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Ire’ Land

Cuculain was there,
dreamt by skiff’d seas
and beehive huts
till Patrick called to Joy
those of farm and sacrament.

Sweet Eire!
thee honeysuckle maidens
sing a chaste past
without regard to time or fashion
your Ave Maria’s in the rain
drip-drop Holy Water
echoing Baptism’s song:
Sing to me again!

posted by TSO @ 23:59

December 31, 2004

I Dream of Emily Dickinson

I dream of Emily Dickinson
and her camera obscura,
with the leverage of words
and the breath-scape of whisper
she removed the thorn from Civil's paw
in the silence of a drawing room.

posted by TSO @ 23:50

End o’ the year and the password is “chastened”. I feel chastened. Nothing more self-flaggelating than reading the sermons of John Henry Newman. They say the past is a foreign country and I never so believed it as I read his words decrying those who read novels, even good ones that teach the virtues. He argues that reading’s purpose is to excite emotions and feelings with no outlet, no opportunity for action. We separate feelings from action resulting in us failing to act when it we need to, and encouraging sloth. He also said that we read of the heroic acts and deeds but never of the small tiny, boring, irritating tasks we need to do on a daily basis which causes us to devalue the latter. Ouch.

posted by TSO @ 16:21

Elevation, Not Return

Human nature doesn't change, but cultures do. So how does that affect religious practice? Joseph Pearce interviews Solzhenitsyn:

Pearce: Is the only hope a return to religion?

Solzhenitsyn: Not a return to religion but an elevation toward religion. The thing is that religion itself cannot but be dynamic which is why “return” is an incorrect term. A return to the forms of religion which perhaps existed a couple of centuries ago is absolutely impossible.On the contrary, in order to combat modern materialistic mores, as religion must, to fight nihilism and egotism, religion must also develop, must be flexible in its forms, and it must have a correlation with the cultural forms of the epoch. Religion always remains higher than everyday life. In order to make the elevation towards religion easier for people, religion must be able to alter its forms in relation to the consciousness of modern man.

Pearce: Related to this, there are two points of view amongst members of the Catholic Church about the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. One side says that it was good because it modernised the Church, the other side saw it as a surrender to the modern values with which the Church was essentially at war. What are your own views?

Solzhenitsyn: This question stands also now before the Russian Orthodox Church. It also has two currents within it. The one which is hierarchically dominated does not want to develop at all whereas the reformers seek change. For instance, a question peculiar to the Russian Orthodox Church is should we continue to use Old Church Slavonic or should we start to introduce more of the contemporary Russian language into the service. I understand the fears of both those in the Orthodox and in the Catholic Church, the wariness, the hesitation and the fear that this is lowering the Church to the modern condition, the modern surroundings. I understand this fear but alas I also fear that if religion does not allow itself to change it will be impossible to return the world to religion because the world is incapable on its own of rising as high as the old demands of religion. Religion needs to come to meet it somewhat.
via Leo Wong

posted by TSO @ 09:18

What He Said

Scipio (thru the lens of Babelfish) writes about the Asian tragedy:

"Nature", the life, planning, the fate, the all-powerful God - they are not fair. Not so, as we understand justice. "Gibt it Gott?", "Wie knew God zulassen?" - inevitably the age-old questions are again louder placed. Age-old, never grown silent questions, never once and for all and finally answered questions. The answer would be so obviously or so obviously "Nein, it gives it nicht", as it again seems now - then it would have never "Ja" in human disaster history; to give may. My "Ja", my "Nein" - both do not cost me to anything. Not in this instant, in which I sit fullly in a warm room, in the midst of a healthy and intact family, with a firm income, in one of the safest, richest, ungefaehrdetsten countries of the earth. But the victims of these days - not only in south Asia, not only in the Iraq, not only over there in the hospital on the other valley side -, the victims of earlier days and the victims from tomorrow and the day after tomorrow give their answer, cry or whisper it "Ja", you "Nein", you "Vielleicht", you "Ich white it nicht". And once I will belong to them. I hope, hope instaendig that HE may to be met to me then met as HE all other victims. And the fact that then, at least then all find our suffering, our concerns, our pain, our death their sense and is waived in IT.
Meanwhile an Eastern Orthodox theologian weighs in, in the WSJ:
Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities"--spiritual and terrestrial--alien to God...

posted by TSO @ 09:14

An old-fashioned clock.

posted by TSO @ 09:02


Aspirants who make STG speak of "intense euphoria" and bask in endorphin'd bliss for periods of up to (but not including) sixteen minutes. But not making STG often results in mortification of self and a shorter time in Purgatory. Which would thou prefer?! :-)

posted by TSO @ 20:21

December 30, 2004

A Blog PSA in Public Service Announcement. (Testing, testing...)

I'd like to thank the Academy...(Oops, wrong speech.)

I'm always surprised by the seriousity with which some follow "Spanning the Proverbial Globe To Bring You The Constant Variety of Posts". Since many people read this blog expressly for that particular feature, its continuance is assured. But I was chagrined to find people keeping score.

As I do not wish to alienate 10% of my reading audience, I would like, by way of recompense, to hereby recognize one MamaT and one Enbrethiliel, two of the hardest workin' bloggers in showbiz, and present them with the coveted STG Lifetime Achievement Award. Their underrepresentation on STG shows only my weakness and failure to recognize greatness (which was most recently demonstrated by devoting space to a quote about a sixty-year old skinny-dipper).

On a personal note, I know how they feel. There ain't a priest in St. Blog's who links to this blog. How's that supposed to make me feel? Like a heathen? And one of my favorite bloggers of all time has never noted my existence, for which I'm honestly grateful because his audience is too big and I'd rather not have strangers nosin' around. But remember the '70s commercial where the kid gets tossed Mean Joe Greene's smelly jersey in the lockerroom after Mean Joe won the Superbowl? I am that kid, waiting forlornly by the side of Joe's locker, hoping for a nod. But wouldst thou hearest me complain? Na baby na! Just got to shake these things off! I've already forgotten about it. *grin*

But Enbrethiliel writes, beautifully, "As much as I wish I could write something very POD and very beautiful--something with enough wit, moreover, to number it among the fortunate few posts mentioned in 'Spanning the Globe . . .' (an honour granted to nothing I have written for at least two months) . . . well, as much as I wish I could write the most splendid post of my life today, all I can offer are some thoughts inspired by Samuel Butler's Erewhon."

To which I can only reply, Erewhon? Oh, yeah, was he the alien from the planet Nebulon on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century who flirted with Erin Grey's character?

posted by TSO @ 19:40

Fictional Thursday

"Got to be the unlikeliest story of all," said Brad, patron sinner of Oliver's Bar & Fill.

"In-doob," replied Jack, who did his best to keep the language moving; no use wasting breath on -itablies. "Bloody unlikely."

"I'd have gone back and kissed His feet."

"A cure concentrates the mind wonderfully. Like winning the lottery. Ungrateful bastids."

"Ten leprotics and one returns? What're the options? One, they didn't know they were sick. Which couldn't be because they were quarantined, outcasts. Sores all over. Impossible to forget. Two, they knew but expected him to do it so it was 'no big deal'. It was 'his job'. Three, they were too busy telling wives, girlfriends, children, golfing buddies, the local barkeep, massage therapist, and the priests."

"Yeah, well they had to be grateful inside - how do you separate surprise from gratitude? Surprise at receiving something they badly wanted after presumably years--"

"Maybe they were surprised but already had new priorities and didn't bother to go back to thank Him."

"True, but the foreigner was the one that came back. What's that say? That he was the only one who didn't have an entitlement mentality?"

"Yup. Same reason converts are saving the Church. They appreciate."

posted by TSO @ 18:57


I don't need this DVD. Yet, oddly, I want to buy it.

UPDATE: SoDakMonk says it perfectly:

So there's a documentary DVD just released about Ann Coulter. It sounds interesting enough to watch but not important enough to own. Which is very much the way I think about Ms. Coulter. It's good to have a media "personality" like her who provokes libs, and she is a pretty good on-the-spot debater.

posted by TSO @ 15:16

Oh This Hurts

...from a commenter on Amy's blog, concerning the Asian tragedy:

Today's (Wednesday's) WSJ has a head-shaking story about why the victims got no warning. Australian scientists spotted the event immediately but were not allowed to issue a general warning for the Indian ocean because information had to pass through foreign governments, observing the niceties of diplomatic protocol. And the relevant officials just couldn't be located in time, even over the course of hours.

posted by TSO @ 14:52

Noonan's Latest

Peggy sounds Walker Percy-ish here:

...if Steven Spielberg went to the Mideast tomorrow, announced he was making a movie, and sent out a casting call for males age 12 to 30 he would immediately establish a new Mideast peace, at least for the length of the shoot. Because the only thing the young men there would rather do than kill each other is be a movie star. Hmmmm, a suicide bombing that raises my family's status in the neighborhood or a possible date with Cameron Diaz, let's see . . . Mr. Spielberg would also get a Nobel Peace Prize. I am actually not kidding.

posted by TSO @ 11:30

Emerson, Quindlen & Individualism

From the New Pantagruel:

COMMENCEMENT speakers sum up the wisdom of the age, and last May, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Anna Quindlen did so with particular clarity. “I have seen your salvation, and it is you,” she told the graduating seniors of Sarah Lawrence College. “Custody of your life belongs in full to you and you alone. Do not cede it to anyone else,” she warned. “Why should you march to any lockstep? Our love of lockstep is our greatest curse … because it tells us there is one right way to do things, to look, to behave, to feel, when the only right way is to feel your heart hammering inside you and to listen to what its tympani is saying.” For Quindlen, conformity of any kind is our original sin, and salvation comes when we discover and express an authentic self unencumbered by the demands of others.

But there is plenty of evidence that the more intensely and dogmatically our culture has embraced the freedom to march wherever our hammering hearts take us, the less free we have become. John Adams wrote that should the citizens of this country surrender “for any course of time to any one passion, they may depend upon finding it, in the end, a usurping, domineering, cruel tyrant.” For most of Quindlen’s audience, the realization may dawn too late that they are not, in fact, a triumphant phalanx marching together for their rights, but a confused assortment of individuals cut off from family, community, and every other meaningful connection.

And a First Things look at our founding individualist, Emerson. Link here:
The flanking stones of Emerson’s wife and daughter remind us that, for all the ways that we worry ourselves about individualism, it is in some ultimate sense an illusion, for there is really no such thing as an unencumbered self. There never has been, and never will be. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what such a creature would look like. The belief that the individual can live, as Emerson said, "without let or hindrance" means simply that one has forgotten about the sources of one’s being, not that those sources have ceased to exist. In the fullness of time, a reminder of those sources comes to us all.

But another reflection, more charitable and perhaps more valuable, also arises out of the contemplation of Emerson’s tombstone. It is the singular glory of the civilization we call "Western" that it places so high a value on the soul and conscience of the individual person. That this valuation has been allowed to grow beyond all bounds, like a heavenward-aimed Tower of Babel, should not finger it as flawed from the start, unless one is prepared to say that all the growth and constructive residue of history is vanity, and nothing more. (Partisans of that view may prefer to spend their Sleepy Hollow time at Mr. Hawthorne’s tombstone.) Emerson’s belief in the lavish creativity of the individual human spirit, and "the unsearched might of man," was, like most heresies, an intensification of something true, if not quite true enough...

There are, however, far better ways to think about individual possibility. Addicted as we now are to the shallow and wasteful dynamic of unending generational rebellion—a dynamic that Emerson himself celebrated and helped to create—we often find it difficult to understand that one can both revere and criticize the actors of the past. But such a complex disposition is one of the chief achievements of a mature adulthood.

posted by TSO @ 09:17

Anxious About Joy

I've been reading a lot of Fr. John Catoir lately, whose Advent meditation booklet was sent to everyone in the parish (chosen by a parish committee).

My reflex reaction to his homilies of joy (including a "dance for the Holy Spirit" preface) was not pretty. It was to Google his name and see if he's got heretical opinions. Have we really gotten to the point where joy = heresy? Yet, too often the orthodox (self included) are sad sacks because we believe in sin but don't fully believe in mercy.

Perhaps the challenge for the Fr. Greeleys of the world is to be joyful without "defining sin downward" or lowering the standard. The challenge for the "conservative" side is to be joyful despite the prevalence of sin. No wonder the combination is so rare.

Fr. Catoir writes that the great enemy of joy is anxiety. But anxiety cannot be reduced by "preaching another Gospel", by maternalizing God or diminishing the danger of hell.

Might the problem be that moderns aren't as tough as our ancestors in this age of anxiety, perhaps due to constant technological change, rootlessness, a lack of strong families, or affluence and worship of comfort? Might we also not drink as much alcohol, thereby forfeiting some natural courage? *haha*.

My hunch is that the "maternal God" folks of the world are mostly reacting against something - against the way they were brought up, in the hard '50s American Catholic Church where mortal sin was but an impure thought away. The '50s church collapsed like a house of cards in the '60s, suggesting a weakness. But the cures - i.e. listening to James Taylor as a devotional exercise and introducing liturgical dance - were worse than the disease. Fr. Andrew Greeley seems to think the '50s Church was joyless (I don't know since I wasn't alive) but the alternatives, executed in the '60s & '70s, have flopped.

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Beautiful image via Jeff Miller

posted by TSO @ 07:30

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I used to read Lileks every day, but after a year or so wearied of it partly because I lost interest in The Wink or The Tic or whatever his daughter's nickname is, and partly because I found his fecundity - in words - just demoralizing. Had to stop and focus on what I can do rather than what I can't. - Amy Welborn

Oh, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is devastatingly beautiful in this film. I mean it. I let out an audible gasp when I first saw her. It seemed to annoy the couple next to me. I was, to be honest, disappointed in him – no reaction, not a peep. I mean, such a lovely woman manifests the glory of God who created her. [My Lutheran friends may now be crowing, ‘Theology of Glory! Theology of Glory! Have at thee thou heretic!’ To which I say, shuddup shutin’ up!] - Thomas of ER

In a very nice essay in a recent issue of The New Yorker, Anthony Lane points out that Tolkien's "view of English literature, incidentally, ended more or less where the current view begins; he rarely ventured later than Chaucer, and thought Shakespeare to be pernicious nonsense." - Jonah of the Corner

Catholicism is more like the family you were born into, or the one you acquire over time. All the stupid time-wasting cantankerous crap your family can put you through is there in spades. You can fight for ages before you realize that nothing's going to change and you'll just have to put up with it, somehow. - S.A.M.

It seems to me there's something serious beginning
A new approach found to the meaning of life
Deny that happiness is open as an option
And disappointment disappears overnight
- on Fr. Jim Tucker's blog

[Henry] James may be in some ways out of date and out of fashion, but what he has to say is not confined to any time, and his neglect is due more to the progressive deterioration of the art of reading and the impulse to use reading as recreation and escape rather than as a learning experience. I suppose it is the inevitable result of the training of generations of children in the reading of substandard multi-culti literature. It is a shame that great figures of the past can no longer command attention merely because of their race and sex. In more enlightened times such an attitude would have been labeled, parochial, or perhaps even sexist. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

Class presidents and football heroes, he had finally come to learn, required careful and suspicious watching. They were like the potted hyacinths and daffodils that he sometimes bought for Sylvia in midwinter—spectacular but they often yellowed around the edges once you brought them home. The same was true with bright young men who had come along too fast. They were tired because of premature effort, or else overconfidence had made them arrogant. At best the cards were stacked against someone who made good too young. Willis could see now that he had once been in this same dubious category. He could no longer wonder, as he once had, that Mr. Beakney had made no effort to keep him. In fact Mr. Beakney must have been relieved to let him go—gray suit, trimmed hair, polished Oxfords, sharp mind and everything—because he had come along too fast for the age of twenty-nine. --John P. Marquand, "Sincerely, Willis Wayde", via Terry Teachout

My mother is a mighty tough 60-year-old, whose idea of a good time is nude swimming in barely melted mountain lakes. - Camassia

Ladies Welcome - Men, We'll Talk - Bill Luse, caption below a link to his Apologia Groupies Site

Most Catholics probably think like I do. "Does this war seem like it's a sin according to Church rules, taking into account what the various Vatican statements say? No. Okay, time to gather information about it from secular sources." So "most" of the influence on my thinking is indeed from secular sources. But the basic right/wrong decision came from being Catholic and examining the war according to that. Afterwards, the question becomes less of right/wrong than good idea/bad idea, justly/unjustly prosecuted, and/or effective/ineffective. (Enough slashes there for ya?) - commenter on Amy's blog concerning the Iraq War

Catholicism... isn't utopian at all. It says that whatever beauty and joy there is in this life, it is still a life lived, so to speak, in a burning house. Its concern is not with the general, the broad patterns of change and culture. Its concern is with imbuing the individual, sojourning through this vale of tears, with the faith and ability to survive the conflagration and emerge into a life whose true happiness cannot be found, or found to any great degree, here. - Secret Agent Man on St. Blog Parish Hall

Like it or lump it, we belong to a Church which has given honor both to honorable warriors and honorable people who would rather die than hurt a fly. We are supposed to turn the other cheek to our own enemies but protect others to the full extent of our ability. This is supposed to be a challenge to everyone. And it is. We could avoid a lot of trouble if we could assume that both war and peace are honorable callings for honest Christians, but that not everyone is called to the same thing. If both kinds of folks really worked to understand the other and quit calling names, we might actually be a lot farther along the road to making Christianity more reflected in our lives. - Maureen, on Amy's blog

posted by TSO @ 07:24

Friends vs. Family

Secret Agent Man answers a query about why Protestant churches often appear more successful:

A lot of what you mention, it seems to me, has to do with the following question: "Why aren't people as excited about their families as they are about their friends?" We spend lots of time with our friends, far more time in many cases than we do with our families. Relationships with friends seem more intense, more comfortable, and often "click" better than familial relationships.

Protestant churches have a spring-like freshness that puts one in mind of a first love. Many are begun as "niche" churches that cater to the specific needs or theological quirks of the founders. Like-minded people then join, experiencing the "friendship rush" described above. This happens even within denominations, with one Lutheran Church being the elegant home of empty-nesters and retirees, and another across town tailored to young professionals or blue-collar families. When this goes too far, one has insular, tight-knight cliques which are the very antithesis of "Church." But it does make for a high level of interest and satisfaction among members.

Catholicism is more like the family you were born into, or the one you acquire over time. All the stupid time-wasting cantankerous crap your family can put you through is there in spades. You can fight for ages before you realize that nothing's going to change and you'll just have to put up with it, somehow.

posted by TSO @ 13:25

December 29, 2004

Stream o' Conscious Post

I've long been fascinated by people who are so right on some issues and so wrong on others. Devout Southerners of the Civil War era come to mind, although I tend to give them somewhat a pass since if you are a bible-only Christian you might have trouble outlawing slavery since it didn't much concern St. Paul. Lacking a Magisterium has its problems.

But the Magisterium doesn't answer everything. And the difficulty, as I see it, is I want somebody who is right all the time -- and you just don't see that this side of paradise. St. Thomas Aquinas seems a likely suspect, but how can I know? I'd have to be correct in all my views in order to know if Aquinas is correct in all of his.(St. Thomas, forgive the hubris of mentioning myself in the same sentence with you.) And, of course, there many moral issues that have come up since his death. (Btw, I was disappointed to read on Amy's blog today that Umberto Eco lost his faith reading St. Thomas. Whoda thunk it?)

These musings were brought about by the fact that I'm reading Andrew Greeley's book about Jesus, a wise and edifying read. But at the same time I see things like this and well, you know what I think of that. The charitable thing to do is to ascribe it to ignorance of economics and not hold it against him. But what other areas does his ignorance compromise? Or, heaven forfend, could I be ignorant about what constitutes his ignorances?

I was also saddened to hear of Susan Sontag's death. I could never quite bring myself to read her novels because of her politics, surely a superstition. If her writing was aesthetically and stylistically good it didn't matter because I didn't trust her not to Trojan horse some of her annoying secular/liberal Manhattanite views.

This tendency can extend to religious matters. My evangelical wife notes with disapproal my unecumenical reading tastes. It's often too easy for me to say, "if they're wrong about this -- fill in the blank -- then why should I trust them at all?". As I said in the Cornwell post, how do you know what's true when he was so wrong about Pius XII?

posted by TSO @ 11:06

NYTimes & The Anonymous Lawyer Blogger

The Times outed the "anonymous lawyer", a 25-year old would-be writer who cleverly made readers think he was a burned-out lawyer at a big firm. Link here. This line is priceless:

It is not surprising that a group of highly verbal computer-bound professionals who are paid to complain would gravitate toward the blogosphere.

posted by TSO @ 19:31

December 28, 2004

The Violent Bear It Away

Watched the film Patton recently & have been reading Victor David Hanson's biography of the same. Patton fascinates me because of his controversial "cruel to be kind" methodology. He captured or killed ten German soldiers for every one of his lost yet still was considered reckless and wild. He wasn't someone concerned for appearances; he'd rather the war end sooner rather than later, with casualties up front rather than strung out over a long period of time. (If Rumsfeld had gone into Baghdad without assuming it was a victory party we might not still be getting walloped by insurgents.) I was thinking too of spiritual parallels, of St. Therese of Lisieux who lived not long but intensely. There was something of Patton about her, a little warrior she was. Perhaps she would second the sentiment of Patton's line: "I am different from other men my age. All they want to do is live happily and die old. I would be willing to live in torture, die tomorrow if for one day I could be truly great."

I think George C. Scott looks more like George S. Patton than Patton himself. I was surprised to see his picture in an encyclopedia; he looked like a cross between Lou Holtz & my Aunt Mary. Appearances deceive, often intentionally. If Napoleon wasn't height disadvantaged the course of history probably would've been different.

posted by TSO @ 19:17

The Pope & Poetry

I'm reading Cornwell's biography of Pope John Paul II and learned that the Holy Father hasn't written any poetry (or done any creative writing) since becoming Pope. Apparently, at least from Cornwell's account, he is sensitive about it; it's a subject he stiff-arms. The only comment he made to an inquiring Vatican monsignor was that poetry now lacks "context" - the environment of the papacy is not favorable for poetry. I was saddened to hear this for his sake because I think creative types lose some of their humanity when their creativity is truncated, even though I can understand why the enormous responsibility and loneliness of the highest Church office might discourage it. I feel personally sheepish for not writing more fiction & poetry despite having no crushing responsibilities to prevent it. So expect more Spam Poetry, more pointless meandering on this blog for the new year. In fact, the previous post was inspired by knowledge of the Pope's situation.

UPDATE: Steven Riddle pointed out this description of The Poetry of Pope John Paul II: "In this trio of poems written in the summer of 2002, Pope John Paul II uses the imagery of a mountain stream, the Sistine chapel and the story of Abraham and Isacc as he reflects on God as the origin and end point of all creation and ponders the beginning and end of his time as Pope."

Since Cornwell wrote a book of fiction about Pius XII I realize this book probably has all the credibility of the National Enquirer (not to insult the Enquirer). I'm kind of embarrassed to be reading about it, but it's interesting to read what Chris Hitchens said about Mother Teresa or Cornwell about the current Pope if only to see what is the worse someone can dig up. On the other hand, if he's wrong about half the things he's writing about, how do I know what is right and what isn't?

posted by TSO @ 18:47

Fictional Tuesday

John Spoerl's favorite part of books – the part he went to like gamblers go for the sports pages – was “About the Type”. He read the reviews rapturously, marveling at the ubiquitous excellence. There was apparently never a bad type, never a font that wasn’t readable or agreeably aged or without a euphonious name. Just once he longed to read: “The type is 'Sandusky', developed in 1953 in Lansing, Michigan. While plain and not pleasant to read, it tries harder due to its mediocrity.”

It was the early 80s, before the Internet made clipping newspaper articles superfluous and replaceable by Google. He clipped articles from the dozens of papers he subscribed to, collecting them like S&H Green Stamps. There was a comfort knowing they were there, even as they yellowed worrisomely. On sick or rainy days he’d haul them from the closet and spread them out before him, catching up on a prior self who’d found such things interesting.

He liked the sophisticated even when he didn’t understand what they were saying, like a child trying on his father’s woolens. Coleridge was a poet whose very name was poetic by virtue of being referred to by writers who talked of summers immersed in books at Cambridge or Oxford, where the ancient buildings and expansive lawns caused deep thoughts to spontaneously combust. There was glamour, there in olde England, there in the summer lit programs. The most memorable of the clippings described a young lady’s account of meeting a young man at an Oxford series covering English literature. She was deep into George Eliot’s Middlemarch while he was a Bardophile. It was a Reese Cups tryst: he got chocolate (Shakespeare) in her peanut butter (Eliot). [insert groan here]

The strangest thing was to find the glamour more attractive than the actual. He’d rather read someone quoting Shakespeare or Coleridge than actually sit down and read Shakespeare or Coleridge. Or he’d rather hear Bloom or Bellow or Borges talk about The Larger Picture and explain what the writing of Shakespeare or Coleridge told us about their philosophy. It was the Great Books transmorphed into glorifed self-help books, as Botton eventually did with “How Proust Can Change Your Life”.

But it wasn’t all about self-help. He was oddly relieved by crypticisms, by blanks, by unfamiliar foreign languages, by 17th-century maps with territories still marked “Unknown”. The glamourous spoke a language he scarcely understood. William F. Buckley spoke the English tongue sprinkled with territories marked “Unknown”. The New York Times assumed a familiarity with literary classics he’d never heard of let alone read but eventually he'd casually drop in references. In his valedictorian speech he fatally rhymed elite with "alight". He was ridiculed by those who knew how to pronounce elite words as well as by those who'd actually read Trollope. The necessary mortification had the unfortunate side effect of a burgeoning professionalism, a new vision of literature without the magic. No longer would he refer to anything that wasn't completely familiar. Literature had to be completely comprehensible, every line in Shakespeare decoded by Dr. Johnson or Rexroth or Bloom. Enthusiasm was amateurish, for professionals saw nothing miraculous in text or fonts...

posted by TSO @ 18:33

Came across... old First Things article about Mother Teresa which contrasts Stoicism with Christian joy:

We may prefer to think that [Mother Teresa] spent her days in a state of ecstatic mystical union with God, because that would get us ordinary worldlings off the hook. How else could this unremarkable woman, no different from the rest of us, bear to throw her lot in with the poorest of the poor, sharing their meager diet and rough clothing, wiping leprous sores and enduring the agonies of the dying, for so many years without respite, unless she were somehow lifted above it all, shielded by spiritual endorphins? Yet we have her own testimony that what made her self-negating work possible was not a subjective experience of ecstasy but an objective relationship to God shorn of the sensible awareness of God’s presence.

Humanly, there were times when Mother Teresa felt burnt out, but faith supplied what was lacking even to troubled faith; spiritually she was often desolate, but her vow endured and her visible radiance—to which everyone attests—was undiminished. This lifelong fidelity should not be confused with a Stoic determination to keep going in the face of defeat. It was something else entirely: objective Christian joy.

posted by TSO @ 10:31

Iraq War

It's been said that the Iraq War was a continuation of the Gulf War. But how about WWI? Someone on C-Span said that at the conclusion of that war the British cobbled together three disparate groups of peoples, causing the need for a brutal dictator to keep them together, a dictator who would later look upon a fourth disparate group - the Kuwaitis - as an enticing victim.

posted by TSO @ 16:31

December 27, 2004

Rambling Post

...dealing with child-rearing, snow-shoveling, book-snuffling, and epidurals

Working backwards in time, we went to aroma therapy this morning: aka Border’s bookstore. Nothing like fishing for literature in the papery margins of a fine bookseller. The scent led me to buy three, which seemed excessive given the three thousand I already have.

Last night we went to “The Aviator”, the long but engrossing story of Howard Hughes. Before that dinner at Confluence Park overlooking the river & downtown Columbus. What a treat to embrace the warmth of family & food before a snow-encrusted vista looking like something out of Doctor Zhivago! The expanse of nature was spread out like a banquet before us, soon to be replaced by a banquet of food. No wonder the Kingdom of Heaven is depicted as a feast. The bread was hot and humble to the butter; the salad arrived in superabundance with a glorious dressing and various lettuces (aka “letti”). The steak was simply other-worldly, un-recreateable except at a Seven Stars. Outback is a steakhouse, but by comparison is unworthy of the name.

Christmas was preceded by the painful trial of over nine inches of ill-timed snow. We awoke on the 23rd to a broken city; 200,000 homes without power, the roads unpassable, the driveway covered with a devilish ice/snow combination nearly impossible to remove with our ordinary plastic snow shovels. The few inches I’d shoveled off Wednesday night appeared to have gained me nothing – I shoveled for an hour today and tested the driveway by driving the truck down it and got instantly stuck.

But help was on the way in the form of son & daughter-in-law. It was still tortuously slow work; one of us would go around using a shovel to break up the ice while the rest of us tried to do the best with what we had. About 2/3rds of the driveway was done before we gave out, our arms dead, and I went to Kroger to pick up some salt which promised to melt the snow. On Wednesday night my wife was hesitant about using salt – she said it damages driveways – but by Wednesday afternoon she was a like a woman intent on a natural birth saying, “get me an epidural!”. Or like Rocky saying to Apollo Creed after the fight, “ain’t gonna be no rematch!”

After dinner they decided to go shopping and I was suspicious, with good reason. I knew he wanted us to buy a snow-blower and I was reluctant because of financial considerations. It seemed like our sore muscles were talking and not our brains. I’m in decent shape and we haven’t had much snow the last few winters. But they went and sure enough came back with a $300+ snow-blower. Oh well.

Christmas Eve day dawned and I’d hoped for a little reading, relaxing before the two (three) hour drive to Cincy at 2pm. But no time for frivolities like that. Two-oh-five and there's a migraine-sized backup on the main artery. I gained ground by inches, and the CDs I had brought brought little comfort.

Within an hour I had a windshield mostly obscured by salt without a way to clean it off (the wiper fluid was frozen). The traffic was heavy and so I had to be hyper-alert since everyone would suddenly slow to 30mph when ice patches were encountered. Meanwhile I had to pee like a racehorse. The lack of shoulders on the freeway and the lack of privacy along the side of the highway prevented the possibility of abandoning ship and lightening my bladder. Finally, after seeming forever, there was a McDonald’s. Afterwards I used my gloves to wipe the salt from the windshield, which gave me a clear view for all of five miles.

posted by TSO @ 15:33

NYT's David Brooks...

...calls this one of 2004's best essays. The essayist argues that, of the last five decades, the high point of U.S. culture came ever so briefly: in 1960, 1961 and 1962. The claim he makes is those were years of orthodoxy without rigidness, openness without a caustic irreverence:

To read through the bound volumes of the newsmagazines Time and Newsweek, issue by issue, from the late ’50s onward, is to be struck, sometime around the beginning of the 1960s, by the sudden proliferation of the word new. Society was newly open, popular culture newly experimental, religious institutions (in the words of one contemporary observer) “newly irenic.” There was even talk among Vatican II-influenced, reform-minded Catholics of a “New Church.” A new national order was under construction: After three centuries, it appeared that America was at last beginning to confront its racial divisions and inequities and move toward greater unity and fairness...

Though the naiveté of the early 1960s is not something to which we should wish to return, much about the times remains highly appealing. The period seems in many ways to represent a congenial balance between highbrow and middlebrow, between seriousness and frivolity, and between ideas and values that we now associate with the political Left and Right.

posted by TSO @ 11:55

December 26, 2004

Overheard on ABC's This Week this week:

"Humor is essentially conservative in the sense that it recognizes human nature never changes and that all grand liberal plans will fail." - cartoon editor of the New Yorker

posted by TSO @ 11:51

Interesting drive to & from Cincy

I-71 was a nightmare rouge. Took 3 hours to go 2 hours (say like Yogi Berra) on Christmas Eve. So on the return trip I took I-75N to I-70W.

I-70 was studded with diamond-hard ice patches, not flat but 3-dimensional, abrupt little spikes that gave the shocks a workout. There were sudden backups since no one expects to go from 60 mph to 30 at the drop of a icicle. And it took a toll. I saw four or five vehicles lying on their sides, looking like relics of the Paleolithic Era. How odd to see cars so un-carlike! "Car-ness" is motion, it is what cars do, and to see cars neither in motion nor in "motion potential" (as a stopped car has) is odd. Instead trucks the size of tiny houses lay like beached whales amid snow banks riddled with the dark stain of exhaust, their undersides showing, their windows kissing the white ground.

posted by TSO @ 11:32


Perhaps a major division between atheists and theists is atheists think God simply did not make himself evident enough for them.

And it seems the major division between loving Christians and less loving ones is the latter's thinking that God simply does not love us enough.

“I seem incapable of love, Father Joe” said Tony Hendra to Fr. Joe Warrilow in his memoir Father Joe.

“Tony dear, you will only be able to love when you understand how much you are loved," Fr. Joe responded.

posted by TSO @ 11:15

Not Either/Or

Overheard during the holiday someone say how terrible it was churches waste money on expensive organs or physical improvements to the church when they should be spending it on the poor or outreach.

This is a typical complaint. And many thoughts come to mind including this: isn't it interesting that as our homes become ever larger and more grand (even the middle class can afford $300K "McMansions") our churches have become less and less grand?

I often find myself entangled in the modern bureaucratic, utilitarian mindset in which everything has to be a means to an end I can clearly see. The utilitarian calculation might be: "do beautiful churches attract enough converts and/or convert the already-converted"? But there is something beautiful (pardon the pun) and non-utilitarian about spending money on Jesus' house, assuming it is His will.

posted by TSO @ 11:10

Excerpts from Poem by William Butler Yeats

“The other night, while he was playing it,
A beautiful young man and girl came up
In a white breaking wave; they had the look
Of those that are alive for ever and ever.

My mother told me that there is not one
Of the Ever-living half so dangerous
as that wild Aengus. Long before her day
He carried Edain off from a king’s house
And hid her among fruits of jewel-stone
And in a tower of glass, and from that day
Has hated every man that’s not in love,
And has been dangerous to him.

A melancholy that a cup of win,
A lucky battle, or a woman’s kiss
Could not amend.

The cozening fortune-teller that comes whispering,
‘You will have all you have wished for when you have earned
Land for your children or money in a pot’
How are we better off than Seaghan the fool,
That never did a hand’s turn?

That crazy herdsman will tell his fellows
That he has been all night upon the hills,
Riding to hurley, or in the battle-host
With the Ever-living.

What if he speak the truth,
And for a dozen hours have been a part
Of that more powerful life?

His wife knows better.
Has she not seen him lying like a log,
Or fumbling in a dream about the house?
And if she hear him mutter of wild riders?
She knows that it was but the cart-horse coughing
That set him to fancy.

All would be well
Could we but give us wholly to the dreams
Not in its image on the mirror!

While in the body that’s impossible.

And yet I cannot think they’re leading me
To death; for they that promised to me love
Aengus and Edain ran up out of the wave –
You’d never doubt that life it was they promised
Had you looked on them face to face as I did,
With so red lips, and running on such feet,
And having such wide-open, shining eyes.

Aibric: It’s certain they are leading you to death.

Foragel: One of the Ever-living I shall find
one of the laughing People – and she and I
shall light upon a place in the world’s core
Where passion grows to be a changeless thing,
like charmed apples made of chrysoprase,
Or chrysoberyl, or beryl, or chrysolite;
And there, in juggleries of signt and sense,
Become one movement, energy, delight,
Until the overburthened moon is dead.

Meets his queen, Dectora, an Ever-living, who asks, “Why do you cast a shadow? Let go my hands! They would not send me one that casts a shadow.”

F: (says he cannot let her go, and can’t put her on the ship to sail away):
But if I were to put you on that ship,
With sailors that were sworn to do your will,
And you had spread a sail for home, a wind
Would rise of a sudden, or a wave so huge,
It had washing among the stars and put them out,
And beat the bulwark of your ship on mine,
Until you stood before me on the deck –
As now.

Dectora: I am not afraid,
While there’s a rope to run into a noose
Or wave to drown…

F: Do what you will,
For neither I nor you can break a mesh
Of the great golden net that is about us.

D: I shall have gone
Before a hand can touch me!

F: My hands are still;
The Ever-living hold us. Do what you will,
You cannot leap out of the golden net.

(after pages of protestations and exaggerations, falls for Forgael):

D: “Bend lower, that I may cover with with my hair,
For we will gaze upon this world no longer.”

F: (gathering Dectora’s hair about him) Beloved, having
dragged the net about us,
And knitted mesh to mesh, we grow immortal.”

posted by TSO @ 10:11

They Don't Make Sermons like St. John Chrysostom

S. M. Hutchens says.

posted by TSO @ 14:38

December 23, 2004


like Civil War generals
seek the high ground;
Flat ears and frowns
are the valley cat’s crowns.

posted by TSO @ 21:53

December 22, 2004

Alarming Mere Comments link on pornography.

posted by TSO @ 21:46

Our Eyes Have Changed

The short days of December are abruptly conquered by a stronger foe. The sky is lit by a reflecting base of snow causing me to see, for once, the blank branches of the maples against a pale sky, a sort of ghost-summer. The odd hue of the sky is the color of vampire’s skin tinged blood-rose. The branches circle in the shuttering wind; I open the window and the cold is surprising. My ancestors knew not such embittered temps for Ireland is embraced by the moderating sea.

Such weather details enthuse. I read Updike & Percy for derivative experiences; I cannot mine the unmineable and write of frolics in Access databases where the fields are of the unnatural variety. Blood, turnip. But to seek adventure for writing is folly! Writing is byproduct pure & simple. The act of creating, a poem especially, can be a maneuver similar to running awol in a field of seven-foot corn: labyrinthically satisfying.

Mark of Irish Elk posts G. K. Chesterton:

Religion has had to provide that longest and strangest telescope - the telescope through which we could see the star upon which we dwelt. For the mind and eyes of the average man this world is as lost as Eden and as sunken as Atlantis. There runs a strange law through the length of human history - that men are continually tending to undervalue their environment, to undervalue their happiness, to undervalue themselves. The great sin of mankind, the sin typified by the fall of Adam is the tendency, not towards pride, but towards this weird and horrible humility. This is the great fall, the fall by which the fish forgets the sea, the ox forgets the meadow, the clerk forgets the city, every man forgets his environment and, in the fullest and most literal sense, forgets himself. This is the real fall of Adam, and it is a spiritual fall. . . Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed.

posted by TSO @ 21:34

Japanese is really different.

posted by TSO @ 11:22

The Corner... talking of the great books. John Miller writes about Middlemarch: "I found Rev. Casaubon to be a riveting and haunting character. Maybe it's inevitable for a writer to think that."

Meghan Cox Gurdon says "Moby Dick is one of the funniest, cleverest, most breathtaking books, ever. I read it three years ago and walked around for months grabbing people by the lapels and telling them, "Listen, you have GOT to read Moby Dick! It is one of the funniest..."

Jonah Goldberg: "since nobody has mentioned it I would throw in that War and Peace is a great read. It's one of the few giants -- in all senses -- I've read all the way through and attentively and I'm extremely grateful that I did."

Brookhiser defends Ulysses:

Oi, the modernism wars again.

Ulysses is a funny, poignant and very readable book. It evokes a lot about early twentieth century Dublin, which is one of the functions of novels, which is why they're called novels (new things--new to us, the readers). The "hard" writing is easily figured out. As with most "hard" modernist works, the best thing is not to sweat the details, as if you were in freshman English, but just sit down and read rapidly through (just like all the swarming Italians in Dante). Kingsley Amis's reaction is a favorite English stunt, pretending to be dumb John Bull. Ulysses is not the best novel of its century, but it is better than Lucky Jim (which is good).

Moby Dick--now there is a masterpiece, but Meghan Cox Gordon has already defended it.

posted by TSO @ 11:10

From review of Introduction to a Devout Life:

In the beginning it might be a little hard to read but after going through it, you feel better as a human being. When I first heard about this book I didn't think it would be great, and I thought it would be St. Francis de Sales lecturing me on how I can become more like Jesus Christ. But as I went through the book page by page I started to realize how much I needed this book in my life. The best part about it is that you don't have to read it cover to cover. You just think about some troubles in your life and then you look them up in the table of contents. You only have to read things you would like to read at that particular moment in your life. As I said before, I love the book and anyone who doesn't own it does not know how much closer you become to God after reading it.
And from the flyleaf of A Modern Interpretation of Introduction to the Devout Life:
Centuries ago, Francis de Sales–bishop of Geneva during the lifetime of many first generation Protestant Calvinists–wrote about the importance of having a spiritual director. Yet he later told his biographer such a person “would be difficult to find,” suggesting that in these circumstances, “We can look for guidance among the books of authors who are no longer living. Devotional books are our best Directors.”

posted by TSO @ 10:21

Bury My Heart at Widener's Knee

Ich habe ein unusual hunger for reading lately. One book triggers the fetch of another, usually to compare and contrast the argument of one author against another. And, unfortunately, fiction is denied its rightful pride of place (it ought come second only to spiritual reading).

So I've been taken by Twomey's "The End of Irish Catholicism?" (who argues that Irish Catholicism of memory is neither Irish nor particularly Catholic), Alain de Botton's "Status Anxiety", Fr. Catoir's "Enjoy the Lord: A Path to Contemplation", Andrew Greeley's "The Jesus Myth", Fischer's "Albion's Seed", Percy's "The Moviegoer", Updike's "Early Stories"...Russo, soon.

Four Food Groups of Reading:

1) Religion
2) Fiction (i.e. the deep-imprint beauty of words ala Updike or Percy)
3) Humor (i.e. Russo, David Lodge, Keillor)
4) History (i.e. how we got the way we got)

posted by TSO @ 09:58

Last of the Mohicans

Watched the last C-Span Booknotes thru the watery fog of tear-stained eyes, brine-leak to mouth's edge as I contemplated the impending loss of my Sunday night ritual.

I jest. I'll save my tears for worthier tragedies. I didn't watch the show as much as I intended because sometimes, frankly, it was on the dull side.

But I did watch the final Lambian episode, which featured the author of Why Read?. He gave a fine speech on Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, saying that Proust intended it to be all-encompassing, applicable to everyone and to all times. It was said that someone once told Proust that part of his classic was dull and Marcel replied, "that's because that part wasn't meant for you."

posted by TSO @ 08:36

Can a Portable Sauna be Far Behind?

Is this in the true spirit of ice-fishing?

Speaking of cold weather, I'll never forget trying to get the autograph of Reds' star Eric Davis one chilly March day (in town for exhibition game). He shrugged us off with a "'s cold!". The ice fisher reminds me of Eric Davis.

posted by TSO @ 14:44

December 21, 2004

Schieffer Syncretism

Curt Jester has a good post titled Merry Syncretism in response to Bob Schieffer's "all religions are basically the same" speech.

I don't have much to add other than for me everything hinges on the promises of Jesus. Your religion is only as credible as your founder, and no religion has a founder as credible. And Christianity is arguably the only faith other than Judiasm that is comfortable with both faith & reason.

Finally, small differences in the conception of God make HUGE differences over time. So do seeming slight theological variations. Witness what the blogger Old Oligarch wrote:

"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." -- Henri Cardinal 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.

posted by TSO @ 13:41

Comment Box Hopping

Steven Riddle has a fascinating post on reading your way to holiness. Color me skeptical.

Viktor Shklovsky wrote that "Habit devours objects, clothes, furniture, one's wife and the fear of war... art exists to help us recover the sensation of life." So I can see how literature (and art in general) gives us new eyes to see, but I'm always leery of leaning on the crutch of defamiliarization. After all, somebody's gotta live in Manhattan, Kansas and not the isle of Manhattan.

But I understand that art is a gift from God and we shouldn't take it lightly. Perhaps I should read the book The Mighty Barrister recommends and not take beauty - in whatever form found - for granted!

posted by TSO @ 13:37

Local Union Strikes for Christmas

ALBANY, NY--Union local 512 of Thieves and Con Men* announced at a press conference today that they would be sitting Christmas week out.

"I'm not going to being five-fingering anything this week it being Christmas and all," said union chief David "Ripper" Offer. "And I told my fellas that nobody is going to break into any houses."

Temperatures near zero have already curtailed recent activity, causing thieves to be behind schedule.

"But it don't make no nevermind. And don't be calling it a 'holiday strike'. Thieves get a bad rap, everyone thinks we don't have a heart. But we care about the Cyndi Loo Who's out there. So you can leave your doors unlocked folks."

Local Police Chief Harold Wiggins said that residents should continue to lock their doors despite Mr. Offer's offer.

* - Beginning in '05, the official name will change to Union of Thieves & Con Persons, Local 512

posted by TSO @ 13:28

Bern's Father

A public thanks to one William Luse. I like that he tries to keep my delusions of grandeur going (to steal his catchphrase), although they've been harder to maintain ever since I learned that The Mighty Barrister gets about ten times as many hits as I do. Blogging is a meritocracy. But then lessons in humility are meritorious, no? *grin*

Fr. Catoir in Enjoy the Lord: A Path to Contemplation writes that most of us grow up thinking we are especially talented individuals and then run against the untruth (and vanity) of this for the rest of our lives:

Most human beings have programmed themselves since childhood to become someone special. Consciously or unconsciously, they seem to seek their own glory. Their earliest fantasies involve the attainment of greatness...The first thing you have to learn if you are to pray well is to stop condemning yourself because you feel inconsistent, unworthy or guilty. In fact, you have to stop judging yourself at all.

