a pirate’s chest – to camp and examined them whenever we were releasted to our bunks. I brought the same cards and chest to a party a couple years a later.

What was it that made knowledge, even trivial knowledge such as Davey Johnson’s batting average in ’73, so gratifying? Why did the long list of type in the Sunday newspaper, that long column titled “MAJOR LEAGUE AVERAGES” send a shiver of delight from 1972 to around 1983? How many a Sunday was spent perusing the list, memorizing the list and delighting in the news that Manny Mota was hitting a purplish .362? Why did St. Bernard so dismiss knowledge acquired merely for the sake of curiosity?

My first card were collected in 1970. I recall the very first pack, bought at United Dairy Farmers, purchased for my friend and me by his dad. His dad unlocked the secrets of the flip side of the card - what a batting average was, how it could be calculated from hits and at bats; he showed us the columns from which the average could be derived and how to calculate it. We were only seven years old, precocious but not ready for long division.

We dismissed him as he droned on about the division, assuring him we got it. Giddily we compared all the averages to see who was best. It was one of mine – Mike Corkins from the San Diego Padres. He hit something like .472! My friend was jealous. I’m not sure who found out first, but we’ll remember to our dying day the shock of finding out that Mike Corkins wasn’t the best. He was the worst. He was a pitcher, and that last column wasn’t his batting average but his E.R.A., and it was 4.72, not .472 (we learned decimals points mattered). And unlike batting average, the lower the ERA the better.

Preversely, that card became one of our most esteemed. Due to sentimental value, Corkins would demand an intra-trade value far higher than his numbers would indicate. Years later we had an English teacher who collected baseball cards and who looked exactly like Mike Corkins. We brought and showed him “his” card and to this day the card has a double-sentiment attached – reminding us of a favorite English teacher and our first great error.

posted by TSO @ 23:27

December 5, 2003

More Updikean in Christianity Today:

Updike is literary heir to Nathaniel Hawthorne, that grim fabulist of the Civil War era. Hawthorne asks what happens when a people try to establish theocracy, enforcing Old Testament law in Old Testament ways. Would such faith transform the community and its members, or deform it and them? Hawthorne critiques the Puritans on the grounds of their own theology: those who condemn never fully recognize their own fallen condition. We always sabotage our own best intentions, Hawthorne implies, and never so much as when those intentions are rooted in dogmatism driven by fanaticism.

What does this have to do with Updike, born three generations after Hawthorne, and exploring themes that on the surface seem a thousand generations removed from him? Simply this: Updike answers the flip side of Hawthorne's questions. Updike sets most of his novels in a contemporary American culture that has thrown off its Puritanism with a vengeance (though a residue remains). His characters inhabit a world with at most a saccharine coating of Christian faith and deeply eroded ethics.

If Hawthorne portrayed a world in which Christianity had become rigid and tyrannical, Updike portrays one in which it has shriveled to slogans and sentimentality. And do people in his world fare better?


posted by TSO @ 13:25

Spam Names

I have renewed respect for authors after seeing how hard it apparently is to come up with good fictional names. Sheesh. Here is a sampling from today's spam catch:

Valerie England
Millicent Eldridge
Vincent Rose
Bradly Daniels
Marcie Melvin
Rodger Woodard
Trenton Pike
Wilmer Laird
Roger Delong
Ernesto Burger

I don't know what I'm expecting, but a lot of these names seem weak. Millicent? Ernesto Burger? What's a Wilmer? If spam is graffitti, then is it asking too much for it to be a bit more artful? Don't they feel a shred of responsibility when they send something out to 1.2 billion people? ...:)

posted by TSO @ 09:18

Supernatural 24-7

One of the characteristics of Catholicism is its supernaturalism. Every minute of every day a miracle is occuring on an altar somewhere in the world - the changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. But one of my unfortunate tendencies is to sometimes want to "naturalize" religion. This is seen also in the tendency of some biblical scholars to want to explain away some of Jesus' miracles - such as the feeding of the 5,000 - in non-miraculous terms.

It is a constant temptation, in the quotidian of daily life, especially post-conversion or post-vows. The member of a religious order who makes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (sounds suspiciously like marriage vows :)) - has reached that point via supernatural means - i.e. via God. The monk or sister has, in this situation, walked a little ways on water. They cannot then simply rely on their natural gifts or they will sink. Their life, like the married's life, need be a constant reliance on supernatural means.

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Heavy Trafficking in Stereotypes

I've been lately going through old Word documents looking at some of the genealogy research I did - I wanted to better understand my ancestors by learning what others thought of their cultures. Since I'm a politically-incorrect kind of guy, I thought I'd post the fruits of this "research". I'd gathered them before I had a blog, so they are mostly unattributed.

The Germans
The Germans make everything difficult, both for themselves and for everyone else. - German poet Goethe

The Germans have intellectual pretensions, refusing to restrict themselves to pragmatic and utilitarian goals, but seek to find the secrets of the universe and to solve the riddle of man's relationship to God.

Germans push every good thing to the point where it becomes a bad one, that inimitable combination of tactlessness and sensitivity, of arrogance and subservience.

The difference between northern Germany and southern Germany is dramatic - Southern Germany is tender, intimate, full, warm. The Northern people are blase, superficial, industrial-minded.

The Irish
Perhaps the most common attribute of the Irish personality is its highly developed sensibility, which is alert and susceptible to its environment. The Irish personalithy is variable and very responsive to calls made on it, so that it can spring from inactivity to excitement or from sadness to gaiety in a few minutes. This vivacious temprament is Mediterranean in character, rather than north European, and it is puzzling to the English. It is associated with other characteristics of the Mediterranean such as talkativeness. Irish alertness combined with social awareness makes the Irish especially curious. The alertness and vivacity, combined with their developed imagination, often leads to restlessness and some personal dissatisfaction. An Irishman will frequently want to be somewhere else or even someone else. This is intensified by a tendency to romanticize situations or destinations not connected with himself, by making them appear more glamourous or attractive. A positive aspect of the Irish personality is personal objectivity. Without any warning an Irishman will reveal in a few quick words an ability to look at himself with the eye of an outsider - an ability rare among Anglo-saxons.

posted by TSO @ 15:39

December 4, 2003

Does Islam need a Luther or a Pope?

posted by TSO @ 11:15

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Christ is coming, the Prince of peace! To prepare for his Nativity means to reawaken in ourselves and in the world the hope for peace. First of all, peace in hearts, which is built by putting down the weapons of rancor, of revenge and of every form of egoism. - Pope John Paul II (via Disputations)

Von Balthasar appealed to me more right from the day I first read him. Sort of the Emmaus experience, mutatis mutandis. Often reading him my heart would burn within. Von Balthasar opened up the Scriptures as no other theologian has ever done for me. He opened up vistas into the vast Catholic heritage, and introduced me to some of the great saints. It is due to his book on Saint Therese of Lisieux that I fell in love with her. - Gerard of Blog for Lovers

Christians in particular are apt to mischaracterize a mystery as a problem. God's Revelation is not a code to be deciphered; whatever fits inside my head is finite, and if Revelation is anything, it's not finite. ...A failure to accept mystery is, to my mind, one of the primary errors of Open Theism, which seems quite proud of the fact of resolving the "problem" of free will by stripping God of His perfection. - Tom of Disputations

Men are sex-driven hominoids with a brain tagging along for the ride to serve the occasionally useful purposes of making money and performing manual labor. None ever came willingly to civilization unless dragged there by a woman – his befuddled brain balancing the bane against the blessing, the agony of her victory against the ecstasy of her teat – or by a religious conversion. Of this latter group some are even serious about it, wearing hairshirts or disappearing into the desert or behind tall walls. But the rest of us take the old man everywhere we go, even to church. When we made the profession of faith, there were two guys standing there, one who wants to be a saint and one who misses the bad old days; one who wants to love one woman and another who is impressed by numbers; one who wants to be a good man and one who would be a man about town; one who is serious about humility, but who can't stop taking himself seriously. In short, our brains may be narrowly focused, but expansive enough to be of two minds on at least one issue. - William Luse of Apologia, on the issue of public breastfeeding.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that the extent to which you trust church tradition is really the central question of Christianity. It's an even more basic question than whether you trust the Bible, because the Bible is itself part of church tradition. Catholics and Orthodox see the whole thing as one unbroken chain; Martin Luther (and, I'm guessing, Calvin) had no quarrel with the first thousand years or so, but thought things went astray after that; more radical types have tried to recover the spirit of apostolic times, or their own personal encounters with God, and regard that whole history as born of human error and political interests.... And yet everyone relies to some extent on the old texts, because what else do we have? Yet if you don't really trust those who wrote them or compiled them, it can lead to some odd readings. As often seems to be the case, I can see both sides here...Either way we have the problem of knowing God through human limitations, always a tricky business even in the best circumstances. --Camassia

Brevity, traditionally, has been a sign of a good confession, along with honesty and humility. You're not going to confession because you feel bad; you're going to confession because you did some bad things... I find that monthly confession is an excellent practice. When I was researching medieval confraternities for my dissertation, I found an Italian confraternity rule from the 14th century that recommended the practice with the analogy, "In the world, men shave or change their shirts once a month..."- Henry of A Plumbline in the Wind

'Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), the prototypical modern Democratic presidential candidate, was handed the hot potato in a recent Democratic debate. The question was, "Do you have a faith, and would you invoke the name of God when discussing a policy?" Edwards, a longtime Methodist, responded like an artful dodger: "My religion does not inform my public policy, but it does inform my values."' Makes sense, that would mean that his public policy has no value. --Jeff of Curt Jester

For the last hundred years or so, there has been a concerted effort to sever women from femininity in the name of feminism. The major social and technological factors that have made this even remotely possible have been contraception, abortion, and bottle feeding... The wide spread acceptance of bottle feeding was what originally made it possible for women to become a part of the industrial work force...Because we are fallen, we have come to see breasts as primarily sex toys for slavering men, rather than seeing that their sexuality derives from their nurturing function. When we separated the meanings of sexuality from each other, when soi-disant 'feminism' advocated the masculinizing of women, we created the situation where the very thought of a child suckling on the breast gets the 'ick' response, but the thought of feeding a child chemical soup from a plastic container through an artificial nipple does not. --Alicia of Fructus Ventris

When I was first given the desire to bring souls to God, I also felt, at the same time, the fear that I would not bring them closer to God at all but instead turn them into little clones of myself. I see that kind of thing happen all the time, usually in the Evangelical churches: new converts are recreated in their pastors' images and likenesses. Personality cults are scary. Antony taught me to pray, "Jesus, do not let them be like me. Let them be like You." Having several versions of a mere person is neither catholic nor Catholic. We are called to be Christ figures. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

As medieval Homer would say, d'oheth! - Robert of Hokie Pundit

posted by TSO @ 09:31

Ubiquitous Grace

The infusion and communication of grace is itself a wonder of the highest order, and greater than all other wonders. But why does it not excite our wonder and admiration? It is only because it is invisible to our bodily vision and occurs, not rarely and exceptionally, but universally, and according to fixed laws. These two circumstances should make it more precious in our eyes.

It is not visible because it is a wonder wrought in the soul and not in the body. We cannot see it because we cannot see God, with whom we are united by it. As God would not be the infinitely great God if we could see Him with our bodily eyes, so grace would not be so great and admirable if it were visible to us.

If, moreover, grace is given according to a universal and fixed law, so that we may acquire it by our ordinary actions, this only reveals still more the infinite love and power of God. For God is so liberal that He accomplishes this great work, not at rare intervals, on extraordinary occasions, and through a few of His greatest servants only, as He does with other miracles; rather, He connects it with our most ordinary actions and lets it disappear, as it were, in the circle of our own daily activity. O Lord, should we appreciate it less because Thou grantest it to all and at all times and with the greatest readiness?
--Fr. Matthias J. Sheeben

Artwork of Darrell Tank:

posted by TSO @ 20:56

December 3, 2003

Preserved From Sin

HB: I agree with almost everything Catholics believe in. I could even go along with the Real Presence in the Eucharist. But I can't get over the Mary stuff.
Me: You know Catholics don't worship Mary. What is the problem with her again?
HB: Her sinlessness. If she is perfect, she wouldn't need Christ.
Me: Of course she needed Christ; Christ isn't bound by time; the merits of His sacrifice can be viewed as retroactive.

It was unconvincing, mostly because we could not understand or even contemplate how someone could go without sin - not just acts of commission but of omission - every minute of every day of life. Imagine saying 'yes' to the HS and stopping to help every time you see a motorist on the side of the road. What would a sinless life look like on a day-to-day, minute-by-minute level? Since we are serial sinners, it is hard to conceive of. "You believe it because you have to - because the Church teaches it," he said, which is true as far as it goes but although it is something I have trouble imagining, it's not something I have difficulty with as a spiritual concept. Eve was conceived without sin too. And was sinless for awhile - if sinless for a certain stretch of time, why not a whole life?

I don't see how it takes away from Jesus that Mary was preserved from sin - as if His sacrifice were less. If that were so, wouldn't our sinning today and tomorrow reflect God's greater glory because we need Jesus that "much more"? That would be crazy; sin doesn't reflect God's glory.

posted by TSO @ 20:49

I thought the greatest Irishperson...

...was Arthur Guinness? Vote here (link via Mark of Irish Elk, natch).

From the Guinness website:

Arthur founded a dynasty that controlled the Brewery for 227 years. He himself did his bit for posterity by fathering 21 children, although only ten survived. His descendants showed themselves to be equally prolific, ensuring a steady supply of candidates for the top job, all of whom shared his philanthropy, energy and longevity.

Many a girl was advised by her mother to find herself a GUINNESS® man - and by that she didn't just mean a man who liked to drink it.

Arthur and his successors set wages at 10-20% above the local average, guaranteed widow's pensions, gave paid vacations (unheard of, then), provided free medical care, homes, education and a host of other benefits, making a brewery worker quite a catch.The workers received free GUINNESS® stout every day, and in the unlikely event that they didn't want to drink it, they could opt instead to receive an additional "beer allowance" in their pay packet.

In other words, they were paid well to make a drink they were given to drink and also paid well not to drink the drink they'd already been well paid to make. Brilliant.

posted by TSO @ 14:15 true

There is a world - I do not say a world in which all scholars live but one at any rate into which all of them sometimes stray, and which some of them seem permanently to inhabit - which is not the world in which I live. In my world, if The Times and The Telegraph both tell one story in somewhat different terms, nobody concludes that one of them must have copied the other, nor that the variations in the story have some esoteric significance. But in that world of which I am speaking this would be taken for granted. There, no story is ever derived from the facts but always from somebody else’s version of the same story. . . . In my world, almost every book, except some of those produced by Government departments, is written by one author. In that world almost every book is produced by a committee, and some of them by a whole series of committees. In my world, if I read that Mr. Churchill, in 1935, said that Europe was heading for a disastrous war, I applaud his foresight.

In that world no prophecy, however vaguely worded, is ever made except after the fact. In my world we say, ‘The first world-war took place in 1914–1918.’ In that world they say, ‘The world-war narrative took shape in the third decade of the twentieth century.’ In my world men and women live for a considerable time - seventy, eighty, even a hundred years - and they are equipped with a thing called memory. In that world (it would appear) they come into being, write a book, and forthwith perish, all in a flash, and it is noted of them with astonishment that they ‘preserve traces of primitive tradition’ about things which happened well within their own adult lifetime.
- A. H. N. Green-Armytage, John Who Saw (1952), via Paul Mankowski, S.J.

posted by TSO @ 13:33

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posted by TSO @ 13:00

Fr. Brown & Gospel of John


Liberals who downplay Jesus’ divinity typically say that John has little reliable data about the actual history of Jesus’ lifetime. Though no fundamentalist, Brown rejected that view: "John is based on a solid tradition of the words and works of Jesus, a tradition that at times is very primitive. Indeed, I believe that often John gives us correct historical information about Jesus that no other Gospel has preserved."

A manuscript fragment from Chapter 18, discovered in 1935, is commonly dated at A.D. 135-150 or, more conservatively, at A.D. 125. (Such approximate dates could vary by plus or minus 25 years.) Since this copy was located in faraway Egypt, the original composition elsewhere would have occurred years before

Brown figured A.D. 100-110 was the latest plausible date for the final version of John. He put the nearly final composition at around A.D. 90 and a preliminary version at around A.D. 70, both using some writings from A.D. 40-60.

(The Chapter 18 manuscript find and scholars’ consensus that John was written in the first century are ignored in the current best seller "Beyond Belief" because author Elaine Pagels prefers to think John came later than the Gospel of Thomas, a Gnostic text early Christianity deemed spurious.)

posted by TSO @ 10:27

Tan Man

I've always had a soft spot for Tan Books. From Cruz's Incorruptibles to Fr. Most's Catholic Apologetics Today, Tan is unapologetically impervious to the winds of ecumenical fashion. Tan appeals to my heart, Ignatius Press to my head. Some of their books strike me as a bit lacking in scholarship and/or even-handedness but they always tantalize. Who wouldn't be interested in "An Easy Way To Become A Saint" by: Fr Paul O' Sullivan, O.P.?

The latest catalog lists sales figures. Top seller is easily The Secret of the Rosary at 5.4 million. The low looks to be Julian the Apostate at 1,600 sold.

Some real surprises. I thought St. Therese's "Story of a Soul" would sell more than it's 90,000 even though that is an impressive number. "Purgatory - Explained by the Lives and Legends of the Saints" reached a whopping 400,000. "Popes Against Modern Errors - 16 Famous Papal Documents" seemed low at 6,000, a book I've been tempted to buy. "Catholic Prophecy - the Coming Chastisement" is at 210,000. Just the other day I was reading "The Glories of Divine Grace" at 13,000. "This is the Faith" has 110,000 sales in just 14 months.

posted by TSO @ 10:13

Tried and True Ways to Hide Embarrassing Posts

I feel a bit squeamish about that last post - it seems puerile and juvenile. Following the "out of sight, out of mind" cliche, I'll share ways you too can use banish embarrassing posts. Out, out damn spot!

1) Simply add posts. If you post too much, people aren't going to page all the way to the bottom of the stack and read everything (unless you're me and you're reading Disputations). Most just glance over the top couple posts and click away.

2) Add distracting graphics. Maybe a picture or two. Pictures grab our attention; text cannot compete.

3) Link to a story of religious misdeeds. For some reason, people are fascinated by stories of clerics doing wrong.

4) Abruptly change the subject to an analysis of where Kant and Hegel went wrong.

5) Uh, hey, I just thought: I could just delete the post or not write it in the first place. Hmm....

posted by TSO @ 07:27

Men need to take one for the team sometimes...

I think William Luse has the definitive post regarding public breastfeeding. The controversy is not about women, it's really about men. And it's not about men so much as their....willy. Works for me.

Every day I happen to drive by huge billboard (it's only a few miles out of my way - joke!) depicting a woman, naked but for her skin. She's obviously pregnant, and is supporting her belly with one hand and hiding her breasts with her other hand (her hand is large! You can tell they selected the model with some precision). From her belly button protrudes a cigarette, with smoke coming out of it. The message? "If you smoke, your baby smokes".

Obviously there is a public good served here. An anti-smoking message for the pregnant mom. There is also a good served in breastfeeding a baby, providing a baby the best nutritionally, without all the pumps and such. And given the remarkable discreteness now possible in clothing made for breastfeeding, I don't see how that can be a problem unless the woman is an exhibitionist, which, in nursing moms at least, seems pretty rare.

Update: Another definitive post, if that's not oxymoronic.

posted by TSO @ 17:01

December 2, 2003

Create Your Own Punchline

From the NY Post:

Speaking of [General Wesley] Clark, the button-down military man engaged in a 90-minute policy discussion with Madonna in her L.A. home in a bid to mobilize celebrity support. Clark has also wooed the likes of Ben Affleck and J.Lo, Steven Spielberg and Norman Lear.

posted by TSO @ 16:29

Mel Gibson, Feminist

Kathyrn Jean Lopez reports on Gibson's Passion and fellow feminist Pope John Paul II.

posted by TSO @ 11:27

Don't Try This at Home

Well I've heard the phrase "you gotta dance with the girl that brung ya" but this is ridiculous. Whoa Nellie! Let's hope they wait a few years. A couple rounds with Jose Cuervo would get me on the dance floor, but there ain't enough whiskey in the world for this:

"On the island of Madagascar, people believe that their dead ancestors have the power to bestow fortune or tragedy on the surviving family,'' Lee Martin writes in Turning Bones.

"From May to November, the winter months of Madagascar, people pull the remains of loved ones from their tombs and dance with the corpses in a ceremony known as famadihana, which literally means 'turning of bones.' ''

In Turning Bones, Martin, who teaches creative writing at Ohio State University, steps onto the dance floor with his own dead ancestors. Moving with ease between historical fiction and personal recollection, he breathes life into the generations of Martins who made their way from Kentucky to Ohio and then on to Indiana and Illinois.

posted by TSO @ 11:07

Pensively, he wrote.

The air hangs differently during a vacation; it lay impregnated with possibility. The rooms of the house look different; like warm, gentle friends instead of exigencies for exigencies. The fulsome lyrics of the Irish band “the Fenians” resonate during this stopped-time, this time ambered in a fossil that I can turn over and look at and play with.

The rooms hang in a suspended state; the closet is newly cleaned and has an aura of holiness about it. Organizing the roll-top desk today felt like a coporal work of mercy; the interior was bare enough to leave exposed. How long has that been! The outdoor Christmas lights went up, a bulwark against an ever-shortening day.

posted by TSO @ 11:03

Catch 22s

Sancta Sanctis is in the liturgical spirit and her enthusiasm is catching. She describes a conundrum though:

The Psalms are like any other prayer: they have to be prayed to be understood. So many people say that they don't see any good in praying the rosary every day and so don't pray. The paradox is that only through praying a daily rosary will they be able to see the good in it. They won't be given the grace until they begin, but they won't begin because they haven't been given the grace. It's a little frustrating.

Indeed. It seems as though we must offer our five loaves and two fishes for them to be multiplied, or at least meet Him halfway. Not long ago I was listening to a priest talk about the healing of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging.

47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!"

49 Jesus stopped and said, "Call him." So they called to the blind man, "Cheer up! On your feet! He's calling you."

50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

51 "What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

52 "Go," said Jesus, "your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

The Dominican friar asks where is the act of faith? And then it hits him. In verse 50, a blind man throws his cloak amid the crowd? Cloaks were valuable possession in biblical times. If he didn't expect to be healed how would he expect to find it?

Enlighten the eyes of our understanding and raise up our minds from the heavy sleep of indolence. Open our mouth and fill it with your praise, that we may be able without distraction to sing and confess that you are God, glorified in all and by all. -Prayer of St. Basil

posted by TSO @ 19:59

December 1, 2003

Cynthia Ozick on John Updike:

His is not a social faith. Though ''Lifeguard'' closes with an exhortation to ''be joyful,'' the Kierkegaardian singleness of the God-possessed, quivering among the darker stars, predominates. This singleness, this historyless aloneness, turns up in the essayistic apercus and musings and final exhalations that thread through both plot and plotlessness, alongside the daily vernacular, between, so to speak, the acts...Updike owns the omnivorous faculty of seeing the telltale flame in every mundane gesture. Despite this busy Bruegelian amplitude, the concluding soliloquy of the unsettled young husband in ''The Astronomer,'' who is befuddled by an atheistic sophist, carries a recognizable Updikean signature: ''What is the past, after all, but a vast sheet of darkness in which a few moments, pricked apparently at random, shine?''

But the past, so defined, is not the same as history. By a lively coincidence, the current publishing season brings us also the early fiction of Saul Bellow, where history infiltrates nearly every thought or movement -- which is perhaps why Bellow has been called our most ''European'' novelist. Among contemporary fiction writers, Updike is the most rootedly American (though of German, not WASP, stock), and the most self-consciously Protestant: the individual in singular engagement with God. The Protestant idea of God, which nurtured and shaped America (at least until Sept. 11, 2001), is the narrowed Lord of persons, not of hosts; he is not conspicuously the Lord of history.

posted by TSO @ 08:59

Been reading Bill O'Reilly's new book, in which he talks about God, or the "Deity" as he calls him. The distance implied in the use of that term was noted, I think, by the National Catholic Reporter. O'Reilly isn't of the "God told me to wear a blue tie today" crowd; he's not a "fake it till you make it" kind of guy. Understanding that he may not have come to all the right conclusions, he admits it will be very interesting when he meets St. Peter at the Gates.

posted by TSO @ 08:46

Goethe Defends Bloggers?

Ham of Bone has not been sitting at home watching "Average Joe". He's been writing screenplay revisions between draughts of Goethe's biography and offers this:

In "Conversations of Goethe" by Eckermann, Goethe says:

"If at present you treat only small subjects, freshly dashing off what every day offers you, you will generally produce something good, and each day will bring you pleasure."

Later in the book one finds this gem:

"Inferior talents do not enjoy art for its own sake; while at work they have nothing before their eyes but the profit they hope to make when they have done. With such worldly views and tendencies, nothing great was ever yet produced."

posted by TSO @ 07:22

Ham of Bone Update

Ham of Bone continues his “interesting" life as unpublished screenwriter, an occupation I don’t recall seeing in What Color Is Your Parachute, not that I ever actually read it. Has anyone? I think it might be the most purchased but unread book with the exception of the Bible.

We had lunch at the local Irish pub, he torturing me by slow-drinking a Guinness while I sipped a diet Coke (it being a workday). He continues his life outside the corporate teat without any visible signs of distress other than the obligatory eight-day growth of beard. His second screen play is good and deserves to be produced. But that and a quarter will buy a cup of coffee since the odds of getting any screenplay made are equivalent to acquiring a winning lottery ticket, only with a lot more effort. Ham says he spent 1,000 hours working on it, an astonishing figure but probably not far off from the average blogger spends on his blog over a generous enough period of time.

Ham has shocked and appalled us with the news that he is going to purchase a $250K house (when he gets a job). He’s given up the ghost of any early retirement plans. Marriage and age have rubbed off the sharp edges of his frugality. I don’t know what to make of it; there’s still an element of shock I’m working through. Talk amongst yourselves while I recover.

In the past he’s asked, by the way, that I not blog about certain things, which surprises and interests me. Why? Because it shows that even though the anonymous public reading this blog has no idea who Ham of Bone is, he still wants to protect his ‘virtual’ image. Even behind the mask we feel vulnerable, don’t we?

A few statistics, in case you’re interested. Ham’s freedom train began on May 31st, 2003. Unemployment compensation continued past the original 6 months by another 13 weeks. He has approximately half of his generous severance package left (12 weeks pay). He’s decided to eschew law school in favor of staying with his current career choice while writing on the side.

I’ve always thought that you had to have something to say in order to be a writer, i.e. something no one else has said, something you can give fresh to the reader. But I have a feeling that if you wait for that you may have a very long wait. Not that everything that has ever been said has been said, but close enough for guvmint work. I used to think that writers ought to be extremely well-read, especially of the classics, but I think as our education system inexorably declines this will be less of a requirement.

So Bone has discovered his one true love – writing – but so far she's been a reluctant lover and he has (count ‘em) four kids. This tension, this fascinating story, is the stuff of screenplays if you ask me. Desperation lay at the lows of the X and Y axis's of the graph, where X is the cash you get from the job and Y is the satisfaction.

posted by TSO @ 22:56

January 31, 2004

O'Connor and the Mick

Blame it on my Irish heritage for the morbid streak that caused me, as a baseball card-collecting youth, to check the rows of statistics of old heroes for the first sign of decline. I wanted to know the exact moment Mickey Mantle was no longer Mickey Mantle but was something less. There is something ineffably sad about the decline of heroes, sports or otherwise. It happened to the novelist Graham Greene; he admitted it matter of factly to his friend Shirley Hazzard.

I am cheered by small resurrections, by a .300 season after a bad year or two, by the smart novel by Greene in his 60s. But there is also a comfort in seeing the great not suffer the indignities. Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash on a charitable mission just after his 3,000 hit and before he could go the way of Ali. Flannery O’Connor died from lupus in her prime – or more likely just before it – and so she is in some way ever the ascendant star.

In the spiritual sphere decline may be avoided - look at Mother Teresa.

posted by TSO @ 22:56

Greene. Graham Greene

Shirley Hazzard's book about Graham Greene is fascinating, both about what she says about Greene and other topics such as travel. Here are some excerpts:

Cyril Connolly sought to distinguish "between the flight of the expatriate which is an essential desire for simplification..and the brisker trajectory of the travel addict, trying not to find but to lose himself in the intoxication of motion."
She also excerpts a poem from W.H. Auden:
Out of the gothic north, the pallid children
Of a potato, beer-or-whisky
Guilt culture, we behave like our fathers and come
Southward into a sunburnt otherwhere

Of vineyards, baroque, la bella figura,
To these feminine townships where men
Are males...

Some believing amore
Is better down South and much cheaper
(Which is doubtful), some persuaded exposure
To strong sunlight is lethal to germs

(Which is patently false) and others, like me,
In middle-age hoping to twig from
What we are not what we might be next, a question
The South seems never to raise...
I travel less than I used to which I hope it isn't due to a deadening of curiosity or a creeping provincialism. I don't think real travel includes beach vacations and cruises since they are not about seeing or learning but mostly about creature comforts, i.e. relaxation.

posted by TSO @ 17:20

Various & Sundry Deux

Two Sleepy Mommies (can you believe I almost typed "My Two Mommies"?) graciously thanked Davey's Mommy for being the first to recognize them. I should do the same with Zounds, who I believe was the first to link to this blog.
Get yer links here to the Theology of the Body.
Interesting new book called "FDR's Folly". The author, Jim Powell, makes the surprising claim that FDR prolonged the Great Depression, pointing out that the depression of 1893 was shorter but deeper and that eleven other countries recovered from the Depression before the U.S... He claims that shortening the Depression wouldn've prevented Fr. Coughlin and Huey Long to gain audiences, or so says this author. It also strikes a chord with me because there is a parallel with our relationship with God; attempts to avoid pain by resisting obedience to Christ tends only to prolong the pain. Of course, easier typed than done.
I'll be darned. All this time I thought Robert Bauer was being self-deprecating with his blog titled HokiePundit. But now I see from this new blog that Hokie is a school nickname. Learn something every other day. And I obviously need to brush up on my spelling.

posted by TSO @ 17:23

January 30, 2004

Via Jeff Miller, natch.

posted by TSO @ 16:54

Love, Love, Love

Occasionally I catch my dog doing something right. If my wife notices she'll erupt in a storm of praise and suggest I chip in. So I'll tell the dog "you're being above average", which is a dose of cold water. My wife objects: "Above average! He's the best dog in the world!"

I mention this because the easy road is to think cynical thoughts and to be "hard to impress". (My wife doesn't have this problem where our dog is concerned.) We may be tempted to think God is not only hard to impress but chronically displeased. But the tendency to anthromorphize God is a collossal failure of the imagination. To think that He loves us just a little bit more than we love him is a heresy. God is love. Now that's a concept, and one I see the Israelites struggled with.

I'm slowly ploughing through the Old Testament, thinking it a scandal I haven't read the bible through, and I've reached Deuteronomy where I happened upon a passage where the Israelites don't attribute to God neglect but actual hate:

Then I said to you, "You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the LORD our God is giving us. See, the LORD your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the LORD , the God of your fathers, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."..

But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God. You grumbled in your tents and said, "The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. Where can we go?"
St. Peter changes the question from 'where' to 'whom' in the NT: "To whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life."

posted by TSO @ 16:54

Various & Sundry

Good link from Amy concerning the F-word.

Plus, Ham of Bone sent me this bon mot from Goethe, Faust, Part I, on the hope of wives that a suitor's obedience to God will translate to obedience to wife:


Of all that pass’d I’m well apprized,
I heard the doctor catechised,
And trust he’ll profit much thereby!
Fain would the girls inquire indeed
Touching their lover’s faith and creed,
And whether pious in the good old way;
They think, if pliant there, us too he will obey.

posted by TSO @ 16:08

Randomized Thoughts

Picked up a couple new reads at the library: "Shows About Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture" by Thomas Hibbs and "The Perfect Wife" about Laura Bush by Ann Gerhart. I started "Shows About Nothing" and I'm fascinated by the premise that we bathe in a popular culture derivative of the ideas of Nietzsche. The film "The Matrix" depicts a surface unreality - one could easily say the same of popular culture. We, like Kneau Reeves's character, need to constantly break out of our culture and stay in contact with Reality (i.e. God).

Alicia asks just what is triumphalism? The triumphalist tendency I have to fight against is thinking I can't learn from those outside the Catlicker fold or that though they may be wrong in one area, they may be right in another.

Steven Riddle seems to see triumphalism as saying what you are thinking: "Witness the recent Catholic rash of 'Well what can you expect from a bunch of heretics' (with respect to the Episcopalian debacle). While the statement has a certain logical validity, it is a kind of crowing that simply isn't very pretty or terribly civil when phrased in certain ways."
Update: See Flos Carmeli for a clarification. I just wanted to see if he was still reading my blog.

One thing about enlightenment is that it is a privilege, not a right, like any other gift from God. I have a boundless respect for Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. Jackson even though I believe they were wrong about slavery and Catholicism. Perhaps that is part of what fascinates - holy, devout personages who missed the boat in some sense.

Speaking of boat, I'm post-cruiseopausal. I get these hot flash(backs) of sea, sun and rum. Call it the cruise equivalent of phantom limb syndrome - sensations of sea air, recumbent reading and warm temps. But then I walk outside and my true geographical location becomes all too apparent.

Virtual reality.

posted by TSO @ 21:01

January 29, 2004

Outsource This!

Amy Welborn discusses the future of American jobs. Globalization and the internet have speeded everything up; the future will involve constant re-training for many folks. It used to be that inefficiences in the marketplace would linger for decades (often preserving jobs for the short-term) but now they are immediately exploited.

U.S. programmers are dead men walking. Six Indian workers = 1 US worker in terms of cost. (My brother recently survived a 70% cut in staff (they were replaced by Indian workers)).

I understand, intellectually at least, that inefficiencies are a drag on the economy and thus drag down the standard of living. This impacts not the millionaires; they do fine in good economies and bad. We need a robust economy for those vulnerable in the lower and middle classes. But I have mixed emotions. How much is enough?

One unbridled capitalist defender (I don't have his name, only his quote) wrote to refute a Professor Wolf:

"What Ms. Wolf is really saying is that we should all stop driving each other to improve, kick back and relax, and be content with society's current economic state. The disadvantages to that should be obvious. And while Ms. Wolf is being lazy, others will be curing cancer, settling Mars and doing currently unimaginable things. But the beauty of capitalism is that Ms. Wolf can't afford to be lazy, because an innovative, hard-working individual is waiting in line for her job."

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Quality of life doesn't appear to be an issue for him. Competition might lead to 60, 70, 80 hour weeks. He goes on to say:

"Economics (and by extension education) is not a zero-sum game. There is not a finite amount of goods and services available. If that were the case, we would be no better off than the Middle Ages. The truth is that, given competition and certain freedoms, wealth actually creates wealth. And while someone may remain in the 40th percentile economically speaking, their total amount of wealth will have risen dramatically. If people aren't satisfied with that (and usually people aren't), it's strictly because of greed, and usually not out of a need for more goods and services."

Increased profits have not been passed along to the worker, at least in the form of raises or shorter work weeks, but have been delivered to the stockholders. This makes it crucial for workers to become stockholders if they want to get a piece of the pie, and this is increasingly (happily) happening. The rise of the investor class is big news and is the silver lining.

Our head downsizer recently got downsized. I wrote this (too harsh) spoof, coming from the CEO, concerning the downsizer's demise:

From: Jerry Tolensen, CEO

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The challenges we face are daunting, and at the top of that list is the goal of meeting the arbitrary $8.95 EPS figure we thought up. We told a bunch of stock analysts in New York that we would make this number and sure, I know they are weasley types with slicked-down hair who'd sell their grandma on Ebay if they could, but we're beholden to them and not you, since you're just employee ass-ociates.

So, because of this Great Depression of earnings, I've found it necessary to eliminate Steve Blankenship's position. While Steve brought great energy to the table, we decided that eliminating his salary and perks would save a hundred jobs. I talked to Steve this morning and he was very enthusiastic about his loss. Steve told me that "the savings to the company will be fantastic. I'm really glad that you have the courage to do what's right for me by doing what's right for the company."

I think Steve's enthusiasm over getting laid off is wonderful. He truly lives the Vision!

posted by TSO @ 10:54


Great Disputations post on the idiocy of voting for a pro-death politician. What really irritates me about it is this fallacy that some think the policy can be changed by their presence within the party. Pro-life voters for pro-abort candidates are enablers - no different than the wife who is chronically beaten but thinks her husband will change. What will change the husband? A zero-tolerance policy on domestic abuse and a period of separation. Similarly, battered and bruised pro-life Democrats enable bullying NARAL types to have their way within the party. If the party began shrinking due to the life issue, believe me - it would change!

You already see it on the gun issue. Gun control used to be a major issue in the Democrat party. But Al Gore lost Tennessee and other southern states and now you don't hear a peep from any Democrat about it. They're even flirting with nominating a NRA sanctioned candidate (Howard Dean) for goodness sakes.

As Catholics we believe we have the True Faith, the fullness of the sacraments. Our vision should be greater; we should be leaders. It is tragic that the reason we still have abortion on demand is due to us. Yes us. Because if 75% of Catholics (instead of 50%) were pro-life, it would swing almost every election towards the pro-life candidate. The fault, dear Brutus... I don't blame Howard Dean. I don't blame the village atheist. I blame the fact that Catholics can't even vote enmasse concerning the great moral issue of the age. It's putrid and disgusting.

posted by TSO @ 09:48

A Year in Grovetucky

This book deserves to be read just for its title. "A Year in Provence" indeed. How about a year in Grove City? Grove City is a nearby suburb that has acquired the reputation of being "hillbilly-ish". Its moniker is "Grovetucky", the "tucky" coming from the state to our south. Kentucky is looked down upon by Ohioans, since every state has to find a neighboring state to feel superior to. One of the side effects of Original Sin.

Btw, I don't think I've played the "What is killing my shoulder today?" in awhile. Let's see what the bookbag contains:

* Hazzards' "Greene on Capri". Graham Greene fascinates me. He was an admitted bad Catholic but said something like "you think I'm bad, see what I'd be like without the Church."
* Chesterton's "Varied Types"
* Ham of Bone's 2nd Screenplay entitled "-- (if I say, he'd have to kill me)
* De Sales' "Introduction to the Devout Life"
* Boswell's "Life of Johnson"
* Cussler's "The Sea Hunters II" (Did you know the ship that saved some of the Titanic passengers later sank?)
* Twomey's "The End of Irish Catholicism?"
* The Florence King Reader
* Theroux's "Dark Star Safari"
Don (of Mixolydian Mode) and Steven Riddle have listed some books they consider "comfort literature", an idea I'd never thought about before. What books do you turn to for comfort or an escape? Mine would include humor - not to steal Don's idea but Flo King is the pluperfect example because when you're down you want her type of misanthropic humor. Others might include Thoreau's "Walden", Carter's "The Education of Little Tree" (save your emails, I know about the author), Foote's Civil War books - actually anything about the Civil War; I'm strangely comforted by Lee & Jackson & Lincoln & company. I mean to read more about Longstreet - a Catholic convert!

posted by TSO @ 08:56

National Review Excerpts

Lots of good tidbits:

Tucker Carlson may look too young to have written a memoir, but we can be glad he did. Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News (Warner Books, 208 pp., $24.95) is perhaps the funniest political book of the year — and I mean laugh-out-loud funny. A number of times, while reading this book, I practically gasped: Doesn’t he know he’s not allowed to write this stuff? What makes Carlson such a valuable conservative voice on CNN is his courageous willingness to resist all forms of political correctness — conservative as well as liberal. When he defends Gary Condit as a victim of the media’s “sexual snobbery,” and a man “deeply wronged — by the press,” it becomes impossible for lefties to dismiss his scathing criticism of (say) Bill Bradley’s speeches as merely the predictable squawking of a partisan hack. This book is strongly recommended for anybody who likes politics — or just likes terrific stories, engagingly told. -- MICHAEL POTEMRA


I don't believe there were any speeches at the actual "ceremony," but there's been plenty of retrospective commentary about the nuptials of Mrs. Jason Allen Alexander, previously and subsequently Miss Britney Spears. Miss Spears had a night on the town in Vegas and woke up the next morning married to Mr. Alexander, the latter having neglected to observe the niceties by formally asking Miss Spears's management and record company for her hand in marriage. A judge stepped in and sorted it out, and the bride was restored to the status quo ante. --MARK STEYN


The encounter between faith and reason remains a central problem for man as he tries to come to grips with reality in its fullness. Political philosopher Thomas L. Pangle addresses this issue in a challenging manner in his most recent book, Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham (Johns Hopkins, 285 pp., $39.95): "If the Bible is true, then what is called for above all is obedience to the biblical God as simply authoritative. Philosophy as such — so long as it remains true to itself — cannot wholly surrender to such obedience, but philosophy can strive to understand what it might mean to do so. . . . The danger for us today is that we remain at too great a skeptical distance ever to enter into such a dialogue . . . and therefore we risk wallowing in longing for God instead of grappling with God — as Jesus and Socrates, each in his radically different way, teach us to do."

Much of the book is devoted to a close reading of key passages in the first half of the book of Genesis. The fall of man in Genesis 3 involved the first couple's decision to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil; great minds have wrestled for millennia with the question of how a just God could have viewed the pursuit of knowledge as bad and unworthy of man. Pangle suggests that in the divine perspective this is simply not man's proper calling: "Insofar as the Bible presents the knowledge of good and evil as demonic, it does so out of a recognition that to seek to know adequately what is good and evil necessarily entails a quest for an autonomy that is not compatible with obedience in any strict sense." Man's struggle after the fall, therefore, involves seeking "the path of the self-conscious submission or trammeling of independent judgment that is implicit in genuine obedience. We must in mature judgment decide to become again as children." Of this kind, Pangle points out, was the trust of Abraham when he showed himself willing to obey God's command to sacrifice Isaac. --MICHAEL POTEMRA

posted by TSO @ 21:21

January 28, 2004

Atlantic article

I'm sort of surprised that praise for Dr. Laura is coming from the Atlantic and not, say, Focus on the Family magazine:

She's a fishwife and a bit of a kook, a woman given to comically dramatic changes of heart and habit, but Dr. Laura gives some of the best advice about marriage and family life available on the radio, or perhaps anywhere in popular American culture. I say this somewhat wearily, for it is no easy task defending this woman.

posted by TSO @ 16:48

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Nothing says colonial authenticity like turquoise vinyl upholstery. - Lee Ann of Literarium, reviewing 'The Encyclopedia of Homemaking Ideas' by Barbara Taylor Bradford

One of the advantages of blogging less frequently is that I’m back to more disciplined reading. - Jeff Culbreath of El Camino

If we're condemned under the Law, how can its precepts rejoice the heart? Because the simple fact of the Law is proof of God's love. The Law of Moses proved God's love for Israel; its fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ proves God's love for all of us – that is, for each of us. It seems to me this is the better way to understand sin. We do not overcome sin in order to become close to God, but because God is close to us we desire to overcome sin. Tom of Disputations

Gaillardetz's proposals for an "authentic" apologetics are very much like Hillary Clinton's suggestions for "responsible" talk radio -- they ignore the fact that, given a choice, people will listen to what is really important to them, as opposed to what their betters have decided should be important to them. In what might serve as a museum-piece of liberal imperviousness to irony, Gaillardetz comes up with a program guaranteed to act on his conversation partner like a tranquilizer dart, and then calls it "dialogical." A dialogical apologetics will not shy away from enthusiastically presenting an account of the Catholic faith, but it will do so with an openness to genuine dialogue and an eschatological modesty that acknowledges that the church does not so much possess the truth in its doctrinal formulations as it is possessed by it. We all remember that famous exhortation to the Corinthians given by the Father of All Apologists, when he'd been asked whether one should follow the cult of Demeter, the laws of the Jews, or the commandment of love in the New Covenant: "Woe to me if I fail to employ condign eschatological modesty in acknowledging that the church does not so much possess the truth in its doctrinal formulations as it is possessed by it!" And of course we all remember the Corinthians' response: Zzzzzzzzz. -Diogenes of CWR

You've got to give up a lot to be content in life. - blogger at "It's nice to have a few memories"

I value eccentricity. An eccentric is usually just a personality who's refused to grow neatly along the trellis of bourgeois life. Catholics are generally eccentric, although we don't think of ourselves that way. – Secret Agent Man

I remember reading a statistic that estimated that two billion rosaries are said around the world in a single day. I was the only one of my friends who was impressed by that figure. Everyone else just mumbled something about the huge number of nuns and monks who have to pray the rosary everyday, and didn’t get the point I was trying to make. That point is that it is one thing to pray a daily rosary all by oneself and in private, and a whole other thing to pray a daily rosary along with millions of other Catholics all over the world. There is only one thing that can top the devotion it takes for one person to shut out the tumult of the world in order to be alone with Mary; that is the devotion it takes for the world to shut down its own tumult in order to honour Mary as one. Anyone can receive the beautiful grace that is the former, but one has to earn the right to the latter. Since we do not live in a Catholic world any longer, it is the first grace we receive in abundance and so it is private devotion that we know. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

I'd better say something clever quickly: Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor is quoting my commenters rather than quoting me. (Also spelling my name wrong.) I'll try to think of something. - Henry of Plumbline in the Wind (Btw, orginators of quotes appearing herein are not compensated. This blog is an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering.)

Most truly great art comes out of a tremendous struggle of the artist. Either interior or exterior. Much of the success of art deals with struggle and resolution. It's one of the reasons that I readily acquiesce that my very favorite school of poets isn't particularly successful. Imagists don't often record a struggle. Where is the struggle in Mallarmeacute;'s "Faun" or Rimbaud's "Le Bateau Ivre?" - Steven of Flos Carmeli

That all 20-22 year olds are idiots is a practical truth apparent to most people who are no longer 22 years old. There's no more shame in this than in the fact that toddlers aren't good jugglers. It's simply the nature of us time-bound creatures to start out as idiots, and these days a college education only exacerbates it. - Tom of Disputations

I shall start a magazine. The clergy will not be allowed to subscribe...I shall call it. . . "The Laity's Home Journal". - John of The Inn at the End of the World

posted by TSO @ 13:56

Happy Feast of St. Thomas

In philosophy, the Thomist revival was probably this moderate aggiornamento's most striking achievement. Outside the Church, St. Thomas and the scholastics had for centuries been treated as philosophical non-persons. But by the 1940s, sixty years after Leo XIII's call for the restoration of Christian philosophy, the situation had been completely reversed. Thinkers like Gilson and Maritain had forced even die-hard adherents of the 'religion equals superstition' school, represented by Bertrand Russell, to admit that St. Thomas, even if wrong, was a figure of world stature.
- Philip Trower, "Turmoil & Truth"

...And...a St. Thomas poster.

posted by TSO @ 07:33

Long Black Train Lyrics

Recent country song...

There's a long black train
Coming down the line
Feeding off the souls that are lost and crying
Tails of sin only evil remains
Watch out brother for that long Black Train

Look to the heavens
You can look to the skies
You can find redemption
staring back into your eyes
There is protection and there is
peace the same burn in your ticket for that
Long Black Train

Cause there's victory in the Lord I say
Victory in the Lord
Cling to the Father and his holy name
and don't go riding on that long Black Train

Theres a engine there on that Long Black Train
making you wonder if your ride is worth the pain
he's just a waitin' on your heart to say
let me ride on that long black train

but you know there's victory in the Lord I say
victory in the Lord
Cling to the Father and his holy name
and don't go riding on that long Black Train

Well I can hear the whistle from a mile away
it sounds so good
but I must stay away
that train is a beauty making everybody stare
but its only destination is the middle of nowhere

But you know there's victory in the Lord I say
victory in the Lord
Cling to the Father and his holy name
and don't go riding on that long Black Train

I said cling to the father and his holy name and dont go ridin on that black train
yes watch out brother for that long black train
the devil's a ridin that long black train.

posted by TSO @ 19:02

January 27, 2004


Saw Wesley Clark cheerfully holding a "I'm Pro-Choice" sign for the cameras, while Kerry and others fall over themselves trying to get to the left of the abortion issue. I realize you have to run to the left to win the Democratic nomination, just as Bush had to run to the right in '00, but there seems to be more pride on the pro-death side. Bush didn't mention the pro-life issue during the State of the Union speech, and I don't recall him holding any pro-life signs. I thought the presidency was supposed to be a bully pulpit? Wouldn't it have been great for the President to have made an appearance at the Right to Life march on the 22nd? Wouldn't it be awesome to see Republican candidates trying to get to the right of each other on the pro-life issue? If the country is split 50-50 on the issue then it seems the Republicans should be less sheepish about it.

posted by TSO @ 18:41

Mary and Haiti

The cruise sparked a strong interest in Haiti...this book looks interesting, but it's not at our downtown library and I'm not in the mood to spend money. For obvious reasons. The alcohol on board wasn't cheap.

posted by TSO @ 17:50

Spot the Oxymoron!