By middle age most people feel that time is running out; that they haven't done anything of any great importance; that they are in fact declining in every way, particularly on the spiritual level. It is a common human experience, but remember that feelings are not facts. Expecting too much of yourself and everyone else is a form of vanity.

posted by TSO @ 11:33

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Camassia's blogging like a fish on fire this week. - Tom of Disputations

Fr. Murray recounted a tale of his novitiate, when he asked one of the older fathers, Cahal Hutchinson. "What is the secret of Dominican contemplation?" Father Cahal answered, "never tell the Carmelites or the Jesuits, but we have no secret other than the Gospel secret! But I will tell you the two great laws of contemplation: 1. Pray, and 2. Keep at it!" - Fr. Jesús Hernando, OP

Families are wonderful things. But some families are more wonderful than others. (Although, I'm sure yours is among the best.) A tip for those seeking someone to marry: if you have a choice and are torn between two people (no, it never happened to me either; but it sure happens a lot in the movies and in country and western songs) study the families. Go to family weddings and funerals and observe. Some families are not much fun at weddings. Some are a delight even at funerals. You want to be a member of the second. - John at the Inn at the End of the World

During the campaign, Joseph Bottum of The Weekly Standard quipped that John Kerry apparently believed that the fact that his church agreed with him about the wrongness of abortion was a reason not to act on that view. The mental tic Bottum neatly identified is a special case of liberalism's general tendency to identify reason with irreligion. - Ramesh Ponnuru in National Review

The most of the interesting arguments these days are within intellectual camps (libertarians versus conservatives, leftists versus liberals) and not between them. - Jonah Goldberg of the Corner

I've got an amazing girlfriend who's stuck by me for three years despite having little in common with me other than a general interest in Jessica Simpson's marriage and a tendency to make jokes in inappropriate situations. - Jacob of Schadenfreude

Best Book we've read in group? Tie, Till We Have Faces and The Power and the Glory. 2. New (to us) authors I'm glad we found: Jon Hassler and Richard Russo. Hands down, my favorite contemporary writers. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

Being a Godparent is about far more than honoring a family member. It is far more than a social gathering, an excuse for pictures and a party (as much a part of the Baptism as those should be). It is a solemn oath made to God, made in the Church, gathered with fellow believers, in the presence of the Church's minister (representing Christ the Head of the Body). As such a solemn oath it carries serious consequences for the eventual entrance into the Heavenly kingdom for both the parents and the Godparents. - Fr. Hamilton of Catholic Rage Monkey

Dismantling [How to Dismantle an Atomic] Bomb’s origins, Bono recalls an early version of "Vertigo" that was massaged, hammered, tweaked and lubed before it sailed through two mixes and got U2's unanimous stamp of "very good," which meant not good enough."Very good," Bono says, "is the enemy of great. You think great is right next door. It's not. It's in another country." - USA Today quote via Terry Teachout

I am fortunate to know a handful of Catholic souls who possess a very high degree of personal sanctity. Spending just a few minutes with these people can be a wonder and an inspiration - but it can also be a discomforting rebuke. - Jeff of ECR

As near as I can tell, it would appear that creation has been under assault since the fall of Satan, and from what little we can glean from the Tradition, it would appear that a) angels are the first creations of God, b) the fall of the fallen angels takes place, so to speak, instantly upon their creation and their being given the fundamental option of God or self, and c) the problem of evil superhuman spirits mucking about in the rest of creation is therefore, from our perspective, a "given". Certainly the Genesis account envisions some sort of primordial, non-human intelligence involved in the fall. And significantly, it portrays that intelligence working through other creatures to tempt us. What the account seems to clearly deny is that evil originated with us. We are given the opportunity to participate in a rebellion that has been going on since before we arrived on the scene. And it would appear from the pre-human record that it may very well be possible that such evil intelligences may have been laboring to damage and harm the Creation (all within the Providence of God, of course). - Mark Shea, commenting on Disputations' blog

Come forth from the holy place,
Sweet Child,
Come from the quiet dark
Where virginal heartbeats
Tick your moments.
Come away from the red music
Of Mary's veins.
Come out from the Tower of David
Sweet Child,
From the House of Gold.
Leave your lily-cloister,
Leave your holy mansion,
Quit your covenant ark.
O Child, be born!
Be born, sweet Child,
In our unholy hearts.

- excerpt of "Advent Summons" by Sr. Mary Francis, P.C. , via MamaT

posted by TSO @ 07:10

Advent Meditation by Fr. Andre-Joseph LaCrosse, O.P.

When a woman is carrying a child she develops a certain instinct of self-defense. It is not selfishness; it is not egoism. It is an absorption into the life within, a folding of self like a little tent around the child's frailty, a God-like instinct to cherish, and some day to bring forth, the life. A closing upon it like the petals of a flower closing upon like dew that shines in its heart. This is precisely the attitude we must have to Christ, the life within us, in the Advent of our contemplation.

We could scrub the floor for a tired friend, or dress a wound for a patient in the hospital, or lay the table and wash up for the family, but we shall not do it in martyr spirit or with that worse spirit of self-congratulation, of feeling that we are making ourselves more perfect, more unselfish, more positively kind. We shall do it just for one thing, that our hands may make Christ's hands in our life, that our service may let Christ serve through us, that our patience may bring Christ's patience back to the world.

By his own will Christ was dependent on Mary during Advent: he was absolutely helpless; he could go nowhere but where she chose to take him; he could not speak; her breathing was his breath; his heart beat in the beating of her heart. Today Christ is dependent upon us. In the host he is literally put into a man's hands.

posted by TSO @ 16:10

December 20, 2004

Rule-based Morality & Accidental Evangelization

Went down to pick up lunch at the cafeteria, and so to make use of the long wait in the queues I brought reading material in the form of this post from a conservative blog and this one from a liberal.

It fell out of my pocket on the way back up. So somewhere in a large corporate office (probably on one of the many elevators) lay the words of these two loquacious bloggers. Tracking down that elevator would be daunting, so I hope someone found it who needs it.

The second post, the blogger at "The Lesser of Two Weevils" discusses paragraph 25 of the CCC and rule-based morality, and is a fascinating read.

posted by TSO @ 10:39

Mother Nature's Son

Christopher Hitchens reviews "BACK FROM THE LAND: How Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970's, and Why They Came Back":

Eleanor Agnew's lovely memoir of this movement of primal innocence is at once honest and hilarious. She recaptures the period with unerring skill: a period when the Apollo mission had shown us our fragile, blue planetary home from outer space, thus promoting (first) ''The Whole Earth Catalog'' and (second) a mentality that despised the science and innovation necessary for the taking of that photograph in the first place.

Countless educated young Americans went off the map, in pursuit of Walden or some other version of bucolic utopia. They learned to chop wood and sometimes to grow crops, and they got hypothermia and piles.

Agnew is at her driest and wittiest when she describes the reaction of her sodbusting "sisters," in particular, to the hygienic arrangements and then to the knotty question of natural childbirth. More than one agreed to have a baby on a kitchen table before getting pregnant again and heading as fast as possible back to town for "serious numbing drugs."

If you look back to the founding document of the 60's left, which was the Port Huron statement (also promulgated in Michigan), you will easily see that it was in essence a conservative manifesto. It spoke in vaguely Marxist terms of alienation, true, but it was reacting to bigness and anonymity and urbanization, and it betrayed a yearning for a lost agrarian simplicity. It forgot what Marx had said, about the dynamism of capitalism and "the idiocy of rural life." Earlier 18th- and 19th-century American communards had often been fleeing or preparing for a coming Apocalypse, and their emulators in the 1960's and 1970's followed this trope as well, believing everything they read about the impending crash, or the exhaustion of the world's resources. The crazy lean-to of the Unabomber began to take dim shape at that period, even if many of the new pioneers were more affected by the work of the pacific Tolstoy or of C. Wright Mills (who used to recommend, if memory serves, that people should build their own cars as well as their own houses).

Is there a moral to point out here? Of course there is. Maybe more than one. The first is that, as Agnew deftly notes, more of her friends ought to have read about the Joad family before setting out. The second is that not all was wasted or futile. Everybody in society now has a better idea of our relationship with the natural order and our kinship with animals, and we are no longer so casual about what once seemed the endless bounty of our environment. In some ways, we have the "love generation" to thank for this.

posted by TSO @ 22:02

December 19, 2004

Powerful Columbus Dispatch Story ...

...About a life-changing accident leaves boy paralyzed but creates a glimmer of hope in God for a family who doesn't believe in Him.

posted by TSO @ 20:52

Fr. Jim's Book List

Book recommendations are crack-cocaine for bibliophiles, and Fr. Jim has obliged us. (Though I exaggerate my bookishness. As Marilynne Robinson had one of her characters say: "I’ve developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I have ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from," he muses.") Amen.

It's always slightly exasperating to be just on the edge of understanding Hernan Gonzalez (who scribes in Spanish). He said of books:"I resist the temptation to mention books that have helped me... but that they do not adjust so much to the proposed aim. To the majority already I have mentioned them throughout the life of blog, on the other hand...". If I catch his drift I feel similarly.

posted by TSO @ 14:49

On Death, Because the Irish are Morbid

They say that to overcome fear when giving a speech you should imagine your listeners in their underwear. This is supposed to make the audience less intimidating, but given that there are some attractive ladies at my office this might only be erotic.

But I think I have a more effective remedy: to imagine them in a hundred years. All will be equal then, physically-speaking; we'll all be mouldering in our graves. This occurred to me while hiking past a city of the dead out in the country. It was set on a hill, as cemeteries often are, and it takes very little imagination to imagine a cross-section of the hill and what lay beneath: bones as lifeless as the stones that mark them.

Death can create empathy for our neighbors. Everyone of us is passing towards an equal ruin. Death is a great failure, a spectacular destruction of everything sensible about us, though not an eternal one. As Fr. Andrew Greeley wrote in "The Jesus Myth":

The Christian, then, believes in failure just as Jesus believed in failure, but he knows that failure is not the end. He believes in fulfillment though he knows that he cannot achieve it himself. He knows that he is weak and will be defeated; but he knows that with God's help he can transcend defeat to achieve victory. It is therefore impossible for him to quit; he cannot give up...When the charity of others runs out because of age, infirmity, discouragement or frustration, the Christian knows that this is not an option available to him...The question of whether life is ultimately a tragedy or a comedy, Jesus replied with the absolute assurance that it was comedy.

posted by TSO @ 14:34

December 18, 2004

The Ruin of the Library Manse

The past scent fore
as the dusty library falls
aft of Memory.

Oh, then the rotundas were studded
with the oils of patriarchs
the smell of endpapers
scrawled and scribbled
into our very blood.


posted by TSO @ 11:03

It's in the Rocks

Beer, that is:

The refreshing bitterness of an English pale ale, the clean light taste of a Pilsener, the dark, almost burnt graininess of Irish stout. To Dr. Alex Maltman, these are prime illustrations of the power of geology.

...The waters of Dublin, sitting on 300-million-year-old limestone, are even more alkaline and require even more roasting of the barley. "What they call black malt," Dr. Maltman said. "Even then the extraction isn't that good. It means the beer has a distinct grainy flavor and it certainly means the resulting beers are very, very dark, black even." That yields the distinctive taste of Guinness and other Irish stouts.

posted by TSO @ 16:13

December 17, 2004

How the Movie Ends

Moving story of a parent of an autistic child:

Yesterday I chatted with a PR person for a financial firm and asked her to send over some answers to a news story tomorrow. I told I was taking the day off to prepare our house for my son’s fourth birthday party. She sucked in her breath and clucked her tongue in the instant camaraderie that parents all recognize. "You’re having a party in your house with all those kids? I would never do that," she bantered. Then it dawned on me: Matthew has no friends.

It’s a weird relief -- as the father of an autistic child, we don’t have to invite a dozen kids over and strain with the small talk with their parents in the kitchen as the kids play games, eat cakes and fight the birthday party lull. Matthew has no friends outside of me and Regina and his older sister, Nora. Regina has a special talent for awarding the kids nicknames -- Nora was 'Yompie' and Matthew is 'Stubbie' and when she calls the six-month old Tim 'Goobus,' we heard Matthew repeat the name. He can’t say Nora but he loves to spend time with her and his bath tubs are more enjoyable with her. He said 'Baby' when Regina held the brand new Tim in her arms when coming home from the hospital in May but he has never said Mommy to the best of my memory. He does say Dada, but it can be weeks between the time that I hear my beautiful and heart-warming title.

So, no friends. And yet, we are blessed. He has beautiful eyes, a fine head of hair, a radiant smile and it is a pleasure and a marvel just to watch him think and process a thought. The hardest thing about being the parent of an autistic child -- or pardon me, the parent of a child with autistic spectrum disorders -- is to wonder where this will all lead...Does he go to college? Does he even finish junior high? Am I wrestling him into an adult diaper when he is a 200-pound 17-year old? Does he go to Harvard or a community college or into a group home and we see him on weekend trips to Wendys and maybe a movie? I have no clue. We have no idea how this movie ends.

posted by TSO @ 14:24


It seems Eucharistic Adoration and reception of the Eucharist complement one another. In the first case, the experience is one of God as Other, wholly transcendent, present on the altar in His singularity. In the second, the act of receiving Communion is God in us, His ubiquitousness and immanence shown in the multiplication of Hosts.

-photo via Inn at the End of the World

posted by TSO @ 13:54

The Fault, Dear Brutus

Visited Lilek's place (gif above is his) and well, what a clean, well-lighted place. The handsome expanse of Christmas red & green, the cheering order to it, the lack of links or congestion or indigestion, the online diaristic feel, the broad expanse, the large bank of words free-flowing unobstructed by data, politics, rants, or links...

No I haven't read the post yet. It seemed long and didn't have enough data/links/politics/rants to keep my interest. *grin*

posted by TSO @ 09:53

Original Sin & the Aborigine Sinner

Lots of action & reaction on the topic at Camassia's. Call it "Everything you wanted to know about evolution & the Fall but were too afraid to ask".

posted by TSO @ 09:37

When Life Brings Lemons

Set Old Fogey On.

Sigh. I recall when being an altar boy was a privilege and not a right to convenient Mass times. Shows my age.

Set Old Fogey Off.

posted by TSO @ 19:26

December 16, 2004

It Was a Dark & Bloggy Night...

According to the NY Times, publishers are noticing blogs.

posted by TSO @ 15:27

Teasin' the Bureaucrats

I study the arcane rituals of that species known as beltus australopithecines (known colloquially as "inside the beltway types") and the things they find compelling always amaze me. Of course they have forgotten more about politics than I know so this post is necessarily of the "how can this be?" rather than "they are wrong!".

One little mystery is this brou-ha-ha over Bernard Kerik. I puzzle over how this will harm the career of Guiliani. I haven't read much about this since I find it mind-numbingly boring, but the 50,000 foot view is that Guiliani put up Kerik and thus embarrassed the President for all of six minutes. Are not failed candidacies for cabinet positions painful only to the candidate himself/herself? Does anyone outside the candidate's nuclear family gives a rat's a*s about this flub? Is someone going to say, "well, I think the President was right about Iraq, but he screwed up with the DHS nomination so I'm not going to vote for Guiliani". Yet somehow not only is the President damaged, but even a third-party twice-removed type like Guiliani. Amazing. I suppose the thinking is Bush will hold a grudge for gosh sakes. He doesn't strike me as that petty.

It's great that someone is watching the homefront and has the President's ear. So, assuming Ridge did more than make air travel more painful & color code threat levels, this wouldn't seem to be a bad cabinet position, if you're into them. But Commerce? Education? Education is a prime example of a useless cabinet post. It was a way to getting people to think you care about edu-ma-cation without doing anything. Since the Dep't originated, S.A.T. scores have dropped and more and more children got "left behind".

Cabinet posts and gov't spending tend to grow like lichen on creek rocks. At some point we'll have to build a bigger cabinet room for those weekly photo ops with the President. It's not widely known, but the White House is considering additional departments and I obtained the list from my friend Bob Novak. Without further ado, the new posts are: "Department of the Internet", "Department of Sports" (for the regulation of steroid abuse and overturning wretched rules like the designated hitter), "Department for the Ethical Treatment of Republicans" (requested by Tom DeLay) and the "Department of Departments" (to keep track of all the cabinet positions).

posted by TSO @ 14:02

Where's the history?

...asks one of the two blowhards:

...all this makes me wonder that I don't see more references to history either to support or to criticize social theories, be they economic, political, or even moral. It would seem to me hard to determine what in any given situation is merely local or accidental as opposed to what is fundamental and permanent, without examining multiple examples of similar situations from history. My sense is that history served exactly this function for previous generations. Has our society, despite our vast historical resources (never more plentiful than today) become oddly a-historical?

posted by TSO @ 09:17

Teachout's Book List

Terry Teachout wanted suggestions on what to read, and one of them was Berlin Noir, a trilogy by Phillip Kerr. I read that five or six years ago and recall it fondly. The only other thing I've read on that list is Wolfe's book, but the next fiction for me (after finishing Updike's Early Stories) is Richard Russo's Empire Falls. Everbody love that book! Surely anything that MamaT, Amy Welborn & Erik of Erik's Rants can agree on must be good.

Update: Though how can I pass up Russo's Straight Man after this recommendation?

posted by TSO @ 09:10

Prayer of the Confederates

I'm slogging my way through biographies of the major players on the Confederate side of the Civil War. After reading of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson & Robert E. Lee, Cooper's Jefferson Davis:American is a bit of a letdown.

Last night I read about how Davis' intelligent and charming wife said she was praying for Confederate successes but she feared her "righteousness does not my prayers avail."

There are a couple ways to look at this I think. One is that you have to have confidence in your prayers regardless of your "righteousness". That's not to say you have to think you are righteous but merely that your prayers do avail. Prayer without confidence is sort of oxymoronic.

The second thought is that righteousness might be best expressed as wanting the will of God, so perhaps the righteous choose their prayer targets correctly. They are so aligned with God's will that they pray for that which is in accord with it.

posted by TSO @ 09:02

It's an Odd World After All

Via Two Sleepy Mommies, I've been hyp-mo-tized by this blogshare thing.

I feel a burgeoning sense of responsibility to my shareholders. Now I will have to sweat quarterly hits, or earnings, if not for my sake than for theirs. Suddenly it's not all about me anymore. Suddenly I have kids to support.

You can imagine my surprise when I learned a blogger from Manilla, whom I don't know from Adam, purchased shares in the seldom updated Flannery O'Connor blog. 'Scuse me while I hie me to Habit Of Being...

posted by TSO @ 08:58


...the practice of writing each day seems to act as an aid to invention. If we write 20 or 30 times a month, we will have thoughts that would not have materialized without the blogger's writerly habits of mind. --"Weblogs in Higher Eduction"
Exactly. If I hadn't been a blogger it'd never occurred to me to write the following:

ACLU in Arabic means "al jazeera".

And the world would be poorer for it. But seriously writing does help one think. In keeping a journal there are times I write and discover something I didn't know I thought. If that makes any sense.

posted by TSO @ 08:47

From the latest National Review

Ramesh Ponnuru writes:

It may be said that apparently reasoned arguments against embryo destruction are really rationalizations for religious views. The opponents are overwhelmingly evangelicals and Catholics. It is certainly possible that our reasoning goes wrong because we are influenced by extra-rational, unacknowledged factors. But the reasoning of people from different religious traditions or none can go wrong, too. Atheists may have their own forms of rationalization, as do we all. Self-consciously secular thinkers can generate their own orthodoxies. Liberals tend to assume, without reflection, that the rational view of an issue is the one that most non-religious people take. The idea that a religious tradition could strengthen people's reason — could help them reach rationally sound conclusions they might not otherwise reach — rarely occurs to them.

During the campaign, Joseph Bottum of The Weekly Standard quipped that John Kerry apparently believed that the fact that his church agreed with him about the wrongness of abortion was a reason not to act on that view. The mental tic Bottum neatly identified is a special case of liberalism's general tendency to identify reason with irreligion.

Liberalism's hymns to reason always end up truncating reason. They are pleas for open debate designed to rule things out of debate. John Rawls himself notoriously ruled that arguments against abortion could not meet the test of his "public reason" (a position from which he later backed away). To someone unsympathetic to liberals, it must begin to look like a kind of trick. Let us imagine a conservative who says that abortion should be illegal because it kills human beings. His liberal friend responds that this sort of theological talk is inadmissible in a democracy because it violates the rules of open debate. We can see that this liberal has misrepresented his friend's views and shut down the discussion — all in the name of reasoned argument. Yet that conversation happens all the time in our politics, and somehow we don't see it.
He also says:
...And while there is no constitutional requirement that people make political arguments in terms that can be understood by fellow citizens with different religious views, it is a reasonable request. Since an appeal to a religious belief, authority, or text will be unpersuasive to people who do not accept it, such an appeal will often be counterproductive (rather than "dangerous").

But even that concession must be qualified. The contention that blacks, like whites, were made in the image of God and thus deserve fair treatment was probably "accessible" to more people when it counted than were purely secular arguments. The vast majority of Americans do not find such religious rhetoric alienating, and in a democracy that ought to count for something.

posted by TSO @ 14:55

December 15, 2004

Bible Only?

Amy Welborn vents:

But this "Where is that in the Bible?"...drives me crazy because 1)it's intellectually nonsensical 2)those who use it as a weapon don't live and believe by it themselves and 3)it's novel in this present form. An innovation of the last hundred years, really inconsistent with the way the Christians have understood their faith and its relation to Scripture, for the most part, since the beginning.

posted by TSO @ 14:44

More on Garrison Keillor's Joke...

...about denying evangelicals the right to vote.

posted by TSO @ 09:27

Three Sizes That Day

I didn't know that the "Welcome Christmas" song in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" has a history:

Welcome, welcome, fah who rahmus
Welcome, welcome, dah who dahmus
Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Three thousand feet up! Up the side of Mt. Crumpit,
He rode with his load to the tiptop to dump it!
"Pooh-Pooh to the Whos!" he was grinch-ish-ly humming.
"They're finding out now that no Christmas is coming!"
"They're just waking up! I know just what they'll do!"
"Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
Then the Whos down in Who-ville will all cry Boo-Hoo!"

"That's a noise," grinned the Grinch,
"That I simply MUST hear!"
So he paused. And the Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow...

But the sound wasn't sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn't be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Who-ville! The Grinch popped his eyes!
Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise!

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,
Was singing! Without any presents at all!

posted by TSO @ 08:58

Old Book Resurfaces

While trying to corral marauding books, I came across Mary of Agreda's Mystical City of God found at a garage sale when I was a teen, since lay buried, unread, for lo these many years. A couple scenes from Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ were based on this book.

It's difficult to know what to make of private revelations but the quotes inside the cover are nothing short of amazing:

The learned and pious Cardinal D'Aguirre says that he considers all the studies of fifty years of his previous life as of small consequence in comparison with the doctrines he found in this book, which in all things are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures...The Venerable Superior-General of St. Sulpice, Abbe Emery, adds: "Only since I read the revelations of Mary of Agreda do I properly know Jesus and his Holy Mother."
Even allowing for hyperbole these seem astonishing claims.

posted by TSO @ 17:35

December 14, 2004

Fr. William Most...

...attempts to answer the age-old query: How do the saints avoid lying when they say terrible things about themselves?

posted by TSO @ 17:29

Fun With Google Searches

Here are some of the strings that found the way to this blog (my replies in italic):

dominic the donkey sound byte
Ass not what your country can do for you...

vitamin k i by dr.henry poncer
Alas, the perils of drinking & Googling...

poetry about the colour blue
Blog, sung blue every garden grows one...

posted by TSO @ 15:50

Christianity Today review of Tom Wolfe's "I Am Charlotte Simmons", concerning the book's premise that all human behavior is sociobiologically pre-determined:

What is really happening in the story is something that theists have always known: that we choose to think the things we think, and that what we think will largely determine what we do.

That is precisely what happens to Charlotte and to all the other characters in the book. After all, it is only when Charlotte finally changes her simple, down-home, Christian way of thinking about what a human being is, and what choice means, that she descends into the personal miasma that is the inevitable consequence of the bad choices she makes. These latter, in turn, are the direct result of the bad ideas she chooses to hold. If she had kept to her old assumptions, her behavior would have been completely different. Of that, there can no doubt whatever.

Despite Wolfe's extremely skillful and detailed efforts to show exactly how relentlessly events push Charlotte toward doing the things she does, he cannot conclusively establish that she could not have acted otherwise. Such a thing would be utterly impossible to prove, of course. One can only accept or reject it inductively. And that leaves freedom of choice as a possibility, and indeed the more likely explanation for her actions—the one that in fact best fits the facts of the story.

This leads to a very interesting and important sociological observation that one can draw from the book: that a society's leaders, and in particular its intellectual elite, its philosophers, bear a heavy responsibility for what goes on in it.
That last paragraph sounds very Fr. McCloskey-ish, who has said that society won't become healthily Christian until the elites do. Ideas matter, and their noxious nihilist philosophies are in the very air we breathe.

posted by TSO @ 14:57

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

"She's not cranky, " said Gabe, "she just senses happiness and snuffs it out." -Elena's child Gabe regarding his mother. She hopes in 20 years her kids will appreciate her.

Most of the world's work is done by people who don't feel very well. - Winston Churchill, via The Corner

What's worse though: me writing this dribble or you reading it? - PigeonPi

The life of the spirit, like that of the body, is inevitably the source of ‘unease.’ The dead alone are in complete repose. --Henri de Lubac, via Terry Teachout.

Stay up until midnight on New Years? Of course ! (When the Y2K scare was on, I spent the night at a chapel that has Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, figuring that if civilization fell apart, that was the best place to be. ) - Donna Marie Lewis of Q-N

As he admits, Hitler's Pope (1999), his biography of Pope Pius XII, lacked balance. “I would now argue,” he says, “in the light of the debates and evidence following Hitler's Pope, that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by the Germans.” - anti-Catholic Catholic John Cornwell from the latest Economist, via NRO's "The Corner"

In my teens I was a liberal Democrat, a practicing Wiccan, and fiercly pro-choice. Wicca went first when I began a relationship with Christ. After experiencing an abortion I began looking into the pro-life side. I found the argument persuasive, and since then have read more and more that has led me to the conclusion that it is wrong to murder the pre-born. Then I began looking at all sorts of issues more conservatively, especially when I had a family of my own. I have come from the other side, and am usually unimpressed with the arguments. I used to use them myself, and have found that most of them don't hold up under scrutiny. - Ann of "My Homeschool"

For St. Catherine, suffering was simply the means to her double end of proper worship of God and of saving others -- or, more briefly, of loving God and her neighbors. From this, it seems to me that for someone to desire to suffer would be imprudent if suffering would lead to a different end -- say, of becoming a perpetual whiner. At the same time, St. Catherine's example might serve as a challenge to our own love for God and neighbor, if we realize we aren't prepared to suffer for them. - Tom of Disputations

When Our Lady is conceived, our salvation is already in the bud: God's wonderful plan is silently at work, but the event is not even recorded in the Bible. No one noticed. No angels sang over the hills, no shepherds left their flocks to come and see, no wise men followed the stars. And yet the Coming of Christ began with this event we celebrate today… -- Rev. Bradford, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, via Mark of Irish Elk

The traditional understanding of the Holy Spirit really blurs the boundaries between self and God, and so we modern Westerners have a hard time understanding it. So we push it to extremes: either you're your own master, or you're "possessed" by some outside force. So we have, on the one hand, mainstream Christians with a fairly poor sense of the Spirit, and on the other hand charismatics who go for wild stuff. There is certainly some charismatic experience described in the New Testament: visions, dreams, speaking in tongues. But from very early days, the whole church was assumed to be guided by the Spirit, in mundane life as much as in showy spiritual events. So Catholics have, for instance, taken the decisions of the canonical councils to be Spirit-guided and therefore as authoritative as the Bible, even though nobody at these meetings goes into a trance and starts automatic-writing or anything. The Spirit, it is assumed, can work through ordinary thought processes. - Camassia of Camassia

Writing ought either to be the manufacture of stories for which there is a market demand -- a business as safe and commendable as making soap or breakfast foods -- or it should be an art, which is always a search for something for which there is no market demand, something new and untried, where the values are intrinsic and have nothing to do with standardized values. -- Willa Cather

Mary's Immaculate Conception is celebrated 21 days before the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and wouldn't her heart have begun beating on the 21st day after conception? - emailer to Alicia of Fructus Ventris. The answer is yes.

Favorite holiday song: In Dulci Jubilo and Vom Himmel Hoch da Komm Ich Her --Thomas of ER. What, you expected Jingle Bells?

posted by TSO @ 09:27

Beatin' a Dead Horse

Politics is stale, more stale & most stale, but the lasting image of the Democratic Convention for me was Michael Moore, profligate liar, sitting next to Jimmy Carter, former POTUS. The coupling had a nightmarish "Where's Waldo?" quality that hasn't faded with time. And it appears to have also resonated with George Will:

When Moore sat in Jimmy Carter's box at the 2004 Democratic convention, voters drew conclusions about the party's sobriety. Liberalism's problem with the Moore-MoveOn faction is similar to conservatism's 1960s embarrassment from the claimed kinship of the John Birch Society, whose leader called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a Kremlin agent.

The reason that Moore is hostile to U.S. power is that he despises the American people from whom the power arises. Moore's assertion that America "is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe" is a corollary of Kuttnerism, the doctrine that "middle America" is viciously ignorant.

Beinart is bravely trying to do for liberalism what another magazine editor -- the National Review's William Buckley -- did for conservatism by excommunicating the Birchers from the conservative movement. But Buckley's task was easier than Beinart's will be because the Birchers were never remotely as central to the Republican base as the Moore-MoveOn faction is to the Democratic base."

posted by TSO @ 09:07

My Advice to the White House

Incompetence is objective, not subjective, but my response to it varies to the extent I can say, "gosh, I wouldn't have done that!". (Which reminds me of the definition of religious fanaticism - anyone a bit more fanatical than me.)

So since it's hard to imagine not asking Bernard Kerik whether he had an illegal immigrant problem, I am astonished. But lest I be only a critic here's my proposal to the White House, free of charge:

Go to the Start Menu. Choose Programs - Accessories - Notepad. Type "Things To Remember Before Appointing a Cabinet Member". Type "Ask if any illegal immigrant problems". Create shortcut for desktop. Remember to check desktop before making cabinet selections.

I give and I give.

posted by TSO @ 16:34

December 13, 2004

Meditation by Fr John Breck, via Thomas of ER fame:

We activists, city-people or not, spend most of our time, it seems, trying to produce, trying to accomplish something we and others will consider worthwhile. A "life worth living" – even in the Church – is usually seen as a life of great achievements. We admire and even envy those who rise through the ecclesiastical ranks, or publish an impressive number of books, or make their voice heard with authority in the halls of academia or via web lists and chat rooms. We devote hours, days and years to discovering and realizing our "PIL," our purpose in life. Yet most of us never quite find it, never quite feel satisfied with our lot or what we've done with it. So eventually we burn out from frustration, or get divorced, or seek a transfer: a "geographic cure" that heals nothing. And all the time the message drones in our mind: "God, like other people, will judge us on the basis of our accomplishments." Today's most poignant existential question is not whether "to be," but rather "to do or not to do?" Yet paradoxically, more is accomplished by being than by doing. At least more that's worthwhile.

posted by TSO @ 16:14

Where Have All The Flowers Gone? of the intellect that is. Provocative Derbyshire column:

The irresistible Paul Johnson wrote a piece in the London Spectator the other week about intellectuals. P.J. is the author of a book on this subject, titled Intellectuals, in which he cheerfully eviscerates several of the big names in 19th- and 20th-century deep-browdom: Emerson, Marx, Hemingway, Sartre, and so on...PJ's essay got me thinking...

Novelists? Well, there is of course Tom Wolfe, who says interesting things about matters of public consequence, and weaves big ideas into his novels. I don't know that I'm quite ready to call Tom an intellectual, though. He is a superb observer of humanity, and a skillful entertainer, and for that unusual combination we should be grateful; but the big ideas are borrowed from other people. A U.S. Grade-A intellectual? I don't think so, and I doubt Tom would claim the title for himself. Who else have we got? Jane Smiley? Barbara Kingsolver? Don DeLillo? Let us pass on...quickly.

We are hardly any better served by philosophers and theologians than we are by poets and novelists. It's even hard to come up with candidate names. The only active philosopher I can think of is John Searle; but if you were to ask me whether I have read any of his books, I would have to say what Dr. Johnson used to say when similarly cornered: "I have looked into them." Richard John Neuhaus is, it seems to me, as good a theologian as we have any right to expect in this age, but how many Americans — even educated Americans — have heard of him? And what of Tom Kreitzberg? [Okay, I added that last sentence].

posted by TSO @ 14:15

Dr. Ralph McInerny

...on democracy & Alexis de Toqueville :

Morality is not a matter of winning arguments -- no matter how important arguments are. Toqueville saw that the master assumption of democracy is the immortality of the soul. He was as aware as you and I of the difficulty of arguments on behalf of that truth. Acknowledging that, he saw immortality as the great basis of moral responsibility, a basis that had to be recognized if democracy were to survive. He went on to say that the essential thing was that politicians exhibit in their actions their conviction that the soul is immortal. That is, that they are answerable for their deeds to a tribunal higher than any on earth. Toqueville's point is basic: The most powerful argument for morality is virtuous men.

posted by TSO @ 12:55


from Paul Elie looks interesting.

posted by TSO @ 12:24

Florence King

Hambone says he's 'overdosing on Mariology' so I'll give him a momentary break with this snippet of columnist Florence King, who is so proud of her spinsterhood that when asked to fill out forms that inquire of marital status she writes in "spinster". She is also flat-out hilarious. From "Stet, Damnit!":

VMI's contention that single-sex schools 'celebrate diversity' is the steadfast cave-in sundae: when you defend yourself with the enemy's language, you are apologizing whether you know it or not. Claiming 'humanitarian' reasons for your government's actions avoids the need to apologize for having a national interest.

The biggest difference between Eleanor [Roosevelt] and Hillary is the sexual climate of their respective First Ladyships. Men and women did not hate each other when Eleanor entered the White House...Respectable matrons and virtuous spinsters did not rend the social fabric with single motherhood and paranoid harassment charges as modern feminists have done, so Eleanor never became a symbol of destructive female sexuality. Hillary has come to power at a time when men are roiling with an entirely justified loathing of women, so our First Symbol should not be surprised if they look at her and think: "Her briefcase sucks forth my soul; her capped teeth are the towers of Illium."

The 'myth' of the masculine artist and thinker - or any worker - is not myth but fact. Its real name is concentration, and it is achieved by making oneself unavailable to others. He travels fastest who travels alone, and that goes double for she.

posted by TSO @ 11:02

National Shrine Plug

Got an email concerning the "Grace Notes" post saying that all she can think of is Whoopie Goldberg's rendition in "Sister Act"!

I visited the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. three or four years ago and bought their choir's Marian CD in the gift shop. On the "Hail Holy Queen" track, when the sopranos come in, well, they sound like the seraphim themselves. It highlights what 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon said last night introducing a segment on an opera diva: "There isn’t a musical instrument on earth that can produce sounds as varied, as beautiful, and as heart-rending as the voice of a woman."

And when you combine great voices with the devotion to Mary, well, it just doesn't get any better than that. You could probably find the CD online somewhere for Christmas giftage purposes.

posted by TSO @ 09:21


The Miracles of the Church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power but upon our perception being made finer, so that coming suddenly near us from afar off, for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what there is about us always.
- Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

posted by TSO @ 09:14

From Danú CD titled "Bridget Donahue", lyrics written 1882

'Twas in the County Kerry, a little ways from Clare,
Where the boys and girls are merry at the pattern dance so fair;
The town is called Killorglin, a pretty place to view,
But the thing that makes it interesting is my Bridget Donahue.

CHORUS: O Bridget Donahue, I really do love you.
Although I'm in America, to you I will be true.
Then Bridget Donahue, I'll tell you what I'll do --
Just take the name of Patterson, and I'll take Donahue.

Her father is a farmer, and a decent man is he.
He's liked by all the people from Killorglin to Tralee.
And Bridget on a Sunday, when coming home from Mass,
She's admired by all the people. Sure they wait to see her pass.


I sent her home a picture. I did, upon my word:
Not a picture of myself, but a picture of a bird.
It was the Yankee eagle, and says I, "Miss Donahue,
Our eagle's wings are large enough to shelter me and you."

posted by TSO @ 01:34

December 11, 2004

Grace Notes

Is there a more affecting Marian anthem than “Hail Holy Queen”? The first and third lines manifest the sobriety of the earthly Mary & Church; the second and fourth lines are a melting “O Maria” in four held notes, each moving down the scale. The melody of the first four lines suggests the Church Militant, determined and on the march, relentless, not sad though somber in that knowledge. Then in the next four lines the earthly mother of Sorrows is lifted up into Glory, into the ecstasy of Heaven, "Maria" traded for "Regina" presaging the Church's triumph:

Triumph, all ye cherubim,
sing with us, ye seraphim,
heaven and earth resound the hymn:
Salve, salve, salve Regina!

posted by TSO @ 22:23

December 10, 2004

Week in Review

The joy-inducing rituals are music, reading, prayerful prayer, a donut & coffee at my desk, spilt sun in the morn through a McDonald’s window, ingesting the serrated edge’d print of a good novel or tasting the other-scent of a good history book. I always think that I’ll sometime add “my wife’s work party” to the list but in practice it never happens that way. So small battles were won and lost without any sense that ground was gained, smelling of Vietnam.

I think part of the “trick” of suburban life is to use leisure time well. You have to read deeply and experience profound art in order to make the dullness of cocktail parties appealing. You are so deep into the novel that you welcome the banal. I think this is the general theory behind horror movies - you're just so damn glad to be alive afterwards.

Sometimes, though, I have my suspicions about art and architecture in the Christian world. I don’t like to have to lean on something that doesn’t necessary HAVE to be there, or could be taken away. Even the sacraments are optional in the sense that they are dependent on having a priest near or living in a country that doesn’t persecute the Faith. Of course, to deny yourself the goods and helps of art is to tempt God, and though He works outside the sacraments that is not a reason to devalue them.

Reading "Albion's Seed", about the Puritans, and how they often listened to five or six hours of sermons on Sundays, two or more hours in the morning, again in the afternoon and sometimes at night. The amazing thing about it is that they were in no way bored - to the contrary, they were on the edge of their seats. And Fischer says that this is because they were always on the edge salvation-wise, they were hungry to know "what must I do to be saved?".

SO what else? Just that Tom Wolfe says that novel-writing is glorified reporting. And he is so right. He said what most writers do is cannibalize their first 25 years of life and then their 2nd novel is about a writer who cannibalized his first 25 years of life and has nothing left to say.

posted by TSO @ 21:16

Serving All Your Schadenfreude Needs

Happened across an old film I liked titled My Night at Maud's which unfortunately prompted the '70s sitcom tune And then there's Maude! to endlessly re-play in my head.

posted by TSO @ 16:10

First Things

Interesting article by John Sisk:

That splendid poet Wallace Stevens had too much irony to harken to such enthralled simplifiers. Yet after World War II, when the times were clamorous with competing world-savers, he would sometimes wonder if he was sufficiently moved by the big, far-reaching issues. As his biographer Joan Richardson tells us, he once admitted in a letter to a friend that "I am, after all, more moved by the first sounds of the birds on my own street than by the death of a thousand penguins in Antarctica." This was a way of saying that charity begins at home-a heretical position for professional world-savers, who in the interest of the distant penguins will gladly sacrifice anyone's local birds, even at the risk of losing the penguins as well. Stevens' casual remark helps us see how crucial can be the difference between mere world-preservers and virtue-hounded world-savers.

posted by TSO @ 16:08

Christmas Friday Ten

1. Egg nog - yum or yuck? Yum

2. Stay up until midnight on New Years? Sometimes. Sometimes I TIVO it and watch the ball drop the next day. It loses something.

3. Prefer white or colored lights? Colored, especially blue.

4. Favorite holiday song. O Come, All Ye Faithful. Producing chills in me since pre-natal times.

5. What is your tackiest holiday decoration? I'm proud to say I have one of those singing mounted rainbow trout wall-hangings, complete with Santa hat. When you walk by it sings Jingle Bells. It quite possibly might be the tackiest thing ever invented and I'm fortunate to own one.

6. Do your kids have too much and you wonder just WHY you are getting more? Yes. Is this a trick question?

7. If you celebrate Christmas, when does your tree go up and come down? It goes up just after the start of Advent and it usually goes down New Year's Day-ish.

8. Christmas again - open presents on Christmas eve, morning, or other? evening of Christmas Eve.

9. Favorite holiday tradition? Listening to choir sing Handel's Messiah

10. What do YOU want for Christmas? My two front teeth.

Thanks to Peony for the link.

posted by TSO @ 10:17

Bishop Sheen

Yesterday was the anniversary of Fulton Sheen's death. He always wanted to die on a Marian feast day but there is some measure of answer to that prayer in dying on Juan Diego's feast, who received the great apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

How times change! Fifty years ago there was a priest on the cover of TV Guide.

posted by TSO @ 10:15

A Body of Work

Embarrased, he was,
at the trouble went for us-
the hippocampus neurons
of galaxical complexity
the ganglia participles
and membraned mitochondria
(feeling hypochondria?)

Two yards of skin
concealed ten thousand wars
for he was a pacifist if not by nature
his white blood cells refused
proffered white flags.

Two hundred pounds of flesh
enfolded ceaseless tasks--
the heart beats!
the blood makes rounds!
the lungs expand!
the food makes pounds!

Make use, Lord,
Make use!
Without you it is for naught.

posted by TSO @ 08:31

Iranians Reject Fahrenheit 9/11

Link here

Fandy stated that Iraqis who were familiar with the film found Moore’s portrayal of them to be exceedingly racist; he went on to say that Moore’s callousness to the plight of the Iraqi people and to the unbelievable human rights devastation in Iraq was outrageous.

posted by TSO @ 19:19

December 9, 2004

I Wait For.

Is that not beautiful? Found at Hernan Gonzalez's place.

While you're there check out this exquisite post, rich & allusive, interweaving poetry and pathos and the Christian paradox through the starkness of the distancing lens of Babelfish:

...that we had not the intelligence or talents that we suspected, that the years happened and we did not learn anything, that we did not have the mission that we believed, that we did not have any mission and that if we had it we spoiled it, and that to the aim of accounts —this now in Argentinean— "we did not win to Him anybody"...the failure, thus understood, with the humiliation that brings with himself, can be that coiris able to heal the eyes to us. And to recognize our indigencia, and to decide - prodigal children to us of which we have a Father who hopes to us. I say. I wait for.

posted by TSO @ 18:49

Of Doctors

It's fun to look behind the curtain sometimes and see the way the Other Half thinks - the "Other Half" meaning women. And I got a kick out of this post concerning what some look for in an OB.

My doctor has traditionally been the local emergency room. The theory is if you ain't dyin', then you don't need a general practictioner. But as I've aged I've begun to see the merit in having someone write a prescription for an antibiotic or allergy med. So I looked at area doctors and chose the first one who didn't have a full patient list. Now, this doc happens to be a woman and is, as the saying goes, easy on the eyes. But very modest. A Muslim. In fact, she seems so modest that I hope nothing goes awry "south of the border".

posted by TSO @ 18:46

Video Meliora's Prestigious & Highly To Be Coveted...

The Ten Most Fascinating
People of 2004

Barbara Walters latest list of "most fascinating people" is predictably lame so I decided to come up with an alternative list. My criteria for "fascinating" is: wisdom, a superlative knowledge of history, extremely well-read, possessing a measure of unpredictability, and personal holiness.

Naturally, all recipients of this prestigious award do not necessarily possess all of the traits that make them fascinating. But they have enough of each to make them exceptionally intriguing. Without further ado and in no particular order:

- Pope John Paul II

- Shelby Foote, novelist and Civil War historian, best friend of Walker Percy

- E. Michael Jones, professor & author of books such as "Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film". Not always convincing but very interesting.

- Fr. Benedict Groeschel - devout Franciscan friar and psychologist helps bridge science and religion

- John Updike

- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

- Joseph Pearce, former skinhead now a scholar and author of books on Chesterton & Tolkein.

- Amy Welborn, one of the Ur-bloggers, she combines a lively style with a strong knowledge of history and a fine taste in literature

- Jacques Barzun, cultural critic & author of bestseller "From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present"

- Msgr. Lane - nationally known speaker, pastor of my church.

- Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online

Honorable mentions go out to Randall Sullivan, spiritual seeker and author of "Miracle Detective", Pat Buchanan, Eve Tushnet, Regis Martin a professor at Franciscan U. ('don't call us "FU!"'), Scott Hahn, & David Lodge.

posted by TSO @ 13:16

Partying So You Don't Have To

Big work party last eve at a local swanky hotel, or "ho" as is commonly referred to by the project members. My wife's company is certainly generous with cash - there was a banquet buffet with shrimp, beef and turkey along with this big ass ice sculpture. Lots of fruits and and cheeses and the like. Did I mention the free beer & wine? No dark beers, but I enjoyed the Heinekens. Nice to drink a pilsner for a change, sort of like drinking a seven-up after a lot of coke and pepsi.

Later, a group of twelve of us went and set up shop around a round table in the lobby and played this word game they are fond of. It's like charades only you have to describe a word. The first time I played was at a party a few weeks ago and I froze on the word "wisdom". Instead of saying the obvious - i.e. "with age comes -------"? I said "this is if you're really smart, you have ----? It's also a book in the bible, the Old Testament..."

One gal asked my wife about this supposed book in the bible, and my wife had to explain it was only in the Catholic bible. No wonder people were struggling with my lame clue. I needed a Kreitzberg or Riddle in the audience.

posted by TSO @ 11:03

The "C" Word

One of the things that really rankles a friend of my wife's (who is of a Calvinist sect) is that the Christmas feast day has pagan roots. My wife's friend refuses to acknowledge the birth of Christ because we don't know the true date of His birth and because December 25th has been tainted by its early Babylonian bacchanal reputation.

But the real tragedy is the secularization of the sacred, not the other way around, and the lengths to which some will go to secularize is laughable. I recently saw a sign advertising a "WinterFest", which is almost oxymoronic. "Fest" means to celebrate, and how many really celebrate winter? Woohoo! Let's everybody freeze our arses off!

More to the point - as someone on O'Reilly's show said - "how can you celebrate the birthday of someone without mentioning Their name?" How indeed.

posted by TSO @ 09:23

Steroids & "The Situation"

It's interesting to note the parallels between the baseball steroids scandal and the Church scandal. While stratospherically different in terms of gravity, in both cases everyone knew what was going on and had plenty of time to correct it. With both, leadership (bishops & Selig) failed to take action, fearing bad publicity and falling revenues or donations. And with both, a critical mass was reached and the press lit the match that caused the tinder keg to explode. But in the aftermath of the explosion we will see few children - pray no children - abused by priests and fewer ballplayers cheating.

posted by TSO @ 09:22

God's in the Details

Nice remembrance of our retiring bishop. It struck me that something as small as kissing his parishioner's feet at the Holy Thursday Mass could resonate so strongly.

posted by TSO @ 09:20

The Siren of Comfort

Interesting Disputations post. Comfort is arguably the national drug. We make a comfortable living in order to lounge in a comfortable recliner after having eaten comfort foods. But it can feel too much like a kind Lorelei who waits at the shore.

Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewaltige Melodei.

posted by TSO @ 10:59

December 8, 2004

Various & Sundry

Madonna & Child on the feast of the Immaculate Conception and my wife's birthday.

Interesting Collected Miscellany post about Marilynne Robinson's Gilead.

"[A] man . . .the other day pointed out that I was never bored. I hadn’t thought of that before, but it’s true: I’m never bored. I’m appalled, horrified, angered, but never bored. The world appears to me so infinite in its variety that many lifetimes could not exhaust its interest. So long as you can still be surprised, you have something to be thankful for (that is one of the reasons why the false knowingness of street credibility is so destructive.)" -Theodore Dalrymple, via The Inn at the End of the World.

My mother gave me a copy of Andrew Greeley's Futhermore! a couple years ago, and I picked it up off the shelf after reading his Everything You Wanted to Know book. A quote: "Voltaire argued that humans create God in their own image and likeness. My theory would rephrase his epigram somewhat: humans create God in image and likeness of the goodness they encounter in their grace (or hope-renewal) experiences. Since the moments of grace seem like pure gift, one begins to postulate a giver. God is therefore the agent to whom humans assign responsibility for their experiences of hope renewal; God is the author of grace...In the Greek philosophical perspective which has shaped so much of Christian theology, God has to be invulnerable, immutable and utterly independent of his creatures. So, for all practical purposes, He cannot give a damn about our suffering. I am not a theologian but I cannot see how this component of traditional theology can be harmonized with the overwhelming data of revelation. Repeatedly in the Jewish Scriptures God complains that He is hurt because Israel has rejected His love...Certainly they are poetic images but poetry is the only way we can talk about God. Paul Murray, an Irish Dominican priest and poet, describes what God is like:"

He who brings the gifts we give
He who needs nothing
His need of us and...
If you or I should cease to be
He would die of sadness.

Bookslut discusses Nick Hornby's "The Polysyllabic Spree: A Hilarious and True Account of One Man's Struggle With the Monthly Tide of Books He's Bought and the Books He's Been Meaning to Read". If that wasn't the title it should've been.

More bloggy semi-goodness at Nigerian Scammer.

One Trojan Horse and a spyware to be named later, I think my 'puter is clean. Funny, I don't recall downloading anything.

posted by TSO @ 09:03

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

If there were no St. Francis, there would have been no Franciscans. If there had been no Franciscans, there would have been no William of Ockham. If there had been no Ockham, there'd have been no voluntarism/nominalism. If there had been no voluntarism/nominalism, then there'd have been no flawed manuals. - commenter David, jokingly blaming rules-based jesuitical manuals on St. Francis, on Disputations

I want to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, but if it involves even so much pain as a leg-waxing, I could do without it, thank you. Change me, but do it gently. Batter my heart three-personed God, but use nerf projectiles. - Steven Riddle, who has been working 14-16 hour days and so is exaggerating his pain intolerance.

Dawn Eden asked her readers to respond to a Swiss man's comment: "I'd really like to know why some Americans praise chastity and abstinence. Most Europeans think of sexuality as something natural, not as something that should be suppressed." Dennis Schenkel absolutely takes the cake, though: "Consider this: No Christian would go into the church building thinking, 'Hmm... I'm a little hungry... I'd like a snack... I'll bet the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle would be tasty with a little salsa...' That would be blasphemous even to think such a thing, much less to actually do it. In the same way, Christians hold sex to be so sacred that, far from suppressing it, they cherish it and reserve it for only the most intimate of covenant relationships, namely, marriage." - Julie of "sotto sotto"

There are essentially two kinds [of Muslims]: good Muslims who do their best to be orthodox and follow all the precepts of their faith (whether Sunni, Shiite, etc.), and bad Muslims who do not follow all Muslim precepts, but who instead seek some kind of accommodation with the larger world. No one has a quarrel with bad Muslims. It is the good Muslims that pose the problems. Like Communism, Catholicism and democracy, good Muslims have a consistent world-view. Like Communists, Catholics and Americans, good Muslims intend their version of the law to be the standard of law throughout the world and they work towards imposing it upon the world. Unfortunately, sharia, Muslim religious law, is not acceptable to Christian democracy. Sharia allows children to be whipped to death for breaking Ramadan fast, women to be beaten to death by their husbands for the smallest infraction, marriage by the age of six is alright, sex with a child of nine is fine, adoption is illegal, prostitution to service soldiers is legal, polygamy is acceptable, a husband can invoke divorce by simply by repeating the word "divorce" three times. Any group who intends to impose that kind of law on the rest of the world has to be stopped. - Steve of the Fifth Column

Ultra-conservative Catholics feel that you shouldn't decorate or start celebrating until Christmas Day....Instead, we've decided to simply look at it all from a slightly different angle: we decorate for Advent. In my mind, I have honestly begun to think of them as "Advent lights," and "Advent decorations," for to me, they are all about preparing my heart for the coming of Christ. I like to try to include the colour blue in our decorations (and our outside lights are all blue), because Advent is really the season of our Lady — she carries our Lord within her during this season, and if we want to look to him, we can only do that by looking to her. Blue isn't a traditional "Christmas colour," but as long as the colour blue is associated with our Lady, it truly should be considered an "Advent colour," at least. --Mecandes of "Mere Catholic"

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that evangelism is important -- but that doesn't mean arguing with people. Someone once said, "It is pointless to attempt to reason a man out of what he was never reasoned into." -commenter David on Fructus Ventris

When I was 13, Bono did not seem innocent to me at all. I was a kid and he was a grownup, and he sang things like "Sunday Bloody Sunday." But I can see now that the empathetic pain in a song like that is its own sort of innocence -- certainly more innocence than cynicism. It sort of reminds me of World Vision's line: "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." When your heart stops breaking is when you know you're in trouble. - Camassia

And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

--William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act V, via Flos Carmeli

The older I get, the broader my tastes are. I was horrified by the Infant of Prague (with all his changeable vestments) when I first became Catholic. In fact, the standing joke around here is that the Infant almost kept me from BEING Catholic at all. But now I think it was a pride thing. I was too snooty to be "taken in" by something so garish and awful. Now I am ashamed of myself. When I went to Rome, I purchased, ON PURPOSE, the most gaudy rosary I could find. Every decade is a different color (and I mean bright!) bead. I love it now. It is my touchstone for becoming more and more "like a child" to enter the kingdom. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

Teacher there are things that I don't want to learn - George Michael lyrics to "One More Try"

posted by TSO @ 09:37

December 7, 2004

Randomized Thoughts

Steven Riddle's recent thoughts about suffering prodded this: It has seemed to me that there are two phases in Christian development: 1) nourishment (i.e. the infant milk St. Paul writes of) and 2) the "spend it" phase. In the first phase, you are simply absorbing God and few demands are made on you, just as no demands are made on an infant suckling at his mother's breast. Phase Two means you become like Christ, and to become like Christ means to sacrifice and often suffer. Now in Phase Two there is nourishment, of course, so it's not like that ever ends. Prayer, or nourishment, is oxygen for the soul to quote St. Pio. But are there potential problems if someone who is in Phase Two wants to go back to Phase One, or someone in Phase One wants to anticipate Phase Two?

posted by TSO @ 09:09

You Knew I'd Have To Blog This...

"We are all poets, we all experience moments of grace, and we all have the capacity to incarnate them in metaphors. The demand that we be a great poet before we try to do so is an absurd constraint of the literary elite." - Andrew Greeley
I admit I am not without a dog in this fight. As a Larry's poet once intoned at an open mike night: "Bad Poetry / Aint kilt no one yet".

posted by TSO @ 18:07

December 6, 2004

Of Course...

Now I understand the politics of the stem cell issue better (proponents seemed slightly histrionic given that the ban did not apply to adult stem cells or to private/state funding). It looks like it's an abortion-issue Trojan horse. See here and here.

posted by TSO @ 16:56

Slice of Life

I feel a marginal sense of elation. What a fine weekend, especially Sunday. Sunday’s bough was so gentle and laid back, from the ebullient December-defying sun that made the glade walk a walk in the park, literally, to the fine-spun library quiet evening spent in the pages of Greeley’s nonfiction and listening to Tom Wolfe on Brian Lamb’s “In Depth” show.

Our dog loves the library; he loves to lie flat against the hardwood floor, his head nustled against the foothills of seven-foot bookcases. It’s incongruous, this big hundred pound mammal against a backdrop sea of books. “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” lay inches from his snout and, appropriately, “A Dog’s Life” at his tail. It’s odd to think that none of these mean anything to him, they are utterly and completely inaccessible.

A fine sense of completion in getting the Christmas tree up & the boxes put away. Disorder had reigned for almost a week as the tree waited coordination of schedules and became more of a process than an event. In “The Psychology of the Saints” Joly says that cleanliness is next to godliness for many saints; they liked to have things tidy. Perhaps that thirst for order as well as Divine Order. Went to my brother-in-law's choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Chills. They have voices pure as angel’s wings.

The holiday lights serve as a hedge against pre-solistice depressions. The Christmas season is a season of joy, of hope renewal. I used to wonder why this explosion of songs about Christmas, about the Incarnation, as compared to Easter which is arguably more theologically important (as St. Paul wrote, “if Christ did not rise your faith is in vain”). Some say it is because an infant is less threatening, would seem to make fewer demands on us than a Resurrected Christ, and that is extremely probable. But if the Resurrection shows God’s power, the Incarnation shows his love in His becoming a vulnerable infant for us.

posted by TSO @ 16:03


Everything You Wanted to Know About The Catholic Church But Were Too Pious To Ask is basically a 1978 "blog" by Andrew Greeley. It's a blend of bold assertions and sound-byte opinions. It's frank and interesting and I can see the appeal he has or once had for our blogger from the other side of the world.

He really doesn't sound so heterodox either, except on birth control and sexual issues. He calls liberation theology "bizarre" and parts with his friend Hans Kung on the infallibility question.

Other quotes:

"The pacifist position is beautiful in its logic, its neatness, and simplicity; but like all simple, logical, beautiful and neat moral stances, it does not take into sufficient account the complexities of the human condition. There are times, regrettably, when one must fight to defend those things and those persons which are critically important."
On free will:
"At one time Catholics seemed to think that virtually everything we did was a matter of free will choice, whereas non-Catholic intellectuals thought rather the opposite. There has been a gradual convergence in the two positions with Catholics recognizing that complete or even minimal freedom is absent from many human activities, and the agnostics grudgingly conceding in practice if not in theory that there may be such a thing as freedom of choice."

posted by TSO @ 09:55

Health Uber Alles

Sadly, one of my former colleagues is a confirmed atheist and very in-your-face about it. I recall he was particularly delighted when he learned about this study, which, as the link describes, turned out to be a hoax. He emailed the group and taunted Christians. For some reason he thought the study proved the religion wrong, as if physical health is the be all and end all.

So what is the religious point-of-view? (Plant tongue firmly in cheek.)

The religious liberal reacts to the news with, "well, then it must be okay to gaze at nipples!" and will incorporate a daily regimen just after meditation.

The religious conservative, for whom all pain is gain, is secretly delighted. "Give me physical ruin or give me death!" they say, Patrick Henry-ish. (Which is eventually obliged.)

But the orthodox looks at the merits and knows that you can't have a bad means to a good end.

posted by TSO @ 08:03

Notre Dame Coach

I don't follow ND football very closely, but I thought they set a precedent when they stuck with Gerry Faust through his five painfully lean years as head coach. So what's up with firing Willingham?

posted by TSO @ 11:54

December 5, 2004

Both Order And Creativity
-- or Mary as the Hierarchy Buster

Earthly hierarchies impose order at the potential price of a loss in flexibility. For example, large corporations often have more order than creativity.

But in the Divine Hierarchy there is order without rigidity (except, of course, in the rightful Headship) and I think the Marian dimension shows a mischieveous display of creativity, even a bit of the Divine sense of humor. For even though an angel of the lowest order is superior to the highest human and even though the orders of angels culiminate with the seraphim (meaning literally "firey ones" due to their proximity to God's love), you have a human, the fairest of our race, as Queen of the angels. A weekly refrain from the Byzantine Catholic rite:

Dostoyno yest

It is truly proper to glorify you, who have borne God, the ever-blessed, immaculate and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorius than the Seraphim, who a virgin, gave birth to God the Word; you, truly the Mother of God, we magnify.

posted by TSO @ 11:39

News You Can Use

My company loves me this I know / for their emails tell me so. Here are the latest suggestions on how to get thru the holidays via a corporate email:

Ice and shoe leather don't mix! Some of the most serious injuries are caused by slipping on ice.

Shoveling snow is very taxing on your body. Go slow or, better yet, hire the kid next door!

Party responsibly. Please don't drink and drive. And don't let others drive while intoxicated either.

Make sure your car is serviced and the gas tank is always at least one-quarter full.
In summary, "don't drink while shoveling snow in leather shoes without much gas."

posted by TSO @ 23:15

December 3, 2004

Ask & You Shall Receive

I'd been curious about the Augustine/Aquinas divide and I'm at the library tonight and they always have twenty or thirty discarded books (usually of pretty weak quality) for sale for $1, and lo & behold I find Everything You Wanted to Know About the Catholic Church But Were Too Pious to Ask by the controversial Andrew Greeley. And what do my wandering eyes quickly find? This:

As Aquinas is the Catholic Realist, Augustine is the Catholic Idealist. In many respects the Reformation was an Augustinian revolt against the Aristoltelian Middle Ages, a revolt of the dialectical, pessimistic disciples of Augustine against the organic, ontological, relatively optimistic disciplines of Aquinas. The fundamental challenge of Christian theology since the 13th century has been not so much creating a synthesis between Augustine and Aquinas as learning how to maintain the two major streams of Christian philosophical thinking in relative harmony with one another. One can see such a conflict going on everywhere when one is sensitized to it.

posted by TSO @ 20:17

The Tom Wolfe Novel

I'm relishing all the Tom Wolfe reviews out, like Derbyshire's and especially this from Joseph Bottum comparing Wolfe (somewhat unfavorably) to Dickens:

But there's another thing necessary to make a novel--a kind of presence that haunts the text and draws it together at a level deeper than plot. I don't know how to define it, but look: Take the paragraph in the first chapter of Dickens's David Copperfield, when the caul in which David was born is sold off at a church raffle as an infallible charm against drowning. I'd bet a fortune that Dickens didn't plan anything with this incident. For that matter, we have his working notes for the novel, and we know he didn't mean it. He was frantically scribbling to meet his deadlines for the serialized text, and he threw in the scene to fill up a paragraph and make a weak joke about the purchaser, an old lady who died triumphantly undrowned in her bed, though she never got closer to open water than crossing a bridge.

And yet, there it was, a detail stranded in chapter one, and Dickens, the greatest unconscious novelist of the English language, could feel it, somehow, haunting his story. Why is it no surprise that the church at David's wedding, forty chapters later, is inexplicably filled with sailors? Why is it no coincidence that David ends up practicing law in one of those bizarre English inns of court whose jurisdiction is nautical and ecclesiastical matters? And when, at the novel's climax, David finds the ruined Steerforth "drown-dead" on the beach with his failed rescuer Ham, like lost sons of Noah, we feel the deep currents of fiction, pulling the ark of the story out onto a theological sea.

posted by TSO @ 08:50

Passionate Writing

Catlick screenwriter Karen Hall advises to "write your passion". She doesn't say "write what you know" or "write for the market". The key is passion. (Sing the Flashdance theme song as musical accompaniment to this post.)

Her comments really reasonated with me. I think good writing is like sexual intercourse: unselfconscious, pell-mell and potentially embarrassing afterwards. The words hurry across the page with a sort of purposeful thoughtlessness seeking some metaphorical egg.

I'm thinking of this because Ham of Bone recently fingered the following 'graph as his favorite passage of my stories - something I recall writing so quickly that I feared any pause would end it:

Later in the week we visited a nearby beach. Mirage-like it floats into my consciousness; here I am endorphined on Bowman's beach with a houseboat sitting big as life just offshore, some fellow alone with the golden sunlight split between the rudders. He fishes in the reflected glory of God's creation, putting out in the great seventy-five percent of the earth. Worries there dissolve like seltzers, cast like dead mollusks on the shoreline, gleaming gleams of embarrassed delight, embarrassed that worries ever saw the light of day. Oh sailor man, in your life well traveled, what did you catch today? What briny fish of unblinking eye hath caught your eye?
Ham's sugary words concerning this passage are probably aimed at getting me to co-write a novel with him. It's tempting - he says he'll even provide the plot. But doesn't the plot have to be something you feel passionate about? Though it's probably a wasteful exercise, I do like writing when it's orgasmic. Who wouldn't?

This Just In: Having besmirched Ham's good (pen) name, I'll make amends with his email'd response: "I didn't say those flowery things about your writing to bribe thee...thou knowest it to be true, your feelings...".

posted by TSO @ 06:45


My wife's family always uses the phrase "pregnant for" instead of "pregnant with" as in "when I was pregnant for Matthew...".

Google says 855 results for "pregnant with possibility" and a big zero for "pregnant for possibility" so it would seem the preposition with normally follows pregnant, as least in that context (doing a search simply on "pregnant for" brings up a lot of results like "pregnant for 28 weeks", which is obviously not what I was looking for).

The word "with" suggests a kind of teamwork going on, mother and baby. Pregnant for suggests that the mother is pretty much carrying the load, pun intended. And since the baby's job is basically to relax and soak up nourishment, it does seem like the mother's pregnancy is doing something expressly for the baby. The baby has to/should cooperate at the penultimate moment - i.e. during delivery.

posted by TSO @ 15:52

December 2, 2004

Peggy Noonan on Nixon & Rather

What is especially interesting is how the road to ruin is so often caring too much about what others think of us:

I think the bitterness of Nixon's presidential years, the personal darkness he seemed to display, was in part a product of simple human pain, and the pain was the result of this: He had been right and brave and done the right thing in the 1950s, and the American left and its cousin the American establishment would never forgive him for it. And he couldn't stop wanting their approval...

Ultimately this is what I think was true about Dan and his career. It's not very nice but I think it is true. He was a young, modestly educated Texas boy from nowhere, with no connections and a humble background. He had great gifts, though: physical strength, attractiveness, ambition, commitment and drive. He wanted to be a star. He was willing to learn and willing to pay his dues. He covered hurricanes and demonstrations, and when they got him to New York they let him know, as only an establishment can, what was the right way to think, the intelligent enlightened way, the Eastern way, the Ivy League way, the Murrow School of Social Justice way. They let him know his simple Texan American assumptions were not so much wrong as not fully thought through, not fully nuanced, not fully appreciative of the multilayered nature of international political realities. He swallowed it whole.

posted by TSO @ 10:26

Microsoft Offers Blogs!

Jeff Miller has the goods on it.

posted by TSO @ 09:48

Jeff Culbreath's neck of the woods

"Land spreadin' out so far & wide,
Keep Manhattan just give me that countryside"

This smacks of Ireland, what with the farmland surrounded by patchwork foothills. Ohio has a nice variety of natural beauty too. The west central part of the state has farmland and the south east is a "little West Virginia" of Appalachian hills covered in forest. My grandmother was born in western Ohio and still refers to it as "God's country". I don't know, it's hard not to see the North Carolina mountains ("from whence cometh my strength") given that appellation. And in Texas they think God not only blessed it but has a ranch there!

posted by TSO @ 09:01

Site Meter Comedy

Camassia has a hilarious post answering search engine requests. Here are some of mine:

"In human affairs whatever is against reason is a sin. Now it is against reason for a man to be
...a Bengal's fan

shrek2's far far away idol a golden donkey

kneau reeves salary for matrix's a secret. (a Gnostic joke).

posted by TSO @ 13:40

December 1, 2004

Bishop Sheen

Bishop Sheen divided Catholics into Thomists or Augustinians, saying both were fine.

What interests me especially is:

Is there an "Augustinian cast of mind" and a Thomist cast of mind? Is the differing cast of a mind a limitation we should seek to remedy or part of the intentional diversity & glory of creation?

posted by TSO @ 13:32

Math, Art, Justice & Mercy

Grace, we know, does not obliterate nature but perfects it. Thus St. Thomas Aquinas was never going to be a St. Francis. The native gifts each had were not removed upon conversion and substituted with something else. Given that assumption I'm pondering the claim that saints come in basically two varieties. To grossly simplify things - for that's what blogs are for -

if you are left-brained, cooly rational and mathematically-inclined you will like:

St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Jerome
St. Dominic

If you are right-brained, artistic, romantic you will like:

St. Francis
St. Therese of the Litte Flower
St. Augustine
Hans von Balthasar

NOTE: This is only my perception of the popular perception of these saints, not the reality, since most saints cannot be put into boxes.

The justice & mercy attributes ought to be fleshed out a bit. One of the characteristics of those who have a left-brain emphasis is that they can often arrive at solutions to problems through rationally trying all alternatives. That is why computers are good at chess but not novel-writing: they can, by their own power, computationally exercise all options and choose the best. Artists and writers, by contrast, speak so often of "inspiration" and of "being a conduit" that it's almost a cliche. You hear of "writer's block" but rarely of "mathematician's block".

Now that's not to say that inspiration isn't required in math. Einstein obviously wasn't just a pretty face rationally-speaking but also extremely creative in thinking outside the box. But for those with more prosaic gifts the mediocre math major might think a solution is something they come up, whereas those with mediocre skills in art tend to think that their notion of a solution - i.e. beauty -is something given to them, if given at all.

So, the proposal here is that if you tend to see success come through your personal effort, you will emphasize justice. If you tend to see success come through something outside of you - even, say luck? - you will emphasize mercy.

This is shown somewhat in gender. To play in gross generalizations, men tend to be better at math and more coldly rationalistic. They vote conservative. They like justice (look at the popularity of Westerns). Women tend to be more Beethoven than Mozart. They vote more liberal. They are more interested in love and the personal (look at the popularity of chick flicks).

But did we not also see this played out on a grand scale in Western Civilization? During the 17th & 18th centuries Deism and Jansenism were popular, which viewed God as either a watchmaker who simply set things in motion and then let things go without intervention or as the harsh Judge. It was an era of science, and there is precious little mercy in this conception. The reaction came swift in the artistic Romantic era, surely an overreaction, but by the 19th century sentiment and warmth were king. One need only look at the art produced - Bouguereau's angels were anything but Deist or Jansenist.

Though what is a seeming harsh solution for the City of Man - justice in order to keep society running (i.e. we jail criminals, sometimes for life) - is perhaps too often seen as the antidote for the City of God, even though God's Mercy is what makes Him different, the literal meaning of Holy.

What of those who have a foot in both camps, who have both right-brain and left-brain tendencies? I think it makes for some unpredictability and a lot of fence-sitting. Steven Riddle maybe?

Update: excellent point from Steven Riddle:

Human beings are not remarkably integrated creatures, I do think each person has marked tendencies in one direction or another [justice or mercy]. Mine, as you have noted does tend to overemphasize mercy, while not discounting justice. This, I think, is because I rely upon my vision of that Mercy to sustain any hope whatsoever. If I truly got what I have merited, I would be in a very sorry place.
Update 2: and another from Neil:
I wonder if I can reframe this discussion, though. I want to look at a distinction that the (then) Dominican Otto Hermann Pesch made between Luther and Aquinas...The Lutheran ecumenist Michael Root has nicely summarized Pesch's distinction - "Luther speaks out the situation of the justified sinner, standing before the judgment and mercy of God," while, for Aquinas, "The self which speaks in theology, however, is the self which is caught up beyond itself into the wisdom fo God and so is able to speak of the divine order, the causes, by which all things are." Naturally, then, we tend to place St Thomas in the "justice" category and Luther is definitely in the "mercy" category. But this might really be because of their difference in perspective - Luther speaks as the justified sinner, St Thomas speaks as the self participating in divine wisdom. A matter, we might want to say, borrowing the language of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, of "language, theological elaboration, and emphasis."

posted by TSO @ 07:04

Orthodox Jews...

...are unfairly depicted reports Wendy Shalit:

Authors who have renounced Orthodox Judaism -- or those who were never really exposed to it to begin with -- have often portrayed deeply observant Jews in an unflattering or ridiculous light. Admittedly, some of this has produced first-rate literature or, at the least, great entertainment, but it has left many people thinking traditional Jews actually live like Tevye in the musical ''Fiddler on the Roof'' or, at the opposite extreme, like the violent, vicious rabbi in Henry Roth's novel ''Call It Sleep.'' Not long ago, I did too.

At 21, I was on the outside looking in, on my first trip to Israel with a friend who was, like me, a Reform Jew. One day, we wandered into a religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, and suddenly there were black hats and side curls everywhere. My friend pointed out a group of men wearing odd fur hats. ''Those,'' he explained, ''are the really mean ones.'' I never questioned our snap judgment of these people until, a few years later, I returned to study at an all-girls seminary and was surprised to discover that my teachers, whom I adored, were men and women from this same community.

Passing the Baton

Saw on IMUS a bit of the Oscars where Jamie Foxx spoke about meeting Sidney Poitier when he was younger...What transpired was something like a secular Holy Orders, or secular sacrament of Confirmation. Sidney said he saw something in Foxx and told him: "I give you responsibility".

posted by TSO @ 13:56

February 28, 2005

Award-winning Hopelessness

Thomas Hibbs in NRO discusses Clint Eastwood's nihilistic Million Dollar Baby.

posted by TSO @ 13:44


Five for Roz:
1) Why "deepyogrt"?
2) You are a fan of the Detroit Tigers, a team skippered by the great Sparky Anderson for many years. Did the strike of '94 affect your support of major league baseball?
3) As a management consultent who has an MBA & reads Harvard Business Review, can you shed light on how the modern corporation can infuse a sense of mission in their employees when profit appears to be the only thing that matters? Or is that a responsibility of the employee?
4) How did you find your way back to the Catholic faith?
5) Do your children read your blog and if so does it affect what or how you blog?

Bill Luse of Apologia is understandably crestfallen at not having been asked to be interviewed. (Has the Apologia fan club weakened in support?) Fortunately I do have some questions for him:

1) How are kids different today from when you started teaching?
2) You live in Florida, your daughter went to Ole Miss. Are you really Suthern, or a relatively recent transplant?
3) You seem to have had "a past" like many of us. How did you get out of the pattern of lust?
4) What are the three most influential books (other than the bible) that you've read?
5) Is Bernadette more like her mother or more like her father?

Five for Smock:
1) Do you have a favorite bible verse that isn't instantly familiar (like John 3:16)?
2) What would you like your tombstone to say, and will it be all lowercase *grin*?
3) Why "smock", mama?
4) As a fellow Florence King fan, you appreciate her humorous view of Southern womanhood. Is Southern culture now defunct due to urbanization, migration & cable TV?
5) How did you meet your hubby?

posted by TSO @ 13:41

Winter & Her Malcontents

If winter has seemed mythically long this year it's probably only a measure of the lack of time I've spent outdoors standing against the inclemency with the attitude Bobby Knight espouses, i.e. to "enjoy it".

Or perhaps the opposite tack is in order, recommended by Meister Eckhardt scholar John O'Donohue in Anam Cara:

“In wintertime, nature withdraws. A tree loses all its leaves and retires inward. When it is wintertime in your life, you are going thru pain, difficulty or turbulence. At such times it is wise to follow the instinct of nature and withdraw into yourself. You have to lie low and shelter until this bleak, emptying time passes on . This is nature’s remedy. It minds istelf in hibernation. “

posted by TSO @ 12:36

Last Week in the Rearview

Watched the Bill Murray movie “Rushmore”, which really wasn’t all that funny. It strains credibility that a director decided to cast Murray in a comedy while making him the straight man. Seriously he had no funny lines. The funny guy was a 22-year old playing a 15-year old (who happened to have a 14-year old pal played by a 7-year old).

I read way too much this week. I got pachydermed by print, waylaid by words, festooned by fustians. Some endless New Yorker fictional piece by a fictional Bosnian poet. It all led to an overwhelming desire to drink Waylon Jennings Beer and listen to St. Pauli Girl’s “Good-hearted Woman”. I was more than ready for weekened.

Steph is sick and the winter feels claustrophobic. Oh for the memory of Thompson’s Water Seal on the wood swing back in the summer. It feels a million years ago already. Or reading Fischer’s history of New England folkways on the front porch. Or running in the Labor Day rainstorm.

The most enjoyable reading was a pleasant couple o' hours yesterday with William F. Buckley's "Getting it Right", a novel about the tensions between the Birchers and Randians in the early conservative movement.

Novels like his are a tonic to deeper stuff (which tends to be depressing), or the lighter stuff (which tends to be overly peppered with forced jovialities).

posted by TSO @ 12:27

What's Right with Kansas

posted by TSO @ 08:15

February 27, 2005

Random Observations

1950s...Holiday Inn....1990s...Comfort Inn.

Of the construction sign "Slow Down, My Daddy Works Here". A subtle suggestion appealing to the notion that not all human life is of equal worth?

If Moses prefigured Jesus but was greatly overshadowed by Him, then the same can be expected of Christ's Baptism compared to circumcision and Christ's Eucharist compared to the manna the Israelites received.

Update: Roz of In Dwelling makes an excellent point... I was thinking the construction signs were there reminding us that not all construction workers are young singles (which I was one till the relatively late age of 36), but Roz expains:

I think it's a good thing to break into our "people are interchangable parts" mentality with a reminder that those machines by the side of the road are piloted by genuine people who love, marry, worship, sin, go bowling, and mean something special. I like it a lot better than the "Fines Doubled in Construction Zones" sign, as if all that would appeal to us is preserving our pocketbooks.

posted by TSO @ 22:04

February 26, 2005

Interview of a Blogger

Elena asked me some questions. I'm relieved there were no truth-or-dare type questions. My golf handicap remains a secret.

1. You've been blogging since 2001. That's a long time. How did you get started and why?

That is a long time. I got started this way: I was regularly checking out Amy Welborn's old website, which I had gotten from reading Our Sunday Visitor, when one day she linked to something she called a blog. I emailed her and asked what a blog was and the concept immediately appealed to me since it required no start-up costs or subject discipline. My love of writing combined with an exhibitionist streak makes blogging a good fit.

2. How many books do you think you currently own and what areas of interest do they cover.

Roughly 3,000, which is far less than a serious bibliophile like Steve Riddle. Mainly history, biography, religion, Irish interest, sports and fiction.

3. Do you ever get rid of books and is that hard for you to do?

I just threw out a few books the other day and it was very hard, though I think I can live without Ralph Martin's Charles & Diana . I don't know how I got that one. Many others have been demoted to the basement. In a few years I'll probably have to start throwing away a book for every one I buy.

4. Does your family read a lot too and do you ever read as a family.

My wife rarely reads (opposites attract I guess) but my stepson has caught the bug. He's currently reading The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich. We don't read as a family though.

5. When a movie is coming out based on a book, do you read the book first? See the movie first? or just read the book and skip the movie... and why?

I always prefer to read the book first, although with LOTR I made a concession since it's unlikely I'd read the whole trilogy before 2040. I have low expectations of movies made from books so I'm rarely disappointed. Cold Mountain was a recent example. I liked the book much better than the movie but I liked the movie better than if I hadn't read the book.
If anyone would like me to interview them let me know!

posted by TSO @ 21:17

~ Links ~

Byzantine Catholic Daily Prayer and Lectionary

Easy way to email Judge Greer on Terri's behalf.

Jonah Goldberg wonders how gays would view abortion if a "gay gene" were discovered.

Did the Jews reject Jesus? Interesting Richard John Neuhaus review of David Klinghoffer’s "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus":

The very title of the book, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, is highly problematic. Scholars generally agree that in the first century there were approximately six million Jews in the Roman Empire (for some reason, Klinghoffer says five million). That was about one tenth of the entire population. About one million were in Palestine, including today’s State of Israel, while those in the diaspora were very much part of the establishment in cities such as Alexandria and Constantinople. At one point Klinghoffer acknowledges that, during the life of Jesus, only a minuscule minority of Jews either accepted or rejected Jesus, for the simple reason that most Jews had not heard of him. Some scholars have noted that, by the fourth or fifth century, there were only a few hundred thousand, at most a million, people who identified themselves as Jews. What happened to the millions of others? The most likely answer, it is suggested, is that they became Christians. What if the great majority of Jews did not reject Jesus? That throws into question both the title of the book and Klinghoffer’s central thesis. The question can be avoided only by the definitional legerdemain of counting as Jews only those who rejected Jesus and continued to ally themselves with rabbinical Judaism’s account of the history of Israel.
A Different Kind of Conversion Story

Modern theology is profoundly corruptive. The light of Christ must come from outside, through the concrete reality of the Scriptures as embodied in the life of the Church...In order to escape the insanity of my slide into self-guidance, I put myself up for reception into the Catholic Church as one might put oneself up for adoption. A man can no more guide his spiritual life by his own ideas than a child can raise himself on the strength of his native potential.

Stories of conversion to the Catholic Church can be rather tediously joyous. One might wish for some variety in such stories, perhaps something along the lines of Winston Churchill’s observation that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” But such variety as there is in conversion stories would seem to rest on the different ways in which converts describe a newly found bounty. For me, the gain was fairly simple.

A Pentecostal friend asked me, “So, what did it feel like to become a Catholic?” I told him, “It felt like being submerged into the ocean.”...The ocean needs no justification. It needs no theory to support the movement of its tides. In the end, as an Episcopalian I needed a theory to stay put, and I came to realize that a theory is a thin thread easily broken. The Catholic Church needs no theories. She is the mother of theologies; she does not need to be propped up by theologies. As Newman put it in one of his Anglican essays, “the Church of Rome preoccupies the ground.” She is a given, a primary substance within the economy of denominationalism. One could rightly say that I became a Catholic by default, and that possibility is the simple gift I received from the Catholic Church.

posted by TSO @ 14:13

February 25, 2005

Pope's Lenten Message:

What would happen if the People of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness? Instead, how different the community would be, if, beginning with the family, it tries always to remain open and welcoming towards them.

Dear brothers and sisters, during Lent, aided by the Word of God, let us reflect upon how important it is that each community accompany with loving understanding those who grow old. Moreover, one must become accustomed to thinking confidently about the mystery of death, so that the definitive encounter with God occur in a climate of interior peace, in the awareness that He "who knit me in my mother's womb” (cf. Psalm 139:13b) and who willed us "in his image and likeness" (cf. Gen. 1:26) will receive us.

posted by TSO @ 14:08

Let's play...

Why's My Bookbag So Heavy?

This is an irregular blog feature that serves as a sort of space filler, like Hal Gurney's Network Time Killer (an old David Letterman segment if you're under 30).

Been reading Christopher Hitchen's "Love, Poverty & War". The guy is flat-out interesting and can flat-out write though obviously his religious views are repugnant. The essays on Waugh & Greene especially caught my undivided attention, though like cream filling they serve the palate more than the gullet.

McDermott's "Charles Carrol of Carrollton" is really good. This biography of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence fills in some areas of U.S. history that for me had been spotty.

Been also dipping into Webb's "Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America" and Kathy Shaidle's "Catholic Alphabet" (as a side note, Kathy remarks how during one period in Church history the Eucharist was so fervently believed to be the Real Presence that priests were bribed to hold the Host up longer after the consecration).

Also been getting back into Paul Elie's "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", a biography of literate types Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Dorothy Day & Thomas Merton. It's one of the books I'm about half-way through but deserves to have been read by now - beautiful prose about four beautiful human beings.

Finally, there's Brian Lamb's "Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites". Brian Lamb must be a soul-brother since I share his sort of morbid interest in last words and tombstones. Richard Norton Smith writes of George Washington's last moments:

As thoughtful as he was organized, several times Washington apologized for the trouble he was causing. Lear, fighting back tears, said he only hoped to allieviate his friend's suffering.

"Well," replied Washington, "it is a debt we must pay to each other, and I hope when you want aid of this kind you will find it."

posted by TSO @ 13:23

On a Personal Note...

Dawn Eden of The Dawn Patrol thoughtfully sent a thank you for her inclusion in STG. I was touched because her blog is (deservedly) higher up the food chain; you won't see any bad poetry or navel-gazing there. *grin.* But no thank you's are needed. They are not, or ought not, be why I do STG.

posted by TSO @ 13:09

Fasting and its (dis?)contents

It seems to me fasting leads to more prayer because inspiration is required to survive it!

The other good thing about fasting is you don’t have time to ponder your general lack of usefulness. When you’re hungry you’re content just to get thru the day.

posted by TSO @ 12:29

Most Catholic & Least Catholic Movies:

"The Passion of the Christ" received more votes from readers than the next three films on the list combined: 1965's "The Sound of Music," 1966's "A Man for All Seasons" and 1943's "The Song of Bernadette." Rounding out the 10 most pro-Catholic movies were 1946's "It's a Wonderful Life," 1956's "The Ten Commandments," the 1983 made-for-TV movie "The Scarlet and the Black," the 1977 TV miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth," 1993's "Schindler's List," and 1945's "The Bells of St. Mary's."
TPOTC, Schindler's List, The Song of Bernadette, The Sound of Music, A Man for All Seasons, and Jesus of Nazareth are top notch. I've never seen The Ten Commandments or The Scarlet and the Black. The Bells of St. Mary's, It's a Wonderful Life are okay.
On the anti-Catholic list, with one exception, the worst films were the most recent. Following 2003's "The Order" were 2002's "The Magdalene Sisters" (released last year in the United States); the 2001 cable television production "Sister Mary Explains It All"; 2000's "Chocolat"; 1999's "Stigmata" and "Dogma"; 1998's "Elizabeth"; 1988's "The Last Temptation of Christ"; 1994's "Priest"; and 1985's "Agnes of God."
I was aware of these being anti-Catholic so I didn't waste my time or money on any of them. I already KNOW what the world thinks so I don't think I'm missed much. Meanwhile there's a Corner post on the hateful "Million Dollar Baby" here.

posted by TSO @ 12:09

February 24, 2005

What He Said

WFB said that he'd rather be ruled by the first fifty people in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. And I'm beginning to think I'd rather be ruled by the first fifty people in a phone book than by the courts, since the courts are better at protecting snail darters than human life.

The Terri Schiavo case seems less a "Right to Die" case than a "Right Not to be Inconvenienced" case... Mark of Irish Elk has an excellent post on the subject.

Speaking of courts, I'm reading a biography of Charles Carrol, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Carrol, like Adams, was a big fan of Montesquieu, who died in the Catholic faith. An excerpt:

Montesquieu was the great theorist of mixed government. He called a mixed constitution of checks and balances "a master-peice of legislation"...But who would safeguard the principles of subsidiarity and hiearchy in Montesquieu's mixed government? Evidently not the judiciary, which the Baron called "next to nothing" in his scheme. A judge must rule according to the "exact letter of the law," rather than enforcing his "private opinion."
Legislatures ought to have more spine and quit kneeling before activist judges. An example of this is in Ohio where the Ohio Supreme Court held the school funding system (via property taxes) unconstitutional. Over a decade the legislature simply refused to comply and a couple years ago the Court gave up. I don't think the founders ever conceived of how "legislative" the courts would become, primarily where moral issues are concerned.

Montesquieu saw the Senate as the check on the "mob" instinct of the House of Representatives. He certainly didn't see the judiciary - unelected, unaccountable men and women who are no more wise than you or I - as determining the morality of controversial social issues.

posted by TSO @ 12:02


Thomas Jefferson famously removed what he didn't like from the New Testament making what is referred to as the "Jefferson bible". I wouldn't want to eliminate anything but I'd sure like to suture togther a favorite version of the Scripture.

My current read is the New Jerusalem version but it let me down royally. I adore the verse Psalm 22:24, which the RSV has - "For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted." That reminds me not to look at my own spiritual disfigurement - or that of others - with hatred. It also teaches not to look away from those who have terrible physical afflictions like AIDS or leprosy.

And what of the NJB? It totally destroys the verse by saying something like (I don't have it with me now) "he will not look with disfavor on the poor". Good grief. Now I'm wondering if my "favorite version" is really so. Guess I'd have to look at each and every verse of the whole bible to determine that.

posted by TSO @ 12:01

Claire Barshied on How a Book Taught Her to Reimagine Sex (via Jeff Miller):

Then I read Being Human, a 600-page anthology of literature released by the President’s Council on Bioethics. What guidance could stories and poems offer on cloning and stem-cell research? In the book’s introduction, the council’s chairman, Leon Kass, explained that bioethics as currently conceived by professional bioethicists is much too narrow. It emphasizes what is technologically feasible, securing patient consent, ensuring access to care regardless of income, and so on, but ignores “the full range of human goods that we should be trying to promote or protect.”

Guarding that fuller range of goods requires a better grasp of what it means to be human and what good things humans prize. Our best sources on these questions are not scientists, but the writers and thinkers of the aptly named humanities. They are not everything, of course—who would entrust national science policy to John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates?—but perhaps they can point the way to deeper understandings of our nature.

Being Human's editors hope that reading great literature can make bioethical arguments accessible.

posted by TSO @ 14:14

February 23, 2005

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me. - title of Terri Schiavo post, and verse from the Psalms, at "The Inn at the End of the World"

As far as Madonna's Kabbalah goes, it's a heresy, like other New Age superstitions, and I hope it'll fade from public view as did the Beatles' Maharishi, Pete Townshend's Sai Baba, and Hillary Clinton's Marianne Williamson. - Dawn Eden of "The Dawn Patrol"

By the end of the day I have convinced myself that I am really the next Joan of Arc, only worse, because instead of being burned at the stake, I am being nibbled to death by ducks. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

Sometimes you find inspiration in the oddest of places.....Jeff Foxworthy describes being a redneck as: "A glorious absence of sophistication". Indeed, and while that is really funny, I think it is fitting for me on many levels. I was listening to the radio Saturday and a represenative from Dale Earnhardt Industries was talking to a reporter about the candle light vigil coming up that evening to remember Dale Earnhardt Sr. Now I'm not a Nascar fan in the slightest, but I live near Lowes Motor Speedway, and when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died, everyone here felt it one way or the other...The representative was commenting on how much it meant to have all the fans of "The Intimidator" there with the family, and he said: "When you take the pain & split it down the middle, it dont hurt near as much". Now on a grammatical level that is absolutely atrocious, but on a base level, it's absolutely beautiful. It actually reminds me of the Mass.We stand there, a room full of sinners,heads bowed begging our Lord for forgiveness, and we humbly ask each other to pray for our very salvation. We are united, we are one, and the doubt, the guilt, the anger, the frustration goes away, and "it dont hurt near as much". - Steve of November Song

My life is so trivial sometimes I just disgust myself. - Peony of "Two Sleepy Mommies". I know what you mean Peony

Those who are young, who were born after Roe vs. Wade, after Griswold vs. Connecticut, after Ashcroft vs. Planned Parenthood, may not be aware that the primary motivation in these decisions was a compassion for women (and men) in difficult circumstances. "Hard cases make bad law" is a truism, but one that does apply. Satan does not usually appear to us as the horned devil, but rather as a more appealing and seductive Lucifer. When we bait a trap for pests, we do not use bitter foods, instead we use attractive foods and conceal the poison within. The Father of Lies tells us that we are being compassionate when we commit euthanasia, whether that euthanasia is in the first weeks after conception or decades after birth. Hospice has become a standard of care for dying born persons. Perinatal hospice is an option for the dying unborn. But a misguided compassion often leads those who should know better to offer early termination of the pregnancy - a procedure that goes by the clumsy acronym of EIFWAIL...Our Sunday Visitor was sufficiently concerned about this to research and write an extensive article on the topic, which I encourage all of you to read. But let me quote Dr. Hilgers from the article: "frank words for Catholics who try to protect other Catholics from necessary suffering: "This is Christianity with an epidural block." - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

I hate to beat a dead horse, but this is where understanding that the church IS a an actual, metaphysical family is key to understanding the Pope's handling of this situation. As a counselor and social worker, I can tell you it is always better to try to do whatever is possible to make the natural family work than it is to break the family up. For good or ill, I believe the Holy Father sees each diocese as a branch of the larger Catholic family tree, and the Bishop is the Patriarch (in the family sense) of the households (parishes) contained in that branch of the family LITERALLY. When a family has problems, even very serious problems, having great-grandfather (the Pope) forcibly move "grandfather" (the bishop) to Siberia is the absolute, dead, last option...That doesn't mean he isn't interested or that he is unaware, or that he won't step in when necessary. It just means he wants to let his children struggle through the messes they made in order to grow in age, wisdom and grace--and for the ultimate, greater good of the entire family. BTW, I am NOT offering this analogy as a defense of the way the Holy Father has or has not handled this. Rather, I am suggesting that this explanation, rooted in his rather extensive writings on family life, is his rationale for handling things the way he has. You of course are free to agree or disagree with the model, but I suggest that it is a more likely explanation than either the "He doesn't care" "He's too out of touch" and/or the "He's too addled to get it" explanations which strike me as rather hamfisted ways to describe the actions of a Pope who even now has a very subtle and reasonable mind. - Greg Popchak

as memory serves, my girlhood pretty much sucked, but the day my third grade teacher, mrs. ewing, presented me with the "most loving" award was pretty cool. i asked her if i could go home with her and she just laughed this beautiful laugh. i wonder to this day if she had any idea that my request was sincere. - smock's response to question "What is the happiest memory of your girlhood?"

Our Sister lived humbly and quietly in her community, combining a prayerful-contemplative life with an intense letter-writing ministry, with which she comforted distressed people, replied to VIPs, encouraged her readers to believe and trust in God, always zealous in her devotion to Mary...The message of Fatima is simple and straightforward: prayer, penance, consecration to the immaculate heart of Mary. - text of Sr Lucia's death notice

posted by TSO @ 12:43

A Tale of Two Hats

My wife made me a hat.

She knit it during cold winter nights
while I read or O'Reilly bloviated,
her hands moving over the wool
like a cloistered nun's over rosary beads.

It fit too snug, pinching the vein
that supplies blood to the ears.

She bought me a new one.
It's warm and comfortable
and carries a Walmart tag.

I still wear her hat.

posted by TSO @ 12:40

News You Can('t) Use


That Wacky Christo

WASHINGTON D.C.--While New York basks in the orange glow of "The Gates" in Central Park, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude announced their next ambitious project: wrapping the moon in green cheese.

The artists were unavailable this week for comment but a Christo employee affirmed that "Swiss Moon" was still in the works.

"They've been petitioning NASA for seven years now and there are some hopeful signs of late," said one employee, who declined to be identified.

NASA confirmed that the artists were trying to arrange a shuttle to the moon for the purpose of draping green fabric over approximately ten million square miles of moon surface.

Having a little fun at this headline: CHIRAC SPEAKS FRENCH AT BUSH DINNER...

Bush Speaks Texan at Chirac Dinner

CRAWFORD, Tx--President Bush today snubbed French president Jacques Chirac by speaking Texan at a White House dinner.

Discussing the French diplomatic corps, Bush frankly opined they were "greasy as fried lard" and "as full of wind as a corn-eating horse". When Chirac took off his dinner jacket Bush allowed that it was "hotter than a fur coat in Marfa" and asked a White House employee to turn down the thermostat.

After Chirac lectured the President about the U.N., Bush whispered to an aide: "he's got more airs than an Episcopalian". The aide replied, "his butt looks like two hams in a tow sack. There's more wind blowin' here than perfume through a prom."


Depends What the Meaning of Fit Is

CLEARWATER, Fl--A Florida appeals court today will hear arguments about whether the husband of Terri Schiavo is fit to be her guardian.

Mrs. Schiavo's parents argue that his expressed desire to kill her by withholding food and water suggests he might not have her best interests in mind and thus might not be a fit guardian.

Michael Schiavo counters with briefs saying that if you can't feed yourself than you deserve to die, apparently unaware there was a time he couldn't feed himself.

posted by TSO @ 12:38

Books I'm Trying to Fend Off

The following are in my Amazon cart & are nagging at me to buy them. I tell them I have enough books! But they never listen.

Being Human: Core Readings in the Humanities - Leon Kass;
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee;
The Working Poor : Invisible in America - David Shipler;
St. Dale - Sharyn McCrumb; Hardcover
Mr. Blue - Myles Connolly; Paperback
The Proving Ground - G. Bruce Knecht;

posted by TSO @ 12:04

Two Degrees of Separation

The oddest thing happened to me yesterday. Ham of Bone, at lunch, told me how his old roomie from an obscure college in New England known as the University of New Hampshire recently became the all-time champ of the video game Centipede.