Presbyterians for Sharpton
Rastafarians for Bush
Coptics for Kucinich
Catholics for Dean
Wahabis for Lieberman
Arians for Kerry
Anabaptists for Edwards
Yes, Catholics for Dean.

posted by TSO @ 13:17

On Planned Parenthood.

posted by TSO @ 12:08


Well the scream heard 'round the world carried to our boat in the Caribbean. The stateroom, as they call it, had a TV in it and we got a couple channels including CNN (did you know that there are only 57 TVs per 1,000 Haitians? I like Haiti more and more.)

The scream I'm talking about of course is Howard Dean's at his post-Iowa defeat party. He finished third but I sat slack-jawed watching him, thinking this was Clinton taken too far. Clinton, if you remember, lost the New Hampshire primary in '92 to Paul Tsongas but simply acted like he just won it. He called himself "the Comeback Kid" and apparently forever taught losers of primaries to act as though they'd won and perhaps fool some of the people into thinking they actually had.

But this went way too far. Clinton, master politician that he was, always had that deft touch. Dean, finishing third, apparently thought he had to ratchet up the enthusiasm another twenty notches. Can you even imagine if he finished fourth or fifth? The poor man'd have a heart attack.

In Dean's long litany of states, I noticed he mentioned Ohio twice. Ohio is the uber battleground state, with arguably with more electoral votes up for grab that any state in the union. How so? Because Texas, New York, California are all done. NY & CA would vote for the Democratic candidate even if the Dems nominated a dead person. Texas will obviously go for the home town boy. Florida and Ohio and Michigan are the states to watch.

As far as Kerry's remarkable comeback, well I may be eating crow. I'd thought he was deader than the undead, especially when he cheesily drove a Harley on to the set of the Tonight Show. Ono must be happy; I haven't checked his website in awhile.

It's ineffably sad how bad the Democratic field is from the perspective of the life issues (as Michael Dubriel mentions). Chris Matthews refers to the Republican party as the daddy party and the Democratic party as the mommy party, but daddy is spending us broke and mommy wants to kill the kids. Disfunctional parents the both of them. Dick Army says that conservatives are too enamoured of facts and not enough of emotion and liberals too enamoured of emotions and dismissive of facts. But you can't get much more emotional than a partial-birth abortion. Rule by the heart ought to include defense of the unborn - you would think it a natural Democratic issue. They claim they are for the "little guy", for the underdog. Don't get more underdog than the defenseless baby in the womb, does it? Oh - that's right - babies can't vote.

posted by TSO @ 07:39

Philip Trower Excerpt (from "Turmoil and Truth")

Completing our trio of quasi-modernist movements was Americanism...It could be described as the absorption by the American Catholic mind of the dye of the secular American spirit. The quintessential element of the American spirit is, presumably, the belief that every man is as good as his neighbor, that there are no difficulties he cannot surmount by himself if he is the kind of man he ought to be, and that he needs no help from outside authority. It is the independent, practical, self-sufficient spirit of a pioneering people, which in the right place is admirable. But in the raw, it is not easily reconciled with Catholicism and the spirit of the Gospel.

Leo XIII explained what he saw those dangers as being in his apostolic letter, Testem Benevolentiae to Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore. They were: making good works the heart of religion, rather than obedience, humility and union with God; downplaying the role of grace; and the idea that certain aspects of faith and morals should be adapted to suit the culture of each people. He had previously warned the American hierarchy against taking the American constitution as the model for relations between Church and State always and everywhere. Separation of Church and State was not to be considered the ideal. The best state of affairs was when a people was religiously largely of one mind, and as a politically organized body acknowledged and worshipped God according to the one true religion.

posted by TSO @ 15:15

January 26, 2004

For the bibliophile.

posted by TSO @ 12:08

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale…a tale of a fateful trip

We arrived at the airport just before 6 am and the flight was painless – the soft cacophony of voices, the drunken fog of sleepiness, the disembodied voice of the pilot. You feel like a child again when you're on a plane, like you’re on a bus ride, the flight attendants are the “adults” who bustle by you and serve you like your mother did when you were sick. We arrive to the blinding sun of Miami, Florida. Is there a bit of Stockholm Syndrome, held captive too long by Old Man Winter? The sun is discomfiting; too faux, too ripped from context.

Before long we are in our cabin and I’m sitting on the balcony in the the G-force winds smoking a cigar. All horizon, all the time, a sea broken by whitecaps. Call me Ishmael. I am Mogli, raised by the sea. This balcony is a wondrous thing. At Hilton Head, the balcony over looking the ocean has a view that never changes, but here every day you wake up expectantly to see what the port of call looks like, pre-tooth brushing and still in underwear. Cruising does have its moments. No wonder William F. Buckley is so enamoured by it, although his sailing is to this cruise as hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail is to a walk in the park.

Cruises force you to make time to do what you’d really like to do, once you run out of things you think you should do. After the obligatory exercise and morning ablutions, there is, at some point in the long afternoon, a joy. This came today at the adult pool, “adult” not for pornographic reasons but because it is farther from the rockin’ music. I was buoyed by Philip Roth’s “The Human Stain” and by our location, which was mercifully far from the endless drum beat of the music at the main pool. The music was fine the first hour – how would I know that I’m on a cruise without hearing, “Hot, Hot, Hot!”? – but unaided by much alcohol the music wore. I popped in a CD – instant bliss. Twenty-two Marian hymns by the choir at the National Basilica. When the sopranos take it up a notch in “Hail Holy Queen” it’s all goosebumps. I look over at the Asian gentleman across from me and he’s reading “Deconstructing Schizophrenia”. I wonder how relaxing a read that can be. His wife is reading a mystery novel. Roth’s prose is so seamless that you forget you’re reading him, or reading anything for that matter. There’s something self-effacing about it – he disappears behind the story, unlike with Updike. Updike is often so lush and poetic that you never really forget you are reading him; it’s like trying to forget you are watching Jack Nicholson play someone other than Jack Nicholson.

The ship has its share of the very attractive. My wife notices a beautifully built woman and mentions that fact. I’m not sure why after the resurrection glorified bodies have to be wonderful bodies, such as the ones we had at 25 or ones we potentially could’ve had at 25. I think it would be wonderful to look through the eyes of Mother Teresa, eyes without prejudices. An ugly person would be completely without stigma in heaven, perhaps the greater exalted for it. But also you would want for the ugly person to receive a beautiful body as part of their recompense.

First Stop: Nassau

Our first morning was Sunday and they fortunately celebrated Mass on board. In fact, Mass was every morning thanks to the presence of a priest. The first port o’ call was Nassau, Bahamas where I walked/jogged around the city both for the exercise and to see more. My wife went shopping with her friends; shopping is an anathema to me. The guidebooks had warned not to go on the “other side of the hill”, the hill being at the heart of downtown. I wasn’t sure which side of the hill they meant until, of course, I got there. Then it became immediately apparent. Mean streets look mean anywhere. I wasn’t sure I wanted to ignore the guidebook, but I ran down the street anyway coming to the old 1885 church St. Francis Xavier, where Mass was going on for an impressive 90+ minutes. And it was packed to the rafters. Amen.

I liked the Mass times sign:

Mon: 7am Tues-Thurs – 7am Fri: 7am
...along with the less regular weekend Mass times.

I peaked my head in a window of one of the many doors of this large church and saw many, many very well dressed folks. Blacks tend to dress for church better than whites, and Nassau appeared to be no exception. Since I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I couldn’t go inside though I was invited by the usher. I waited outside awhile and listened to the music. At first it was as though I were standing outside a Baptist chuch in Harlem. No “Amen’s” and “Hallelujah” ejaculations but the singing was right there, with a little bit of Dixieland jazz thrown in (I realized later that came from the presence of a saxophone in the church ensemble. There was a LOT of music in this Mass. Mostly music, in fact, punctuated by words instead of the typical words punctuated by music. But after this unfamiliar tune I suddenly hear the words of the creed: “There is one God..” recited fervently and without affectation and it was melting, this Church universal. These were my brothers and sisters in every sense, including their incipient reception of His Body and Blood, creed and sacrament.

Sunday Night
This ship really gets the details down right. Our room has curved shower doors that form a half-capsule when closed. Huge full length windows in the topside deck bathroom allow you to easily imagine engaging in every guy’s primal desire – to pee in the ocean. But the main thing is the easy availability of food, really an astonishing thing. Oh for my youthful metabolism. Today I interrupted my sunning for a late lunch by simply grabbing a bowl and filling it with grouper and salmon and taking it back up to top-deck. It certainly feels free, although we paid for it a couple of months ago. (The price was reasonable because we put a deposit on it about 9 months ago aided by discounts.)

The variety of foods offered at lunch is jaw-dropping. I went on a cruise in ’87 and I recall nothing like this. There is an amazing lack of scarcity. I constantly pass ice-cream cone dispensers and the hassle-factor in having one infinitely approaches 0. I’m amazed at my own restraint. I only eat one all trip.

Irritations of varying degrees nip at the vacation; a sense of disorder pervades. The routines, rhythms, and small disciplines vanish – in a moment you forget to return your eyeglasses to their case, sticking them in your pocket instead. Moments later you pull them out, broken. (Okay. I broke my glasses. “You” would be presumptuous in assuming my folly is the norm. I scotch-taped up the glasses as best I could. Arrgghh.) You misplace your cruise-issued towel at some point between lunch and the stairmaster and you get charged a cool $20. Arrgghh.

Twenty-five mile an hour winds today; folks in their 70s lay in it for hours, placid as though in the eye of the hurricane. One fellow wears a NY Yankee cap and I figure it must be superglued to his head for it not to be blown off. I see the eldery Sox fan and think “Stoic, Frugal New Englander”…i.e. “I paid for this trip and bygummit I’m going to enjoy it!”. The sun comes and then goes. Our watches are so helplessly derivative, as if they have any intrinsic meaning. On a vacation, where the sun is the raison de etra, clocks derive what power they have strictly from the sun’s time piece.

After dinner we went to one of the on board shows. The entertainment was light, but enjoyably light, like key lime pie. They also have these improvisationalists circle around the ship doing things that bordered the surreal. One guy, dressed as a plumber, went around with a toilet plunger randomly plunging the floor. Another sprayed room deodorizer after guests pass, as if they smelled.

Our dinner companions were better than expected. At the table of eight, four I didn’t know before the cruise. One couple was from Ohio and one from Boston, Mass, and they were as different as ice from fire. The Ohio couple, at least the guy half, was very easy-going and easy to get along with. The girl was sort of a live-wire. She didn’t get along with the Boston guy. The Boston couple was older, about 60 years old, and they have been on 19 cruises (“2 every year – we don’t want to leave anything behind”). Chuck was very opinionated and brash, exactly what you would expect from a blue collar Italian guy from the east coast. Very quick-witted, he made the dinners infinitely much more interesting. Having met him three minutes before, he made it clear he was very much against this war in Iraq and said he couldn’t stand Fox’s news coverage of the war, which he said was biased. Didn’t like Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly (although at a later dinner called him ‘brilliant’). Perhaps we “looked” conservative, how else to explain this preemptive strike? Best I could tell about his politics is that he’s a Democrat except on taxes. Told us how bad it is in Taxachusettes. Has to go up to New Hampshire to buy things (since they don’t have sales tax). Both he and his wife were full-blooded Italians. The closest we came to discussing religion was that his wife mentioned that he’d wanted to be a priest when he was little and my wife interjected that all Catholic boys want to be a priest when they’re young.

Marie tended to finish Chuck’s thoughts a lot, after which he would invariably heave a long sigh and say, exasperatingly, that he threw his voice, ala a ventriloquist.

“Are you finished?” he asked her.
“You should know if she’s finished since it’s your voice you’re throwing!”

This Is Your Cruise Director Speaking...
I’m unduly fascinated by our cruise director, mainly how he can be so enthusiastic cruise after numbing cruise, saying the same things, making the same jokes (“Man, are you folks eating or what? I found a white suit lying on the dining hall floor. Oh no, I said, they’ve eaten a waiter!) . You can’t fake enthusiasm, can you? He appears ageless, a cross between Dick Clark and Pat Sajak. Can a game show host afford to have the dark night of soul? Is the unexamined life so bad? Saw him leaning on a post outside the San Juan pier. I thought how different it would seem if he were smoking a cigarette, as if that would seem cynical. Cigars, less addictive, seem to lend more detachment.

St. Thomas
Christopher Columbus is credited with discovering St. Thomas and the Virgin Islands during his second voyage to the New World in 1493. I assume it was named for the apostle and not Aquinas; I wonder what either man’s reaction would be to the plethora of “St. Thomas’s” across young girls’ backsides.

Today we did the “Bob” excursion. “BOB” stands for breathing observation bubble, basically an underwater scooter with a bubble helmet. You go eight to ten feet down and tool around. The problem with such a device is that I like to be in control of my breathing situation. I’m far too fond of oxygen and don’t like the scarcity principle applied to it. I’ve never felt a moment’s dread in an airplane, but for some reason I just wasn’t enjoying BOB so I got down to the bottom and then said I was ready to come back up. I snorkeled happily. Snorkeling seems a fine activity. God never intended for man to be eight feet below the surface of the ocean for very long if’n you ask me.

As luck would have it we were filmed by a crew from NBC. They say we’ll be on the Today Show some time within the next 2-3 weeks. My wife enjoyed BOB more than me and was interviewed. I hope she makes it on TV, although it’s embarrassing for me. The Captain thanked us for being here, for without us he’d have to get a real job. Industry seems light here on St. Thomas. Andy Rooney, hardly an authority, says that the colder the climate, the more work gets done.

Back at the cabin, I notice a man in a tiny coast guard boat floating about. How contemplative an existence! The only thing close I could think of is maybe a forest ranger during off-off season. How different his life must be, constantly sitting in a boat in the sun.

I can’t get enough of looking over these hills from the private balcony. Verdant, conical hills like green pyramids bedecked with white houses with Santa Barbara-ish red roofs. Sailboats sit in the harbor maintaining a proper British distance. Amphibious planes happen by. The sun lights up everything exquisitely. For some reason, I recall postcards sent by a penpal when I was in grammar school of her fjord in Norway.

Age may be the determining function for your location on ship at any given time:
<30 – at the main pool, with the band in front of you and the bar behind you 30-50 – at the quieter adult pool >60 – upstairs on the private balcony (i.e. cruise as floating retirement community; assisted living, heavy on the ‘assisted’)

San Juan
Today was San Juan, and the day was hotly glorious. After a night of gastric distress, I stumbled to 8am Mass and then read until 10am at which point the group headed on a shopping excursion on the mean streets of San Juan, mean on your wallet that is. Store after store after store of jewelry and arts and crafts and t-shirts. Fortunately after an hour of this my wise wife and I bolted and explored the Old Cathedral of San Juan. Lots of side altars, one of which was being used for Mass. I bought a beautiful Marian t-shirt in the nave after exploring the undercroft which included a couple of fake bodies of saints under glass coffins, the sort of thing my evangelical wife finds creepy and strange. I try to explain that this was the style of 19th century Catholicism. The bloody crucifix was much blooder and gorier than perhaps any I’d seen – but how is it different than Mel Gibson’s upcoming movie, which, by all reports, is extremely bloody and gory? Doesn’t it take blood and gore to get our attention? Is this part of what Flannery O’Connor meant when she said you have to shout to get the attention of deaf people?

We walked down the florid streets of pastel buildings to the old fort of San Juan. Built in the 1700s as a defense, it played a role in the Spanish-American war. The Spanish built a small chapel to St. Barbara, which was hit by an American shell but didn’t explode, leaving the altar intact.

As we pulled out of San Juan harbor after a painfully short day (we had to be back on board by 1:30), for fifteen minutes or so a tiny coast guard vehicle clung to our side like a barnacle. Touching. Like an offensive lineman being guarded by the 90 lb kicker. Goodbye San Juan, we hardly knew ye. We shoved off and at once the blue desert, billiard-smooth, re-asserts itself.

I recall disparate books about the sea I’d read like William F. Buckley’s sailing books and Steven Callahan’s remarkable Adrift, about his seventy-six days lost at sea on a five foot inflatable raft. And always John Masefield's Sea Fever:

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume and the sea gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gipsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife,
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

At dusk the clouds look like islands as the sun leaves behind phantasmagoric aurora borealis-like lights. It’s only by concentrating that I consider we could be vulnerable out here in the middle of the Caribbean. The life boats seem like needless precautions, but then that’s what they thought on the Titanic.

Vacations teach you to “look” again – to see. When everything is new, such as a foreign port of call, looking “pays off” and you begin to notice more with begets noticing more. I notice the little sea light about the door of the balcony and the carpet and fine wood railing. And I notice the wording above the bathroom toilet: “Please do not thrown foreign objects in toilet bowl”. I make a mental note to make sure only domestically-made objects are thrown in said toilet bowl.


At dinner, the conversations deepen. Chuck tells us of his near death.

Self-disclosure is a tricky thing. Too much, too early and it seems a desperate thing, or it cheapens it. Self-disclosure by an author, whether in fiction or a memoir, seems respectable by virtue of it being his profession (a poor analogy might be disrobing for a doctor). Self-disclosures in blogs tends to be more disreputable, but I’m not sure why it matters whether you or not you are being paid for something.

So it came up in conversation, and he was initially reluctant to tell us of his disease, still obscure to me, that almost took his life. It was five years ago and he couldn’t move or respond but he could hear the doctor tell another doctor that in 12 hours it’d be one way or the other. 50-50 chance. Imagine hearing that and knowing that in twelve hours you’d be either alive or dead? If I understood correctly, he had a cyst on his intestine wall the size of his fist and if it had broken he’d have been instantly dead. So he was lucky to even be at the twelve-hour point. You always hear “if one more” or “if this had happened” and they’d be dead, and it never gets old because by definition the teller of the story has come through it. Dead men tell no tales.

Chuck mentioned how his father would drink like a sieve – wine, of course, as a good Italian, but also an obscure drink that starts with a ‘b’. We marveled at how much that generation drank – his father’s, my grandfather’s. Functional alcoholics, I’d say, with a tinge of envy. Their world was far harder than mine though, so I don’t begrudge them. I knew someone who was given the stark choice of “the drink”, as the Irish call it, and a wife. She gave him an ultimatum shortly after he proposed marriage – either me or the booze. To his credit, he was honest and chose the booze. To her credit, she stuck to her ultimatum. People were tough then. He died young, in his 50s, and his sister was distraught but heard his voice. “Don’t mourn, don’t be sad,” she swears she heard him saying, “it’s wonderful here.” As witnesses go, she was solid gold. Didn’t touch liquor, ever prayerful and religious without a touch of sentimentality. Visions and voices from beyond are only as believable as the trustworthiness of the witness, I guess.

Chuck and I also talked about the near slave labor conditions of the crew. We did win the lottery, as the Pearl Jam song goes, by being born in the U.S.. Six months of twelve hour days, seven days a week. Then two months off. Then six more months, 12 by 7. Ouch. (When do they go to Mass?) Our waiter, 35, has been doing it for five years. A look at where our wait staff comes from – the Philippines, Columbia, and Jamaica, is pretty much a statement on the poverty of those countries. An out-of-date but perhaps still ballpark indicator shows 1989 per capita income at $1,200 for Jamaica, $710 for the Philippines. The U.S. was at $21,000.

Labadee, Haiti
Haiti wasn’t what I expected it to be, but then we really didn’t see much of the “real” Haiti. Labadee is a private Caribbean resort, a little fenced off edge of the island. I jogged around the perimeter, feeling like a zoo animal. Just beyond the fence sat a couple of Haitians, surely wondering why this fool was jogging in the noonday heat. I wondered what they were doing; what is it like to have all that time and be patient enough to sit around with nothing to do? The world is divided into readers and non-readers, and non-readers must entertain themselves more easily. What is it like to be unemployed on a tropical island, rather than employed in frigid Ohio? From the ship you could see the tiny village of Labadee, a little collection of brightly colored and greatly weathered homes nestled in the bay and humbled by the great green mountain/hills above and beyond them. To call it picturesque doesn’t begin to cut it. I could’ve gazed at that bucolic scene all day.

Villagers get to sell arts and crafts from inside the resort, presumably a prime source of income for residents. There were three main flea markets, and the selling was aggressive, to say the least, at the first two. But at the third all was calm. I asked why there was no selling pressure and was told, “we’re always here – they have to take turns.” The difference was striking – overweight, sunburnt Americans and black, gaunt Haitians, mostly men in their late 20s, who would do everything to get you to look at their stall of little statues and cups and souvenirs. “Sir!”, “sir!” erupts when you turn a corner.

At the end of the day the ship sailed away from the newly empty resort as a little boat of workers sped back to their village. One waves at the huge ship and we wave back. Another goes to the aft and windmills his arms in exhilaration. At being done with work? At success in sales? Just because he’s alive?

The music as we pulled away from Labadee was, for once, wonderful. It was Latin but quietly soulful, which finally matched my metabolism and internal rhythms. The cruise was ebbing away, as was Haiti. Let go mon, a cruise is a series of goodbyes, and leaving Haiti was hard. That primitive impulse, always latent, gets triggered by scenes of utter simplicity like this mountain village. Jay McInerney put it in “Bright Lights, Big City”:

"You tell her there are so damn many things on your mind. You can tell her the date of the Spanish Armada, but you couldn't even guess at the balance of your checkbook. Every day you misplace your keys or your wallet. That's one of the reasons you're always late. It's so hard just getting in here every morning, let alone remembering all that you're supposed to do. So many little things. The big things - at least the big things declare open combat. But these details...When you are engaged with the main army - then to have these niggardly details sniping at you from the goddamned trees. Along the windows, the potted plants form a jungle skyline, a green tableau of the simple life. You think of islands, palm trees, food-gathering. Escape."

Of course, their life is neither as simple as I think and much harder than I can imagine. Goodness and purity come not from without, but from within, and that is what is ultimately attractive about anyone, be they city or rural folk.

Last Rites
An island off the coast. It’s Cuba. It’s also the last day at sea, so there’s Guinness, a ‘sippin’ drink’ and sun and reads. After Mass and the morning jog, the latter which feels exhibitionistic (I’m not used to running around a track around which lay two hundred supine bodies), I have time for books and music. I liberally read from Philip Roth, finish both Paul Collins’ “Sixpence House” and Philip Trower’s wonderful “Turmoil and Truth”. While reading Roth, I try to understand what is so horrible about “the American Puritanism” that he, or his character, appears to think is so bad. He is writing about the Clinton’s problems with Lewiniski, and he sees it of a piece with political correctness, seeing no difference between Kenneth Starr and William Bennett and Barbara Walters and Joyce Brothers. He claims it’s as though Sinclair Lewis had never existed and “Babbit” had never been written. I recently read an interview with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and he reacted in the same way – totally incredulous that Clinton could be impeached for oral sex. I just don’t get that they don’t get that it was about the integrity of the law and not about sex. When Clinton lied to the American people, that was something he would have to answer for to the voters and to God. But when he lied under oath and committed perjury, even after being given a heads up (i.e. senators told him that this was the time to step up and tell the truth) – he still didn’t. It was the perjury part that naturally unsettled the lawyer/politicians in D.C., because a nation is based on laws. No one considers how you murder someone particularly relevant. The crime of murder is just as bad whether by knife, gun or strangulation. That Clinton’s perjury was over sex seemed incidental, the mere instrument of perjury. Given that he would never face jail time or anything other than losing two years out of eight years as President of the United States, it would seem a very small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. But he ended up being impeached without losing office, something which no one should have reason to complain.

The lounge chairs on deck are arranged tighter together than two Sicilians at a family reunion. To my left – major snoring. I sleep farther away from my wife than I was lying next to this stranger. My wife, on the right, thought it funny.

The “midnight buffet” proves that people crave ritual. How else to explain it? You’ve eaten 17 meals in 5 days, gone thru 3 packs of Alka Seltzers and yet you line up for a midnight feeding? I don’t get it. I can only assume that the very first or second cruise included an ice sculpture as an excuse to eat and every cruise since pays homage to this frozen calf with shrimp cocktail.

My theory is that cruises are devilishly attractive to women because they are constantly on diets of one kind or another and a cruise allows them to “eat like they’ve never eaten before”. I’m not that enamoured of food (Guinness is another matter). I’d have gladly skipped many of the lunches and dinners for sun and beer.

Men go for the gambling, the excuse to drink, and the food they don't get at home. No wonder cruises are so popular. They appeal to both sexes, and that’s not something you can say of everything. They also take all the work out of a vacation, something both men and women can appreciate. Your room is cleaned 3 times a day! I’ve got to buy stock in Royal Caribbean. As the population ages, this will be a huge boon to the industry since cruises attract an older demographic. Remember where you heard this. As always, buy low and sell higher. Uber-cruisers get addicted. One couple was at 101 cruises (yes, one hundred and one cruises) and another at 41. The couple with 41 currently cruise a dozen times a year. Over $25 grand a year. On the bright side, I’m sure there grocery bills are painless. Who wants to eat after a cruise?

After a few hours of head-banging music and close quarters with snoring girls, it’s nice to be on the private balcony again. This ten feet before me contains our own piece of the horizon, peaceful as our own backyard. Whatever Stockholm Syndrone there was seems to abated; the sun no longer feels faux. This sea that God covered 3/4ths of the earth with is strikingly beautiful. Why didn’t I bring something by Kipling? I wonder where the plank is on this ship, and if it’s suitable for walking. The clouds come and allow only a shaft of light to get through, under which a ship passes gloriously, wearing a diadem of rays. The last day at sea is a time to be grateful.

Last Hour
I surface top-side, one last time and find a ghost town. The stairmasters are riderless, the calypso band has disbanded. I pop in an Irish CD briefly but the songs sound sad, even the happy ones. It’s time to head home.

Plane Ridin' Home
The Da Vinci Code was everywhere. It seems like a cult book to me, sort of like “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood” was a few years ago. The girl across the aisle is reading it and the flight attendant walks by and notes approvingly, “I loved it! I think I liked “Angels and Demons” even more. You’ll have to read that. The Vatican—“

She was interrupted by someone and when she turned back to the girl across from me she didn’t finish whatever she was going to say about the Vatican...


posted by TSO @ 14:48

January 25, 2004

Cruise Bound

No blogging next week, as I'll be doing the cruise thing. Elinor wrote on Henry Dieterich's blog, "I've always considered it rash for anyone to try to get through the winter in Michigan - I told Cacciaguida that if he went to teach at Ave Maria Law School they'd have to pay him enough to enable me to have a HUGE greenhouse." Perhaps, but I'm leery of creeping conspicuous consumption and paying for warm weather in January is that writ large (although I suppose we could always find a cheap hotel on the Redneck Riveria, aka the Gulf Coast). Standards of livings can change in an instant and I'd rather not grow accustomed to fine cigars instead of Swisher Sweets. People older than I swear that as you age the cold winters affect you more and more adversely (hence the senior's migratory path to Florida). The problem is that any accommodations near warm weather resorts will explode in price as the baby boomers begin retiring, which will begin enmasse in 2010. As ill luck would have it, I came down with a fever Wednesday and I've been since battling it valiantly (as in 'copious sleep') to become seaworthy tomorrow. Pass me the aspirin and anti-nausea meds.

Honey, please pass the Guinness

* * *

In their autumn
they collect pains
trade with friends
taxiderm 'em
to the kitchen wall.

* * *

It's always a risk to judge motives, but maybe part of the reason that some leftists so demonize conservatives is because they have to in order to assuage guilt for voting for pro-choice candidates. If George Bush is the master of all evil, then abortion can be seen as a lesser evil. People loathe two things today: a) being seen as a hypocrite (i.e. inconsistent on their political issues, for example), b) any sort of cognitive dissonance.


My stepson used to be liberal on pretty much all issues, but then he went to college (OSU) and majored in Econ. Now he's to the right of me on fiscal issues. I think I got whiplash, he changed so fast. He suggested journalists who write about economics ought to have studied the subject. I agree.

* * *

Received a spam advertising for a carpal tunnel cure. Inflict it, then cure it 'eh Mr. Spammer?

* * *


* * *

Poetry -- Ted Hughes

I climbed through woods in the hour-before-dawn dark.
Evil air, a frost-making stillness,

Not a leaf, not a bird,--
A world cast in frost. I came out above the wood

Till the moorline--blackening dregs of the brightening grey--
Halved the sky ahead. And I saw the horses:

Their hung heads patient as the horizons,
High over valleys, in the red levelling rays--

Between the streams and the red clouds, hearing curlews,
Hearing the horizons endure.


In that echo-gaunt weekday chancel I see you
Wrestling to contain your flames
In your pink wool knitted dress and in your eye-pupils--great cut jewels
Jostling their tear flames, truly like big jewels
Shaken in a dice-cup and held up to me.

posted by TSO @ 15:19

January 16, 2004

Irish famine artwork

posted by TSO @ 15:17

Interesting Review of...

The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke (With Surprising Solutions That Will Change Our Children's Futures)

Harvard bankruptcy-law professor Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi report that the feminists' coveted "two-breadwinner family" has, in practice, brought the "dance of financial ruin." Back in 1981, a mere 69,000 women had their names on bankruptcy petitions; by 2001, over 500,000 women did. Bearing a child has now become "the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse." Married couples with children are more than twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as their childless counterparts.

Two-breadwinner families, it turns out, are simply awash in debt. In 1981, savings made up 11 percent of average personal income, and credit-card debt 4 percent...Overall, inflation-adjusted credit-card debt rose from $10 billion in 1968 to a staggering $600 billion in 2000. Nearly half of American households are near the line where turning to bankruptcy makes good economic sense.

How did this happen? Warren and Tyagi argue persuasively that mass "over-consumption" is not the problem. Americans actually spend proportionately less these days on items such as food and clothing than they did in the 1960s. Instead, the authors point to the unintended consequences of sending 20 million American mothers to work. Rather than gaining more disposable household income, families saw real wages for men decline: the predictable result of more laborers pursuing the same number of jobs. Day-care bills and higher marginal taxes combined with the costs of a second car and swollen restaurant bills to absorb a good share of the mothers' new income. The higher nominal incomes of two-earner families also led to a fresh "bidding war" for nice homes in good suburban school districts, sending mortgage costs soaring.

Most important, the oft-derided stay-at-home mother proved to have been the true "safety net" in American life. When her husband suddenly lost his job or became seriously ill, the homemaker was there to find employment and protect the family living standard. Or when a child or elderly parent suddenly needed special care, the homemaker was again available to serve, without any loss in family income. Contemporary two-income households have already built their budgets around their full potential earning power. When the unexpected strikes — a layoff, a debilitating illness, a divorce — financial disaster looms...

[The authors] claim that "no one really knows" why working wives are 40 percent more likely to divorce than their stay-at-home counterparts. In fact, Gary Becker won a Nobel Prize in economics for explaining why: A married couple in which both spouses work outside the home has sacrificed the specialization of labor (i.e., breadwinner and homemaker) that gives real economic gain to their marital bond. The authors argue that "no one saw [this new situation] coming," a statement belied by even a casual look at Phyllis Schlafly's written work from the 1970s. --ALLAN CARLSON

posted by TSO @ 11:08

This is Much Better

See Tom's Google Ichthus Index. Doing it as a percentage is a much fairer way.

posted by TSO @ 11:01

Venerable John Henry Newman, via Quenta Nârwenion:

"And if you are conscious that your hearts are hard, and are desirous that they should be softened, do not despair. All things are possible to you, through God's grace. Come to Him for the will and the power to do that to which He calls you. He never forsakes anyone who calls upon Him. He never puts any trial on a man but He gives him grace to overcome it. Do not despair then; nay do not despond, even though you do come to Him, yet are not at once exalted to overcome yourselves. He gives grace by little and little. It is by coming daily into His presence, that by degrees we find ourselves awed by that presence and able to believe and obey Him. Therefore if any one desires illumination to know God's will as well as strength to do it, let him come to Mass daily, if he possibly can. At least let him present himself daily before the Blessed Sacrament, and, as it were, offer his heart to His Incarnate Saviour, presenting it as a reasonable offering to be influenced, changed and sanctified under the eye and by the grace of the Eternal Son. "

posted by TSO @ 10:27

Via & Maine Catholic:

Coffee ... Probably the only food discovered by a monk and officially approved by a pope. According to legend, coffee was discovered more than a thousand years ago when a friar in an Arabian convent noticed his goats prancing on their hind legs after eating berries from a wild coffee plant. He tried the beans himself; soon afterwards a new medicine was born.

Drinking coffee for the sheer pleasure of it didn't come until years later ... and it didn't come without a fight. Sold in popular coffeehouses known as "penny universities" and "seminars of sedition," coffee was denounced by devout Christians as "the devil's brew" and outlawed by secular authorities who saw it as an intoxicating beverage that led to "discussions of rebellion and slander of those in power." Church opposition finally ended in 1594 when Pope Clement VIII tried a copy and liked it so much that he baptized it. "We will not let coffee remain the property of Satan," he announced. "As Christians, our power is greater than Satan's; we shall make coffee our own." --'s Catholic Trivia page

posted by TSO @ 10:24

St. Ignatius of Loyola Converstion Story after falling ill...

In order to divert the weary hours of convalescence, he asked for the romances of chivalry, his favourite reading, but there were none in the castle, and instead they brought him the lives of Christ and of the saints, and he read them in the same quasi-competitive spirit with which he read the achievements of knights and warriors. "Suppose I were to rival this saint in fasting, that one in endurance, that other in pilgrimages." He would then wander off into thoughts of chivalry, and service to fair ladies, especially to one of high rank, whose name is unknown. Then all of a sudden, he became conscious that the after-effect of these dreams was to make him dry and dissatisfied, while the ideas of falling into rank among the saints braced and strengthened him, and left him full of joy and peace. Next it dawned on him that the former ideas were of the world, the latter God-sent; finally, worldly thoughts began to lose their hold, while heavenly ones grew clearer and dearer. One night as he lay awake, pondering these new lights, "he saw clearly", so says his autobiography, "the image of Our Lady with the Holy Child Jesus", at whose sight for a notable time he felt a reassuring sweetness, which eventually left him with such a loathing of his past sins, and especially for those of the flesh, that every unclean imagination seemed blotted out from his soul, and never again was there the least consent to any carnal thought. His conversion was now complete.

posted by TSO @ 10:24

Search for St. Therese

Was reading "The Search for St. Therese" by Rohrbach, and he makes the interesting point that canonized sainthood is incompatible with a neurotic mind. Pope Pius XII wrote that "Christian sanctity in a soul is inconceivable if a man does not start out with a healthy mind, well balanced in its activities." Rohrbach writes that the crucial problem of spiritual directors and confessors is to determine whether an intensive religious program is valid and genuine or an unhealthy withdrawal from the real world. Very often it can only be seen in hindsight. He also quotes Fr. Vaughn as saying the "fundamental aspects of a neurotic personality - self-centeredness, anger and hostility in dealing with others, inability to have concern for values beyond himself" - are "incapable of heroic virtue." "It is difficult to see how a religious could attain all the aforesaid virtues to a heroic degree, and thus be worthy of canonization." St. Therese, of course, was shown to be not neurotic at all but a true saint, arguably the greatest of modern times. Today's gospel, Mark 2:1-12, suggests a great hope for those not blessed, that those who are stronger will pray for the weak. Similarly at every every Mass we ask God not to look on our sins, but on the faith of His Church. We are not alone.

The book also convinced me that I shouldn't write about personal spiritual matters, especially graces. When one of St. Therese's novices, Sister Marie, asked permission to write her memoirs that she might record the graces God had given her, Therese promptly refused. "It's better to keep the record of God's favors in your memory than put them on paper," Therese said.

* * *
From the Tablet's Christopher House:

Newman did not intend merely to be antagonistic to Protestantism, but as a man much interested in the workings of his own mind, he had found to his delight that Catholicism was the key that turned in the lock of the prison of the self. He then noticed how matter-of-factly his new co-religionists took supernatural truths of astounding importance. He observed the queue for Confession in a Catholic church and found that “they seem to have no shame, or solemnity, or reserve about the errand on which they are come”. In another part of the church “there is a feeble old woman who first genuflects before the Blessed Sacrament, and then steals her neighbour’s handkerchief, or prayer-book…She kneels because she believes, she steals because she does not love.”

Such awe-inspiring prospects of salvation or damnation, played out in the lives of ordinary peccant people who simply accept their reality, were to give the novels of Graham Greene, and to some extent those of Evelyn Waugh, the tension of “spiritual thrillers”.
* * *

William F. Buckley has recently made available online his interesting thoughts in reaction to an earthquake in Turkey some years ago (originally published in his book, "Nearer, My God"):
The God of the random earthquake, as one might here put it, should not expect reflexive love, except by those who tabulate the odds. I promise I am not about to say that everyone who on that Sunday morning was not victimized by an earthquake figured that, on the whole, God was doing all right. No, but I would say to myself: the Christian needs to begin his adjudications by acknowledging an infinity of gratitude for being alive and a candidate for perpetual life. Ivan Denisovich in the cold horror of the Arctic labor camp felt a rush of gratitude on that day when fate conspired to give him an extra ounce of bread. People I saw on a visit to Lourdes were happy, and, in their perspective, grateful. Christianity asks that we cultivate the love of God. Some do so, one supposes, primarily out of fear. Christians know that God is to be feared, for He is the dispenser of eternal punishment. It is a common psychological phenomenon that those whom we fear we can also love; even as Ivan the Terrible was loved, or, for that matter, Josef Stalin. In analogous circumstances, they call this the Stockholm Syndrome, love-thy-jailer.

Why does God desire - command - love? Because His benefactions are critical to day-by-day living and must be lovingly besought?

Is there, in such prayer, an element of sycophancy? (Sycophant: "A servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor by flattering influential people.") A committed Christian seeks to be servile to God. He seeks to win favor from God. God is an influential figure. Here is a fine example of a secular definition inapt when applied to God. Sycophancy, whether before headmasters or emperors, is deplored. But the word is meaningless, is it not, in thinking about God?

* * *

Does reality, illuminated, generate love? That is not unreasonable, to love the person who sacrificed so much. But as we move from deduction (why we worship) past the hindrances of reason to ecstasy (why we love), then an element of mystery enters (why does it happen to Alice and not to Beth?), as also of grace (why has Alice the buoyant pleasure of spiritual life, and Beth not?). In a television exchange with Malcolm Muggeridge we arrived at this point: What comes after deduction? He answered,

"The deductive process is the means, but faith is the motive force that takes you there. It's exactly like ? Bill, it's exactly like falling in love. You see another human being and for some extraordinary reason you're in a state of joy and ecstasy over that person, but the driving force that enables you to express that and to bring it into your life is love. Without love, it's nothing; it passes."

One knows what one should feel, why one should feel so, and how light is our effort alongside the exorbitance of Christ's example. Still, sometimes it is easier to do with eyes closed.

* * *
So: we come to rest with the mysteries. We have the wonderful tabulation of them done by St. Augustine. In agreeing that that is what they are, we are not violating the rule of Ronald Knox to prefer mystery to vagueness. We do not abandon reason, we merely recognize its limitations. We reason to the existence of God, it is revealed to us that His Son was the incarnation, and that such was His love of us that He endured a torture excruciating in pain, and unique in aspect ? the God of hosts, mutilated by His own creatures, whom He dies forgiving, loving. Can we do less? Yes, we do less, but must die trying to do more.
“God always loves us first and, with the blood of his Son, has already paid the price of our redemption. ” - Pope John Paul II

posted by TSO @ 10:19


...something happened on my way to righteous indignation. Bill of Summa Minutiae writes:

Here's the website for the Sisters of Mercy, which scores a 75 in the Jesus Christ Google category.

So I checked a web site I came across yesterday, one that had quoted approvingly Raphael Bidawid's "There are no words left to condemn this use of force against the weak..." concerning the enforcement of "no fly" zones over Iraq. This in a nation which displayed the pluperfect symbol of force (Hussein) versus the weak (Kurds). I played the Google game and was unsurprised by the sad 6.

To be fair I googled my own site. I can now only assume there is a Google search engine error, because I received a very paltry 4. I tried Disputations, btw, and he came in with 15. That seems low for him. Bad Google, bad!

Update: My searches on the Blogspot domains were incorrect. Scoring for my site appears to be 19 and Tom of Disputations at 133. Bill of Summa Minutiae was off the charts with 879.

posted by TSO @ 13:10

January 15, 2004

Hie Thee

To Steven Riddle's excellent post on the artist and responsibility, including a nice quote from Jacques Maritain.

posted by TSO @ 10:03

January 14, 2004

Excerpt from Chesterton's "Varied Things"

Thomas Carlyle has his faults, both as a man and as a writer, but the attempt to explain his gospel in terms of his "liver" is merely pitiful. If indigestion invariably resulted in a "Sartor Resartus," it would be vastly more tolerable thing than it is. Diseases do not turn into poems; even the decadent really writes with the healthy part of his organism. If Carlyle's private faults and literary virtues ran somewhat in the same line, he is only in the situation of every man; for every one of us it is surely difficult to say precisely where our honest opinions end and our personal predilections begin....Where [Carlyle] failed was not in belief in God or in belief in themselves; they failed belief in other people. It is not enough for a prophet to believe in his message; he must believe in its acceptability. Christ, St. Francis, Bunyan, Wesley, Gladstone, Whitman, men of indescribable variety, were all alike in a certain faculty of treating the average man as their equal, of trusting to his reason and good feeling without fear and without condescension. It was this simplicity of confidence, not only in God, but in the image of God, that was lacking in Carlyle.

posted by TSO @ 09:41

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Flannery O'Connor's "The Habit of Being" is possibly the most important book I've read (other than the Bible) in my LIFE! - commenter Kath on Amy's blog

It has been noted that ironically, the motto of the abortion movement has been the same as the words of Consecration - "This is My Body" - but what a difference between the way Jesus says it and NARAL says it! -Alicia of Fructus Ventris

I just saw a stat that said 43% of living American women today have had an abortion. - Therese Z. on Henry Dieterich's blog

According to Madonna, the greatest risks facing the United States today include not terrorism or the Axis of Evil but "a total lack of consciousness." Wake me when it's over. -Mark of Irish Elk

If we only understand mercy, say, as something useful -- to us, if to no one else -- then we don't understand God's mercy, and we can't really be merciful as God is merciful. Because mercy is of no use to God. It's just what He does. We benefit by being merciful, because we are imperfect and being merciful toward others brings us closer to perfection. God, though, is already perfect. He didn't gain anything by sending His only Son into the world. He can't gain anything; there's literally nothing for Him to gain, Who created all things. -Tom of Disputations

What happened to the Bad Catholic? Was Dr. Tom More the last one? (And if you need that explained see "Percy, Walker") It's not just the politicians - it's all of us, from bishops on down. - Amy Welborn

Like the rest of the developed world, America is not replacing its own population. If it were not for both legal and illegal immigration, we would have a negative population growth. Alan Greenspan described the consequences: “[T]he aging of the population in the United States will have significant effects on our fiscal situation. In particular, it makes our social security and Medicare programs unsustainable...”... We are lucky. Europe faces an even worse situation, and her immigrants are primarily Muslim, not Catholic. Fifty percent of Dutch children, for example, will be born to Holland’s Muslim immigrants by 2020....In short, don’t panic. They’re Hispanic. Thank God. -Steve of Fifth Column

It's not just's Christian paintball! One of the odd cultural differences between Catholics and Evangelicals is that Catholics seem not to have it in their DNA to want to Christianize things that, well, don't really need Christianizing. I'd be more or less happy to play secular paintball and then go to Mass afterward and say, "Thanks for the paintball game, Lord." - Mark Shea

Yes, different people play different parts in the Mystical Body of Christ, but no one is assigned a passive role. - Tom of Disputations, (although nipples appear to play a passive role in my body - sorry Tom, I couldn't resist.)

When people fall, they pass the animal kingdom on the way down. This is Walker Percy territory, specifically his premise in The Thanatos Syndrome that if scientists could isolate and then suppress that part of the brain, which "governs" the conscience, then society, could do away with the psychiatric profession, since so much angst is a direct consequence of guilt. I believe boomers have come awfully close to achieving such an end, the explosive proliferation of licit and illicit psychotropic drugs no doubt helping them along. When parents put their own feelings above all other considerations are they not attempting to leapfrog their consciences? I recall hearing from somebody who, having gotten married late in life to a woman half his age, decided to have children because he felt he had been a selfish person all his life. At first glance, his decision would seem to be altruistic, even admirable. But I’m not so sure. Hasn’t he, too, fallen into a trap, i.e. bringing a child into the world so he might feel better about himself? I wonder how the child of such a man might feel years later to realize he had been put into the world to provide therapy for his parent? - Robert Bove of Spinsters

The moral life is spiritual worship. - Catechism of the Catholic Church, via Spinsters blog

posted by TSO @ 09:29

Bwaa haaahaa! I have the king of all scrabble blog names. Sighted various places.

Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabble© Score is: 64.
What is your score? Get it here.

posted by TSO @ 09:28

Via Chris of Maine Catholic

Isn't the term "anti-ageing beer" redundant? It seems to have prevented a few grey hairs for me, at the risk of extending adolescence.

posted by TSO @ 15:28

January 13, 2004

CWR Article Deux

The essay "Active Participation in the Parish" in Catholic World Report by Rev. Jerry Pokorsky is excellent. He asks the interesting question: "When the West underwent the cultural revolution of the 1960s, in which all authority was destabilized, could we have expected the Mass to emerge unscathed - even without the reforms of the Second Vatican Council?"

While Protestants insisted that faith is the cause of the Church, Catholics too often responded in flawed juridical terms. The words of institution, for example, became a "mere exercise of power over the Eucharistic Body of Christ delegated to the priest by the Risen Christ through apostolic succession." Consequently, "a distorted set of ecclesiologies" emerged, "the one lacking history and sacrament, the other authoritarian and voluntaristic." [The latter a theory that regards the will as the fundamental principle of the individual or of the universe.]

The neglect of the Church's covenantal nature has taken its toll. Large segments of the hierarchy...resort to juridical secular solutions in almost every aspect of their public statements. (It is noteworthy that the institutional 'solutions' proposed by the US bishops for the sex-abuse crisis are almost devoid of anything religious.)

A collapse of this magnitude could not happen without a good deal of decay. The problem clearly predated the Second Vatican Council...Is it possible that many in religious communities were held in a perpetual state of adolescence by their superiors using needlessly authoritarian measures? How else can we explain the widespread adolescent behavior that was so demonstrable after the Second Vatican Council?

Fr. Keefe believes that only the covenant - with its "full communal and personal dimensions" - "permits Catholics to perceive the full sweep of the union between Christ and his Church without falling into the juridical trap."...Love, not power, is the foundation of the covenant....Legalism and the rejection of law are simply two sides of the same coin of clericalism.

posted by TSO @ 13:57

Fall and Free Will

I got Catholic World Report accidentally, by contributing to something else, but it has the occasional "home run" article that I can seemingly find nowhere else (with the possible exception of First Things). This one by a Rev. Pokorsky discussing the Eucharistic views of Fr. Donald Keefe, was exceptionally good:

Father Keefe reminds us that "Original sin and the Fall are inseparable from Christianity." As he puts it, "The doctrine of the Fall is a proclamation of human responsibility for evil, as the only alternative to a universal irresponsibility whose implications have been worked out to the last detail in all the fatalistic religions." The doctrine of Original Sin insists that evil entered the world because of man's abuse of freedom. Just as man cannot break the law of gravity, he cannot break the covenant.

In the Christian faith, the "ultimate good" is not a vacuous ideal. The "ultimate good" was born into the world, and remains in the world. Christ is our personal Lord and he is the Lord of history. He is Lord without suppressing human freedom. Even God's intervention into history was not done by force, but accepted by the Virgin in freedom. Mary's "Fiat" must not be reduced to a pious platitude; it is fundamental to God's revelation that man's freedom is integral to his nature and dignity.

posted by TSO @ 13:38

le difference

Passed an adult bookstore today. Squat, windowless, made of ugly building materials, it seemed the perfect anti-symbol of churches where beauty and spires and stained glass windows reign. Inside there is commerce, not faith, payment, not trust. The building seemed an example of form and function (unmarried and living together), a shack where purpose is exalted and beauty shunned and nothing but tired, squatting furtiveness closes within itself in ever accelerating need.

In churches there is the gift, not commerce, grace, not use, free will, not compulsion, and His Body, not a body impersonalized.

posted by TSO @ 13:02


More on Fr. Groeschel here and here.

Steve of Fifth Column on immigration: "Don’t panic. They’re Hispanic. Thank God."

He got Al Gore's. But will Howard Dean get his wife's endorsement?