And lo' and behold, on the drive home from work, who do I hear? That same ex-roomie on the 50,000 watt Cincinnati radio station WLW. The ex-roomie sounded very sober, very serious-minded as well someone who sets video game records should be. Sounded modest too - when asked the secret of his success he said hard work and trying to figure out what is going on with the game. I'm guessing lightning fast reflexes don't hurt? When it comes to nature vs. nurture, few say nature.

posted by TSO @ 17:29

February 22, 2005

Praise of Catechism

Ingest awhile the words with me
that fine mid-Latin symphony
the fulsome 'spanse of back and spine
her lovely grace is yours and mine.

Lose yourself in black-ink loam
in pleated tome where learned roam
and cast thyself against thy cares
to there where definitions bare!

For US eight and ninety-nine
that which you seek, no more to pine
to play amid the dolphin'd sea
and grin beside the lettered lea!

Come ye' truthsmiths, truthjones all
come ye to the festive ball
play amid the small agate
where teaching fills but never grates.

Songs there flow from frothing font
the great celestial Feast our lot
the fine bouquet the pages send
the scent where eager hunters wend.

I sing among the pages there
and wont and loss are never where
the fullsome typeset bears its soul
as time be stilled and takes no toll.

posted by TSO @ 17:18

Country Song

Baby Girl

They say in this town, stars stay up all night,
Well, I don’t know, can’t see ‘em for the glow of the neon lights.
An' it's a long way from here to the place where the home fires burn.
Well it's two thousand miles and one left turn.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Please send money: I’m so broke that it ain’t funny.
Well, I don't need much; just enough to get me through.
Please don’t worry 'cause I'm all right,
I’m playin’ here at the bar tonight.
Well, this time, I’m gonna make our dreams come true.
Well, I love you more than anything in the world,
Your baby girl.

Black top, blue sky: big town full of little white lies.
Well, everybody’s your friend: you can never be sure.
They'll promise fancy cars an' diamond rings, an' all sorts of shiny things,
But, girl, you’ll remember what your knees are for.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Please send money: I’m so broke that it ain’t funny.
Well, I don't need much; just enough to get me through.
Please don’t worry 'cause I'm all right,
See, I’m playin’ here at the bar tonight.
Well, this time, I’m gonna make our dreams come true.
Well, I love you more than anything in the world,
Your baby girl.

I know that I’m on my way.
Well, I can tell every time I play.
An' I know it’s worth all the dues I pay,
When I can write to you and say:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ll send money. I’m so rich that it ain’t funny.
Well it oughtta be more than enough to get you through.
Please don’t worry 'cause I’m all right,
See, I’m stayin’ here at the Ritz tonight
Whaddya know, we made our dreams come true.
An' there are fancy cars an' diamond rings,
But you know that they don't mean a thing.
Well, they all add up to nothin' compared to you.
Well, remember me in ribbons an' curls.
I still love you more than anything in the world:
Your baby girl.

posted by TSO @ 13:40

Terri Schiavo

I received an email from a Beth Cleaver, as surely many others have, asking for blog support and I'm glad to oblige. That so many care is itself an inspiration. What can we do? Mostly just pray. But more action items here:

The St Petersburg Times has done more damage to Terri than any other paper by what it has said and what it has failed to say - although mostly by someone who is no longer with the paper. We have spoken with the Times and it appears that they would be willing to run the ad subject to their approval.

Between all the blogs, blog readers and sponsors (one medical center has already pledged $300 and we haven't even started asking), we need to raise $10,000. We are in contact with a 501(c)3 that could be willing to accept the funds in a Bank lockbox arrangement so that the donations would be tax deductable. No overhead charges are expected.

BlogsForTerri will conduct large email and telephone campaigns to target Florida residents and at the national level - both directed to Legislative members, the Governor, and President Bush. Our goal is one million emails to the Florida legislature, and the participation of resident of Florida that we can convince that Terri deserves to be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team of rehabilitaion therapy experts.

posted by TSO @ 13:07

Various & Sundry

Steve Sailer writes: "Various people, including Orrin Judd, have suggested that the most likely resolution to Christopher Hitchens' intense hatred of Roman Catholicism will be his conversion to that religion, although I suspect Hitchens is more likely to convert to the Judaism of his maternal ancestors. He already has taken to visiting synagogues on his travels."...A reader responded that Richard Dawkins is an unlikely convert but "[Hitchens] is a mess and might look fondly upon redemption."

Last week I read Hitchens' essay about how the Vatican asked him to play devil's advocate in the case for Mother Teresa's canonization. Sporting of the Vatican I thought, especially since my understanding is there's not a formal prosecuting attorney anymore. I was no less convinced of Mother Teresa's sanctity after reading it though Hitchens apparently thought the great sister's defense of unborn human life was too extreme, as if extremism in pursuit of life is a vice.
Anyone now how to keep your bookshelves organized when you're reading forty at a time? At first I had a "current reading shelf", now it's a "current reading case".
One liners For Sale...

Saw a sign "Brown Eggs - $1.50". If you're going to dye eggs, why would you dye them brown?

If St. Thomas's works were "as straw" then what is this blog? Ugh, don't answer that.

posted by TSO @ 12:43

February 21, 2005

Desperate Non-Housewives

Just read the email exchange between Michael Kinsley & Susan Estrich and wowsa! Can you say "below the belt"? Using someone's Parkinson's disease against them? And here I thought Charlotte Allen's taking Estrich to task for grammatical errors was beside the point if not beyond the pale.

It's sort of hypmotizing to watch the left attack left. In an internal memo last year the L.A. Times confessed to having a left-leaning bias, hence it's odd to see Estrich trying to wheedle ur-lefty Kinsley. Editors of major newspapers certainly have a tough job these days - flak from both sides.

I re-wrote Estrich's piece replacing the word "women" with the word "Irish" or phrase "of Irish descent":

I am sending over my letter this morning. It is very, very temperate. It is signed by approximately 50 people of Irish descent, among them some of the most powerful movers and shakers, from Bill O'Shaugnessey to Sean McDonald to Katherine O'Hallahan...etc. etc. etc. ... Everyone is assuming it will be published on Sunday. I honestly think it will be a bigger deal if you don't publish it, and Drudge and Newsmax and the rest do, than if you simply publish it, and start adding more Irish from Southern California to your mix (today's tally, 3 Germans, 1 of British descent, but no Irish from Southern California...)

My friend Barbara McGowan told me she got a call yesterday from Martin McCourt about writing for the Sunday section and I was delighted. How easy can it be ... That's all. You want thoughtful Germans ... I have a great Irish former Harvard student who tells me she's been desperate to get a piece published and she gets consistently turned away. She lives in Pasadena ... I've got so many names for you of good Irish descent who live right here, care about this community; Carla O'Reilly, who created LA's CRAICK, tells me she can't get a piece in; I have Irishmen writing to me who have submitted four pieces and not gotten the courtesy of a call - and they teach Gaelic studies at UCLA!

I would like nothing better than to work with you to declare victory. Otherwise we'll have a new website, up by tomorrow...

posted by TSO @ 12:35

Among the Gentiles

My stepson is a serious Christian of three years, before which he hung out with a group of three or four friends who might be gently described as unsavory. Sexually promiscuous, contemptuous of religion, and heavy drinkers, the last which I can't hold against them.

He finds himself increasingly wanting nothing to do with them but knows that we needs to be out in the world, as salt. And so he went to play poker with them tonight, God bless him, and asked that I pray for him. He simply wants to still be present to them, although he recognizes that he becomes like them when he's with them. I do think his presence in some way manifests Christ even if it is not outwardly apparent. I have mixed emotions; part of me tells him to flee bad companions and the other part says otherwise.

posted by TSO @ 18:40

February 20, 2005

I Like Fountains

The play of water around sculpture is beautiful.

posted by TSO @ 17:23

The poem below is an attempt to illustrate the mixed emotions of feeling like an exile in your native land (a universal problem since earth is both our native land and our place of exile...)


Robert Bishop, Presbyterian minister & first president of Miami University (1824-1841)


Mixed Loyalties

High on a hill in Oxford town
lies Old Miami antiquated
'neath ghosts & legends & well-trod paths
and students new emancipated.

Alma Mater loyalty
her seals her secrets safe with me
her breath of poignant brevity
like the kiss of a summer camp girl.

Fall the leaves of history
from oaken limbs of memory
your founder was a Calvinist
my loyalty bound to resist--
how harsh their God would seem to be
who would Elect a lottery?

posted by TSO @ 15:56

Profile in Courage

Most people resist change fiercely, even if it be to their benefit, so I found this Dispatch article by Joseph Hallet cheering:

When Walter R. Cates tells people what he's become, incredulously they respond, "You're a what!''

From the moment he took his first breath 63 years ago, Cates has been three things: "I've always told people I was born black, Baptist and Democrat.''

Now he's a Republican.

He recently switched parties, officially announcing it Thursday during a Buckeye Republican Club luncheon.

Cates is one of the most recognizable and influential leaders in Columbus. As former president of the local NAACP chapter in 1973, he sued the Columbus school district, police and fire divisions for discrimination and forced them to change.

Cates, known in the black community as "The Mayor of Main Street,'' founded and heads the Main Street Business Association. He often is credited, as much as anyone, for the streetlights and sidewalks, the bus stops and clinics, the stores and businesses that breathe life into the city's urban core.

Cates has been a member of the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee, he's served on the party's candidate screening committees and he even ran for the Ohio Senate as a Democrat in 1992.

Now he's a Republican.

There was no philosophical transformation. Issues such as gay marriage, abortion, guns, school prayer -- all the stuff that moves the Republican base -- had nothing to do with Cates' move.

"This is all about delivering the goods,'' he said. "The Republicans are listening more.''

From the late U.S. Rep. Chalmers Wylie to Rep. Pat Tiberi, from U.S. Sens. George V. Voinovich, Mike DeWine and former Ohio Senate President Stanley Aronoff to a raft of politicians in between, the Republicans are delivering the money to improve his community, Cates contended.

He looks around and sees Condoleezza Rice and, formerly, Colin Powell, at the right hand of President Bush. He notices that two of the five highest-ranking officials in state government -- Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Treasurer Jennette Bradley -- are black Republicans, and he wonders just what is it that he's getting from the Democrats.

Cates' answer: "All the talk in the world.''

posted by TSO @ 14:28

Fictional Friday

There was a hint of rain that late March day in nineteen hundred and seventy-three. I was fishing with my grandfather and the orange bobber that hung over glass water hardly moved. If this was a game they’d have called it on account of nothing happening. I was hoping for rain so we’d call it a day.

But Grandma was waiting at home to skin a few bluegills for dinner and she had corn on the cob waiting too, fresh from Kolstead’s market. We had to hold up our end of the bargain even though I told Papa that all she had to do was buy it from the market but we had to have the skill or luck to catch something. But he warn’t worried.

I stared at the orange blob and my mind would play tricks. I’d thought it moved when it hadn’t. I was trigger-happy, ready to reel something in, not patient at all and wanting to be too early rather than too late. Fishing was nerve-racking because you had to be alert every second.

Papa, who was drinking Budweiser beers, didn’t seem tense at all though.

“They ain’t bitin’” he said and I told him they sure warn’t. I didn’t know what made them bite one day and not the next. I told him that it maybe we wasn’t in the right spot but he said maybe we weren’t out early enough. I didn’t know what to make of that because it seemed like we got up at the crack of dawn.

“Maybe if we had those boots like real fishermen we’d catch something,” I said, pointing to the fellows who wore hip waders and weren’t limited to the bank like we landlubbers. I was jealous of fisherman who went in the water.

“Don’t yell, you’ll scare the fish,” he said, although I think he just said that to shut me up. I was always “scaring the fish”. Anything you’d do would scare the fish. Splash water or spit in it or yell or run up and down the bank, everything scared the fish. I thought the fish were scaredy-cats.

posted by TSO @ 23:38

February 18, 2005

It can't be that difficult, can it?

From Irish Abroad

The annual St. Patrick’s Day speech welcoming the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) to the White House is one of the most tedious jobs a presidential speechwriter has to endure, President Bush’s former speechwriter and special advisor has said....

In an opinion article in the New York Times, Scully wrote, “Almost as dreaded as drafting a State of the Union, for example, are those yearly chores like writing remarks for the St. Patrick’s Day visit by the prime minister of Ireland. How many different ways can you accept a bowl of shamrocks, or celebrate the sterling qualities of the noble Irish people?”

posted by TSO @ 14:02

Bestseller Lists

Happened across a link that has bestseller lists from every decade of the previous century and it makes for fascinating reading. You can see the Zeitgeist change before your very eyes just by examining the bestsellers of the years of the '60s. It's fun to look for that elusive turning point, even if there be "outliers" on any given pre-'65 list. '64 was a year of Bellow, Le Carré, Uris on the fiction list and lots of Kennedy retrospectives on non-fiction. The '60s of our memory haven't begun yet.

In '65 we have a whiff of the self-help/self-psychology books that would become so popular during the next ten years (although some of it had roots that went back further) in Eric Berne's "Games People Play" which popularized transactional analysis, later made even more famous in the book "I'm Ok-You're Ok". That year we also have "A Gift of Prophecy" by Ruth Montgomery about the clairvoyant Jeane Dixon, who was a "devout Catholic and an astrologer". Was this a sign of a culture that had one foot in traditional Christianity and the other elsewhere? (More about Dixon here.)

If in '65 psychology and the mystic were discovered, 1966 we turn from the mind/spirit to the body. The top two fiction bestsellers are "Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann and "The Adventurers" by Harold Robbins. In non-fiction, sex also found the list with number 2's "Human Sexual Response" by Masters & Johnston.

In 1967 religion becomes a target: "A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church" by Fr. James Kavanaugh hits number 5 on the non-fiction list. But replace this outdated church with what? Well, "Edgar Cayce--The Sleeping Prophet" by Jess Stearn hit number 8 that same year...

posted by TSO @ 13:16

St. Padre Pio

St. Pio combines a sort of St. Jerome quality with a gentle side. My suspicion is that those who need harshness will flock to his softer side while those who need gentleness will seek his severity. Life is like that, and certainly that is the constant temptation with Christ. We emphasize the words which confirm Him in our image rather than vice-versa.

A few St. Pio quotes I like:

Be tranquil as far as your soul is concerned. Make every effort to unite yourself always and in everything to God's divine will, and don't worry about the future.

Walk cheerfully, and with a sincere and open heart as much as you can, and when you cannot always maintain this holy joy, at least do not lose heart or your trust in God.

Pray, hope and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer. Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart.
You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips but with your heart; in fact on certain occasions you should speak to Him only with your heart.

posted by TSO @ 13:12


... study says:

People with high self-esteem claim they are more likable, attractive and have better relationships than others, but these advantages exist mainly in their own minds, the researchers found.

posted by TSO @ 13:07


Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Played for the Phillies in the Land of the Free
Couldn't hit his weight it seems to me
Lost to the Reds in '73...

Larry, Larry Bowa, King of the Philly infield!

ln nineteen seventy donned Phillies clothes
Scooped up grounders hit at his toes
Caused the league some major woes
but they didn't win till they got Rose!

Larry, Larry Bowa, King of the Philly infield!

Now I'm not dissin' this king at all
He played shortstop with scarce a fall
But if I had to pick one after all
Well Dave Concepcion could sure play ball!

Larry, Larry Bowa, King of the Philly infield!

posted by TSO @ 17:17

February 17, 2005

I Stand Corrected

Man, can Larry Bowa really have hit .267 lifetime?

So a v.i.p. just informed me, forcing me to take back what I said about him. Davey Concepcion was the better shortstop though. haha!

Update: My informer informed wrongly - he hit .260 lifetime. Still higher than I would've thought; I would've guessed around .245-.252ish.

posted by TSO @ 13:50

Totus Tuus

No pope has ever resigned due to illness. Call me a romantic but I think that's a beautiful thing. And I thought this was an interesting account from Cornwell's "The Pontiff in Winter":

Giving a rare interview to Lucio Brunelli, from the Rome daily Il Tempo, [Cardinal Deskur] said: "The motto totus tuus is not an empty expression for John Paul. He took the vow to the Madonna and it is part of his vow to entrust to the Madonna the hour and circumstance of his own death." He went on to say that when Paul VI was tormented by the decision of whether to resign or not, he got a "very clear admonition of heaven." The French mystic Marthe Robin, he continued, had a visiton: "Our Lady told her that the pope was tempted to resign and that this would be a very serious mistake."...Now, he went on, several years back when John Paul was returning from a trip to India, there was a fierce snowstorm around Rome and the papal airplane had to land from Naples, from where the Pope had to take a train to Rome. "During the train ride, the Pope had in his hands a book by Jean Guitton. Can you guess which one?" To which the interviewer, Brunelli, promptly responded: "A book that recounts the life of that French mystic?" "Exactly," said Deskur.

posted by TSO @ 13:40

Mystic Saint

NRO editor John O'Sullivan writes:

Padre Pio, of course, was the saintly Italian priest whose hands bore the stigmata. These are wounds in the palms of the hands like those of Christ where the nails pierced Him. In addition to this, Padre Pio was rumored to be able to see directly into the souls of those who sought confession or his counsel. More than one pious Catholic of my acquaintance remembered a previous engagement when invited to an audience with him.
St. Pio is certainly an intimidating figure. He wasn't shy about "tough love". He also offered perhaps the most beautiful advice ever given: "pray, hope and don't worry".

posted by TSO @ 12:49

Derbyshire on Nature vs Nurture on Homosexuality

I've suspected that most homosexual tendency is inborn but made the mistake of confusing the term "inborn" with "genetics", the latter not making any sense from an evolutionarily perspective. John Derbyshire seems to have studied the pheonomena and believes it is inborn.

He also offers this dazzing line:

"The opposite of science is not religion; the opposite of science is wishful thinking."

NB: His theology is weak in places and is corrected beautifully here.

posted by TSO @ 12:45

O'Rama, Vegetarian

I was in line at the Cafe today ordering up some tacos. The gal behind me wants no meat. Just beans and rice. She said "I know, we vegetarians cause extra work!" to the cafeteria worker, said apologetically and surprisingly energetically given that she doesn't eat meat.

But I got to thinking: I could be a vegetarian too. Already my diet is mostly composed of donuts, cinnamon rolls and Cap'n Crunch....Hmm....

posted by TSO @ 12:42

My thoughts turn to Steven Riddle, my polar opposite. He spends time with the Blessed Sacrament five a.m.-ish, just about the time I'm hitting R.E.M. sleep. He works 16 hours a day while I work...far less. He fasts like a Mickey Mantle while I fast like Larry Bowa (sorry KTC, he's the weakest hitter I could think of). If he's not detached then I don't know who is. This is all said not to embarrass him but to recognize that the worst thing about blogs is their tendency to overvalue words as compared to actions. Steven has earned the right to post on spiritual things.

posted by TSO @ 12:36

The Daily Kos-tic

I can't share Jonah's glee at the Democratic Party's leftward ho:

Meanwhile, the Daily Kos and its lesser imitators are moving what we call liberalism to the left. They're doing this mostly by pulling the Democratic party to the left. Michael Barone points out that this is good news for Bush. I think it may be a sign of even better news for conservatives.
The fly in the ointment is that at some point my party will have to meet fiscal discipline, at which point we'll promptly get our ass handed to us. Americans don't like fiscal discipline at home or in their government, thank you very much.

This means that we'll get a Democratic president and he or she will be more leftish than would otherwise be necessary. Hillary will probably be grandmothered in, having already proven her liberal credentials. But for a moderate like Joe Biden? He'll have to quote Marx approvingly while hopping on one leg.

What's bad for the Democratic party is also bad for pro-lifers. Although it is hard to imagine the Dem's moving to the left on abortion, for the sake of argument let's say the party wants to allow a mother to kill her child for up to one year after birth (using the Trojan horse "the health of the mother", which would presumably include having to shop at Costco). The Republicans would then counter with "we don't believe in killing children older than four months!" and come out smelling like the proverbial rose. Not good.

We need two healthy parties.

posted by TSO @ 18:07

February 16, 2005

From Godspy on the MacFarlane divorce:

Q: You and your husband are well known in faithful Catholic circles for your books, talks, and ministry to lay Catholics...I'm sure there are more than a few Catholic couples who wonder that if the two of you can't make it, who can?

Just because Bud and I knew how to get out books and tapes in a really efficient way, and he had a lot of marketing experience, and knew how to do mailings, had nothing to do with what our personal life was like.

I've had a lot more time to read now with my kids away most of the time, and I've been reading Fire Within, about Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross... and it emphasizes what real prayer is, and what spirituality is. Basically, if you pray your rosary and you brag about it, you're really at the bottom of the totem pole. And if you pray privately and you get a revelation that tells you what to do and you think it's from God and you go act on it, well that's pretty dangerous...

In the same way I think people could have misunderstandings about marriage on all sorts of issues—women who think they're supposed to have romance and fireworks all the time; men who think they're supposed to have obedience. People could read the Pope's encyclical on family, Familiaris Consortio, which is one of the things I read when things were getting bad, and it was very discouraging, because what he describes is so beautiful. What are you supposed to do if you don't have that—does it mean you're not married? Does it mean you go get a divorce, and try to look for the "real thing" somewhere else? So there's got to be more realism.

I see a lot of prominent literature quoting the Pope and Vatican II statements about marriage that conclude that if one doesn't have a "strong satisfying interpersonal relationship that is a communion of life and love," then you don't have the stuff of marriage and that you should get an annulment because you were incapable of having a valid marriage with your current partner for reasons that could even be subconscious. That's the irony of the current scandal. It's almost satanic, that the Father of Lies would take what's good and twist it to lead people to break up their families.

The scary thing is I read the stuff that comes from the Pope about marriage, and it's so wonderful and beautiful and I think: How many people really have that? Maybe it's one in a thousand. It's kind of like reading about a saint. It can be very discouraging, because I'm not like that! Lucky for them—they have all these wonderful things—but I'm not like that. The beautiful stuff is the goal, but maybe we need a little more realism about what average people are experiencing. It's going to have ugliness in it. Let's not be so secretive about it; let's go fix it.

posted by TSO @ 15:21

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

A decade ago I had about of year of overwhelming self-doubt to overcome. Sometimes you trick yourself into thinking that quitting will be better for your partner; this has to be resisted. By the grace of God [our marriage] endured, and at the height of being self-absorbed in doubt, it occurred to me that I could step out of myself and start each day absorbed in what my partner was going through and what I could do to bring harmony to her day (because I wasn't bringing harmony to mine). That was the defining moment for me; once I chose to be as fully compassionate and understanding of my partner's day as possible, my personal confusions lost their hold on me. I know this isn't rocket science, but emphasizing other-centeredness at the height of one's own emptiness isn't the obvious choice in the moment. I sometimes wonder if women embrace this choice much more readily -- particularly mothers. Carrying a child is obviously 9 months of other-centeredness 24/7, and that's just the beginning. I'm probably being way too serious, but I consider Marriage to be a mysterious and miraculous sacrament of transformation. It reveals qualities of living and loving one may not come to know any other way. - blogger at "Yes, Sister"

If you really want something in life you have to work for it. Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers.- Homer Simpson, via Julie of Happy Catholic

Humility is the new beige..It goes with everything. -Therese Z of Exultet

Christ responds neither directly nor abstractly to human questioning about the meaning of suffering. Human beings come to know His saving response in so far as they share in the sufferings of Christ. - Pope John Paul II

In one of his lectures, Peter Kreeft recommended several books for saving civilization as we know it: Lost in the Cosmos, Walker Percy, Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, Everlasting man, G. K. Chesterton Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - Vincent of "What a Mystery"

And these words, from the English poet John Dryden, are etched on a wall next to the choir loft:

"But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways,
To mend the choirs above." - commenter on Amy's blog

The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down.” -William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (via Terry Teachout)

Work is the curse of the blogging class. -commenter on Amy's blog

Perhaps I'm biased, being both a Catholic and a Southerner, but it's always seemed to me that the traditional Southern approach to life and humanity is particularly congenial to Roman Catholicism, and that congregational Protestantism holds sway here only because (a) that's the type of religion that historically spread here first and (b) anti-Catholicism is instilled in people while they're young. The Southern character, though, is eminently suited to Catholicism. I'm thinking especially of the South's sectional mythology, our old notions of aristocracy and kinship, our comfortable tolerance for what is strange and eccentric, our respect for tradition, our general freedom from the Protestant work ethic, and the darker recognition (confirmed by the loss of the War) that man is fallen and that he is not promised victory in this life. All of which has long made me think that the Southland is the closest thing in the world to Spain. - Fr. Jim of Dappled Things

For some reason, the end of the world somehow seems 10% more likely.
-Andrew of Holy Whapping on news of Sr. Lucia's death

The blogger quotes someone to the effect that the blogosphere has been crowing of late about bringing Eason Jordan down - can the blogosphere save a life?- Amy Welborn, on this

posted by TSO @ 13:15

Folio'd Again

For years I've been fighting off the Folio Society, the Mercedes Benz of the book world. Beautiful books but all with sticker-shock prices. One time I went so far as to go with the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire set before sending them back when the hangover came.

The wheels are turning again because my stepson's birthday is a three months away and this past weekend he said he wants to read Churchill's account of the war. But buying four more books within four weeks at $40-80 a book is rude and/or crude. Plus parting with the Churchillian volumes might not be as easy as I think.

posted by TSO @ 12:13

Do you keep your poetry in
a Mason jar behind
the closet door of a guest

Or do you keep it next to your bed
like the canary
who warns the miners?

posted by TSO @ 12:02

FYI Talmida

The Douay-Rheims version of the Our Father might sound unusual; I'd never heard that before nor did I know that St. Jerome fought for it. From St. Anthony Messenger:

A familiar text like the Lord’s Prayer illustrates Jerome’s problems. The Greek word that is rendered as daily in the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” is not the usual Greek word for daily. In fact, outside the two occurrences in the Matthean and Lucan versions of the Lord’s Prayer, that word occurs only once in all of classical Greek literature. The older Latin versions translated the Greek word as quotidianum (“daily”) in Latin.

Jerome believed this to be inaccurate so he attempted another rendering, which he may have coined himself: supersubstantialem (Matthew 6:11). Not hesitating to change the wording of a text as familiar as the Lord’s Prayer showed Jerome’s courage. At the same time, Jerome was flexible. In his translation of Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jerome kept quotidianum (Luke 11:3). In its liturgy, the Church uses the Matthean version of the Lord’s Prayer though it kept quotidianum, which is the basis of all English translations of the prayer. Otherwise, we might be saying, “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.”
It seems appropriate that the OT manna, which means literally "what is it?" should have a NT equivalent in the form of a word no one knows the meaning of as the modifier of the NT bread.

posted by TSO @ 15:24

February 15, 2005

The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious

You've probably already seen this at Steven's Flos Carmeli (which is where I found it) but in case you haven't see this by Ben Stein, containing the deliciously oxymoronic line: "The Problem in Our Lives Is Powerlessness--the Solution Is Also Powerlessness".

posted by TSO @ 14:06

More Chesterton

Was St. Thomas a Poet Who Didn't Know it?

"It is often said that St. Thomas, unlike St. Francis, did not permit in his work the indescribable element of poetry. As, for instance, that there is little reference to any pleasure in the actual flowers and fruit of natural things, though any amount of concern with the buried roots of nature. And yet I confess that, in reading his philosophy, I have a very peculiar and powerful impression analogous to poetry...There is no thinker who is so unmistakably thinking about things and not being misled by the indirect influence of words, as St. Thomas Aquinas. It is true in that sense that he has not the advantage of words, any more than the disadvantage of words. Here he differs sharply, for instance, from St. Augustine who was, among other things a wit. He was also a sort of prose poet, with a power over words in their atmospheric and emotional aspect; so that his books abound with beautiful passages that rise in the memory like strains of music; the illi in vos saeviant; or the unforgettable cry, "Late I have loved thee, O Ancient Beauty!" It is true that there is little or nothing of this kind in St. Thomas; but if he was without the higher uses of the mere magic of words, he was also free from that abuse of it, by mere sentimentalists or self-centred artists, which can become merely morbid and a very black magic indeed. And truly it is by some such comparison with the purely introspective intellectual that we may find a hint about the real nature of the thing I describe, or rather fail to describe; I mean the elemental and primitive poetry...that strangeness of things, which is the light in all poetry, and indeed in all art, is really connected with their otherness; or what is called their objectivity."

Why Did Scholasticism Decline?

"There is undoubtedly a hopeful and creative Thomism in our time. But we are none the less puzzled by the fact that this did not immediately follow on St. Thomas's time.... [The later scholastics] were a sort of rabid rationalists, who would have left no mysteries in the Faith at all. In the earliest Scholasticism there is something that strikes a modern as fanciful and pedantic; but, properly understood, it has a fine spirit in its fancy. It is the spirit of freedom; and especially the spirit of free will. Nothing seems more quaint, for instance, than the speculations about what would have happened to every vegetable or animal or angel, if Eve had chosen not to eat the fruit of the tree. But this was originally full of the thrill of choice; and the feeling that she might have chosen otherwise. It was this detailed detective method that was followed, without the thrill of the original detective story. The world was cumbered with countless tomes, proving by logic a thousand things that can be known only to God. They developed all that was really sterile in Scholasticism, and left for us all that is really fruitful in Thomism."

posted by TSO @ 13:12

Chesterton's "St. Thomas Aquinas"

Full work is here

Aquinas & Augustine

"We have seen how the great name of Augustine, a name never mentioned by Aquinas without respect but often mentioned without agreement covered an Augustinian school of thought naturally lingering longest in the Augustinian Order. The difference, like every difference between Catholics, was only a difference of emphasis. The Augustinians stressed the idea of the impotence of man before God, the omniscience of God about the destiny of man, the need for holy fear and the humiliation of intellectual pride, more than the opposite and corresponding truths of free will or human dignity or good works. In this they did in a sense continue the distinctive note of St. Augustine, who is even now regarded as relatively the determinist doctor of the Church. But there is emphasis and emphasis; and a time was coming when emphasising the one side was to mean flatly contradicting the other....For there was one particular monk in that Augustinian monastery in the German forests, who may be said to have had a single and special talent for emphasis; for emphasis and nothing except emphasis; for emphasis with the quality of earthquake. He was the son of a slatecutter; a man with a great voice and a certain volume of personality; brooding, sincere, decidedly morbid; and his name was Martin Luther. Neither Augustine nor the Augustinians would have desired to see the day of that vindication of the Augustinian tradition; but in one sense, perhaps, the Augustinian tradition was avenged after all."

Aquinas & Martin Luther

"It came out of its cell again, in the day of storm and ruin, and cried out with a new and mighty voice for an elemental and emotional religion, and for the destruction of all philosophies. It had a peculiar horror and loathing of the great Greek philosophies, and of the scholasticism that had been founded on those philosophies. It had one theory that was the destruction of all theories; in fact it had its own theology which was itself the death of theology. Man could say nothing to God, nothing from God, nothing about God, except an almost inarticulate cry for mercy and for the supernatural help of Christ, in a world where all natural things were useless. Reason was useless. Will was useless. Man could not move himself an inch any more than a stone. Man could not trust what was in his head any more than a turnip. Nothing remained in earth or heaven, but the name of Christ lifted in that lonely imprecation; awful as the cry of a beast in pain.

So it is with that great Augustinian monk, who avenged all the ascetic Augustinians of the Middle Ages; and whose broad and burly figure has been big enough to block out for four centuries the distant human mountain of Aquinas. It is not, as the moderns delight to say, a question of theology. The Protestant theology of Martin Luther was a thing that no modern Protestant would be seen dead in a field with; or if the phrase be too flippant, would be specially anxious to touch with a barge-pole. That Protestantism was pessimism; it was nothing but bare insistence on the hopelessness of all human virtue, as an attempt to escape hell. That Lutheranism is now quite unreal; more modern phases of Lutheranism are rather more unreal; but Luther was not unreal. He was one of those great elemental barbarians, to whom it is indeed given to change the world. To compare those two figures hulking so big in history, in any philosophical sense, would of course be futile and even unfair. On a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would be almost invisible. But it is not altogether untrue to say, as so many journalists have said without caring whether it was true or untrue, that Luther opened an epoch; and began the modern world."

Appealing to the Personal

"[Luther] was the first man who ever consciously used his consciousness or what was later called his Personality. He had as a fact a rather strong personality. Aquinas had an even stronger personality; he had a massive and magnetic presence; he had an intellect that could act like a huge system of artillery spread over the whole world; he had that instantaneous presence of mind in debate, which alone really deserves the name of wit. But it never occurred to him to use anything except his wits, in defence of a truth distinct from himself. It never occurred to Aquinas to use Aquinas as a weapon. There is not a trace of his ever using his personal advantages, of birth or body or brain or breeding, in debate with anybody. In short, he belonged to an age of intellectual unconsciousness, to an age of intellectual innocence, which was very intellectual. Now Luther did begin the modern mood of depending on things not merely intellectual. It is not a question of praise or blame; it matters little whether we say that he was a strong personality, or that he was a bit of a big bully. When he quoted a Scripture text, inserting a word that is not in Scripture, he was content to shout back at all hecklers: "Tell them that Dr. Martin Luther will have it so!" That is what we now call Personality. A little later it was called Psychology. After that it was called Advertisement or Salesmanship. But we are not arguing about advantages or disadvantages. It is due to this great Augustinian pessimist to say, not only that he did triumph at last over the Angel of the Schools, but that he did in a very real sense make the modern world."

posted by TSO @ 13:09

Gimme That Old Time Biography

I love a good "ah-ha!" moment. And I find them increasingly rare in modern biographies, which require a devotion to the subject that borders on fanatical: why should I care what LBJ had for dinner on Aug 12, 1967?

It's a mark of how much I've changed, whether for good or ill, that a decade ago I could purchase, and assume I'd actually read, Strouse's thick biography of J.P. Morgan. But such is the savor of youth, that wistful period when time seems endless.

I had a fine "ah-ha" moment last night while finishing GK Chesterton's slim treatise on St. Thomas Aquinas. Chesterton told us not what Aquinas had for lunch, but in a sweeping salvo gives a thrilling overview of the past 800 years. He sees all of Christian theology through an Augustine vs. Aquinas lens, something I've only recently been awakened to and something that is of keen interest to me. Aquinas is the logician, and the optimistic in the sense of being the fruitition of the statement "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Augustine tends towards pessimism and poetry. I can think of two bloggers who are the Platonic ideals of their respective teachers! I don't need to mention their names, but one is a Lutheran and one Catholic and they fit so well into Chesterton's scheme that I'm led to wonder: did the student pick the teacher or did the teacher mold the student? To some extent I'm sure the student felt an affinity for the teacher since their personalities are presumably naturally inclined toward logic or poetry, at the risk of oversimplifying.

I'll quote some of Chesterton's book in the next few posts. He was pretty rough on ol' Martin Luther as well as the later Scholastics. I would like to read more of his take on Augustine but the next Chesterton on deck is the St. Francis of Assisi bio.

posted by TSO @ 13:06

Blog Posts

Interesting posts here, here, and here.

posted by TSO @ 13:19

February 14, 2005

Cub Fans & Jokers

One of the things I enjoy trying to do is amuse people. My philosophy is “if you throw enough schtick out there something’s bound to stick.” So when I recently received from an overseas charity a “five kwacha” note from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (equivalent to a U.S. nickel), I giddily put it in my wallet thinking “let the fun begin!”.

I trotted it out first at the local McDonald’s and the sixteen-year old was mildly amused, emphasis on mildly. Then I tried it today at the cafeteria and the 50-something cashier was annoyed (again to put it mildly). So this particular “joke” seems to have worn out its welcome. I shan't try it again. My wife calls these “joke trees”, etymology unknown.

She can be a tough audience, having had to put up with lame jokes so many years. But when she smiles it is the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. I saw it yesterday at a family gathering at my sister-in-law's house for a birthday of a niece. Her brother asked his dad to sing Happy Birthday "solo" – i.e. "so low" that we couldn’t hear it! Now there’s a funny line, and my wife broke out in a laughter for which the world is better.

* * *

I’m chagrined I like reading Andrew Greeley. A personal flaw? Can I like Ratzinger and Greeley? For a conservative Republican to read him seems an unbearable tension. I’m embarrassed and I ought get a brown wrapper. But his Christology is undeniably spot on. So what can I do? Appeal to my betters? To which he replied, "we all experience ambivalences. Despite knowing better I'm still a Cub fan!"

posted by TSO @ 12:25

Florence King Quotes

"We lighten up in the wrong ways, in the wrong places, with the wrong people and call it inclusion, when in fact it is a faux pas most grievous. Having a Tomb of the Unknowns insults the Unknown Soldier because more than one destroys the whole concept. Fiddling with holidays to create three-day weekends institutionalizes disrespect."

"When they came for the smokers I kept silent because I don't smoke. When they came for the meat eaters I kept silent because I'm a vegetarian. When they came for the gun owners I kept silent because I'm a pacifist...They never did come for me. I'm still here because there's nobody left in the secret police..."

"Real humanitarians tend to be curmudgeons because they must deal with bureaucratic blockheads. One of the shortest fuses in history belonged to its foremost angel of mercy, Florence Nightingale, who was also a foremost female mysogynist. Admonished by a do-gooder about the dangers of exposing patients to night air, she exploded: 'It's the only kind of air there is at night!'"
UPDATE: Smock makes an excellent point.

posted by TSO @ 22:30

February 13, 2005

Was I Drinking? ...I defended Tim LaHaye at dinner

Family Member 1: "The Left Behind books are terrible. Bad theology. They're crap."
Family Member 2: "But many have come to Christ through them."
Me: "God can work good from bad."

I'll leave it to the reader whether I was temporarily insane.

Secret Agent Man defends kitschy, though orthodox, art:

We could say all this is trite. But I don't think anyone's holding up medieval passion and devotional plays as the equal of Shakespeare. Catholic art, like anything else Catholic, has one goal and one goal only -- to get a soul into heaven by any means necessary. (That's not relativism, because the goal dictates the range of acceptable means). God used some science fiction, a boy's novel, an undergraduate-level knowledge of classical history, and a comic book about the life of John Paul II as part of His plan to get me into the Church. We can get all snooty about the quality of Catholic art, but most of us would be amazed at the condescending things God does just to get us to pay attention to Him.

posted by TSO @ 18:50

February 11, 2005

Ten Things Bloggers Do Wrong

--(And here I thought blogging was like sex; you couldn't do it wrong)

1. Only link to what we've already read and only say what we've already heard.
I try to avoid this though that post about Ward Churchill was like giving ice to Eskimos.

2. False modesty.
Sometimes guilty, although SiteMeter is always a cause for modesty.

3. Clearing the archives.
I've got the archives of ten bloggers. No false modesty there, 'eh?

4. Become overly concern[ed] with blogging "rules."
I don't think so though that is a concern. Conformance in blogging is always a mistake; I can't be a Tom Kreitzberg or Steven Riddle. And certainly the rule that you have to have comments is something I've resisted.

5. Fail to follow basic punctuation rules.
I hate commas. Never know quite where to put them, or whether I'm too free with them or not free enough.

6. Substitute slang for ideas.
Not that I'm aware of.

7. Fail to take advantage of 95% of the blogosphere.
Probably so; there are surely many great blogs I'm unaware of. I rarely read any of the heavy hitters except NRO's "The Corner".

8. Become a one-note charlie.
Don't think that's a problemo.

9. Decline to put up an "about the author" link.
I have a Blogger Profile up, even if it's not all that helpful. As John Denver once wrote me (paraphrasing) don't let me get in the way of the value the post has for you. Although if I had a more interesting background I'd probably have an "about the author" section. And it has a downside: I recently received an email that ended "God Bless whoever the heck you are!".

10. Decline to participate in their own comments section.

posted by TSO @ 18:26

Today's Quote

From Kathy Shaidle's latest book:

If book sales are any indication, Catholics are far more partial to prayer than fasting. Perhaps because prayer seems easier; we can pretend to pray, but not to fast, not with our stomachs doing their impressions of Munch's painting "The Scream" after just a few hours.

posted by TSO @ 16:56

That '70s Show

I like time-traveling back to the late '60s, back when I was five or six years old, by watching old TV shows like Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. There, again, is Gary Owens and his slicked-back hair and oversized microphone. The studio backdrop is so faintly familiar as to border on eerie - a sort of ungraspable ghost-ishness. It lives in that odd border town between the familiar and unfamiliar, an image orginally imprinted on a brain that like a river was then near its source. One can forget that it records everything.

I watched a few minutes of a 1968 show before seeing the opening of a 1970 episode. And it was fun to spot the differences. The hair & sideburns on Rowan & Martin looked a bit longer. The easy animal energy and charisma of Martin seemed to have waned just a tad. The set had undergone a makeover too, the glitz of the disco '70s replacing the more laid-back '60s.

The show was much more juvenile than I remembered it. It seemed so adult, so hip then. But the hipness was, as it often is, simply boringly anti-authoritarian. Artie Johnson is a priest, sipping tea and above it all, making a joke about church teaching on the birth control pill. Later Dick Martin describes the pure joy of hitting a cop and a banged-up cop is shown doing spit takes with loose teeth. Many times. Cruelty to a policeman as theatre.

The lack of subtly in using sex to sell was almost humorous. You could see the producer's mind working when Rowan & Martin give their monologue in front of a dangling bare legs. It's as if the producer said, 'okay, in case the jokes don't work, let's distract them. Let's have a two-tiered coffee shop setting with Dick & Dan on the lower tier so viewers can look at a model's legs.' Reminds me of how a priest once said that once we get a sense of being manipulated by ads it's easier to resist their pull. We see the puppet-master behind the curtain and we no longer want to be puppets.

I extended the blast from the past by re-listening to a 1972 cassette tape made by my mom's uncle, a priest, who was practicing a sermon for a Baccalaureate mass. He talks about his generation having messed up the world, mentioning poverty, war and racism, and how he hoped they, with God's help, would fix the problems. The attitude is telling: there is humility - an "establishment" figure understanding the need to say we messed up (and at least with respect to racism that might be so). It also speaks to the idealism of the class of '72. They wanted to change the world.

posted by TSO @ 13:04

Just an observation...

Isn't it odd how Mary seemed to impact the timing of Jesus' ministry, at least upon a superficial reading of Scripture? At the age of 12 he was found in the Temple and was apparently content to remain there and go about his Father's business. But out of obedience he went back home. Much later Mary wants him to perform a miracle at the wedding of Cana, and so begins his public ministry despite his initial disavowal that His time had not yet come.

posted by TSO @ 13:03

Stream o' Consciousness Post

I amused by the whole concept of St. Blog Awards since I think it's a reflection of our innate thirst for hierarchy, competition and recognition. (Recognition abhors a vacuum.) As Jeff of the Revealer says "if it helps them feel good about themselves" then he's for it. Most of us blog at least partially for the "they love me, they really love" me aspect as well as the thrill of athletic competition as ABC's Wide World of Sports theme goes.

The blogging thing for me has been primarily a George Plimpton exercise. What's it feel like to be a writer? And so I'm sympathetic to the awards concept since you can't play writer without having a Nobel equivalent. (I'd be even more sympathetic, of course, had I been nominated.) And where would awards be without controversy and corruption?

I paint with far too broad a brush here. Some do blog for higher purposes. Some blog as part of the New Evangelism. And there is a great service to be performed by a professionals blogging about their perspective. A lawyer is going to write about the law differently than a print journalist and so provide something the newspaper usually can't. My style of blog is less ostensibly useful, so I get to take it less seriously and can wear it as a Halloween costume.

It might be that I'm too affected by the Zeitgeist. The Zeitgeist doesn't take things seriously enough. The NY Times recently had a long article about college fraternities and how the brothers today see the ritual as a joke; they don't take the part about being "brothers for life" seriously at all, which, if you think about it, is a shame. We could all stand a few more brothers for life in our lives. But how different today is from the 19th century, when far more elaborate rituals were undertaken with immense seriousness and solemnity. We lack commitment and cover it with frivolity. Ritual, oaths, and commitment are serious business and modern man loathes all three because they impinge upon his "freedom".

Wait, how did I get from awards to fraternities again? Nevermind.

posted by TSO @ 12:48

Art & Symbol

Went to a lecture given by Fr. Shawn McKnight on the roots of the liturgy and how powerful symbol is because it can express many things while being one thing. For example the crucifix. He asked a group of schoolchildren what it means to them and got scores of answers: "love", "suffering", "fidelity", "faith", "devotion" and all are true.

Former Columbus pastor Msgr. Joseph Fete once wrote:

Devotional prayer and meditation as well as the sacred liturgy have relied on the efficacy of "visual theology" since the time of the catacombs. In an increasingly pictorial age, the science of theology may now be tuning in to this visual channel... art is more than pretty pictures - it is a way of doing theology. It is our Christian tradition.

posted by TSO @ 13:42

February 10, 2005

Msgr. Hartman's Comments

One of my favorite "TV priests" is the gentle Msgr. Tom Hartman, who regularly appears on my favorite morning talk show Imus in the Morning.

(There is a worthwhile article here, by the way, concerning his reaction upon hearing the sad news that he had Parkinson's disease.)

He said on Imus yesterday that he thinks the Pope is dying. Soon. Given how reports of the Holy Father's demise have been greatly exaggerated for the past ten years I've traditionally put little stock in bad reports - until now. Pray for the Pope.

posted by TSO @ 13:07

Interesting post from Jonah Goldberg regarding Intelligent Design here:

I believe in God, but I have a hard time believing he buried those clues in the few areas where science remains ignorant. Those clues are hiding in plain sight for those who want to see them. Saying that science will ultimately prove the existence of God almost seems blasphemous to me because it suggests that God was hiding from human investigators for all this time but humans finally got smart enough to see his fingerprints. It's all fingerprints!

posted by TSO @ 13:06

Good Posts on Ash Wednesday

I promised myself never to use the phrase "bloggy goodness", but that's what came to mind while reading this and this.

posted by TSO @ 13:32

February 9, 2005

Times Have Changed, Vol. 14

I call on all members of the faculty, as members of a thinking body, freely to recognize the tremendous validity and power of the teachings of Christ in our life-and-death struggle against the force of selfish materialism.
- the president of Yale, inaugural address 55 years ago

posted by TSO @ 14:02

February 8, 2005

Evening Primrose
by John Clare

When once the sun sinks in the west,
And dewdrops pearl the evening's breast;
Almost as pale as moonbeams are,
Or its companionable star,
The evening primrose opes anew
Its delicate blossoms to the dew;
And, hermit-like, shunning the light,
Wastes its fair bloom upon the night,
Who, blindfold to its fond caresses,
Knows not the beauty it possesses;
Thus it blooms on while night is by;
When day looks out with open eye,
Bashed at the gaze it cannot shun,
It faints and withers and is gone.

posted by TSO @ 13:50

Ward Churchill & the Demise of the Elites

What interests me about Ward Churchill, the professor at Colorado who said that the U.S. needs a few more 9/11s and that those who died in the WTC were "little Eichmann's", was less his rhetoric (I take him for insane and therefore less culpable) than what it shows: that universities aren't capable of self-policing, at least without unprecendented media exposure.