Also, a sad but true song parody.

posted by TSO @ 09:53

Big Hulaboo Over What?

Former Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill made big news on Sixty Minutes by claiming that President Bush wanted to get Saddam Hussein from the very beginning of his administration. My question is "so what?" What would be unreasonable about thinking Saddam was a threat from day one of his administration? If Bush was just looking for an excuse to go in, I don't care. I do care a lot if the intelligence was faked or exaggerated; that's a crucial question because that is criminal. But short of that I think Hussein made his own bed by not complying with the agreement he made at the end of the Gulf War. When Bush started thinking about dealing with Iraq is irrelevant compared to the merits of the case he makes. More here.

posted by TSO @ 20:55

January 12, 2004

Vatican Conference on Clinical Depression
From Catholic World Report:

In November, as he announced plans for a Vatican conference on clinical depression, the president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care said it is "one of the main killer diseases of our time."

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that depression might be linked to "risk factors determined by lifestyle." Navarro-Valls - who was trained as a psychiatrist - said that it would be productive to examine whether some factors, such as isolation from family life, make individuals vulnerable to depression. Pope John Paul II sharpened the focus on moral and cultural factors when he told participants that "the spread of depression has become worrisome," and suggested that the disease "at least in part is induced by society."

In his talk, the Holy Father pointed to the steady bombardment of media messages that "exalt consumerism, the immediate gratification, of every desire, the constant search for greater material well-being." Those messages, he said, interfere with the development of "the spiritual life, which is the foundation of mature existence." To counteract the spread of depression, the Pope said, the Church must help people to rediscover their spiritual lives, and find "points of reference" to guide them in their relations with others.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins had opened the conference with a similar message, saying that depression is "the disease of our age - almost a symbol of modern times."...Dominique Meglee, a French pyschiatrist, said that the incidence of depression was connected to the development of a society "that replaces being with having."

posted by TSO @ 19:51

Via Amy, excellent article from Christianity Today on Flannery O'Connor's fight.

In an age of unbelief, O'Connor was convinced that her faith was a help, not a hindrance, to writing fiction. "It is popular to believe that in order to see clearly one must believe nothing. This may work well enough if you are observing cells under a microscope. It will not work if you are writing fiction. For the fiction writer, to believe nothing is to see nothing." Nietzsche was therefore the enemy or anti-Christ, not just because he disbelieved in God but because he sought to destroy belief in God.

Edmondson's interpretation of O'Connor's fiction as a deliberate confrontation with nihilism is confirmed by her published correspondence. Entitled The Habit of Being (1979), O'Connor's letters to friend and stranger alike contain many reflections on the spiritual poverty of modernity. For example, in 1955 she wrote, "If you live today you breathe in nihilism. In or out of the Church, it's the gas you breathe. If I hadn't had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now."

posted by TSO @ 17:51

Possible fiction for my Nigerian Scammer

Tis here.

posted by TSO @ 17:36

From Deal Hudson:

We spoke with Fr. Groeschel's assistant this morning who confirmed the news, saying that the situation didn't look good. "We need nothing short of a miracle," she said.

At this point, the most important thing we can do is pray. The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) is broadcasting a Holy Hour for him this morning, and Fr. Groeschel's assistant requested that we ask for prayers from St. Francis, the founder of the order, and St. Augustine, who has been Fr. Groeschel's favorite all his life.

Update: Apparently things aren't as bad as first feared. Updates here and here.

posted by TSO @ 17:34

Horrible News

Pray for Fr. Groeschel.

posted by TSO @ 10:30

Various & Sundry

Sweet the rain's new fall! Another email from my Nigerian scamming friends, relocated to SE Asia. Not to name drop, but it's not every day do you receive an email from the wife of a deposed President of the Philippines. I must answer this fiction with fiction but I've not any handy, although the NY Times is always a helpful source.

In other minutiae, the airline is imposing a 50lb weight limit on luggage now and the books I want to bring on the cruise weigh 129 lbs. Houston, we have a problem. I'm looking into writing a computer program to aid decision-making. I need equal representation from my three areas of interest: histories, novels and religious/devotional material. I need to come up with an equation awarding added value to books of smaller weight and smaller dimensions (I'm constrained by volume and not just weight).

I'd also like to pack a few cans of Guinness, but I don't know that they'd make it through undisturbed. My uncle came up with the idea of putting his alcohol in an empty bottle of Listerine. Says it didn't really work out - it still tasted that medicine-y.

So...a possible equation:

(Likelihood I'll read the book-- it is a cruise after all) + (Desire to read the book) + (Need of reading the book) / ((Book's displacement volume) * (Book's Weight))

'Likelihood of reading it' will skew things towards lighter reads and novels. 'Desire to read it' will skew towards desirous reads. 'Need of reading it' will skew towards things I should read. Books will be ranked by category and advance to the final suitcase such that a 1/3rd representation of each category is achieved.

posted by TSO @ 09:31

NY Times Reads

On Shakespeare:
"Was Shakespeare a Catholic? His father was born about 1530, when no other option was available; he was later fined for recusancy (failure to attend the reformed church) and seems to have owned a copy of a devotional work (a ''Spiritual Testament'') distributed in England by Jesuit missionaries in the 1580's. Might such a man, and his Catholic wife, not have had a Catholic son?"

And on teenage blogging.

And, another piece of propaganda about Pope Pius XII:
"Alarmed to the point of obsession by what he believed was the threat posed by the Soviet Union, Pius XII was intent on preserving the status quo of the Vatican State and preventing the spread of Communism, an evil he deemed even worse than Nazism."

And, duh, he proved to be right. And why wouldn't a spiritual leader be most concerned about a political system that had atheism as part of its plank anyway? Try Matt 10:28.

posted by TSO @ 09:10

Drawing Lines

I've long been interested in when, exactly, western culture not just started drifting downhill, but began to freefall. Many historians see a marked difference sometime between 1880 and 1917. The hubris of the makers of the Titanic - branding it unsinkable - was a foreshadowing since that generation thought scientific progress would make war obsolete on the very eve of war's greatest destructiveness.

Perhaps a line can be drawn at the first "genocide" when 1 million Armenians were killed in 1915. The story of their deaths had the modus operandi of Hitler's crimes. First they were put in boxcars and told they were just being moved, not killed in concentration camps as happened. But the roots of the 1915 killing went back even farther, perhaps the first awful fruits of nihilism. From the The American People's Encyclopedia:

"The first wholesale massacre of Armenian Christians may be said to have had its beginnings as early as 1885, when revolutionary propaganda on the Nihilist plan commenced to gain adherents among the Armenian population of Turkey."

On a trivial note, I do double-takes when I read my older sets of encyclopedias, written so obviously before these days of political correctness. This edition, from the late '40s, has something like eight pages devoted to the U.S. Army. Be interesting to compare to a more modern equivalent. Even more surprising was this, on the Armenian people:

"The Armenians are a white people rather above middle stature, of dark complexion, with black straight hair, rather large noses, and wide foreheads."

We're not supposed to notice such things, are we?

Regardless, the author Diana Der Hovanessian has written some moving poetry about the Armenian massacres, which get surprisingly little attention.

posted by TSO @ 17:08

January 10, 2004

Travel By the Numbers

Pre-packaged tours are the travel equivalent of paint-by-numbers. They can be pretty, but are an offense against creativity. A cruise is pre-packaged, more or less, and many of the days on islands are limited to a 2pm shove-off, which means you have to turn around as soon as you find something off the beaten path if you even have time to find an unbeaten path. Of course complaining about a cruise is madness; I do so here strictly for entertainment purposes, for you schadenfreude types.

Yesterday we had a pre-Cruise meeting, the main goal apparently being to numb us with coffee and cookies and smiles before applying the needle. The needle in this case was the flight information, which was part of the package but a part completely at the discretion of the travel agency, which is to say we were vulnerable. Our traveling party was split (some flying into Miami and some into Ft. Lauderdale). Worse, we'll need to be at the airport at 5:45am. "But the good news is that Max & Erma’s will be open and serving breakfast! Just head over there after you check your bags.” I could barely hide my disgust. This was “good” news? It would be good news if she told us that Max & Erma’s had beds and private rooms to grab some zzz’s instead of omelets.

I can never quite tell if the reason air travel appeals to me less and less as I get older is due to my being spoiled or for more reasonable explanations, like expanding girth and shortened attention span. What could be a two-hour trip to Florida ends up, from front door to airport exit, almost eight hours. Our agent also told us what she thought were the best places to go on the islands, which invariably are the same ones cruise-goers have been visiting since the first cruise ships - the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. You could trip over yourself looking for a native in the ports of call. And I wonder if Columbus know the shopping was bad on Nassau?

Christopher Columbus – the First Cruiser

1/12/1492 – tied up the ol’ craft outside Nassau, Bahamas, or so I shall call this place for diary purposes. The tour guide in Seville recommended we skip the first gift shop and go to the second one. I’m not sure how she knew where we docked, but I'm good at following instructions, living in a monarchy as I do.
1/12/1492, 1pm – Bought a lovely “My Uncle Discovered the New World and All I Got Was this Lousy T-Shirt” t-shirt for my niece. Also picked up duty-free rum. I don’t drink much, but if it’s duty-free, it’s for me.
1/13/1492 – Day 2 in the Bahamas and the flora and fauna includes pink-faced tourists in white shoes. The first mate rudely said, "a bunch of fat asses if you ass me". I had him flogged.
1/14/1492 – Moved on to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The ship manifest says that we’ll be on the move by 2pm, so there’ll not be much time here.
1/15/1492 – Wednesday and this is a “day at sea”. I say, haven’t we had enough of these? Most of the crew are downing Dramamines like they’re Viagras.
1/16/1492 - Found a "private beach" which we quickly made unprivate as the passengers moved en-masse from ship to shore.
1/17/1492 - another day at sea.
1/18/1492 - arrived back in what I'll call "Miami, Florida" or maybe "Cuba, North".
Anyway, am looking somewhat forward to the cruise although I do wish it were an NRO or Envoy cruise.

posted by TSO @ 10:27


Decorative jewelry hangs
sparkles in the glancing light
from each jowl a collecting globe
--like drooping exclamation points
and I own mixed emotions
I would they fall,
these suspenseful stalactites,
but not on my bed.

Like my dog, only different

Written after seeing ball'd strands of saliva hanging off our dog's mouth. "Nimb" is a letter short of "Nimby", or "not in my backyard" (in this case "not in my bed").

posted by TSO @ 00:38

Reconciling the Irreconcilable
I don't agree with everything he says here, but the last few paragraphs caught my eye:

Metaphor betrays the breaking-point in the human intellect's ability to reason its way out of a jam. Tension, clash, and conflict bristle at the heart of metaphor. Our ordinary power to figure things out is subverted, and we are left with the explosive possibility that things may not be what they appear to be.

Jesus used metaphors in those disturbing stories of his called parables. The kingdom of heaven is "a pearl of great price" (Matt. 13:45-46) and a merchant sells all he has to buy it. It sounds innocent enough, but consider: if the merchant divested himself of all his capital to buy the pearl, what will he do for ready cash so he can secure food, clothing, and lodging? He could put up the pearl as collateral -- but this will jeopardize the gem should his creditors decide to foreclose. He could sell the jewel -- but then he is back where he started, with plenty of money but no pearl. In Jesus' "simple parable the merchant is unwittingly trapped by his own good intentions. He wants the right thing (the pearl, remember, is the Kingdom), but his businesslike strategy -- rational enough on the surface of things -- ultimately frustrates his desire. In this story, furthermore, God's kingdom sounds more like a hot potato than a pearl.

Worship works like a metaphor: it brings irreconcilable realities together and challenges us to believe that its vision is true. Consider again: in the liturgy we claim to act as Christ's body broken for the world in selfless love. Our factual experience whispers that this is a lie: we are often petty, selfish, self-absorbed, and cruel. Like the merchant who bought the pearl, we are trapped by good intentions: we want to have and be what we know we can never possess -- the body of the Lord offered for the world's salvation.

It is precisely by creating conflict, however, that metaphor is able to reconcile us to the irreconcilable. Because it seems to be "wrong," metaphor brings us, paradoxically, to the deeper truth about things. As metaphor, worship permits us to perceive that we are not either sinners or the body of Christ, but that we are both, simultaneously. Sinful aliens estranged from God and one another, we Christian worshipers are also -- and just as truly -- a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people set apart. Only through the metaphoric power of liturgy can these two irreconcilable realities be brought together into a coherent whole. That is why worship is always an "epiphany" of the church at its worst and at its best. And that is also why the liturgy moves back and forth between protestations of sin and unworthiness ("We confess . . . We are sinners") and bold, confident assertions of intimacy with God ("We thank you for counting us worthy to stand in your presence and serve you . . . ."). Truth lies in metaphor's power to unite what appears to be hopelessly divided: sin and grace, alienation and intimacy, estrangement and familiarity.

posted by TSO @ 15:44

January 9, 2004

What does a college student and a forty year old have in common? BOO-BERRY! It was nostalgic for both of us. His girlfriend bought him ten boxes, to eliminate scarcity issues. (It's not available at the local mart.)

posted by TSO @ 13:56

From the Corner
Linked today from NRO - movie reviews of Lost in Translation and About Schmidt.

posted by TSO @ 12:13

Prodigal Daughter

On a brighter note, my jaw is still dropping from the magnificent news of my co-worker. A lapsed Catholic who gave every appearance of being stridently secular, she's expressed interest in coming back to the church.

She said that she hasn't been happy for the longest time and that it suddenly occurred to her that she would've been happier had listened to what the nuns had always said, if she had followed the Commandments. She said she bought two books at a Catholic bookstore. This one and Hahn's "Rome Sweet Home". God is good.

posted by TSO @ 09:28

Today's Thought, While Passing a Bus Stop

When all the children look the same way, you know the bus is coming.

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Culture Wars

Good Touchstone post on being salt and light and how to approach the culture wars: "A culture cannot be converted. Only individuals can be converted. God knows how to reach each individual; every conversion is an inside job." Plus, interestingly, "Were the angles and insights that are fruits of the Protestant Reformation essential raisins in the pudding of the Church (sorry, it's still Christmas at our house . . .)? Here Calvinist underpinnings may help moderate an unbecoming and un-winsome Triumphalist approach, unlikely to play well in a modern American public forum..."

Btw, local blogger-about-town William Luse, who criticized me for heretical drinking practices (i.e. Busch & Becks) gets a mention here.

posted by TSO @ 13:15

January 8, 2004

Last Sunday's Reading

If the bible is a collection of love-letters from God, think of the esctasy of having something written expressly for you! So must Jesus and Mary have felt when they read the Scriptures that were for them, even as they were still sorting out their role (I doubt that Jesus knew he was God at the age of 7, for example.) And how necessary it was, given what was to come, given the swords that would pierce their hearts. The first reading last Sunday was beautiful:

The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

Lift up your eyes all around, and see:
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your sons shall come from afar,
And your daughters shall be nursed at your side.
Then you shall see and become radiant,
And your heart shall swell with joy;
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you.
Would this verse not be the perfect antidote to the devil's tempting of Jesus in the desert? When Jesus was promised all the kingdoms of the world by the devil, He surely knew this passage and knew that He already pre-owned all the kingdoms of this world.

posted by TSO @ 12:52

NY Times Calls Beauty Overrated


An essential component of beauty is being undermined and will soon be practically eliminated, and that is scarcity. Botox is to cosmetics what cut-and-paste software is to music production. Whatever was precious five minutes ago becomes overbearingly omnipresent five minutes from now. The quest for beauty coupled with technological proficiency undermines the relative value of each beautiful invention. Find beauty in nature, but when it comes to culture, it's time to forget beauty. It will soon be nothing more than another word for nostalgia.
-Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist, composer and virtual reality pioneer

posted by TSO @ 09:37

More from Chesterton's "Varied Types"
... refuting one of Tolstoy's "5 Rules of Christianity":

Here is a statement clearly and philosophically laid down which we can only content ourselves with flatly denying: 'The fifth rule of our Lord is that we should take special pains to cultivate the same kind of regard for people of foreign countries, and for those generally who do not belong to us, or even have antipathy to us, which we already entertain towards our own people, and those who are in sympathy with us.'

I should very much like to know where in the whole of the New Testament the author finds this violent, unnatural, and immoral proposition. Christ did not have the same kind of regard for one person as for another. We are specifically told that there were certain persons whom He especially loved. It is most improbable that He thought of other nations as He thought of His own. The sight of His national city moved Him to tears, and the highest compliment he paid was, 'Behold an Israelite indeed.' The author has simply confused two entirely different things. Christ commanded us to have love for all men, but even if we had equal love for all men, to speak of having the same love for all men is merely bewildering nonsense. If we love a man at all, the impression he produces on us must be vitally different to the impression produced by another man whom we love. To speak of having the same kind of regard for both is about as sensible as asking a man whether he prefers chrysanthemums or billiards. Christ did not love humanity; He never said He loved humanity; He loved men. Neither He nor anyone else can love humanity; it is like loving a gigantic centipede. And the reason Tolstoians can even endure to think of an equally distributed affection is that their love of humanity is a logical love, a love into which they are coerced by their own theories, a love which would be an insult to a tom-cat.

posted by TSO @ 09:22

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

'Is it okay if I just eat the fetal cows?' - the ever-witty Lee Ann of Literarium, poking at Dennis Kucinich, who was once pro-life but has since become both pro-choice and a vegan.

Alcohol research summary from the vacation to Orlando - heading of a sub-post on Old Oligarch's blog

O.O. and Zorak [argued] over who gets to inscribe Galatians 1:6-9 on the front cover of the Book of Mormon which was distributed in our hotel room. It's a priceless quote and fun vacation-time apostolate. Highly recommended. -Old Oligarch

Beauty is something you rest in, a satsified desire. Attractiveness is something you respond to, a cause of desire. Beauty is a quality that makes a thing pleasing; attractiveness a quality that makes a thing desireable. -Tom of Disputations

Lower the kneeler on the pew carefully. It’s not meant to be a thunder simulator. - Fr. Jim of Dappled Things, concerning church etiquette

Irwin is a currish boil-brained coxcanker who needs to get the dung kicked outta him. - Smock Momma of Summa Mamas, putting the smock down on Steve Irwin, who dangled his baby in front of a crocodile.

The article has a point about the devaluation of childbearing. I think that this ultimately stems from industrial society, however, and the fact that children have gone from being economic assets to liabilities. In fact, I suspect the 'masculinizaton' of women comes more from capitalism's value on competitiveness and pleasure than it does from any particular philosophical movement. Those movements, obviously, don't come from nowhere. --Camassia, on Chris of Veritas site

You cannot remove from a person's mind with reason that which reason never put there in the first place. - Rev. Mike on Amy's blog

When I was first very very sick I couldn't believe that God loved me. I felt abandoned by him. But my Faith told me otherwise, so I kept plugging along and praying through a dark night of the soul. As I've gone through it and as I united myself to Jesus on the Cross, I didn't really KNOW why I suffered because it didn't matter anymore. I just realized it was an invitation by Jesus to draw me close to him and that means also enduring suffering as He did. A person who doesn't know this can't handle the evil. - reader Jeanne Schmelzer

The Eucharist like all sacraments is a sacred oath. With the reception of Eucharist and discerning the Body and Blood Christ we are taking a sacred oath that we hold true what the Church teaches. To encourage those that only see it as a symbol or who might believe in the real presence but not the fullness of the Church is to invite people to swear a false oath. This is quite the opposite of charity. -Jeff Miller of Curt Jester

I remember a long time ago reading an SI story about Minnesota football, where the writer said "Big 10" means "two huge men with names ending in 'ski shoving each other." Every year we send our best teams out to the bowls to look groggy and flat-footed while fleeter, swifter athletes from the south and west run rings around them. - Big Ten angst from Secret Agent Man

I want absolute freedom, which means the freedom to make the blog anything I want, even nothing, if that becomes necessary. - Amy

Have a…er…good feast of the circumcision…(how do you say that nicely?) - Erica of "A Catechumen's Walk"

Smell travels faster than sound, especially if it's coming from a baby's diaper. - Kathryn of Lively Writer

The smallest act of obedience, a curbing of the temper...such a one evinces more true faith than could be shown by the most fluent religious conversation, the most intimate knowledge of Scripture doctrine, or the most remarkable agitation and change of religious sentiments. -Cardinal John Henry Newman

"Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators." -G.K. Chesterton via Mark Shea

posted by TSO @ 16:03

January 7, 2004

Tote that Barge, Part Deux

Steven Riddle posts his reading list today. Funny, I also have Billy Graham's "Just as I Am" and have read some of it. Graham was recently criticized by the local Baptist minister: "He's too Catholic friendly....his kids got it right." Sounds like a song.

Let's see what today's barge brings (includes only fish not listed yesterday):

Varied Types - GK Chesterton
Quiet Moments with Padre Pio - Padre Pio
Love Me - Garrison Keillor
Very exciting last night to go to the libe and pick up the Chesterton book, with its calm, understated binding and antiquated typeface. Published in nineteen oh three, it was wonderful to read his thoughts about near contemporaries like Charlotte Brontë, Tennyson, Queen Victoria. I read the Brontë essay last night:

The great and abiding truth for which the Brontë cycle of fiction stands is a certain most important truth about the enduring spirit of youth, the truth of the near kinship between terror and joy. The Brontë heroine, dingily dressed, badly educated, hampered by a humiliating inexperience, a kind of ugly innocence, is yet, by the very fact of her solitude and her gaucherie, full of the greatest delight that is possible to a human being, the delight of expectation...It is not the man of pleasure who has pleasure; it is not the man of the world who appreciates the world. It is the awkward man, whose evening dress does not fit him, whose gloves will not go on, whose compliments will not come off, who is really full of the ancient ecstasies of youth. He is frightened enough of society actually to enjoy his triumphs. He has that element of fear which is one of the eternal ingredients of joy.

posted by TSO @ 09:38

This is so not completely true

Overheard Dr. Laura on Fox last night say that she received a letter from a man that got it exactly right:

"Men are interested in two things. If I'm not horny, make me a sandwich."
I much prefer JPII's more elegant way of saying that men are, by nature, more sensually motivated creatures.

posted by TSO @ 09:37

Flannery O'Connor Anecdote
....The story behind her 'to hell with it' quote...from Paul Greenberg:

When does a symbol become a Symbol, a Presence? Flannery O'Connor came closest to answering that question in one of her splendid letters:

"I was once, five or six years ago, taken by some friends to have dinner with Mary McCarthy and her husband, Mr. Broadwater. (She just wrote that book, "A Charmed Life.") She departed the Church at the age of 15 and is a Big Intellectual. We went at eight and at one, I hadn't opened my mouth once, there being nothing for me in such company to say. . . . Having me there was like having a dog present who had been trained to say a few words but overcome with inadequacy had forgotten them.

"Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. Mrs. Broadwater said when she was a child and received the host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the most portable person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.

"That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable."

posted by TSO @ 16:17

January 6, 2004

There's Something About Dean

I'd hardly ever heard of Howard Dean until he confronted me, daily, in the company parking garage. This was way back in early 2003, when a big burly SUV (aka 'a Halliburton Special') wore the bumper sticker "Dean in 2004!". Every morning he'd greet me, to quote Edelweiss. At that time I only knew of Dean's radicalism concerning gay marriage, so I wondered if the owner of this vehicle was gay (though this was cognitively dissonanced by the accompanying U.S. Marine sticker). What was it about Dean that should create this early, rabid fan? I've since seen two other Dean stickers, all on SUVs. (Nader stickers seem to adorn more humble vehicles.) Who can say what causes the chemistry between voter and politician? What is the genesis of Ono's inexplicable ardor for John Kerry, for example?

I wonder at the efficacy of bumper stickers. For awhile I advertised for CCLI even though my wife said we were giving out "too much information". I mostly don't like them on my car, though I like them on others since reading while driving is usually a forbidden pleasure. Not too long ago I saw a car with a sticker saying "John 6:53". Nice.

It seems as though 99% of bumper stickers either preach to the choir or, worse, further turn off those you'd like to woo. But it's fun to imagine what impact they have, much as you throw these blogs out to the wind wondering what impact they have.

posted by TSO @ 15:45

von Thomist

Tom the Misplaced Protestant offers an interesting post concerning predestination.

As much as I would like to claim mental toughness and as much as I'm allergic to pansy universalist sentiments, I find myself not all that tough (but hopefully not all that soft). Call me a 'von Balthasar-Thomist'. Bishop Sheen said that the Church was divided among those who lean towards St. Augustine and those who lean towards St. Thomas and said he was perfectly happy with either, which is to say there is leeway within the Church. St. Thomas and his devotees strike me as the U.S. Marines of the Catholic world. Good to have on your side in battle and worthy of admiration and respect but not universally accessible. John Calvin, no matter what you think of his theology, must've been a tough sonuvabitch. I once joked that no one is a double predestinationist who doesn't believe they are not part of the elect, but it still takes a measure of mental toughness to go about your daily business thinking your neighbor isn't.

I wonder if there isn't there a reaction against what you grew up with. So many of us who grew up in the '70s were inundated with the relative, with the lame, with James Taylor songs at Mass. We longed for the seasoning of Thomistic truth and less sentiment. On the other hand, those who grew up in the '50s were the very ones who inflicted relativity, lameness and JT songs at Mass on us, reacting against their schooling of sterner stuff.

St. Symeon the New Theologian:

‘So tell me, where did you learn that you did not belong to those who are foreknown and predestined to become conformed to the image of God’s glory? Tell me, who told you this? Was it, maybe, God Who announced this to you, Himself, or by one of His prophets, or through an angel? “No,” you say,
“but I do not suppose I am predestined to salvation, and that all my effort would be in vain." And why do you not believe instead with all your soul that God had sent His only-begotten Son on the earth for your sake alone, and for your salvation, that He knew you beforehand and predestined you to become his brother and co-heir? Why are you not eager to love Him with all your heart and to honor His saving commandments? Why do you not rather believe that, having been slaughtered for your sake, he will never abandon you, nor allow you to perish? Do you not hear Him saying: “Can a woman forget her suckling child . . . yet I will not forget you” [Is. 49.15]? So, if by anticipation you judge yourself unworthy, and willfully separate yourself from the flock of Christ’s sheep, you should understand that it is none other than you who are the cause of your own damnation’ [The Second Ethical Discourse].

posted by TSO @ 15:38

Michael Novak Explains his Cardinal Martino article

The editor of National Review Online called me and said "You must do something. Please be quick." I agreed with her, and got the piece to her in two hours, so that it could go "up" [online] early Dec 17. Nearly fifty emails came to me in reply, from as far away as Australia and India, and most were extremely relieved to know the words reported did not represent the views of "the Vatican" or the Pope.

By the way, I myself felt some sympathy for Saddam, but noted the surgical gloves of the doctor, his gentle manner, and the need to check immediately on Saddam's health--and on whether Saddam had a capsule of poison behind his teeth. Saddam's sudden death in captivity would have been awful. Within a few hours, Saddam was given a shower, shave, and haircut, as the world soon saw. But without those immediate pictures of him, being cared for in his unkempt condition, who in the Arab world would have believed the story of his precarious condition living part of the time underground? Who would have believed his docility and submissiveness after capture? How would the awful fear of this man's return to power, which has pressed down on the Iraqi psyche since last March, have been lifted?

The TV images had to be shown. The myth of Saddam's unchecked power had to be shattered in a few seconds of videotape. Tape taken a few hours later--when he had showered, shaved, and been properly barbered--would have failed in this crucial task.

The war against terrorism is real enough, and costly in treasure and blood, but a great part of it is a war of symbols. The planes crashing into the Twin Towers were one symbol; the bombing of the brave Italian peacekeepers in Iraq was another, in a long series; and the capture of Saddam (and soon, we hope, Osama bin Laden) are important symbols to add on the other side of the scales of justice, so that this war comes soon to a peaceful conclusion.

posted by TSO @ 12:55

From an unidentified reader to David Mills: (regarding the post below)

I'm sure almost everyone has heard about the little girl assigned in Sunday School (no doubt ECUSA) to write a story about a poor family. It began,

Once upon a time there was a family that was very poor. The mama was poor, the papa was poor, the little girl was poor, the little boy was poor, the maid was poor, the cook was poor, the chauffeur was poor, the gardener was poor. They were all very poor.

More than a joke, it makes me think about one thing that I have heard marks the very poor in the US, particularly the urban poor — isolation (& distrust) even where crowded, often broken families, the absence of effective voluntary intermediate institutions often including the church, the absence of work-mates, little social interchange that encourages and informs, etc.

I know in my own life, not just emotional sustenance, but economic and social benefit flows from the colleagues, allies, friends, and even vendors with whom I am blessed. Not on any collusive basis, just because all of us are smarter and better-connected than any one of us.

It's not economics solely or even mostly, it's an enormous web (JPII's Circle of Exchange). And attention to this web, to maintaining and broadening it, is a big part of what the culture wars are about, as conservative support for every component of the Divine gift of Abundant Life.

posted by TSO @ 17:22

January 5, 2004

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Mrs. Dean [mother of Howard Dean] sees her son's unpretentiousness as something he learned at home, pointing out that her own parents taught her to treat people in an egalitarian way.

"When I was growing up," she said, "we didn't even treat the servants like servants."
--via David Mills

posted by TSO @ 17:22

Lift that Barge, Tote that Bale

My bookbag runneth over. Carrying around 20-30 books everywhere is causing my shoulder is to ache; I'm beginning to list to one side like the Titanic. Must. start. alternating. shoulders.

My reading list has been exploding of late, partially due to Barnes & Noble gift certificates given for Christmas. I picked up John Henry Newman's "Sermons" in order to masochistically cement feelings of inadequacy (he reminds me how far I've got to go) and "The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor". Not that I wouldn't mind being reading these:

Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard by Isak Dinesen
St. Peter's Basilica: A Virtual Tour by Our Sunday Visitor Staff
Unmasking the Devil: Dramas of Sin and Grace in the World of Flannery O'Connor by Regis Martin
Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
Spirits of America: A Social History of Alcohol by Eric Burns
So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson
I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux by Jean C. J. d'Elbée
The Spirit of the Liturgy by Cardinal Ratzinger I'd like to read Jon Hassler, thanks to Terri of Summa Momma's fame. I see him for only a $1.15. I love cherry-picking cheap used books although the shipping charges are sometimes treble the price of the book. I recently got Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday" for ridiculously cheap. The perfect antidote for deep material is "Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News" by Tucker Carlson. Was I ever enjoying that on Saturday. Just hi-larious, a gossipy fun read. He and Bill Press basically had a PeeWee's Playhouse going on on their "Spin Room" show on CNN - just plain goofy.

Today's barge includes:

Keillor's "Good Poems", an anthology
Turmoil & Truth - Trower (yes, I should've already finished this)
Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux
Sixpence House - Paul Collins
The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor (for my money, an incredible buy. 550 pages of her stories for $16, before discount)
What Faith Really Means - Henry Graham
The Human Stain - Philip Roth
Love, Peace and Joy - Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus According to St. Gerturde - Rev. Prevot

posted by TSO @ 13:30

And the Chutzpah Award Goes To...

I tried to watch the Democratic debate but when I saw that the humorist Al Sharpton wasn't included I turned the channel. I never could think odious thoughts about Sharpton since a comedic sense covers a multitude of sins. I still can't decide who the Unadulterated Chutzpah award should go to:

1) Dennis Kucinich - while mayor of Cleveland, the city went bankrupt. I suppose he should offer the mutual fund disclaimer, "past performance doesn't guarantee future results."

2) Carol Mosley Braun out-grafted and out-corrupted her fellow Senators, no mean feat. If they could sell confidence like this everyone would be running for Prez.

3) Al Sharpton - no commentary really needed, but was once shown a video of himself apparently making a drug buy (cocaine). Unflustered, he asked where the rest of the tape was and suggested that the tape should be shown in its entirety, as if that would exonerate him. Owns a Ph.D. in alchemizing disaster into publicity.

posted by TSO @ 13:29

Name That Blog!

Deux Sleep-Deprived Maternals
Lodging at the Terminus of the Sphere
Animated Author
Angled Structure
David's X Chromosome Provider
Universal and Relishing it
Highest Mothers
Freestylin' the Tigress
Eire Moose

posted by TSO @ 10:39

Of Spam There is No End

Ellyn vonHuben asks about the "disposessed Nigerian aristocracy". My Nigerian scam spam has been reduced to nothing. Since they actually have to read replies, I try to do my part by sending something in Greek (via a cut & paste) or a fictional story. But I must be on the Nigerian Scammer's Sh-t List, because I haven't received any in ages.

I did receive an email today from a Richard Stevenson, with the title "aristotelian". Likely spam but I opened it anyway, wondering if I could guess the spam inside. I didn't although his name should've been a clue. It concerned enlargement products.

posted by TSO @ 10:11


Lord of the Rings should get the Oscar for Best Documentary given its accurate portrayal of our spiritual geography. The film was a sequence of non-stop physical battles, which pretty much mirrors the interior life of Christians: non-stop tiring battles to follow Christ rather than self. (Btw, according to our old Dominican priest, the ring might symbolize comfort which he said Americans crave/worship.)

It seems to me that the most difficult tension in the spiritual life is realizing our weakness without falling into the sin of despair, or, contrarily, missing our weakness and falling into the sin of presumption. And what to do with weakness? Merely realizing it exists is not enough, Newman wrote, saying that self-denial is the test of religious earnestness and quoting St. James in saying that faith without works is dead.

Transformation is hard. NRO's Derbyshire mentions an English novelist who described one of her characters' attempt at self-transformation as 'walking south on a north-bound ship'. Socrates asked the disturbing question,

"When they huddle together in groups - in the theater, in court, in the camps - and express their displeasure or approval with tremendous noise, with clapping and shouting, and everything resounds with disapproval and applause - how do you think the young person will feel then? What an extraordinary education he will have had to receive in order to put up resistance and not be carried along with the current whatever it happens to be going. Ought we not to say: If he really liberates himself and thrives in healthy growth - that is owing to divine providence and is pure gift?"
Yet we are moral free agents as the Faith tells us. Newman wrote in one of his sermons:
Consider our present condition, as shown us in Scripture. Christ has not changed this, though He has died; it is as it was from the beginning, - I mean our actual state as men. We have Adam's nature in the same sense as if redemption had not come to the world. It has come to the world, but the world is not changed thereby as a whole, - that change is not a work done and over in Christ. We are changed one by one; the race of man is what ie ever was, guilty;- what it was before Christ came; with the same evil passions , the same slavish will. When this is borne in mind, how important the Jewish law becomes to us Christians! important in itself, over and above all references contained in it to that Gospel which it introduced. To this day it fulfils its orginal purpose of impressing upon man his great guilt and feebleness. Those legal sacrifices and purifications which are now all done away, are still evidence to us of a fact which the Gospel has not annulled, - our corruption. Let no one lightly pass over the Book of Leviticus, and say it only contains the ceremonial of a national law...
Newman writes that of even the smallest act of obedience, a curbing of the temper, an exhibition of patience - "such a one evinces more true faith than could be shown by the most fluent religious conversation, the most intimate knowledge of Scripture doctrine, or the most remarkable agitation and change of religious sentiments."

posted by TSO @ 11:22

January 4, 2004

Four Green Fields (about the four provinces of Ireland, the fourth green field is Northern Ireland)
song written by Tommy Makem

"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 strangers' hands that tried to take it from me.
But my sons have sons as brave as were their fathers.
My fourth green field shall bloom once again," said she.

posted by TSO @ 00:35

Everything That Rushes Must Converge

Full brunt, this rain,
soaking skin and kin
giving reign to soppy land
and wise-acre trees whose trunks
in their permanence
mock the trivialities we embrace--
sweat they, not with perspiration
but long-sluiced rains come early.

Creeks rush, find the low country
grass-smelt, bless-earthy
swabbed by a thousand ‘posting oak leaves;
from the peaks the tributaries seen
the tributaries swear
and take the path of least resistance
but everything that rushes
must converge.

posted by TSO @ 23:36

January 3, 2004

Oy Vey

Amy links to this Times article. NYT articles on religious issues usually manage to annoy me but I suppose annoyances are the irritations that produce pearls. In other words, no pain no gain. It was actually rather humorous to see the author so conflicted over Mr. Minns, as if only ill-educated rednecks could be against the Bishop Robinson nomination.

It induces a gag-reflex to see either side talk about being on the side of 'the future', rather than what is morally correct. I suppose St. Thomas More should've seen that his martyrdom was useless and got with the program.

For an Episcopalian bishop to be influenced by how future generations will view homosexual sex strikes a discordant note. Leaders ought to lead, and not base decisions on which way the wind is blowing.

posted by TSO @ 19:04

Putting the Middle in Middle Class

Check your snob quotient, via Two Sleepy Mommies.

My result was 46% snob, 'snob limbo'.

(Btw, who ISN'T embarrassed buying the Nat'l Enquirer?)

posted by TSO @ 18:34

Good triumphs over evil in the fourth installment of LOTR last nite.

posted by TSO @ 13:20

Nice write-up from Christopher of Ratzinger fan club and Maine Catholic on the problem of physical evil.

posted by TSO @ 18:50

January 2, 2004

Of Human Bloggage

Nancy Nall has an inspiring piece on why she likes blogs. I say inspiring because it makes me want to leap to this blogger edit page and write - write like the wind - after seeing something as well-done as this:

"The greatest seasoning of 2003 was, once again, garlic. Runner-up goes to cilantro. Cilantro's like the Larry Bird of seasoning - it's not just that it tastes great in its own right, but it makes the food around it give 110% as well."

Makes me hungry, not just for food but to turn a phrase, to get out on the ol' dance floor my own self. Not having anything to say really oughtn't be an impediment, ought it? Here goes nothin'.

As a red-blooded American male, it was my duty to watch bowl games yesterday. Saw Purdue fall into perdition, an inspired comeback thwarted. Since they play in the Big Ten it was my sworn obligation to root for them. Similarly Michigan, who fell like dud fireworks, Chris Perry finding yards tougher to come by than coins from Bone's pockets. Tonight comes the "real" game, OSU in the Fiesta Bowl.

Someone who promises to blog more in '04 is Lee Ann . "Expect trades, cuts, and some risky draft picks" she says regarding her library re-organization. I've had to make ruthless decisions in my own library, banning some books to the basement Siberia where the worst of the worse are actually in contact with the floor, which means they are vulnerable to once-a-year flooding. On death row, I'd throw them out but it would be too cruel. Give the books a fighting chance I say. Sort of a medieval trial-by-water.

Stephen Ray, author of a commentary on St. John's Gospel, said on an EWTN TV show that he owns fifteen thousand books. I'm not sure it's copacetic to throw around how many books you own. Is this literate equiv of lockerroom talk? It's not the number of books, it's what you do with them. But perhaps I have a case of book envy.

Still amused by Jeff Culbreath's line, "Sometimes it's hard to be a Californian". Visions of song parodies dance in my head. Was it Maureen Dezell who said the Irish are prone to schadenfreude?

Ham of Bone continues his vexating unemployment spree. He got sprung on May 31st and has lived happily ever after on unemployment and severance pay, although truth be told he's barely touched the latter. I say 'vexating' not because it is vexing for him, but for me. But he's gotten a great opportunity to be very close to his four young 'uns, all under the age of 7. During a recent phone call one of them vomited, which induced a hasty end to the call, but it was good that he was there for it.

Get emails once in a while from my spiritual and intellectual betters, which has a momentary chilling effect on the blogging - a quik-freeze into utilitarianism (i.e. think I should be using this blog for more noble purposes instead of self-indulgencia). It's interesting to see where that line gets drawn. When I had six readers a day, I felt little obligation. Now that I'm getting more (though not in the same stratosphere with the Mighty Barrister or a Mark Shea) I feel a tinge. Apparently I'm not alone. Michael Dubruiel's blog use to be top-heavy with football posts and the like. It's fascinating to consider where the line between frivolity and seriousness should be drawn, not just in blogs but in life.

Re-watched Gone With the Wind over the holiday and I kept trying to decide at what point giving someone the benefit of the doubt morphs into wilfully casting a blind eye. (I'm talking about Melanie's attitude towards Scarlett.)

posted by TSO @ 10:21

Of Books - and Reform - there is no end!

Fr. Groeschel, in the tape I was listening to a couple weeks back, said that there were piercing Catholic voices in the years prior to the Protestant Reformation that went unheeded. He suggested that we are in a similar time now and recommended John Olin's The Catholic Reformation: Savonarola to Ignatius. Reading about Savonarola was fascinating, and so I went to Carrol's Glory of Christendom and read more. Still unslaked, I reserved from the library Chesterton's Twelve Types, available here, in which he devotes a chapter to Savonarola.

posted by TSO @ 16:22

January 1, 2004

Biggest News Story of 2003

The local Baptist pastor's radio show polled listeners on what they thought the biggest news stories in '03 were. Tops were the 'Bama 10 Commandments controversy, the Anglican gay bishop and the Iraq War.

My two cents is that the gay bishop isn't the biggest. Bad theologies don't last; the mainline denominations lose people as they promote the unorthodox. Luther believed strongly in double predestination but you'd be pressed to find a single Lutheran who believes that now.

Besides, I think the bond between the bible and doctrine was snapped not by the gay Anglican bishop but by the separation of the bible from the Magisterium, most recently shown by the Jesus Seminar types who have hurt the faith of many by promoting the same 'ala carte' approach to the bible that cafeteria Catholics use with the Church. Some things may be true in the bible, some not, the miracle stories considered the latter. Nothing is more damaging than the those attempting to de-divinize Jesus with a discounting of the miraculous in the NT.

I think the biggest story is the war in Iraq, which potentially could have lead to a "clash of civilizations" between Muslim and Christianity. If only a tenth of 1% of all Muslims became suicide bombers, what a nightmare, since there are what, 1 billion Muslims? The Pope seems to have an almost apocalyptic sense concerning this. He may be wrong, but it's quite a story.

posted by TSO @ 14:49

Land, Scah-let, Land!

You are Tara. You are well-grounded, like the North Georgian plantation.
The deep red clay of Tara flows in your blood.
You drink Jamieson whiskey and re-enact Civil War battles.

Which Character from 'Gone With The Wind' are you?
brought to you by Quizilla and summa mamas and via myself, since I made it up.

Mr. O'HARA: Do you mean to toll me Katie Scarlett O'Hara that Tara, that land doesn't mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth working for. Worth fighting for, worth dying for. Because it's the only thing that lasts.

SCARLETT: Oh, Paw, you talk like an Irishman.

Mr. O'HARA: It's proud I am that I'm Irish. And don't you be forgetting, Missy, that you're half-Irish too. And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them, why the land they live on is like their mother. Oh, but there, there, now, you're just a child. It'll come to you, this love of the land. There's no getting away from it if you're Irish.

posted by TSO @ 14:47

The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, our Lady's greatest title. This feast is the octave of Christmas. In the modern Roman Calendar only Christmas and Easter enjoy the privilege of an octave. Before the Calendar was reformed this was the Feast of the Circumcision of Our Lord.

Like the Churches of the East, Rome wished to honor the Virgin Mother of God during the days after Christmas. As a result the ("Anniversary of St. Mary") made its appearance on January 1 in the seventh century; it has accurately been called "the first Marian feast of the Roman liturgy." — The Church at Prayer

The old liturgy celebrated three feasts in one. The first was that which the old Roman sacramentaries called "the octave of the Lord", and indeed the greater part of the Mass was of the octave of Christmas with many extracts from the Masses of Christmas. Various portions of the Mass and Office celebrated the divine maternity of Mary. The third feast was that of the Circumcision which has been celebrated since the sixth century.
More here:

In the last part of the 5th Century, after the Council of Ephesus (431) the feast of the Mother of God, appeared in many places. Although its date varied, Rome celebrated the feast on January 1, eight days (octave) after Christmas. This feast celebrated Mary being the Mother of God. It was not until the middle of the 7th century that this feast appeared in the West.

posted by TSO @ 08:00

Passion Review

I went into the movie thinking the "passion" referred to his death and agony, I left the movie thinking it meant his passion (love) for us. Don Imus asked Sen. Santorum if God might've found a less bloody way to say that but is there a more convincing way? That He would surrender himself to his creatures?

One of the most moving scenes was when Mary met Jesus while he was carrying His cross and he said, "See Mother, I make all things new." Suffering is now redemptive, enemies are to be loved. Also particularly memorable was Mary, always a step ahead of the curve, wiping up the blood of Jesus, aware of its preciousness. Effective too was a flashback of Jesus saying, "No servant is greater than his master. If they persecute me, they will persecute you" and just as he says this Caviezel looks into the camera - at us.

Gibson's take on Simon of Cyrene was interesting. Simon encourages Jesus by telling him "not much farther", and it is as if Jesus draws strength from Simon, an odd thought at first given the role-reversal of the human being encouraging the divine. Similarly, the body language of Jesus when the thief on the cross believes in him. But of course, Jesus was also fully human and this film really expores Jesus's full humanity even though there is a supernatural aspect to the suffering. Gibson seems to say Jesus took on superhuman physical suffering, enduring a blood loss that would render a human body unable to function, symbolic of His taking on an impossible burden of sin. This "impossibility" meant Jesus had to trust the Father in a new, even more extraordinary way, and Gibson suggests the Father provided invaluable relief in the form of Simon and the thief on the cross. I was also struck by the truth of the verse "the Spirit blows where it will" because even for Jesus the moments of Fatherly affirmation in His life (such as occurred at His baptism) happened when the Father willed it. On the cross, despite His feeling of forsakenness, the affirmation didn't come, perhaps so that we feel solidarity with Him when we feel forsaken.

I don't think the movie will be as evangelistic as I'd once thought. To give a personal example, my non-Christian brother-in-law has refused to ever see it. The movie has an aspect of "preaching to the choir", but the choir is always in need of preaching.

The USCCB reviewer thought there was too much emphasis on the "how" of the Crucifixion rather than the "why"...I wish the reviewer would've "said more words" and explained what more he wanted. I'm honestly curious. Atonement theories? Another review, from Todd McCarthy in Variety, particularly caught my attention: "If an age produces the renditions of classic stories that reflect those times, then The Passion of the Christ - which is violent, contentious, emotional, extreme and highly proficient - must be the Jesus movie for this era."

posted by TSO @ 21:48

February 28, 2004

A good idea here at Christopher's blog - a clearinghouse of opinions on the Passion. We'll be seeing it tonight at 7.

posted by TSO @ 13:31

The Rose Tree

"O words are lightly spoken,"
Said Pearse to Connolly,
"Maybe a breath of politic words
Has withered our Rose Tree;
Or maybe but a wind that blows
Across the bitter sea."

"It needs to be but watered,"
James Connolly replied,
"To make the green come out again
And spread on every side,
And shake the blossom from the bud
To be the garden's pride."

"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 TSO @ 00:17

Letters by Dom Hubert van Zeller, OSB

Since you say in your letter that you are feeling sorry for yourself while you are writing I suggest that, without putting it into words, you know the answer to your problem. 'I have given God so much more' is your complaint, 'than he has given me. I accepted the grace of conversion from sin and worldliness and all the old life, and what have I got in return? Nothing but loneliness, alienation, non-comprehension.' Well, if religion is essentially the life of faith, what did you expect? You see only what you have given to God, not what he has given to you. When you accepted the grace of conversion you didn't haggle. You didn't say 'I'll alter my way of life provided you make it worth my while. In return for the renunciations it is only fair to expect something back.' You cannot strike a bargain with God. 'Seek first the kingdom of God' and to seek first the privileges of belonging to that kingdom is to get the order wrong. If you are deprived of the 'consolations of religion' you should remember that it was religion and not consolation that was the object of your conversion. You have not chosen the good and rejected the bad because the good is beautiful and the bad is ugly; you do not pray because prayer attracted you and sin disgusted you; you have not given yourself to the service of God for what you can get out of it but for what you can give to it.

posted by TSO @ 22:38

February 27, 2004

...of course my definition of "saying what needs sayin'" might be a little loose*

I got to the quarterly meeting early so as to secure a coveted last-row seat. Early in, early out as they say. Quick escape to the door.

Every three months we sit through the driest of presentations imaginable, a PowerPoint presentation of financial statements, something irrelevant to my job in a practical sense.

I bring a folder to the meeting, ostensibly for note-taking but actually because it contains printouts of NY Times First Chapters, such as Cathleen Medwick's "Teresa of Avila" and David Cannadine's "The Rise and Fall of Class in Britain".

But something happened on the way to Cannadine's torpid prose. The VP caught me zoning out and asked if I could hear him. "Oh, yes, yes." Being called upon concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Suitably chastized, I listened and became amazed, as I often am in these situations, by his untrammelled enthusiasm. I get a similar feeling when I see a mature man bidding on toy train sets on Ebay. He works eighty hours a week and appears to live for the job. He mentioned he had worked on a key budget issue on Christmas Day. In an emotional moment at the end of the meeting he said how fondly he will look back at his working here. Needless to say, I'm at the other extreme. Surely due to sloth. Hence the fascination.

I don't have any great insights other than how difficult it is to find balance. Another blogger wrote, "I can easily fall into treating God as a drug, focusing on the high rather than on Him. And then I'm upset if/when the buzz isn't big enough." True words. Even Moses had to come down from the mountaintop.

The temptation is to see the earthly world as small and foolish in comparison to heavenly things, even though the earthly world is our time of probation and even the seeming insignificant is chockful of meaning. Christ embraced the purely natural (i.e. a body and a death) despite all the supernaturality of heaven at his fingertips.

Akim once blogged that "once you go metaphysical you don't go back", or words to that effect. In other words, once you've tasted the nectar of the truly important, it's a bit difficult to get truly worked up over sports or politics (other than when the latter touches on issues of morality). I don't know how true it is, since Tom of Disputations gets pretty excited over his Philadelphia Eagles. I can certainly see why sports analogies are so popular in board rooms. The corporate world is a huge sporting event, with competitors trying to steal the football (i.e. market share). The scorecard is your earnings per share number, hence there is great despair in Mudville if your EPS is $5.12 instead of $5.17.

* - At the risk of sounding like Casey Kasem, this post goes out to Bill Luse, who complained about the wrongness of both Jeff Culbreath and myself blogging infrequently during Lent.

Update: I should be more Benedictine and long to make toast well. How appropriate I read that today huh?

posted by TSO @ 12:36

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

One of the meanings of penitential fasting is to help us recover an interior life. The effort of moderation in food also extends to other things that are not necessary, and this is a great help to the spiritual life. Moderation, recollection and prayer go hand in hand. -Pope John Paul II via Amy

Let us also pray in the words of Psalms 102 - "I have eaten ashes as if it were bread" and 103 - " The merciful goodness of the Lord endures forever". Wear your ashes with humility, and remember that they are made from the Palms of last years triumph and celebration. --via Alicia of Fructis Ventris

I can't stand it when people appear not to "think"... or just to spout off without doing any apparent analysis or that it's horrible to have abortions "as birth control" but not as backup birth control -- it's not your fault the contraceptives haven't been perfected yet! - Davey's Mommy

The unintentionally funny part of [Bruce] Bawer's book was that he accused other Christians of not being real Christians because, among other things, they accuse other Christians of not being real Christians.-Camassia of Camassia

The 8 cylinder turbo-charged traditionalist will not be seen with anything other than the Douay-Rheims. And for some few this will have to be the original, pre-Challoner version, poor old Bishop Challoner bearing the taint of having lived at the height of the 18th century enlightenment. The thin end of the wedge, doncha know. The Challoner Douay is met with in all categories once in a great while. But the pre-Challoner is a dead giveaway. This is your hard-core, not to be trifled with traditionalist. The somewhat less-earnest traditionalist is well-satisfied not only with the Douay, but also occasionally with the old Confraternity version or once in a while even the RSV-CE....The conservative seems to be married to the RSV-CE. Since it has not only the common-or-garden variety imprimatur of a bishop but also the more significant, albeit canonically unrecognized, imprimatur of Scott Hahn there is no gainsaying the RSV-CE to the conservative. The conservative views Scott Hahn with something only slightly less than hyperdulia and faces Steubenville to pray. The liberal in his various places along the left side of the right/left number line has no particular version with which to categorize him. But whatever version he does use must be a "New" version. Not a Jerusalem Bible or a Revised Standard for our free-thinking friend. Oh, no. A New Jerusalem or a New Revised Standard it must needs be. This way the existence of the masculine sex will in no way interfere with his devotions. -John of Inn at the End of the World on bibles

"Almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin," Tobit told his son. We have no such guarantee about giving money to the local orchestra...When he heard Jonah's prophecy, the King of Nineveh did not proclaim, "Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall watch television." Jesus did not go into the desert to fast from chocolate and Starbucks. We should not begin building a tower we can't complete, but neither should we call the hut we do build a tower. As with almsgiving, the concept of fasting has been diluted. As with almsgiving, as a consequence of this dilution, people aren't fasting but think they are. As with almsgiving, people are missing out on the graces available through fasting. -Tom of Disputations

Garrigou-Lagrange says that to combat pride, the first step that must be done is that we must constantly remind ourselves that we are nothing without God...that we do not exist because of ourselves, and that "we have been saved from nothing by a pure act of Love on the part of God." --jesus Gil of Santificarnos

Bad taste makes the day go by faster. -- Andy Warhol

But shall we prepare ourselves, and encourage each other, for Lent? I want this to be a great, deeply meaningful, kind of difficult Lent for me. I want to suffer a little, read a little, pray a lot, submit and shut up a lot...I need something more active, as it were. Letting two cars merge in front of me on the expressway (although I don't know if that wouldn't incite Therese-i-cide by the drivers behind me)...I won't report on my final list, maybe, because pride might seep in there. Unless I can do it in real humility . -Therese Z of Santificarnos

To Contact Antony: Ask your own Guardian Angel for help - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

But you gotta read de Lubac as an antidote to Garrigou-Lagrange's one most unfortunate mistake (on nature-grace). --Kevin Miller on Disputations

I want to say I stand in awe of those of you who are able to follow the story, remember the names of villages and kingdoms and shires, the inter-relations between them, what each is meant to stand for, and their relative positions on the map of Middle Earth...I did somewhat better at remembering the names this time because I made a point of it. Frodo, Sam, Rohan, Gandalf…and that's about it. There was someone named Erewhon or Earhorn or something like that, maybe someone else named Algore (but I’m not sure), and a shriveled homunculus named Speedle or Wheedle or Dopey or Sneezy, but after that it's all a fog. I can't remember the name of our warrior hero (the one who became King of Gondor), our elf warrior hero, our dwarf warrior hero, or why it's even important to become King of Gondor, and, worse, I'm not even sure I'm spelling it right. -Bill Luse of Apologia on the latest LOTR epic. I can relate.

posted by TSO @ 12:17

February 26, 2004

Switching the Default

I'm going to try to join fellow bloggers Jeff and Robert on their "listening tour"... i.e. blogging less and listening more.
In many Westerns there's a character who'll say, "I only kilt what needed killin'". I'd like for this blog to only say what needs sayin', unlikely as that may turn out to be.

What I love about this time of year is that the "default" mode is penitential. During other liturgical seasons, I guard a principle of fairness. I don't want to be taken advantage of, even in the relatively minute way of doing more of the chores around the house than anyone else. But at least during this season I feel no sense of entitlement when it comes to fairness. Perhaps Lent shouldn't be the only season this attitude takes root, or more accurately tentatively puts down feelers. But it is liberating not to mentally play the game of measurements.

I echo Bill's sentiments on Ash Wednesday. I almost wish the Church would extend the fast to every Wednesday and Friday. You might say, "what's to stop you?" and you'd be right. But there is something enormously different about the whole Church going through it together. It really takes the "choice" out of it and makes the penance relatively painless (not that the latter should be the goal). You know you are refraining from something not by personal edict but by rule from something outside yourself. I trust the Church more than I trust myself with regard to most everything, although I realize the Church's rules are MDRs - Minimum Daily Requirements - and should be seen as such.

posted by TSO @ 12:16


In Prayer, Richard Foster observes that, "the contemplation of one's own death is among the most time-honored approaches to personal transformation."
Guess I'm an armchair Carmelite, more attracted to Lent's austerity, discipline and high drama as only a lazy coward could be.
--Kathy Shaidle, God Rides a Yamaha

posted by TSO @ 13:06

February 25, 2004

Various & Sundry

You've all seen this, but I wanted to get this link into my archives. Amy talks facts about the fictional Da Vinci Code.

Also, concerning the movie: someone's saying what I've been thinking. But we've got fifteen tickets (my wife's family) for a Saturday matinee.

posted by TSO @ 18:58

February 24, 2004


Inspiring post on fasting from Tom of Disputations, suggesting we not deny ourselves the graces that come from denying ourselves food. John Updike once memorably described a character as "a stomach with legs"....The famous saying goes, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Maybe a way to a man's soul is through the interruption of that connection.

posted by TSO @ 18:35

Cardinal Ratzinger Quote

The purpose of the Church's year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart's memory so that it can discern the star of hope. All the feasts in the Church's calendar are events of remembrance and hence events of hope. These events, of such great significance for mankind, which are preserved and opened up by faith's calendar, are intended to become personal memories of our own life history through the celebration of holy seasons by means of liturgy and custom. Our personal memories are nourished by mankind's great memories; in turn, it is only by translating them into personal terms that these great memories are kept alive. Man's ability to believe always depends in part on faith having become dear on the path of life, on the humanity of God having manifested itself through the humanity of men.

-- from"Seek That Which Is Above" via Christopher of Ratzinger Fan Club Blog

posted by TSO @ 16:07

Today's Thoughts

Some say the faults of others that are most aggravating to you are really your own. Others say it is the sin you don't have a problem with - such as homosexual behavior - that most aggravates.

This suggests the universe of unaggravating faults is rather small.

posted by TSO @ 12:30

Ham of Bone Update

Chris Matthews, in order to emphasize how far off the election is, mentioned that you could have sex tonight and you'd still have the baby before the election.

Similarly for my friend Ham of Bone - if he'd had sex on his last day of employment, he'd have a child now while still living in the sweaty palm'd freedom of unemployment. But he realizes the jig is nearly up and means to start looking for a 'real job' next week.

Long-time aficionados know that Ham of Bone is my unemployed screenwriting friend. He called last night from a Marriott suite a mile from his house. In his most Quixote-like move yet, he's staying at a hotel for a week in an attempt to write a screenplay for a horror movie.

Two weeks ago he found out about a screenwriting contest. I said, "Good, that'll be something you can enter next year." Wrong-o. He's now 45 pages into a planned 80+ page screenplay. I asked how he expected to make something of quality in two weeks but I guess windmills are meant to be tilted at.

The fact that his back is against the wall is certainly part of it. Better to burn out than rust out I suppose. Say a prayer for Bone as he pursues his dream.

posted by TSO @ 10:09

Go Figure

I recently received a piece of spamazoidal with the subject header:

"paratroop selkirk gumption mila bimolecular congenital colon legato historiography dot combatted kept brookside berlin crag beaujolais neologism jerky brushlike cromwellian razzle volkswagen standish victrola cowherd chant althea"

...which begs the point doesn't it? That title may evade some spam protection but who would open it? It gives itself away as spam - the definition of a hollow victory - like the man who gains the world but loses his immortal soul.

posted by TSO @ 09:26

The Eighteen State, 10% Rule

Tim Russert mentioned this morning that 32 states are locked up for the Nov. '04 election. If Bush doesn't win Utah, for example, he won't win anywhere. Of the eighteen, Russert specifically mentioned Ohio, the pluperfect battleground state. Of the eighteen, 90% have their mind made up. That leaves 10% undecided in eighteen states. A billion dollars in campaign money to sway those 10% in those eighteen states.

Meanwhile the quixotic campaign of Ralph Nader has begun again. Amid the sound of popping corks, one hears the plainsong Bush campaign chant: "Ralph Nader, he's our man! If he can't help us, no one can!"

Saw Governor Ahnold on "Meet the Press" Sunday and detected a strong whiff of "I vants to be President" about his person. I hope the bill allowing foreign-born citizens to run for president doesn't pass. Schwarzneggar would not only be of no use on the pro-life issue but would dwarf, literally and symbolically, any other Republican primary candidate. The more successful he is, the more his socially liberal views will become popular within the party, which means the more his views will predominate in American politics, since the Democrats have abdicated reason as well as responsibility. Guiliani is the same. All the charismatics in the Republican party are pro-abort. I hope I'm wrong, but President Bush has the scent of "Our Last Stand" about him, politically-speaking.

posted by TSO @ 09:20

Tenacity, thy name is Lewis

One has to admire the tireless devotion of the blogger at Quenta Nârwenion to Cardinal John Henry Newman. I just opened my Barnes & Noble Desk Diary and saw that Newman's birthday was Saturday. I clicked over to Quenta to see if she'd missed it, but it'd be easier to slip a camel through the eye of a needle.

On the Fr. Groeschel tape I've mentioned before, he quotes a lengthy, riveting passage from Cardinal Newman and says that he should be proclaimed a saint, as well as a Doctor of the Church.

posted by TSO @ 15:37

February 23, 2004

Chesterton Book

The downside of borrowing a book from the library is that parting with it is such sweet sorrow. I've already renewed "Varied Types" but now tis time to return it...and yet ...I've grown accustomed to it. [Cue music].

I've grown accustomed to its face
It almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the binding and the pages quaintly old
Its heft, its type, its chapters, its words

Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in
I was serenely independent and content before we met
Surely I could always be that way again and yet
I've grown accustomed to this book, accustomed to this wit
Accustomed to this book.
Oh let's not go quietly into that good night - how about some last excerpts for olde time's sake?
The centre of every man's existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel. The boast of the realist is that he cuts into the heart of life; but he makes a very shallow incision...
One of the values we have really lost in recent fiction is the value of eloquence. The modern literary artist is compounded of almost every man except the orator...The ancient sea of human passion upon which high words and great phrases are the resplendent foam is just now at a low ebb. We have even gone the length of congratulating ourselves because we can see the mud and the monsters at the bottom...

In another age...prose [rose] into a chant...[as] Meg Merrilies hurled at Ellangowan, at the rulers of Britain:

"Ride your ways, Laird of Ellangowan; ride your ways, Godfrey Bertram --this day have ye quenched seven smoking hearths. See if the fire in your ain parlour burns the blyther for that. Ye have riven the thack of seven cottar houses. Look if your ain roof-tree stands the faster for that. Ye may stable your stirks in the sheilings of Dern-cleugh. See that the hare does not couch on the hearthstone of Ellangowan. Ride your ways, Godfrey Bertrain."

A man will not reach eloquence if he is afraid of bombast, just as a man will not jump a hedge if he is afraid of a ditch...Scott's bombast, therefore, will always be stirring to anyone who approaches it, as he should approach all of literature, as a little child. An appreciation of Scott might be made almost a test of decadence. If ever we lose touch with this one most reckless and defective writer, it will be a proof to us that we have erected round ourselves a false cosmos, a world of lying and horrible perfection, leaving outside of it Walter Scott and that strange old world which is as confused and as indefensible and as inspiring and as healthy as he. --Chesterton's "Varied Types"

posted by TSO @ 10:03

Not Much Spiritual Benefit...

The Columbus Dispatch recently ran a piece on Shrove Tuesday which ends with an unintentionally funny thought:

In terms of today’s Catholic calendar, Shrove Tuesday has no significance, said the Rev. Shawn McKnight, professor of liturgy at the Pontifical College Josephinum. Shrove Tuesday to Lent is like Halloween to All Saints’ Day.

‘‘It’s simply a cultural creation," McKnight said. ‘‘It’s a good example of the interplay of ritual faith tradition and existing culture."

Even though he’ll seek a little extra pre-Lent dessert, possibly something chocolate, he cautions against overdoing.

‘‘There’s not much spiritual benefit to one who indulges in appetites excessively in anticipation of Lent," McKnight said. ‘‘We would not advocate that."

posted by TSO @ 09:15

Grim NY Times article on the effect of a society not having enough children, as well as the harshness of old age:

For Laurence Kotlikoff, a Boston University professor who pioneered an economic analysis known as generational accounting, some aspects of the future have little to do with feats of the imagination and everything to do with the certainties of addition (how much the country will earn in the future) and subtraction (how much we will spend). ''You know what Florida looks like?'' he said. ''The whole country's going to look a lot older than that.'' His soon-to-be-published book, ''The Coming Generational Storm,'' predicts that the average American will be crippled by skyrocketing taxes imposed to balance an already outsize fiscal gap, as well as by the inevitable crush of health care costs coming down the pipeline for such an enormous aging population. In 2030, he maintains, the number of retirees will have doubled, but based on current birthrates, the number of people working -- the ones who pay payroll taxes -- will have increased by only 18 percent. Kotlikoff estimates that the fiscal gap will be $51 trillion, most of which will result from the high costs of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.

Rectifying the situation would be so painful that it's almost impossible to imagine the politician who could start trying. If both personal and corporate federal income taxes were increased permanently by 78 percent, maybe -- only maybe, Kotlikoff says -- we could close the gap. Otherwise, he foresees a black market tax-evading economy, widespread poverty, slow business development (with high taxes, there's low incentive), as well as potential social tensions between the old, which would be mostly white and relatively wealthy, and the young -- mostly poor blacks and Hispanics, heavily burdened with the financial cost of caring for a class of people to whom they have little allegiance.
More recently, Audry has been harder to get off the phone, either missing the cues of a conversation or ignoring them deliberately. She seems afraid of finalities, whether it's ending a phone call or a finishing a book. For months, she has been lingering over the best-seller ''The Lovely Bones,'' which is told from the vantage point of a young woman in heaven -- only she keeps calling it, mistakenly, ''The Lonely Bones.'' ''It's taking me a long time to read it,'' Audry said during one of our many phone catch-ups, ''because I tend to read a page, and then I have to put it down and think about it.'' The lonely bones: loneliness, it turns out, is the only thing Audry has ever really feared. ''When my husband died, I was terrified of being alone, and all my children wanted me to come stay with them,'' she said. ''But I said, no, let me face it right away, don't put it off.'' Particularly reflective that afternoon, Audry shared a point of wisdom she picked up over the course of her unusually lengthy, happy life. ''The longer you put something off,'' she said, ''the harder it is to face it.''

posted by TSO @ 21:22

February 22, 2004

Trip to Cincy

On Saturday we toured the papal exhibit in Cincinnati. The crowds were large but the art and artifacts were edifying. The Vatican seems bold in making these available for viewing given that for some the wealth of the Church is off-putting. The explanation and replicas of St. Peter's tomb would've been more dramatic for us if we'd not already had the great fortune of visiting it three years ago. Of great interest to me were the Mandylion of Edessa and a relic - a piece of his scull - of Pope St. Gregory the Great, always sort of a murky historical figure to me but now here I was viewing the sheer tangibleness of part of his head.

Despite the crowds, one person stood out. I found myself a few feet from a parish priest whom I'd served as an altar boy in the late '70s. He looked at me, but I'm sure he didn't recognize me. I didn't say anything to him. He's no longer a priest. He started molesting boys a few years after I graduated and has since gone to prison twice for sex with a minor. The irony was standing next to him reading while about the Pope who had instituted the celibacy requirement. I thought how sad it was, how powerful the sexual drive is and how potentially ruinous even when given all the advantages of grace.

Cooperation with grace was more evident on the way home. I looked through the car window at a huge edifice and saw the words "Sisters of Mercy" and the tangibleness of women's religious orders, something now sadly almost intangible. I hadn't heard of the order even though it turns out I was born in one of their hospitals. Coincidentally, not having mentioned seeing the building, I was visiting my grandmother the next morning she insisted I take a copy of a 1958 book entitled, "The Spirit is Mercy: The Sisters of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati 1958-1958" by Mary Ellen Evans. "Throw it away if you don't want it," she said. She mustn't know me very well. I haven't thrown out a book since the Ford administration.

I started to read it and my crypto-longing for the '50s was exposed. I've been told about how the city of Hamilton used to have a Holy Name Parade in which nearly every Catholic man, even the gamblers and ne'er do wells, lustily sang hymns while marching miles down the city streets. I guess the city must've closed some of the streets for the marchers. Now we do that for athletic events like 10K runs.

Older books like Evans's are chockful of little surprises. She quotes one of the sisters on the enthusiasm of the convent in Ireland just after its founding:

"Everyone mismanaged her own spiritualities in her own way" --mainly, it seems, by "remaining up half the night at their prayers."...they could not expect God to suspend the laws of nature for even so important a cause.
Imagine mismanaging your spirituality by attempting to pray half the night! Their religious constitution mentions this tension between contemplation and service:
The spirit of the Institute is Mercy toward those who are afflicted with ignorance, suffering and other like miseries. This requires such a combination of spirit of Mary and of Martha that the one does not hinder the other.
Later Evans addresses the incoming of German-Americans into the Sisters of Mercy in Cincinnati:
...from this time forward the Sisters of Mercy enjoyed a healthy infusion of German blood, which, as with the German-Irish marriages that have so stabilized and invigorated the life of the city, may have produced a like fortifying influence when coursing the conventual veins of the Celtic community.

posted by TSO @ 17:27

Where there's a will...

I'm perhaps enjoying the President's move a little too much:

President Bush on Friday used a weeklong Congressional recess to install William H. Pryor Jr., the Alabama attorney general, in a federal appeals court seat to get around a Democratic filibuster that had blocked the nomination.

It was the second time in the last five weeks that Mr. Bush used a president's power to make appointments when Congress is not in session to name judges directly to the bench and thus skirt the Senate confirmation process.

The debate in the Judiciary Committee last year over the Pryor nomination was perhaps the most contentious and abrasive in years. Democrats complained that their Republican counterparts were complicit in efforts to paint their opposition as anti-Catholic.

The Democrats assailed a television campaign by a group supporting the Pryor nomination that showed a locked courthouse door with a sign reading, "Catholics need not apply." The advertisements were run by the Committee for Justice, a group led by C. Boyden Gray, White House counsel to the first President Bush.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking committee Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said the commercials were a despicable smear. But Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and Mr. Pryor's principal supporter, called him "this solid Catholic individual" and said that his opposition to abortion, for example, in cases of rape and incest, was good Catholic doctrine. Therefore, he said, if someone is opposed for holding that position, "Are we not saying that good Catholics need not apply?"

posted by TSO @ 15:36

A Look-What-I-Found Rebound

Via a bit of fortuitousness (thanks to my benefactor!), I received an advance copy of a book called The Miracle Detective : An Investigation of Holy Visions by Randall Sullivan. This type of book is crack-cocaine to my mother, and since I'll be seeing her tomorrow in conjunction with a visit here, I thought I'd read some of it before letting her borrow it.

In it Sullivan attempts to discern the authenticity of various Marian apparations, which is sort of like watching a train wreck. The collision of the scientific, rationalist, non-believing mind with He who will not be nailed down is riveting. The irony is that Sullivan, the Rolling Stone editor and God-haunted skeptic, believes it more than Fr. Groeschel. Not to say Fr. Groeschel disbelieves; he calls the happenings at Medjugorje most perplexing and thinks God is using it. He says the most amazing thing about the apparition is the surreal devotion of the people resident. Something happened.

I couldn't put it down. Partly because it's so readable and partly because of the prominence of Fr. Groeschel, for whom my respect just grows and grows and grows. Not just for his piety and charitable works and great learning, but because of his off-handed, almost casual, honesty. He calls the seers of the La Salette apparation ne'er do wells. No white-washing, he's allergic to hagiographies and worries about the Church post-JPII given the weakness of faith at the highest levels of the hierarchy. His blend of scientific and psychiatric and theological knowledge is extremely attractive. I now read Chesterton and Groeschel with similar enthusiasm and reverence.

The author wants clarity on Medjugorje, but Fr. Groeschel advises him to "tread lightly" and not come to a conclusion in the book because it is unknowable. Where God begins and we end is something we'll never know but something we must be content with. I won't give away the ending, but the author's spiritual journey is in some ways more interesting than his conclusions on Medjugorje. I would love to read about the author's spiritual journey post-book.

posted by TSO @ 22:26

February 20, 2004

Handy Guide to the 2004 Election

Q: Why vote for you?

A: John Edwards: "I was born a poor white child in rural South Carolina and now I'm a millionaire trail lawyer. You schmucks can't do the same without the guvmint's - and most especially my - help. Bwahahaha!"

Campaign slogan: "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful."

A: John Kerry: "Vote for me because I can beat those wascally Wepublicans. I beat Bill Weld, I can beat George Double-U. Bring. It. On. Bwahahaha!"

Campaign slogan: "Don't hate me because I'm liberal."

A: George W. Bush: "Earth to my base: I'm in a war on Tara, I cut your taxes, and you expect me to worry about spending? You wanna see another conservative judge in your lifetime you'll stick with me. Bwahahahaha!"

Campaign slogan: "Don't hate me."

American voter: "I want lots of government services, low taxes and a small deficit."

Campaign slogan: "These are our choices?"

posted by TSO @ 16:58

Drawing Lines on Touchstone's blog:

If, over the past 50 years, TV had kept up the fiction that humans never need to use the toilet, it would have been rather odd, but just how much truth would we have lost? I’d say we could have gotten along without it.

posted by TSO @ 16:09

But I Don't Know Nuthin' 'Bout Birthin' Babies!

Took the Yankee or Dixie challenge and came up:

66% (Dixie). A definitive Southern score!

I can only attibute it to growing up along the Mason-Dixon line (Cincinnati). Link via the real McCoy's, the Summa Mommas.

posted by TSO @ 13:30

Remember You Are Dust....

Two sad deaths this week. One was our local diocesan newspaper editor. He died just two weeks after retiring. His friend said at the eulogy that one of the first times they got together he brought a pint of Irish whiskey and recited - from memory - pages of Joyce's "Finnegans Wake".

With the other case there was a feeling of dread when I saw young people packed outside St. Patrick's on a weekday. It was as I suspected, a funeral. Inside were the harsh dates 1986-2004 on his Mass card and on the internet were both obituaries. One gets the sense that both were well-lived lives:

COLLINS Michael E. Collins, age 65, of Columbus, died Wednesday, February 11, 2004 at home. Retired Editor of The Catholic Times where he worked for 42 years. Member of Holy Name Parish. Past President of the Central Ohio Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Member of Press Club, Catholic Press Association, Catholic Men's Luncheon Club, Knights of Columbus and Mensa.

REED Sean P. Reed, age 18, Monday, February 16, 2004 at his residence. Senior at St. Charles Preparatory School where he was a 2 year letter winner on the Football Team. He was accepted and planned to attend Ohio Dominican University. Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do at 9 years old. Volunteer with Mt. Carmel Medical Center and Adena Regional Medical Center. Camp Counselor with the Catholic Summer Camp.

posted by TSO @ 13:09

26 days...... but who's counting?

Stereotypes, schmereotypes, I thought the Guinness St. Patrick's Day commercial was hi-larious. I taped it for my wife. The kicker was where the guy slides past the upstairs staircase because of those footsies that pajamas (used to?) have. I think we've all been there, at least if you had wood floors and footsie pajamas.

It looks like the potential for another gigantic good time - the Hooligans are coming back to the Ancient Order of Hibernian party, although I don't want to jinx it. (Though I recall what John at the Inn wrote: Remember, it's bad luck to be superstitious.) Ham of Bone is primed and ready, having gone liquor-free for a few months due to dedicated screenwriting.

There might be the concern of secularization of another religious holiday, but I (conveniently no doubt), see it not as an "either/or" but "and/also".

Chris Parsons, the Guinness brand director, states the obvious in a news release: "St. Patrick's Day represents a wonderful time of year for our Guinness drinkers.". Reminds me of a recent local newspaper heading concerning a woman who lied in order to try to claim the lottery prize. Her priceless quote when asked why she did it? "I wanted to win."

posted by TSO @ 13:03


Okay, so most of you are going to have a sense of deja vu. That's okay. I found it compelling.

The Gospel is not, "Love your neighbor as yourself." That's a commandment. The Gospel is news, and news is telling someone something he doesn't already know, not telling him to do something he doesn't already do.

The first three words of the good news Christians have for the world are, "God loves you." As mind-blowing as those words are (God loves you, God loves you, God loves you!), it gets better: "And God's Son was born, died, rose, and returned to Him so that we can love Him back."

Now, however briefly you want to express this good news, there remain significant facets that cannot be conveyed by smiling at the cashier in the grocery store. Do not the Gentiles do as much?

Let me suggest that the Franciscan ideal behind the "if necessary, use words" saying assumes a society in which Christianity has been found difficult and left untried. A bad Christian is far more likely to understand the good example of a good Christian to be an example of Christianity than is a bad non-Christian; for that matter, a good Muslim, say, might understand it to be an example of Islam!

So what am I saying? Only that showing love for another, even if it can be an expression of the Gospel, is not necessarily preaching the Gospel. As a lay member of the Order of Preachers, that's something I need to remind myself of from time to time. --Tom of Disputations

posted by TSO @ 12:56

A Curmudgeon Speaks of Baseball

I got my Reds tickets order form in the mail yesterday. The July 4th date immediately caught my eye. We play the Indians, and it's asterisked: "The charge is $5 more because it's the Indians." Intra-state rivalry and all.

It saddened me. First, because it's a disgrace to be playing an American Leauge club at all before the World Series. The National League is Adam, and from his rib came the A.L. Eve, and their mating culminates in the vast orgasmic spectacle we call the World Series. Now they give us cheap one-night stands and charge us an extra five-spot. It's the usual modern lack of restraint, the killing off of mystery. Lord knows we wouldn't want to imagine how the teams would fare against each other.

The extra charge is a good metaphor for baseball in its current incarnation - pure business. The game of the '70s looks so naive in retrospect, so underexploited. Now every dime has to be squeezed from every pocket. The owners would say the game of the '70s was inefficient, meaning still on the left side of the Laffer Curve. They definitely understand the lesson of Big Gov't -- nickle and dime us to death so we don't know how much we're paying.

The "Hot Stove League" used to be a time of hope. You hoped your GM, through skill or luck, could pull off a trade or two to make you competitive. Now the die is cast; your payroll number is your defining statistic. But what thrill can the Yankees have if they win? It's the triumph of wallet over wit.

posted by TSO @ 22:14

February 19, 2004

Frodo the Ring-Bearer

Is there anything more romantic than the possibility that our cat, bearing the carrot'd diamond engagement ring our son planned to give to our future daughter-in-law, might make a pit stop at the kitty litter box? Or better yet make one of his patented Tommy-Lee-Jones-in-the-Fugitive escapes out the back door and apply eau de opossum to self and ring?

Fortunately that was averted and the feline, known variously as "Lil' Puss", "Lil' Putsch", "El Pussiente", "Deedle", "Mr. Deeds", "Deedleschnitzel" and "Lazurus", delivered the goods and all went swimmingly.

Oh, btw, she said 'yes' and Lil' Puss was relieved to be relieved of his burden.

posted by TSO @ 12:57

Doesn't he know he can't take it with him?

posted by TSO @ 11:57

Michael Novak....

....makes the moral case for capitalism.

Envy is the most characteristic vice of all the long centuries of zero-sum economies, in which no one can win unless others lose. A capitalist system defeats envy, and promotes in its place the personal pursuit of happiness. It does this by generating invention, discovery, and economic growth. Its ideal is win-win, a situation in which everyone wins. In a dynamic world, with open horizons for all, life itself encourages people to attend to their own self-discovery and to pursue their own personal form of happiness, rather than to live a false life envying others.
I used to think it nearly diabolical, a plot, a conspiracy, that most employers seem to pay just enough to allow you to make a living, with a tuppence left for retirement purposes (i.e. when you are elderly and no longer productive enough for them). But I see a rough justice for the average income earner who lives comfortably to have to work till 60. Superachievers, either on the income side or the savings side, earn their early retirement option. That's what I tell myself.

Ham of Bone wants to drastically lower expenses by moving to a trailer in the Arizona desert or living the ex-pat life in sunny Mexico. Not surprisingly, his wife ain't buying what he's selling.

posted by TSO @ 11:46

A Book Recommendation from Fr. Groeschel:

There was a great German priest in the diocese of Cologne, a professor in the seminary and a wonderful pastor. A man that we don't know well but I'm trying to make him famous. One of his books is published by Tan, "The Glories of Divine Grace", and soon his great book will be out, "The Mysteries of Christianity". His name is Fr. Matthias J. Scheeben. He's mentioned in the Catechism because Cardinal Schonborn likes him...

posted by TSO @ 10:12

February 18, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

My current preferred epitaph: "You Pray, I'm Fasting." -Tom of Disputations. (Not to brag, but I fast up to eight hours every night).

Leave it to a libertarian to have the psychic ability to go back 1700 years and determine what the 'true' Jesus said, all the while saying it was done through 'reason.' --Eric Czarnik on Jefferson's Christ

When it comes to Jesus, different Christians tend to focus on different things. Some, like Gibson, seem to think of his story mainly in terms of what he went through for us, the punishment that he took on our behalf, etc., so that makes the suffering the main event. Others, like Telford, focus on the resurrection, and its message of victory and hope. Still others, like Kynn, prefer not to think about either but focus on Jesus' life and teachings, with its strong ethical messages. I imagine a lot of this depends on what you want and need out of God. In my experience, the death-focused Christians often are carrying around a load of guilt about something, and I gather that the extremity of Jesus' sufferings reminds them that he really did take all the punishment that they deserve. From what I recall, Gibson's motivations for making the movie had a lot to do with this. Like most people, I feel guilty about some things, but finding hope has definitely been a bigger issue for me; so it's not surprising that Telford's optimistic Easter-oriented theology was what drew me into church. --Camassia

I cannot detach from things around me by my own will. Even the notion of detachment, of leaving behind, of moving upward becomes in its own way an attachment. So I must look at the Father with the intensity of love that I have for the son He gave me and receive that love back. -Steven of Flos Carmeli

Don't worry: the Lord manages to humble us if we can't humble ourselves! -Kathy Swistock, commenting on Tom the MP's blog

The only real issue I have with [Harold] Bloom, as I understand his position, is that he's stomping around in the shallow water that results from a refusal to acknowledge the deeper sources of inspiration for Shakespeare, the impact Revelation had on shaping Shakespeare's understanding and "invention" of the human being. Bloom seems to consider the Bible just another work of literature. He's certainly welcome to do that, but Shakespeare certainly didn't. - Mark of Minute Particulars

Unlike many who reason their way into the Catholic Church, or others who seek Authority Transcendent that will make Everything All Right, I’m just taking a leap of folly here. --Tom the MP

My spiritual director assigned me the reading of THE THREE AGES OF THE INTERIOR LIFE, by Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. It was a fascinating book, dealing with identifying our primary defects, the need for mortification, etc. When my spiritual director asked my thoughts on the reading, though, I told him that I thought it was very close to a "terror novel" and that it shouldn´t be read at night. Why? Well, because it all to easily opens up that inner self of ourselves that isn´t pretty. And when coupled with the prospect of purgatory, it´s not a pretty picture. Can there be any other more horrific image than that of knowing that while our sins are forgiven, we still need to pay for them in some sense...i.e. from either the consequence of those various acts, or of old ingrained habits that not only are bringing ourselves down, but others as well.-jesus gil of Santificarnos

This is really wierd for me, I'm still not sure what order yet that I would enter, but it is almost scary how much Dominican has crept into me. I am much more obsessed about learning than I have ever been before. But nevertheless my time here has fostered a hunger for the Truth in the Dominican tradition. very neat. Another wierd thing: when I read theology books, or think of people, I now think of them in two categories: Those Who Are Dominican, and Those Who Are Not Dominican! - Alyssa of Random Hug Patrol

Jeers, jeers for old Notre Dame --commentator CS on Amy's blog, concerning the recent decisions to host a "Queer Film Festival".

I grew up with those who had been catechized via the Baltimore catechism and who lived the universal latin mass - and that group is the very group that fought the hardest to bring in some of the quasi-heresies that we are fighting now....The truly important thing about the Sacrament of the Eucharist as that it does not depend upon what humans do or what humans perceive to be effective. And the thing that keeps me Catholic is that I have access to the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ in the Eucharist even if the priest is a horrible sinner and the (valid) liturgy is an affront to my aesthetic sense. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

My theory is that the preconciliar Church had become lukewarm, and the subsequent revolution was a punishment. Catholics failed to love their precious inheritance, and so it was all taken away. - Jeff of El Camino Real's response

Do types--general categories of things--really exist (realism) or are they mere names (nominalism) arbitrarily abstracted from individual entities? To put the question a bit more broadly, does the universe have an inherent organization, or is the organization of things into categories merely human convention? Philosophers have come down on either side of the question, and indeed in various places in between. In the later Middle Ages, the fashion in philosophy ran to extreme nominalism, regarding the moderate realism of Thomas Aquinas as old-fashioned. Scholars like the late Heiko Obermann have traced the origins of the issues that brought on the Protestant Reformation to the nominalist training of such early Protestants as Martin Luther. Although I was disabused of nominalism many years ago now, most of modern thought is awash in it. - Henry Dieterich

She seems to be a girl that knows that underwear means under something else. - commenter Christian concerning singer Amy Lee from Evanescence on Summa Mommas blog

posted by TSO @ 09:42

Regarding Divertisement

Interesting and ambitious attempt at navigating the murky waters of Christians and entertainment: (PDF here)

Neil Postman ( Amusing Ourselves to Death) denounces entertainment as a new slavery. Church leaders perceive entertainment as a danger (as Forrest explained). For example: "Entertainment does not tolerate silence" so important for spirituality (Jim Taylor). "Entertainment is not serious, is too superficial." Is it true? Are theatre, movies, dances etc. only superficial? If not, how could they be spiritually meaningful?

Postman denounces media entertainment as being a non-sense situation, applying superficiality and triviality to any topics it touches: culture, education, politics, morality and most of all, religion. Jacques Ellul argues the same way (in The Humiliation of the Word), particularly when he denounces audiovisual media as incapable of transmitting any coherent religious message and, worse, opening wide the doors to idolatry. In England, a very brilliant and famous journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge (in his book Christ and the Media) compared media entertainment to pure "fantasy", opposed to the reality represented by Jesus. For his demonstration, Muggeridge uses Pascal's approach to divertissement: to make a diversion, that is, to escape from the main questions of life to engage in distraction, entertainment and amusement.

Is entertainment a new slavery? Entertainment looks like a danger to Church leaders (as Forrest explained well). It does not tolerate silence - silence and stillness - which are essential to spirituality. For sure, we remain ill at ease with some goals of divertissement: how to spend one's free time, how to avoid facing hard facts of life, evil and death, suffering and destiny? These are the preoccupations we try to escape by mean of entertainment. As Pascal believed, the depth of the infinite would leave us in terrible distress, or our finitude would kill us prematurely or would paralyse us. So we enjoy entertainment, we appreciate divertissement because it gives us the opportunity to take a short break from our human and daily situation. But the Church was feeling more ill at ease yet with fun and amusement. Why? One can think that it is due particularly to feasts, masquerades, popular carnivals and so on. All kinds of situations leading to drinking, and worse - to sex. (In French Canada, a few preachers used to say that we should watch out for three dangers: religious swearing, drunkenness and females.) That gives a warped idea of entertainment!

What is play?... When we play, we live a double -level situation: we know that we are playing (that creates a distance), but at the same time we agree to play fairly and seriously. "The most sublime then can happen..." This appears to be a very good approach to explain that fun can also be serious.

The German philosopher Eugen Fink, taking Huizinga's intuition further, insists on the fact that play should be received as an extremely serious behaviour, because it is giving - as in a mirror - the meaning of the world we are living in. The Greek philosophers (e.g. Plato) disregarded poetry as a danger, because poetry (through mythology) gave to gods power over humans, who were treated as slaves subjected to them and acting out that submission in rituals. Plato represents a first step to "disenchantment" of the world. Modernity achieved the second step of "disenchantment": relegating all spirituality to the domain of myths, continues Fink. Meanwhile, we have accepted to repatriate - from the gods to history - the control of what is happening to humans. This is why play today has never been more important: to express who we are and what our cosmos is about, even at the spiritual level. This approach complements Huizinga's. These authors shed more light on the power of imagination and representation. But, is it really applicable to spirituality and to religious questions? Caillois refutes Huizinga's point of view that play was used as dramaturgy in rituals, even in Christian liturgy; he opposes Huizinga, saying that precisely those rituals were no more a play, but vital gestures to save one's own life and the group's life from the gods' wrath: there were no more fun or play in there. I disagree with Caillois, because I believe that both functions can stay together. When touching spiritual matters, should any kind of play and representation be no longer a play, because it is too important for life? If so, we return to compulsory religious seriousness. That would represent a dead end. I prefer Godard's intuition, that should prevail here: "Imaginary is not the pure reflection of reality, but the reality of the ordinary normal daily life", a kind of crystallization of humans situations and choices, and values.

posted by TSO @ 11:26

February 17, 2004

From the Mail Bag

Ham of Bone reviews "Lost in Translation":

Watched 'Lost In Translation' last night. For the most part, I loved it. Lived up to its billing. BUT I'm starting to spot a predictable trend here after just finishing up another May-December romance called 'The Human Stain'.

I have a theory why we will see more of this as the baby boomers age: relative maturity levels. Everyone knows that women mature (emotionally) faster than men and I would propose that the technology revolution has further stunted men's emotional growth while women's have remained fairly stable.

The fifty-year-old male is nowhere near the emotional quotient of his predecessor of 100, or even 50, years ago. So, the young woman who seeks emotional fulfillment must look for the tired graying temples type to find it.

Concerning the opening scene of a body double's derriere, I felt manipulated by the director's blatant attempt to focus the audience by prurience. Minus that scene and the gratuitous strip club scene, I would say that this was one of the most enjoyable films that I have seen in a while.

posted by TSO @ 09:20

Worthy Cause

This seems worth supporting. One of the mission team members is fellow virtual parishioner Terrence Berres .

posted by TSO @ 08:58

Jester Strikes Again

Nobody does it better than Curt Jester, who has come up with some hilarious Catholic pick-up lines. about some blogger pick-up lines (btw, wouldn't he and she be a good match?):

Tell me your IP address and I'll tell you mine.

Why don't we get drunk and blog?

If I said you had a beautiful blog would you hold it against me?
Ok, okay, I'll quit.

posted by TSO @ 08:46

For the Melancholic Temperament

From RC books:

Spiritual Despondency and Temptation by Rev PJ Michel, S.J.

Nearly everybody's unspoken spiritual problem

2004 marks the publication anniversary of Fr. PJ Michel’s potent book, long out of print.

posted by TSO @ 07:48

Einstein and the Eucharist

Heard a marvelous story from a Fr. Groeschel tape. Fr. Groeschel said that Fr. McTague dropped the ball and how wonderful if Einstein's funeral were at St. Patrick's. Here it is via Fr. Raymond Suriani:

I read an interesting story about Einstein recently: Apparently one day this great man of science was visited by a young priest from New York, a Fr. Charles McTague. They sat down in his office, and Einstein proceeded to tell Fr. McTague that he wanted to talk to him about (of all things) the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. It seems that Einstein was fascinated by the idea of a substance that you can’t see; a substance that has no shape or size or color. (A substance with no accidents as we say in theology.) Finally, at the end of the conversation, Einstein said to the priest, "Please send me any books in German that you can find that tell me about the Holy Eucharist."

Now what I find most interesting about that story is the fact that Einstein was open to the possibility of the supernatural. He didn’t say, "My mind is the measure of all things, and if I can’t explain something in my scientific categories, then it doesn’t exist." His attitude was, "Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe it’s true. And if that be the case, I need to be open to this truth, even it’s beyond the categories of physical science."

posted by TSO @ 16:47

February 16, 2004


The lyrics to the Sound of Music's "Maria" go:

She's always late for chapel
But her penitence is real
She's always late for everything
Except for every meal...
I can relate to Maria here, not because I'm late to chapel but that I'm never late for a meal. But I can't help speaking the unspoken: just how real can her penitence be if she's always late for chapel?

posted by TSO @ 13:08

Prayer Requests

--For my brother-in-law, who is experiencing marital difficulties.
--For Akim, that his empty days become full.
--For my nephew, 7 months from conception but wants to come early.

posted by TSO @ 10:31

Ham of Bone's Book Review

I'm still only half-way thru Roth's "The Human Stain" partially because I read ten thousand books at once. Bone's singlemindedness has its privileges - he's already finished and reviewed it (used with permission, all rights reserved):

To start off with a cliche: That Roth guy can flat out write!

I loved the intensity of the writing - matching Dostoyevsky at times - and the setting of the story. NorEasterners sure are a f--ked up lot.

Unlike the Big Russian D, however, postmodern novels refuse to break out of the psychological reality which is the only reality of the secular world. I read 361 pages of human drama with nary a word about the theological reality which so richly enhances classical literature.

Just like Franzen with his undercurrent of despair and meaninglessness, Roth presents a view that is only three dimensional.

But what sentences! How effortlessly did Roth take us readers back and forth, foreshadowing and postshadowing, through time, piecing together a story that exposed the tragedy of winning or losing the "human lottery", being determined at birth.

posted by TSO @ 09:43

Pew Lady Homers...

...with this post:

While I was interested in the opposite sex, Sarah — not her real name: her real name is “Sally” — was more attracted to females...
The notion that heterosexual people require homosexual approval in order to achieve social acceptability might seem ironic to you. But how else do you explain it?
Does heterosexual support for the gay agenda have the scent of Black People Love Us about it?

posted by TSO @ 09:28

Games Authors Play...

...with their reviews.

posted by TSO @ 07:46

From the "More-Things-Change-the-More-etc-" Dept:

...excerpt of Belloc's "Path to Rome"

[I]t is the capital of a mountain district, and this character always does something peculiar and impressive to a town. You may watch its effect in Grenoble, in little Aubusson, and, rather less, in Geneva. For in such towns three quite different kinds of men meet. First there are the old plain-men, who despise the highlanders and think themselves much grander and more civilized; these are the burgesses. Then there are the peasants and wood-cutters, who come in from the hill-country to market, and who are suspicious of the plain-men and yet proud to depend upon a real town with a bishop and paved streets. Lastly, there are the travellers, who come there to enjoy the mountains and to make the city a base for their excursions, and these love the hill-men and think they understand them, and they despise the plain-men for being so middle-class as to lord it over the hill-men: but in truth this third class, being outsiders, are equally hated and despised by both the others, and there is a combination against them and they are exploited.

posted by TSO @ 07:41

Matthew Kelly's Seven Pillars

The formula for rediscovering that spiritual source is to focus on becoming "the best version of yourself," he said, and that is accomplished by using what he called the "seven pillars of Catholicism":

• Going to confession. "I know you hate it," Kelly said. But this sacrament shoves "our dark sides into the light" and diminishes evil's influence in our lives.

• Contemplation. You are what you think, Kelly said, so start thinking about more positive, spiritual issues and people: "Human thought is creative. What we think becomes."

• Attending Mass. "We hear it all the time: It's boring." But if Catholics will pray to find one thing in the Mass each week that will help them be better people, they will be transformed: "Our lives change when our habits change."

• Reading the Bible. Kelly said he read recently that the life expectancy in America is 77, which means no one can claim they don't have time to read the Scriptures. "How are you going to tell (God) you didn't have time to read his book?" Kelly said. "Read the Bible. There's power there."

• Fasting. Developing the ability to go without, even for short periods of time, creates "a freedom from our bodies" that is liberating and asserts "the dominance of the soul over the body."

• Spiritual reading. If you read junk, said Kelly, you become junk. Choose reading material wisely, he said especially for kids: "When our children know more about Britney Spears and Harry Potter than Jesus Christ, we've got cause for concern."

• Pray the rosary. "What reason do we have for getting rid of the rosary?" he asked. The rosary is an effective tool for contemplating the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Mary, his mother, Kelly said. --Link via Notes to Myself

posted by TSO @ 11:00

February 15, 2004

Traffic Calming Ahead

There's a 25mph zone on a nearby road that is enforced by a series of what is euphemistically known as "speed humps" but are actually small mountains placed at 10-yard intervals. Perhaps my truck's suspension isn't what it should be, but I feel like I'm ridin' a buckin' bronco while going down that road, even at 10mph. What is hilarious is the sign preceeding the humps says "Traffic Calming Ahead". Traffic, but not necessarily drivers. I would've re-named the "Speed Hump" signs "Brake for Mountain" and the "Traffic Calming Ahead" as "Don't Be Planning On Getting Anywheres Soon".

posted by TSO @ 11:00

Financial Housekeeping

Video Meliora continues a policy of commitment to openness in public blogging as stated in Section 610.011 of Blogspot's Sunshine Law: "It is the public policy of this blog that meetings, records, votes, actions, and deliberations of public bodies be open to the public unless otherwise provided by law. Sections 610.010 to 610.028 shall be liberally construed and their exceptions strictly construed to promote this public policy. No other liberal bias shall be present."

As a resultant of the antecendent, openness will be also be pursuant in the concordance of financial instruments, abatements, per diems, and depreciation expenses forthcoming...

posted by TSO @ 10:59

Uncle Bud

I’d always been attracted to the notion of profligate waste, the more profligate the better. Waste appealed not only because of my parsimonious ways but because it mirrored the profligacy of the natural world. A million fireflys and butterflys die on arrival, long-lasting as fireworks.

Eccentric characters and underachievers held my affection. I saved newspaper and magazine clippings of plumbers or mailmen who could quote long sections of Moby Dick or who’d read 10,000 books. “Dropping out” was attractive in all its delicious permutations. A pretty nun was a figure of wonderment; here was untapped potential in all its inconceivableness. The sum total of happiness she could give a man over a lifetime could not be calculated by the adolescent mind.