This, we know, is not uncommon. What do Ken Lay, some Catholic bishops and Ward Churchill have in common? Highly respected elites - CEOs, bishops and professors - who, sadly, have caused by their actions the need for costly and elaborate regulatory oversight.

Of the three Churchill has done the least damage and if he were at a private college it wouldn't be much of an issue. But for taxpayers to finance a warping anti-Americanism? Well that sounds downright un-American.

posted by TSO @ 13:06

The Pope on pentential fasting for the soul. Words that speak well to a culture devoted to therapy.

posted by TSO @ 10:52

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

The first thing marc said was, “i think we need a bigger bed.” it was said with more enthusiasm than roy schieder's “i think we need a bigger boat,” nonetheless it conjured the same image in my mind....when asked about how large we'll grow our family, marc and i have often said we'll take as many as the good Lord will give us, "but, we refuse to drive a prison van." - smockmama reacting to news that she's pregnant with children number five & six

So please vote your conscience and make sure your conscience is correctly formed as to what constitutes humor and creativity. - the humorous Jeff Miller, on 2005 Catholic blog award voting

'When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.' This is the story of my life. I [even] read while brushing my teeth. - Julie of Happy Catholic. (Wow, that's one I've never tried. When I was younger & dumber I'd read while driving, but I've never taken the chance of reading while brushing for fear of damaging the book.:-)

Since the Reformation, the Church has been treating Mariology as a matter of apologetics at the expense of teaching Mariology as a matter of the living Catholic faith. To focus on the question, "When does Marian devotion make us bad Christians?" is to walk from the public square into court and sit down at the defendant's table... The first question is not, "What is bad about Marian devotion?," but, "What is good about it?" And we won't convince many people of what is good about it if we start from a defensive posture by denying that it's bad. - Tom of Disputations

Rev. Hock writes of Melancholic saints who conquered their tendency to pessimism and brooding, like the Cure d'Ars; Choleric saints who channelled their natural aggression into passionate, untiring work like St. Ignatius de Loyola and St. Francis de Xavier; and Sanguine saints who transmuted their gift for gab and carefree chatter into brilliant writings and sermons, like St. Francis de Sales. Yet the Phlegmatics, who are already allotted the shortest space in the book, don't seem to have their own patron saint...I refuse to publish this post without putting in a good word for them...My favourite Phlegmatic is one of my aunts, Ruby Baggins, who is as lovely and hobbity as her lovely hobbit name suggests. Heck, with all due respect to my beloved confirmation patron, I've learned more about Spiritual Childhood from Tita Ruby than from St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I'm sure St. Therese doesn't mind, though. She must be very fond of Tita Ruby. - Christina of Sancta Sanctis

What surprised me this year, however, was one local parish's Ash Wednesday all-you-can-eat fish dinner...I wonder sometimes if [my surprise] is the result of living most of my conscious Catholic life in the South, where Catholicism is more than a thread in the social fabric, something much different than cultural background noise, where you're constantly - not just as individuals, but as a church as a whole, on call, as 5% of the population in an often hostile religious culture, to demonstrate your true Christian cred. Because, I'm telling you, surrounded by an ocean of sentiment highly suspicious of the purpose of such "works" as fasting and abstinence, and "man-made traditions" like a season of Lent, an "all-you-can-eat Ash Wednesday fish fry," is just not going to support your argument for the spiritual value of these practices. - Amy Welborn

NRO reprints Whittaker Chambers' 1957 takedown of Ayn Rand with its noted line: "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber -- go!'" - Mark of Irish Elk

And somebody tell me how I actually give Him my heart. It's like rubbing your stomach and patting your head and jumping up and down on one foot and reciting poetry, all at once. How do we give Him our heart and talk on the phone at work? How do we give our heart and watch TV on the couch? How do we give and deal with our annoying relative? In a dark room, in peace, I can find my heart and try and hand it over. But in the world? Eeeeeshh...... - Therese Z of Exultet

We start out intending to use the blog, but too often the blog ends up using us. -Amy Welborn

Let me suggest that very few Christians adequately value the Sacrament of Baptism. It's such an awesome mystery, how could we? But even relative to other things, I suspect many Christians severely underestimate what Baptism means. There is a misplaced impulse in interfaith relations to downplay union with the Body of Christ, and a certain embarrassment regarding the Gospel has bleached nearly all meaning out of the dogma of the absolute necessity of Baptism for salvation. There are those who seem to regard Baptism as the way you keep score, and when another game is being played, Baptism doesn't count.- Tom of Disputations

I have gone through the Ignatian Exercises, and while they were wonderful because the guide was so wonderful, they convinced me once and for all that I was not cut out to be a Jesuit. The way I explain it is that the Ignatian Exercises are like Job wrestling the angel, whereas Teresian Spirituality is like a tango...[Our guide] asked that we spend no time with television, movies, music, or ANY reading other than the Exercises themselves, the Bible, and The Imitation of Christ. This was for about 9 months...Boy was THAT tough. - Steven Riddle (fyi: not all versions of the Exercises are so rigorous)

posted by TSO @ 09:47

Quote ..

...from NY Times review of Haruki Murakami's latest novel:

In each [of Murakami's novels], a self lies in pieces and must be put back together; a life that is stalled must be kick-started and relaunched into the bruising but necessary process of change. Reconciling us to that necessity is something stories have done for humanity since time immemorial. Dreams do it, too. But while anyone can tell a story that resembles a dream, it's the rare artist, like this one, who can make us feel that we are dreaming it ourselves.

posted by TSO @ 09:20


The Catechism says remarkably little about Lent. The section on liturgical seasons is dominated by Easter, describing it as the light that shines throughout the entire Liturgical year. I think there's a lesson in that. Lent shouldn't be about self-improvement as an end in itself but rather a means to prepare for the coming of Easter. Without keeping our eyes on the Prize two bad things happen, of which I am frequently guilty: 1) looking too much at my faults 2) looking too much at other's faults. I'd rather look at Jesus for awhile.

posted by TSO @ 09:19

Woods Tape

I was listening to a Steve Woods tape that backs up the assertion I made in the previous post about individualism being raised to idol status.

Woods wanted to provide his CCD class with a tool for memorizing scripture. Since there are many fine Protestant tools for this, he chose an excellent one but began to listen to it to make sure that, as a former Protestant, no one would think he's trying to sneak Protestant views into the class (which I thought was sort of touching). He listened to the tape four times before catching the silence: Acts 16:31 was truncated from "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household" to simply "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved". Telling?

posted by TSO @ 09:10

Pope Rather

I was talking to someone yesterday who said that this country will never become socialist because it is naturally rebellious. It was founded, like Australia, by those who wouldn't take any crap*. (Interesting that saints and sinners are the most rebellious, the former being the pilgrims of Plymouth Bay Colony and the latter the brigands exiled to Australia, though allowing that over time the definition of "brigand" became greatly loosened.)

I wondered: can I have it both ways? Can I be thrilled by democracy in America but loath it in the Church? Yes, because one is a secular institution and the other divine, while recognizing God gives free will even to churchmen. But when the Church became a human institution in the eyes of Christians then hope for unity withered on the vine.

Hugh Hewitt in his book "Blog" compares Dan Rather to Pope Leo with glee, a glee I obviously can't completely share. The Protestant Reformation was less reformation than revolution and revolutions are often cures that are worse than the disease.
Update: I don't mean to compare the Protestant Reformation to the Russian Revolution. But the term "reformation" is always and everywhere a good thing, while revolution is neutral - it can be good or ill, and it can be good in the short-run but not the longterm.

The cure in this case was to emphasize the individual to near idol status. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough recently scoffed when somebody said that Hillary Clinton's recent semi-anti-abortion speech was nothing new for her - so why the fuss? Scarborogh said that was pure guff, that everybody in politics know that you convey what you emphasize. So when you have a religion in which everyone emphasizes everything, you have little shot of unity. When everyone becomes their own interpreter of scripture, it's difficult to have the ship going the same way. The Catholic Church, throughout history, has emphasized different sides of the tensions inherent in Scripture depending on the culture and the needs of the day. God has done the same thing in the bible; Jeremiah and Hosea seem very different in tone and message only because they emphasize different things and portray God's condescending to the need of the time.

Looking at the Church today it's sometimes hard to figure why the need for Protestantism when there is so much diversity here. A church that includes Cardinal Ratzinger and Andrew Greeley, Dorothy Day and St. Louis, Sister Christer and Jeff Culbreath seems to be preserving individuality within a community, whether for good or for ill.

* - According to Charles Murray, the economist/philosopher Adam Smith counseled against the American Revolution. When asked at what rate of taxation revolution might be necessary, he said that if a third of income is taxed, then a revolution would seem in order.

posted by TSO @ 13:09

February 7, 2005

Stream o' Conscious Post and the rest are not?

I like the cut of this day's gib. There's a jauntiness in the air, I hear migrant birds singing and the sky is a crayola-quilt reminiscient of Connemara and/or late March.

Ham o' Bone calls to commiserate over the Tabasco Superbowl commercial. I forget to tell him about the T-shirt I saw on a young lady in the workout room: "HUSTER" on the front and "'s only sex" on the back. Times they are a changin'. I'm old enough to recall when young women didn't want to be treated like objects.

He also tells me about his latest frugality, which I store like Indianhead pennies in my desk. Says that he makes note of Blockbuster movies that are guaranteed in-store. He checks the store for violations and receives a free voucher for the film. One time the clerk found a stray copy behind the counter and Bone had to do an abrupt about-face: "uh...I've changed my mind."

posted by TSO @ 11:44

The Sledding Nuns

via Moniales

posted by TSO @ 10:02

Groundhog Day Redux

The fourth viewing this weekend proved it hasn't lost its charm. At the risk of overanalyzing:

--Morally speaking, things get worse for Bill Murray's character (Phil Connor) before they got better. Before Feb. 2nd, Connor was in some sense under the Law, the Old Testament covenant. He did things or did not do things only because he was held bound by consequences, not out of love. So when the consequences dissolved he sinned wildly. Can this be compared to the '60s & '70s when restrictions were lifted laity and clergy went wild because they were not doing things out of love?

--Note the order Phil Connor does things as he recovers from his moral slide:
1) he talks about his experience to Rita.
2) Second he is shown reading (i.e. a form of listening) at a coffee shop
3) Takes up music by learning piano, which eventually benefits not only himself but others
4) Begins doing charitable acts that please only others and don't benefit him in any sense that he can anticipate

It's an interesting progression. Why would music be a step beyond reading? Being a reader I find that hard to defend, though Beethoven did say music was more revelatory than philosophy. Charity as the pinnacle is obvious.

--It was interesting to see how Connor's character handled the most annoying character of the show, the insurance agent Neiderman. At first, not realizing that actions no longer had consequences, he treated him civily if rudely. Then he simply did him bodily harm by slugging him. Then he ignored him. Then he hugged him, but it was an aggressive embrace, born not of love but of a desire to distance with a counterfeit love. Finally, at the very end, Connor bought from an elated Neiderman all the insurance an agent could ever want.

posted by TSO @ 09:41

Whoda Thunk It?

I'd always thought the besetting sin of the Christian right was self-righteousness but while perusing Disputations' commenters (aka 'the Communist Commutariat') last week, I noticed that the Christian left is more guilty of it. And Andrew Greeley, hardly a right-winger, identifies the left as today's Pharisees in his book "The Jesus Myth".

So pardon me while I bask in my own self-righteousness at not being the most self-righteous--DOH!! I hate it when that happens...

posted by TSO @ 09:03

Parody of song "I Love to Laugh" from Disney's Mary Poppins:

I love to read
Long and hard with a beer
I love to read
It's getting worse ev'ry year!

The more I read
The more I fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more I'm a merrier me
It's embarrassing!
The more I'm a merrier me!

Mary Poppins:
Some people read only proses
Sounding something like this "Mmm..."
Some people read like MamaT for goodness sake
Never watching TV.

Some read too fast
Some only cast
Others, they skim like birds
Then there's the kind
What can't make up their mind...

We love to read
Long and deeply it's clear
We love to read
Every day of the year!
The more you read
The more you fill with glee
And the more the glee
The more we're a merrier we!

posted by TSO @ 08:20

Dominus regit me

Even familiar Psalms sound unfamiliar in the Douay-Rheims:

1 The Lord ruleth me: and I shall want nothing. 2 He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment: 3 He hath converted my soul. He hath led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake. 4 For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they have comforted me. 5 Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebriateth me, how goodly is it!

posted by TSO @ 09:16

February 5, 2005

Fictional Friday

a sea tale...:

In Tyne’s Wooden Shop hung a bronze of a saily-ship of the kind last seen in Tennyson’s day. A string hung like a chain of hope from which dangled a tag that said ‘priceless’, so I brought it home because I’d always dreamt of a saily-ship to take me away to Calgon, where all the clothes come clean. Faint was this port of call for I had no way to get there; my poetry was longing and my longing was poetry.

The dust of centuries clung but I wiped it off and it shone like a fresh foal and the minutes were as mountain peaks when I saw the scene of oarsman bearing strait for distances obscene. I told them “I don’t know that I want to go that far!” but they said I would, so I joined them.

The sea clipped the poor hull’s ridge and I feared for their sanity and my safety. I wondered what oarsman be these apostles? But then the brine-sea wind blew over my face and the caress was gentle and not what I expected and I felt merry despite the temptest, taking the oarsmen's surety as my curative. They sang as they oar’d and the water flowed over me like a moving staircase...

posted by TSO @ 01:25

Skara Brae

"On the far curving shore of the bay lies Skara Brae, hazy through the sea-haar."
-George Mackay Brown - "Rockpools and Daffodils"

Reminds me of a song...

The Wee Lass on the Brae - celtic traditional

As I was a-walkin' one fine summer's day
Oh, the fields they were in blossom and the meadows were gay
I met a wee lassie trippin' over the green
I took her for Helen, the Grec-i-an queen
The Grecian queen, the Grec-i-an queen
I took her for Helen, the Grec-i-an queen

She's admired by many, I know them right well
Each morning to view the sweet spot where she dwells
Beneath the hawthorn at the brink on yon hill
May she never marry, but think on me still
But think on me still, but think on me still
May she never marry, but think on me still

My parents died on me, 'tis all for their sake
And oft times it causes my poor heart to break
But the more I think on them, the more I will say
There's no one will be mine but the wee lass on the brae
Wee lass on the brae, wee lass on the brae
There's no one will be mine but the wee lass on the brae

Oh and faith, there's a decline over yon far-off sky
'And straightway to my true love I surely will fly
If the night were as long as a long summer's day
I'd cheerfully sit with my wee lass on the brae
Wee lass on the brae, wee lass on the brae
I'd cheerfully sit with my wee lass on the brae

So fare thee well, darling, I love you the best
And may you be happy and may you be blessed
And may you think on me when I'm far away
For there's no one will be mine but the wee lass on the brae
Wee lass on the brae, wee lass on the brae
There's no one will be mine but the wee lass on the brae

posted by TSO @ 09:53

February 4, 2005


I'm trying to figure why I so much like Scott Hahn's thesis about the angels, and about how Michael the Archangel basically made a decision for God "in the dark" and contra his greatest gift, that of his intelligence.

I think it's because explanations for things - like about the tsunami, or about free will & predestination - are utterly unsatisfying to the point of being counterproductive, while examples - such as Christ, or Michael - are so satisfying. It seems as though suffering is not as bad as being alone in our suffering. Sacrifices made during Lent are easier than at other times because we know our fellow Catholics are making similar sacrifices. To be outside the fold, to be, as the area beyond Dublin was known by the British, "beyond the pale" is the worst thing. There is great comfort in solidarity which is perhaps why the unrepentant say of Hell: "well, at least all my friends will be there."

The example of Christ is a constant corrective to mistaken thinking. I recall the early martyr stories, of the martyrs going singing to their deaths and feeling no pain and I thought that was how it was supposed to be, that we are supposed to go through life without mental consternation. If your faith is strong enough, you'll feel no pain. But to remember Christ's agony in the garden and attending cry on the cross "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is to instantly discredit that thought.

Perhaps it's my personality, but I've always liked Tertullian's famous line "credo quia absurdum" - "I believe it because it is absurd". And the thought of God asking of Michael an absurdity strikes me as funny and believable in the context of the many other paradoxes in the bible (like sterile women becoming pregnant or the rich entering Heaven). Hahn says in his tape that he thinks Christ on the cross was trusting the Father that this absurdity - the sinless one experiencing the penalty of sin - was a similar act of purblind faith.

posted by TSO @ 09:01

A Favorite Hymn of Youth

Sons of God,
Hear his holy word,
gather round
the table of the Lord
Eat his Body, drink his Blood!
And we'll sing a song of love,
allelu, allelu, allelu, alleluia.

Brothers, Sisters we are one,
and our lives have just begun
In the Spirit we are one
we can live forever!

posted by TSO @ 13:17

February 3, 2005

Opposite Saints

I'm reading some of "The Popes: Histories and Secrets" by Claudio Rendina and it has only whetted my appetite for full-length biographies, mostly for one pope in particular: St. Pius X.

First there is the anomaly of a canonized pope. He's the only one for the past 400+ years. Looking at the long list of popes since the 16th century, it almost looks like the "St." in front of his name is a typo.

Second there is the sense that he is the polar opposite of Pope John Paul II, who is likely a saint himself (even John Cornwell, hardly an admirer, notices the strong scent of sanctity in our Holy Father). So here you have two saints, a hundred years apart. And one was fiercely anti-modern, the other much more accommodating (although, as we know, accommodating is in the eye of the beholder).

Still, Pope Pius X makes Pope John Paul II look like something of a radical. Rendina has some harsh words for St. Pius, saying that his saintliness was not to say that he ran the church well. Whether that's true or not is way beyond my competency, which is why I read books like this. I guess the lesson is that personal holiness does not equate to prudent decisions as pontiff, as I'm sure Trads attest with regard to Blessed John XXIII.

posted by TSO @ 09:22

Kreeft, on the Gift of God's Love Being Free For the Taking

I am a Roman Catholic. But the most liberating idea I have ever heard I first learned from Martin Luther. Pope John Paul II told the German Lutheran bishops that Luther was profoundly right about this idea. He said that Catholic teaching affirms it just as strongly and that there was no contradiction between Protestant and Catholic theology on this terribly important point, which was the central issue of the Protestant Reformation. I speak, of course, about "justification by faith" and its consequence, which Luther called "Christian liberty" or "the liberty of a Christian" in his little gem of an essay by that name...God is a lover, not a manager, a businessman, accountant, owner, or puppet-master. What He wants from us first of all is not a technically correct performance but our heart. Protestants and Catholics alike need to relearn and reemphasize that simple, liberating truth..."We may think God wants actions of a certain kind, but God wants people of a certain sort." [C.S. Lewis].
-Peter Kreeft

posted by TSO @ 09:15

Them is True Words

Via Kiss Me, I'm Catholic:

The description of each of the [Medieval] temperaments seems to be taken from a book by one Rev. Conrad Hock. He applies the temperaments to education and the spiritual life and comes up with some interesting observations.

Confession is a great burden to the melancholic, while it is comparatively easy to the sanguine. The melancholic wants to manifest himself, but cannot; the choleric can express himself easily, but does not want to.
The comic-tragedy of the human condition in a nutshell!

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Recappin' the State o' the Union

On Pres. Bush: W seemed to enjoy the non-reaction of Democrats to some of his proposals. He'd shoot a mischievous grin at them and take delight in their non-applause. When he spoke in favor of a constitional amendment to ban gay marriage it seemed for a second like he might adlib, "I see my friends on the other side of the aisle are against defending marriage!"

On Dick Cheney: I was greatly distracted when he clapped. His long fingers makes him look disturbingly like Mr. Burns on the Simpsons.

On Soc Security: Run by me exactly how his proposal is controversial again? I mean other than the legit concern about the cost to implement, this seems a no-brainer. The whole intention of social security was to force us to set aside some money, earn .001% a year on it, and then get it back at age 62. Bush simply wants to force us to set aside some money, earn 5-8% on it, and withdraw it at 62. A horrible idea indeed. I think GW should've said something like, "Let's examine the story of our friend Mr. Payroll Tax. PT began life as a cute, cuddly, 1-percent baby boy. He's grown, with employer match, to fifteen percent and guess what folks? He's huuunnnngry!". Of course, Roosevelt was cagey enough to have people begin collecting benefits just after the mortality tables said they were dead. To truly implement Roosevelt's vision, we'd have to change the age at which we can start collecting to 77. Which I suspect would be controversial. (This is audience participatory; you say here: "you think?").

Ascending Rhetoric: I'm not a fan of W's Wilsonian streak. It's not far from the foolishness of the statement "the war to end all wars" to this stuff about ending tyranny everywhere, all the time. If I can't end my own petty tyrannies, how's he gonna do it?

Moving: Like most I suspect, I fought off tears when the mother of a slain soldier hugged an Iraqi voter.

Hilary: Appeared to have stayed awake. This is biggest sign yet that she is running in '08. She's never stayed awake for a Bush SOTU before, so Republicans grab your ankles. Short of a major faux paus, she'll be hearing Hail to the Chief in four, in part due to the Republicans having no one to run and in part because she's one helluva politician.

The Kiss: You might've missed this, but after the speech, the President heady in the way football players are after scoring a touchdown, cradled Sen. Lieberman's face and planted a wet one. Certainly Lieberman's been a good friend to the President on the war but I'm not sure the affectionate display does much for Lieberman's Ben & Jerry-soused Vermont voters.

posted by TSO @ 06:36

Groundhog Day - the Movie

From Jonah Goldberg's NR piece:

Charles Murray, author of Human Accomplishment, has cited Groundhog Day more than once as one of the few cultural achievements of recent times that will be remembered centuries from now. He was quoted in The New Yorker declaring, “It is a brilliant moral fable offering an Aristotelian view of the world.”
Wow, now that's a mouthful. More:
The point is that Connors [Bill Murray's character] slowly realizes that what makes life worth living is not what you get from it, but what you put into it. He takes up the piano. He reads poetry — no longer to impress Rita, but for its own sake....By the end of the film, Connors is no longer obsessed with bedding Rita. He’s in love with her, without reservation and without hope of his affection being requited. Only in the end, when he completely gives up hope, does he in fact “get” the woman he loves. And with that, with her love, he finally wakes on February 3, the great wheel of life no longer stuck on Groundhog Day. As NR’s own Rick Brookhiser explains it, “The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived. And his reward is that the day is taken from him. Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.”

posted by TSO @ 09:22

February 2, 2005

It's Impossible

Rich post from Sancta Sanctis titled "A Ring Only She Could See".

I blogged last week about angels, which fell into the nether sea (except notably one Hokie Pundit), and the gist of it was that the angels were asked an impossibility: to disturb the natural order of things by serving man, prompting Satan's fall. I am interested in other impossibilities, such as bread becoming God, or for God's cry on the Cross to go unheeded:

One of Uncle Gilbert's most powerful paradoxes is his gloss of one of our Lord's seven last words, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?": when this anguished cry from the Cross went unheeded, it was as if God Himself had become an atheist.

posted by TSO @ 09:00

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Tell him where I was raised (out in West Texas, not where I live now) that macaroni and cheese is considered a vegetable. - MamaT

If you're a big enough fool to climb a tree and like a cat refuse to come down, then someone who loves you has to make as big a fool of himself to rescue you. - Walker Percy, via Scipio of

One of the hardest truths of Christianity is that God love you as you are. The intellectual truth is not difficult--over and over again in the Bible we are told that God loves us. It is almost the breath of scripture--the enduring, abiding, eternal love of God for His wayward chldren. But it is very difficult for that head truth to trickle down to the heart. Few of us feel loved even if we know that it is true. More importantly, few of us feel lovable (and for those who do, they are often insufferable). The beginning of abandoment lies in understanding the depth of God's love for us. You cannot abandon or surrender yourself to a disinterested party--that way lies disaster. But how do we begin to internalize the reality of God's love for us? First, we pay attention... - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

It's now a public university pretty much like any other, riddled with affirmative action, plenty of liberal faculty teaching oddly named courses in various areas of study, and others more routinely named but whose survival depends on the ignorance of parents, the libidinous curiosity of students, and the all-protective embrace of "academic freedom"... - William Luse on his daughter's alma mater Ole Miss

If it's January 28...It's time to visit Disputations - Amy Welborn, of the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

I find the great 20th century Thomists--Maritain, Gilson, Pieper--the only modern philosophers who don't cut corners or contradict themselves in some subtle or not so subtle manner. I've recently been reading the philosopher/novelist Iris Murdoch, a brilliant woman, but in her philosophical writings she launched upon an impossible project: To uphold the Good absent a God. It makes for all sorts of evasions and leaps of logic, which sometimes she does not even bother to disguise. - commenter on Amy's blog

For St. Thomas, the ingenuity or eloquence of a teaching counted for nothing; he was concerned only with how the truth of a teaching could be used in the service of the Faith. And "the chief element in the doctrines of the Catholic faith is salvation effected by the cross of Christ." - Tom of Disputations

Why Flowers Don't Have Faces

Before Adam ate his apple,
the flowers had faces.

Before you saw smiles,
but now you just see traces.

Now to see the smiles
you must travel miles.

The devil long before
had destroyed our smiles.

That is why to see them
you must travel miles.

- Jeff Culbreath's 8-year old daughter Amy

Daddy, I can't write a poem if I think about it too much! - Amy Culbreath, asked how long she had to think about it before writing it.

The times I've been happiest have been the times when I was pressed to my limit, stretched beyond what I thought I could do, overloaded and short on sleep. The year that I was going through RCIA, being Elsa's Girl Scout troop leader, and writing short stories almost nonstop while nursing a newborn-- that was an interesting year. The next year, where I was still nursing the kid, leading the Girl Scout troop, lectoring at church, and going to college with a 19 credit hour schedule, that was interesting... -m'Lynn of Scattershot Direct

Tariel and I are naturally sensitive (all right, defensive) about the more miraculous elements of Catholicism. It doesn't help that we live with Alkdilwen, a Psychology major who believes that Catholics are saved from being delusional by our sheer number (for if only a handful of people in the world believed that the bread and wine turn into Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, then those believers would be a Psych textbook case for delusion)...

Let's face it, though: in the end, there will always be something like St. Catherine's mystical wedding ring in the life of a believer. If the object of faith were apparent and obvious to everyone, then faith would be meaningless. There is always something which the believer knows in her heart to be true, but which she cannot prove is true to anyone else. This doesn't make it untrue; it just puts the believer in a very uncomfortable position. It is the same position that Uncle Gilbert [Chesterton] has described over and over again, that of having one's back against the wall: the position of all those who challenge authority, but also the position of the greatest Authority in the universe...[given] our Lord's assurance that "My flesh is really food and My blood is drink". Even in a Catholicism stripped of all POD-itties (in other words, a Catholicism divorced from the mystery of the Incarnation--a complete impossibility), the precipitous element will remain. I remember Cardinal Ratzinger writing something about how being a Christian is like being nailed to a cross that is nailed to nothing--like clinging to something that is drifting about in a dark void. The only proof a Christian has of the existence of a loving God is as reasonable and yet as inadmissible as a betrothal ring that only she can see. - Sancta Sanctis

posted by TSO @ 08:59

Thankfully, the Holy Father's condition has stabilized.

posted by TSO @ 08:57

The Odd Couple & Grace & Nature

This post will attempt to examine the role of nature and grace in Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in a hundred words or less. Ready, set, ...

Both Felix and Oscar have the opportunity for using the natural goodness inherent in their flawed personalities. Oscar (Jack Klugman's character) has the natural gift of being able to look on ugliness - both literal and figurative - without cringing and drawing back. He can empathize with the sinner in a way Felix can't and therefore has a greater aptitude to forgive.

Felix (Tony Randall's character) has the natural gift of finding sanctity in the small things. His is the "little way" reminiscent of St. Therese of Lisieux. His gift is thoughtfulness - his anal retentive nature moves him to pray dutifully, be conscientious at work, and support the church.

Of course, these are purely natural gifts. With the gift of grace Felix can become bold, can forgive more easily, and can look upon ugliness bravely. With grace Oscar can become thoughtful and eschew laziness. Using our natural gifts to further the Kingdom is the "natural" course, but we have to be ready for using unnatural gifts too, since I think God is most clearly seen, and thus evangelized, by His completion of what we naturally lack.

posted by TSO @ 06:21

When You Say Bud

Ham o' Bone will love this one. Jonah Goldberg sings the praises of Budweiser.

I'm not a big fan, though Budweiser is a nice change of pace. In baseball you'd call it a change-up. Unless you're Greg Maddox, you ain't gonna get anybody out with it, but it does set up the palate for rich fastballs like Guinness, St. Pauli Girl Dark, and Beck's Dark.

posted by TSO @ 15:54

February 1, 2005

Pope's Philosophy

Cornwell in The Pontiff in Winter:

Wojtyla struggled with [German philosopher Max] Scheler texts, struggled with his own philosophical scruples, and wrestled with his conscience - for was not Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, by decree of Pope Leo XIII, the foundational, definitive, and magisterial guide to Catholic thought? He wavered, and set himself the task of combining the insights of Aquinas with those of Scheler. Surely, the circuitous, less disciplined thoughts of Scheler would benefit from alignment with the highly logical, time-honored foundations of Thomas Aquinas. The conflict between two such contrasting philosophical force fields gave impetus to a current of contradiction that would run through Wojtyla's thinking for the rest of his life...Wojtyla's apologists down the years would claim that he redressed and enlivened the inflexibility and austerity of scholasticism.

posted by TSO @ 14:32

O'Reilly & the Shroud

Bill O'Reilly, who recently made news in our household by saying he was "not a scientist" (I tease), had Barrie Schwortz on, a Shroud of Turin scholar. From the Free Republic site:

A January 20, 2005 article in the scholarly, peer-reviewed scientific journal Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, pages 189-194, by Raymond N. Rogers, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California) makes it perfectly clear: the carbon 14 dating sample cut from the Shroud in 1988 was not valid. In fact, the Shroud is much older than the carbon 14 tests suggested.
O'Reilly didn't ask the question I wanted him to. I wanted him to ask Mr. Schwortz whether his Shroud work has given him reason to re-examine the claims of Christianity (Schwortz is Jewish).

posted by TSO @ 11:11

Happy St. Bridget's Day:

Bridget was born in the fifth century and, after hearing St. Patrick preach, established Ireland's first community of nuns.

Her first monastery, and the first headed by a woman, became the hub around which the cathedral city of Kildare eventually grew.

In time, convents were established all over Ireland, she and her followers even travelling abroad to Scotland and the continent.

The saint is also known as Bridget of Downpatrick where she is said to be buried beside St. Patrick.

posted by TSO @ 10:52

Man Bites Dog Story

Hilary Swank seems like the sweetest movie star you'd ever want to meet. Story here:

Swank is about as unpretentious as you get. She doesn’t drink; she doesn’t smoke. She’s polite, does volunteer work in her community, and has been with the same man for 12 years.

Swank says she is still deeply in love her husband, and planning for a family. But she's doing her best to keep her private life private. She did, however, tell Wallace one very personal story, which began with a dream.

"I was dreaming a lot that I was going to have to save someone's life. And I thought, 'Well, I'm not gonna ignore this dream anymore,'" says Swank. "And I got certified in CPR. And I'd say three months after that, someone collapsed in an airport."

"I dropped my stuff right there, saw him on the ground. He was the color of an eggplant," says Swank. "He'd not only fallen. He had had a heart attack and wasn't getting -- he was dying. So, I just administered CPR until the paramedics could get there."

"He didn't live," she says, crying. "I mean, I got his heart going. And I kept – I didn't get his heart going. But I acted as his heart, pumping his chest."


Is she as uncomplicated a person as she seems to be?

"Yeah. I'm not a very complicated person. I don't feel like I need a lot of things to make me happy," says Swank. "I feel like – part of that is my upbringing, not needing a lot of things around you. It's the truth. It really is."

posted by TSO @ 09:19

January 31, 2005

Canada, Land of the Semi-Free...?

I was reading a left-ish blog for purposes of overcoming the sour attitude that accompanies reading left-ish blogs. No pain, no gain; call it the 21st century equivalent of a hair shirt. And there I read the typical hysterics concerning the First Amendment Clause in the Constitution: i.e., we're losing all our freedoms, censorship ba-aad (say like Bush 41).

But I was sour-free until came the clincher: "See you in Canada!". But Canada is no haven for free speech, just progressive speech. St. Paul would be charged with hate speech there. Fox News is finally being allowed to broadcast in Canada, I guess because they figured that since they let Al Jazeera in, they'd have to let in "our" Al Jezeera.

The irritation is that free speech advocates are often elitists. Nothing wrong with that, but the irritation comes in pretending otherwise.

posted by TSO @ 16:02

Haven't I seen this blog title somewhere before?

posted by TSO @ 13:41

Good Fiction is Hard to Find

In a knight-like quest to find good fiction, Dulcinea & I rode off into the sunset or the local Borders bookstore, whichever came first. I visit Borders about as often as Michael Moore compliments conservatives because books cost money and I've done the math. I can buy books on much cheaper.

But how long as it been since I felt a book in my hands with such beauty, such heft, such bold margins and laxative properties? Too long it seems! I tend these days to buy paperbacks, typically used paperbacks. Many a book I find online for $1, $2 or $5. Yet I miss the physicality of a well-designed hardback novel. I ended up getting "Vodka" by Boris Starling, which promises a bit of recent Russian history while being delightfully light. Too much heavy reading makes for a constipated O'Rama.

posted by TSO @ 13:34


Ham o' Bone, writing under the (double) pseudonym of Richard "Pebble" Beach, scribes a piquant post.

posted by TSO @ 13:24

More Barzun, on the Casual Use of Great Works of Art

Great works too often seen or performed, too readily available in bits and pieces, become articles of consumption instead of objects of contemplation. They lose force and depth by being too familiar through too frequent or too hurried use. When I hear of someone's proudly "spending the day at the museum," I wonder at the effect: the intake is surely akin to that of an alcoholic. Music likewise is anesthetic when big doses - symphony after symphony, opera on top of opera - are administered without respite. We should remember the Greeks' practice of exposing themselves to one tragic trilogy and one comedy on but a single day each year. High art is meant for rare festivals, where anticipation is followed by exhilaration and the aftermath is meditation and recollection in tranquility. The glut has made us into gluttons, who gorge and do not digest.

-Jacques Barzun, The Culture We Deserve
UPDATE: KTC suggests this is also a problem with video games.

posted by TSO @ 09:22

Metabloggic Rates

NY Times has an article about parental blogging that was interesting, made more so by the mention of Michael Chabon, whose "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" was a favorite of mine years ago:

"Fundamentally children resent being placed at the heart of their parents' expression, and yet I still do it," said Ayelet Waldman, whose blog, Bad Mother (, describes life at home with her four young children and her husband, Michael Chabon, the novelist. Ms. Waldman, a novelist herself, has blogged about her baby Abie's recessive chin and gimpy hip and the thrill of the children's going back to school after winter break.

"A blog like this is narcissism in its most obscene flowering," she said. "But it's necessary. As a parent your days are consumed by other people's needs. This is payback for driving back and forth to gymnastics all week long."

posted by TSO @ 09:11

Saw a car with the license plate "Kelz KIA". I was saddened and said a quick prayer for their loss. But then a closer look revealed the type of car was a Kia!

posted by TSO @ 08:53

Good Post at Blogimus Maximus (via M'Lynn of Scattershot Direct).

There seems a relationship between Protestantism and capitalism in the Darwinian "let the good churches survive". There is self-selection at work, the spiritually glamourous seeking the spiritually glamourous. "I'm not being fed" can be a shortcut to "I'm not inspired by the yuck-yucks at this church". But, to be fair, they would say they are going where the Spirit is working since the Spirit blows where it will. And if I were Protestant I'd certainly move around - if there's no visible, universal church around which to unite then why not shop? I'd go where they sing those beautiful gospel songs like "Why Me, Lord?" or this one: "Now let us have a little talk with Jesus / Let us tell Him all about our troubles/ He will hear our famished cry /He will answer by and by / Now when you feel a little prayer turning / And you know the little talk with Jesus makes it right."

My stepson works at BMW (aka Bavarian Motor Works) and says that the culture there is "very Catholic, very loyal". They won't fire anybody. They give outlandish benefits. (Sound familiar? The Pope won't "fire" dissident theologians and the Church gives outlandish benefits in the form of Sacraments.) I wonder how they can compete. Companies as families seem anachronistic.

Loyalty seems like a kissing cousin of forgiveness. I watched a Western over the weekend called "The Hi-Lo Country" and in it two best friends fall in love with the same girl. One gets her and they plan to marry; the other eventually succumbs to his passions and rapes her. The loyalty of the wronged one to his best friend, who had saved his life, was such that he forgave even that outrageous crime.

posted by TSO @ 07:56

January 30, 2005

Lookin' for Fiction... in all the wrong places

It’s sad to have finished Walker Percy's excellent “The Moviegoer”. Boy was it good. The final third was rich as pie. It’s so hard to find good fiction, given my limitations. Jon Hassler & Richard Russo, although I’ve only read a couple pages of each, look too “dialogue-y”. I like poetry in novels, more Dickens & less Twain. Updike has poetry but often has little to say. Percy’s language was pleasingly ornate while having important things to say. He was the master societal diagnostician and to diagnose the problem gives a sense of confidence it can be resolved. With Updike there’s more a sense of hopelessness. T.C. Boyle is likewise poetic, so perhaps I’ll get his latest although I’m not thrilled about diving into the muck of Kinsey’s life. David Lodge’s “Author, Author” looks promising. I’ve been reading snippets of Tolstoy’s “War & Peace” and though most translations are inimical to poetry Tolstoy says interesting things about human psychology. Marilynne Robinson’s “Gilead” also looks interesting.

posted by TSO @ 22:32

January 28, 2005


I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime

In a big country dreams stay with you
Like a lover's voice fires the mountainside
Stay alive
--Big Country, "In a Big Country"

posted by TSO @ 16:57

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. - Anne Frank, quoted by Mark of "Irish Elk"

Charming tales are redolent of the Celtic delight in story-telling - the bigger, the better - the more imaginative, the more intriguing, the more unbelievable...all that makes for a better and more memorable tale. And if every detail isn't exactly the truth...well, in folk times and places, purveyors and listeners of folk tales understood that there's a time to tell the truth ("BORING!")* and a time to spin a tale worth the tellin'! --Marion on Tom of Disputations

Marriage is primarily for our SANCTIFICATION, not for our GRATIFICATION. - Kathy the CARMELITE

I'm writing a piece on why I think Bill Murray's Groundhog Day was one of the best films of the last few decades and will undoubtedly hold up for generations to come. - Jonah Goldberg of "The Corner"

The more substantial question is how ecclesial unity is preserved in the Eastern churches, beyond the loose consensual unity that has only recently begun to be subjected to the corrosive acids of modernity and postmodernity. How theological disputes over faith and morals may be resolved remains a major question. Some Eastern churches accept and ecclesiastically sanction divorce and re-marriage (up to three times). Some Eastern churches ecclesiastically sanction the use of contraceptives (even though ancient tradition condemns contraception and pills today are proven abortifacients). How such practices can be squared with Sacred Tradition or be ecclesiastically resolved among acephalous Orthodox hierarchies that do not recognize one another's jurisdiction remains a major question as well. - Philip Blosser of "Catholic Tradition"

While I agree with the hilarious IowaHawk that one shouldn't invest too much weight in announcing a respite from blogging ("Telling us "blogging will be light" is sort of like calling up the neighbors to announce you won't be nude sunbathing in the back yard for a while . . ."), blogging may nevertheless "be light" in the coming week(s). - Christopher of Ratzinger Fan Club blog

Our faith objectively is true, but truth is known by the intellect, not the emotions. The emotions may motivate us to investigate the truth of something, but they cannot establish its truth. That is a task for the mind. If our faith were proved by "fif," [funny internal feelings] then those saints who underwent a dark night of the soul--I have in mind such luminaries as John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila--could not be said to have accepted the faith as true. For substantial periods they had the opposite of a "burning in the bosom," but they never chucked the faith because, despite the lack of emotional highs, they knew it to be true because their minds told them so. All Catholics need to remember that the virtue of faith has to do with the mind, not with the emotions. - Karl Keating

To echo Mr. P: How [can] anybody…really, truly be a modern liberal [?] You just can't go around doing real, constructive good without a concept of what Good is. - Mark of Irish Elk

I started this blog back in 2000 and have been posting almost every day since. More than 10,000 posts later... yes, I can believe I'm still at it. Very addictive stuff, as many of you know all too well...As blogging passes through its "CB radio" era and into its "Disco Duck" phase, I don't have any deep thoughts to share with you about the phenomenon. I am almost, but not quite, resigned to the fact that someday this blog will cost me a job. Google Cache is what it is, and I can't/won't undo stuff I wrote in anger and haste for tacky, careerist reasons. Regardless of the consequences, I plan to continue doing my subatomic part to (ahem) prevent Western Civilization's demise at the hands of Islamikazes and self-hating Marxist dupes. - Kathy of Relapsed Catholic

[The] Mass is not something that the people do. It's not something that the celebrant does, either. The Mass is something that Christ does. The Mass takes place in this world and has effects upon it, but it is not of this world. That is why there is always something peculiar and out-of-the-ordinary about liturgical worship. - Fr. Jim Tucker

You will notice that none of these books [I am currently reading] is directly religious. Nowadays most of my reading is on subjects unrelated to my vocation. There was a time when I read nothing but apologetics, but too much of one topic throws one off kilter. I didn't want to end up being described by Churchill's definition of a fanatic: "one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." - Karl Keating

Another book I am making some progress with is "Predestination" by Rev. Garrigou-Lagrange. This is a book by a Dominican on Catholic thinking on predestination. I thought that it might throw some light on the problem of free will. Like Popper's book, it is difficult but worthwhile...Some books are difficult and the result of all one's efforts is paltry. They resemble one of those puzzles from magazines that my wife often asks me to help her with: a lot of cerebration goes on; words are painstakingly filled in; and the result of one's efforts is a final word like "artichoke". That's your reward.- Julian of The Julian Calendar

I don't know very much about Catholicism. - beginning of a Tom of Disputations' post. This would seem 'grabbing our attention by way of a fib'

posted by TSO @ 15:02

Everbody Loves a Lover

Walter Kerr wrote about how there are no newly-minted holidays these days. (This was in '62, before Martin Luther King day.) And he claims existing holidays like Christmas are more burden than joy to most.

How successful is a culture that isn't minting new days to celebrate? Where have all the feast days gone? (Well, today is a good one.) Kerr says the inability to play is part of it. Pope John XXIII once said that Americans are bad at praying because "they don't know how to relax".

We would be more playful and joyous if we knew how much God loves us. Love and joy beget love and joy. I can never forget reading Scott Hahn's book "Rome Sweet Home", specifically the chapter on John 6. The Eucharist is a powerful expression of God's love. Peter Kreeft puts it well in his latest book:

For a saint is simply a great lover of God, and nothing elicits love more than love. 'Everybody loves a lover.' Nothing makes us saints faster than being hit over the head with God's love.

posted by TSO @ 09:53

Misaddressed Emails

Has anyone else been getting email messages by mistake? I've had a rash of emails apparently intended for someone else but sent to me. Probably typos, but there are so many! I'm beginning to wonder if it the mistakes are intentional.

I received one titled "Reply to your comment" but inside was a graphic advertising software. I said I don't recall making any comments about software.

Someone sent an email calling me "Frederic" and selling V.1..a'g.ra. I wrote back saying they must have the wrong email address since I don't even know a Frederic.

Kinsella asks "Remember me?" and I replied "I'm sorry, I don't".

Lately it's been package shipment information. Got four of them today. I kindly say that I did not order anything.

One wrote to say that her "husband is out of otwn", and I suggested maybe they have some otwn at the store?

It takes an hour or two each day to let these peolple know thta they mistyped their intendid address.

posted by TSO @ 09:32


"Don't you see? What I want is to believe in someone completely and then do what he wants me to do. If God were to tell me: Kate, here is what I want you to do; you get off this train right now and go over there to that corner by the Southern Life and Accident Insurance Company and stand there for the rest of your life and speak kindly to people - you think I would not do it? You think I would not be the happiest girl in Jackson, Mississippi? I would."
- Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer"
The most liberating discovery is that since God has filled us with His own life, our love can be like a tube open at both ends, with God's love coming in one end and out the other, in by faith and out by works. The alternative is to be a tube open only at one end, the neighbor's end. Then we try to squeeze our own spiritual toothpaste out of the tube. But we only have a finite amount of toothpaste to give. So we worry about squandering it, just as the older brother in the the parable of the prodigal son did. But God's supply is infinite. That's why the saints love so recklessly. It's not their love they love with, but God's.
- Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You

posted by TSO @ 09:42

January 27, 2005

Sanibel Isle Trip Log

...whereupon we visit our snowbird parents in their condo down in the land of Florida...

day 1

My reading here is Tom Hayden’s “Irish on the Inside”, Walter Kerr’s “Decline of Pleasure”, Percy’s “The Moviegoer” (which I finished), a book of essays and nature writing by a local writer and Russell Kirk’s ghost stories titled “Ancestral Shadows”. The reads were all, dare I say, pleasurable? From Kerr:

“We do not pay much attention to ancient saints, even when they were thinkers. 'No man can exist without pleasure,' remarked St. Thomas Aquinas, who ought – if our understanding of the dour medieval mind is correct – to have been urging us to put away our playthings in favor of prayer. 'Life would not be tolerable without poetry,' announced St. Teresa of Avila, making it perfectly clear, in a parenthetical remark, that she meant it would not be tolerable even in a convent for contemplatives. St. Augustine thought that whenever a conflict arose between the enjoyable and the useful, the useful had to give way as being, in the ultimate sense, inferior. Many of the soberer thinkers of the past, including those who had by vow denied themselves most earthly pleasures, did not scruple to elevate what they called recreation to a dizzying position in the hierarchy of the worth-while.”

Hayden quoted somebody who said that the Irish are “more interested in being interesting than in being successful”, which reminds me of William F. Buckley’s aphorism that the worst sin is to be boring. Hayden’s book is fascinating to me. The ‘60s liberal activist is my opposite yet we both have a love of things Irish: just different things. For him being Irish means being counter-cultural (no matter the culture) and it means putting the fighting in “fighting Irish” (he speaks of the IRA & Molly Maguires with unseemly affection). And reading Maureen Dezell’s “Irish America” wasn’t much better. She sees Ireland as the land of feminists, whence cometh strong women (presumably like herself), such as Mother Jones and Margaret Sanger. Sanger. Doesn’t that beat all? Sanger, one of the more misanthropic people on the planet, a person who wanted the disabled and so-called racial inferiors killed. But Dezell holds her up as a role model because she’s of the same sex and exercised power. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Power. It’s like someone who has a mustache pointing to Hitler as his role model because he was a strong man with a mustache. It’s profoundly dispiriting to see that our love for our heritage is often a love for ourselves. To see some of our traits expressed in our background can be a good thing because it can teach us that no man is an island and that history is not something dried up and only in books but lives within us. But the downside is raising where we came from to idol status, i.e. my culture right or wrong.