Keeping a low profile as a child was a survival tactic but redeeming in its own way. I read May Sarton devotionally, growing terrariums and tending aquariums while naively missing clues of her sexual orientation. I looked covetously upon the shores of Walden Pond as depicted on my copy of Thoreau’s work. He was Robinson Crusoe come to life, acting like it were actually possible, laying out the cost for seeds and wood but then he quit and went back to Boston and it felt hollow. A year and a half out of fifty? He called it an experiment but it seemed a failed experiment, else he wouldn’t have high-tailed it back to civilization. Only the permanent is romantic.

Uncle Bud used to take me fishing. He had the leather, reptilian skin of someone who’d been out in the sun every day of his life and didn’t know SPF from the ATF. A born fisherman, he’d look out over the water and after ten or twenty minutes I’d be getting ants in my pants but he’d sit there like Mount Rushmore. I’d walk around the lake and grab at the cattails and look for dead fish near the bank and inhale the intoxicating dank smell, and then come back around and see if Uncle Bud caught anything. There weren’t near enough action. I’d bait my bamboo pole and put it in the water and pull out a wormless hook.

But I'd sit and stare at the water and wonder if there really were any fish under all that water. They said it was stocked but maybe the other fisherman already caught all the fish. The water looked the same as soil, only with relentless ripples. Uncle Bud was my great uncle, my uncle's father, so he was getting on in years. Always a bachelor, he lived by his own rules and died by his own rules. Got cancer but wouldn't have anything to do with doctors. Holed himself up in his house like an outlaw with the law outside yellin’ for him to come out, so the hunter shot himself. There was shock in the horrible coupling, good uncle Bud and Judas’s last sin.

I ache for him to be in heaven because the thrill of waste ends at Hell’s gate.

posted by TSO @ 10:59

Hie thee... a wonderful post from Thomas, misplaced no more.

He shares a quote that helps express why I've always been transfixed by Don Quixote:

‘[Quixote’s] folly closes the gap between the ‘ideal’ of God’s redemptive grace in Christ and the ‘reality’ of the earthly, allegedly world-transforming actions of Christians. In his ‘simple’ faith and his well-intentioned conduct Quixote sees the gap bridged, but as he approaches his fate and failure, it is laughably evident to everyone that it is yawning wide open. Quixote thus becomes the true patron saint of Catholic Action. He is a bit of dogmatics neglected by Catholic theologians, a tract that can be written on the Catholic side only with and by means of humour . . . ,’ (von Balthasar’s Glory of the Lord, v. 5, pg. 170).
Two other comments especially resonated: "Please pray that I don't start feeling a frisson of pleasure at my folly..." and "it's time I asked for faith instead of assuming that I have it". I think we all can relate.

posted by TSO @ 05:42

February 14, 2004

Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items...

I'm trying out a new Friday feature today - Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items, or HPDI for short - because sometimes at the end of the week there are odds and ends that aren't quite good enough to actually make this blog. Can you imagine that? Without further ado...

Our secretary does us no favors by providing "break in case of emergency" candy outside her desk. You'd have to be desperate to eat the stuff. She used to put those little Reese Cup candies out but they disappeared faster than Saddam's weapon cache. Apparently plan B is to put out candy that had better have a shelf-life of two thousand years because that's how long it's going to take to empty that bowl. I hear you. You say I shouldn't complain because it's 'free' but it is actually worse than if nothing was there. Because the candy sits there implying gift, offering, etc.. without actually giving anything of worth! The fact that the candy has been uneaten for lo these many years is making it morph, before my very eyes, into mere decoration.

FYI: Written for entertainment purposes only. Please no emails saying that many would love to have that candy. If this were an actual complaint, you would have been notified where to tune for further information.

All-Time Favorite Country Songs Referring to God

1) You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma - David Frizzell
2) When I Die - Tanya Tucker
3) God Will - Patty Loveless
4) A Love Without End - George Strait

Friday Mailbag is a regular feature here at ye old blog, if by regular one means once in a blue moon. The number of emails I've received has doubled in recent days and my sense of noblesse oblige obligates me to share them:

Lou Coffey sent me a message asking that I "get Viocdin now". A bit pushy and the subject header was misleading.

Hunter Clarke kept me abreast of his pornography products, again with a misleading subject header.

Terry of Summa Mommas sent me an email about one of my blog posts, which I updated accordingly. Good subject header selection Terry.

Nancy Nall said that she was happy her gender-writing samples came up male. "Cool! I ran three samples through, and it says, consistently, that I got a dick." What a guy thing to say.

posted by TSO @ 17:15

February 13, 2004

Piquant Details

Bill of Summa Minutiae reeled off a beautiful little family reminisce here. Inspired, I thought I'd write a little something even though we don't have many family stories. But the little details that made his story pungent ("Decoration Day", "Huns", "old metal cigarette box") are the kind of things that, for me at least, don't trip off the tongue. But isn't that the pleasure of reading? A fleeting encounter with the unfamiliar?

In lieu of personal family history, I'll borrow from the neighbors. After all, it's not just milk we need, is it? We lived next door to a family of second-generation Germans who told us stories of the time before the Wall fell, of "Checkpoint Charlie" and harrowing tales of East Berliners escaping in ingenious ways. The German's capacity for both ingenuity and brutality were on display at the Wall. Intricate paths to freedom were devised; children making a misstep were shot down by guards. The horror of East Berlin was the foil that made us appreciate our own freedom.

The two Deutschlands of my imagination were represented in their home. There was the Germany of folk tales and children's songs, of yodels and bier. The other Germany was of a darker vintage, of the war-making machines of WWI and WWII, the Krupps, and the model soldiers.

On a living room end table sat a spike helmet from WWI, mute testimony of a fighting man who was in the war and collapsed and died while taking an ice-cold shower after being severely overheated. The anecdote overheated my imagination, and to this day after a hard workout I never take a cold shower. (Hope that doesn't sounds flippant.)

posted by TSO @ 13:05

That Elusive Combo

The woman in the gospel reading from yesterday, Mark 7:25-30, has her prayer answered because she showed the potent combination of humility and perservance. Rather than simply accepting Christ's answer, she answered in a way that simultaneously suggested humility, by not disputing the Lord's reply, while at the same time not taking no for an answer.

From the Catena Aurea:

Theophylact: He calls the Gentiles dogs, as being thought wicked by the Jews; and He means by bread, the benefit which the Lord promised to the children, that is, to the Jews. The sense therefore is, that it is not right for the Gentiles first to be partakers of the benefit, promised principally to the Jews. The reason, therefore, why the Lord does not immediately hear, but delays His grace, is, that He may also shew that the faith of the woman was firm, and that we may learn not at once to grow weary in prayer, but to continue earnest till we obtain.

The soul of each of us also, when he falls into sin, becomes a woman; and this soul has a daughter who is sick, that is, evil actions; this daughter again has a devil, for evil actions arise from devils. Again, sinners are called dogs, being filled with uncleanness. For which reason we are not worthy to receive the bread of God, or to be made partakers of the immaculate mysteries of God; if however in humility, knowing ourselves to be dogs, we confess our sins, then the daughter, that is, our evil life, shall be healed.

posted by TSO @ 13:03

The ideal bible is, of course, the one that gets read, but if I was putting together the pluperfect bible I'd include:

- Psalms from Revised Standard Version
- Rest of bible from Jerusalem Bible
- Study Notes/Guide from New Jerusalem Bible
- Illustrations from the Douay-Rheims Haydock bible
- Leatherbound (for beauty and because I'm hard on things, sayeth my wife)

posted by TSO @ 20:26

February 12, 2004

Interesting article from Nat'l Review:

The Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook

Easterbrook, a senior editor of The New Republic, chronicles in entertaining detail the multitude of ways in which life in America gets better all the time. Americans today have better health, more wealth, greater safety (even in the new age of terrorism), better nutrition, more leisure time, cleaner air and water, and just more stuff to play with and keep them entertained than any earlier generation. In fact, there are an estimated 80 billion people who have ever lived on this earth, and Easterbrook calculates that even poor Americans have a better material living standard than 99.4 percent of them. To have been born here and now is to have truly won the lottery of life.

In the book's second half, Easterbrook discusses the economists' conundrum of whether getting richer makes us happier. There isn't much evidence that Americans are more satisfied with their lives today than in the 1950s, an era when our parents didn't have VCRs, $800 designer teapots, treatments for cancer and heart disease, cleaner air to breathe, and so on. (Although our parents and grandparents may have been just as happy as we are, the evidence does show they were more bored. Our ancestors slept a lot more than we did, because there was nothing else to do at night.) To defend this idea that money doesn't buy happiness, Easterbrook points to data showing that chronic depression is a bigger problem in our society than ever before.

Easterbrook rightly sneers at the crass and preposterous things our consumer-driven society sometimes spends money on, but he has more contempt for the crisis-mongers in media, academia, and government who chronically complain about American life. He ridicules the daily, sensationalized news reports of "poison in the water," lost forests, the health crisis, or whatever the calamity du jour happens to be. Our latest societal affliction is "choice anxiety": so many things to choose from and so little time. --STEPHEN MOORE

posted by TSO @ 16:16

The power of the blog!

posted by TSO @ 13:51

Enter the Persistent

What does it mean that we must become like little children to enter the Kingdom?

I was thinking of Thomas the Misplaced Prot's recent post concerning the nearly unbearable tension between the search for a perfect church populated with imperfect people, or alternatively, the tension inherent in our own contradictions. We pray for peace in the world while dealing with the nagging thorn that says, "what hope has the world?" (Come to think of it, what are diets but the triumph of hope over experience?)

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over all the while expecting different results, but is that insanity or a childlike hope? "Wait for the LORD ; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD," says the psalmist.

"Hopes are waking dreams." - St. Gregory

Update: See this excellent post from Two Sleepy Mommies. See also part of the inspiration for this post, about a mountain that can deceptively appear sisyphean.

posted by TSO @ 09:40

The Passion

The unprecendented acclaim continues: the great evangelist Billy Graham has seen the film and cried during it, saying it was "a lifetime of sermons in one movie". I'm getting nervous; I'll be worried if my eyes aren't spigots on Feb. 25. To be honest the fragments of trailers I've seen haven't impressed me, probably because I'm desensitized to "blood and guts". Gore is to dramas what slapstick is to comedies - the easy way out?*

Part of what is driving the attention, of course, is the charge of anti-Semitism. If this is bumping advance ticket sales then it is an enormous turnabout. Why? Because the normal posture is for Christians to be in the position of providing publicity and the foil for depraved acts, like Janet Jackson's stunt (which no doubt spiked her record sales).

How wonderful it is to be on the other side for a change! Secularists are on the defensive, unwittingly plugging what they loathe.

* - Update: Interesting comment from Neil Dhingra on Amy's blog: "There is, it has been suggested, a certain pleasure that comes from gazing voyeuristically at the brutalized body of Christ - a powerful combination of guilt and desire, since Jesus suffers horribly in bearing our sins but it is through these very sufferings that we are healed. This is very similar to the pleasure that come from a torrid love affair in which the feelings of self-reproach intensify the eroticism. Now, this might make for deeply affecting cinema. One can argue that it has done exactly that in other Mel Gibson films. But it there anything religious about it? Carroll and the Metropolitan's comments suggest that the answer is "Not really."...we can worry that a Passion Play that finds itself relatively unconcerned with the resurrection has lost its very meaning. It ceases to be about communion with God; it becomes - at best - melodrama."

posted by TSO @ 08:21

Cringing in Columbus

Watched Rod Dreher just rake the Vatican over the coals on Bill O'Reilly (from last week I think) concerning the mixed messages he'd received over whether the Pope said, "it is as it was". Manalive, I tell you I was inwardly cringing. You know things are bad when O'Reilly sticks up for the Vatican. Dreher was one degree of separation from saying the Vatican is engaging in 'structures of deceit' to borrow Garry Wills' phrase. We're really airing the dirty laundry these days.

posted by TSO @ 19:55

February 11, 2004

Alan Keyes on Saving Family Farms

It is a sad truth, but the trouble usually comes when farmers produce too much of a good thing. As a result, prices can become so depressed that extraordinarily bountiful crops cannot be sold for a return that even pays for the costs of production, much less provides a profit.

How can economically destructive overproduction be prevented?...Our farm policy should aim rather at encouraging the development of independent and voluntary associations in the farming community to help farmers make the right decisions ... for themselves.
Another article here

I'm not a farmer although I play one in the backyard, but I think part of Alan's solution - that farmers look for alternative crops when there is an overabundance - strikes me as naive. The farmers I know are extremely cagey businessman. I may be wrong, but it seems there is a limited supply of marketable crops and growing hashish isn't an option. I love Keyes, but I'd like to have a "follow-up" as the reporters say.

posted by TSO @ 16:47

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

You threatening to cut off a debate with me is like an ugly man threatening not to have sex with me. --Kathy Shaidle to a Dean supporter, delivering a fisk as elegant as it was repellent, elegant for its brevity and the coup de grace use of the word 'ugly'.

Actually, Elvis sang incredibly well auf Deutsch. - Lee Ann of Literarium

Johnson remembered his life as a Benedictine, in which Scripture was read, listened to and prayed with five times a day, which made it absolutely impossible for him to consider Scripture as most scholars do today - as a cadaver to picked over and dissected. Rather, it is alive, an portal through which encounter with the living, self-disclosing God who lives. - Amy Welborn

Why not calculate the eigenvalue of the eigenvector of the 22 variable space that represents all issues, plot these in a rank/cluster diagram and examine the outliers for probable fit? You could use a bivariate nonparametric statistical analysis..." - Steven of Flos Carmeli on Tom's blog, to which I can only add damn straight, what he said.

In the early 90's, while Kurt Cobain screamed about the world that didn't pick him for kickball in gym class, or Eddie Vedder sang about, well, whatever, Johnny Cash sang about real people who felt guilt and regret, not ironic resentment/jealousy. The voice was like listening to an old testament prophet. His words seem to be more than emotion, they seem to be truth. It's often said that God speaks to us like a still, quiet voice. This IS Johnny Cash' American Recordings. I have cried to this album many times, esp. to Like A Soldier, and The Beast In Me. Accepting one's own contradictions is the key to loving yourself. Johnny's album helped me to do this. - reviewer of Johnny Cash's 'American Recordings'

I think one thing that divides us moderns from our premodern brethren is this ratio of physical vs. social pain. Back in the days before modern medicine, everyone basically became enured to a level of physical suffering that we can hardly imagine...It's hard to convey that aspect of the Jesus story because it's so alien to us....Our first reaction upon seeing a crucified man, or a man walking along with his cross on his back, would likely not be, "Sheesh! What a loser!" But, apparently, the reaction of the day would have been something like that. Maybe something approaching an analogy would be our own forms of real-life humiliation as entertainment, like Joe Millionaire....A crucifixion, one imagines, would have inspired that same schadenfreude. Does Gibson get that about the crucifixion?... I think one problematic attitude I've sometimes run into about the sufferings of Jesus is that, far from humiliating him, they made him one bad-ass dude for enduring so much... If we are to believe Jesus experienced true human suffering, humiliation is a crucial part of that. Especially in that culture. -Camassia

[C.S.] Lewis's experience was very similar to my own. He loved mythology; he loved Wagner and nature (he was an avowed "Autumn fanatic" as I am, too); he had an extended atheistic period in his life (I toyed with the occult in my religiously-nominal childhood and teen years -- though I was never an atheist). Lewis -- my favorite writer, if that is not evident by now -- combined love of mythology and fantasy and imagination with rigorous logical thought (as I seek very much to do in my own apologetics). I was a nature mystic searching for something more... - David Armstrong of Cor ad cor loquitur

What we suffer from today is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.... The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether. --GK Chesterton via Philip of Musings of a Pertniancious Papist

Confession of a book glutton: gluttony, like other vices, dulls the senses yet inflames the passions. You lose that fine sensitivity to detail and, as it fades, you need more. So we come to one of my Lenten resolutions, made up right here on the spot: rather than reading everything in a rush, I will read well, read deeply and read slowly. - Bill of Summa Minutiae

One of my favorite parts about being Catholic is that Mass is every day. Church is open almost all day, depending on the neighborhood. Not just Sundays. - Therese Z of Santificarnos

I liked Thomas Merton's take on Jesus and His wart-ridden followers. I take great comfort in it. I don't want to wrap myself up in sinful habits and predispositions like a cloak (or like a "burrito', as Smockmomma's husband might say)--but I can't imagine going dead in the wits. Is that snobbishness, overfond attachment to intellectual entertainment, or simple integrity to who God made me? St. Francis de Sales would know. Read him for Lent... --Kathy Swistock

One thing I've learned over the years is that, though made in God's image, the human mind is a beast of almost intractable obstinacy; its intellect (as Newman put it) arrogant and corrosive, restless, dissatisfied, irreverent, vain and rebellious; its greatest faculty, reason, a very poor tool for unearthing truth and, if relied on to the exclusion of all else, will lead us to die happily in a hell of falsehood - in short, its inclination tending toward destruction as often as creation. -Bill of Apologia

It's in the Bible: no man can serve two masters. - Jeff of ElCamino, on why polygamy is wrong

While sarcasm and irony can be useful, they are difficult to wield with charity. - Michelle of And Then?

Put the Smock Down smockmomma in '04!

posted by TSO @ 13:10

Chicken or the Egg

I think it was St. John of the Cross who said that often we long for spiritual peace without deserving it, but isn't there a kind of spiritual peace that comes in accepting a lack of spiritual peace?

posted by TSO @ 11:27

John Paul - Too Lenient?

I was recently touched by reader Jeanne's request that I offer my opinion of JPII's management of the Church. Obviously for me to judge JPII is akin to Tim, the 22-year old philosophy major, informing Kathy Shaidle why she should vote for Dean. But bloggers go where where the brave dare not go, so Jeanne, thanks for asking.

I think that it's far more important to offer ideas - which this Pope has done in spades - than to tear down. Tearing down has been tried before, most obviously with the anti-modernist encyclicals of Pius X. In the political sphere, tearing down failed when used by Bush Sr. in '92. The reason the Republican party was so successful with the "Contract with America" in '94 was because the Republicans had a positive vision. The Democrats didn't. Republicans won hearts and minds.

That's not to say that people don't long for limits and for clarity. They do. But the lack of clarity came prior to JPII, and it's easier to prevent the genie from getting out of the bottle than to put the genie back in the bottle. One need to exercise much more caution with the latter.

Philip Trower, hardly a Jcecil3 type, makes a good case in his Ignatius Press book "Turmoil and Truth" that the church of the 50s was going to weaken greatly anyway. The fact that all the Protestant churches fell apart too should be a siren call that the collapse had nothing to do with Vatican II, although admittedly many took license with faulty interpretations of Vatican II.

Ultimately it is an unanswerable question because we see the Church in its present state but we don't know what it would look like if the Pope had declared thermo-nuclear war on theologians, Catholic colleges and the like. What people don't realize is that when a leader insists on getting his way, he can be sabotaged in a million less noticeable ways. The fact that JPII gets sniped at by those who think he's too strict and those who think he's too lenient suggests he is striking the right balance. Does anyone imagine that the first John Paul would've been stricter!? By most accounts he would've made JPII look like a tyrant. Same thing with Paul VI. Same thing with John XXIII. This Pope is the most disciplinarian pope we've had since the Pius's.

posted by TSO @ 08:53

George Bush's Dilemma

The international community, from the Pope on down, thought the U.S. should've gotten the full cooperation of the U.N. before launching the Iraq War. Which would have been much preferable.

But now we know that France, Russia, Indonesia and others were receiving millions of judgment-clouding barrels of illicit Iraqi oil. Couldn't they have recused themselves? Even the Russian Orthodox church was on the take.

The phrase "it's hard to fly with eagles when you work with turkeys" well applies to the U.N.. It's pretty hard to be pure in an impure world. George Bush, if he'd obeyed the international community, could've waited a year (and possibly probably still wouldn't have gotten U.N. approval). If he did, this would put the war right in the wheelhouse of the 2004 election, meaning Bush would have had to sacrifice any chance of a second term. All because France, Russia, and Germany said 'no', as they rake in the moolah. And they say the oil bidness is dirty.

posted by TSO @ 07:54

Poem from Modern Drunkard Magazine:

Foolish Drunk
He’s a fool who loves the liquor,
It softens the skinflint at once,
It urges the slow to walk quicker,
Gives spirit and brains to the dunce.
The man who is dumb as a rule
Discovers a great deal to say,
While he who is bashful since Yule
Will talk in an amorous way.
It’s drink that fulfills the hollow boast
To give battle in France and in Spain,
Now here is the end of my toast—
And fill me that glass again!
—Turlough O’Carolan
Modern Drunkard Magazine apparently solicits poems. Strangely, I have very few if any poems about drink. In praise of nature, yes. Hmm...if they just wanted spam poems...

posted by TSO @ 15:34

February 10, 2004

From Mars

Fortunately, this writing test predicted my maleness. Blog entries and a fictional writing sample both came up y chromosomal.* (link via Annunciations).

Speaking of fictional writing, how cool is Ono's book cover? Self-publishing is frowned on by the elitists, but Ono's example is rather inspiring I think. Some climb mountains, some run marathons - writing a book seems no less foolish. My credo here at the blog is that I'd rather be read by two people intensely than a thousand people shallowly. Ono might not have a big market but contrary to what the spams say, bigger isn't always better.

Do blogs jump sharks? I think a blog will have a decreasing marginal utility for a given reader over time. We all have a limited perspective and once we've shared that perspective there's increasingly less we can bring to the table. Didn't someone once say that we all have one book in us? Of course, blogs are not books -- there are always links, quotes, prayer requests, book and movie reviews and the like, all of which suggest the half-life for the blogger might be long, should circumstances allow.

* - Is there a tendency for females to like female authors and males to prefer male writers? There are a couple female bloggers I especially like to read and just for grins I put some of their stuff in the ol' writing test and both came up male. Interesting.

Update: Looks like my utilitarian side was showing. :) Terry of Summa Momma's fame responded, making much sense: "I think in the more personal blogs that we mostly read, it becomes MORE like a friendship, less like a stranger whose opinions we are reading... I even question the sharp division between "real life" and the internet. It is part of "real life"! People in the past had longstanding correspondences with people--correspondences lasting decades and longer. How else would we be so graced by Flannery O'Connor's letters? We're doing the same thing--sending out letters to a group of friends. The analogy doesn't hold exactly, I'll grant you that. But I see no reason for a necessary half-life of a blog, any more than I see a necessary half-life for a friendship."

posted by TSO @ 14:51

GK Chesterton Quote

"An element of paradox runs through the whole of existence itself. It begins in the realm of ultimate physics and metaphysics, in the two facts that we cannot imagine a space that is infinite, and that we cannot imagine a space that is finite. It runs through the inmost complications of divinity, in that we cannot conceive that Christ in the wilderness was truly pure, unless we also conceive that he desired to sin. It runs, in the same manner, through all the minor matters of morals, so that we cannot imagine courage existing except in conjunction with fear, or magnanimity existing except in conjunction with some temptation to meanness." - Chesterton's "Varied Types"

posted by TSO @ 13:52

Pondering Cooperation

I've been thinking about different forms of cooperation. There is a temptation on the job to fill a customer's request rather than their need. I may know more than what I'm telling. This minimalist philosophy means that I'm only legalistically cooperating.

There are times when I'm on the other side of the equation. I'm at a dentist's office, getting my teeth drilled, scraped, needled or otherwise brutalized. Because I'm motivated for it to be over quickly, I may "over-cooperate" in trying to lend my help to the dentist by slightly moving my jaw into said instrument of torture and by anticipating his movements. In order to save the doc exertion and time in whatever mechanical action he is doing, I try to add my energy.

With God, it seems both forms of cooperation are useless. In the customer service example (obviously the more familiar error) I'm cooperating only with my lips and not my whole mind and body and soul. Catherine de Hueck Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, wrote:

"There are certain moments in your prayers or thinking - moments in your life with God - when suddenly you mean what you are saying or doing with all your heart and soul, with everything that you are. At those moments you are saying in effect, "Take my mind and my will, Lord, and cleanse them." At these times you really mean it. Do these moments last a minute, an hour, a day? You don't know. You only know that afterwards, your mind and your will have been returned to you cleansed. You are more alive."
In the dental example, life is meant to be lived, not to be Jansenistically "gotten over". The imperfect dentist is replaced by the perfect God, so impatience and anticipating His moves seem inappropriate.

posted by TSO @ 13:48

Poem via Steven Riddle

Holy Sonnet 14
John Donne

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

posted by TSO @ 11:28

Imitation is...

....the sincerest form of flattery, so I'll steal/tweak Lee Ann's idea for my books. I'm sure I've forgotten some goodies.

24-Man Roster
Reveries of a Bachelor - Ik Marvel (Donald Grant Mitchell)
Varied Types - GK Chesterton
Pete Rose: My Prison without Bars - Pete Rose
The Christian and Anxiety - Hans Urs von Balthasar
Shows about Nothing: Nihilism in Popular Culture - Thomas Hibbs
Dark Star Safari - Paul Theroux

Invited to Spring Training
Haiti : a guide to the people, politics and culture - Charles Arthur
Andrew Jackson and his Indian Wars - Robert V. Remini
If the South Had Won the Civil War - Harry Turtledove
God Rides a Yamaha: Musings on Pain, Poetry and Pop Culture - Kathy Shaidle

Recent Retirees
Sixpence House - Paul Collins
Turmoil and Truth - Philip Trower

HOF - Cal Ripken Division
The Jerusalem Bible

Hall of Fame
East of Eden - John Steinbeck
Habit of Being - Flannery O'Connor
Merchant of Venice - Shakespeare
The Thanatos Syndrome - Walker Percy
The Correspondence of Walker Percy and Shelby Foote - Jay Tolson, editor
Toward the End of Time - John Updike
Stonewall Jackson - James Robertson
Gladstone - Roy Jenkins

Most Valuable Coaches
Crossing the Threshold of Hope - Pope JPII
Cloister Walk - Kathleen Norris
Rome Sweet Home - Scott Hahn
Lost in the Cosmos - Walker Percy
A Father Who Keeps His Promises - Scott Hahn
Case for Christ - Lee Strobel
Salt of the Earth - Cardinal Ratzinger

Fantasy League
Mark Lehner
Kinky Friedman
Florence King
Haruki Murakami

posted by TSO @ 09:40


The seven sacraments in the Orthodox world are called "Divine Mysteries" and Fr. Groeschel mentions the difference between mystery and magic. A divine mystery, or sacrament, is a reality which you cannot see it. It is the opposite of magic, which an unreality that appears real. With magic, you see something that isn't there, with sacrament you don't see something that is.

posted by TSO @ 08:54

Grazing the Glass Teat...

I wonder at what point an elaborate practical joke morphs into torturing one's family? This is way over that line.

Speaking of television, with the demise of Ballykissangel I've turned to Monarch of the Glen for my Celticphile needs.

posted by TSO @ 08:51

Better him...

Poor sap is addicted to Bibliofind.. 'Scuse me, gotta do a find on

posted by TSO @ 16:40

February 9, 2004

Theroux on Philanthropy

Africa has always been special to Paul Theroux. He's traveled there extensively, speaks the indigenous languages, and spent part of the 60s teaching in Malawi as a Peace Corps volunteer. He went back in 2001 and the result is the very interesting book, "Dark Star Safari".

It is painful for him to see how everything has come to ruins; where there was hope in the 60s, he's reached the conclusion that only Africans can solve African problems and that foreign aid is probably only making things worse. He says Africans should either run their own businesses and become independent that way, or simply start from scratch and rely on subsistence farming. "'Save them', the agents of virtue said of such people, yet farmers like these had saved themselves. Subsistence farming was not a sad thing to me anymore."

He talks about the Indian businesses that once thrived in an African city - until a despotic leader asked the Indians to leave so that Africans could take control of their own financial destiny. But the businesses failed and when Theroux asked one of the city leaders why, the official said that all Indians did was count, count, count and that wasn't valued in African culture. Theroux pointed out that given the slim profit margins, small business owners had to constantly count inventory. But the city leader scoffed.

"I began to understand the futility of charity in Africa. It was generally fueled by the best of motives, but its worst aspect was that it was noninspirational. Aliens had been helping for so long and were so deeply entrenched that Africans lost interest - if indeed they ever had it - in doing the same work themselves."

Theroux quotes Thoreau: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root, and it may be that he who bestows the largest amount of time and money on the needy is doing the most by his mode of life to produce that misery which he strives in vain to relieve."

I have mixed emotions. On the one hand I don't believe, as Theroux may, that any charitable effort is wasted. He ties the efforts he and others made to longterm visible results. There are surely many innocent people being helped, especially children. But on the other hand, it is leading me to fully realize that only God can direct charitable efforts, or even knows what charity is, because I no longer see it as an objective enterprise - i.e. give aid to those most in need. "Most in need" is a slippery concept; Theroux sees much of the aid projects as fueling longterm dependency and the encouragement of sloth.

(I haven't yet thought about the spiritual parallel, given that many of us, myself included, are charity cases ourselves.)

posted by TSO @ 16:38

Songs of Innocence and Spam-erience

"You can hide 'neath your covers and study your spam..." - Springsteen's "Thunder Road"

How do you solve
A problem like a spammer?
How do you catch
A cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word
That describes a spammer?
A flibberti gibbet!
A willo' the wisp!
A pain!

Many a thing you know
You'd like to tell them,
Many a thing they ought
To understand.
But how do you make them stay,
And listen to all you say?
How do you keep a wave
Upon the sand?
Oh, how do you solve
A problem like a spammer?

-- with help from Rodgers and Hammerstein


Poem made up entirely of spam subject headers:

Domestic habituate pentagon
couldn't bear the thought
this really worked for me
RE: Proceed With Your Ordination
You can't survive on just a paycheck
a date is waiting

posted by TSO @ 11:42

Passion Politics

It's been sort of interesting the way some evangelicals are reacting to the new movie "The Passion". Our local anti-Catholic minister has been of a 'wait and see' attitude, saying that the gospel accounts are sufficient but if this leads some to Christ, then so be it. On the other hand the author Lee Strobel is enthusiastically full-bore, prepared to maximize its evangelistic effect, not appearing to care in the least that Mel Gibson is a Catlicker. An evangelical acquaintance mentioned in regard to the movie: "I heard the actor who played Christ say that he was a Roman Catholic and that they had Mass on the set every morning." It sounds so formal to hear the "Roman" in front of Catholic, doesn't it?

The pounding Gibson is getting by secularist media types like Frank Rich eases intramural difficulties. All Christians have tremendously more in common than uncommon, and so there's a natural alliance formed when any of us are attacked by outsiders.

But even some Catholics are suspicious of the movie because they say Gibson isn't Catholic enough for them, that he's in schism. What resonates with me is the beauty of Mel Gibson's reply when asked why he wasn't in the movie. "I am in the movie - playing the only part I could. My hands pound the nails...".

posted by TSO @ 11:35

Concert in the City

In the velvet seat I catch my breath
my home, this Ohio theatre,
a conductor full of poignancies
and of seeming superfluities
dressed in the required regalia
a romantic, an E. Lee type,
he breaks the spell by drinking Evian.

In the music, freedom and nostalgia intertwine
and afterwards trees twist in fantastic shapes
a sign attracts:
"Blood Oranges for Sale"
as do the barrister bookcases in a law firm window
like a page out of Dickens.

posted by TSO @ 09:03


"Shouldn't we look to Bismarck as the beginning of the Third Reich?" - paraphrase (I was reading it in the bookstore) of opening line of book "Coming of the Third Reich" by Richard J. Evans.

"To be content with Mystery is very difficult for us... We live in an age which analyzes, quantifies and measures constantly.... Canon law requires that the Tabernacle be opaque, a quality consistent with mystery and respect for God." - paraphrasing an assistant priest at Mass today.

Walker Percy writes Shelby Foote concerning Edward Casaubon in George Eliot's Middlemarch: "Poor Mr. Casaubon: pooped right out in his rose garden, sometimes I feel like him, but hornier."

Foote replies: "If I'd been Casaubon I wouldn't have much to do with that chick either. He had more life in his dead hand than she had in her twitchy little heart; which is not to say he wasn't the blot he was; he was."

"Russert called Iraq 'a pre-emptive war.' It really wasn't - and I say that as someone who strongly favors pre-emption as a policy." - Cliff May of NRO on Tim Russert's interview of George W. Bush. My opinion is that Bush really tanked the WMDs/intel portion of the interview. I'm sure there's a reason he's so protective of the CIA generally and George Tenet specifically, and I really hoped I'd learn it during this interview, but I still don't get it.

posted by TSO @ 13:50

February 8, 2004

Eating Crow and Liking It

I remind myself often that people have "the right to be wrong". This is easier, obviously, when it's me who is wrong, like I was when I declared John Kerry's candidacy D.O.A.. At the time Kerry was fourth or fifth in all the polls and I thought it inconceivable the Dems would nominate another Massachusetts liberal. Credit Ono for sticking with his man through thick and thin, while exercising his right.

The only Presidential elections the 'Crats have won in the past 40 years have been Southerners representing themselves as moderates. So it's pretty bold of primary voters to say - like my mom did when we had hash for dinner -"You'll have our liberal Noreaster and you'll like him!"

They may well get away with it because lightning doesn't strike twice and it took a lightning bolt for Bush to get elected in 2000. It's pretty difficult to automatically give away California and New York's electoral votes every election and continue to win. Not much room for error.

Someone once said the sunnier, happier candidate has won all of the Presidential contests since the advent of television, with the notable exception of Nixon over Humphrey. So Kerry's probable use of a Botox injection is pretty cagey. And I'm sure he's working on that smile...

posted by TSO @ 07:45

Interesting Post interview with Cardinal McCarrick:

My spiritual director once said to me, "Your problem is you don't trust enough." I was very upset because I felt that I really trusted. He said, "God has given His trust in you so much that He's given you the care of thousands of people. Don't you think you ought to trust Him a little?" I've been someone who has always been interested in finding levels of trust, with friends, with family, with superiors, and with God in a special way. In human relations, there're just so many times we don't trust each other. That's why you have wars. That's why you have fighting. That's why you have all the unhappiness. Because unhappiness comes so much from distrust.

posted by TSO @ 18:54

February 7, 2004

Once Saved...

The Baptist pastor on our local radio affiliate said that ex-Catholics often join his congregation because they long for assurance of salvation. One might think it odd or ironic that an unbiblical doctrine like "once saved, always saved" would be trumpeted in a self-described bible-believing church but I think it actually makes sense. Because if you're really familiar with the bible, as many Protestants but fewer Catholics are, then the lens of OSAS allows you to read the bible with equanimity. Bible passages that might be difficult for the scrupulous are made easy to swallow.

The Catholic way of dealing with it seems to be avoiding the subject, at least from the pulpit. I don't think I've ever heard a sermon about the possibility of hell. This is understandable. It is, after all, the "age of anxiety" and on the Catholic front theologians work to lighten the burden of the faithful rather than to add to the burden as the Pharisees did. Hans Urs von Balthasar attempted to give us the hope that all will be saved, while remaining faithful to the Scriptures and the Church, for which he should be applauded. Not an easy task. Ultimately the "seamless garment" of the bible is trust in God, and it arguably takes more trust if salvation is in doubt than if it is guaranteed. Fr. Groeschel once made the amusing comment that if you die and you see a sign that says "Saved People Here" 'avoid it like the plague. Jesus came to save sinners, not the saved.'

posted by TSO @ 15:22

On Heavy Rotation

“Guitars, Cadillacs” – Dwight Yoakam
"In Spite Of Ourselves" - John Prine
“Lone Star Blues” - Delbert McClinton
“How Mountain Girls Can Love” - Ralph Stanley
“Draggin’ my Chains” – Pam Tillis

posted by TSO @ 23:21

February 6, 2004

Sage Advice from Marcus Grodi:

I have found it helpful to think of the Our Father as divided into five stanzas, each helping me re-commit myself to the Lord at that unique moment.

Think in your mind's eye of standing directly before Jesus. The spot where you stand is the now of your spiritual journey. What is in front of you before your face is what or whom you are committed to; to your left is the past you are to leave behind; to your right is the future you are to trust to God; behind you is what you are to turn your back on:

Stanza One: Adoration of the God before you:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name!

Stanza Two: Complete surrender to Him:

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Stanza Three: Detachment from all but what you need:

Give us this day our daily bread.

Stanza Four: Forget and forgive the past, wiping it clean: (mentally to your left)

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Stanza Five: Relinquish all anxiety about the future into God's hands: (mentally to your right)

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. --Marcus Grodi

posted by TSO @ 13:38

I'd like to thank the Academy...

I've just won the blog award Most Eclectic--Somewhat Closer to the Known Universe of the Rest of Us Division. It's an honor just to be nominated. I recall, one day back in 2001, seeing Amy Welborn's website had a link to something she called a "blog". I emailed her, asking what the heck a blog was, and the rest, as they say, is history.

posted by TSO @ 13:01

Electorally Speaking

Fun, interactive electoral map. My best guess is 199 electoral votes for Kerry to 196 for Bush (270 needed), with these states to decide it:


Your mileage may vary... Florida again looks critical. Two U.S. Supreme Court vacancies could come down to a couple thousand Florda voters. Long term, it's hard to see how the Republican party can survive without black and Hispanic votes.

2000 map here.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

Chesterton Excerpt

It is the standing peculiarity of this curious world of ours that almost everything in it has been extolled enthusiastically and invariably extolled to the disadvantage of everything else.

One after another almost everyone one of the phenomena of the universe has been declared to be alone capable of making life worth living. Books, love, business, religion, alcohol, abstract truth, private emotion, money, simplicity, mysticism, hard work, a life close to nature, a life close to Belgave Square are every one of them passionately maintained by somebody to be so good that they redeem the evil of the otherwise indefensible world. Thus, while the world is almost always condemned in summary, it is always justified, and indeed extolled, in detail after detail.

Existence has been praised and absolved by a chorus of pessimists. The work of giving thanks to Heaven is, as it were, divided ingeniously among them. Schopenhauer is told off as a kind of librarian in the House of God, to sing the praises of the austere pleasures of the mind...Omar Khayyam is established in the cellar, and swears that it is the only room in the house.

The popularity of pure and unadulterated pessimism is an oddity; it is almost a contradiction in terms. Men would no more receive the news of the failure of existence that they would light bonfires for the arrival of cholera...The man who is popular must be optimistic about something, even if he is only optimistic about pessimism. And this was emphatically the case with Byron and the Byronists....They heaped curses upon man, but they used man merely as a foil. The things they wished to praise by comparison were the energies of Nature. Man was to them...what must be censured in order that somebody else may be exalted. [Blogger's Note: Does this sound familiar? Man must be diminished so that animals be exalted (PETA)? Babies must be censured so that adults (in this case woman) be exalted? (NARAL)]

Matters are very different with the more modern school of doubt and lamentation. Byron tended towards the desert; the new pessimism towards the restaurant. Byronism was a revolt against artificiality; the new pessimism is a revolt in its favor.

One of the best tests in the world of what a poet really means is in his metre. He may be a hypocrite in his metaphysics, but he cannot be a hypocrite in his prosody. And all the time that Byron's language is of horror and emptiness, his metre is a bounding pas de quatre. --from "Varied Types"

posted by TSO @ 12:42

Okay Brad, But What Would Aquinas Say?


On the same CD, the country singer sings of cigar arson.

posted by TSO @ 11:20

February 5, 2004


Interesting David Frum column on whether George Bush is a conservative.

posted by TSO @ 09:04

From the Everything's-Been-Done-Before File:

My idea of reprocessing spam appears to be old hat. Hey it keeps us off the streets. God bless this spam poet. Great minds...

Link via Michelle of And Then? who wrote with Monty Pythonesque flavor:

"Every spam should be a wanted spam. One noble endeavor adopts spam email and gives it new life as poetry: 'I write poetry using only the subject lines from the hundreds of pieces of SPAM I get every day.'"

posted by TSO @ 15:28

February 4, 2004

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

It's been suggested that football represents America as Rome, and baseball, America as Athens. (Though last night's halftime show probably qualifies as Cretan.) - Mark of Irish Elk, regarding the Super Bowl, aka Nipplegate.

I will always be more thrifty than your average Joe or Jane, but my days of going through the cashier's line ten times in a row to save ten cents a package on a box of Ramen Pride egg noodles are over. - Ham of Bone

Now, now, Chuck. Some people are simply more abundant than others. - Tom of Disputations, after Chuck suggested, regarding a posted picture of a heavy shirtless man, that the man regain his shirt.

Supernatural "grace" reflects ever so faintly the more mundane variety. We admire a dancer's "grace"... This worldly kind of "grace" is rare and so we make note of it. Conversely, God's supernatural "grace" is bountiful, yet many choose to ignore it. When we do accept God's grace, however, we are capable of feats of charity and holiness that rival any dancer's leap. When a mother forgives the rapist who murdered her daughter; when someone performs works of mercy selflessly and without recognition; when another chooses death rather than renounce their faith in Christ -- these things are only possible with God's grace. One Lent many years ago, I secretly decided I was going to give up making fun of a very irritating fellow who hung around the fringes of my "gang." So I prayed for him, engaged him in admittedly stilted conversation, and resisted the temptation to join in when my friends snickered behind his back. Believe me, only God's grace kept me going those forty days. In fact, only God puts such ideas in our heads and hearts to begin with. - Kathy Shaidle of Relapsed Catholic

Attention, Deaniacs: America evidently doesn't want to be taken back. - Mark of Irish Elk, on the Howard Dean fade.

Fasting sharpens our appreciation of the good things God gives us -- we're easier to please -- and helps us break our attachment to them... Finally, Screwtape is certainly not the first writer to note the link between gluttony and impurity. Our society equates gluttony with being fat -- if you don't get fat, then gluttony isn't a problem -- in fact, you're considered lucky to be able to eat whatever you want and not gain weight. It's kind of like a culinary contraceptive mentality -- the desire to have sex whenever you want without any consequences; to eat all you want and not get fat. - Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies

Ok, I'm going to venture out a bit here with a theory...With our contraceptive culture, people are probably having relations on a very frequent basis. When too frequent, the man may have troubles with, well, you know. Therefore, the greater need for these [UpsyDaisy] products. A couple who practices NFP keeping with the mind of the Church, probably isn't as frequent. Not without, just not as frequent. Thus, the man does not have the above problem. - Tom of Goodform, on all the commercials advertising Viagra & the like.

When sex is a performance, as it is in a contraceptive culture, then when you can't "perform," you're a "failure." "Performance" also demands the review of "costumes" (physical appearance), "set" (consumer items, image), "script" (who said what to whom in what order?), and I'm sure you can add more theatrical comparisons. When sex is an act of unity and love, and maybe creation of new life, certainly there are actions important, even essential, to the completion of the act, but difficulties experienced don't remove the unity or the love. I'm not suggesting anything brutish and incoherent, but there's a broad and wholesome path separating Catholic theology of marital sex, and sex-as-theatre. Too idealistic? - Therese Z of Santificarnos

"The Virgin Monologues" - Enbrethiliel and Antony of Sancta Sanctis, title of a proposed play about the virgin martyrs instead of the cult of the vagina.

Catholic culture has lost most of its earthy sensuality, as well as its equally famous flipside: a stringent, sometimes macabre, asceticism...Meanwhile, this era's contribution to Catholic philosophy? The Consistent Life Ethic. Only someone who's spent more time in a library than out-of-doors could possibly think that any "life" worth living could possibly be "consistent," let alone want it to be...Passion and pain, not politeness or perfectionism, are the purest crucibles of poetry and prayer. - Kathy Shaidle

I would like to speak to what appears to be a widespread misconception, that is, that charismatic spirituality is all about emotion. Sometimes charismatic prayer meetings are emotional, or loud and enthusiastic, which I think is what is usually meant by "emotional"--but then so is the reception generally given to the Holy Father when he travels, or even appears in his public audiences in Rome. Personally--and I have never been a Catholic except as a charismatic--I have found the most profound emotion in silent prayer alone, and especially in receiving the Holy Eucharist. Charismatic prayer meetings can be quiet as well as loud, and participants can be persons of all temperaments...As Paul says in I Corinthians 11:19... "There must be divisions, in order that those who are sound may be manifest among you." To insist on a unity that imposes mediocrity of faith on all is not to preserve, but to destroy the Church. - Henry of Plumbline in the Wind

When we are surrounded by value free performance and advertising, the technological, mechanical, sexual are all severed from personhood. Why are we not surprised that Justin was not arrested? If he did that in any other venue in this country he would have been. The most offensive ad was of referee who is able to endure horrible abuse on the field only because he is well trained for it by an abusive wife. In case you missed it, this was an advertisement for a beer. The market longs for the destruction of the human family. After we have put asunder what God has joined they will need two homes, two or more cars, microwaves, televisions, stereos, beers, and so forth. What has happen as viewed from the towers of corporate America is that the population remains the same, advertising budgets remain the same, but the market can now be TWICE as big as it used to be. In what universe is it funny for an elderly couple to attack each other violently over a bag of chips? - Fr. Keyes of "The New Gasparian"

I may be perverse, but sometimes I find myself, with Herrick, more bewitched by the imperfect "than when art / Is too precise in every part." - Bill Luse of Apologia

posted by TSO @ 15:07


I've noticed some of my homies dropping the blogball. I rarely see posts from Mark of Minute Particulars, Bill of Summa Wolfram, The Mighty Barrister. Is it possible to run out of things to say? Maybe they're not Irishmen (for whom the tongue never ends) but still...

Wiser heads shut up and pray.

posted by TSO @ 09:48

On Blogway

I recently had an unpleasant encounter with an unpleasant person on another blog. (Say last phrase like 'on another network' *grin*).

I don't expect St. Blog's to be all peace and joy, that would be something of an artificial, hothouse environment. Part of what interests me about the internet is that it's a microcosm of the larger world in the sense that we play the parts of Bush, Hussein, Chirac, Blair and others in our little micro way. Where we really stand on the pacifism/just war continuum is mercilessly exposed by our actions on the web. How we respond to verbal attacks, etc.

Bloggers I have uber-respect for, such as Tom & Amy, show their fangs at infrequent intervals but the fang-showing seems very effective. The message is understood: "don't mess around with Jim". They never resort to the blog equivalent of nuclear bombs because they keep Husseins in line with the occasional hard ball. But their fangs may serve a larger purpose than themselves; self-defense, yes, but also to ensure a climate in which fair play ensues.

Update: Whoa. Bar the door Kate. I guess I ain't seen nothing. Kathy S. describes how being nice is not the same as being good.

posted by TSO @ 09:06

Another Perspective on Ms. Jackson... I hadn't thought of since I am Ms. Jackson's age. From Nicole Gelinas:

MTV has distorted the sexual narrative so much that it's supposed to have nothing to do with reproduction, and everything to do with public pleasure, self-gratification, exposed skin, and all the rest of the elements on the video-production checklist...Who's going to be brave enough to tell Madonna and Jackson that young men haven't evolved so much since the 1980s that they fantasize about women their mothers' age?

posted by TSO @ 07:47

Lenten Books

Lent is to the Christians as two-a-days are to the Big Ten football player - time to get in shape. With that in mind I'm trying to decide which spiritual book to read for Lent (last year's "Screwtape Letters" was enriching). So far it's down to "Introduction to the Devout Life" by De Sales, "Thoughts of St. Therese of Lisieux", "A Friday Afternoon" by Richard John Neuhaus and Augustine's "Confessions". Maybe the encyclicals of JPII, the documents of Vatican II, or just more Bible.

The encyclicals of his that I've read have struck a nerve. They speak to me the way many medieval writers don't. I know that spirituality is in one sense timeless, but I also know that I am a prisoner of my culture. The classics of literature are timeless, but, maddeningly, I find myself reading modern writers like Roth, Updike, Wolfe and O'Connor rather than Dickens, Tolstoy, Hawthorne and Chesterton, the latter whom I admire as they gather dust on my library shelves.

Applied to spirituality, perhaps I should read Ratzinger, JPII, Neuhaus, encyclicals, and more NT rather than OT. There's a medicine for every age since every age has slightly different ills.

posted by TSO @ 07:41

The Corner's Jonah Goldberg posts those who:

"are recently dead and have done terrible damage to the culture. Here's my brief, off the cuff, by no means final, in no particular order, list":

1. Franz Fanon.
2. Edward Said.
3. Che Guevara.
4. Norman Mailer & Gore Vidal -- once they're dead.
5. Mumia Abu Jamal -- assuming he dies of old age.
6. Pol Pot (unless he falls into the too-obvious-villain category).
7. Paul De Man, Martin Heidegger and a slew of lesser post-modernists, phenomenologists, Husserlites, post-structuralists, etc.
8. The Krupps Family circa WWII
9. All Soviet dictators whose bodies have enough coherence to still dangle.
10 L. Ron Hubbard
11. The Rosenbergs, just to emphasize we were right the first time.
12. The Assaads, Jong-Ils, Khomenis and other assorted recently departed dicators.
13. I.F. Stone.
14. Margaret Sanger

posted by TSO @ 14:39

February 3, 2004

Heavy Matters

I've been about 30-35 lbs overweight for about ten years. Apparently I've reached a "set point" at which both gaining or losing takes effort.

Weight gain seems a natural part of aging. Someone looked at our twenty year high school reunion picture and said that it "looks like everyone swelled". The old saying went, "never trust anyone under the age of 30" should be "never trust anyone who weighs under 160 lbs". Ha, I kid, I love alls the people, even those I can't stand.

I actually lost two pounds on the cruise, which amazes me. I worked out and walked a ton, so I burnt more calories than usual. But I ate three huge meals a day when I'm used to two and drank about 800% more by volume. Maybe it's the new "alcohol diet"? A relative who was a former alcoholic (twelve-pack of beer on a slow day) was razor thin during his drinkin' years. Basically he only drank, no room for food. Then, fortunately, he got sober and gained 100 lbs, substituting another addiction (ice cream and sweets). Without grace, I guess we push down one attachment and another one pops up. Some addictions are worse than others though, and he's a much nicer person now.

posted by TSO @ 13:39

Today's "Greene on Capri" Excerpt

Some comments were made, far from favourable, about Deconstruction, which had begun, then, to cut its swath through the universities; and about the modern obsession with explication and analysis that blighted the singular experience of literature.

Francis told [Graham] that Gibbon had identified the same phenomenon as a signal of Rome's decline. ("The name of Poet was almost forgotten; that of Orator was usurped by the sophists. A cloud of critics, of compilers, of commentators, darkened the face of learning, and the decline of genius was soon followed by the corruption of taste.") --Shirley Hazzard
As a compiler and commentator, I resent resemble that remark. :) Interesting notion of poetry as a sort of "canary in the coalmine" concerning culture, reminding me of Von Balthasar's quote about how crucial the capacity for appreciating beauty is in regards to the faith. More poetry, less politics!

posted by TSO @ 10:04


Steven Riddle mentioned that he has sent me comments in the past (which I haven't gotten), so I apologize for any comments to which I haven't responded due to not receiving them. I'll look into fixing this. I do know that the email address is a requirement even though there is no error message produced when it isn't provided. You can always send me emails the old fashioned way.

Note to self... Politics, religion, sex? Huh?! Nothing compared to the subject of weight gain/loss.

posted by TSO @ 20:53

February 2, 2004

Interesting excerpt Trower's "Turmoil and Truth"

A family relative once told me that she doesn't fast because "life is hard enough", and I didn't have a response (I'm not a very good faster myself). This excerpt is pretty interesting, concerning the collapse of disciplines after Vatican II and the crucial relationship between rules and love:

The bored, unhappy or de-supernaturalised priests of thirty or forty years ago were quickest to abandon belief and plunge into new, less demanding beliefs in order to make life vivid and interesting.

With members of religious orders, when faith was no longer something vital, there were two special temptations. The first was to make a fetish of rules and regulations.

Rules are not to be despised. According the the great teachers of spiritual life, faithful observance of the order's rule is for the religious a first step on the path to sanctity. Rules make the common life possible. Properly applied they give stability of mind and heart, help to curb self-will, promote unity, and enable those subject to them to love God more immensely by releasing them from having to make a multitude of minor decisions.

But they are only a first step. Some people get a purely natural satisfaction out of keeping rules. If rules loom too large, those for whom they have no natural appeal will find them stifling rather than stabilizing and liberating. No longer accepted for the love of God, they can end by generating weariness of spirit or dull dislike.

The second tempation for the bored religious is to use scholarship as a distraction. The danger lies in scholarship's being a presentable activity. If the members of a religious order are living in luxury or acting immorally everyone can see they are going off the rails. But no one can see the decline of faith, hope and charity in the soul of a religious sitting behind a pile of learned books. A well-known biblical scholar has described how he started studying Scripture because he found his fellow religious too boring to talk to. But in this frame of mind, what is the use of studying Scripture which is so largely about loving one's brothers, boring or not?

posted by TSO @ 16:49

Why the Passion?

Anticipating the release of Mel Gibson's film, the February issue of "The Rock" magazine asks why Christ had to suffer for our sins:

We might be tempted to ask: If God wanted Christ, as a representative of mankind, to defeat Satan, and Christ had available to him all the power of God, why coudn't Christ simply crush the devil in combat? Why submit himself to such torment?

In addition to the reasons we have already noted, Augustine offered this one: "The devil was to be conquered not by the power of God but by his righteousness...For the devil, through the fault of his own preversity, had become a lover of power and a forsaker and assailant of righteousness...So it pleased God that, in rescuing man from the grasp of the devil, the devil should be vanquished not by power but by righteousness. In the same way men, imitating Christ, should seek to conquer the devil by righteousness, not by power".

In a sense, then, righteousness is itself a kind of might, but a higher kind than brute force. So it was more fitting that God should use the higher kind of might against an enemy whose preverse strategy was to use a lower kind. --Paul Thigpen in "The Rock"

posted by TSO @ 11:09

Jonah Goldberg:

Shocking the sensibilities of the bourgeoisie is so old. The people who thought Janet's boob-watch moment was a good idea -- beforehand or afterwards -- almost surely didn't actually enjoy the spectacle themselves. What appeals to them is the idea of shocking other people. Clearly, they weren't shocked -- enjoyably or otherwise -- by seeing Janet's tassledness. They're used to such displays. No, what was cool about it was that it would offend the sensibilities of fuddy-duddies. This sort of thing is the source of a vast, vast amount of bad "art," music, fiction etc. The value of a song or a video is measured not by its creativity or excellence, but by its ability to elicit the desired response from the other side. This sort of thing is so unimpressive. It's tired, it's played-out, it's Madonna. So I'm fine with being might peeved with CBS. But let's not forget to mention that part of their mistake was being predictably banal.

posted by TSO @ 10:13

Concerning Gluttony

Wow, Peony of Two Sleepy Mommies has done some impressive homework on the sin of gluttony, including this quote from C.S. Lewis: "Mere excess in food is much less valuable than delicacy. Its chief use is as a kind of artillery preparation for attacks on chastity."

posted by TSO @ 09:09

Interesting Charles Finlay review of new book by John Garth:

• Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-Earth by John Garth (Houghton Mifflin, $26)

An orphan boy with remarkable talents attends a British school divided into four houses. Joining his house sports team, he leads it to victory over the rival house. He and his friends then undertake a battle against evil powers that will leave some of them dead. The latest Harry Potter? Hogwarts? Quidditch? No, it’s that other fantasy writer: J.R.R. Tolkien, not J.K. Rowling.
And it’s all true.

In Tolkien and the Great War, John Garth has written the first detailed biography of Tolkien’s formative years.

Garth explores Tolkien’s experiences before and during World War I, from schoolboy rugby player to soldier in the trenches to survivor coping with his losses. What he finds are the sources and inspiration for The Lord of the Rings.

As a teen at King Edwards School in Birmingham, Tolkien and his best friends met regularly in the tearoom at Barrow’s. They called themselves the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, or TCBS.

Their interests were music, art and poetry. By the time they went off to university at Oxford and Cambridge, they saw in themselves a moral purpose to re-create art.

But World War I intervened.

One in five Oxford-educated servicemen was killed in the war. The toll was higher on the TCBS. All but one of Tolkien’s friends died.

That Tolkien was injured fighting in the trenches probably saved his life. While he recovered in England, his entire battalion was killed covering the retreat of its brigade from a devastating German advance.

Garth maps the progress of Tolkien’s growth as a writer against the events of the war. He argues that the creation of the mythology of Middle-earth is not a retreat from the war but a profound engagement with the horror of it.

This sense of moral purpose emerges in a quotation from one of Tolkien’s letters: "I think the orcs as real a creation as anything in ‘realistic’ fiction, only in real life they are on both sides, of course."

The passage explains that "The Goblins embody ‘all the evil of our own side’ in the real war, as well as all the evil on the German side. They wreck and pillage, and they kill prisoners."

By creating characters who value honor, friendship, courage, beauty and grief, Tolkien seeks to answer evil.

Garth has written a compelling biography. There is real magic in this book.

That Tolkien experienced what he did and that he created from it a mythology of regeneration and hope are miracles of will well worth reading.

posted by TSO @ 07:15

Who is Wesley Clark?

I was surprised by the immediate acceptance Wes Clark got from long-term Democrats like Bill Clinton and Charlie Rangel and Hollywood types like Madonna and Michael Moore, a group I respect to varying degrees (ranging the gamut from nil to slightly more than nil).

At first I thought, how odd. Clark seems relatively moderate, a military man who voted for Reagan twice and was raising money for Republicans just four years ago. But it's becoming clearer and clearer. Wes Clark may be the most amoral politician of our generation.

Clark will say anything for the nomination. He told the Manchester newspaper that he wants no limits to abortion, even at the moment of birth. "Life begins with the mother's decision." Is that not chilling? How about a two-year old Gen'l? He's also said some things about Bush and the war that might make even Dean blanch.

Clark, without any visible principles, agrees to say anything to gain for support of Madonna, Moore and Clinton, while they lend their names knowing he stood for everything they hated just a few years ago. It sends shivers. The mutual use and abuse is almost off the charts; it is politics at its most unseemly.

I don't understand why Bill Clinton, who famously sweated every decision and could always see both sides of any given issue, apparently has not the slightest qualm about abortion? He said he wanted to make abortions safe and rare. Wes Clark won't get you there Mr. President. Remember how the Grinch held his ears and said of the Who's, "Noise! Noise! Noise!". Hold your ears and say "Lies! Lies! Lies!"

I'm surprised the Dems are apparently going to nominate another Massachusettes liberal in the Dukakis mold. But so many voters hate Bush that Dick Morris predicts that the '04 election will be a squeaker again.

posted by TSO @ 07:14

Funny David Brooks column on the Democratic primary voters visions of electability. Democratic primary voters so hate Bush that they are wearing ABB buttons ('anyone but Bush'). Tim Russert and Pat Buchanan were scratching their heads trying to understand why so many voters so hate President Bush. The vitriol seems disproportionate. (Of course, Dems said the same thing abou the Clinton loathers.)

It certainly is about time that Bush investigates the collossal intelligence failure concerning WMDs in Iraq. What was the hold up?

posted by TSO @ 12:43

February 1, 2004

Prayer Request

Our premature nephew, Aaron Zachary, was born seven or eight weeks early has been suffering ever since. If you could spare a prayer I'd appreciate it. The doctor thinks he might have meningitis, and now we have to wait three or four long days to see what the test results bring...

posted by TSO @ 19:14

March 31, 2004

Interesting Sven Birkerts column:

All of this leads, and not all that circuitously, to the question of snark, the spirit of negativity, the personal animus pushing ahead of the intellectual or critical agenda. Snark is, I believe, prompted by the terrible vacuum feeling of not mattering, not connecting, not being heard; it is fueled by rage at the same. If writers and critics felt similar aggressive urges in the past—and of course they did, for personal, if not cultural, reasons—they were held back from venting, if not by an inner sense of decency, then by a more externalized awareness of prohibition. Cheap shots were not to be taken—not in the public arena.

posted by TSO @ 17:55

The Coming Cicadas

During Brood X's 1970 emergence, Bob Dylan...added to the immortality of cicadas with a song he wrote about the occasion, "Day of the Locusts" [catching] the eerie appeal of the cicadas' sound:

And the locusts sang, well, it give me a chill,
Yeah, the locusts sang such a sweet melody.
And the locusts sang with a high whinin' trill,
Yeah, the locusts sang and they was singing for me . . .

Dylan is one of a long line of artists smitten with cicadas. J.G. Myers, whose 1929 book "Insect Singers" records much of cicada lore, preserves these lines from an ode to the insect attributed to the Greek poet Anacreon: "You are worthy of the homage of mortals, you, the charming prophet of summer. The Muses love you." Out of the East comes this haiku from the Japanese poet Saren, as translated by Japanologist and cicada-lover Lafcadio Hearn:

Fathomless deepens the heat;
The ceaseless shrilling of cicadas mounts, like hissing fire,
Up to the motionless clouds.

Once the eggs are laid, the adults begin to die, and they will all be gone by early July. The eggs will mature, and provided they have not been eaten, young cicada nymphs will hatch out of their nests in August. Each one smaller than a grain of rice, they will drop to the ground and work their way into the soil, not to be seen above ground again until 2021.

posted by TSO @ 13:50

Marveling at How Well They Turned Out

I was listening to a mission preacher at my other parish last night (i.e. the Latin and not Eastern Catholic rite). I have to fight against feelings of condescension when I go there because the liturgies are so milquetoast and most of the music is so awful that you couldn't make it up. Not to mention that sometimes it feels like I'm the only one saying the responses - at least the electric guitars produce something resembling energy.

But something happened last night on the way to my prejudice.

There was Confession afterwards with four priests on duty and the lines were lengthy beyond ken. And three of the "confessionals" were out in the open. And the "patients" waited patiently for seeming ever and the missioner's face was so full of love and concern, and they would confess and it was the most beautiful thing in the world, this was: to see them leave their sins at the altar, to see resentments and small hatreds and off-limit signs melt before the sign of the cross, before the words of absolution: "...and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". It was humbling and inspiring and it moved me to ask God to give me a true spirit of repentance.

To echo Bill of Apologia: I can only marvel that so many of our fellow humans turn out as well as they do.

posted by TSO @ 12:45

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts
There are countless people on-line who seem to have a devotion to St. Jerome's personality, without any evident devotion to his sanctity. - Tom of Disputations

No firearms allowed inside building. - new sign outside our workplace

When did I officially become a stick in the mud? Was it back when I voted for Lazio over Hill for the New York senate seat (sorry but a wronged wife gets a nice gift like a Benz or a boob job, not a senate seat) or when I asked for a National Review subscription for my last birthday? - Phil of

So The Revealer wonders: Just how big is St. Blog's? And how much does it matter to the future of the Church? This is not just a question for Catholics, but for all bloggers -- can blog communities genuinely challenge or transform real-world communities? Or are they simply steam valves for malcontents, exhibitionists, and know-it-alls? - NYU's "The Revealer"....Must it be either/or?

It's 4:47 a.m. Time to go to the Adoration Chapel. Woo-hoo!!! My favorite time of the week! - Tom of Goodform

I see a lot of media (even Christian/Catholic media) aimed at couples interested in developing a 'happy' marriage. Are we being encouraged to settle for nothing less than a 'happy' marriage? (And I'm not talking about forcing people to stay in sick, abusive situations, but about leading people to think that if they aren't 'happy' they are being abused.) Don't even get me started on the pop literature that prattles on about soulmates.How much is addressed to couples who don't have 'happy' marriages? What about people who realize after X number of years that they didn't marry their soulmate? And now they know that they have no real reason to vacate the vows they made on their wedding day.....and why can't they be 'happy.'... Are we idolizing 'happiness?" Do we worship well-known, 'happy' Catholic couples? (And, yes, now we're seeing the fall-out from putting celebrity 'happy' Catholic couples in a special niche of admiration.) Is it time to start asking God to help us be happy even if we aren't 'happy?' - Ellyn of Obhouse

What to you get when you cross Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral with a Spanish conquistador's helmet? A church where Ponce de Leon can grow really, really big man-eating plants. - Mark of Irish Elk, on the proposed new Ave Maria church

When we were involved in presenting Marriage Encounter weekends, we talked a lot about the cycle of romance, disillusionment, joy. In the early days, we put each other on pedestals, and were willing to forgive almost everything. Romance. Then reality snuck in, and the period of disillusionment - where we are unwilling to forgive almost anything. Many marriages founder on the shoals of disillusionment. It is hard work to live with another person. Those who grew up in small families or as only children have an even harder time. If your life has always been tidy, and you end up married to a pack rat (or vice versa) - if your family always went barefoot in the house and your spouse never took shoes off except to bathe or sleep - even little things like how often one changes the bedsheets or washes the towels. These seemingly minor differences can blow up into marriage busters, especially without the graces of the Sacraments. If I let my angers and disappointments freeze in my heart, they can become frost heaves on my path and can trip up my marriage. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

The best part about mothering - actually, fathering too, I would think, because this has nothing to do with gender - is knowing that you have put another human being out there into the world. That because of your "yes" to the conception and birth of a child, another person exists, and is out there walking his or her own journey, in relationship with God, bringing amazing gifts to a world in need. It sort of takes your breath away. -Amy Welborn

Might one way in which we are unlike the woman of the Annunciation be our impatience? Filled with zeal, touched by God with some special consolation, we are ready to evangelize the world NOW! Yet, for whatever reason, the world is not evangelized NOW, and soon our zeal for the kingdom fades as worries over that new knocking sound in the car engine increase. Then comes the reflection: "Guess I wasn't really supposed to evangelize the world after all." We can't give what we don't have. We can't give a viable Christ to the world until He is viable within us, and that takes some time. Time to nurture the Word, to ponder in our hearts, to contemplate the face of Jesus. What God gave Mary was not the promise she would conceive and bear a son. A promise, once given, is ready to be shared with whoever needs to know of it. What God gave Mary was her Son Himself, and He wasn't ready to be shared with the wider world until He was fully formed in her womb. - Tom of Disputations

I just love Anne Rice. Her work is one of the secular comforts in life that I'll probably never be able to give up. I hear she's a revert to the Faith and that she's very devout these days, and that she's going to begin writing religious novels now that she's finished her Vampire Chronicles. It should be interesting, to say the least. -Nathan of the Tower

St. John Chrysostom was like Jackie Chan: kicking butts left and right; twisting, turning, and leaping off of buildings. He put hundreds of bad butts out of commission. St. Athanasius, though, was like Rambo: he just stood there and blasted like a wildman with his machine gun--and he TOOK DOWN THE MEGA-BUTT!.... DECISION: St. Athanasius. - KTC on who would win a grudge match between St. John and St. Athanasius

Perhaps it's like that in virtue as well: one virtue to set you on the right path, another to keep you there. I wrote something on my blog about the danger of letting the virtue of humility sour into despair or a feeling of uselessness. I'm wondering now if all the virtues can be put off their track this way. - MaryH of Ever-New

Strong wind...[and]..the Crystal Palace will be reduced to Our Lady of the Pointy Shards. (How did this thing ever meet code in South Florida?) --Steven of Flos Carmeli on our new whippin' boy, the new Ave Maria church

To me, at least....the core of the problem with Roman Catholic spiritual life as it has evolved in the US is encapsulated in one phrase, read in your church bulletin or advertised in the diocesan paper or even blasted on a sign hanging outside of your parish. "All-You-Can-Eat Lenten Fish Fry"-Amy Welborn

With all due respect, loving Jesus is a piece of cake; it's loving your neighbor that borders on impossibility. - Rob on Disputations

posted by TSO @ 12:17

John Kerry Against Death Penalty Except in the Case of Unborn Children

Democrat Joseph Califano was on one of the talk shows and lamented his party's turning away, in 1972, from economic issues (soc security, Medicare, welfare) to social issues like abortion. He said it's a shame and ridiculous because a president will think about abortion maybe three hours during a four-year term. What he didn't say is that a president has a big say in choosing Supreme Court justices, and they do make a difference (if Justice Kennedy hadn't changed his mind in a '92 decision, abortion might be illegal in some states today). Ultimately though change must come not from justices but in hearts and minds. Abortions would become only a bit more rare if Roe v Wade were overturned, since most states would continue to protect abortion.

Let's concede for a moment that a president has no impact on the life issue. Do we really want someone who made such a Faustian bargain as president? All presidents sell their souls in one way or another to get elected, but aren't there gradations in that selling? Someone who's pro-choice automatically disqualifies himself as a representative, imo, because he's already proven himself unworthy of trust. The pro-life candidate will shortly prove the same after the election, but at least there's the momentary illusion. Besides, I'd rather they sell out to Big Oil or Big Business than to Moloch. For liberals, the motto, "protecting life from womb to tomb" has become "from toddler to healthy senior".

posted by TSO @ 12:17

My Protestant friend Ham of Bone just saw TPOTC...

His comments on my voice mail (used with permission, all rights preserved):

Loved it..loved it. I love Catholics and Catholicism even though I disagree on a few things - but what an amazing story potential brought out in TPOTC and the Catholic aspect of the story -- which I was able to get outside myself and forget about the Mariology and just dig the story and what they did with Mary. The closing scene - the Pieta - what a stroke of genius.

posted by TSO @ 13:23

March 30, 2004


I would I were a mite more careful about what I blog. I sometimes have an illusion of privacy here, which is patently absurd given this is a public blog.

This was brought home recently when I made a throw-away comment to Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking" in an email, throwing stones at the new glass Ave Maria chapel. Thomas liked it it a lot and so pride led me to put it on the blog.

The comment got picked up by what I call the "wire services", i.e. any blog bigger than mine (in this case Mark of Irish Elk), which caught the Revealer's eye, a NYU journalism school publication.

Ouch. It's so not my job to critique churches and it's so not my job to poison the well by the colorful language used. As Don Imus might say, "that's just not helpful". Christians need to pick their battles and not get side-tracked by minutiae. For me, the intolerance towards Christianity in the public square and abortion are worth fighting for.

My pledge is more spam poetry, less gratuitous slams.

posted by TSO @ 13:23

I like this mosaic in St. Peter's (link via Dom of I think it expresses not only the necessary humility that St. Peter and his successors ought have, but there's also in Christ's mien a sort of reluctance, a seeming acknowledgement that even while conferring authority He was thinking of future near-disasters.

posted by TSO @ 12:40

Lighten Up & Gird Your Loins

My father is much more risk-averse when it comes to investing than me. So I tease him when he tells me about the latest utility stock he bought by saying, "Pina colada, 'eh?". Pina coladas not only provide ease and relaxation, unlike anxiety-inducing high-beta stocks, but they also provide a lower return. A pina colada doesn't supply the jolt that good Irish whiskey does.

The best proof that the pina colada approach to the spiritual life is not the correct approach is to look at a crucifix. Jesus on the cross emphasizes just how serious God takes our situation and our waywardness. It was silly, but I noticed the bent knees of Jesus on the crucifix in my room. A small detail, and certainly nothing to compare with the actual pain he felt elsewhere. But the bent knees looked so confining; he couldn't even stretch out his legs. Trivial, sure, but this is the God of the universe. He who created infinite space willingly accepted the constriction of space, to the point of being pinned on a cross. It's a harrowing thought and a bracing blow against tepidity. Especially with just ten days till Good Friday left.

Recently I read two somewhat contradictory things, which both struck me as potentially truthful. One is from a commenter, Frank Gibbon, on Amy's blog:

Perhaps Bud McFarlane has overdosed on religion. Orthodox Catholics have to lighten up a bit and put the religious stuff aside once in awhile. We all need to relax and realize that orthodoxy is only worthwhile when it proceeds from knowing the love of Christ.
Then I read Rev. P.J. Michel's book responding to those who feel a dryness in prayer:
You are all day occupied in natural gratifications and frivolous amusements, intent on seeing and hearing all that is said and done, losing no opportunity for useless conversations, listening to any evil report against your neighbor; always distracted, occupied with the actions and interests of others without a thought for yourself, your eternal interests, and your salvation; prolonging this dissipation of mind and heart to the very beginning of your prayers, to which you hurry at the last moment, and without stopping to reflect for an instant on what you are going to do; and you imagine that all this distraction and dissipation will suddenly disappeear, and that recollection and devotion will as suddenly replace them, clam the tumult of your passions, reawaken at once in your heart sentiments of faith, piety, and love. In good sooth now, do you really expect such a miracle? You have scarcely once thought of God during the day, you have not had toward Him those sentiments which are his due...

posted by TSO @ 12:40

Lightweight Hand Grenades & Warning Labels

Funny review of retired columnist Florence King's Stet, Damnit!:

Among her rival print columnists, there are few left who believe anything but that the prescription for society's ills is voting for the Good Guys, whoever they may be, next time around. King's own treatment would probably involve great quantities of benzene and a Zippo. Anyway, the very job of freewheeling "culture commentator" is dying out: as she never quite gets around to asking in Stet, Damnit!, how can you have a culture commentator without a culture?

Ten years is an awful long time to urge logic and clarity on a country that issues hunting licenses to the blind, devises lightweight hand grenades for female combat soldiers, and puts warning labels on balls of string.

posted by TSO @ 13:35

March 29, 2004


I was looking for a poem for an upcoming occasion and happened across this interesting one:

What are big girls made of?
--Marge Piercy (1936-)

Look at pictures in French fashion
magazines of the 18th century:
century of the ultimate lady
fantasy wrought of silk and corseting.
Paniers bring her hips out three feet
each way, while the waist is pinched
and the belly flattened under wood.
The breasts are stuffed up and out
offered like apples in a bowl.
The tiny foot is encased in a slipper
never meant for walking.
On top is a grandiose headache:
hair like a museum piece, daily
ornamented with ribbons, vases,
grottoes, mountains, frigates in full
sail, balloons, baboons, the fancy
of a hairdresser turned loose.
The hats were rococo wedding cakes
that would dim the Las Vegas strip.
Here is a woman forced into shape
rigid exoskeleton torturing flesh:
a woman made of pain.

How superior we are now: see the modern woman
thin as a blade of scissors.
She runs on a treadmill every morning,
fits herself into machines of weights
and pulleys to heave and grunt,
an image in her mind she can never
approximate, a body of rosy
glass that never wrinkles,
never grows, never fades. She
sits at the table closing her eyes to food
hungry, always hungry:
a woman made of pain.

If only we could like each other raw.
If only we could love ourselves
like healthy babies burbling in our arms.
If only we were not programmed and reprogrammed
to need what is sold us.
Why should we want to live inside ads?
Why should we want to scourge our softness
to straight lines like a Mondrian painting?
Why should we punish each other with scorn
as if to have a large ass
were worse than being greedy or mean?

When will women not be compelled
to view their bodies as science projects,
gardens to be weeded,
dogs to be trained?
When will a woman cease
to be made of pain?

posted by TSO @ 13:32

Sun Day*

Number of days in 2004: 366
Less number of predicted cloudy days in Central Ohio: 279
Less number of sunny days when temp < 30 degrees: 32 Less number of sunny days when temp > 90 degrees: 14
Less number of days spent working during sunny day: 40
Leaving one temperate sunny non-work day. I think it was yesterday!

* - Disclaimer: all statistics approximate and intended strictly for comedic purposes.

posted by TSO @ 13:26

Round Up

Let's round up a few strays, out there on the prairie. (Which is another way of saying what follows will be disjointed and prone to the occasional non-sequitor.)

Piety may not prove a rightly-ordered heart but one could expect that prayer and sacraments influence the heart even if cause and effect can't be measured or seen. (The tendency in our faithless and utilitarian age is that if we can't measure it, it doesn't count.) I don't believe Jesus gave us empty rituals that simply flow from an already rightly-ordered heart, as a Methodist sees Baptism. Cop out or not, Graham Greene was asked why he was such a bad Catholic and he said (paraphrasing here) that the questionner couldn't imagine how worse he'd be if he wasn't Catholic. All men are not created equal; some start from a position (nature but also nurture) such that they have advantages or disadvantages that preclude equal outcomes where holiness is concerned.


Kathy the Carmelite writes of putting too much of one's faith in supernatural coincidence: "Lots of Christians do. But Teresa of Avila, herself a big recipient of it, said gravely that it's a concession God grants to the weak. Hopefully they'll use the grace of it not to remain weak--but, too often, people receive it and say "COOL!"--and keep on clamoring till they see more of the same. Sometimes God gives it. But sometimes Satan does, or sometimes people just see it in the woodwork--because it's the cloak-and-dagger supernaturalness they adore, not the Lord and the carrying of His cross."


"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence." - Robert Frost

posted by TSO @ 13:25

The Brian Lamb Fan Club

I've always been fascinated by one Brian Lamb, founder of C-Span. In an age of passion and agenda, he's remarkably passionless and agendaless. In an age of bombast and self-promotion, he's quiet and avoids talking about himself, at least on his channel.

But fortunately for Lambiacs he fielded questions about himself from Tim Russert this weekend. We learned that he gets up at 3a.m. and reads for three hours, during those wee hours when peace reigneth beyond all understanding. (The downside is the 8pm bedtime, but nothing is costless.) We learned that his discipline comes from a Catholic upbringing (all nuns all the way through), and from his time in the Navy. I suspect this combination of a Catholic and military background really does wonders for augmenting internal control. We learned that he thought about becoming a priest but doubted they would have had him. When asked who Brian Lamb is he replied that his defining characteristic might be his curiosity. He reads a book a week and simply loves to learn. Jefferson said "the only cure for sadness is learning"; if there is any sadness in Brian Lamb it is camoflauged by a certain peacefulness.

posted by TSO @ 16:18

March 28, 2004

Conservative Catholics

Steven Riddle was playing around with the notion of "conservative Catholic" in an email, and it's something I hadn't really given much thought before now. To call a Catholic conservative by his stand on controversial issues seems inadequate. What is the conservative trying to conserve? Obviously the answer is Tradition, capital "T", those truths that the gospel and the Magisterium attest to.

Perhaps a way to see it is that a conservative thinks the way to conserve Tradition (while being flexible on traditions) is to preserve the hierarchical nature of the church. The liberal wants a flatter, less hierarchical Church - more of a democracy. But a democracy within the Church would favor a disconnect between faith and reason since the masses are more faithful than reasoning (although, come to think of it, there's a premium on both). To take one example, the discarding of the prohibition against contraception would pluck at the marriage between faith and reason since it seems well-nigh unreasonable to see homosexual sex as wrong if contraception is fine - openness to life is the basis for both contra-contraception and contra-gay sex.

The more important reason to be against a democratically-modeled Church is that Christ set up a hierarchical Church. He chose twelve apostles and gave three of them - Peter, James and John - special prominence and additional instruction. And, of course, he singled one of them out to "strengthen his brethern" and conferred upon him the Keys.

Are conservative Catholics consistent in their conservatism? Obviously not, but then humans are not consistent about anything.

posted by TSO @ 14:18

March 27, 2004

Spring Thaw

Winter releases the pinchers
for a few shrugging moments
a hiccup in the siege of bitter.

The seasons arrive in fits and starts
in random irregularities only
finding their true home in season--

the winter fully winter,
the summer fully summer,
only after fooling by feints.

posted by TSO @ 23:48

March 26, 2004

Zero Sum Game

Overheard on a local radio station:

"What's up with Jehovah Witnesses? They believe only a fixed number are saved. So they're evangelizing someone who might be taking their place?"

posted by TSO @ 15:16

Ave Maria's New Church

Commenter SEB on Mark of Irish Elk's post makes mucho sense to me: "First off, a glass house focuses attention to the outside. I would think that the purpose of any church would be to keep the focus on the Mass, on the Eucharist, on the Real Presence and not provide excuses for wool-gathering and day-dreaming about the weather."

This, however, was a necessary corrective toward any thought of penning a letter. :~)

posted by TSO @ 14:48


Natives dislike speed, as we dislike noise, it is to them, at the best, hard to bear. They are also on friendly terms with time, and the plan of beguiling or killing it does not come into their heads. In fact the more time you can give them, the happier they are, and if you commission a Kikuyu to hold your horse while you make a visit, you can see by his face that he hopes you will be a long, long time about it. He does not try to pass the time then, but sits down and lives.

--Isak Dineson, "Out of Africa"

posted by TSO @ 14:27

Poetry Friday


For Alexander there was no Far East,
Because he thought the Asian continent
India ended. Free Cathay at least
Did not contribute to his discontent.

But Newton, who had grasped all space, was more
Serene. To him it seemed that he'd but played
With several shells and pebbles on the shore
Of that profundity he had not made.

Swiss Einstein with his relativity -
Most secure of all. God does not play dice
With the cosmos and its activity.
Religionless equations won't suffice.

--Richard Wilbur


I read how Quixote in his random ride
Came to a crossing once, and lest he lose
The purity of chance, would not decide

Whither to fare, but wished his horse to choose.
For glory lay wherever turned the fable.
His head was light with pride, his horse's shoes

Were heavy, and he headed for the stable.

--Richard Wilbur

posted by TSO @ 12:49


FYI...concerning Randall Terry, in case you make donations.

What is this, two degrees of separation? I didn't realize local blogger Ono got a mention from one of my heroes, William F. Buckley:

Apologists for Senator Kerry's inanimate disapproval of abortion contend with the problem, for instance Mr. Ono Ekeh. He has the unenviable role of administrator of "Catholics for Kerry."

Its pitch on this issue is that Senator Kerry's war on abortion is most subtly conceived. You see, most abortions are had by the very poor. "John Kerry's vision for America is a pro-life vision that will ultimately reduce the frequency of and need for abortions" — after Mr. Kerry has eliminated poverty. Perhaps the candidate should be asked: Would it be reasonable to prohibit abortion for women who are millionaires?

posted by TSO @ 12:48

Don't Come Home a Drinkin'...

...with bloggin' on your mind. Old Oligarch lays down the gauntlet and I got only 7 of 40. Part of it is I'm just so damn cheap. On a related subject, I think I've had a blackout concerning whether I've ever blacked out.

posted by TSO @ 12:48

Longing for Solutions

I'm uncomfortable discussing someone's personal scandal, even if it is public knowledge. But maybe some good can come of it if there is something that can be learned from it. A tragedy is most senseless when nothing is learned. (There's also a lot of selfish self-interest in wanting to avoid a similar fate.) I've been discussing & recussing the news of Bud MacFarlane's situation with Kathy the Carmelite and I think she has some extremely valuable things to say, so I'll post the exchange on the blog.

My Thoughts: First off, I don't judge Bud Macfarlane; Nathan aptly quoted St. Josemaria Escriva concerning someone else: "It's true that he was a sinner. But don't pass so final a judgment on him. Have pity in your heart, and don't forget that he may yet be an Augustine, while you remain just another mediocrity." As Fr. Groeschel says, "we're all poor sinners".

Obviously one wonders what went awry. And perhaps I'm wrong, and it's pure supposition, but maybe it comes down to prayer. Bud once said, and I can relate: "I doubt anybody in the Vatican will be considering canonizing me as an example of mystical contemplative prayer." I have a sense that this article was a recognition, in the midst of his marital woes, that something needed changing in that department. He says that, "My goal here is not to berate you if you do not have a prayer life. I have fallen short myself until recently, so I am the last one who can possibly criticize you." I think it emphasizes how true it is that you are only as good as your prayer life. How crucial the quality - and not quantity - of prayer! Love is only derivative - from God - we can't ex nihilo it.

I asked a priest on a retreat last year why it is that so many of our priests failed in their chastity vows and so many of our bishops failed to protect young people. He said that I was "only" asking him to explain the mystery of iniquity! Well, they call it a mystery for a reason. Some mysteries are too deep. Would that God make our wills a little less free since it's the freedom that can lead us away from God?

Her thoughts: It often happens that people with a specific temptation they're fighting work hardest and loudest at it. Perhaps just as Jimmy Swaggart lashed out publicly at pornographers in an effort to preach hard truth to himself; Bud McFarlane may have started E5 men to help himself sanctify his own marriage. It's probably not so much that he was "Mr. Marriage" all along, then suddenly snapped--the "wonderful marriage extension" of his CatholiCity ministry was probably an act of public desperation, trying to stave off what he believed to be inevitable.

There are always two sides to every story. Satan loves to take down leaders. He must be pretty desperate to divorce her. I haven't heard a peep from his side; I wonder if he is perhaps too gentlemanly to give details. Nor, on the other hand, have I heard about any co-respondant.

posted by TSO @ 12:18


Cities still build more beautiful ballparks than Christians do churches. Somehow I expected more from Ave Maria U.
If you're going to be defined as retro by mass society, then revel in your retrocity, I say. It's like watching some dignified gentleman (theologically-speaking) trying to pretend he's young & hip. If Rev. Schuller of Crystal Cathedral were Bill O'Reilly, he'd sue. (Since Thomas liked my description in an email, I'll pass it on: "crystal-methane-greenhouse-effect excuse for a church".)

Of course, in light of previous posts that emphasize the gift of sacrament rather than what surrounds it, I'm probably being hypocritical.

posted by TSO @ 14:09

March 25, 2004

Gospel Minin'

It occurred to me, reading this fine post, how crucial the role of Christian women in today's society.

Nixon went to China because only a Republican with anti-Communist credentials could make overtures to Red China and be credible. So if the DVC depicts women as sacred for their body parts, that message is best refuted by women, since most men have trouble disagreeing with this. (Ultimately this is best refuted by Christ, of course, but a good mediator of that message would be a woman. And if you still think the book isn't adversely affecting people, read this.)

This could also be said with regard to issues of wifely submission, which Kathy has written about in the past. Similar too with the abortion issue. It's easier for a man, who doesn't go through labor, to tell women not to abort their children. It's a much better witness for Amy Welborn, who actually faced such a dilemma (and refused to abort) than anyone. Another great witness for this truth are some feminists. All this in no way leaves men off the hook, just recognizes, I think, the efficacy of good Christian women in these times.

posted by TSO @ 13:16

On the Corner Today...

Mel Gibson's THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST is about to open in Britain. Damien Thompson, editor of The Catholic Herald over there, got a pre-screening. He thought the movie, taken as a movie, was a bit cheesy, but welcomes it as a cultural phenomenon anyway: "This curiosity [i.e. about the movie] has been stimulated, ironically, by the very lobbyists who have declared premature victory in the culture wars: secularists and multi-culturalists. Nominal Christians say to themselves: if these ghastly people hate our inherited faith so much, there must be something going for it. And so they ring up the Odeon to book tickets for Saturday night. The wild success of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST has forced us to revise our assumptions about the inevitability of secularisation. If such a bad film can do this, what might a good one achieve?" Read the whole piece here.

I must say that at low points I wonder if my own faith is not as much negative as positive -- I mean, inspired not so much by the message of the Gospels as by revulsion at the sneering triumphalist arrogance of the Christ-haters. Hey, maybe I will go to see THE PASSION... Posted at 09:28 AM

posted by TSO @ 12:49

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Happy Saint Patrick's day to all. I'm of Scottish, Irish, English, and Sioux descent, so I pretty much fight myself and demand self-reparations all the time. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

Please tell me there's not a Masturbation Awareness badge -- Kat of Lively Writer, concerning the Girl Scouts devolution into politically correctitude, such as support of Planned Parenthood

For me, it didn't lead to anti-Semitism. The central Jew of the movie came off too well for that. But it did lead to another "anti-ism." To use that old-time religion language, I was convicted. I don't think I would have been one of those people who endured with Jesus to the end. I'm too worldly, too fleshly... and that needs to change. In short, there's been an outbreak of anti-millinerdism thanks to Mel Gibson's film. -- Millinerd of (the 'central Jew' is Jesus obviously

Regret is a way station on the way toward total repentance, but it is with great danger that one stays there and lays down and makes a bed of regret. [Judas] should have proceeded from there, regret, to ruminating on how good God is...this God whom Micah said..."delights in mercy". He is not said to "delight" in punishment though He brings punishment...but he is said only to "delight" in Mercy. Just as the Jews were called on to repeatedly remember God's saving action during the Exodus, each of us personally do well to have our own personal list of exodus' that God has brought about for us. Then when we have sorrow, we need to remember who He is....Love. We can only remember Him as Love in my view if we agree with Aquinas that the anger and hate and wrath passages concerning God are anthropopathims since for Aquinas, there is no anger or hate or wrath within God since He is unchanging..."Wrath" said of God is the Bible's way of saying something true: that in willing a Just universe, God indirectly (not directly) wills punishment. The dispensationalists thoroughly disagree with this idea and believe in a God who has wrath/who changes His mind..etc...etc. But Aquinas is the saner view and the only one whereby God can really be called love as in John's gospel...since His Love is never interrupted for a second by wrath since He does not have it.- Bill Bannon of the Parish Hall

I'm perusing The DaVinci Code a little more. Please drink plenty of fluids, esp. Gatorade--I fear you might dehydrate from all the retching you're surely going to do! This guy is the literary Thomas Kincade!...But the elaborate suspense, Opus Dei "shenanigans" and code-cracking are just peripheral devices: the big sell is SEX! This is DH Lawrence, repackaged for the 21st century! It's nothing other than a glorified Danielle Steel book... The Church? Secrets? Female Sacred Worship? Suffice it to say that the person of Jesus is utterly irrelevant to this book! Women aren't sacred because of their body parts; they're sacred because Jesus has redeemed them! Our bodies are holy because He has fashioned them for us! We can only love with our souls, and it is only His light in our souls that renders them lovable. Jesus Himself refuted this "My body parts are what make me worthwhile" mentality and put things in the right perspective when He honored Mary in Luke 11:27. - Kathy the Carmelite

While I am convinced that we can lose our salvation, and acknowledging that this is extremely difficult to do for one who has been Saved, there is another factor in play, too. Somewhat like Pascal's Wager, OSAS is a safer bet. If I'm wrong, and it turns out that we can never lose our salvation, then the worst possible outcome is that a person spends time worrying about their status than they needed to. However, if OSAS is wrong, then people may believe that they have a license to do wrong so long as they made that commitment at some point. I've met people like this, but I recently became aware of a shocking example of this recently. - Robert of Hokie Pundit

How, for example, does a Catholic who believes Mary is the All-Holy Seat of Wisdom understand her misunderstanding when she discovered her twelve-year-old Son in the Temple? Speaking for myself, I understand it by assuming Mary was more "normal" than a lot of the pious legends would allow. Jesus, too, for that matter. In fact, a relatively normal Mary -- one who isn't herself an all-knowing glow-in-the-dark plaster statue with a demur half-smile and downcast eyes -- serves in part as a guarantor of the Incarnation. Even as we proclaim her the Mother of God, if she is a true-to-life woman, then we are proclaiming the Son of God is true man... It seems to me that it wasn't necessary for Mary to entirely get it (and here I'm straying from the Catholic tradition of arguing for the fitness-nigh-unto-necessity of Mary being practically perfect in every way). Also, her not entirely getting it signifies a bunch of things to the rest of us; e.g., we can't count on entirely getting it, either, and we should always be prepared for God to surprise us, and even where to look for Jesus when we find we've lost Him. So given a) that it wasn't necessary for Mary to have complete understanding of Jesus' mission, and b) that her incomplete understanding would teach us more about ourselves than her complete understanding would, the tension implied in a Mother of God who does not completely understand her Son seems worth it. - Tom of Disputations

If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel. - via Mark of Irish Elk

But God put a chink in my armor--I'm the type who needed the structure of marriage. So I struggle--more often probably than many--and I offer it up to God, as if I'm on a sanctification Stairmaster! - Kathy the Carm

I also, gingerly suggest that although we may sometimes be irked at the intensity of the pendulum swing - you know, rainbow and flowers Catholicism, etc - that for those who resist the message of God's love and mercy - even though it might be incompletely presented - if you really resist it - you might want to think about that. For I'm telling you, the Gospels are not about condemnation. Paul's epistles aren't either. Sure, they are about narrow paths and invitations that are rejected, but for those who have chosen the narrow path and accepted the invitation, the rest of the news is GOOD. Do you really believe that? If you find yourself grumbling about the priest who doesn't seem to want to make you feel terrible about yourself...why? I have often found that the people who are most resistant and contemptous of the message of the joy we should find in God's mercy are the people who need it the most. They are unhappy people who, for some reason, think that they know better than God, and that even though He says he loves them and wants to forgive them and give them joy....they really don't deserve it. - Amy Welborn

He gets so excited to have food in his mouth that he forgets to breathe. - my sister-in-law, on my lil' 4lb pre-mature nephew, obviously taking after his uncle.

I don’t know why I’m not ashamed. After
all I’m an educated man, variously
interested in what passes for high
science, with, you’d say, a modest knowledge
of differential equations and late
Cretaceous extinctions. I’ve seen a few
light switches, even installed one or two,
unraveling ground and hot wires. Yet
I believe he walked away from his tomb,
easy to mistake for a laborer;
a man with nothing, still wounded in his
glory; a dead God made alive, roasting
fish at the lakeshore for his wayward friends.
It’s silly but, my love, I’m not ashamed. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

There is a simply splendid article in the current issue of PRO Alvin Kimel. Kimel's argument is that the bread and wine don't "become" ("like") Christ; they are the way Jesus Christ is present in the world today. Just as the man Jesus was the walk-around-touchable-Christ-on-earth 2000 years ago, so now that same Christ is among us as bread and wine. Kimel speaks of "real identification" between the ascended Lord and the bread and wine. The article is mind-blowing in its requirement that we take seriously sacramental presence and time. I've studied this stuff for 30 years and this is one of the finest summaries I've seen. And I think, on this basis, that Kimel would say that the fraction is a hinderance to proper appreciation of the presence of Christ. - Dwight on Camassia's blog

We ;) while we can. There are lessons I have yet to learn for which tragedy may well be the only effective teacher. - Tom of Disputations

This time, I cried. - Pigeon Pi, on seeing TPOTC a second time.

Na, diese Beiden sind ja richtig empört! Sind wir von 40jährigen Prälaten gar nicht gewohnt... - blogger at Intelligam. I don't know what this means, but anything in German sounds so imperative that I thought I'd better include this.

posted by TSO @ 12:48

Rev. P.J. Michel, S.J. Excerpt

How frequently, fearing the labor we encounter in fighting against our evil inclinations, we ask God to free us from them, but it would seem that the conditions are that He is to do all and it is to cost us nothing. We aspire to the miracle performed for a St. Paul. It sems as though we said: 'If this inclination be displeasing to God, why does He not deliver me from it? Why does He not change the feelings of my heart? He has changed others in a moment." Waiting for this miracle to be performed in our favor, we, meanwhile, do nothing ourselves, and do not heed the voice of God whispering to our soul. Such dispositions, as you must see, are not apt to draw down upon us the mercy of God. Whosoever expects to serve God without doing violence to himself, contradicts the words of Jesus Christ.

Others, again, are free from such foolish presumption, and are kept back in the path of virtue fromtheir over-anxiety about their difficulties, and from their deep conviction that they can in nothing obtain merit; their whole mind is absorbed by this, and their only petition to God is to change their state. They hesitate to follow the lights and pious inclinations which God gives them, because not finding in themselves the particular graces which they are bent upon obtaining, and which they persist in asking for, they fear they are deceive...Did they only profit by those graces, although not such as they asked for, they would soon obtain what they desire, but which they cannot expect so long as they resist God.

It is always from want of instruction, or from inattention to that which we have received, that we are led to form unreasonable expectations...There is no doubt that the Almighty can perform miracles, but He has promised them to no one. Therefore have we no reasonable right to expect them, either to help us in our wants or to guide us in our actions.

posted by TSO @ 09:32

More Funny Blog Taglines

A week ago I linked to a blog that had "Fabulous since 1973. Blogging since 2003. Drinking since Noon." as her motto, obviously a classic.

Today I came across another goodie:
reflection. cleansing. booger jokes.

His html title at the top of the browser is even more hi-laire:

pure irony - curing ego through the narcissism of blogging
attempting to remove character flaws by exposing them in a public forum.

posted by TSO @ 17:55

March 24, 2004

NRO Excerptables

The human condition of Haiti grows ever more frantically desperate. It is not so much that the country is actually poorer in absolute terms than it was — for it was always very poor — or that (for example) the life expectancy of Haitians is much lower than before. The historically new quality of Haiti's desperation is the population's awareness of wealth and abundance elsewhere, thanks to the media of mass communication to which even the poorest people in the world now have access. If you read Haitian literature of the 20th century, it grows ever more angry and despairing as the century progresses, as the awareness that things could be different increases, although it is unlikely that poverty in the absolute actually worsened as the century progressed. If you look at the pictures of Haitians in our newspapers, they are better or more expensively dressed than they would have been years ago, but the human quality of their lives has declined catastrophically. Modernization without prosperity has transformed poverty into absolute misery. --ANTHONY DANIELS
Time travel is the pornography of eggheads. What reasonably well-read person wouldn't jump in the Wayback Machine if he could? You don't have to be a science-fiction geek to wonder what the day before yesterday looked and smelled and tasted like. Small wonder, then, that filmmakers love to turn back the clock, though they tend not to do it especially well, getting the surface spectacularly right (the best thing about Hollywood is its art directors) and the substance hopelessly wrong.
From a review of "A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People:

Germans have contributed much more than their fair share to civilization but also to human misery. Gifted as so many individual Germans may have been, collectively they have provided a cautionary tale of how not to organize a society, a nation, and a state. Time and again, they have destroyed their lands and negated their achievements; time and again, some strong man has come to rescue them, only to leave worse carnage and numberless dead...