~ insert proper segue here ~

I’m puckering from the unflavorable aftertaste of Franzikaner Hefe-Weisse. All that glitters is not hefe-weisse. I got snookered by the label: a hearty-looking monk smiles as he takes a draught from a huge silver tankard. As a marketing trick, it's far more effective than nekkid wimmen. But the beer is too sweet or more probably I just don’t like wheat beers. But I brought Beck’s Dark too which looks especially good in the sun-drenched sand, like the set of a Corona commercial. I feel sentimental towards the decorative litter of shells around the bottle; the arrangement is pleasing to the point of providential. I would not destroy the randomness by moving one from here to there.

It’s the aspect of repetitive happy hours that is so attractive about vacations like this. Any individual happy hour here carries a light load since there’s always tomorrow…and tomorrow (God willing). The weather enforces a sort of temperance since by the third beer the beach temps are getting downright cool. I go for a jog and switch from running to skipping. I pass a man wearing a Jimmy Buffet t-shirt that says “Growing Older But Not Up”. My wife looks for shells and I always get a kick out of that. It confirms her essential girlishness. After all these years she still likes pretty rocks, be they expensive tanzanite or sea-borne conchs. We already have enough shells at home to start an armory but nevertheless we have a 6:05 date with Bowman beach. Something about low tide. I collect words while she collects shells.

Meanwhile the sun diamonds shine, gobbled up by pelicans on the rise. An elderly couple happens by. He has amazing stick-like legs and is stooped to almost a 90-degree angle. She carries a cane that makes a staccato sound as it hits the sand. She sits down in her chair while he remains standing; their smiling eyes make music together. He doesn’t have to lean over since he has aged that way. They have the love and simplicity that I tend to associate with the mentally disabled and I think it sad that I should associate it so. What I actually witnessed was a foretaste of Heaven.

By 4pm the wind picks up and the beach cools. My wife wants to go back inside but I tell her that a sweatshirt and sweatpants are all that are necessary. Is that cheating? Is there a clause that laying out on a beach covered in clothing defeats the purpose? Taken to extremes we could just read out in our backyard in Janurary Ohio clad in Eskimo clothing.


Driftwood decors the
shore drifting to and fro
but immaculately placed.

Misplace driftwood
and somebody’s liable to ask:
Why do you have that stick on your desk?

I'm finding that little moments launch more interior Man of La Mancha musical interludes than more ambitious enterprises. Writing a novel is the default ambition but the glorious victories are ones that God crowns with his beautiful synchronicity, the thoughtful gesture (painfully rare, as I am selfish) coming at precisely the time that person needed it. Such confirmations are thrilling even as I must look ahead to a time when going over and beyond will be less obviously rewarded. Mother Marie Douleurs wrote that “the Lord is most grieved when he sees us retracting into ourselves – we who were made for such great things!”.

I ponder mysteries like why my aunt, thin and careful with diet and a two-sets-a-day tennis player, would die of cancer at 52, while her brothers were quite heavy and never took care of themselves and lived decades longer. Unwelcome thoughts come - like that it’s somehow embarrassing to live a short life - it’s as if you weren’t tough enough, not in body but in mind. And not to be tough in mind seems uncomfortably aligned with too little faith. Or so are the thoughts I mean to reject. My father tells me of a doctor who served ALS victims for years – until the doctor eventually got the dread non-communicable disease. It gives a shiver to think that the mind might be that powerful, that mere fixation on a disease could bring it on.

day 2

I hike an hour in “Ding” Darling Nature Preserve. It feels almost contemplative. I have a sudden yearning to read William Trevor’s short stories or Christopher Nolan’s “The Banyan Tree” even though they are ineffably different. Nolan drops coin'd-words into gleam-heaps; he slows you down for the same reason sweet, heavy maple syrup does. Trevor, on the other hand, is utterly unflashy and dulls you to a Zen-like state. I see a large torpid sun-gator. His back is Firestone-studded with rhizomes. It’s impossible not to look upon the fine gleaming animal with anything but appreciation.

The pool is closed today but the ocean is not. The pool doesn’t have hours, it has temperatures; it only opens when the outdoor temperature is at least sixty degrees. I’m hoping to take my socks off. Going to the beach in sweatshirts and sweatpants is bad enough, but having to wear socks is deflating. Our seagull comes again, like Poe’s Raven. He thinks we have food and waits implacably. Two different days and he stands in his same spot, some seven feet away. His patience tugs.

day 3

Norman Mailer wrote in Parade Magazine that children’s attention spans are being destroyed by television commercials. Says that concentration interrupted is irritating even for adults, so imagine how children take it. They take it by developing a simple defense mechanism: they avoid concentrating at all. Coincidentally I read a similar thing a day later from Walter Kerr (written in 1962):

“Our deepest beliefs, in the twentieth century, command us to dismiss the arts, popular or otherwise: they have not had value, they do not have value, they will not have value…We are willing to make use of them when we are absolutely unable to do anything else, though on one condition: the condition is that they do not engage us. If they were to engage us, to ensnare our powers of concentration, to entice us into a complexity of thought or of narrative that might absorb us to the exclusion of the world around us, we should, of course, run the risk of not noticing our train, not hearing the telephone, or burning the casserole. More seriously still, we should be at fault morally: we’d have surrendered ourselves to an unprofitable activity.”
Drinking a beer, feet in the sand, I burrow my toes to a hard, cool surface that feels almost like a floor. It reminds me of a themed fraternity party I went to a couple decades ago. It was Ohio in January but we wanted the South Pacific, and imported x tons of sand, filling the huge social room floor to a depth of about a half a foot. College: the nexus of time and energy which results in unprofitable activities like that. I don’t think I suspended belief enough to forget the social room floor was beneath that sand. The party, ambered now in memory, has such a passive feel to it. I felt as much a visitor to it then as now... I feel relaxed about the last day, though in this Stop-Time I’d like to have figured something out, or at least make a resolution or two. Though that sounds suspiciously utilitarian.

posted by TSO @ 15:42

January 26, 2005

GKC Thought

"It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob . . . It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to avoid them all has been one whirling adventure."
- GK Chesterton

posted by TSO @ 13:13

January 21, 2005

Nuttin' to Write Home (or to the Blog) About

Via Alicia, I took this test. Got 13 right: "Eleven to thirteen answers correct. About average or a little better; nothing to be ashamed about, but nothing to write home about either."

posted by TSO @ 10:47

Point I meant to make...

Camassia posted last week about the fact in Heaven there'll be a lot of people there whom we don't know and/or didn't want to know. I think what is attractive about the doctrine of Purgatory (as well as the Orthodox view of the gradual divinization of man) is that in Heaven everyone will be so likeable. Purged of selfishness and our obsession with appearances, people we may not have wanted to know on earth we'll be able to appreciate in Heaven.

posted by TSO @ 09:23

Reading For Improvement

I guess this is a good argument for reading about abominable characters like Alfred Kinsey:

I couldn't stop reading The Inner Circle, for it possesses, to adopt an old phrase, "the fascination of the abomination". . . and yet part of me wishes I'd never read it. It calls to mind Evelyn Waugh's remark about Randolph Churchill that after reading about his amours, one could never again commit adultery, "or at least not with quite the same abandon."
From Washington Post's Michael Dirda, reviewing T. C. Boyle's "The Inner Circle"

posted by TSO @ 15:46

January 20, 2005

Pleasant Recovery

In the madness of OSU's fall book sale, during which hordes of bookophiles goldrush the thousands of nearly free used books, I sometimes bring home a surprise or two. So while attempting to corral wayward books yesterday I noticed a biography of Cardinal Richelieu bought there that was authored by none other than Hilaire Belloc. I may have to move that up in the hierarchy.

Speaking of books, here's a site that compiles reviews...

posted by TSO @ 11:01

O'Rourke on ABC's This Week

P.J. O'Rourke was introducing some interesting demographic maps using the latest census data. Link here:

O'Rourke: "Now, I was looking, naturally, like any good former sociology student from the '60s would, at the relationships between crime and poverty. What was amazing on these maps is that they aren't there. But there are lots of poorer areas — areas in Arizona, areas in the extreme northern states, areas in backwoods, and areas in Virginia and Arkansas and Missouri, who are very poor and also very low crime rates.

"Another thing I looked at, or looked for in these maps, was virtue. It turns out that the best, the sweetest, the most decent part of America is North and South Dakota, and northern Nebraska. Now, this is not an area of America that anybody pays any attention to. In fact, it's an area of America in which nobody wants to live. It kind of tells me that maybe virtue is not really what makes America the great country that it is."

posted by TSO @ 09:59

Evolution & St. Padre Pio

That headline certainly caught my eye.

posted by TSO @ 15:44

January 19, 2005

Come Out Ye Black & Tans

A 'black & tan' (a co-worker memorably called this "Guinness with Training Wheels") is Guinness mixed with another beer, often a lager. More info here (via Bill of Summa Minutiae):

The first known reference to the expression Black & Tan was in reference to a breed of beagles used as hunting dogs in Ireland. The term was also used to refer to a a regiment of British soldiers recruited to serve in Ireland after the First World War. They had a reputation for being quite brutal and have been accused of many atrocities against the Irish in the years 1919-21.

A good pint can distinguished by a number of methods. A smooth, slightly off- white head is one, another is the residue left on the inside of the glass. These, surpise surprise, are known as rings. As long as they are there you know your're okay. A science of rings is developing - the instance that comes to mind is determining a persons nationality by the number of rings (a ring is dependent on a swig of Guinness each swig leaving it's own ring). An Irishman will have in the region of 5-6 rings (we pace ourselves), an Englishman will have 8-10 rings, an American will have 17-20 (they sip) and an Australian won't have any at all as they tend to knock it back in one go! As you near the end of your pint, it is the custom to order another one. It is a well known fact that a bird does not fly on one wing.

In England, post-operative patients used to be given Guinness, as were blood donors. Sadly, this is no longer the case in England. In Ireland, Guinness is still made available to blood donors and stomach and intestinal post-operative patients. Guinness is known to be high in iron content.

posted by TSO @ 15:30

Giver over Gift

Part of the reason I'm fascinated by Scott Hahn's angelic hypothesis is the frank recognition that Paradise wasn't so paradiscal. Meaning that if there's a snake in the garden, something is amiss. And that the temptation for Adam was not so slight as we imagine. We might say, "What was he thinking! I'd have let that tree alone." Yet we deceive ourselves if we think we are incapable of committing any specific sin.

Hahn calls Adam's test (as well as ours) a trial by ordeal. He prefers that term to test though uses them interchangeably. My own thinking is that test implies too much of exercise of our own muscle. Trial by ordeal, such as the one Job experienced, suggests a constant "clinging till (or because) Help arrives" mentality.

The hard thing is to understand why trial is necessary but Hahn fearlessly weighs into this, though I'll have to listen to the tape again to better understand. He repeatedly says that God did not set arbitrary hoops for us to jump through but that there's the natural (earth), the supernatural (prelapsarian man) and the preternatural (Heaven) and our end is the last. The gist of it, I think, is that the natural consequence of entering into God's final end for us - angels or man - is to look past the natural goods we have been given. For men that is usually the material, hence the forbidden fruit. For angels it is the willing suspension of their supreme rationality by the irrationality of serving man towards the end of upsetting the order of creation. (Hahn suggests that the angels at the time of decision lacked the full knowledge of God's love and therefore there was at element of blind faith required.)

Sure it's speculative stuff. But very interesting, though know that I am dumbing it down.

posted by TSO @ 15:00

Rice Returns for Second Day of Hazing

WASHINGTON - Condoleezza Rice returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for a second day of hazing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, while a vote by the panel is planned later in the day on her nomination to become secretary of state.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asked Rice to "drop and give me 50" after receiving an answer that disappointed her. Additional hazing rituals included sleep deprivation, listening to Sen. Kennedy lecture, getting Lugar coffee and swearing that each senator's priorities were ones she shared.

Rice was also forced to memorize the names and hometowns of all the committee members before swapping spit in a secret handshake.

posted by TSO @ 10:13

Gregory Wolfe review of Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling by Ross King:

Michelangelo’s inner dialectic, the tension between humanism and moralism, has traditionally been portrayed in Freudian terms, as a war between passion and repression. But a more comprehensive view would see this tension as a quintessentially Christian paradox—an example of “both/and,” rather than “either/or.” Human dignity and fallenness come together in glorious human figures whose bodies twist and writhe with desire. For the wisest humanists of the Renaissance era, the ultimate vision of human destiny might be called “tragic Christianity.” Here Michelangelo must be paired with Erasmus and Shakespeare.

With this paradox in view, it is possible to understand the complex polyphony of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The dignity of man, so evident in Adam’s just-created body and the superb series of classical nudes linking the central paintings (known as the ignudi), is played against the often bedraggled and burdened human figures depicted in the family groups of the ancestors of Christ. Looking on are the prophets and sibyls, the mysterious seers of man’s tragedy. And in the scenes from Genesis, the creation, fall, and redemption become one in buried allusions to Cross and Eucharist. Here, at the place where the polyphony resolves itself in plangent harmony, one can glimpse the heart of Michelangelo’s legendary terribilitá—the terrible beauty that is his hallmark.
King's book is one of too many that I have bought but shamefully have not read.

posted by TSO @ 08:39

I Remember My First Thesaurus Too

The internet is to civil discourse what strip poker was to my teenage chastity: not exactly the shortest path from here to there. Still, I was surprised by the sheer childishness of this list, a sort of Fifty Ways to Say I Hate You, and it was surely a downer on a day that for Elena only got worse.

My gut reaction is that Christians will always be at a tactical disadvantage in internet discourse for the same reason America must be at a tactical disadvantage with respect to terrorists: we need respect their humanity even as they do not respect ours. Though I thought of that before recalling Mark Shea's commenters.

But the list directed at Elena was unintentionally humorous. "Bitter" and "sour" are close enough to suggest the author has just discovered the wonders of the online thesaurus. And since the list bears no resemblance to Elena's persona it's sort of like calling a bald guy Curly. But the true humor is in the final riposte "Unattractive (personality wise)" which, based on what went before, would be like criticizing Idi Amin for his swearing. This coup de grace was not only redundant given the preceding adjectives but offers the unintended compliment of ruling out any physical unattractiveness: the comprehensiveness of the list assures us of that!

See, there's always a horse amid the manure.

posted by TSO @ 08:10

We Get Letters...

The President and I are pretty tight. He keeps in touch every week or so. He left an answering machine message back in October (I wasn't home to take the call - drats!).

Mostly he writes though. He sends photos, requests for money, calendars, requests for money, Christmas cards, requests for money.

So when I opened an 8 1/2' by 11' envelope yesterday I figured fundraising. Instead it was an invitation, and it was purtied up better than most wedding invites. It had that thin little tissue paper thingie they put before very important invitations. And it had that caliography thing going on, requesting the honor of my presence at the inauguration of George and somebody named "Dick Bruce Cheney". Bruce?

Anyways I asked my wife if we were busy this weekend. Which we are, unfortunately. But I looked at the invitation again and there's a clause in smaller print which reads "this is not an admission to any inaugural events". What in tarnation? Just what have I been invited to then? I looked carefully and there was no address. How can I be invited somewhere without there being a where? Further review found that I'd been invited to the "City of Washington". I guess I'll walk around Dupont Circle with my invitation at the ready.

What is really funny about this piece of mail is that anyone takes it seriously enough such that the RNC or whoever would spend money on it. Is there anyone so desperate as to feel important or loved because of this? On the one hand I'm envious of anyone who can fall for a ruse like this. (Though on the down side, they might think Nigerian scammers open their hearts to them.) But though I'm a Red Stater I wasn't born yesterday. I know about the autopen. And they obviously spent a lot of money on it, which is disturbing. They are spenders, aren't they?

posted by TSO @ 08:03

Chesterton Quote

The mind of modern man is a curious mixture of decayed Calvinism and diluted Buddhism; and he expresses his philosophy without knowing that he holds it...So his literature does not seem to him partisan, even when it is. But our literature does seem to him propagandist, even when it isn't.

posted by TSO @ 14:41

January 18, 2005

Angels & Humans

Listened to a Scott Hahn tape in the car yesterday. He discussed why Satan fell despite the gifts of great intellect and perfect rationality. And the answer Hahn and some of the early Fathers offer is that angels were given the assignment of serving man, a vastly inferior being. This wasn't rational. There was a hierarchy and order of beings and God seemed to be flipping things by wanting angels to give man the aid necessary to fulfil our destiny - which was eventual equality with the angels. The lack of rationality in God's request, the not knowing why God was doing this, required faith on the angel's part. Serving someone above (i.e. God) is easier than serving someone inferior, and that pride led to Satan's fall. In a far more dramatic way God flipped things again by coming to earth in the Incarnation and dying for us. Pretty creative theological explanation and more satisfying than just the vanilla non serviam.

posted by TSO @ 09:29

It's Zero Degrees

From the inimitable Kathy the Carmelite:

From Thomas Springer: "Why do we fear and even demonize normal winter weather?"

Funny. Reminds me of our eighth grade slogan: "I don't like pain, it hurts!"

posted by TSO @ 09:21

Conversion Stories

Jeff Miller's is online. He quotes Augustine: "I would not believe the Gospels if it were not for the Church." Meanwhile Steven Riddle states Why I Am Catholic (not, by the way, sounding a bit like Garry Wills). Finally, ditto Julie D. of HC who writes: "Even more overwhelming was the realization that God had used my conversion not just for my good but to reach someone close to me ... and I had been totally unaware of it." That "double-effect" is such a God thing isn't it?

UPDATE: another story here

posted by TSO @ 18:24

January 17, 2005

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Perhaps Mr. Riddle can answer this: how is it that the Carmelites have avoided the twin temptations of polyester & labyrinths? - Bill of Summa Minutiae

Readers were asked to write a one-sentence description of the simplest way one could tell apart two books titled Witness, one by Whittaker Chambers and the other by Amber Frey. Tim's winning answer:"One witness is about a small group of people spying on an entire society, the other witness is about an entire society spying on a small group of people." - Dawn Eden of Dawn Patrol

My good friend Tim tells me often that he believes that it is my vocation to struggle. And I believe him. I'd like to be a person of great faith. I wish I could move mountains and cure the worlds ill with one fell swoop, but I've heard the position is already Filled. While struggle is a maddening vocation, as I'm sure they all are, I'm happy for it. It keeps me grounded and as humble as someone such as I can be. It leaves me questioning and seeking, and though I sometimes give up for a bit and take a break on the side of the road, I can never stay complacent long. And that leaves me so wonderfully blessed. - Crystal of Some Day Saint

Whose story is it, really? - Roz of "In Dwelling", title of post describing a challenging year (2004)

Christ bore the wounds of His passion in His resurrected body. Though He will no more suffer the pain, will it ever be forgotten? Pain is an existential fact of every man's life, a part of his story, his history; none can pass it by, and insofar as it tends toward salvation, its contribution will live forever. I, like all, have had such moments (I am not in the market for any more at the moment), and a couple of them have made me thankful to be alive. The pain is gone, but the gratitude lives, and it cannot live without the memory. - Bill of Apologia

In our modern day and age, we do not lack whores, prisoners or bankrupt debtors. Our Lord loved all of these classes of people because they depict so well the reality of sin that obtains for all of us. All three classes of people are deemed worthless elements of society. All are branded by bad decisions in their past. Even if they did not fully realize what they were doing at first, the scandal of their misdeed clings to them. Even if they now earnestly desire to undo what wrongs they have done, it is impossible. What a canvas for grace! What a clear anti-pelagian image for theology. -- Old Oligarch

Gelernter examines the Hebrew Scriptures through Puritan eyes. This approach ignores the fact that Puritan theology would have been impossible without Catholic intellectual capital. Any inherently oppositional phenomenon like Puritanism depends for survival on what it opposes. Without something to protest, there is no Protestantism. To put this metaphorically, by identifying Puritanism as the V-8 under the hood of the American experiment, Gelernter slights both pioneering Catholic work on the internal combustion engine, and Presbyterian motor oil, which was Protestant but not necessarily Puritan. Gelernter’s only concession to Catholic influence is a passing reference to “anglo-Catholicism” by way of illustrating the similarity between Americanism and American Zionism. In fact, the first edict of religious toleration in Western history dates back to Constantine rather than to William Penn, John Winthrop, or Thomas Jefferson. Similarly, the right of the people to “alter or abolish” any form of government that fails to secure their God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is an echo of what Augustine of Hippo wrote in his City of God. - P. O'Hannigan of The Paragraph Farmer

I was not offended by Hart's "style"... though when one is accused of heresy one ought to be able to take it personally. It's just that after upwards of two years in this entirely unprofitable weblogging business, I've developed a pretty thick skin, and heretic is the least of the many things I've been called. Many of them are unprintable. You have no idea the names Christians can think of to call you should you, say, write a review of the movie Signs in an effort to disabuse them of its religious pretensions. Noting the 280 emails in his inbox one day, Mr. Hart seems to have encountered this problem and become a bit frazzled by it, such that, in a letter to me, he swears "never again to assay to address such matters in popular publications." This I think would be a shame. If God has given one a gift, I think he is duty-bound to use it. That's what he was trying to do in the WSJ piece - get the Christian voice into the secular sphere; he then found himself under attack, not by frenzied screams from the ACLU and People United for the Separation of Religion from the Rest of the Universe, but from an unlikely quarter: fellow Christians of whose contentiousness, once they get the bit in their mouths, he had no notion. I hope now he has learned the virtues of the delete button and the ineffable pleasure of using it. - Bill of Apologia

I do think that the consumer mentality sneaks into mating in ways that people may not notice. I've observed, for instance, that while some people take marital vows about sickness and health and so on very seriously, this leads them to choose a mate rather the way I'd choose a car: since I can't afford to buy a new one very often, I need one that'll need as few repairs as possible. Which brings me to a remark at Evangelical Outpost about National Public Radio, of all things: "Listening to NPR is like dating a charming and beautiful woman that has a semi-serious personality disorder; you're enchanted by her yet know you can’t commit to someone so troubled. " Yep, emotionally troubled women are fine to fool around with, but heaven forbid you should actually marry one. Why, that could be hard work! - Camassia

Europe has been the site of immense suffering over the past hundred years. This suffering may have led to the attitude: "Ask not what you can do for God, but ask what God can do for you." What has the Catholic Church done for me lately? How is it helping me? What can the Church offer to a culture so utterly committed to the opposite of sacrifice? What can a man who gave his life upon a cross have to say to those who spend the greater part of their domestic GDPs on preventing any human burden whatsoever? When the focus of one's life is one's own ease, enjoyment and comfort, there really isn't much Christianity has to offer. - commenter on Amy's blog concerning the decline of faith in Europe

But, to my mind, the very fact that God gave Adam and Eve free will despite the consequences, and then chose to redeem mankind without destroying it, suggests how important it is to Him that we have it, which in turn suggests the enormity of coercing the will of another human being.- Tom of Disputations

posted by TSO @ 16:04


From Thomas Springer: "Why do we fear and even demonize normal winter weather? We live in heated houses with semi-heated garages. We drive heated sports utility vehicles with heated steering wheels, heated seats and even heated side mirrors. We can purchase -- at K-Mart prices -- warm and waterproof coats, boots, gloves and garments of all description. After 50,000 years, the human race has come in from the cold in a big way...We no longer realize [winter's] physical, psychological and spiritual values. We no longer appreciate its age-old function as a time of rest and reflection, woven between the cycle of seasons. There's no winter solstice in cyberspace, so it's easy to forget that all living things need time for regeneration."

Meanwhile, Garrison Keillor blames the weather for cold-heartedness: "We Lutherans in Minnesota are not a very forgiving people. And I think it's because we were taught to suck it up, to be strong, to endure winter. We'd camp in 35 below-zero weather, our scoutmaster watching us from his car, while we tried to put up tents in ground too hard to penetrate..." Scoutmaster watching from the car. Keillor kills me.

posted by TSO @ 09:55

Poetry Puzzle

I like her poetry though I don't know a bouts-rimés sonnet from an Easter bonnet. The rulz:

"In the spirit of Dumas's invitation, we are accepting submissions of bouts-rimés sonnets written with the following end-rhymes (in the following order): June, stress, moon, obsess, snake, moot, cake, beaut, Garbo, play, hobo, day, rhinestone, cologne". I'll submit this to my blog:

Holy finds the bride of June
whose poetry and rhymes we stress
whose light is borrowed like the moon
with a mother's love she does obsess.

Saloons abound and queues do snake
with points not mute but moot,
where icing goes before the cake
and Butte before the Beaut.

That beaut be not the starlet Garbo
though far from bistro's play,
she risks no role but plays the hobo
her glamour lasts a day.

Costume not in gaudy rhinestone
--for God alone is man's Cologne.

posted by TSO @ 09:40

Deja deluge

John Switzer writes:

It seems like each of my days begins in the same recurring setting, rather similar to what Bill Murray experienced in the film Groundhog Day.

Day after day, I walk outside my house and rain is falling.

When the sun is shining, I'm startled.

The past two years, 2003 and '04, were the sixth wettest and fourth wettest, respectively, in Columbus.

That in itself is significant, but if you combine the precipitation for the two years -- 48.95 inches in 2003 and 49.28 inches in 2004 -- you get more than 98 inches.

Each year had rainfall and snow totaling more than 10 inches above normal.

A meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Wilmington told me that we have to go all the way back to 1882 and '83 -- horse-and-buggy days -- to find consecutive years with more precipitation. Those two years combined had 100.18 inches.

posted by TSO @ 08:10

The Widow's Mite

The dateline reminds me of the haunting song about coal mining familes titled You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive:

By Roger Alford, AP

HARLAN, Ky. -- Devastating flooding is hardly a world-away concept for folks in the steep hillsides and hollows of Appalachia, and many, even those with precious little themselves, are finding ways to help the tsunami victims.

With contributions of $1, $5 and coins from children's piggy banks, the mountain residents are remembering and repaying the kindness they have received in their own flooding disasters.

"You're going to find that Appalachian people will send money to help others even if they have to do without food themselves,'' said Bill Barker, head of the Appalachian Regional Ministry in Scott Depot, W.Va....

At a Harlan County school where 80 percent of children are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, students have raised $600 and counting...

Hopkins called the amount remarkable.

"Some of these are children who get free lunches, their parents on welfare, and they're giving every penny they can find,'' she said.

posted by TSO @ 07:32

Now That's Travelin'

From the Columbus Dispatch:

Couple conquer Central, South American roads in RV

I try to limit my drives to 200 miles, tops. By then my diet Dr Pepper and beef jerky have run out, along with my patience.

Jim and Donna Bruce Fugate prefer longer drives. The retired couple from London, Ohio, recently returned from four months and 17,000 miles on the road.

Well, most of their miles were on roads. Some were on what might generously be called dirt tracks.

The Fugates drove their pickup camper from Texas down the entire length of Central and South America and back up again, with just a little help from a freighter at Panama’s Darien Gap and a barge at the Amazon River.

The Fugates are experienced campers.

‘‘We had done kayak camping, backpacking, tent camping," said Mr. Fugate, 68, a retired educator. ‘‘With the small (RV) unit, you treat it like a tent. You camp around it. But we do have a queen-size bed like at home. Of course, the bathroom is a little small."

And they had no electrical or water hookups at 95 percent of their campsites. That proved no problem.

‘‘I’ve camped all my life," Mr. Fugate said. ‘‘I thoroughly enjoy the outdoors."

And Mrs. Fugate, also 68, hasn’t let an injury slow her down. She has had difficulty walking since she broke a hip, but her husband designed a special lift attachment to help her into the camper.

Mr. Fugate also is an experienced driver, which helped him conquer the roads of Amazonian Brazil, the roughest he encountered on the trip.

‘‘As a young man I had driven a dump truck over coal-mining roads and flatbed trucks on logging roads. That helped prepare me, but this was worse."...Although the Fugates speak little Spanish and less Portuguese, almost everyone they met on their journey was friendly and welcoming, they said.

The couple visited most of the countries of Central and South America. They crossed the Atacama Desert of Chile, climbed the Andes Mountains in Peru and Argentina, stopped for a stage show in Buenos Aires and followed the Amazon to the Brazilian metropolis of Manaus.

Other high points included spotting condors, ostrichlike rheas and guanacos (reddishbrown llamas) in the wild, the couple said.

They encountered their wildest weather in Patagonia, the grassland region of southern Chile and Argentina.

"I’d been in the Great Plains of the U.S. and thought I’d seen winds," Mr. Fugate said. "But down there they blow day and night. Sometimes I had to extend both arms, dig my toes into the soil and use all my weight just to close the door" of the truck.

posted by TSO @ 07:28


Ohio Dominican is having Fr. James Schall visit and give a (free) lecture on St. Thomas Aquinas titled "The Relevance of Aquinas". Unfortunately I'll be out of town.

posted by TSO @ 20:10

January 16, 2005


Learning to know anxiety is an adventure which every man has to affront if he would not go to perdition either by not having known anxiety or by sinking under it. He therefore who has learned rightly to be in anxiety has learned the most important thing.- Soren Kierkegaard
Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they have betaken themselves to error. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield such people no more milk, so they are gone to milk the bull. - Boswell's Life of Johnson
[Johnson] mentioned to me now, for the first time, that he had been distressed by melancholy, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and meditation, to the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he recommneded constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at night...He observed that laboring men who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits. -Boswell's Life of Johnson

posted by TSO @ 20:10

EWTN Franciscan Univ Roundtable

Fascinating discussion with guest Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa OFM (preacher to the papal household) concerning the Holy Spirit, and what role our feelings play. Objectively, we know the Holy Spirit is within us, but are we aware of that subjectively? Fr. Cantalamessa said, "First of all we should admit that in the past we have so much stressed the objective dimension. We thought that everything happens at the unconscious level. We believed that the Holy Spirit dwelt in us, but I think the Lord wants something also in the other direction, that we should be aware of what God has done for us. For the Eastern Fathers there is no Christian life without a kind of experiencing."

To which Regis Martin was quick to point out the dangers of mere subjectivism, especially here in America given the Protestant influence, with which Fr. Cantalamessa concurred. Scott Hahn said that he is very grateful for his Protestant background because of its emphasis on the subjective, while now having also the grounding of objective truth. It does seem to have been to Hahn's (and American Catholicism's) advantage for him to have been Protestant before becoming Catholic.

Earlier in the show Hahn said: "The Father is the Annointer, the Son is the Annointed and the Holy Spirit is the Annointing. The Father sends the son to give us the Holy Spirit and as Paul describes Jesus as the last Adam who is life giving Spirit, far from feeling disappointment we should be jubiliant that Christ went back to the Father and pours out the Holy Spirit...If our "knowing" corresponds to how the Son proceeds from the Father, the Holy Spirit proceeds by "loving". Paul says, "knowledge puffs up, love builds up" and so he says speak the truth, in love."

posted by TSO @ 13:32

January 15, 2005

Week in Review

Ahh, time for week in review, time to unload my imaginary cares and my pulmonary arteries.

Had lunch with der Ham of Bone. His “delusions of grandeur” line rang today at lunch. He thinks I think his dreams are thus but I’m uneasy about the term “delusions” since one man’s delusions are another's reality. He holds a lottery ticket and is unclear if it's winning or not. Likely not, though I would not be held responsible for preventing another man’s betting.

Ham asked how I accounted my lack of ambition. I attribute it mostly to lady laziness, with whom I've had a relationship close enough to be called conjugal. But, to be serious, all of my heroes have been Republicans. Reagan, to hear it told, was forced into running for president and Bush 43, the black sheep of the family, drank til he came to be Governor followed by “Hail to the Chief”. I take it odd enough that it couldn’t be pure accident. (My money was always on Jeb.) Gore and Kerry, by comparison, were ambitious as Shakespearian villains. They were grooming for the presidency while lesser mortals were grooming for junior prom. Their class pictures were photo ops. Clinton? Clinton was shaking hands before he could walk.

So my model has been Reagan and Bush: I am on call, as needed. That's not to say I have delusions of presidential grandeur, unless we're talking president of the PTA. But that model is attractive.

posted by TSO @ 23:01

January 14, 2005

Fear of Flying

I generally think Ham far braver than I so it was with unseemly joy I greeted the news that he was a “nervous flyer”. Takeoffs and landings are numbered for him, four per trip, and it struck me as odd since I greet takeoffs and landings with great joy because it means a) we’re FINALLY getting off the ground or b) we’re FINALLY landing.

Of course, given the odds, fears of flying are irrational. It’s far more dangerous to drive a car. But since I have my own kaleidoscope of irrational fears I don’t have room to talk. But my ponderance is whether or not fear increases as we age. Novelist Anne Tyler speaks of a “mushrooming sense of responsibility” as we age, but that is different than fear. On the one hand we have less to fear because we have experienced so much: we should have less a sense of urgency in so much as things unexperienced. In middle age we experience the malaise that Walker Percy writes of in “The Moviegoer”: every day becomes the Wednesday afternoon that he says becomes beset by ordinariness. One would think that ordinariness of everyday life would lead to a certain fearlessness.

Still, the saying goes “fatigue makes cowards of us all” and there’s no doubt that as we get older we become more acquainted with fatigue.

posted by TSO @ 23:00

Prose for Nigerian Scammer has been updated.

posted by TSO @ 22:56

Ban of Brothers

NY Times on the newly dry college fraternities. And you thought 'dry fraternity' an oxymoron? A few paragraphs on the history of Phi Delta Theta reveal otherwise:

The Phi Delta Theta international fraternity -- now home to 170 chapters in 44 states and six Canadian provinces -- was founded by six serious and determined students at Miami University in Ohio on a December night in 1848. Conceived as a secret literary and social society for men of intellectual vigor and upstanding character, the Miami University chapter enjoyed a brief period of fraternal harmony before all hell broke loose.

By 1850, the fraternity was ''chaotic with dissension between fraternal idealists and hedonists,'' writes Hank Nuwer in his book ''Wrongs of Passage: Fraternities, Sororities, Hazing and Binge Drinking.'' Phi Delt's members -- including a transfer student named Benjamin Harrison, who would later become the 23rd president of the United States -- disagreed about what a fraternity should be.

Was Phi Delta Theta, as its six founding fathers envisioned, about friendship, sound learning and moral rectitude? Or was it a place for boys to be boys, no matter how juvenile and tasteless that might appear to the outside world? Or could it be some ingenious combination of the two, making space for both righteousness and debauchery?

A hard-liner, Harrison quickly got himself elected fraternity president: Phi Delt was to be a place of honor and respectability. He was more than a little displeased when two fraternity members became obscenely drunk at a reception for Pierson Sayre, the last living Revolutionary War soldier. He gave the offending men a second chance after they promised to shape up, but soon enough they were back to their old ways. Harrison threw them out, upon which several other members, who backed the banished brothers, resigned.

On the subject of drinking (nice segue or what?), I happened across this motivational poster:

posted by TSO @ 15:02

Belloc Quote

Monsieur Belloc in A Path to Rome:

Did you all love me as much as I have loved you, by the black stone of Rennes I should be rich by now. Indeed, indeed, I have loved you all! You, the workers, all puffed up and dyspeptic and ready for the asylums; and you, the good-for-nothing lazy drones; you, the strong silent men, who have heads quite empty, like gourds; and you also, the frivolous, useless men that chatter and gabble to no purpose all day long. Even you, that, having begun to read this book, could get no further than page 47, and especially you who have read it manfully in spite of the flesh, I love you all, and give you here and now my final, complete, full, absolving, and comfortable benediction.

posted by TSO @ 15:00

So True

In A Travel Guide to Heaven the author says that God does not waste. In the natural world we see decay made to be food for new plants. We, however, live in a disposable society, and too often that carries over into relationships.

Camassia sees it with her typically gimlet eye:

Another thing that article got me thinking about was how, in our society, we have an unprecedented ability to simply avoid people we don't want to deal with. So when we break up with a lover or a spouse, or fall out with a family member or friend, or even just drift away from people, you can usually just "erase" the relationship, and go on as if it had never happened.

Yet perhaps that is really an illusion. One way of reading the Gospel is this: all people are God's children, he loves them as well as you, and they're not going away. So even if you avoid touching them, talking to them or even thinking about them in this life, at the end of days they'll get in your face and say things like, "I was hungry, and you gave me no food ..." And if you're lucky, you'll spend forever in the New Jerusalem with them.

posted by TSO @ 09:40

Zenit article on psychology & free will

posted by TSO @ 09:40

The Flannery O'Connor blog has been updated.

posted by TSO @ 19:33

January 13, 2005


I don't smoke but found this interesting nonetheless:

Designated smoking areas for the Dublin locations have changed. Recent ordinances have required that the primary approved smoking areas be moved to Outer Mongolia. Overflow smoking areas include northern Russian (north of the city of Yakutsk) and all locations bordering the Arctic Ocean.

New signage designating non-smoking areas will be posted outside current approved smoking areas. Look for more communications soon, including flights to and from approved smoking areas.

posted by TSO @ 15:06

Touchstone's S.M. Hutchens on William F. Buckley:

This is a man I find difficult to reproach for finding himself interesting—not only since I do, too, but because if the distance between self-absorption and self-appreciation can be measured by intensity of charitable regard for others, Buckley (my thoughts advert here to contraries like Pepys or de Sade) dresses out remarkably well. If love covers a multitude of sins, let us allow that vanity is one of them, not because it excuses, but transforms.
Buckley was a huge influence on me growing up. Loved his Blackford Oakes novels, and I was dense enough not to notice any vanity in something like Overdrive. It's sort of like what Tom of Disputations once said about himself: "what's not to love?; what's not to love about Buckley?

posted by TSO @ 14:33


In an email a friend (Catholic) expressed his distaste for apologetics. And I have proverbial mixed emotions. On the one hand, apologetics is a beautiful thing for Catholics. When I started reading Scott Hahn & Karl Keating, it'd been as if I'd discovered a lost, buried treasure of incomprehensible value.

On the other, I can see how it might be off-putting to those outside the fold. I think my friend Ham of Bone was more impressed by the Pope's apology a few years (concerning the Crusades) than any apologetic material I've sent his way. Apologetics is mainly for Catholics, in order to defend our faith and appreciate it and learn about it. Relatedly, I liked this from Envoy Magazine concerning the CCC:

Anyone coming to the Church, or seeking instruction in the faith, cannot help but be impressed, and perhaps even sometimes awed, by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Like one of the Church ’s majestic medieval cathedrals, every element in the harmonious design of the whole fits together in it proper place; each detail fills a specific space in the overall soaring and splendid whole. Inquirers coming to the faith from unbelief might sometimes have a hard time accepting all that the Church teaches as true, but nobody can deny that it all holds together marvelously in the Catechism. -Kenneth Whitehead

posted by TSO @ 11:21

Opposite Worlds

This is surely unremarkable and obvious, but why have a blog if you can't state the obvious?

Is it not amazing how different our role as humans in the material plane is compared to our position in the spiritual plane? On earth we stand atop the food chain, and, despite the tsunami, have exercised remarkable control over nature.

But in the spiritual realm we are pikelings, spiritually retarded. St. Thomas has nine orders of angels and tells us the lowest order is assigned the guardian role for humans. Yet the fact that our fragility is so understood is a sign of solicitude of heaven - God came down to become man, not angel; he came to redeem us because angels, being pure intellect, have less excuse. We have the baggage of the material but also the capability of transformation, of progress, which angels lack. Having a guardian angel is simultaneously a testament to our weakness and to God's love and care.

posted by TSO @ 10:01

Name Popularity

Found here via Cristina

Thomas - Means: A Twin

Decade Popularity Rank
1900's 12
1910's 11
1920's 11
1930's 9
1940's 8
1950's 8
1960's 9
1970's 21
1980's 25
1990's 27

Thomas means "twin" and perhaps that's a decent enough segue to post a dream I had (don't try this on your blog - recall my blog title). I dreamt about twins, and one said to the other:

"There ain't enuff room in this womb for the two of us. I challenge you to a duel!"

"According to the rules we're supposed to take ten paces back. I can hardly turn around in here."

He replied, "yeah...hmm.... I know, let's have a verbal duel!".

"Ok, you start."


"I know you are but what am I?"

posted by TSO @ 07:39

Eucharist & Parousia

The early Christians expected immediate fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesies. They expected an imminent parousia...Modern historians are right to point out the expectation of the apostolic age. They go wrong, however, when they conclude that the early Christians must have been disappointed with the passing of time. The apostate scholar Alfred Loisy observed that Jesus came promising the Kingdom, but all He left behind was the Church. Loisy was disappointed by this turn of events, but the early Christians most certainly were not.

The early Christians knew that there would indeed be a parousia at the end of time, but there was no less a parousia right now, whenever they celebrated the Mass. When Christ comes at the end of time, He will have not a drop more glory than He has whenever He comes to His Church in the Mass. The difference is that, then, we will see. Faced with the evidence of the ancient liturgies, skeptics will sometimes resort to psychoanalyzing the ancients. They say that the idea of a “liturgical parousia” was a late development and a coping mechanism for a disappointed Church. But it wasn’t late. Gregory Dix notes that it is in the very earliest documents; indeed, some scholars estimate that the liturgy of the Didache could have been written no later than 48 A.D. After reviewing all the ancient eucharistic texts, Jaroslav Pelikan concludes: “The eucharistic liturgy was not a compensation for the postponement of the parousia, but a way of celebrating the presence of one who had promised to return.” After all, it was Jesus Himself who set such a high level of expectation in the Church; and it was Jesus Himself who pointed to its imminent fulfillment. Indeed, it was Jesus who established the Eucharist as an eschatological event — a parousia — a coming of the King and the kingdom...If we are looking for familiar apocalyptic language, we will find it aplenty in Luke’s account of the Last Supper, but we will find it always expressed in eucharistic terms.
--Scott Hahn in Envoy Magazine

posted by TSO @ 17:03

January 12, 2005


to the tsunami.

This blogger's reaction would've been mine - to run towards the beach instead of away from it. An aid-worker I heard interviewed said he couldn't fathom waves that strong. The imagination does faileth. It's probably a case where strong swimmers were even more in danger because they lacked proper fear.

posted by TSO @ 10:42

Knowledge Craving

From Cornwell's bio of JPII:

The Fall of Adam and Eve, as it is understood in Catholic orthodoxy, was the result of illicit cravings in three areas of human activity: in knowledge, in stewardship of the earth, and in sexuality.

I tend to forget about illicit knowledge craving. Clarity in matters theological is a gift, not a right, especially when we see St. Paul himself said we look through a glass darkly. In Boswell's Johnson, the great man was completely tongue-tied when it came to reconciling free will and God's sovereignty. It always comes down to a naked trust in God doesn't it? Jesus trusted the Father even as he pondered the bitter taste of the God-willed crucifixion, while Adam & Eve did not trust as they contemplated the sweet taste of the God-forbidden fruit.

Concerning theological enlightenment, JPII believed like St. John of the Cross that "suffering, doubt, and prayer can lead to an infusion of divine knowledge. As the late Cardinal John Krol would say admiringly of JPII, 'He studied theology on his knees.'"

Another interesting passage from Cornwell:

What gave [Tymieniecka's & Wojtyla's] philosophical exchanges a sense of exhilaration was the political and social relevance that had inspired his earlier philosophical model, Max Scheler. Wojtyla was in conflict with a totalitarian tyranny in which individual self-determination had been suppressed and denied. Together with Tymieniecka, he was exploring the scope of self-determination as well as its limits. For a society that stresses self-determination without social cooperation is equally doomed. Was America and the capitalist West a culture of malevolent individualism?...Tymieniecka was hard-pressed, she tells us, to persuade him that America was not a country of greed, selfishness and hedonism.

posted by TSO @ 09:03

Marching to Pretoria -Traditional

I'm with you and you're with me
And so we're all together.
So we're all together
So we're all together
Sing with me, I'll sing with you
And so we will sing together
As we march along.

We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria today.

We have food, the food is good,
And so we will eat together.
So we will eat together
So we will eat together.
When we eat, 'twill be a treat,
So let us sing together
As we march along:

Cho: We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria, Pretoria
We are marching to Pretoria, Pretoria today.

posted by TSO @ 15:57

January 11, 2005

Various & Sundry

Ha ha

What a cool way to go
"Yes, Virginia, There Is a Slanted Kos" - hilarious headline from headline writer Dawn Eden concerning the leftist blog "the Daily Kos".
On the fate of the faith in Europe

posted by TSO @ 11:08


It's valuable to learn how others view us because there is always a bit o' blindness in our own self-image. I recently came across a UK blogger who makes interesting asides:

...ah, America! What can we say about her? Chesterton said she was a "nation with the soul of a Church". For me, she is a kind of inverse Europe - the things we keep private are public over there and vice versa.