Much of what Ozment says is thoughtful, though his style sometimes makes for ambiguity or, worse, academic cuteness. But is this apologia true? Are Germans really victims rather than victimizers, and would they all have been Beethovens and Kants if only others had let them? To make his case, he omits evidence that doesn't suit. No mention of the Teutonic orders of knights whose attempts at colonizing eastern Europe survived as factors in the two world wars. No mention of the persecutions that drove Jews to flee to Poland. No mention of the burning of witches. One 15th-century paranoiac by the name of Jacob Sprenger was alone responsible for burning 500 witches in just one year. No mention of the genocide that pre-1914 Germany was practicing in its African colonies. --DAVID PRYCE-JONES

posted by TSO @ 16:51

Oy vey...

Mark applies hammer to the nailhead in this post, leavened by a preface describing what a privilege it is to receive the sacraments.

I've been reading a few of the comments over on Amy's blog about the latest GRIM GIRM situation and it's cringe-inducing. The very folks most likely to be of the "offer it up" variety - i.e. old-fashioned, Douay-totin', Mass-as-a-sacrifice folks - are the least likely to sacrifice by listening to banjo-y music like "Eagle's Wings" at Mass. I don't like it either, and I don't like the holding hands or other theatrics, but one would think that receiving the Body and Blood of Christ would be enough to squelch the firestorm of minutiae this has apparently spawned.

Our priest is an exceptionally learned and noble monsignor who, frankly, doesn't belong at our parish. He's too smart and holy for us. (I think it's in reparation for our previous priest, but that's another story.) Anyway, he suffers with great dignity and merit through liturgies that...shall we say...aren't his cup o' tea, and I think better of him for it.

An old nun in 4th grade told it like it is. Just because you're not getting anything out of the music doesn't mean the person next to you isn't. And if you've been given a bad voice, sing anyway and let God know it! Bad taste is not a sin.

But I digress. We all have our little pressure points and mine are myriad, including TPOTC critics, pro-choice Catholics, and drivers who don't exactly share my assumptions on good driving (i.e. don't be driving 35 in a 40mph zone unless you're behind me).

I understand that 75% of blogging is complaining, aka venting, as this post is. (The word 'blog' comes from the Old English bloge meaning, 'to vetch, 'whine'.) So one has to take these (and this) with a grain of sand. (Or is it salt?)

posted by TSO @ 12:52


A few years ago I used to haunt the Catholic Convert bulletin board (it wasn't just for converts) and there was more erudition there than anywhere except when Tom dines alone.

Seriously, the board was top-notch. So I was glad when one of the old crew, MaryH of Ever New, started a similar bboard. Yesterday's discussion on sloth and humility was especially interesting and edifying.

posted by TSO @ 12:34

Aquinas for the Democratic Age

Review of Hittinger's "Liberty, Wisdom, and Grace: Thomism and Democratic Political Theory":

One may surmise, therefore, that John Hittinger is an unusual kind of scholar who blends together Catholic, Straussian, and American concerns and who is driven by the intellectual challenge of finding a Thomistic justification for modern liberal democracy while possessing a keen awareness of the difficulties he faces.

The difficulties are evident in part one of his volume which begins with several chapters on the achievements of Jacques Maritain and Yves Simon. Hittinger clearly reveres these 20th-century Thomists, as well as the college professors from Notre Dame who introduced them to him as a young student. But Hittinger's reverence does not blind him to their shortcomings, as can be seen especially in chapter three, "Jacques Maritain's and Yves R. Simon's Use of Thomas Aquinas in Their Defense of Liberal Democracy."

In point of fact, Hittinger says, Thomas argued that the best regime is not a democracy but a mixed constitution which looks "something like constitutional monarchy." Hittinger concludes therefore that Simon's and Maritain's justification for liberal democracy is "not fully warranted by the texts of St. Thomas" and that their "advocacy of the democratic spirit and the sense of historical progress take Simon and Maritain well beyond the political philosophy of St. Thomas."

posted by TSO @ 16:05

March 23, 2004

He's Retired, She's Working, They're Not Happy

When retirement ever after ist nicht zu gut.

posted by TSO @ 15:55

No Time to Get Weak-Knee'd

Let's dedicate a few rosaries to Bud Macfarlane Jr. (see posts on Alicia's & Elena's & Two Sleepy Mommies' blogs) and fight weakness with (His) power. There sure aren't any guarantees in life.

posted by TSO @ 12:23

Interesting Finds

I love the token conservative of the NY Times, David Brooks. He's like Atatürk's Turkey in a sea of Islamic republics:

But the more interesting phenomenon limned in Chappell's book is this: [Martin Luther] King had a more accurate view of political realities than his more secular liberal allies because he could draw on biblical wisdom about human nature. Religion didn't just make civil rights leaders stronger — it made them smarter.

Whether you believe in God or not, the Bible and commentaries on the Bible can be read as instructions about what human beings are like and how they are likely to behave. Moreover, this biblical wisdom is deeper and more accurate than the wisdom offered by the secular social sciences, which often treat human beings as soulless utility-maximizers, or as members of this or that demographic group or class.

Whether the topic is welfare, education, the regulation of biotechnology or even the war on terrorism, biblical wisdom may offer something that secular thinking does not — not pat answers, but a way to think about things.

For example, it's been painful to watch thoroughly secularized Europeans try to grapple with Al Qaeda. The bombers declare, "You want life, and we want death"— a (fanatical) religious statement par excellence. But thoroughly secularized listeners lack the mental equipment to even begin to understand that statement. They struggle desperately to convert Al Qaeda into a political phenomenon: the bombers must be expressing some grievance. This is the path to permanent bewilderment.
From a Laura Miller column:
Classicism comes in two flavors, and while supporters of American foreign policy like to compare America to Athens, those with reservations turn to Rome....The leaders of the American Revolution courted the Roman comparison. George Washington staged a performance of Joseph Addison's play ''Cato'' for his officers at Valley Forge, presumably to inspire them with the austere tragedy of a statesman willing to sacrifice all for the republic. The 18th century was the Augustan age, in which the Stoic virtues of discipline and self-control -- qualities the Romans, in turn, admired in the Spartans -- were prized above the raucous squabbling of democracy in the Greek mode. By 1863, as Garry Wills writes in ''Lincoln at Gettysburg,'' Romanticism had replaced the Stoic ideal with the Greek Revival, and Athens was no longer disdained for being ''ruled by mobs'' and ''anarchical.'' The transformation has lasted and affected more than politics, as a reading of ''Cato'' shows. In the play, Cato's two sons compete for the hand of a young woman. She prefers the ''graceful tenderness'' of one over the ardent, fiery ''vehemence'' of the other, which she regards with ''a secret kind of horror''; her choice seems bizarre now, in a time when overpowering passion is prized above all in matters of the heart.

Everyone wants to be the Greeks -- democratic if disorderly, cultured if impulsive. Nobody wants to be the Romans, with their well-oiled war machine, their vaunted sobriety and their frank imperial ambitions. But even in books intent on characterizing contemporary America as either one, it's possible to find as many differences as similarities.
Thomas Hibbs on Schindler's List (perhaps a weakness of TPOTC was the depiction of the Roman soliders, who are also at "too great a remove" from the typical viewer.)
Some have objected that Oskar Schindler represents the banality of goodness, an ordinary businessman with little apparent interior life who manages to do the right thing and save many Polish Jews from the gas chambers...Yet the film succeeds at doing what historical art aims to do: educate our minds, inform our memories, and foster appropriate sympathy, revulsion, sorrow, and admiration. What is most instructive about Schindler is not just his ordinariness, but the way his entrepreneurial opportunism, his mundane desire for profit, and his willingness to use bribes and other illegal means of persuasion kept him from being swept up into the camp of German true believers and provided him with the skills and habits to engage in systematic deception of German officials.

The real weakness of Schindler's List is not in the character of Schindler but in that of Goeth, an unhinged psychopath whose intoxicated sadism puts him at too great a remove from the viewer, who is apt to come away identifying the evil of the Nazis with simple madness. In an illuminating suggestion, the philosopher Gillian Rose proposed that a certain conception of an "ethic of service," captured effectively in the film The Remains of the Day (1993), could implicate ordinary human beings in the Nazi system.
Jonah Goldberg on the CORNER:
The fact that Al Qaeda is calling for revenge for Yassin's killing demonstrates how wars cause everyone to choose sides. That's how wars work. Much like Qaeda's interest in American failure in Iraq, it was in evitable that the terrorist group most dedicated to destroying one democracy would would become a natural ally for the terrorist group dedicated to destroying us. This doesn't mean that there's active cooperation between the two organizations. But it does mean that al Qaeda understands that Hamas sympathizers are natural recruits to be al Qaeda sympathizers. Opponents of America's friendship to Israel will no doubt claim that this opportunistic joining of forces -- at least rhetorically -- could have been avoided if we took the position that Israel's fate is of no concern to us whatsoever. But if that doesn't fit Churchill's definition of appeasement -- i.e. feeding your friends to the alligator in the hope he'll feed you last -- I don't what does.

posted by TSO @ 10:43

TPOTC still resonates... the scene of the God-Man kissing his cross suddenly becomes Him kissing us - for the cross was just a means to an end - our salvation.

Another scene that lingers is where a soldier lances his side and the blood and water are caught by the wind and sprays everyone, including a Roman who immediately kneels in conversion. Matter - even matter that induces squeamishness like blood - has been transfigured.


Deliver me O Lord from perversions like
thinking it arrogant of me
that you hear my prayer.

posted by TSO @ 10:08

Left Field Bleachers

Amy's been on a roll lately.

posted by TSO @ 13:42

March 22, 2004


NY Times columnist Tom Friedman said on Imus's little show that the Israeli assassination of Sheik Ahmed Yassin is a logical and rational response, given what this Hamas kingpin has done to Israel, but it will also surely lead to more suicide bombers. Which makes it seem less logical and rational, at least to the extent killing can ever be seen as rational.

What works with terrorism? Appeasement doesn't appear to. Friedman said that when Sharon began moving out of the Gaza Strip due to demographic problems (i.e. soon there will be more Palestinians than Israelis), Hamas took and received credit for it. Hamas filled the power vacuum that was left by the dismantling of Yassir Arafat & his gang. Talk about going from bad to worse.

But "tit-for-tat" doesn't work either. Israel responds to violence, then the Palestinians do the same, endlessly. Responding to terror begets more terror.

Personally, I was always glad that Bush Sr. & Clinton were soft on terrorism and blew up empty tents in the desert in response to various and sundry bombings because once you engage this enemy, it's Northern Ireland all over again. But 9/11 was a whole new ballgame. At that point, "we don't want to play" became, "you will play". The threshold of "acceptable casualties" was outrageously exceeded and we've done what we've had to, although Iraq seems to be a bad deal given the absence of WMDs.

But how do you win a war against terrorism when responding to terror creates a new generation of martyrs? The old rules -- two armies facing each other on a field of combat -- now look as quaint as if disputes were settled by playing a game of chess. The only way to win against terror is to turn terror states into democracies, as this Administration is attempting. And that is far more challenging than engaging in appeasement or 'tit for tat'.

Update: I put the Bone update/writing jag post here.

posted by TSO @ 12:17

Inspired by Steven Riddle's post today.... so let's play....

Why Does My Workout Bag Weigh 300 lbs?

Running late, I put my pre-loaded bookbag in the workout bag and now it weighs more than Dom Deluise.

* Pure Clear Light: A Novel by Madeleine St. John
* Guide to the Passion - Ascension Press
* Last Days of Pompeii - Lytton
* The Miracle Detective - Sullivan
* Getting it Right - William F. Buckley novel
* Julian the Apostate - Ricciotti
* Path to Rome - Belloc
* Founding Father - Washington bio by Brookhiser
* The Moviegoer - Percy, this big seller is ironically the only fiction book of his I haven't read.

posted by TSO @ 12:12

NY Times essayist says folks are more honest on the web.

posted by TSO @ 15:20

March 21, 2004

Excavating Books

From today's Dispatch on the NY Review of Books Classics series:

"The series grew out of a catalog I was editing of books in print," [Edwin] Frank said. "It was broken down into categories such as ‘Italian Literature,’ and I noticed there wasn’t a single book in print by Alberto Moravia.

"That gave me a sense that there was a hole (in publishing) that could be filled."

And fill it his series has, with two titles by Moravia (Boredom and Contempt) as well as with little-known books by under-appreciated writers such as J.R. Ackerley, Joyce Cary, Richard Hughes, Mavis Gallant and J.F. Powers.

Universities concentrate, understandably, on teaching canonical works, tested by time and deemed the greatest achievements in literature. But that sort of vetting can crush lighter, more delicate pieces.

"In college today you’ll read a lot of Virginia Woolf. Of course Virginia Woolf was a remarkable writer, but she was also a remarkable modernist writer, and that is how she’s taught, as a modernist," Frank said.

"There are a lot of books on our list that are modern, but not modernist, and for that reason they tend to get passed over. Richard Hughes’ "A High Wind in Jamaica" is electrifying in its own right. It could only be a 20th-century book, but it doesn’t fit into any of the categories."

Many of the books in the series have had, at one time or another, cult followings. Dog lovers, for instance, have long pointed to Ackerley’s "My Dog Tulip" as one of the very best books ever written on the relationship between man and canine.

Other books, such as Hughes’ "A High Wind in Jamaica", were vastly popular when published, but then almost entirely forgotten — for decades — until Frank or one of his army of suggesters unearthed it and made it a part of the series.

"The picking process is still headed by me," he said. "I’m a committee of one. But I solicit suggestions from our contributors and readers. Probably my biggest resource is the used-book store."

The used-book store is a place, Frank said, where decade-by-decade fashions in literature "overlap and rub shoulders."

Dream fluently, still brothers, who when young
Took with your mother’s milk the mother tongue,
In which pure matrix, joining world and mind,
You strove to leave some line of verse behind
Like still fresh tracks across a field of snow
Not reckoning that all could melt and go. — To the Etruscan Poets, Richard Wilbur

--Bill Eichenberger

posted by TSO @ 11:42


I'm glad St. Joseph's won yesterday but it would've been nice if they'd played and won on their patron's feast day.

posted by TSO @ 11:27

Why why is important

Interesting comment from Rod Dreher on Amy's blog:

As George and Amy point out, something went seriously wrong in that generation before the Council, else we wouldn't have had such a rapid and complete collapse. I think what George means by "rule-based formation" is the old model of being told what to believe without it being explained to one. The first priest to do my personal instruction (I bailed on RCIA because it had zero content, and was all about feeling good about Jesus) was an elderly Irishman formed in that system. I appreciated him at first because he cared about doctrine. But I quickly saw that he was unable to explain in any depth why the Church taught what it did. He thought it was sufficient to say, "Look, here's what the Church teaches, accept it if you want to, or reject it, but here's the deal." You can imagine how frustrating that was for somebody like me, who had great sympathy for the Church, but really wanted to know where this doctrine comes from. Yet I don't feel harshly toward this good priest. That was how he was raised.

I'm thinking that a lot of folks in that Conciliar generation were never taught the deeper reason why the Church teaches what it teaches, and when confronted with a culture, but within the Church and outside it, that forcefully challenged the Church ... found that they couldn't withstand the blast.

Let me find a political analogy, and see if that helps. I wrote a cover story for Natl Review that examined in part why the Netherlands went from being one of the most religious and conservative countries in Europe to being the most secular and liberal in a single generation. In a nutshell, it's like this: the Dutch are a strongly consensus-oriented people, very averse to conflict. In the 19th-c., leaders of the three blocs in the country -- the Protestants, the Catholics and the Socialists/secularists -- got together and worked out a power-sharing system, called "pillarization." The idea was that the country rested on three pillars, and that maintaining social and political unity depended on everyone trusting the leadership and falling into line. Disputes were worked out at the top, and everybody stayed in their own little pillar. They even had Catholic grocery stores, Catholic soccer teams, etc. Everybody stayed in his own pillar, and got along fine.

The Second World War broke all that up, and by the time the 1960s came, people began to question why they were still living according to pillarization, and all that entailed (esp. religious devotion). The leaders had no answer for them. And lacking the ability to articulate why it was impt to live this way, the old order collapsed. People had ceased to believe in it, because at some point they had grown comfortable in their belief that the world would always be the way they arranged it.

Holland has never recovered. And because the Dutch are strongly consensus-oriented, when the leadership stopped being able or willing to articulate its raison d'etre, the people crumbled too.

I think that dynamic may explain a lot of why the Church collapsed as it did post-Vatican II, even though in America, the 1950s were a golden age.

posted by TSO @ 11:27

Heaven on Earth

The preternatural joy of the Byzantine Catholic liturgy is amazing. I've been to a few Latin Masses and numberless post-Vatican II Masses, but there is something special about the Byzantine liturgy that I can't put my finger on. There is a childlike quality, a recognition of our creatureliness that doesn't seem to come through elsewhere.

The congregation is special too. Services last 90-100 minutes but no one leaves early. There is a reluctance to leave the pews afterwards. I find it in myself too, I "verweile doch" (German for 'linger awhile') among the icons. On the walk out to the parking lot the sidewalk is single file. Many elderly with canes walk very slowly, but no one passes them, not even the children. I don't see any "don't walk on the grass" signs but perhaps rules aren't needed for this patch of heaven on earth.

posted by TSO @ 11:24

Check it out...

This bboard is an excellent idea.

posted by TSO @ 19:09

March 20, 2004

Rural Ireland

posted by TSO @ 00:02

Words to Live by

"There's nothing to be gained by getting to the top of the pile if that pile is a pile of crap." -- Ham of Bone

posted by TSO @ 16:59

March 19, 2004

St. Cyril of Jerusalem

St. Cyril is a relatively new discoveree for me, aided and abetted by one Kathy of Gospel Minefield. His 4th century words seem to come to life:

"Keep this faith ever by your side to help you on your way and close your ears and have nothing to do with any other, even if I myself should change my allegiance and preach another faith to you or an angel of darkness be transformed into an angel of light to lead you into error...

posted by TSO @ 16:18

There Goes My Life

Nice country song illustrates death to self as the way to life.

posted by TSO @ 12:42

Interesting article on Garrison Keillor.

posted by TSO @ 20:30

March 18, 2004

Another Belloc Excerpt

With that wish came in a puzzling thought, very proper to a pilgrimage, which was: 'What do men mean by the desire to be dissolved and to enjoy the spirit free and without attachments?' That many men have so desired there can be no doubt, and the best men, whose holiness one recognizes at once, tell us that the joys of the soul are incomparably higher than those of the living man. In India, moreover, there are great numbers of men who do the most fantastic things with the object of thus unprisoning the soul, and Milton talks of the same thing with evident conviction, and the Saints all praise it in chorus. But what is it? For my part I cannot understand so much as the meaning of the words, for every pleasure I know comes from an intimate union between my body and my very human mind, which last receives, confirms, revives, and can summon up again what my body has experienced. Of pleasures, however, in which my senses have had no part I know nothing, so I have determined to take them upon trust and see whether they could make the matter clearer in Rome.

posted by TSO @ 20:09

Lightning Round

Read excellent article about sloth here, if not too tired. Link via Bill of Random Notes.

It ne'er gets old.

Best blog award. (But decidedly untrue of Mark's instructive Minute Particulars.)

Here is Belloc answering an imagined book/blog critic in his magisterial "Path to Rome":
"LECTOR. Pray dwell less on your religion, and—

AUCTOR. Pray take books as you find them, and treat travel as travel. For you, when you go to a foreign country, see nothing but what you expect to see. But I am astonished at a thousand accidents, and always find things twenty-fold as great as I supposed they would be, and far more curious; the whole covered by a strange light of adventure. And that is the peculiar value of this book. "

posted by TSO @ 19:59

Pondering Aloud

One of the things about blogging that naturally occurs is that there are any number of people who know more than us as well as any number who know less.

The problem is that we do not know what we do not know (reminds me of the Dilbert cartoon in which the boss asks for a list of all the unknowns). Not only is there an unequal distribution of correct vision, but there are important things we must make decisions concerning that no one knows, because the Lord hasn't told us. We look through the glass darkly.

But need this be a recipe for paralysis? Should we fail to offer an opinion or vision on the assumption that our opinion or vision may be flawed (absent some private revelation)?

"Ideological Conservatism", "Non-Ideological Liberalism" and Other Oxymorons

Joe Perez says that "spirituality focuses the attention on the inner life, personal growth, and living from the heart and soul rather than simply the head and mouth. It's less ideological and more driven by a psychological and mystical attitude towards life. This is a liberal religious perspective that's not easy to fit into blogging, so there are fewer folks doing so."

But I don't see liberals as more into spirituality than conservatives; there are plenty of interiorly-focused orthodox bloggers who post prayers and religious icons and snippets of sermons and there is nothing more mystical than believing in the Real Presence. It's mystical to believe that Church doctrine is protected from error. And it's not true that liberals aren't ideological; it's as a backlash to their ideologies that conservatives appear ideological. Orthodoxy should be non-ideological since it's supposed to be about what we've received rather than generated ourselves. The fact that conservatives are against ordaining women, for example, isn't ideological but obedience to the Holy See (and the Pope might say that he is restrained by the example Jesus provided, among other things).

Personally, I don't see the great mystery behind the presence of so many conservative blogs. Orthodoxy is the Zeitgeist of the age. If the internet was big in the 1960s, does anyone doubt that St. Blog's would look like a liberal's damp dream? It simply reflects the fact that conservatism and orthodoxy are fashionable now (partially as a result of a backlash to what obviously didn't work in the '60s and '70s).

True conservatism is supposed to be an absence of ideology, something we should strive for even while rarely attaining it. Of politics Tony Blankley wrote, "The concept of radical conservatism ought to seem oxymoronic. Only a generation ago, conservatives could credibly argue that conservatism constituted the absence of ideology. Conservatives used to argue that liberalism (even 19th century non-socialist liberalism) was fatally flawed because it exalted contemporary created ideas over the long-evolving institutional wisdom of our civilization. It is a measure of the success of modern, ideological conservatism that the phrase radical conservatism seems to make sense. And it is a substantial part of The American Conservative's mission to try to yank back the conservative designation from a movement that has morphed from Bill Buckley's Catholic, principled conservatism into a collection of radical ambitions and schemes -- some of which may be vitally needed, but arguably are not conservative."

posted by TSO @ 14:33

Around the World in Eighty Blogs!

Thomas is back...I hope he won't mind if I don't change my template just yet.

posted by TSO @ 14:15

Most Ironical Spam Subject Headers
(all are actual subject headers, found in today's spam catch)

-- "info" (odds are good this spam will contain no useful info)
-- "My friend" (a spammer is to a friend what an axe murderer is to Mother Teresa)
-- "crucial herball clinic" ('crucial herbal clinic' is an oxymoron)
-- "Become popular finally" (like you Mr. Spammer?)
-- "buy origanal looking Rolex watches" (like the way you spell 'original'?)
-- "u wont regret" (I already have)
-- "Fwd: You have to check this out!"
-- "as seen on Dateline"

Least Ironic
"" ([i.e. no subject header])

posted by TSO @ 16:37

March 17, 2004

Mysteries Without End

My wife has a very close friend who is a professional court-goer. At least that's what it seems. After a bitter divorce, she's been fighting to keep custody of her now eight-year old child for seeming ever.

She's recently asked my wife to take off work and fly to Chicago to show support by showing the judge that someone is friend enough to take off work and fly to Chicago and show her support.

This interests me on several levels. One is how to determine what is reasonable and what is unreasonable in a friend's request. My wife asked me and I said lamely that only she could make that determination. Would a whole week be reasonable? Would taking three vacation days be reasonable? Bone and Cal and I error on the side of hardly making requests at all, which I think is a typical "guy thing" (asking-directions-as-a-sign-of-weakness syndrome). Men don't make demands because they are more likely to fall prey to the cult of self-reliance and because part of the joy of having a male friend, as opposed to a wife, is the former doesn't make demands and the latter makes a plethora of demands. (My wife excluded, of course.)

So there's that.

The second level of interest for me is why "support" in the form of a warm body is necessary. Personally I'd be a lot more inclined to go if she'd said, "I want you to go because I don't want to go through this alone" rather than this b-s about impressing a judge.

I can scarcely comprehend that we have a system where you can lose custody of your child unless you drag a friend four hundred miles away to court. I can't comprehend that my wife's friend has been a bad enough mother (which she most certainly hasn't) that my wife's presence could be decisive. The whole thing smacks of mystery; why can't the court can't make up its mind? Their custody battles drag on longer than most death penalty cases.

I should mention that both my wife's friend and her ex-husband are exceptionally high income-earners and together have spent close to the gross national product of Bolivia on attorney fees.

posted by TSO @ 16:36


Derbyshire posted Kipling's verse in response to the Spain elections.

posted by TSO @ 16:36

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts
The only good thing about reading The DaVinci Code I can think of is that it isn't Atlas Shrugged. - Tom of Disputations

If we wish to know the force of human genius, we should read Shakespeare. If we wish to see the insignificance of human learning, we may study his commentators. - William Hazlitt

A possible tip-off may have been the uniqueness of millionaires shopping at Wal-Mart. - Michelle of "And Then?" on news that a Georgia woman tried to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at Wal-Mart.

"When the idea of 'rational sufficiency' first reared its head clearly in a Christian society, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, the Christian soul felt an immediate shock of horror, as faced with the concupiscence of the mind which was the completion of original sin." -- Henry Card. DeLubac.... DeLubac was talking about the slight theological aberrations which encouraged the subsequent 15th century heresy of Louvain theologian Michel du Bay who basically claimed that unfallen man could reach beatitude without the assistance of grace. The whole book is a study of how late Medieval theologians are in part responsible for the genesis of philosophies which made atheism plausible for the first time in history. Well, that's actually a "byproduct" of the study, which is about a more technical issue in the nature / grace debate and the havoc it caused when handled incorrectly. It's the kind of book that makes you want to run screaming from the practice of theology, lest you screw something up and generate a monstrous ideology. DeLubac shows how many brilliant men with good intentions ended up having a hand, most unwittingly, in some devasting intellectual movements. -Old Oligarch

I have to say that I had a rather benign, albeit irritated attitude towards the novel until I started really researching some things - like the art. I saw that almost everything Brown says about Leonardo and his art is wrong, with the truth easily found in 5 minutes of Googling, and, for more substantive evidence, in 15 minutes in the library. Wrong - not just interpreted an a unique way - but simply wrong. I was actually rather shocked. Stupidity? Brazen? Cojones? I can't judge, that's for sure, wonder he's no longer giving interviews. - Amy Welborn

Churches traditionally have often overdone it on the guilt so there's kind of a backlash in the more liberal denominations. But guilt is part of being human, unless you're a sociopath. Martin Luther wrote that the realization that God forgives you is what inspires good works to begin with. Otherwise they become an onerous task, because you're never going to be perfect at them. - Camassia

I once heard the great philosopher Alistair MacIntyre say of one of JP II's encyclicals on moral thought, "Veritatis Splendor," that it was the deepest and most subtle philosophical meditation on truth since Kierkegaard. - Michael Novak on NRO

The real reasons are far more sinister: first, html software is specifically designed to block caring, other-oriented language that is respectful of the marginalized. Second, blogging manuals are kept in a locked archive in the Vatican. Third, the wimples worn by women religious were designed by male hierarchs to impede their peripheral vision so they couldn't find the "enter" key on their laptops. The consequences are inevitable. -- Diogenes, via Domenico Bettinelli, via Don of Mixolydian Mode answering Commonweal's query on why there are so few liberal religious sister's blogs

Fr. Whitt argued against a carrot-and-stick understanding of the prayer, "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." Forgiveness that is conditional, he said, isn't forgiveness. God doesn't say, "I'll forgive you if you forgive these others," which is more of a taunt than an expression of mercy. Rather, our failure to forgive is one of the things we need to be forgiven, and only the forgiving can receive the forgiveness God bestows on everyone. -Tom of Disputations

President Bush is not a Roman Catholic. I thought that was common knowledge but a few of my fellow bloggers in St. Blog's Parish seem to feel that George W. should hold to the same Catholic ideology and moral beliefs that they do! (It's interesting that the "progressives" hold George W to these standards unconsciously, while at the same time exempting themselves from Catholic beliefs winillynill as they choose..) --Elena of "My Domestic Church"

A Nation Under Lawyers? - title of post by William of "The Catholic Book Collector"

About the works and salvation's like this... Somehow my 8 and 10 year olds had never jumped rope before so they each got one for Christmas. When they first tried it they swung the rope around with such force that it slammed into the ground a second after they had jumped. They both seemed to take this approach at first and they both failed many times. Finally, after trying to give them tips I showed them how to swing the rope in more relaxed way. When they tried it - it worked! They had to learn to cooperate with the physics. I think our efforts work best when we let grace do it job. :) -MaryH at Ever New

When the Faith is restored, the Holy Office will shut "St. Blogs" down. -Sulpicius Severus of the Catacombs

For Aquinas, "the Son is not punished by the Father, but tormented by men; and it is not his suffering in and by itself that makes satisfaction but the loving obedience with which he endures the suffering inflicted on him." -Fr. Terry on Camassia's blog

I lost my innocence by attending school. It doesn't matter that it was a Catholic School or that my mother was sending me there at great expense. The school and its environment choked out of me the early innocence and pure faith that I had had as a young child and I didn't get that faith back until I was in my 30s and then after great difficulty and hardship....You just can't be immersed in your equally immature peer group that long without losing that innocence. Couple that with dissident and heretical teachings i.e. "It's Ok to have sex outside of marriage as long as you are committed to each other." (uh right. A brother at my Catholic High School told me that one in religion class one day,) and you have the recipe for cynicism. And this is why we chose to homeschool folks. -Elena of "My Domestic Church"

posted by TSO @ 12:51

Special St. Patrick's Day Edition

I once had a box full o' spam
interspersed with emails from Pam
I deleted too much
without meaning such
and now I'm in a bit o' a jam!

Foreign Leaders Support This Blog!
Mary McAleese, President of Ireland : "Mo sheacht ngrá thú!"
Cicero: "I applaud any blog that quotes my countryman Ovid."
Boutrous Boutrous Gali: "From a long-named man to a long-named blog - I salute you!"
Vladimir Putin: "Nyet!" (translated meaning, "I read him daily between my morning vodka and afternoon briefing on American progress tracing Saddam's oil contracts..")

....But of course you can't please everyone.....

Jacques Chirac: "It is not true that I profited from Mr. O'Rama in the 'Oil for Blog Posts' program."
Gerhard Schroeder: "I feel about him the way I feel about flat American bier."
Prime Minister Chretien: "I prefer Ono's blog."

O Tommy Boy

...the pipes, the pipes are callin'....from glen to glen and to the streets downtown....for I must go to Veteran's Memorial and drink a Guinness...

Oh to be a piper on St. Patrick's Day.

posted by TSO @ 10:48

According, therefore, to the measure of one's faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God's name everywhere with confidence and without fear, in order to leave behind, after my death, foundations for my brethren and sons whom I baptized in the Lord in so many thousands.

posted by TSO @ 22:47

March 16, 2004

Tidbits from Ronald Witherup's "Bible Companion" ...which will probably strike my readers, who are far more theologically astute than me, as obvious

The danger is that we will try to force the OT into a preconceived Christian mold that does an injustice to it. It is unacceptable, for example, to think of the God of the OT as a vengeful God whereas the God of the NT is all loving. God is often portrayed in the OT as incredibly patient and understanding despite Israel's stubbornness and failings, and the NT contains many references to judgment and eternal punishment that must be placed into the total picture of its message...There is a back-forth flow between them that will remain somewhat mysterious, yet we will be able to appreciate both testaments uniquely for what they say about God and God's relationship with humanity.

Because God's message applies to all times, and not simply to our own, the interpretation of any passage in a given era might be different from previous or later interpretations.

The Bible basically provides a means measure the quality and direction of our lives....The canon provides a moral measure of how we stack up against God's expectations.

In each instance [of the OT], the covenant [creation, Noah's, Abraham's, Moses', David's] is violated by people. They sin, and God threatens and punishes. But a few good souls always remain with whom God can begin again. And so the pattern continues...until the NT era.

With the coming of Jesus Christ, Christians believe that God has changed the pattern. The NT perspective on salvation history is that in Jesus Christ God has acted definitively with a "new covenant" that can never end. Now, because Jesus' obedience to God's will was perfect, there can be no other covenants. There is no longer need for the pattern to continue in exactly the same fashion. Instead, salvation has been assured in the person of Jesus Christ. But those who believe in him are expected to live out salvation by lives that reflect it. The NT thus does not envision a lad back view of salvation history as if God has done it all, with the result that we human beings need do nothing else.
I've struggled with this concept of differences between different eras, but, of course, God can do anything he wants. To be born in this era of grace, I'm sure Martha would say, is a good thing, and ought to lead to a greater spirit of thankfulness and praise. Everything I've learned from God I've had to re-learn. Many times.

posted by TSO @ 22:35

Novak on John Paul the Great

I once heard the great philosopher Alistair MacIntyre say of one of JP II's encyclicals on moral thought, "Veritatis Splendor," that it was the deepest and most subtle philosophical meditation on truth since Kierkegaard. "Centesimus Annus" is the greatest work among all papal letters on the free society, cultural, economic, and political; add his companion encyclicals, "Laborem Exercens" and "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," and you have the most distinguished body of reflections on the social and economic order produced by any religious body in any time. His path-breaking discourses on the theology of the human body may be the so far least noted of the bombshells he has left for future generations to unpack.

A priest friend of mine who is no admirer of Pope John Paul II at all, ...told me some years ago that he prayed every day that the pope will go soon to the heavenly destination he has devoutly longed for. My priest friend describes himself as a progressive Catholic, and the church of his romantic dreams he describes as the "Vatican II church." Every day that John Paul II's clear memory of Vatican II, at which as a young bishop (then archbishop) he was a leader, replaces those romantic illusions with a more accurate and rigorous reading, my priest friend dies a little.

"Father Dick," I want to tell him, "It's okay. You're not losing an illusion, you're gaining a more vigorous reality. Buck up! Look at what the world has gained these last 25-plus years! Promise you, he's not likely to live more than 17 more years, when he reaches 100."

Then I imagine 100,000 Poles singing in unison: "Stolat! Stolat! May you live 100 years!"

posted by TSO @ 16:58

Another Planet

“It's like another planet." That was the only way one diplomat could describe North Korea. Consider a visit from the Great Leader to a foreign dignitary living in Pyongyang: It would first be determined which particular salon in the forty-room guest palace the Great Leader would visit. Next, just before the appointed meeting, an army truck would arrive. A specially trained team of soldiers would then strip the salon of all furniture, rugs, and wall hangings — right down to the bare floor. A second truck would arrive with replacement furnishings. Among these would be the Great Leader's own desk as well as his personal items and baskets of flowers. In this salon, the Great Leader would exchange ten minutes of pleasantries with the foreign dignitary and then depart. Afterwards, the two trucks would come back in reverse order so that the salon would be returned to its original condition.
--William C. Triplett

posted by TSO @ 13:45

Day to Go

I'll be posting pictures this week in honor of me heritage. I embarrassed myself by getting only 14 of 20 on this Irish quiz. I got overconfident when they started out with "What day is St. Patrick's Day?" Also, get yer St. Patrick's Day postcards here.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Grapes, Soured?

It seems to me the blessing and the curse of blogs is their amateurism. Blessing because we can show more personality and daring than the local paper does. We can be silly, profound, humorous, pious. We're less guarded, less worried about offending readers. There is a purity in doing something without monetary compensation.

It's also a curse because obviously the content is uneven, the production values suspect, the writing unedited, etc...

Chesterton had many wonderful things to say about the amateur. I think he would've loved blogs. But for me these web awards violate the spirit of blogdom. Doth I smell a sneaking professionalism? I began to read the winner of "Best Article or Post About Weblogs", a long, laborious piece that seemed to say in the first two pages what anyone could say in five sentences. This tendency to say obvious things in a very lengthy way is a hallmark of academia, which I think killeth the spirit. (Or, more likely, I have ADHD.)

posted by TSO @ 13:14

Combing the Catacombs

Jimmy Akin makes a good point: "[Jack] Chick’s material is weirdly compelling. It’s amateurish, paranoid, lurid, garish, ham-fisted, and viciously hateful at times. It’s incredibly intense, and something about that intensity makes people want to read them. They generate a kind of bizarre fascination."

I've recently fallen for a Trad blog (--and I can't get up! rimshot) for similar reasons. For beleagured culture-war'd Catholics, his blog acts as a sort of salve since you suddenly regain all the sensations of being mainstream. Finding someone more conservative than yourself is like finding a Buffalo nickel, you just look at it with a sort of wonderment.
His blog reads like a parody - and well it might be, for who knows on the 'net? But what a wonderous handle he goes by! Sulpicius Severus is so agreeably medieval, the blogname equivalent of the labyrinthal monastery in "The Name of the Rose".

His latest post is titled "Lenten Meditation -- Invalidity of the Novus Ordo Missae". I liked the marriage of "Lenten Meditation", which sets you up for something more...well...meditative, and "Invalidity of the Novus Ordo Missae", which strikes the Trad's polemical one-note note. In the end I love the self-confidence of fundamentalists, be they Trads or Protestant. Of course my affection is for the person and not the doctrine. Fundies do tremendous damage to the Church, as schisms and heresies do by definition, but the fundamentalist is like the pal in the foxhole who goes daft - one looks upon them with pity, not anger - while the liberal pro-choice Christian is the guy in the foxhole who runs to the enemy's side. (Of course, they all see me similarly.)

Mr. Severus goes on: "This Lent let us remind ourselves that fidelity to Catholic Worship -- to the Traditional Latin Mass -- is essential to our salvation. The novus ordo missae is an invalid act of blasphemy, hoisted onto the world by the protestant periti and modernist malefactors of the Vatican II robber council."

So well-written. I'm a sucker for alliteration and "protestant periti" and "modernist malefactors" please the ear and eye. I also liked use of the word "hoisted" even though I think he wanted "foisted".

He comments on why he deigns to comment on our blogs (from Jeff Miller's blog): "Corporal works of mercy can involve picking your way through the dingy back alleys of blighted urban streets to bring comfort and guidance to the homeless and the drug-addicted, so too I slog my way through the rip-roaring, joking, oh-isn't-it-so-funny-how-far-the-modernists-have-destroyed-our-religion dregs of "St. Blogs" to nudge souls towards the bread of Truth."

Good writing covers a multitude of sins and this guy's got the goods.

PS: Do I, a member of the dregs of St. Blog's, get credit for a work of mercy in passing his URL along?

posted by TSO @ 16:01

March 15, 2004

Lots of Manure in "Moo"?

Terry of Summa Mommas reviews Jane Smiley's funny "Moo". I read it about seven years ago (before my reversion) and I doubt I would like it now as much as I did then. I've become thinner-skinned regarding bias against Christians and conservatives. The environment has become so polarized that "I see bias" (say like "I see dead people" in "The Sixth Sense") everywhere, and often enough there is bias. The NY Times, for example, has changed radically. Nostalgia creeps in when you read the Times praising Pius XII.

Recent books have convincingly made the case for liberal bias in the mainstream media, so we're more knowledgeable in how bias is exercised. Ignorance may not be bliss but being unaware does allow you to read without blood pressure fluctuations.

posted by TSO @ 14:38

Repent of Our Repentings

Our pastor annually sends us a Lenten meditational book. Last year's was more of a "feel good" type. This year's is drawn from John Henry Newman's sermons and books, and he is unsparing in telling it how it is:

An ordinary man thinks it enough to do as is done to him; he will think it fair to resent insults, to repay injuries, to show a becoming pride, to insist on his rights, to be jealous for his honor, when in the wrong to refuse to confess it, to seek to be rich, to desire to do well with the world, to fear what his neighbors will say. He seldom thinks of the Day of Judgment, seldom thinks of sins past. Such is the ordinary Christian - and such is not among God's elect.

This is the highest excellence to which we ordinarily attain: to understand our own hypocrisy, insincerity, and shallowness of mind - to own that, while we pray, we cannot pray aright, to repent of our repentings, and to submit ourselves wholly to his judgment, who could indeed be extreme with us, but has already shown his loving kindness in bidding us to pray.

posted by TSO @ 12:10

Thank God for Nuns

Times article on poverty and Haiti:

There once were many millions for Haiti from the World Bank, but the bank says the money bought almost nothing, and it says it will exercise "extreme caution" before it resumes trying to help Haiti.

"Of course the World Bank and the international community gives, but who to?" said the Rev. Willy Romélus, the pro-Aristide bishop of Jérémie. "To the government and to groups that invest a lot of money in bureaucracy, cars and logistics, leaving nothing for the people."...

The United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations plan to spend millions more for Haiti — but there is a sense that it comes with the weariness attached to large-scale, long-running failure.

A smaller scale may work. The Agency for International Development provides roughly 30 percent of the Haitian Health Foundation's $1.2 million operating budget, covering the salaries of three managers and 80 workers like Mrs. Delille, who makes $100 a month.

Two agency officials met Tuesday with Sister Maryann Bérard, a Franciscan nun who runs the foundation, which also builds houses and latrines and runs the only home for expectant mothers in Haiti.
They may have absorbed a lesson Sister Maryann says she learned from her 15 years in Haiti: aid works when it flows from the ground up, not the top down.

posted by TSO @ 12:08

Terrorism Works...

....else it wouldn't be the grisly "growth industry" it appears to be. If al Qaeda did influence the Spanish elections, then the incomprehensible (i.e. 9/11) sadly becomes more comprehensible.

posted by TSO @ 12:08

Hymns and Prayers from the Byzantine Catholic Divine Liturgy

posted by TSO @ 11:36

March 14, 2004

St. Patrick's Day Celebration(s)

It’s our Dodge City at the end of a long cattle drive; we count the days like desperados and feast on the music of our favorite Irish band ‘The Hooligans’ every St. Patrick's Day. The annual celebration was on Saturday the 13th since the 17th falls on a Wednesday.

We started at the Blarney Bash and ended at the Ancient Order of Hibernian's party. Today was a rare duo Hooligan set since we'd hear them at both parties. At the Blarney Bash, as can happen between aficionados and less-than-aficionados, our enthusiasm seemed to annoy the neighbors (which meant we were doing something right).
The Bash went absurdly fast and I checked thru the Kubler-Ross stages of death and dying – denial the Hooligans had finished, anger, and finally acceptance. Fortunately we’d see them again in an hour or two so there was healing in that.

We arrived at the little school gym that feels of home, the AOH gig being the soothing antidote to the huge and impersonal Blarney Bash. To join AOH you must be of Irish heritage and a Roman Catholic, which makes it the most exclusive club I could belong to. I feel the love in the room.

Here we were welcomed, if only in our minds. As is our wont we yelled the request “John Paul Polka”, an obscurse song in homage to the Pontiff that the band played once two or three years ago and had never played again. Amazingly they played it; it had the feel of the miraculous about it and in a way it was because the older woman who sat next to us and endured our singing turned out to be the spouse of one of the band members. Bone saw her go up and relay our request.

We sang to hoarseness all the old chestnuts including, "Come Out Ye Black and Tans" and “Give Ireland back to the Irish”...

posted by TSO @ 01:20

Rev. P.J. Michel Excerpt

God, who is the tender Father of all His creatures, has taken every means to remove that excessive fear which would draw them from Him. To prevent the soul that has become sensible of its ingratitude and terrified at the view of its repeated relapses into sin, after so often obtaining pardon for them --to prevent such a soul from losing all hope and daring no longer cry out to Him from the abyss into which it has again fallen, not only does He assure it, by the mouth of the Psalmist, "That those who hope in Him shall never be confounded," but He expressly declares the positive law of His mercy, and commands us to hope in Him.

Ah! we little know the boundless tenderness of that divine Heart, if we judge of it by our own, or if we imagine that it ever ceases to care for us. So long as we are in this life we are under the law of mercy, and of that mercy we can ever avail ourselves.

Let us then never fear to have recourse to the merits of Jesus Christ. We honor them when we make use of them to obtain that which helps which we need, since it was for this that Jesus Christ vouchsafed to acquire them and to give them over to us...It would be a singular way of honoring them, the not daring to make use of them; it would be going directly against the end which our divine Savior proposed to Himself. In turning from His gifts as useless, we should not be evincing our esteem for them, but only proving our indifference.

posted by TSO @ 10:19

March 13, 2004

Belloc "Path to Rome" Excerpt

The Ballon d'Alsace is the knot of Europe, and from that gathering up and ending of the Vosges you look down upon three divisions of men. To the right of you are the Gauls. I do not mean that mixed breed of Lorraine, silent, among the best of people, but I mean the tree Gauls, who are hot, ready, and born in the plains and in the vineyards. They stand in their old entrenchments on either side of the Saone and are vivacious in battle; from time to time a spirit urges them, and they go out conquering eastward in the Germanics, or in Asia, or down the peninsulas of the Mediterranean, and then they suck back like a tide homewards, having accomplished nothing but an epic.

Then on the left you have all the Germanics, a great sea of confused and dreaming people, lost in philosophies and creating music, frozen for the moment under a foreign rigidity, but some day to thaw again and to give a word to us others. They cannot long remain apart from visions...

....though cold by race, [through] her politeness ran a sense of what Teutons called Duty, which would once have repelled me; but I have wandered over a great part of the world, and I know it now to be a distorted kind of virtue.

She was of a very different sort from that good tribe of the Moselle valley beyond the hill; yet she also was Catholic?(she had a little tree set up before her door for the Corpus Christi: see what religion is, that makes people of utterly different races understand each other; for when I saw that tree I knew precisely where I stood. So once all we Europeans understood each other, but now we are divided by the worst malignancies of nations and classes, and a man does not so much love his own nation as hate his neighbours...

posted by TSO @ 10:03

Reason to Worry

Kevin Miller quotes a pundit who says that 4-to-6 weeks is all Kerry needs...

posted by TSO @ 16:34

March 12, 2004

From the Corner:

Nice detail from Bruce Feirstein's column in this week's New York Observer. Feirstein, who is a screenwriter, describes having lunch in a Santa Monica restaurant with ten Hollywood friends. None of them "had actually seen the film, despite offering vociferous opinions about it. Then the Hispanic waiter spoke up. 'I loved it. I usually don't go to movies, but I went to a matinee, on the second day.'"

posted by TSO @ 16:08

Non Nihil Obstat Musings

The Law in the OT seemed to serve the function of making it apparent to men that they are not God. In other words, to help them to humility by offering a Law they could not keep perfectly. (St. Augustine said that the law was necessary so that we see the necessity of grace.) Unfortunately the scribes and Pharisees circumvented this by seeming to keep the Law, and worse, by making it impossible for non-scribes and Pharisees from keeping the Law. (There is a nice reversal of this in the Church today -- our priests have heavier burdens placed on them - in the form of chastity, poverty and obedience - than lay people.)

Enter Jesus. He not only fulfilled the Law but blew by it - by erasing the distinction between thoughts with actions. By creating an equivalency between harboring anger against our brother and killing him, Jesus effectively laid an unbearable burden on the Pharisees, as if to say, "okay, so you thought you could keep the Law, 'eh. Try this on for size!" In the eternal war between presumption and despair, Christ battled against presumption by asking us to be perfect. He battled despair by reminding that "what is impossible for man is possible for God" and by giving us the Holy Spirit.

In a way, Jesus is to the Old Testament what the Holy Spirit is to Jesus, with the apostles playing the part of the anti-Pharisees. In other words, Jesus seemed to re-enact the bible in the sense that his teachings were Old Testament, and the post-Pentecost was the New. Christ's Law is a perfected one, which caused his apostles to stumble, unlike the Pharisees who felt they weren't stumbling under the imperfect Law.

My sense is that the bible is well-balanced between instruction on what pleases God and instruction on the remedy for doing that which seems impossible.

posted by TSO @ 13:43

Friday's Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items.... posts for attention deficits

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges...
It's taking 110% of my willpower not to parody this thread. Must. Resist. It started out so promisingly too. Loved the first fifty comments or so.

Received a spam with title "please confirm pathos." Replied, "already gave at the office."

Favorite Religious Films
My favorite religious films, as suggested by Against the Grain:
--Babette's Feast - marvelous, even better with a second viewing
--Man For All Seasons
--The Song of Bernadette
--Jesus of Nazareth (1977)
--Joan of Arc (1999), although I may've been unduly swayed by the charm of Leelee Sobieski
TPOTC? Too early for me to tell.

Regarding American Use of Force
Since no one is unprejudiced regarding the use of American power, Americans are uniquely positioned to see things from another vantage point since we, presumably, are less likely to be prejudiced against America. Obviously we need the Europeans to avoid a monocular view, just as they need us.

One of the great imponderables is trying to determine which wars in U.S. history were just and which were unjust. How does one put a price in blood on freedom? Gradations of limited freedom extend from colonists wanting the right to govern themselves (Revolutionary War) to actual enslavement (Civil War). The most obvious just war was WWII, the most obvious unjust war was probably the Mexican war. From there it just gets murkier. Waters too deep for me.

Email Exchange with a Non-Christian Friend
HIM: Utah must be a little too close to CA -- some of the craziness is rubbing off ...
Here's a woman charged with murder because one of the twins she was pregnant with died. What the hell is going on?!?!?

Terrible things happen -- sometimes people die. Just as it wouldn't be a charge of murder against the doctor if one of the babies had died of natural causes during or shortly after delivery, how can it be a murder against the mother for her unborn babies death? Even if it was caused by refusing medical treatment or procedure? This is ridiculous. Why would the prosecutor bring this case to court?


ME: Of course the government's job - the reason it exists - is to protect. What's the difference between a baby at 9 months and a baby just after delivery? Geographical location. Yikes.

Doesn't the government already force medical treatment on your child? If your daughter got an illness that you decided not to treat, wouldn't you be charged with a crime? I know there were some of those Jehovah Witness types who refuse to give their children blood transfusions due to their religion were prosecuted. The state said you can't let your child die since the role of the state is to protect all parties, not just adults.

I agree the state should not force treatment on adults, except in the unusual case of a mother carrying another human. See , a libertarian, non-Christian site: "Our reasoning is expressly scientific and philosophical rather than either pragmatic or religious, or merely political or emotional."

HIM: This treatment didn't just directly involve the child, but also the mother. I think she's got a say in the situation too -- while it might've not been the best for her to refuse treatment, to subsequently charge her with murder is ludicrous.

If I refused a blood transfusion, that's one thing. If I refuse it on behalf of my child, that's another issue. I think healthcare decisions for children should be made by the parents of the child, not the state. The state doesn't always do what's best for the individual, and many times politicians do things that don't make sense for anyone, just because its a political horse for them to ride.

For instance, a person forced to be kept alive indefinitely via medical treatment they cannot consent or agree to. How much treatment should a single person receive unwillingly. What about all the people who could gain from that treatment rather than wasting it on a hopeless case? I don't want the state keeping me alive to be used as fodder for the media or for someone's political gain! And, I don't want to be kept alive by artificial means if I can't take care of myself and have little hope of recovery.

I don't think any gov't institution should force any medical treatment on anyone. I don't think anyone should dictate my or my family's medical treatment. Doctor's don't always know what's best, State employees and politicians certainly couldn't give a crap about what's best, but they do care about their jobs ...

The problem is, what is the best treatment? Sometimes the best treatment is no treatment at all. Why should the state dictate anyone has an illness, and further why should they dictate the form of treatment best suited for the illness?

Here's another easily wrong scenario: Many school systems force medications on students as a condition of attending the school. That is wrong. In many states, a judge can mandate medical treatment of your child including prescription medication, and if you fail to comply, you are subject to arrest and the loss of your child. That is wrong. This country is way too hyped on medication as a source of treatment.

The role of the government *ISN'T TO PROTECT US FROM OURSELVES*. Government's primary role is to protect our rights and freedoms. To prevent others from infringing on those rights and freedoms (as long as our own actions don't infringe on others rights). Its the people's job to make sure Government is kept in check, because their secondary role is to grow to envelope all.

As far as protecting the rights of an unborn child vs. the rights of the mother, its not a given that if she would've had a Caesarean, both babies and the mother would've lived. What if she'd been coerced into the procedure via threat of murder charge, and then one or both babies had died? Would the doctor face murder charges for coercion? What if
the babies had lived, and the mother had died? What then?

posted by TSO @ 13:19

Various & Sundry

It find it oddly freeing that Jesus called us (and his friends) wicked. He also gave himself in the Eucharist to them before they denied him (while knowing they would deny him) and before Pentecost. The Eucharist is not for perfect people, and that is reason alone to thank God. He loved us before we loved Him.

Today's gospel reading reminds me of Randall Sullivan's "The Miracle Detective" (which my mom has read and said she would've paid $100 for). The part I've read mentions how the author, an agnostic/atheist, was deeply affected by a powerful spiritual experience at Medjugorje. I didn't read all of it, but the part that especially caught my eye was that on the way up the mountain a girl gave him her cloak, a girl whom he later saw in a picture at the home of one of the residents of Medjugorje. It was of St. Bernadette Soubirous.

He believed and vowed to become a Catholic. But the resolution left him and he fell away and decided he really didn't believe in the Resurrection or the Virgin birth and the miracles... It brings home the fragility of faith as well as the truth in Jesus' words, "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead."

At the end, Fr. Groeschel counsels the author: "I hope you come to understand that even if you were capable of making an airtight case about Medjugorje, that wouldn't result in true belief. True belief is a decision. It's also a gift. Accept the gift and you will make the decision."

posted by TSO @ 19:37

March 11, 2004

I Saw the News Today, Oh Boy...

Whoda thunk that Curt Jester, of all people, would be accused of not being funny? Well, I suppose even Bob Hope told a few stinkers. But I think more likely the adage "humor at my expense is not humorous" applies.

Ms. Linner writes: "Some [blogs] are irenic, some vituperative; some are filled with gratitude and others are narcissistic."

This blog, in order to be all things to all people, strives to be all of above.

"The traditionalist blogs are one response to the weakening of Christian certainty."

The pluperfect Commonweal thought: it's all about psychology, not God. She probably considers Scott Hahn the poster child of weakening Christian certainty, instead of a gift to us from God.

[Sursum Corda's] an insightful Catholic blog that eschews extremism in any direction.

Is extremism such a vice when the Lord said he would spit out the lukewarm and when Jesus was extreme enough to be crucified?

Okay, so what are the takeaway points? First, I am personally thankful she didn't name the narcissistic blogs. Second, she probably makes a good point about our lack of graciousness and charity. Traditionalists are in ascendency, thank God. No need to be off-putting.

posted by TSO @ 14:04

deep-water greatness

Marvelous must-read Martin Amis missive defending Saul Bellow:

The American novel, having become dominant, was in turn dominated by the Jewish-American novel, and everybody knows who dominated that: Saul Bellow. ... Bellow sees more than we see - sees, hears, smells, tastes, touches. Compared to him, the rest of us are only fitfully sentient; and intellectually, too, his sentences simply weigh more than anybody else's. John Updike and Philip Roth, the two writers in perhaps the strongest position to rival Bellow, or to succeed him, have both acknowledged that his seniority is not merely a question of Anno Domini.

...there was something uniquely riveting about the conflict between the Jewish sensibility and the temptations - the inevitabilities - of materialist America. As one Bellow narrator puts it, "At home, inside the house, an archaic rule; outside, the facts of life." The archaic rule is sombre, blood-bound, guilt-torn, renunciatory, and transcendental; the facts of life are atomised, unreflecting, and unclean.

Bellow has presided over an efflorescence that clearly owes much to historical circumstances, and we must now elegiacally conclude that the phase is coming to an end. No replacements stand in line. Did "assimilation" do it, or was the process something flabbier and more diffuse? "Your history, too, became one of your options," the narrator of The Bellarosa Connection (1989) notes dryly. "Whether or not having a history was a 'consideration' was entirely up to you."

Love is celebrated for, among other things, its transformative powers; and it is with love, in concert with his overpowering need to commemorate and preserve ("I am the nemesis of the would-be forgotten"), that Bellow transforms the world...

posted by TSO @ 12:06

Come Out Ye Blackened Tan*

Listened to Fr. Groeschel's excellent tape and heard this:

There's book put out by Tan called, "Purgatory". The book should be condemned. It's a violation of the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent said that it is wrong to teach people that Purgatory is like Hell.

And that book quotes St. Catherine of Genoa, and it quotes her out of context. [Fr. Groeschel has written a book of St. Catherine of Genoa, whom he calls 'the Mother Teresa of her time'].

Let me quote St Catherine: "As they die the holy souls understand the reason for their Purgatory the moment they leave this life. After that moment that knowledge of that reason disappears. Immersed in charity, incapable of deviating from it, they can only will and desire pure love. There is no joy save that in Paradise to compare with the joy of the holy souls in Purgatory. This joy increases day by day because of the way in which the love of God corresponds to that of the soul."

They don't tell you that in that book. I wrote to Tan that they should not publish that book. It is true that there is suffering in Purgatory, but it's a lot better than this. I can't wait. Having been born in Jersey City, let me tell you Purgatory is upscale.
* - tortured heading based on this

posted by TSO @ 12:05

Hanging Them Out to Dry

After referring to Pope Pius XXII as "Hitler's Pope", John Cornwell is back exposing more toadies for Hitler. In his latest book, "Hitler's Scientists", Edward Teller and Andrei Sakharov are outed as owned-and-operated subsidiares of Hitler.

That got me wondering...who's next?

Hitler's Barbers
John Cornwell breaks decades of silence with the disclosure that American barbers aided the Nazi war machine. Cornwell explains that many hair stylists, as they are presently known, were isolationists in the 1930s and didn't want to the U.S. involved in those "your-a-peein' wars".

Hitler's Radio Repairmen
In the latest in a series of books assigning guilt for the Nazi regime, Cornwell exposes British radio repairmen who, in failing to fix broken radios quickly enough impeded news of Nazi atrocities.

Hitler's Washerwomen
In an explosive new book, John Cornwell points to the real power behind the Nazi regime - Scandavian washerwomen. In villages along the southern coast of Norway washerwomen set clothes out to dry that were understood by German U-boat and reconnaissance experts as "acts of aggression". The clothes-hanging was interpreted as sending encrypted messages to the democracies. Cornwell quotes an unidentified source that "pantalooms on Thursday" meant "Hitler is a dummkopf", which enraged the dictator and provoked the invasion of Poland.

posted by TSO @ 12:04

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I wonder, of course, how long the images of my “viewing” this past Saturday of The Passion of the Christ will stay with me, how long before I am left with the seemingly mundane struggle to keep focused on Crucifixion planted firmly in me—and in all creation. I’m distracted, of course, by the New York Times campaign of these last several months to bury Mel Gibson and his film....I love Easter Sunday, but, as Richard John Neuhaus says... in "Death on a Friday Afternoon", Good Friday is the order of our days here and now. The Times and the New Yorker...of course influence opinion nationwide. But so [does] the cross-wearing Korean check-out clerk on my corner who, when I asked her if she’d seen The Passion, said that she had, and that she had “fainted from what was done to our Savior.” And in her way, she does influence. Given her Cross, given the odds, my money is on her. - Robert Bove of Spinsters fame

Given my compulsive clicking and sluglike pregnant-on-the-couch-in-winter lifestyle, if I restart blogging in earnest I'm thinking of changing the title to "Courting Dangerous Blood Clots." - Davey's Mommy

Ordinarily, listening to NPR is like receiving intelligence reports from behind enemy lines: wailing over threats to "a woman's right to choose" (hm, my wife manages to choose a large number of things each day without the help of our friendly local baby-killers), a daily flood of reports on meddling intrusive legislation oozing out of Washington and Springfield, puff pieces on oppressed "gays" - you get the idea. -Bill of Summa Minutiae

At many seminaries the culture is not in fact geared toward the cultivation of the intellect, whether at the expense of the whole person or not. Rather, the emphasis is on the development of skills that will allow the seminarian to maneuver their way through the labyrinth of candidacy. These in turn will allow the pastor to ‘manage conflict’ within the parish, and deal with church politics as the need arises.... In short, [seminarians] don’t need less study, they need more: more languages, more history, and more immersion in the traditions of their communions. All of this should be within a nonnegotiable, given structure of daily prayer, sacramental life, and discipline.... Trust that the Word will not return empty. - Tom of Rome on the Bosphorus

My point is that as a foodie trend, Mexican is done to death. Say it with me: cilantro is just coriander. - Lee Ann of Literarium

My gut reaction...was, “He gets paid to talk. About himself. Can life get any better than that?” -- Ellyn of Oblique House concerning Spalding Gray, echoing my gut reaction.

[Art] highlights or pinpoints or exaggerates or illuminates some aspect of our world for us; but it will always and obviously be an aspect and incomplete; and it will always and even more obviously depend upon our deeper and immediate experiences of being in the world. Add to this the fact that art is forever in danger of skewing the truth as it aims for it. Top this off with the fact that the meaning of any art must come from our ability to interpret it against the backdrop of our own experience, and I think it becomes clear that we need to be careful we don't expect fundamentally new experiences from art that plunge to such depths that they bump against, replace, or transform the fundamental experiences we all have because we're living, incarnate, rational, free beings. -Mark of Minute Particulars
"Cruore ejus roseo" is translated by "And tasting of His roseate Blood." The epithet is everywhere altered to crimson: because the editors did not see its force. The poet would tell us that, though one drop of our Lord's Blood was sufficient to redeem the world, (Cujus una stilla salvum facere / Totum mundum quit ab omni scelere, as St. Thomas says,) yet out of the greatness of His love to us He would shed all. As every one knows, the last dainings of life-blood are not crimson, but of a far paler hue: strictly speaking, roseate. Change the word, and you eliminate the whole idea. --John Mason Neale on his English translation of Ad cenam Agni providi, via Bill of Summa Minutiae

As far as I know, tea doesn't violate the fast. Even a real concept of fasting, unlike the extremely attenuated demands the U.S. Bishops have in place for the fattest country on the planet. In fact, I thought in Ireland "The Black Fast" was the name for the Ash Wednesday / Good Friday fasts, based on the fact that they drank only black tea and ate only black bread. I think the official fasting regulations are super-wimpy and I recommend one light meal if necessary tops, with nothing else all day. You can do it. - Old Oligarch

Theology is the process of prescribing which formally heretical statements we'll understand in an orthodox sense (while pretending to understand them at all). - Tom of Disputations

I always knew I’d be discovered; I just didn’t think the breakthrough would come on a breastfeeding message board.
...Madame, if you don't mind, could we just go ahead and spell that out - breastfeeding - so that it doesn't get misconstrued?--Bill Luse of Apologia, after his post on public breastfeeding got discovered outside St. Blog's grotto

Dear Mel, We love, love the script! The ending works great. You'll be getting a call from us to start negotiations for the book rights. ....--Love the Jesus character. So likable. He can't seem to catch a break! We identify with him because of it. One thing: I think we need to clearly state "the rules." Why doesn't he use his superpowers to save himself? Our creative people suggest that you could simply cut away to two spectators: Spectator One: Why doesn't he use his superpowers to save himself? Spectator Two: He can only use his powers to help others, never himself. -Steve Martin, spoofing Hollywood by imagining the studio script notes. Via Camassia.

Being nice to people is, in fact, one of the incidental tenets of Christianity (as opposed to other religions whose tenets are more along the lines of "kill everyone who... doesn't answer to the name Mohammed")....In fact, Jesus' distinctive message was: "People are sinful and need to be redeemed, and this is your lucky day because I'm here to redeem you even though you don't deserve it, and I have to get the crap kicked out of me to do it." That is the reason He is called "Christ the Redeemer" rather than "Christ the Moron Driving Around in a Volvo With a 'Be Nice to People' Bumper Sticker on It." -- Ann Coulter (who else?) in a Townhall column

The thought of having to drink low-carb beer for the rest of your life is daunting. -Christopher of the Against the Grain, musing on a family member's commitment to the Atkin's diet

Not long before his death, Pope Pius XI granted an indulgence to those married couples of the Westminster diocese who daily kissed the wedding ring of their spouses and repeated the following prayer: 'Grant, Lord, to us, that loving You, may love each other and live according to Your holy laws.' In 1960 Pope John XXIII renewed the same indulgence for all the married. --Rev. Lawrence Lovasik, Kindness via Theosis via Goodform via Bill of Summa Minutiae

posted by TSO @ 14:09

March 10, 2004


Interesting comment from a Cheryl on Amy Welborn's blog:

"...the more I think about TPOTC I think the role of Pontius Pilate as a portrait of conflicted humanity (instead of showing the characteristics we typically think of as villianous) was deliberate on Gibson's part. As Linda Dickey says in this piece on Godspy: "Like Pontius Pilate in The Passion, my hands aren’t clean. Although I see myself as nice, as harmless, as a good girl, I am brimming full of sin."

I think that's a good point. I could identify with Pontius Pilate; not at all with the Roman soldiers who took masochistic glee in what they did. For many, our sins make us miserable even as we are committing them (or immediately after), which makes them all the more illogical. Our priest said that we should be able to identify with even the worst sinner because that is the attribute allows us to be sympathetic towards them and forgive them. Perhaps the Pope forgave his attempted assassin because he was able to say to himself with sincerity, "there but for the grace of God go I".

posted by TSO @ 13:36

Good from Bad

We were young and wild, like jackals, at the height of our blackguardedness, when my friend Marty whispered "Look for the drunk girls," as if we were on the plains of the Kalahari looking for wombed, wounded gemsboks.

Diamond was kryptonite to us supermen. From the rays of the left hand came a power we neither could or wanted to overcome. The ring halted approachs, cooled heels, shriveled erections.

The ritual was sponsored by Mr. Daniels and named "the walk of champions" but one day was different. Friend Brett, hitless in his last nine attempts, hit one last time that night that he might win a beer --for the winner was the batsman rejected the most times.

She accepted his proposal to dance, he lost his free beer, and they were married eighteen months later!

posted by TSO @ 13:14

Heaven Lite?

David Brooks pans Mitch Albom's latest book, one I've been gifted with but have failed to read.

posted by TSO @ 19:38

March 9, 2004

Poem found in First Things

Poetry of Witness

“It’s just horrible,” she said
“and I don’t understand why
people didn’t form a human chain
and stop the trains from entering the camps.

That’s what I’d do,” she said.

She wasn’t there, of course,
wasn’t even born,
but she felt strongly,
repeatedly nodded her head,
wrote a poem
and won an award

--Michael S. Glaser

posted by TSO @ 15:46

JP II Quote

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.

--John Paul II

posted by TSO @ 15:44

On Blogway

Kairos guy notes one of the oddities of blogging - unknown readers who are regular in following your blather.

I saved the first email I ever received from a blogreader (...getting to get a tissue...). It was from someone named Veronica:

Could you change the format to dark letters on light background? Believe me, it's much easier on the eyes. Keep up the good work.
It wasn't my insights that provoked that email, it was screen resolution. Glad to have changed it, but I wonder if she's still reading because I've never heard from her since.

posted by TSO @ 14:53

Wide Net

Finally got around to reading the lengthy Cath Encyclopedia link from Old Oligarch's post, and I found it interesting that Dominicans called the Jesuits "Lutherans" and the Jesuits called the Dominicans "Calvinists". In those days those were surely fightin' words. There is hyperbole in the name-calling, but there ultimately seems to be a rightness about the papal indecision, for a couple of reasons.

First is that the Church, for all the richness of her beautiful doctrine, has only what the Lord has given, and there is a winsome humility in that. After all, even the Lord while on earth didn't know when the end of the world would come.

Second, perhaps it's advantageous that question wasn't answered because the Church need cast a wide net and be 'all things to all men' (as Christ was), to be truly universal, to be fishers even of Lutherans and Calvinists. Perhaps if the matter had been definitively settled in favor of the Dominicans Thomas the Placed might not be properly placed. Regardless, some truths can't be comprehended by the mind of man and that disputation of the 16th century might be one of them.

posted by TSO @ 13:52

From a Weekend Read

Midway though the first act of Frank McCourt's The Irish and how they got that way, a pair of players speak briefly of the Irish male in love: "An Englishman who wants to propose says 'Darling, I love you, will you marry me?'"observes one to another, who ripostes: "An Irishman asks: 'Mary, how would you like to be buried with my people?'"

The punch line usually gets a laugh, layered as it is with allusion to the quirkiness of gender relations among the Irish, the preoccupation with death, and the recognition that romance renders many among this poetic people laconic. -Maureen Dezell, "Irish America"

posted by TSO @ 12:37

March 8, 2004

Have an Alleluia Lent

I was reading the bulletin from the Eastern Rite church I attend and they refer to Lent as "Alleluia time", seeing a time of repentance as a cause for joy. I got a similar vibe from a reflection by John Henry Newman, who declares that happiness is gained through suffering:

True faith is not shown here below in peace, but rather in conflict; and it is not proof that a man is not in a state of grace that he continually sincs, provided such sins do not remain on him as what I may call ultimate results, but are passing on into something beyond and unlike themselves, into truth and righteousness. As we gain happiness through suffering, so do we arrive at holiness through infirmity, because man's very condition is a fallen one, and in passing out of the country of sin he necessarily passes through it.

posted by TSO @ 12:37

Belloc Excerpt from "Path to Rome"

I clambered down the hill to Archettes and saw, almost the first house, a swinging board 'At the sign of the Trout of the Vosges', and as it was now evening I turned in there to dine.

Two things I noticed at once when I sat down to meat. First, that the people seated at that inn table were of the middle-class of society, and secondly, that I, though of their rank, was an impediment to their enjoyment. For to sleep in woods, to march some seventy miles, the latter part in a dazzling sun, and to end by sliding down an earthy steep into the road, stamps a man with all that this kind of people least desire to have thrust upon them. And those who blame the middle-class for their conventions in such matters, and who profess to be above the care for cleanliness and clothes and social ritual which marks the middle-class, are either anarchists by nature, or fools who take what is but an effect of their wealth for a natural virtue.

I say it roundly; if it were not for the punctiliousness of the middle-class in these matters all our civilization would go to pieces. They are the conservators and the maintainers of the standard, the moderators of Europe, the salt of society. For the kind of man who boasts that he does not mind dirty clothes or roughing it, is either a man who cares nothing for all that civilization has built up and who rather hates it, or else (and this is much more common) he is a rich man, or accustomed to live among the rich, and can afford to waste energy and stuff because he feels in a vague way that more clothes can always be bought, that at the end of his vagabondism he can get excellent dinners, and that London and Paris are full of luxurious baths and barber shops. Of all the corrupting effects of wealth there is none worse than this, that it makes the wealthy (and their parasites) think in some way divine, or at least a lovely character of the mind, what is in truth nothing but their power of luxurious living. Heaven keep us all from great riches—I mean from very great riches.

Now the middle-class cannot afford to buy new clothes whenever they feel inclined, neither can they end up a jaunt by a Turkish bath and a great feast with wine. So their care is always to preserve intact what they happen to have, to exceed in nothing, to study cleanliness, order, decency, sobriety, and a steady temper, and they fence all this round and preserve it in the only way it can be preserved, to wit, with conventions, and they are quite right.

I find it very hard to keep up to the demands of these my colleagues, but I recognize that they are on the just side in the quarrel; let none of them go about pretending that I have not defended them in this book.

posted by TSO @ 20:16

March 7, 2004

Reason #5,871 My Wife is Adorable

Every Sunday my wife "goes to her church and I go to mine", as the ol' gospel hymn goes. And every Sunday she and a cast of thousands (okay ten or twelve) go out afterwards to eat at a local restaurant. I don't go (for so many reasons that blogger might run out of space) but suffice it to say that a weekly three-hour meal with the in-laws doesn't sit well.

That having been said, I'm touched that she always asks. I got home from church today and there's a message on the machine telling where they're going if I want to join them. Sweet. She has an amnesiac memory that is God-like, since He utterly forgives and forgets our sins and failings. She forgets I'm a curmudgeon within the space of a week. How cool is that?

posted by TSO @ 12:27

Tom T. Hall

On the recommendation of fellow blog-toiler Jeff Culbreath I gave a listen to old-timey country artist Tom T. Hall. While Hall's music is a little more unadorned than I'm used to (I lean towards the bluegrassy side of country), he has a good tune in Old Dogs and Children and Watermelon Wine. The song morphed into "Old Blogs, Children and Watermelon Wine" on my hike, "old blogs" being deliciously oxymoronic.

posted by TSO @ 17:30

March 6, 2004

Of politics there is no end

A contentious week. A controversial local school levy, a Friday Dispatch headline of "Nixon Resigns" size type blaring “BUSH RIPPED FOR 9/11 ADS”, continued attacks on Gibson's movie -- all salted nerves raw'd by a steady diet of contentiousness, (mostly self-inflicted). Controversy surroundsounds; I see it on blogs, I hear it on the Baptist minister’s radio show, I see it in a Dispatch headline, I watch it on Matthew’s “Hardball”.

I listen to critics of “The Passion of the Christ” and it irritates and irri-grates. The Baptist minister reads aloud the Washington Post reviewer who - get this - dissed TPOTC for its lack of historical accuracy, while having praised “The Last Temptation of Christ”. Oy vey.

I was tempted to see TPOTC again as a political statement, a tiny thumb in the nose to East Coast critics, but that is an anthemna. It should be about Christ, not politics. The difficulty in a political season is to seek first the Kingdom. I'll see it again, but I want to for the right reason.

posted by TSO @ 17:24

Reading History

Every home with children ought have an escape hatch, a secret place no one knows about, a rabbit hole, a nook that extends from the rigid container-box of the contemporary. We had that magical place, a scarce-used space under the staircase, plenty big for a small boy. Oh what joy to hear someone come down those stairs and know that you are hidden and invisible! I stocked the small space with books and read and wrote by candlelight.

That nook exists for me today but it’s called ‘history’. And into history I instantly sink, reading a biography of Jefferson Davis, watching him sweat and toil away the summer of 1851. I know the outcome. It's as if Jefferson Davis is descending the staircase of Davis Bend manor and I’m underneath listening. Reading history is to feel in control, to watch the actors and feel omniscient and invisible. The best and brightest of a generation judged by a nobody from the 21st century. His bones await his Resurrection body, his earthly time done, his decisions resting in the column of finality. The bony fingers point from a sallow grave as if to say “as I am, so you shall be”.

So Jefferson Davis travels the breadth, length, height and depth of the state of Mississippi during the summer of 1851, to the point of exhaustion, to an end of weeks of bedrest and ocular trouble so severe as to almost lose sight in one eye. He’d spent the summer evangelizing his party’s cause, trying to allay Mississippian’s suspicion that his party was a band of disunionists. He was against the Compromise of 1850 and had some ‘splaining to do. Less than a decade later his constitutents would demand secession.

The interest is that Davis is so unrelievedly foreign. Foreign in time, foreign in geography, foreign in convictions, foreign even in looks - with bones for cheeks and a jaw so sharp you could cut with it.

posted by TSO @ 13:00

Trying to Resolve the Nature of Grace and Free Will...

...might get you killed. At least if you're the pope. Wow.

posted by TSO @ 16:26

March 5, 2004

Outsourcing Whitey

I'm in the eye of the great Outsourcing Tsunami. While I haven't been outsourced yet, my brother and friend Bone have and when the bell tolls next it might be for me. I feel like an economically endangered species; I'm grateful for every paycheck.

I remind myself it shouldn't be different for white collars than what has already happened to blue collars. George Will tries to make the unpalatable palatable. Global reality can suck, but then I've only read about utopia. Protecting inefficient industries is something I've been long partial to even though my stepson the economics major says that it's crazy. Protectionism has already been tried and it failed.

He says Bush has done exactly what you should do in the recessionary environment: cut taxes, increase government spending, pursue loose money strategies and decrease interest rates. Everything but sign legislation to repeal the business cycle. Get on it President Bush! And while you're at it, why not sign a bill abolishing outsourcing? And poverty. And...

posted by TSO @ 12:47

Accountants Read the Most...

...for pleasure (at least in Britain):

Accountants' favourite authors are Jane Austen and Tolkien, and they spend more leisure hours reading than MPs, journalists, teachers, taxi drivers or politicians.

At an average of five and a quarter hours a week, they read twice as much as the clergy, who manage only two hours 40 minutes. The clergy pine for humour, with a higher percentage than other professions citing it as preferred reading.
Link via the Book Slut

posted by TSO @ 12:00

Gibson's Film Anti-Misanthropic?

NEW YORK, NY--Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ opened last week amid growing concerns that the film is anti-misanthropic. Yesterday, the organization PUTP, People for the Unethical Treatment of People, warned that the movie could result in greater love and respect between persons.

Local theatregoer Josh Dorsey of Canal Winchester, Ohio was asked if he thought charges were fair.

"Yes, I saw it that way. The movie is a sin-suppressant. I'd be a good man if I saw that picture every day of my life."

Unprovoked acts of care and concern plagued PUTP picketers. "One lady offered to buy us popcorn!" said John B. Misguided, 37, of Sam's Lake, PA.

In the wake of the controversy, CBS television commentator Andy Rooney said he won't be seeing the film and suggested viewers ask themselves "what would H.L. Mencken do?"

NARAL's Kate Michelman worried the movie could appeal to base humanitarian instincts that would eventually lead to protecting babies in the womb.

"I shudder to think of a world where people choose to error on the side of life," she said.

posted by TSO @ 12:00

From NRO's Corner

Derbyshire: The poet W.H. Auden, who became a Christian, once speculated on how he might have reacted had he witnessed the Crucifixion:

Just as we were all, potentially, in Adam when he fell, so we were all, potentially, in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday before there was an Easter, a Pentecost, a Christian, or a Church. It seems to me worthwhile asking ourselves who we should have been and what we should have been doing. None of us, I'm certain, will imagine himself as one of the Disciples, cowering in agony of spiritual despair and physical terror. Very few of us are big wheels enough to see ourselves as Pilate, or good churchmen enough to see ourselves as a member of the Sanhedrin. In my most optimistic mood I see myself as a Hellenized Jew from Alexandria visiting an intellectual friend. We are walking along, engaged in philosophical argument. Our path takes us past the base of Golgotha. Looking up, we see an all too familiar sight-three crosses surrounded by a jeering crowd. Frowning with prim distaste, I say, 'It's disgusting the way the mob enjoy such things. Why can't the authorities execute criminals humanely and in private by giving them hemlock to drink, as they did with Socrates?' Then, averting my eyes from the disagreeable spectacle, I resume our fascinating discussion about the nature of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful.

posted by TSO @ 17:18

March 4, 2004

Out o' the Loop

I think it was the late '90s when William F. Buckley admitted he'd never heard of the television show Friends. My admiration of him grew.

I bring this up because my screenwriting friend Ham of Bone called and said the deterioration of popular culture has been swifter than we'd imagined, probably because we are increasingly disconnected from it. Bone and I are getting to play that "old fogey" role we'd admired from afar -- elitists not through effort but by standing still while the culture collapses around us. A sort of accidental competence. Competence by walking around.

Bone submitted three plays for an annual contest that Matt Damon sponsors and part of the entry requirement is a "peer review". Which means that for every one he submits he has to read three.

He says they stink. Woefully. One was a period piece set in 1928 and it's "f--k this" and "f--k that", a six year old child uses the Lord's name in vain, another uses the term no-brainer (which sounds anachronistic to me but I may be wrong). Another screenplay sounds like a beer commercial: "...and three hotties open an ice cold beer and they get splashed by a wave which glistened against their chests..." The screenplays are supposed to be PG13, so how does a menage à trois fit?

I told him that if the culture declines much more we'll look pretty good by comparison. "But who will read?" he said. Good point. A decent blacksmith isn't too useful these days.

posted by TSO @ 16:37

Cardinal Ratzinger on the Modern Mind

Link via Bill of Random Notes

One of the standard questions hovering about the intellectual world since the crisis of Marxism has been, "where does the intellectual left go next, especially if it refuses to consider orthodoxy?" The obvious, most likely answer, I think, is that it goes in the direction of ecology and environmentalism insofar as these all-embracing systems provide an apparently plausible, natural justification to reduce the relative importance of man's individual dignity in the name of a planetary or worldly, if not cosmic, "good". This postulated inner-worldly transcendent good is proposed in the name of the on-going cycles of nature and of the good of the living "species" within it. This higher "good" becomes the criterion by which we judge how many people we can have in each country or on the earth, how long they can live and under what conditions, what they can or cannot consume, what is their relation to the state. Indeed, it is not the state but the world state, which, since it is said to have the exclusive responsibility to look out for the distant future, can control the present in its name. "Progress" is replaced as an ideal by "stability". This simultaneous relativizing of the dignity of the human person and of the consequent justification for the vast expansion of the state has provided a handy way to replace or rather incorporate the Marxist ideology that formerly justified these inner-worldly goals...

In the light of the appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike of Marxism, relativism, and New Age movements, Ratzinger asks, now addressing himself to the intellectuals in the Church, "Why has classical theology appeared to be so defenseless in the face of these happenings? Where is its weak point, and why has it lost credibility?"..... Their [historical critical] method reduces the reality they study to its (the method's) proportions. Ratzinger puts this position into words: "If I know a priori (to speak like Kant) that Jesus cannot be God,. and that miracles, mysteries and sacraments are three forms of superstition, then I (the exegete with this philosophy) cannot discover what cannot in fact be in the sacred books." My philosophical theory has prevented me from seeing what might be there. What I see is my theory, not the reality. Ratzinger does not deny that there is value in the "historical-critical" method. Generally, if it is used to study the history of the Roman emperors, say, it works fine. When the method is used of the Bible, two problems arise. The method wants to find out about the "past as something past." History further is said to be "uniform." This means that all instances of a given type will be judged to be the same on the basis not of fact but of theory. The method brings us to the past, not to the present.

Secondly, the world in theory must be held to be always the same. The method requires this. The crisis of exegesis is a crisis of the philosophical presuppositions that guide its method by which it reaches conclusions such as that Jesus did not affirm His own divinity. "The problem of exegesis is connected ... with the problem of philosophy. The indigence of philosophy ... has turned into the indigence of our faith. The faith cannot be liberated if reason itself does not open up again." Reason, in other words, knowing itself, must see that it is grounded in what is, over which it has no control. What is controls what we know and not vice versa. The exclusion any reality, however, is contrary to the object of reason itself . "Human reason is not an autonomous absolute." Ratzinger thinks that scholastic philosophy in the Twentieth Century in a sense failed because it tried to do the impossible, that is, provide a totally rational ground of the faith that a priori excluded the possibility of faith's openness to reason.

Yet, it was reality, not reason, that decided that to which reason was open. And reality included the reality of God and His activity in time. Faith cares for and about reason. "It is not the lesser function of the faith to care for reason as such. It does not do violence to it; it is not external to it; rather, it makes it return to itself." Thus, faith can liberate reason from itself by asking it questions that it could not itself have anticipated, yet about which it can consider. "Reason will not be saved without the faith, but the faith without reason will not be human."

posted by TSO @ 13:08

Enjoyed This...

....a little too much. Driving all the St. Blog gals wild isn't enough for our man Bill, who now is extending his charismatic influence to a lady named Jennifer.

posted by TSO @ 19:47

March 3, 2004

Kathy Shaidle's book...

..."God Rides a Yamaha" is excellent so far. She writes, "I am...increasingly convinced that living well requires fewer 'deep thoughts' and more simple acts." She also quotes Thomas Merton and although I'm not fit to carry his (what's the spiritual equivalent of jock strap?), I just never quite trust him after reading his last journals and seeing how his spiritual journey progressed, given the promise and beauty and hope as portrayed in "The Seven Storey Mountain". The tendency is to think his theology must've been askew.

Still the truth of his words ring out:

The mind finds itself entering uneasily into the shadows of a strange and silent night...It tries to force acts of thought and will. Sometimes it makes a mad effort to squeeze some feeling of fervor out of itself which is, incidentally, the worst thing it could possibly do.

If he is completely inexperienced he will get the idea that he is very holy because of all the holy feelings that are teeming in his heart. All these things mean very little or nothing at all...and there is only an accidental difference between them and the tears children sometimes shed when they go to the movies.
Yet I wonder about this cavalier attitude towards feelings. Crisis has a nice piece by Alice von Hildebrand, who argues that despite what some may say feelings play an important part in the life of a Christian. Even though feelings arise outside the will, the will is involved in disregarding inappropriate ones such as envious thoughts, and fully receiving healthy ones, like contrition and joy. She sees the will and feelings as a "marriage". There is much more in the article, very interesting and nuanced, but unfortunately it isn't online. It's one of those articles I wish wiser people than me would blog about.

posted by TSO @ 16:34


I was cruising, literally, on the fringe of the idyllic island of Hispaniola, the westward part owned by Haiti, on January 23. Two weeks later began a coup. A successful one as it turned out. Royal Caribbean has naturally cancelled all stops there.

It's difficult to accept mystery and to accept when there is no answer. And no answers seem forthcoming for Haiti and her helpless poverty, an Africa writ small. The coup probably gives the people some hope, a hope most of the world community surely thinks naive but will politely keep to itself. It seems if we could ever find a way to nation-build Haiti, the international community could do the same in Africa, if the will was there.

It apparently is so difficult for democracy to take root that it's easy to be pessimistic how successful it will be in Iraq.

posted by TSO @ 15:58

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts
-(the weekly feature where I become instantly unpopular with those not quoted herein)

I won't say that I'm going to stop blogging during lent. I tried that once, and ended up as SecretAgentMan. But that's my goal, and anyhow I'm going to blog a lot less than I have been until Easter. -Secret Agent Man

...a natural conversational pattern applies as much to God as to your spouse or co-worker....But of course stream-of-consciousness monologues are not conversations. A few seconds to center myself, two minutes of headline news, three minutes of listening to God's silent whispers. That sounds like a schedule I could stick to. - Tom of Disputations

Remember the admonition is not "Listen Lord, your servant is speaking," but rather, "Speak Lord, your servant is listening." -Steven Riddle

This sounds dramatic, but this is the first time in my life that I have smiled in the middle of a desire or a craving and said "I join my puny little suffering with Your enormous pain, done in love for me, my Lord!" And I don't even feel self-congratulatory about it (except maybe now, since I'm typing it out). This is a RADICAL change for me.... A new place, a new desert, has opened before me, a place for real change, real purification. And that darn movie did it for me, that is, God's Grace working through that movie. I'm pretty excited, because I know for sure that growing in virtue means growing in prayer, and I just plain can't wait. -Therese Z. of Santificarnos

When I was in the queue for ashes, I heard Fr. O'Brien saying two different things, depending on whom he was giving the ashes. To grown ups was he said, "Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel." To the little ones he was saying, "Try to be good for Jesus." When my turn came, however, Fr. O'Brien said something different. He took one look at me, smiled in his understated Irish way, and said, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return." There is no way to say how much that meant to me...the theme of [Dietrich von Hildebrand's "The New Tower of Babel"] is that we must never forget that we are creatures--that is, we must never forget that we are dust and that we shall return to dust. When we forget our condition as creatures--and the necessity of the attitude of religion --we curse ourselves. - Enbrethiel of Sanctis

As I have always understood it, the practice of Lenten abstention is "the mortification of the flesh". That is, giving something--anything--up during Lent is good to the extent that it is difficult, because giving up something difficult helps kill the earthly desires for that thing, and those desires, even for dessert, are perilous to the extent that our appetites for them distract us from the One True Appetite. -Kairos Guy

I don't even look for the GIdeons anymore, since there is also often a Book of Mormon in the same place and position of honor. Maybe we need to have a campaign to place the CCC in every hotel room! - Alicia of Fructris Ventris

"An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon."....the more I do around the house, the more I care. In homemaking, as in marriage, feelings follow actions. -Kathy of GospelMineField

Evangelicals know that there is "Power in the Blood". So do Catholics. After all, the blood, the selfsame blood that is splattered all over the scourgers at the Pillar, is the blood that we drink on the altar. We say in earnest, what the mob said in unconscious irony: "May his blood be on us and on our children." I pray that prayer will be granted me and my children all the days of our lives. So do Evangelicals.... [Gibson] has no trouble with that identification between the blood on the floor of the guardroom and the blood in the chalice. So we are shown the scene in which Mary blots up the blood of Christ with towels just as a Catholic would blot the spilled Precious Blood with a purificator...Don't feel too smug about the Sullivans of the world recoiling in horror from [the Cross]. If you don't recoil, you haven't thought about the implications of the gospel. I *hope* that, should it be necessary, I can someday be willing to endure what the gospel has cost some of our brothers and sisters--and supremely, our Lord. But I don't know if I could. I fervently pray I shall never have to find out. - Mark Shea

The violence inflicted on Jesus is horrendous, and I found it numbing. Why is that? Is it because the critics are right, and my conscience is reacting to the prurient sadism behind what Jim Cork's critic of choice, Michael Coren, calls a "pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic blood cult"? I thought Coren's line was silly on several levels, the most obvious one being that none of the documents of Vatican II preach that Jesus' crucifixion was a decorous, bloodless affair that could only be viewed from a distance and was all over in five minutes. I also had to shake my head because cult means "the service expressly offered to God through sacred signs and inward dispositions of adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and petition for forgiveness, salvation, and earthly well-being which acknowledge God's supreme power." (K. Rahner). So yeah, you could say we're a blood cult. I for one am proud of it. I'm sorry it scandalizes weak sisters like Michael Coren. I'm sorry it's too much for a lot of people. But we're a blood cult. We worship Holy Blood. We drink Holy Blood. We adore Holy Blood which is glorious, not only for its other mystical and magnificent divinity, but for the fact that it was shed in torture for our sins and our redemption. As far as I'm concerned anyone who -- like the Romans who crucified Jesus -- is shocked at the gruesome cannibalistic atmosphere they find in all that can go soak themselves in oh-so-spiritual readings of John Chapter 6 and imaginary depictions of Jesus as a cartoon character whose feet never touched the earth. Let them squirm at the idea of God's chest hair matted with sweat, dirt under His nails, rubbing gritty sleep from his eyes. Let them stop their ears at the thought of Him screaming in pain and gasping for breath. We love the God-Man entire. His divinity, His humanity, and everything they did and underwent. We even love His blood, especially His blood. - Secret Agent Man

I'm excited by the immediacy and freshness and personal quality of blogs. I also like the bad words and knife fights, even if we don't do that kind of stuff around here. I don't own a shiv, and Our Girl is too sweet. (I don't even think she knows some of those words TMFTML uses.) Above all, blogging is fun. And that’s one thing I don’t get from Jennifer Howard’s eat-your-spinach account of life in the blogosphere: a sense of how much fun we’re all having out here. "We" meaning TMFTML and Maud and Cup of Chicha and Old Hag and Bookslut and the thousands of nice people who visit us every day. It’s not a private party. There’s no secret handshake. All you have to do is click on a link. Or not. But we hope you do. - Terry Teachout of About Last Night

flesh covers/ the bone and the/ flesh searches/ for more than/ flesh. - Charles Bukowski, via Lee Ann of Spinisters

You can divide Christians by what aspect of Jesus they focus on: life/teachings, death, and resurrection. Those in the first group are nearly all liberal, those in the second nearly all conservative, the third can go either way. At least, that's my anecdotal, highly unproven observation... - Camassia

First, I’m glad [The Passion of the Christ] exists, for a lot of reasons. It reinvents and reinvigorates the genre of the Biblically-based film and gives new life to films that seek to take spirituality seriously. Why? First of all, because it’s fearless. That, of course, is what drains the life of any potential treatment of faith-related issues on film: fear. Fear of bad box office, fear of offending the wrong people. Drains the life out of any film, any work of art, as a matter of fact. - Amy Welborn

posted by TSO @ 15:34

Is This Horse Glue Yet?

I'm not a Jew, although I play one in the Church, since I've been grafted on. As David Warren put it,

He made us all into Jews, in choosing us to take up his Cross. This is what Christians believe. The world will take it or leave it. God, according to Christian witness, could only have become Man as a Jew, in a most unexpected fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies to the Jews. And he entered into the heart of the old Temple sacrifice, becoming that sacrifice, Himself.
So my tendency is to think that Christian anti-Semites are eejits. I understand that objects intended for a certain use will be misused. So for the same reason we have a warning label on the plastic bag our newspaper comes in ("Do not place over your head. Suffocation could result."), we have to have disclaimers on Gibson's movie. Where, pray tell, will it end though? Car accidents kill people. Shouldn't we eliminate all automobiles?

posted by TSO @ 12:49

We Don't Talk

From an article on the approaching extinction of half of the world's 6,000+ languages currently spoken: "In peril is not just knowledge but also the importance of diversity and the beauty of grammar. They will tell you that every language has its own unique theology and philosophy buried in its very sinews..." 'Yaghan' is a language spoken by only two speakers in southern Chile. The author spoke to one of them:

She was a kind old woman whose Yaghan, according to Aguilera, was authentic. Our conversation was brief and brittle. When I asked Emelinda what could be done to keep Yaghan alive, she said she was already doing it, as if a formal program were under way.

''I talk to myself in Yaghan,'' Emelinda explained in Spanish. ''When I hang up my clothes outside, I say the words in Yaghan. Inside the house, I talk in Yaghan all day long.'' I asked her if she ever had a conversation with the only other person in the world who could easily understand her, Cristina Calderón, the official ''last speaker'' of Yaghan.

''No,'' Emelinda said impatiently, as if I'd brought up a sore topic. ''The two of us don't talk.''

posted by TSO @ 21:05

March 2, 2004

Passion of the Christ Thoughts

Two questions. First, is part of the hysteria by cultural critics of TPOTC due to their realization that in a post-modern, post-reason age rule by emotion is, in fact, the future? So is this part of why they posture against Gibson's emotional movie? Apparently fear of a theocracy among the Left is very strong, despite decades of secularization.

Second, what impact has TPOTC had on your ability to visualize and meditate on the Sorrow Mysteries of the rosary?

Update: The violence wasn't nearly as bad as I'd imagined it would be. I guess I'm desensitized even though I never watch horror movies. (Never seen any of the Friday the 13th or Hannibal movies for example.)

Just after the movie ended, two boys in their late teens walked out disappointed, grumbling that it wasn't nearly as violent as they'd hoped. So I guess this is one of those "eye-of-the-beholder" type movies. I thought Braveheart was more horrific, maybe because while I have grown up around the idea of crucifixion (i.e. the Stations of the Cross a yearly event), the idea of drawing and quartering was more foreign and so created a more visceral reaction.

posted by TSO @ 12:59

What if there were an Onion-equivalent for college student newspapers.... hmmm.....

Local Man Misses Class
BOSTON—John "No" Qualms blew off his 8:30 Introduction to Stochastic Systems class.

"I didn't feel like going because that last beer didn't sit with me too well last night. I probably had one more than I should've, but I'd already opened the bottle and I didn't want it to go to waste."

When asked how many beers he'd had he said he hadn't counted, calling it a "gauche question".

Trustees Increase Tuition
LANSING—The Board of Trustees for AlmaMaw U. raised tuition by 8.5% citing fears that "the college down the road" will raise tuition by 8%.

"We want to get ahead of the curve here. Consumers rate the quality of a university by its price, and we want to be in the vanguard. Besides, textbook prices are increasing at an astronomical rate."

When reminded that textbooks are not included in the price of tuition, the Board President said, "oh, yeah, well lots of things are going up. You ought to see our landscaping bill."

Economics major Jan Deck sees no problem in the increase.

"It's the market reacting as it should. The value of a college education has been shown to be two million dollars in increased salary over a lifetime. This means the price of a college education wants to reach $50,000 a year, the discounted present value of two million dollars. Mom and Dad - if you're reading this remember you're getting a steal," she said, while sipping an Arabian Mocha Sanani.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

From the Poem Silo...

The Creek Bed

wash out mess of stones reds yellows oblong and sheltering
quivering in the panned stream, panned wan with whip-strikes
sanded by years of water, cool, seasonal
wash mints glint-sunned made redder
greener, bluer by ever-flowing water
a surface of Sturm und Drang dragged
by passing trunks and prospecting kids.

Pass the Corn

The Irish backbroke on canals
from which sprang farmhouses
where nary a potato was grown.


little upsidedown roots
green, stud the barren earth, last year’s
bulbs sprying even themselves.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

KTC Alert

Kathy asks for prayers.

posted by TSO @ 17:26

March 1, 2004

Can Anything Good Come Out of Suburbia?

Apparently this new literary star has. He writes of alienation without, on the surface, being alienated:

I was trying to get him to talk about why his characters tended to be so much older than he is and so cut off. ''You of all people,'' I said. ''You've got your family, your friends, you're close to your in-laws. . . . ''

''Well, like all writers, I feel like I have this other, inner life,'' he said. ''I've always felt like I should be somebody else -- I should be more brash or ambitious, or I don't know. I feel like I've got a lot of secrets. I don't, but I feel like I do.''

posted by TSO @ 13:12

Riddle Me This....

Can someone tell me why there is this unholy alliance between Rad Trads and anti-Semitism, ala Gibson's father? What is the connection between a fealty to the Latin Mass and denying the Holocaust?

posted by TSO @ 13:07

Urgent Pork Slicing Ahead

One of our corporate Values (capital "v") is that we have a "sense of urgency". This is no problem for me; I always have a sense of urgency, except when it comes to things I don't want to do.

But isn't a sense of urgency in some way part of the problem of our modern society, the inability not only to set aside contemplative time but to do things in a contemplative manner? Is our company Value really a value?

I say this because I was waiting in the lunch line, watching our friendly cafeteria worker painstakingly cut the pork roast. With great patience (not slowness...I think there is a difference), he cut each slice as if he were cutting it for Christ. Now as much as I appreciate a finely cut piece of pork, I was wishing that he do his contemplative thing on his own time.

I'm certainly not making fun of his job - my job is similar to his in import - I'm just musing. Contemplatively.

posted by TSO @ 13:06