And little old UK kind of sits here in the middle of the Old Continent and the New - which way are we going to go? Like little Israel between the howling desert and the ancient city, can we keep our distinct identity when these two giants are tugging us two ways? Will we end up a typically British compromise of European and US culture? Perhaps there is a way to synthesise them and promote peace and life. That's my prayer; that's the challenge as I see it.
I also enjoyed this:
Frighteningly, the American 20-somethings they interviewed for the Robbins and Wilner book sound a lot more mature and sensible and realistic than the English ones in Barr's book.
Frightening indeed.

posted by TSO @ 09:28

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

In his homily on New Year's Day, my priest quoted Father Benedict Groeschel, saying something to the effect that we should pray not necessarily for a great year, but that God will be with us. I know He will be; Jesus has told me not to be afraid, and that He is with me always. I know this, but I still worry. I don't believe I would deny Christ at gunpoint. Yet here I am, needing strength when not only is my life not in danger, but my life is extremely good. I think I'm upside-down. I believe, Lord; help my unbelief. - Brad of Splendor Veritatis

i must also admit that i always take the easy road when the question is posed and i simply quote matthew (5:45), "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." i had to memorize this particular verse way back when so that i could go forward with my faith after a series of unfortunate events. when the chips are down, i still believe it is the most lofty way to admit that "[excrement] happens." - smockmomma of Summa Mamas, regarding the tsunami

One wonderful thing about the universal church is that she has room for both the ascetics and the aesthetes - as long as what is worshipped is not the philosophy but the person of God. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

My priest and I have had some talks about detachment--what it is and isn't. For, I fear, I am one of the "attachingest" people around.At its root, detachment is simply putting things in their right order and place. Not pretending that they are not lovely, nice, wonderful, helpful, funny or whatever. But enjoying them without owning them. And taking things as they come, without a lot of struggle and rage. --MamaT of Summa Mamas

We can make statements about God that are both true and intelligible. The truer a statement, the less intelligible. The more intelligible a statement, the less true. - Tom of Disputations

I will buy Waugh's Helena. Waugh, that wonderful, sinful curmudgeon of a Catholic writer! I recommend Helena to anyone, but especially readers who have never read Waugh, they are in for a treat. Waugh, a convert, was not a Catholic in name only. With all his sins, Catholicism suffused his life and his writing. I believe God noted that, because he granted Mr. Waugh the privilege of dying after he returned home from Mass on Easter Sunday in 1966. If not for the implausibility, I am certain that Mr. Waugh would have loved that as an ending in one of his novels! - commenter on Amy's blog

"It's only pneumonia" - That's one of those phrases I never imagined myself saying way back when I was a Rich Young Bachelor, along with other fatherhood gems such as "Don't eat the floor" and "That's a fork, not a hairbrush". - Bill of Summa Minutiae

I was struck by the vibrancy of pre-Vatican II Catholic discourse in this country. It wasn't ideological - mostly because all of those issues that occupy us today (liturgical change, role of women in the church, sexual ethics, etc) were still largely seen as non-negotiable. Which left faith as the focus of Catholic public discourse. And further, I was struck by the role of all kinds of literature in that discourse. The idea for this series seemed to reflect that ideal - what better way to make a contribution to helping contemporary Catholics talk about faith instead of "issues" than to encourage them to read fiction that also focuses on those matters of suffering, redemption, grace and sacrifice...and talking about them? - Amy Welborn, introducing Loyola Classics you have to learn to deal with popularity. Sometimes too much can make you unpopular (my attempt at a Yogi-ism) - Ham of Bone, reacting to Smockmomma's "Spanning the Globe" post. STG is actually a net money-loser since unpopularity with unquoted bloggers dwarfs popularity with quoted ones

One of my own personal ways of thinking about the Holy Spirit is to compare him to a border collie. You know, the black and white sheepdogs, the ones just fanatical about herding the sheep? That's my Holy Spirit. He didn't give up on me even when I was a lost agnostic pagan-leaning young woman. He kept chasing me toward the flock. Frightening Southern Baptist sermons, atheist parenting, and a bad run-in with cultists were just logs and streams that He had to chase me around and over. Eventually, He steered me into the comfort of the Shepherd's arms. And I will be forever grateful, because being a lost sheep is far more terrifying than most people can admit... There was a point where I thought that I was one of the people just unable to feel love for God. I thought I was lacking some essential element, some "religiously required" area of the brain or chemical reaction. I looked up bits of scripture that supported this view, nourishing my own feelings of alienation. The Holy Spirit, thankfully, nipped me on the heels and chased me out of that self-pitying rage... (And I hope I've offended no one with my "The Holy Spirit is the sheepdog of God" analogy. It's a comforting image for me, because I know how clever, steadfast, and devoted those dogs are. Once they get behind a stray sheep, they won't stop. And neither does He.) - M'Lynn of Scattershot Directly

I keep trying to tell you guys: don't...pray...for...knowledge. Or any other virtue. Pray for virtue indirectly by praying for happiness. - Zippy on Tom of Disputations' blog

I think I understand Zippy's point, having learned it in small ways through the years. My version of the advice, though, is, don't pray for anything out of pride...If we regard gifts of the Holy Spirit like superpowers -- look, now I can fly! I have fear of the Lord! -- then we are likely to wind up in a mighty hot crucible to test out those new superpowers. I guess I'd say it's safer to pray for virtues you've learned you need rather than those you know you need. - Tom of Disputations

posted by TSO @ 09:03

No Political Bias Found at CBS...

...according to the Thornburgh report.

In the fine print, there were a few other findings. Here they are:

- no finding that the AFLAC duck is annoying
- no proof that Elvis is dead
- no proof that the moon landings weren't staged in a television studio
- no finding that Jennifer Aniston is attractive
- no finding that the Pope is, in fact, Catholic
- no finding that air is useful to humans
It's inconceivable, if not provable, that CBS would've treated an anti-Kerry story (like the Swiftboat Vets) in the same manner. If there's no smoking gun at CBS, there's enough smoke to produce inhalation injuries.

posted by TSO @ 07:21

Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

A girl I knew many years ago once confessed something that still rings in my ears.

"I don't like music. I'm tone-deaf."

I thought I was hearing things, like a bad note played by TBDBITL. Everbody like music (say like Donkey).

I don't like music.

But there you have it. She was unresponsive to the best and worst of my albums. From Bach to Meatloaf to everything in between. It was like sticking a needle in a leg with no feeling.

I recalled that this past weekend when I hauled out Sister Wendy's Guide to the 1000 Greatest Masterpieces. I wanted to look at something painted by somebody named Botticelli. And it was fine. Damn fine work, as Sheriff Taylor might say. Next.

I continued looking through her 1,000 masterpieces and discovered, for perhaps the hundredth time, that me and art just don't have much in common. I liked maybe five of them. Much more interesting than the paintings was the breathless commentary of Sister Wendy. Were we looking at the same thing?

Yes but not grasping the same thing. Terry Teachout wrote that you can appreciate some of the arts but not all of them. (Appreciate meant in the keenest sense.) He said you might like dance & art, but not also music and literature. And that fact is not a function of time as it is our personal limitations. My love for music and literature may be strong, but for the visual arts? To quote the Meat, two out of three ain't bad.

posted by TSO @ 16:25

January 10, 2005

So True (a retrospective of CNN's Crossfire )

Nobody did it better, and generally with more class, than Buchanan and Braden first, then Buchanan and Michael Kinsley. Others who came later -- Bill Press, Robert Novak and others -- at times rose to the occasion, but those early years were the model. Few can be fiercer or more combative than Buchanan, Braden and Kinsley. But those clashes more closely resembled real debates than choreographed fights.

The beauty of those days was that the debates were rooted in ideological intellectualism, not knee-jerk reactionism. When Buchanan and Kinsley squared off, you would even occasionally find areas of agreement between the two, even times when they would take positions opposite of what you would expect. It was Buchanan v. Kinsley, not just left v. right. They worked more from their thoughts than from partisan talking points.

posted by TSO @ 12:09


Heavens to murgatroid - the investigation of Rathergate yielded - count 'em - 224 pages. Wasn't the Warren Commission shorter?

The money quote for me is: "After rushing the piece to air, the panel said, CBS News compounded the error by blindly defending the story. In doing so, the news organization missed opportunities to set the record straight."

This is the cruelly ironic thing - it's not the crime, it's the cover-up isn't it? For CBS to have admitted error early and often would've made it a footnote. It's ironic because you'd think 60 Minutes would be aware of the danger of stonewalling. But that is human nature isn't it? You or I might do the same thing. Character isn't formed by knowledge of right or wrong as it is by the actual practice of the right. If it came in a bottle...

posted by TSO @ 11:55


Garrison Keillor continues to use his Prairie Home Companion show as therapy for wounds suffered on Nov. 2nd. Humor as medicine, I guess. Bill Buckley once wrote that there are much better things to think about than politics, but that having to do so is a natural consequence of giving tremendous power and money to the government.

Part of what makes politics interesting to me is the unpredictability. A person's politics are a hodge-podge of tribalism, self-interest and altruism. What makes someone vote the way they do? What caused Keillor to hate Bush so? Admittedly, probably everything about George Bush. The president induces a sort of "perfect storm" of hatred in his foes. From his lack of articulateness, his pro-life position, his seeming disinterest in things intellectual & lack of sophistication, the war in Iraq, his serious Christianity, etc...

I wonder where the tipping point would be with Keillor. What issues would George Bush have to flip in order to gain Garrison's imprimatur? It's pure conjecture, but I think if Bush flipped on just two issues all would be well: his pro-life position, and his disinclination towards universal health care. Most Bush haters hated him before 9/11/01, and thus before the war in Iraq, so I never bought the "Iraq spoiled the broth" argument. It would be fun to re-run the script and go back in time and see how the left reacted with just the abortion issue changed. Or to try a myraid of different scenarios and thus attempt to separate out self-interest from altruism from tribalism.

posted by TSO @ 10:05

Catholic Schools

There's an article in the paper today about our new bishop, Bishop Frederick Campbell. In it, he is quoted as saying how essential he feels Catholic education is to the mission of the church.

Coincidentally, a few days ago I received a fundraising newsletter from my Catholic high school, now having enrollment difficulties. Our high school is fundraising a lot of late, but my impression is that it mostly seems to go towards state-of-the-art athletic facilities. (Gotta keep up with the publics?) Perhaps this is required in order to draw students, but it seems like the fundraising ought to go to keeping tuition affordable. I sent a letter to our alumni fundraiser asking: ...are the improvements to the physical plant seen as a way to make [name of high school] more desirable to potential students? I was under the impression (perhaps mistaken) that declining enrollment is mostly due to the fact that parents are reluctant to take on the expense. If that is true, then it seems like fund raisers should be mostly geared at scholarships and/or keeping tuition low and affordable. And since enrollments at feeder schools are also lower, doesn't this suggest that it's mostly a problem of price, and not facilities?

Nothing like an ignorant alum trying to tell a school how they should spend their money, 'eh? Certainly the financial position of Catholic schools has to be in a world of hurt given that the donated labor of religious sisters has past (for now) and given the way education at all levels has far exceeded the inflation rate over the past couple decades.

Anyway, here's more of the article on Bishop Campbell:

In his 24 years as a priest, Campbell has been deeply involved in Catholic education. There was a school at all three parishes in which he served, one as an associate pastor and two as pastor.

‘‘I’m devoted to Catholic education," he said. ‘‘I think it is essential to the mission of the church. At the same time, you want to make sure the Catholic education is a (financially) viable education. That’s going to take some creative work."

Campbell said he knows how difficult it is for Catholics to deal with school consolidations. He was pastor at the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Hopkins, Minn., where the school was a merger of three parish schools.

To keep schools solvent, he said, there must be financial support from the parish, parents and diocesan educational endowments.

posted by TSO @ 14:18

January 9, 2005

Grinch to Human in 1 Hour

It's amazing how I can be a grumpasaurus just before Mass and afterwards feel transformed. You've heard the line, "don't talk to me before I've had a cup of coffee"?, well don't talk to me before I've been to Mass.

posted by TSO @ 13:38

Indoor Cats

Wearing nature’s costume
a subterfuge, a camoflauge,
striped for sleeping, stretching,
bowing before food bowls
and window-gazing.

Let There Be

In the throes of Winter
I long for longing
and the eaves of light
that cast themselves upon a Miami courtyard:
it’s always the light we remember,

The light
easy on the dew-fields
of softball mornings

The light
burnt on dusty diamonds
blinking off sweat

The light
dying as we play tag
-not it!

Rosey Glasses

Oh but for the slight sail of wind
on an Oxford summer eve
or the bulbous part of the day
fat in the print of novel
the top worry-down
the days caressed, blessed by
carols, courts and churches
building body, mind and soul.

posted by TSO @ 01:07

January 8, 2005

Speaking of Books... shopping cart is getting awfully heavy. I've got to get organized and prioritize. The Loyola Classic books are coming out soon and I've got to get lean, mainly by no future buys. Books weighing down my shopping cart:

Blog : Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World - Hugh Hewitt;
Ancestral Shadows: An Anthology Of Ghostly Tales - Russell Kirk
Back from the Land : How Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970s, and Why They Came Back - Eleanor Agnew
The Enemy Within: Straight Talk About the Power and Defeat of Sin - Kris Lundgaard
John Henry Newman: His Life & Work - Brian Martin;
Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare - Stephen Greenblatt;
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (Widescreen Edition) - Michel Gondry; DVD
The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works That Impact Today's Conservative Thinkers - Chilton Williamson
Mary Poppins (Odyssey Classics) - P. L. Travers; Paperback
The Man in the Flying Lawn Chair : And Other Excursions and Observations - GEORGE PLIMPTON

posted by TSO @ 16:08

January 7, 2005

The Book Game

Julie has posted a list of books that she got from someone else. The game is to remove authors who you do not have in your library and replace them in bold with ones you do have. Here is mine:

1. Margaret Mitchell
2. Haruki Murakami
3. Jacques Barzun
4. Jane Austen
5. CS Lewis
6. JRR Tolkien
7. Peter Kreeft
8. P.G. Wodehouse
9. Garrison Keillor
10. William Shakespeare

posted by TSO @ 15:53

Mark Roberts & Infancy Narratives

Want to get this in the archives - concerning the infancy narratives.

posted by TSO @ 15:43

Good Company

Bill Luse quotes the Pope:

...from the Pope's Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris: "In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ..."...

If I am wrong, at least I am wrong with my Church, to whose infallible character I have sworn allegiance. Perhaps I'm overly sentimental in clinging to the fervent hope that God's mercy would extend to those who, though not of their own volition matriculating members of that Mystical Body, might in their last moment of terror have cried out in the spirit, beseeching God that he would not abandon them; that He might consider them among those who, though "not of this fold", He would gather to Himself.

I will not say - if he truly holds the contrary on this last point - that Mr. Hart's assertions are absurd, obscene, or grotesque, but will be content with the conviction that he is in the grip of grave error.
Joseph Butler once that if "we had set down the world according to our specifications, it would not be the world as we know it". William Buckley responds in "Nearer My God":
It's amazing what the Butler Escape, as I'll refer to it, does. This singular invitation to imagine reordering the world by you. (No rock music say.) But to disport with Butler at any length is to experience the awful thinness of the air at the summit of Hubris. We climb down from the mountain and find ourselves face-to-face with only two alternatives: reject the Christianity that asserts the unwelcome doctrine; or accept Christianity, irrespective of our incapacity to understand, or our disinclination to approve of, this or that doctrine.

posted by TSO @ 10:01

Excerpts from Isak Dineson's Out of Africa

On the farmer's desire for rain:

He cries to the sky: "Give me enough and more than enough. My heart is bared to thee now, and I will not let thee go except thou bless me. Drown me if you like, but kill me not with caprices. No coitus interruptus, heaven, heaven!"
Regarding poetry:
The Natives, who have a strong sense of rhythm, know nothing of verse, or at least did not know anything before the times of the schools, where they were taught hymns...As they had became used to the idea of poetry, they begged: "Speak again. Speak like rain." Why they should feel verse to be like rain I do not know. It must have been, however, an expression of applause, since in Africa rain is always longed for and welcomed.
On the evenings of the Masai Reserve:
The plains with the thorntrees on them were already quite dark, but the air was filled with clarity, - and over our heads, to the West, a single star which was to grow big and radiant in the course of the night was now just visible, like a silver point in the sky of citrine topaz.

posted by TSO @ 09:19


You are sitting beneath the white hot studio lights. The Grand Inquisitor, Alex Trebek, has moved to the bonus round intoning: "the difference between Christian detachment and Stoicism". The question: "What is Christ?"

I looked off Steven Riddle's paper for this one; he suggested something along those lines in a cool blog just discovered. Steve describes detachment as a means to the end of a closer relationship with Christ, not an ends in itself or a means towards a self-generated peace as with Stoicism. (Bishop Sheen, by the way, once wrote that his difficulties with chastity were most pronounced when he was least close to Christ.)

Sorrow for sins has to be similarly viewed with respect to Christ. The order of sorrow ought be to 1) God, 2) others 3) ourselves. Legalism, the brother of stoicism, flips the order and skews the priorities. F.H. Buckley, in the latest Crisis, reviews Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons and offers this money quote:

Wolfe's characters inhabit a purely pagan universe, in which we are offered a grim choice between narcissistic abandon and a stoic attention to abstract duty, between joyless vice and unfeeling virtue.The first recognizes others, in their regard for us, but not the self; the second recognizes the self, a soul "without quotation marks," but not others. Neither view holds out much prospect for an integrated life...

posted by TSO @ 07:50

More Books!

Amy Welborn has been busy. She's been acquiring printing rights of old books, as the editor of Loyola Classics.

That Helena book by Waugh looks especially inviting. George Weigel writes:

In fact [Stannard] suggests that the character of Helena, the mother of Constantine to whom tradition ascribes the discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem, is the key to grasping both Waugh's sense of himself and his mature vision of the Christian life in the its spare narration and crisp dialogue, in its deceptive simplicity, in the ongoing collision between myth and history that gives rhythm to the narrative line-in sum, in its subtle deprecation of literary realism as a mode of discerning the truth of things-Helena was, Stannard concedes, "a vital technical experiment, neither modernist nor realist, but postmodernist, metafictional."

But Helena was also Waugh's most intentional statement about the truth of Christianity and about vocation as the heart of Christian discipleship. As Stannard puts it, the satire of the early Waugh had been characterized by a "jubilant malice" that reappeared, to the applause of the critics and the crowd, in The Loved One. But even before the war the author himself was being driven by other concerns. "Purgatory obsessed him," Stannard writes, "the painful road toward his destiny as St. Evelyn Waugh."

For that is what Waugh had discerned he must become: a saint.

posted by TSO @ 15:33

January 6, 2005


Came across a humorous Tom Disch poem...

Four years ago I started reading Proust.
Although I'm past the halfway point, I still
Have seven hundred pages of reduced
Type left before I read the end. I will
Slog through. It can't get much more dull than what
Is happening now; he's buying crepe-de-chine
Wraps and a real, well-documented hat
For his imaginary Albertine.

A year or so ago, enthralled by Updike's notion and the Christian understanding that all moments are of grace and therefore deserve attention, I began recording every waking moment from 7am onward. After 100 words I was up to about 9:30am, driving in on I-70. I began to realize that not only did the exercise look surreally narcissistic on paper (personal pronouns will do that), but it wasn't coming out very Proust or Updike-like. Is it ironic that it takes extraordinary writers to write about ordinary moments? And that less talented writers must rely on phantastical events (notwithstanding Flannery O'Connor)? There's also something funny about how Updike's writing, rich and baroque, appears to undermine the very message he is trying to send. There is beauty in the mundane, at least if have your spiritual lenses on. Or if you're reading Updike and not O'Rama.

posted by TSO @ 10:38

Aid to the Victims

O'Reilly nails the bias:

The [New York] "Times" didn't mention that Americans donate billions to overseas charities when the paper called the U.S. government cheap in dispensing foreign aid. Again, the "Times" somehow left out the fact that private donations account for 75 percent of foreign giving...
Surreal that a supposedly reputable newspaper can have a story about the amount of giving in the U.S. and ignore gifts to religious organizations like Catholic Relief Services. But then it is mainly used for fishwrap, isn't it?

posted by TSO @ 19:50

January 5, 2005

God's Love & Human Failing

Excellent reminders from Fr. Jim Tucker here and here.

posted by TSO @ 16:29

In Search Of...

...the perfect political party

Political parties supposedly exist only for their own continuance, although the Democrats may give lie to that given their battlecry: "Give me abortion or give me death!" (pardon the redundancy). And there is also their lack of enthusiasm for defending America. Lots of self-hating in the Hate America First crowd.

But I've gotten off on a tangent already. This post is not to criticize the Democratic party or wonder at its self-destructive tendencies. It's to point out that the Republican party, as a strategy aimed only for its own continuance, spends money like a drunken sailor. It also worships the Hispanic vote and will do anything for it. Would Gonzales be getting the nod for Attorney General if his name was Smith? I think not. Should Gonzales's comments concerning the use of torture rule him out as AG? Absolutely.

And of illegal immigration? Be a lot worse if there were Muslims coming over the border and not Catholics. As it is, I'm growing more sanguine about it. Peter Brimelow in The Worm in the Apple says "America fails its children both rich and poor. Unless it reduces or removes the teacher union monopoly, that is not likely to change. So President Bush is proposing instead a Saudi education policy: import low-paid Mexicans to do the menial work and clever Asians to win science doctorates. That way America will do well even if Americans don't."

posted by TSO @ 10:35

Fat Obsession....

Interesting Slate article, via NRO (you know I'd never read Slate if not guided there). Ramesh Ponnuru points out, "Laura Kipnis is not being wry in the following sentence, which is what makes it so amusing: 'For some reason, the majority of women simply would not give up the pursuit of beautification, even those armed with feminist theory.'" More:

Take the chapter by anthropologist Rebecca Popenoe, based on her fieldwork among desert Arabs in Niger. This is a society with no media influences or beauty industries, where women strive to be as fat as possible. Girls are force-fed to achieve this ideal; stretch marks are regarded as beautiful. Yet somehow this beauty norm doesn't create the same sense of anguish that afflicts Western women striving for thinness, leading Popenoe to suggest that it's the Western obsession with individualism and achievement that bears the blame—not media images, not a top-down backlash against feminism, as Naomi Wolf's The Beauty Myth has it. In Niger, failing to achieve the prevailing beauty standard isn't a personal failure; it just means someone has bewitched you, or you have a thin constitution.

posted by TSO @ 10:24

From Kathy the Carmelite

I'm sure KTC won't mind if I blog this (in other words, I'm violating my email policy):

There's a book called The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard. It's a twentieth-century synthesis and paraphrase of the writings of Puritan John Owen: namely, that you need to divide and conquer the various parts of your mind. Sometimes the devil uses your intellect to deceive you; thus, you must renew your mind with the Word (otherwise known as "CORRECTLY FORMING YOUR CONSCIENCE"). Sometimes we can be sentimentally led by emotion, or memories--"Let God be true and every man a liar." Owen and Lundgaard recommend doing what Jesus did when Satan tempted Him: use the Word to parry off the threat. And in order to know which "club" to pull out of the "bag," it helps to discern which function of your mind is being manipulated. John of the Cross was ALL ABOUT THAT. ...And, BTW, the first one to identify different "compartments" as parts of one whole mind was Thomas Aquinas.

Owen and John of the Cross were more or less contemporaries. I doubt they plagiarized each other; obviously God revealed to each information He thought important to disseminate among the earnest believers in both camps.

posted by TSO @ 09:06

Linking Iraq & the Sex Scandal

Interesting First Things look at John Allen's All the Pope's Men:

Allen raises a more provocative question with respect to the general disposition of Rome to the United States. He writes:
Both the Iraq war and the sex abuse crisis suggested to Vatican observers that the ghost of John Calvin is alive and well in American culture. These reservations are well documented, from Pope Leo XIII’s 1899 apostolic letter Testem Benevolentiae, condemning the supposed heresy of “Americanism,” to Pius XII’s opposition to Italy’s entrance into NATO based on fears that the alliance was a Trojan horse for Protestant domination of Catholic Europe. Key Vatican officials, especially Europeans from traditional Catholic cultures, have long worried about aspects of American society—its exaggerated individualism, its hyperconsumer spirit, its relegation of religion to the private sphere, its Calvinist ethos. A fortiori, they worry about a world in which America is in an unfettered position to impose this set of cultural values on everyone else.
These are interesting questions indeed, and John Allen believes they are receiving very definite answers:
At the deepest level of analysis, there is serious doubt in many quarters of the Vatican that American culture is an apt carrier for a Christian vision of the human person and therefore of the just society. . . . Though no pope and no Vatican diplomat will ever come out and say so, the bottom line is that despite great respect for the American people and their democratic traditions, the Holy See simply does not think the United States is fit to run the world. . . . Thus the Holy See’s diplomatic energy in coming years will have as a central aim the construction of a multilateral, multipolar world, which will necessarily imply a limitation on the power and influence of the United States.
On all these scores, Allen may well be right. The result would be that on the world stage the Vatican will be increasingly perceived by Americans and others as anti-American, and it will be precisely that. As documented in George Weigel’s authoritative biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope, this has been the most pro-American pontificate in history. This Pope has made numerous and unprecedented statements on the genius of the American political and social order, and that appreciation is clearly reflected in the aforementioned Centesimus Annus on the just and free society. But Allen and others counter that this positive disposition toward America was but a phase, a momentary aberration created chiefly by the cooperation of Rome and the U.S. in bringing an end to “the evil empire.” After the fall of Soviet communism, in this view, the Vatican has reverted to what might be called its default position, that of Leo XIII’s robust suspicion of America and “Americanism.”

posted by TSO @ 18:02

January 4, 2005

Fictional Tuesday

(Borrowing shamelessly from Garrison Keillor)

Well the Christmas season has passed here in the town of North Hoebegon, where you can still say "Christmas" without making a political statement. Pastor Lindquist of the Dew Drop Inn Lutheran church is secretly relieved the holidays are over. Too many did drop in and overcrowding at the 10:30 Christmas Day service led to a citation from the fire chief.

Family parties were frequent as a baby's nose-pickings. Pastor John's wife Patricia enforced a strict television and gaming blackout during the gatherings. She asked what could be more beautiful than families spending time with one another and bonding over something other than a card or football game? Those were crutches for the socially-impaired, she said. It might've been his imagination, but John thought his son-in-law had an aspect of a clock-watcher about him, like he was just putting in his time. He & Sarah hit the door two hours to the minute after they'd arrived.

Patricia spent New Year's afternoon pruning the artificial roses. She said it reminds her of summer. She and Mrs. Sturgeon planned to attend the annual post-Christmas arts & crafts bazaar later that week. Pastor John was occupied with the concerns of a parishioner who wondered if his glorified body would contain his gold teeth, and Bobby, their star soccer player, played in the backyard despite melting snow-puddles the size of Lake Minotaur.

Pastor John gave a nice sermon Sunday. Reminded the flock that the hassles of the holiday were a fuss over Someone worth fussing over. Said he wouldn't have it any other way. Said the gifts, the lights, and the parties were rightly numerous and numinous, a tribute to the birth of our Savior whose celebration ought dwarf the gifts, candles and parties given for our children, siblings or parents.

posted by TSO @ 15:48


MamaT is posting all things bookish today, and is leading me into financial temptation. Sometimes I have half a mind to just buy the Ignatius Press catalog and get it over with. But then there's Tan, Sophia, Regnery...I hear even Knopf puts out some interesting titles.

The holiday required reading, but reading is such a tremendously discursive activity, endlessly beguiling, like entering a maze. I got a bad case of whipshaw from trying to read too many things at once. Peony & Steven mentioned Patrick O'Brian's books and I flew hence for a short read.

Then there is the crack-cocaine of reading OPOs (other people's opinions) of figures I admire, i.e. the Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Newman. Other people's opinions are interesting because they view the subject from a different perspective. A biographer, unless he's writing an encyclopedia entry, can not help but bring his coloring into the picture. Since I know my own coloring, my prejudices, and my baggage, it's fascinating to see how other people view figures because they can look at this person from an angle I simply can not get to. I can read Ratzinger but forever see him only through my prism. But what delight to read of John Allen's view, and not just Allen's view but Allen's collection of other people's views. Suddenly I am reading about Ratzinger from scores of perspectives, from Kung's to the Pope's.

What else to read? Scripture, of course, and Luke 2:14 caught my eye, both for the variability of translations and the fact that here was the proclamation, straight from God, that Jesus is joy: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!". I read Scott Hahn's take on it in the Ignatius Study Bible and then went to the Jerome Biblical Commentary & finally to Bernard Orchard's A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. Hahn led me to the nearly unbearable beauty of CCC 537: "Let us be buried with Christ by Baptism to rise with him; let us go down with him to be raised with him; and let us rise with him to be glorified with him....Everything that happened to Christ lets us know that, after the bath of water, the Holy Spirit swoops down upon us from high heaven and that, adopted by the Father's voice, we become sons of God."

I caught a bit of the film Mary Poppins, then googled for the theology behind it and read that the author, PL Travers, knew TS Eliot & WB Yeats but was something of a spiritualist (like Yeats). For some reason she reminded me of Isak Dineson and so I spent a pleasant hour with Out of Africa. Some of her sentences sing, like the best poetry, and cry for a highlighter. I moved on to WFB's literary memoir, who can turn a brilliant phrase himself and who even found good things to say about Sisyphus, saying his endless task gave him peace. (And, after all, aren't we all Sisyphus?)

In that last hour of the last day of vacation I desperately fought off sleep, a warrior beneath crashing weight of tome. Time and again the heavy book would fall upon my chest, instantly awakening me. I eventually traded it for a paperback, Groeschel's latest, and somewhere in the Introduction I lost consciousness...

posted by TSO @ 13:10


Against the Grain has an excellent piece on Thomas Merton here.

posted by TSO @ 10:00

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

whenever anyone asks if my current pregnancy was "planned" i always reply, "why yes. we were having sex." -smockmomma

If you're too far ahead of your time, it's indistinguishable from being wrong. -Anonymous

To blog a little something every day keeping Mary's demeanor with St. Theresa of Avila's humor! - New Year's resolution of Elena of "My Domestic Church"

Continue the move away from TV and toward books. Not that I won't watch any TV, but I do want to watch it more as a condiment to my life, not as any sort of main course. - New Year's resolution of Mama T of "Summa Mamas"

[John] Cornwell is aggravating because you may as well do the research yourself after you've read the book. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

For the Christian--faith in a good and loving God is prior to belief in anything else, including his own perception of events. If we believe that God is good, then we know that whatever He does is for the best, even if, as is usually the case, we cannot understand it. Since I know that my own understanding is limited, I would find any proposed theology that included a God Who could be included within my limited understanding highly suspect. If God is absolute and I am relative, if God is necessary and I am contingent, then my faith in God must be stronger than my belief even in myself. That creation makes any sense at all is a great blessing; but I cannot expect that everything in it will make sense to me all the time. God sees the universe from a very different perspective than mine. Every one of those people who died in the tsunami, and all those who died in other places at the same time, were and are precious to Him. What, in His ultimate plan, is the purpose or meaning of their sufferings, or even of my own (should I have any) I may well not know. He commands me to succor them, and He reveals that He cares for them. That is enough for me. - Henry Dieterich of "A Plumb Line in the Wind"

With such small families now is it any wonder that there are less people available for vocations to the priesthood or religious life. How many parents will encourage a vocation for a child when they might only have one or two? - Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester"

Happy second day of Christmas! Remember that cream cheese and sour cream should not be stopped abruptly: a little every few hours will have a sort of methadone effect.... - Therese Z. of Exultet. I'll apply this to Guinness & Jameson

I am a bit down because of the fact that I learned more about Original Sin this week, from reading A Clockwork Orange and related material, than in thirteen years of Catholic school. If my teachers couldn't reach me, what makes me think I'm going to have a better success rate with my own students? Assigning the novel or screening the Kubrick film will be completely out of the question (if I remember my former principal). I'll have to find some other way to grab their attention... A Clockwork Orange is so unforgettable precisely because it is disturbing, graphic and over-the-top--yet, like most books (Sacred Scripture included), it doesn't explain itself. It wasn't until I read what Anthony Burgess had to say about it that I got the whole point.... One thing I learn every day is how little I still know, which is not very heartening for someone who wants to be a teacher. - enbrethiliel of "Sancta Sanctis" (sent her post to my stepson, a huge Kubrick fan)

I cannot wait to be a grandmother and I daydream often about having lots of grandchildren and being an eccentric old lady. I want them to call me Suga Mama like on the Proud Family. And when I send them money for Christmas presents in cards, I am going to send it in obscure amounts like $17.97 (like a check for $17.95 and two pennies) so they will deliberate why I sent them that amount... I am sorry my husband only has time to work and come home-and go to the gym. On the other hand I'm not that sorry. - Pansy of "Two Sleepy Mommies"

Sex... is modern de-Christianized man's most obvious and most interesting new god...murder is justified in our society only when it is for sex, our new religion. That is what abortion is, of course. Abortion is back-up birth control, and birth control is the demand for sex without babies. -Peter Kreeft

Now one of the criticisms of converted Catholics is that they are worse than reformed smokers! I think that means... they tend to be enthusiastic...One of the other criticisms I have heard from online bloggers is that it is very arrogant of Catholic Converts to come into the church and then try to teach us old cradle Catholics about our faith!! My bemused reply to that is, thank goodness someone is!! Here's an analogy. When Mr. Pete and I moved to our new town in Ohio, the names of the streets and towns intrigued us. There was Perkins Street, and Perkin's Mansion, Buchtel, Spicer, Cuyahoga Falls. We wondered about who these people were, what did Cuyahoga mean? Where were the falls in Cuyahoga Falls? So I would ask people that I worked with or met at church and most people just looked at me with a glazed over look. This was their town, most of them had lived here all of their lives, and none of them had a clue who Spicer was, or who was Buchtel? or what did Cuyahoga mean? So I bought a book on the history of Akron, and I did some reading at the library. In time I became a font of knowledge on the history of this town and when I told my new friends what I had learned about their city they were very interested!...I think sometimes, in our Catholic Faith, it takes the enthusiasm of a newcomer to show us some of the treasures we have forgotten about, ignored, taken for granted, or simply not dusted off in a while. - Elena of "My Domestic Church"

Spanning the globe to give you the constant variety of sports. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, the human drama of athletic competition. - ABC's "Wide World of Sports" tagline and inspiration behind this feature

posted by TSO @ 09:17


If Jesus Christ had not applied to all the merits of his Passion, then, since no one (without a special revelation) could be certain of being among the number of those to whom the Redeemer had willed to apply the fruits of his merits, no sinner could entertain such hope, not having the certain and secure foundation which is necessary for hope; namely, that God wills all men to be saved, and will pardon all sinners prepared for it by the merits of Jesus Christ.
- St. Alphonsus De Liguori

posted by TSO @ 09:11

Country Song...

...examines the complex interaction between the will and feelings or emotions:

What Was I Thinking by Dierks Bentley

Becky was a beauty from South Alabama
Her Daddy had a heart like a nine pound hammer
Think he even did a little time in the slammer
What was I thinking?
She snuck out one night and met me by the front gate
Her daddy came out waving that twelve guage
We tore out the drive, he peppered my tailgate
What was I thinking?

Oh I knew there'd be Hell to pay,
But that crossed my mind a little too late!

Cuz' I was thinking 'bout a little white tank top sitting right there in the middle by me
I was thinking about a long kiss, man just gotta get goin' where the night might lead
Well I know what I was feeling But What was I thinking?
But What was I thinking?

What was I thinking?

By the county line the cops were nipping on our heels
Pulled off the road kicked it to 4 wheel
Shut off the lights, tore through a corn field
What was I thinking?
Out the other side she was hollerin' "Faster!"
Took the third road had the radio blastin'
Hit the Honky Tonk for a little close dancin'
What was I thinking?

Oh I knew there'd be Hell to pay,
But that crossed my mind a little too late!


When a mountain of a man with a "Born to Kill" tattoo
tried to cut in I knocked out his front tooth
Ran outside hood sliding like Bo Duke
What was I thinking?
I finally got her home at half past too late
Her daddy's in a lawn chair sittin' in the driveway
Put it in park as he started my way,
What was I thinking?

Oh What was I thinking?
Oh What was I thinking?

And she gave a come and get me grin,
And like a bullet we were gone again!

posted by TSO @ 08:00

January 3, 2005

Not Home Yet

It’s a dank, drizzly day and your cubby reporter needs some exercise. Which means a hike through alleys of bare deciduous trees, calm to the point of stoic about their plight. Whether summer-gloried with leaves of greenest green or standing now as upright cordwood, they sing in pleasing accord with God and in the perfection of his designs.

Still, I’m cheered by the some low-lying green ivies – yes green outdoors in a Ohio January – along a protected hillside below an old cemetery. I continue up the hill, for walking through a cemetery separates out trivialities as through a sieve. Call it perspective, but also call it elusive.

It was hard to read of the truncated lives, the beloved wife lost at thirty-three, the many infants. There were also graves of veterans from wars, from the War of 1812 to World War II, and I was reminded again of how we live off the capital and largesse of our ancestors. The comfort and (mostly) longer lives we now enjoy is a result of the hard work of those who made medical discoveries, who made our freedom and wealth possible through ingenious political and economic systems. The least I can do is be grateful for it, though ideally I'd make contributions to future generations.

Concerning the tsuani: along with the sheer pain of loss, some of the difficulty for observers is that we humans are story-makers. We long for a beginning, a middle, an ending, and a “good death" as was once said. It’s hard to think of so many thousands who were given no time to pray, to ask God for forgiveness, to prepare, or even to tell loved ones they love them. But we aren’t guaranteed that. Jesus said that death comes like a thief in the night. In some sense our individual stories, so often truncated or otherwise ruined, must be subsumed in the corporate story of the history of man. Or better our individual stories need all come to completion in the next life.

Heard a good illustration of that recently. A famous missionary went to a far away country to preach the gospel with wife and son back in the 19th century. He outlived both, and after some twenty-five long years came back to his native soil. He missed America fiercely, and when he heard a brass band in New York he thought it was for him, but it turned out to be for a celebrity who happened to be on board. He searched the crowd upon disembarking for some time, expecting to see a friend, relative or fellow missionary - anyone to greet him. No one did. He went to a hotel, bitterly disappointed, and sobbed to God, “why is there no one to greet me now that I’m home?”. And he heard the reply, as clear as if said out loud, “Son, you aren’t home yet.”

posted by TSO @ 18:42

January 2, 2005

Joseph Ratzinger & Hans Küng

It's fascinating to read how they acted as mirror images of one another. Pope Paul VI, then Cardinal of Milan, said that Ratzinger and Kung would be the two great players coming out of Vatican II. One was a conservative who became liberal (liberal enough to find himself unable to teach as a Catholic); the other was a liberal who became conservative (conservative enough to find himself the head of the Holy Office and determining Church boundaries).

UPDATE: FYI, this is from Chapter 3 of John Allen's biography of Cardinal Ratzinger, pgs. 113-118 & pgs 127-130.

posted by TSO @ 13:45

The Flannery O'Connor blog has been updated.

posted by TSO @ 16:02

January 1, 2005


Part of the beauty of the sacraments is they remind us that holiness comes only from God. The following is from Fr. John Catoir:

Holiness is not something that comes from doing good; we do good because we are holy.
Holiness is not something we acquire by avoiding evil; we avoid evil because we are holy.
Holiness is not something that follows from prayer; we pray because we are holy.
Holiness is not the result of kindness; we are kind because we are holy.
Holiness is not something that blossoms when we are courageous; we are courageous because we are holy.
Holiness is not the result of character building; we build character because we are holy.
Holiness is not the private possession of religious people; we are religious because we are holy.
Holiness is not something that comes from being more joyful; we are joyful because we are holy.
Holiness is not a gift we obtain after a lifetime of service; we give a lifetime of service because we are holy.
Our holiness is God with us, Emmanuel. And while it is true that holiness carries with is both the Cross and the Resurrection, it is more a gift than a reward.
Praised be to Jesus Christ.

posted by TSO @ 15:59

What He Said

The editor of our local diocesan newspaper writes:

It is amazing how a president, a governor and legislatures act impotent when facing the judiciary. What is happening in our country would be to our Founding Fathers both surprising and expected.

In the Federalist Papers No. 78, Alexander Hamilton wrote:
“… In a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The executive not only dispenses the honors but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse…and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

“This simple view…proves incontestably that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power….”
In the Anti-Federalists Papers, “Brutus” notes in essay XI:
“Every body of men invested with office are tenacious of power; they feel interested, and hence it has become a kind of maxim, to hand down their offices, with all its rights and privileges, unimpaired to their successors; the same principle will influence them to extend their power…this of itself will operate strongly upon the courts to give such a meaning to the constitution in all cases where it can possibly be done, as will enlarge the sphere of their own authority….

“When the courts will have a precedent before them of a court which extended its jurisdiction in opposition to an act of the legislature, is it not to be expected that they will extend theirs….

“This power in the judicial, will enable them to mould the government, into almost any shape they please.”
It seems as much as Hamilton meant well, it was “Brutus” who saw more clearly in what direction the courts would go.

Ultimately, though, we have failed. Inasmuch as the powers of government are derived from the people, we let Terri starve, just as we let 4,000 abortions occur daily, more than 40 million since the Supreme Court declared abortion on demand in Roe and Doe a right. Will we ever have the courage, fortitude and derring-do to stand and say: “No more”? May God have mercy on us. —Mark Moretti, editor

posted by TSO @ 12:59

March 31, 2005

Make me to know your Christs

We know from John's gospel that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So try substituting in the Psalms "Christ" where it says "the way", "the truth" or "the life". e.g..

Psalm 25

Make me to know your Christs1, Oh LORD; teach me your paths.

Lead me in Christ2, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.

Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in Christ.3
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble Christ.4

1 = ways
2 = your truth
3 = the way
4 = his way

posted by TSO @ 12:32

Terry Schiavo

Requiescat in pace

O grant us help against the foe,
for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies. -- (Ps 108:12-13)

posted by TSO @ 11:23

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

There was a young man who said "God,
I find it exceedingly odd,
That the willow oak tree
Continues to be,
When there's no one about in the Quad."

"Dear Sir, your astonishment's odd,
For I'm always about in the Quad;
And that's why the tree,
Continues to be,"
Signed "Yours faithfully, God."

-limerick via Brad of Defensor Veritatis

My guess is that most people shouting, "Just let her die!," have a normal, excessive fear, not of death, but of dying. Or not just of dying, but of helplessness. (Because, apparently, if we're healthy we aren't helpless. (Pelagius, call your office.)) - Tom of Disputations

One of this week's memes has been "Would you want to live this way?" Here's the news flash from my end: I fully expect to. Oh, not precisely as Terri does, but in some way, certainly. Unless I die a quick, sudden death, and who knows, even if I do,l I will probably go through a period of physical and mental incapacitation, of suffering, of decline, of being bedridden and helpless, sick, dying and in pain. The people in my family tend to live a long time, but their deaths have not been easy ones. There has been suffering, and I am not stupid enough to think that I will be excused from that table. With Terri as my teacher this week, I have gone to school. I've confronted, in some sense, my own future, and pondered my response to it. - Amy Welborn

Eleanor Smith of Decatur, Georgia, sat on Tuesday in a motorized wheelchair in front of the hospice, baking in the sun, with a sign on her lap reading, "This agnostic liberal says 'Feed Terri."' ... Smith, 65, had polio as a child and described herself as a lesbian and a liberal ... "At this point I would rather have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member," Smith said. - Via the Corner

The first step in convincing such people of the truth of the Catholic positions would seem to be convincing them the principles aren't absurd. Telling them they're indifferent to, if not advocating, murder probably won't convince them of anything. - Tom of Disputations

I still love Bird by Bird and I still think I would have retired if I'd written the phrase "would make Jesus want to lap gin from the cat bowl." - Karen Hall of "Some Have Hats" concerning Anne Lamott

When I named my health care proxy, I gave her a typed up version of guidelines for my care should I become severely disabled--things like letting her know that prayers are appreciated (but NOT rosaries recited in a dull, dead monotone), and that Mozart is always a good choice for ambient sound... I thought that a feeding tube was a really invasive thing, and didn't really want that. (That was before the Vatican determined that feeding tubes are not extraordinary; it had seemed so to me before, but even the papers now are demonstrating that it is not as complicated as I had thought.) What I am saying is that I have had to do a lot of thinking about this matter lately. The report that Terri made sounds like "AAAH WAAAH" when the lawyer said she needed to say "I want to live" has really gotten me thinking more and more about the mystery of our mind/brain connection. The doctors in general are saying that the brain tests show no activity in the areas of the cerebral cortex associated with what we call "mental" activity; that the action is all in the brain stem.... But what if the "AAAH WAAAH" is the result of the mind (which is, after all, a dimension of the soul)amazingly and magnificently using the brain stem, which is all it now has access to? I mean, thinking does not happen IN the brain, but WITH the brain. - Sister Anne of nunblog

posted by TSO @ 14:20

March 30, 2005

From a Goldberg Column on how in the '50s WFB tried to keep both liberatarians and social conservatives in the conservative tent:

[William F.] Buckley was aided by the conservative theorist Frank Meyer, who fashioned the doctrine of "fusionism," which held that freedom and virtue were inextricably entwined; virtue not freely chosen is not virtuous.

posted by TSO @ 10:40

National Review review of Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium

This is John Paul’s explanation of “the drama of the European Enlightenment”: In marginalizing Christ’s role in history, Enlightenment ideologies helped pave the way for the dehumanization that reached its zenith in 20th-century totalitarianisms. But this Pope’s criticism of the Enlightenment is very different from the anti-Enlightenment views of reactionaries nostalgic for the days of throne and altar. “The European Enlightenment not only led to the carnage of the French Revolution,” he writes, “but also bore positive fruits, such as the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, values which are rooted in the Gospel. Even when proclaimed independently, these ideas point naturally to their proper origin. Hence, the French Enlightenment prepared the way for a better understanding of human rights. . . . This was the time when human rights began to be properly acknowledged and put into effect more forcefully, leaving behind the traditions of feudalism.”

The idea of a Pope praising “liberty, equality, and fraternity” would have horrified 19th-century ultramontanes; but John Paul II’s understanding of that era is deep, judicious, and devoid of sectarian spirit. Memory and Identity is, finally, a call to Christians to remember who they are: people with a mission to bring the good news of Christ and His Redemption, the whole truth about man, to their fellow men and women. “When he was instituting the Eucharist during the Last Supper, [Christ] said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ . . . Christians, as they celebrate the Eucharist in ‘memory’ of their Master, continually discover their own identity.

--Michael Potemra

posted by TSO @ 10:24


Read most of Cornwell's biography of the Pope juxtaposed by the watching of the movie "The Robe" (about the conversion of a Roman soldier after touching Christ's robe), and I'm struck by the difference between the world views.

With Cornwell, one can read a chapter or two and miss it. One can see the relentless pragmatism only in hindsight. It reveals itself slowly in accumulation, the subtle mocking of anything that smacks of trust in God or mysticism. But trying to take the mysticism out of Catholicism is like trying to take a bath without water. It's an exercise in futility. Yet Cornwell tries.

To be fair, he sees the Vatican up close. And like the making of sausages, it helps to have a little distance from the very human side of the Church. But Cornwell's pragmatism looks, smells and acts like a denial of the supernatural. John Paul is called to the carpet in a chapter on AIDS because the Pope is against condoms. Resisting the seeming pragmatic good that contraception could do for Africans is controversial in part because it requires faith, faith that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church in banning contraception. The Pope is also disparaged for the pedophile crisis, but Cornwell says that the root problem is John Paul seeing ordination as a supernatural event that leaves a "mark on the soul". On the Iraq War the pragmatism comes out with Cornwell taking a swipe at Ratzinger for saying that a preemptive war is not in the Catechism - Cornwell rebuts that neither is the kind of "asymmetrical war" we are currently engaged in with respect to terrorism. And not surprisingly, Cornwell is dismissive of Fatima and the Third Secret and emphasizes that John Paul's belief in Fatima to underscore his credulity.

"The Robe", on the other hand, is open to the miraculous. It follows the travels of a Roman who is involved with the Crucifixion but who is going mad, thinking he was cursed by the scarlet robe. He goes to find it to destroy it but is slowly converted as he sees the love the Christians have. The miraculous is never overplayed; a dying man healed by Peter's prayer isn't shown leaping from bed. But it is always just burbling below the surface, such as when the robe itself begins the healing. There's also a touching scene where the Roman's ultimate confession to Peter is made much easier after Peter tells him of his thrice denial of Christ, showing that God can make use even of Peter's sin.

posted by TSO @ 10:09

Fresh Content, Brewed Daily

Got a nice email from a reader in St. Louis. I'm always taken aback by the fact there are folks I don't know reading this. A failure of the imagination I guess (abetted by the tossing of SiteMeter). This Internet thing is amazing you know. Never underestimate the power of 1's and 0's.

I feel a heightened sense of responsibility. A new determination to be the best blogger I can be. To blog with renewed vigah (say like JFK) -- to blog like the wind!

I'll lie down until it passes (rimshot).

But seriously (and blogging means never having to have a segue), I've been reading & enjoying Mr. Blue. Blue has a very Thoreauian view of life and in fact quotes Thoreau in a letter. Here are some nuggets to whet your interest:

People remember sorrow much longer than they remember laughter...Literature is to be blamed. It has never cooperated with the gayer side of mankind. The biographer is to be blamed as well as the poet and novelist...The biographer exaggerates the serious side of man to given him importance, for it has always been felt, peculiarly enough, that seriousness is a sign of importance. The biographer stresses a man's work so much that the reader is led to believe that the subject did little else. And yet all men loaf far more than they work. All great men especially.
The older a civilization, the more it approaches the glumness of stagnation. Capacity for laughter could well be employed as the index of the wisdom of a man or a civilization.
There are few of us who do not grow a trifle in importance when we take a pen in hand.
He was born a Catholic, but he had all that enthusiasm of discovery that heaven usually reserves for converts.

posted by TSO @ 09:16

Judiciary Trumps Executive (Again)

Well, the Miami Herald is reporting that Gov. Jeb Bush sent some officers to possibly take Terri but when the local police heard they were coming they said they wouldn't budge, they'd defend Judge Greer's order.

Whether true or not who knows, but if I were Jeb I'd surely have put some feelers out just to see what was possible. It seems that even though the judicial branch has made power grabs at the expense of the legislative and executive branches for decades, custom and tradition accept it. Police presumably feel more comfortable following the judicial since they deal with lawyers and judges all the time.

I thought the whole point behind the Judicial branch was to protect rights. The irony is they are now most likely to strip rights, most grievously with respect to the right to life of the unborn.

posted by TSO @ 23:57

March 29, 2005

The Cardinal & the Priest

Anybody else see Rev. Richard McBrien on O'Reilly yesterday? He flat out refuted Cardinal McCarrick's clear statement on ABC's This Week that removing Terri's feeding tube is tantamount to murder. Cardinal McCarrick said that what made this murder was the removal of the feeding tube. Once you put it in, then you can't remove it, deftly avoiding whether the decision to hydrate is an ordinary or extraordinary means. At least that's the way I understood it.

posted by TSO @ 11:54

Hilda Doolittle Poem

dusty feet
sink in soft drift of pine
and anodyne
of balm and fir and myrtle-trees
and cones
drift across weary brows
and the sea-foam
marks the sea-path
where no sea ever comes;
islands arise where never islands were,
crowned with the sacred palm
or odorous cedar;
waves sparkle and delight
the weary eyes
that never saw the sun fall in the sea
nor the bright Pleiads rise.


posted by TSO @ 10:46

Byzantine Simplicity

The noble savage Homer Simpson once toasted alcohol as the solution for, and cause of, all of life's problems. Perhaps with regard to religion simplicity is the same, since it is both the mother of heresies as well as the very ground we walk on.

I like the Eastern Rite's simple and straightforward seasonal responsorial:

Priest: Christ is Risen!

All: Indeed, He is Risen!

posted by TSO @ 09:24

Patience - NOW!

I've been pondering a m'Lynn post. I've always been fascinated by borders, especially the border between Quietism and Pelagianism. My understanding is that Quietism leaves everything up to God and we don't have to do anything and pelagianism assumes all virtues are man-made.

Peter Kreeft writes about attempting to gain patience:

Just try being patient without agape. It simply will not work. It works only as long as you feel patient. So then you try substituting hard "will power" for soft feelings. "I'll be patient with that so-and-so if it kills me." And it almost does. You discover two things: that your will is ridiculously weak and that even when you succeed in repressing your impatience, it is still there. You have buried it alive; it is not dead. Your love is false and forced and formal. Patience has to come from the heart, not from either undulating feelings or from iron resolution.
Arguably, the two most morally flaccid decades of the American 20th century were the '20s and the '60s. The '20s came just after WWI and the '60s came not long after the WWII/Korean war period. Could those wars, with their "white-knuckling" aspects of self-denial and self-sacrifice, led to the morally fatuous periods? Was the answer to repression the flaccid decades? If so, it shows what we already know - that only Christ avails.

posted by TSO @ 09:21


Herald birds sing their heraldic songs
holding the tri-color against their breasts
glide-hangs under severe clouds
and sere branches that wend along banks
of the damp Burgess
and the roiled earth up-planted, cross-sectioned,
where torried tan streams snake
at hover-angles till
release into the grand Present:
the river Darby.

posted by TSO @ 09:19

Interesting comments...

...from Randall Sullivan, author of "The Miracle Detective" here:

"I think there are a lot of people out there who can relate to your book and to you," Margi English, the producer on the project, told me, "because most of us believe and question that belief at the same time." I certainly hope she's right, for all the obvious reasons, but also because I'm awfully tired of hearing only from those who don't believe at all on the one hand, and those who don't doubt at all on the other.

Mostly, though, I feel a growing sense of peace about having revealed myself as a person who can never be one of the former and will never be one of the latter.
This speaks to what I wrote earlier, that those with small faith may occasionally minister most effectively to those with even less. But at the same time I'm reminded of the necessity of certitude, which I believe the Catholic Church was designed by Christ to give. Cardinal Newman wrote that "no man can worship, love or trust in a probable God" but it's even more difficult to imagine willingness to be martyred for a God about whom you harbor some doubt.

posted by TSO @ 09:14

A Whimsical Post

Are you a recent convert but culturally adrift? Are you listening to Alice in Chains but know that Bach would be better for your soul even though you're not ready for the shock of immersion into the culture of the 1940s let alone the 13th century?

Well, here's the plan, Stan:

Every three to six months go back in time by one year. Indulge books, music and movies that came out only within that year. You can profitably skip the '20s and '60s and '70s. Enjoy!

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Love is Rude?

Was listening to Lisa Marie Presley on Oprah today and she said that her attraction to Michael Jackson was how he took her into his confidence and how she felt as if she were his savior. Oprah asked how she got from wanting to help Michael to saying "I do" and she said "Love is rude. Bono once told me that 'love has no manners' and it's so true."

Love has no manners? Hmmm...the love described in 1 Cor 13 sounds exceedingly mannerly. And God, who is Love, resolutely does not force himself on us. "Love is patient, love is kind, love does not put on airs. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking."

On the other hand, one could understand her comment as an assertion Love chooses you, an echo of how Jesus said that "first I have chosen you." She must've felt she had been chosen.

But what about love is unmannerly? Is it the prodigality, a prodigality that offputs the gentrified? Does love seem unmannered given the Divine Mercy will not be collared by protocol? The lesson of the Prodigal Son is that God will not abide limits to his love. The lesson of the Cross & Eucharist is that God will humble himself for our sake, most definitely a breach of manners. Kings shall act as kings, so goes the protocol. But not so with God, who became servant of all!

posted by TSO @ 18:44

March 28, 2005

Rule By Nine Lawyers

"We're either living under a Constitution or not, and at the moment because of the way the Court interprets its role we're not - we're living under the opinions of nine lawyers." - Mona Charen, 3/17/05

posted by TSO @ 00:07

Peter Kreeft Quote

A poll revealed that of all the scientists in America, those in psychology include the smallest percentage of religious believers. Astrophysics and cell biology were among the hightest - probably because they study divine order rather than human disorder. Right at the center of life we have an irrevocable conflict of philosophies: Jesus versus the vast majority of modern psychologists on how to save your soul and even on whether you have a soul.

posted by TSO @ 00:03

Powerful, bracing post from Amy Welborn .

Amy's post dovetails with news from my wife concerning the funeral Mass of her co-worker, an ALS patient who died last week after years of suffering. The priest said he spoke to John last fall and that he said he considered ALS a blessing in that he treasured and enjoyed life so much more fully, knowing it to be precious, and knowing that love survives death.

light reasserts
his power
reclaims the lost;
in a new blaze of splendour
calls the host
to reassemble
and to readjust
all severings
and differings of thought,
all strife and strident bickering
and rest;
O fair and blest,
he strides forth young and pitiful and strong.

- Hilda Dolittle

posted by TSO @ 12:20

March 24, 2005

Passion Film

Watched TPOTC again, a rich mine indeed. Mary Magdalen is slow to understand why she is taking the towels to wipe Christ's blood, but she does so because she is following Mary's lead. Obedience before clarity. As she wipes up the blood it suddenly dawns on her that this was for her, confirmed by a flashback to Jesus writing in the dust before the crowd who wanted to stone her.

One catches the facial nuances with repeated viewings, the flicker of recognition that crosses Christ's face when he looked up and saw no one had condemned Mary Magadalen, as if intuiting he would be the lamb of sacrifice for her. When Mary Magadalen in that scene crawls, or more accurately slithers, to Christ it intentionally recalls the scene in the Garden where the devil slithers in the form of a snake and Jesus crushes it. But Jesus does not crush Mary but offers his hand and lifts her up, an iconic image of the dignity afforded to man.

posted by TSO @ 12:01

It's an Odd World After All

PINELLAS PARK, FL-- The National Guard was called out today to prevent good Samaritans from attempting to give fluid to Terri Schiavo. Two were killed and scores injured when rioters carrying only ice chips which they longed to put on Terri's tongue were denied entry.

"Yeah we had to kill a few," said a spokesman for the Guard. "Sometimes it's necessary to kill in order to save--er, I mean end-- a life."

Other guardsmen were less pleased.

"I don't understand it," said John Silver of Darbydale, Maryland. "If it's all about Terri's wishes, then wouldn't Terri wish to be divorced given he has two kids with another woman?"

posted by TSO @ 15:09

March 23, 2005

Living Wills & the Catholic Church

I was watching O'Reilly last night and he was confident about his status with respect to end-of-life issues. "I've got a living will," he said, as if the matter were closed.

But do living wills conform to the teachings of the Church? Dom is asking this same question.

I did find this Florida directive. And there's more here and here. It's almost like we have to provide our own legal documents to our attorney, since it's likely he's not going to be too worried about what the catechism says.

UPDATE: Via Dom: Catholic guide to end of life decisions

posted by TSO @ 14:24

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Aristotle wrote, "The law is reason free from passion." Modern society accepts, "The law is agenda free from reason." The law cannot but fail us if it is reason free from compassion, and it has once again failed us in the defense of life. However, one can no longer argue that the unfortunate, indeed evil, result of Ms. Schiavo's case is a single person's point of view. Too many sources have reviewed and upheld it. I do not know the law, but it appears that all who do seem to think things were conducted as they should be. This suggests that there is something malign and dangerous about the law as it presently stands. Hence, the law must change. - Steven Riddle

There is definitely a sense that I see among those concerned about this case that justice has not yet been served - and if it's not, it weighs on us, for this is our country, our system. What our judicial system does reflects on us, and should reflect our values, as difficult and contentious as it may be to tease that out, and as often as we feel it doesn't.... But in this case, there is merit, there is value. There are actual issues at stake. There is real action that's been taken. There are questions - important questions - being addressed. There is an uncomfortable vibe out there, among many, that something is not right. No need to apologize for caring. - Amy Welborn

A friend of mine takes serious umbrage at the political hay and posturing that accompanied this extraordinary maneuver by Congress. I hope I am not sinful nor intellectually sloppy to say "Who cares?" My guess is that posturing is a chronic condition of congressmen. If the desire to posture causes them to do the right thing, then give it your best shot there, guys. - Roz of "Exultet"

I'm in love with Tom DeLay...And I'm not ashamed to admit it. - Therese Z of exultet, winner of this week's "Honesty in Blogging" award (and most cringe-worthy also)

It is difficult for our younger sisters not to have the experience of life, freedom and joy, and this is blocked now. Sometimes they are angry and resent having to struggle so much. We try to be with them during these times. As religious, they are not mature enough to cope so we try to help them understand. I would tell them: "Now you are praying real prayers. When you are angry, confused, abandoned, you talk about these feelings and fears and give them over to God, like the psalmists. Our suffering deepens our prayer and makes it more real". - Dominican sisters in Iraq

He must have been strong, I suspect he had a good sense of humor, and as for humility -- how would you like it if the only sinner in your family were you?- Roz of Exultet on St. Joseph

Only after long years of practicing the interior and spiritual life does one experience the intimate divine presence and for long periods of time. At the beginning, one must fight off concupiscence, noise, confusion, ignorance, self-love, and all the countless predicates of being a sinful creature. Eventually, if one is persisent, he begins to be mostly conscious that he is never alone. - Fr. Bob Levis of EWTN'S Q&A

And in another place, speaking of the petition of the mother of Zebedee's sons, on the words, "It is not mine to give, etc." he observes: "By this Christ wished to show that it was not simply his to give, but that it also belonged to the combatants to take; for if it depended only on himself, all men would be saved." - St. Alphonsus quoting St. John Chrysostom

After five months in the novitiate of a certain religious order, he told his novice master, "I am finished. I am done. I've been praying four hours a day, like I was told, ever since I got here. I've said everything. I've gone over with God my whole past, everything in my present, and every possible future. How can I possibly get through another nine months of four hours of daily prayer?" The novice master said, "Brother, now is when you do butt prayer. Go sit your butt down in the chapel, in front of the tabernacle. You listen to God, and you start to pray." - Tom of Disputations

Christ went to His death for us. We arranged it, and we were responsible for it, but He took it up and bore it. Questions as to who was responsible miss the point entirely. As in any murder mystery, the most likely culprit is the one who benefits most. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli, regarding anti-Semitism

When I was a younger man, I despised small talk, thinking only serious conversation to be worth the air we breathe. Anything less was bad stewardship of my vocal cords. I've come to realize that deep conversations have rhythm and depth only when preceded by lots of small talk. Small talk is like lay-ups before a basketball game—routine, mundane, predictable, but absolutely necessary to stretch tight muscles and get one's timing down, so that when the real game begins you do not pull a muscle or lose the grace of your jump shot. And this is the final madness. That a bracket guessing game about a bunch of athletes trying to toss a leather ball through a metal hoop, players we don't know from schools we hardly care about playing in arenas we've never visited, all striving for an ephemeral title of only a fleeting glory, that this ultimately meaningless and arbitrary game, can become a means of grace, a means of small talk, by which I ever so gradually stretch more deeply into relationships, find my relational timing with Jennifer and Collin and Mark and others—why its madness—"an incipient madness, and ready to grow, spread and consume, when the occasion [March!] comes." - Mark Galli in "Christianity Today"

Like many historical movies, the history is not always accurate, however, if you like movies about the real IRA guys of the old days (not the marxist IRA thugs we have today), you will like this movie. - Fr. Ethan of "diary of a suburban priest" reviewing movie "Michael Collins"

The argument that compassion, or justice, or any other good thing must be reasonable is as old as Socrates. In practice it means that the best reasoner is the best person in the room. That is certainly how Socrates used it. - Richard Brookhiser of "The Corner"

posted by TSO @ 12:23


CNN's Catherine Crier, a lawyer who wrote a book making the case against lawyers, quoted De Tocqueville who predicted that Americans will eventually lose their liberty to lawyers.

We are ruled by law which in reality means rule by courts since he who interprets the law owns the law. Lawyers are the kingmakers in a litigious society. And if they didn't know it at our country's founding (when the judicial branch was perceived as the weakest) they sure do now. Everybody knows it now.

Of course we're between a rock and a hard place. We can't much trust mob rule (i.e. us) but we also can't trust morally confused secular elites wearing robes. I guess in the short run it'd be better to have mob rule. It's certainly no wonder the Republicans want to end the filibuster rule in order to get sound judges appointed even though that could certainly come back to haunt.

Regarding Michael Schiavo, I heard some hearsay that certainly paints him in unfavorable terms. But even if he is the devil himself every good has a foil. Evil in this world should not surprise - that's what courts were designed for. Child-abusing priests and loathesome ALCU lawyers are the reason safeguards exist, in the form of bishops and judges. When they fail? That's when it really, really hurts.

posted by TSO @ 12:12


The all-painful award to the media person most discordant to the ears was won by Bob Schieffer, who opined that the whole thing was just awful but that he was outraged that Congress would get involved, especially in the middle of the night like that.

Uh, newsflash -- she's dying. No food or water. It's all about time right now.

He also was mad about a law being passed for one person. Don't we have lots of tax loopholes that apply to select groups infinitely approaching one? And if we can enact a law honoring a single individual (like Martin Luther King) then why can't we enact a law hoping to save a single individual?

Even though a red-faced Tim Russert ripped pro-life conservatives a new one on Chris Matthew's show, at least he wasn't as patronizing as Schieffer.

posted by TSO @ 12:01

Temptations as Graces

Found this helpful post from Catholic Analysis.

posted by TSO @ 15:22

March 22, 2005

Terri Schiavo Case

Good posts on a grim topic:

...from Some Have Hats, who quotes a pundit who says your view of the case "depends on whether you think that moral law should trump legal law."

...from Amy Welborn on the fact that Terri's potential recovery is completely irrelevant (I guess holding out hope is an appeal to the 'swing voters').

...from KJ Lopez on the demonizing of Michael Schiavo.

Derbyshire, by my lights, is way too chummy with Michael but I think (if I may play amateur psychologist) that we're seeing the natural reaction of someone who started out leaning against Terri but was so hammered by the good Christians who wanted their pound of flesh (i.e. hateful emails) that the Derb is now actively antagonistic. Calling someone a dumb ox will only hurt your case, unless you're talking to an Aquinas. We Christians are naturally our own worse enemy although admittedly the courts have been giving us a run for the money at least since Roe v. Wade.

posted by TSO @ 15:22

Another Scanned Photo...

Ireland 1997

posted by TSO @ 14:59

Jensen's Story

Somewhat related to that last post I found this review of Jan Lars Jensen's "Nervous System" worthwhile. In it Jensen describes his descent into madness and paranoia:

When his loving wife Michelle brings him homemade grape juice in the hospital, he fears it could be poison. But the more we become privy to Jensen’s fears, the more we follow the inner logic of his paranoia, the more we come to realize, ohmigawd, this is what it’s really like to go bonkers, this is insanity...

But this narrator is so deeply self-absorbed, we don’t necessarily feel compassion for him from the outset. How can someone so precise and articulate be simultaneously so feckless? Can’t this guy just snap out of it? The question arises as to what extent mental illness could sometimes be some twisted form of self-indulgence.

We remain on the periphery of Jensen’s predicament, neutral but entertained, until we come to realize Jensen is providing us with a very privileged viewpoint. Nervous System is a deeply human reporting of a remarkable journey. We gradually come to appreciate, along with him, that lots of people must feel and think as he does. Jensen is a rare messenger from the land of inner torment, an ambassador of madness, a Marco Polo of paranoia, who has come a long way back to unravel his tale....

In just 48 hours, J.L. Jensen went from being an atheist to someone who deduced, on paper, an equation that proved the existence of God. “You know your life has changed when you wake up in a psych ward. There is the time in your life before this moment, and the time after.”

This change for the better is, to some extent, not just the product of his circumstances. Jensen does a lot of hard work—thinking work—experimenting with prayer, re-examining his family background and questioning the nature of his character.

“…my thoughts had turned to my life and decisions that shaped it, and even if I wasn’t fundamentally wicked, I realized that I had made choices based on self-gratification, the most obvious example being the pursuit of a career as a fiction writer.

“A desire to help people had never motivated me. No, I had hoped to be seen as gifted, that was what it reduced to, and if my motivation wasn’t evil, it was undeniably self-centred.

“I must incorporate good acts in my life—selfless behaviour—if there was to be any chance of feeling comfortable with my place in the universe. I wanted to make this change immediately, make an effort.”

posted by TSO @ 14:47

Art & Sin

I found this Barbara Nicolosi comment interesting:

I used to think sin was necessary to making a great writer. But, then, a good woman I met in Ohio straightened me out, saying, "It isn't sin that makes someone deep, but rather suffering. It's just that the worst kind of suffering is that which has the added burden of remorse."

It reminds me of what Shelby Foote said in a letter to Walker Percy (from The Correspondence of Walker Percy & Shelby Foote). He said that in the end you have to choose to serve God or art and that no great writer serves both. If you put anything before your art you are holding back. (I can't remember what he said about Dante - my best recall was that because Dante was so set on vengeance - by gleefully describing people he didn't like in Hell - that perhaps Foote didn't consider him devout enough to be applicable.) Foote says Flannery O'Connor was an excellent but not great writer for that reason. (Of course, the fact that O'Connor suffered so much supports the good woman in Ohio's point rather than Foote's.)

My literature palate is insufficiently developed to be able to tell the difference between an good and a great writer. James Joyce (at least Ulysses) makes no sense to me and seems hardly worth the effort. I'm told that T.S. Eliot wrote better before his conversion but again I'm not astute enough to discern. (On that note: I've always wanted to try to compare a $500-a-bottle glass of wine and see if I could tell any difference between that and a $30-a-bottle glass.)

Of the list of writers just below the "immortals" there are Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh...who aren't exactly models for the faith I'm afraid? No one can judge another's soul, but supposing their faith was weak then perhaps the nearly faithless might sometimes evangelize the totally faithless more effectively than the devout. God can surely wish to use those who can speak fluidly the language of modernity, though that still assumes (one would hope) that the writer is seeking first the Kingdom. For what is it to gain the whole world but lose our immortal soul?

posted by TSO @ 14:36

Amazon's Suggestive Selling

Amazon suggested purchase emails are often amusing. Buy a gift book for somebody on a subject you're completely uninterested in and for years you'll be getting, "As someone who once purchased 'Your Guide to Menopause', we thought you'd like..."

With that in mind, I've added a few more:

As someone who purchased Paul Johnson's "Birth of the Modern", we thought you'd be interested in "Birthing Techniques for Modern Mothers"

As someone who purchased Kathy Shaidle's "God Rides a Yamaha", we thought you'd be interested in Tubb's "The Story of Hell's Angels"

As someone who purchased Tony Hendra's "Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul" we think you'll like "Father, I'm not a 'Ho!: Story of a Daughter who Dressed Immodestly"

As someone who purchased "The Divine Comedy" we think you'll like "The Comedy of the Divine Miss M"

As someone who purchased "Karl Marx : His Life and Environment" we think you'll like "My Democratic Party" by Teddy Kennedy

As someone who purchased "The Evidential Power of Beauty" we think you'll like "Metrosexual Beauty Tips"

As someone who purchased "Morte D'Urban" we think you'll like "The Death of Urban Rap"

As someone who purchased "Twelve Steps for the Biblioholic" we think you'll like "The ABCs of Book Collecting"

posted by TSO @ 13:01

Being Right Does Not Make Right

Interesting conversion-within-a-conversion story by Jeff Childers:

Most compelling to me, the prophets foretold a Church that would never cease to teach to truth -- a Church that would, by the grace of God, always be right. Said God through the prophet Isaiah: "My Spirit that is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children's children, says the LORD, from now on and forever." Learning from the Christian Fathers that the early Church was Catholic, and from the Hebrew prophets that the Church was to remain faithful - indefectible - from her Messianic foundation until the culmination of history...I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday, 1998...

My faith had always been primarily an assent of will -- an acknowledgement that what the Bible or the Church proclaims as true is, in fact, true. This is, of course, an important and necessary aspect of the Christian life. For me, this was the essence of Christian life: to conform my opinions to objectively true reality. In other words, it was all about being right.

The denomination in which I was raised, the Church of Christ, puts a particular emphasis on the objectivity of truth. It's a "just the facts, ma'am" approach to the gospel. Emotions are downplayed as irrelevant and distracting to the pursuit of truth-a religion of the head rather than the heart.

I brought this intellectualist, dogma-centered approach to the faith with me into the Catholic Church. For me, it was not the love of God, prayer, or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that was the center of my faith, but the simple fact of being right - of having found the truth. It would have made more sense to me to be devoted to the Sacred Brain than the Sacred Heart.

This great danger of a head-centered Christianity, especially when it is not properly balanced with a truly heart-centered life of prayer and love, is that it is a constant occasion for pride. I studied God's Word, I dealt with the difficult issues, I discovered the truth, I'm right. Just as Moses had erred grievously when he took credit for discovering the rock with life-giving water, so too did I err in taking credit for discovering the rock on whom Christ built his Church. Self-satisfaction in one's intellectual discoveries, as true and real as those discoveries are, can not long sustain someone in his life of faith.

The Angelic Doctor tells us that "in order to overcome pride, God punishes men by allowing them to fall into the sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful." Then, humbled by our often public shame, God uses tragedies - a house fire, the death of a loved one, a serious injury, or, for someone as bullheaded as me, all three at once- to show us our need for his love. And what a great love it is!
Update: a felix typo was corrected *grin*. That ol' Tom don't miss a trick.

posted by TSO @ 19:00

March 21, 2005

Michael Potemra in NR:

Jews today will frequently encounter the well-meaning Christian who is, frankly, puzzled: Why do Jews remain Jews? Hasn’t the old issue been settled by mere numbers, by the Christian preponderance in both population and cultural influence? Why don’t the Jews just be good sports, and go along with the rest of us who are fortunate enough to be in the majority of Americans, i.e., those who accept Jesus as the Messiah? The easy answer is the one Thomas More gave in A Man for All Seasons. Norfolk was hectoring him: “Dammit, Thomas! . . . Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!” To which More responded: “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

posted by TSO @ 12:48

Those Darn Conservatives

Gotta love Publisher Weekly's review of Ted Dalyrmple's book:

Dalrymple, a noted conservative columnist in London's the Spectator, collects pieces he wrote for the conservative City Journal, using his own work as a physician in British slums and prisons as fodder for an analysis of the underclass

Message received. This guy is....(whisper if you're in mixed company)... a conservative.

I don't think the left has managed to demonize the word conservative yet though they certainly are a tryin'. The Jesuits prayer site, of all places, had this recent bon mot concerning St. Patrick: "He is our antidote to conservatism – a slave who ran away from his owners and returned to Ireland to face down kings and chieftains." I hope your non-sequitor secret decoder ring went off too.

Progressives have been more successful demonizing the term "neo-con", but since "neo-con" and "Iraq War" seem to be joined at the hip I guess it depends on one's view of the Iraq war.

posted by TSO @ 12:07

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Rule of Law?

I was somewhat surprised to learn that George Will is fiercely against the recent Congressional measures taken with respect to Terri Schiavo. My brother-in-law is also apoplectic at this infringement of the Feds. As a conservative I suppose I'm supposed to be too. Federalism... the rule of law, the principle... I suppose I'm for states rights as long as nobody gets killed.

Jonah Goldberg puts the best spin on our inconsistency:

I do think conservative Republicans are at a minimum inconsistent in their sudden love of the fourteenth amendment and an activist federal government. But liberals are no less inconsistent in their sudden love of states' rights on such issues. The difference is that Republicans are embracing a principle they've spent some time upholding -- a culture of life -- while Democrats are spending most of their time whining about the "hypocrisy" of their opponents. I would respect the Democrats more if they had the courage to argue that Terri should die. That is their position.

posted by TSO @ 12:07


"There's certain things I won't do, I don't care how much you pay me. I won't drink a rat." - co-worker overheard, discussing the television show Fear Factor

posted by TSO @ 12:06

Verweile Doch

Oh to alight the captain's chair where I read like a drunken soldier - drunk on prose! After three busy weekends, this one presented itself as especially conducive to a long, varigated reads. I've lately not been too good at moving from book to book in a single evening, tending to linger too long in pollinating bliss at a single flower, but the excess of time allowed even Christopher Nolan's "The Banyan Tree", a novel as cryptic as Spanish blogger Hernan Gonzalez through the lens of Babelfish, to be enjoyed. Nolan uses nouns as verbs ("Manchestering?") and hues the print with delicious imagery. It began to taxiderm my eyelids, so dreamlike his prose, that I had to switch to Iris Murdoch's "Bruno's Dream" before Dickens' "Pickwick Papers", William F. Buckley's sailing adventures, "The Enemy Within", and finally a biography of Jefferson Davis.

It was a dizzingly joyous return to reading; when my wife got back from shopping I could speak in full sentences again. (The NBB - 'nothing but basketball' - on CBS had reduced me to grunts and nods and irregularly-spaced adrenalin flourishes.)

posted by TSO @ 12:06

God is just a prayer away

Got up early enough Sunday morning to hear Ed Bousman , a preacher from that other Lynchburg, e.g. Lynchburg, Ohio.

Ed Bousman has been on WLW for at least 30 years. I heard him off and on back in the '70s, with his wonderful bass voice singing the signature song of his show: God is just a prayer away. It's nice to know that in a world of constant change Mr. Bousman has not changed his show a lick. The recording of the song mentioned above was exactly the same I heard in 1975. On his website there's an announcement that he's retiring. Or maybe not:

Retirement comes to some earlier than for others, but sooner or later because of the inexorable march of time it comes to us all. Many have asked me when I would retire, and now at long last I must announce what many have thought was long over due. I have retired as of the last of August 1942.

At the end of August 1942 I quit my summer job in the Shipyard at Newport News, Virginia and I haven't done a lick of work since. I have good verification that I haven't worked in over fifty years. My father in the flesh commonly called Dad was in the Barber chair. The barber was doing his usual thing namely talking while giving a haircut. He asked Dad how many kids did he have and Dad said three.

The barber asked and what do they do. Dad told him about his youngest son who he said worked for the railroad and a daughter who married a telephone man. He stopped at this point and said no more.

The barber said well, how about the other son? What does he do? Dad said, He doesn't do anything. The barber said what do you mean he doesn't do anything? Dad said he's a preacher.

In addition to announcing my retirement which began at the end of the summer of 1942 I would also like to announce that on Valentines Day of this year I shalt begin my fifty-fourth year of doing absolutely nothing at all.

posted by TSO @ 12:06


I recall writing a poem a few years ago about the foothills out in Southeastern Ohio, in the Hocking Hills region, where "lay a field in view of the highway...[that] bid me come like Lorelei to see what lie beyond." There was the small archway in the middle distance that lead to a field beyond, a passageway to which I entered and "tread the threshold once reach the thrice-hid field held back perchance another meadow loomed."

This imagery gave great joy so I was pleased by something similar found in Iris Murdoch over the weekend:

The gap, which the yews were just beginning to roof over with the long feathery boughs to make into an archway, somehow made the tiny garden into a dream place, made it seem longer, as if there must be more beyond, another garden, and another and another beyond that.
More Iris Murdoch quotes (from "Bruno's Dream"):
Art cannot but console for what it weeps over.

"Do you believe in Shiva, Parvati?"..."But do you believe in him, in him?"
"Perhaps. Who knows what is belief?"

How hard it was to describe things. How hard it was to see things. He wondered if, since he had completely given up drinking, he had actually been able to see more. Not that he had ever drunk much, but any departure from total sobriety seemed enough to damage his perception. Even yet he was not sober enough, not quiet enough, to take in the marvels that surrounded him.

Gwen was usually tired to the point of collapse. Miles felt guiltily how easy a life he was now leading by contrast...It was just, she reflected, that any man, as soon as you get to know him well turns out to be totally selfish. Danby did exactly what he wanted and never seemed to think that this might not suit Adelaide perfectly.

posted by TSO @ 12:05

NY Times article on lexicographers. They aren't your father's lexicographers.

(Photo credit Peter Thompson for the New York Times)

posted by TSO @ 12:05

Journal Excerpts


The ALS patient died yesterday.

He worked at my wife's shop.

He was brave and gentle and heroic as
his muscles failed one by one by one
by years til he lost the breath
and there was suffocation.

Those with the strongest will to live
make their suffering longer.

I want to cry bitter tears for this
man I scarcely knew
just for the outrage of it
this macabre death
this slow freeze.

At least the butterfly flies aloft now.

Pray for us, John.


He was too glad to see my wife. That was my first thought. The second was that he looked the part of uninteresting social climber. Probably read management books and went to sleep at night by counting the commas in his paycheck. He had opaque oval blue eyes and wore a gay green party hat on his head. This passed through my mind even while being introduced to him, before I could dismiss them as uncharitable thoughts which betrayed my snobbery and jealousy.

"This is Eric...this is the one I was telling you about who read "Dawn to Decadence".

I looked at him with renewed interest and curiosity. So this was the dedicated reader my wife spoke of. Who'd read the magisterial Jacques Barzun, the wise man of history who'd written an 800-page book describing the fall of the West from 1500 to the present.

"You two are exactly alike," my wife said.

posted by TSO @ 12:04

God Himself

The common Lenten responsorial psalm in the Liturgy of the Hours is "God Himself will set me free, from the hunter's snare", a consoling and personal refrain.

God Himself is what really interests us. True, we'll take help from wherever we can get it. But it's really God himself that we all hunger for. So there's nothing in us that is interesting, per se, it's only to the extent God is within us. And this dovetails nicely with the scriptural verse that unless God builds it, we labor in vain. Unless we are reflecting God Himself our labor is vain, even if that labor is doing something positive.

So how do we know if we are reflecting God? I dunno, although I suspect attitude might have something to do with it. The necessity of cheerful giving becomes clearer to me.

posted by TSO @ 07:27

March 20, 2005

Just Got a Scanner!

I could wish for just a tinge better quality. The actual picture looks much better, trust me.

Picture taken in Mexico City, 2001

posted by TSO @ 22:37

March 18, 2005

Harvard's Beleagured Lawrence Summers

The Summers flap is interesting because of what it symbolizes - the tendency of those on the left (and right too, but I think more so on the left) to refuse to deal with inconvenient facts.

The progressive flirtation with communism was never impeded by the inconvenient fact that free enterprise creates the most wealth for the most people. Similarly with abortion. A baby can be inconvenient, so let's call it a fetus and kill it.

We all have a tendency to cater our world view to our convenience. And we're only on the hook for as much truth as we are given (Jeremiah sounds harsh in today's reading when he asks the Lord, "Let me witness the vengeance you take on them" but only to New Testament ears. It would be chronological bias to think him less saintly for it.)

Regardless, it seems a bit odd to blame the messenger for bad news. Studies show that white men about my age are most likely to be serial killers and yet I don't want to go out and censure anyone who repeats that.

I realize with Summers it's probably more about his personality and management style than perhaps his recent statement about women and science but still the reaction of Harvahd professors to his statement was astonishing.

posted by TSO @ 13:57

Notable & Quotable

A family member recently said that she was mad at God, saying "He loves suffering!". I didn't know quite what to say, but Bill Luse had a good response when I mentioned it to him. He said, "No, God loves those who suffer."

posted by TSO @ 13:17

From the latest Nat'l Review:

Ted Dalrymple is good with words. Excerpts from a recent column:

It is a truism that it isn’t easy being a Royal Family these days. It used to be so much easier. When the existence of social hierarchy was taken for granted, someone had to be at the top of it, rather like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. But nowadays, not only is Jack as good as his master, he also insists upon repeated public recognition of the fact. How, then, can a Royal Family be justified? What is it for? Upon what sentiments may it depend for its support among the population?

British patriotism is dead — although a nasty form of nationalism remains a minority interest — while Welsh and Scottish patriotism consists mainly of self-pitying hatred of the English. There is no quicker way of emptying a room in Britain than to play the national anthem, which causes the acutest embarrassment. How can a God in whom no one believes be invoked to spare the life of a woman to whom all now believe themselves equal or even superior?

The present queen has behaved so well, for so many years, that she represents the greatest modern exemplar of devotion to duty known to me...It is not so much that she has no actual, real, personal personality, as it were: It is that that her public personality is entirely coterminous with her public duty, to which she has subjugated everything else. Modern people cannot understand this: They cannot conceive of a duty so imperative that the expression of one’s own personality — beautiful and unique, as almost by definition it must be — is unimportant beside it. From this fundamental incomprehension comes the now widespread criticism that the Queen is a cold, unemotional person. But she believes that it is not her job to be emotional: Her emotions are for strictly private occasions. Her job is to perform her duties to the best of her abilities, and never mind what she is feeling. Needless to say, this is not a view of life with which much of the population below the age of 60 now sympathizes. The Queen spent many of her formative years during the war, when there was much talk of duty.

posted by TSO @ 13:14

Of Irish Interest

Trip log of a visit to Ireland by Terrence Berres...and what would St. Patrick's Day be without a good donnybrook?

From Practically Useless Information: Food & Drink by Norman Kolpas:

Robert Louis Stevenson took Guinness with him to the islands of Samoa.

Guinness has fewer calories than a glass of orange juice or skim milk.

"Mind your p’s and q’s" means "Mind your own business." The phrase came from an English pub keeper who would tell customers to mind their pints and quarts of beer instead of what anyone else might be doing.

posted by TSO @ 14:04

March 17, 2005

Parade Time

It's a shame I only walk the few blocks downtown when there's a St. Pat's Day parade. It's urban from the suburban, humanity from sterility.

It's stimulating. There are the people sitting at stools in a bistro with whom you feel oddly intimate, their drink and food choices a pane of glass away. There are the shop windows aglitter with handsome watches. There are the shadowy alleyways and the steam-ventish scent in the streets that smells of wistful, reminding me of New York City.

I loved seeing the children flock to the scattered candies. It was electric, the way they appeared out of nowhere, hidden by the trunks of their parents until all fly to the street and gather golden chocolate coins. How natural to see them flock to sweetness, without airs or shyness or hesitation!

St. Patrick himself led the parade, and he sure looked the part. He blessed us as he went by and it was fitting the sacred lead the secular. Cars and walkers strode by afterwards, Happy-St. Patrick'ing and waving us to death. One said, "be proud to be Irish!".

The high point is when the pipers come by and played their stirring tunes. Every year they sound better.

On the walk back the tune "Down by the Salley Garden" came to mind unbidden...

Down by the salley gardens
My love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
With little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
As the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
With her would not agree.

posted by TSO @ 13:36

Lie of the Land

Had an interesting discussion with a co-worker, a daily Mass goer who described her frustration at the fact that her previous parish priest was a child abuser but was generally beloved and forgiven because he was gregarious and warm and all those things people apparently want in a pastor. Their current priest is less liked because although he's a good administrator and dutiful and thoughtful, he is more reserved.

That's the culture we live in. People are so hungry for fellowship, for glad-handing, for warm and fuzzies and camaderie that they are apparently willing to overlook what stinks to highest heaven - the abuse of minors. How sad.

posted by TSO @ 13:33

Questions from Gregg:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
A book that survives 451 degrees.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Cervante's Dulcinea, although I've obviously been unduly influenced by the shapely Sophia Loren in Man of La Mancha.

The last book you bought was . . .
A tie: "The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830" by Paul Johnson
"Helena" - Evelyn Waugh

The last book you read was . . .
"C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church" - J. Pearce

What are you currently reading?
Might be easier to say what I'm not reading, but I'll pick two: "Robert Hamilton Bishop" - biography of the founder of Miami University, and "The God Who Loves You" - Peter Kreeft.

Five books you would take to a desert island:
1. Bible - Jerusalem version
2. Life of Johnson - Boswell
3. Summa Theologia - Aquinas
4. Good Poems - Keillor
5. Don Quixote - Cervantes

What three people are you passing this stick on to and why?
-Ham o' Bone
-KTC (just kidding)
-Bob of Trousered Ape

posted by TSO @ 12:54

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

From the Jesuits' Sacred Space site:

If there is a hierarchy in heaven based on the churches named after you, Patrick must be at the top. He is our antidote to racism – a Welsh boy educated in France and missioned by Italians, who became the loved apostle of Ireland, and the toast of Irish people everywhere on 17th March. He was a visionary who followed his dreams, and loved the high mountains like Slemish and Croagh Patrick. Above all he was a religious man who turned to God during his leisured hours as a swineherd. All through his Confessions you sense his overflowing gratitude for the privilege of knowing Almighty God and Jesus Christ his son as he wrote:
In the light of our faith in the Trinity, regardless of danger, I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly. I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to those whom I have baptized in the Lord — so many thousands of people

posted by TSO @ 11:00

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I must point out that the reasons to be Catholic far outweigh the nonsense that one too frequently encounters in the liturgies. I would rather endure a century of hippy-dippy liturgies, guitars and pianos and "On Eagles' Wings" over a minute of beautiful High Anglitic liturgy, even if the High Anglitic liturgy were breathtaking in its grandeur and solemnity. --Erik Keilholtz of 'Eriks Rants & Recipes'

The beauty that exists in the core of truth that is distorted to form the heresy--that God loves each of us intensely, personally, and eternally, and desires not the death of His servant but his eternal life. That is the beauty of universalism--the real good that is behind the distortion. To deny that there is beauty is not to see the heresy for what it is--the distorted reflection of the truth. - Steven Riddle

I look more like Grizzly Adams after a four-month bender. - Gregg the Obscure

Let us always remember that looking for the "God-shaped hole" is a two-edged sword. If there's one thing [Hunter] Thompson did well, it was holding up the eviscerated carcass of modernity and pointing to the bleeding cavity where once beat God within it, bellowing like some debauched Levite in mirrored sunglasses playing an updated scene from Judges 19. For despite how powerfully Thompson stared at that hole, it remained an unfilled void. Nothing appeared. Or so we presume? I cannot say. And so he shot himself. There but for the grace of God go many of us. Pray for all of them. - Old Oligarch

Quite true that the 1960s reforms were marked by their pace, and that plenty of changes just as remarkable occurred over previous centuries. One element of the former changes that was unique, I think, regards what Newman considered an innate mark of authentic development, viz. a conservative action on its own past. Many of the post-Vatican II reforms, I think, lacked this mark, especially the liturgical ones. This is not to deny their authenticity, only to suggest that the backlash against them was more than a mere incipient resistance to change as such. - Jamie of Ad Limina Apostolorum

All you need to know about the National Catholic Reporter can be found by noting which social issue its Washington correspondend Joe Feuerherd gives scare quotes and which he does not: '[Senator Rick] Santorum, who shepherded the ban on "partial birth abortion" through Congress and coauthored the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage....' - Tom of Disputations

to relax, i go to bed. - smockmomma, answering a quiz question on what she does to relax

The insidious evil that resides in theological error is that it gives sinners (including myself) an excuse to sin. My understanding of Universalism is that it is the belief that all will be saved, regardless. That all will end up in heaven, the baptised and the unbaptised, the one who lived a life of heroic virtue and the one who lived a life of recalcitrant evil. But how can that be true?...What brings this to my mind is that I repeatedly hear young women justify their abortions by stating that they sent their babies straight to heaven and that the babies would never have to suffer here on earth. Infant damnation is a difficult teaching, and I prefer that we defer the fate of the dead unborn to the mercy of God, but absent Universalism we would not be in the position of assuming that they are in heaven. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

"Ok, we're gonna play tag.
Here's the rules:

You can't cheat.
You can't act like a dog.
You can't act like a car.
You can't act like a fish."

-Catherine, age 3

Very Cute. I wonder if we, in our child-like perceptions, sound that way to God?
-Mary of "Ever New"

posted by TSO @ 14:30

March 16, 2005

Joke I heard at the AOH party...

Baptist minister tells his parishioners "Take your whiskey, your wine, your beer and throw it all in the river!" Later comes the closing song: Shall We Gather at the River?

posted by TSO @ 14:01

Understanding Love (and other oxymorons)

Alas, “it used to be so natural” to quote the old Neil Diamond song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore”. Love that is. It was simply acting on an feeling or inspiration to do someone good. Feeling? Or inspiration? Is there a difference?

A loved one (pun intended) loved (pun intended) the quote I posted from C.S. Lewis. It confirmed that doing things for others doesn’t necessarily make you happy, which surprised her. And I was somewhat surprised that she was surprised. It's better to give than to receive, but I wasn't under the impression that that meant in this life. But reading Kreeft's book, perhaps I am mistaken.

Now we all know love is not an emotion, not a feeling. Got it. But apparently it’s not not an emotion either. Because Peter Kreeft writes that if we do something uncheerfully it is not love. Isn’t cheerfulness an emotion? Kreeft refers to St. Paul’s famous passage in 1 Cor 13: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In other words, the simple will to love is not enough. There must be more. Kreeft writes that God doesn't want works of love, but love. From the heart, that most affective instrument.

To further complicate matters, love includes being harsh to those who need it, kind to those who need it. So if your feeling/inspiration tells you to be kind and kindness is needed then that feeling was an inspiration and love, otherwise it was just a feeling and a potentially destructive one.

I’m embarrassed to be writing about love (“you’ve been with me so long Thomas and you know me not…?”) but then I started reading commentaries on 1 Cor 13 and felt a bit better given the confusion. The Haydock notes to the Douay Rheims says that 1 Cor 13:2-3 proves that “faith without good works, and especially charity for God and our neighbour, cannot avail to eternal life; faith and charity are both essentially necessary”. The Jerome Biblical commentary suggests that love is not within our innate ability, which makes sense given that you must do good for another but must be given supernatural means to know what that good is: “This is supernatural love, what theology terms the virtue of charity. It is distinguished sharply in v. 3 from philanthropy and humanitarianism.”

Orchard’s commentary has an interesting take: “almsgiving is among the charismata in Rom 12:8. It must mean almsgiving on a heroic scale….The two best Greek manuscripts read: ‘If I lay down my life for vainglory and have no love’”. Now at least that one is pretty clear. It speaks to motivations, not feelings. I think I'll quit while I'm behind.

posted by TSO @ 07:02

Effective Habits of the Five People You Meet in Heaven

Steve Kellmeyer is a marketing genius. Just imagine the success of a blog named 7 Highly Effective Habits of the Purpose-Driven Blog.

posted by TSO @ 16:04

March 15, 2005

Always on the Edge of a Precipice

I was reading some of Warren Carroll's The Glory of Christendom over the weekend and he describes how quickly things began to slide from the "glory days". A society that produced the Cathedral of Chartres and saints like St. Francis, St. Thomas & St. Dominic suggests a healthy 13th century Church.

But within a remarkably short time things began to decline and in a couple hundred years the Reformation came and the Church split. Carroll suggests it begins with popes becoming too reliant on war as a means to solve problems. He begins the chapter that starts with the year 1275 with the verse "he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword".

But the reason I bring this up is that I've heard it frequently asked - and I've repeated it - that if the pre-Vatican II church was so healthy then why did it collapse like a proverbial house of cards? And I think my reading over the weekend suggests that question isn't relevant. Apparently the spiritual health of the Church (or an individual) is completely "in the moment" and almost unrelated to what comes before. Perhaps it's too pessimistic to see it as a contrary indicator, as if "walking on water" leads us, like Peter, to look at the waves and become fearful. (Contra that, Fr. Thomas Dubay gives the impression that the spiritual walk is progressive rather than moment-to-moment; he says there are three distinct conversions, one from mortal sin, one from venial sin, and one to heroic virtue.)

Quick declines can be seen as discouraging since there's the Sisyphean aspect of having to "start from scratch" every day, but the encouraging side of that coin is when we do fail we get another chance and our past is not held against us.

posted by TSO @ 13:01

How True

...via Elena of My Domestic Church:

We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. --C.S. Lewis
Sort of reminds me how there's good news and bad news... The good news is that God loves you. The bad news is that God loves you (-- that is, too much to let you stay as you are).

posted by TSO @ 12:47

Congressional Action for Terri Schiavo?

Handy link here to express support for H.R.1151 and S.539 (Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act).

posted by TSO @ 12:45

Rather Doubt It

A new gig for Dan Rather?

posted by TSO @ 12:21

Interesting New Yorker article

...on the slipperiness of time:

It was the sacrifice of absolute time that was most stunning. Isaac Newton believed that time was regulated by a sort of cosmic grandfather clock. “Absolute, true, mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external,” he declared at the beginning of his “Principia.” Einstein, however, realized that our idea of time is something we abstract from our experience with rhythmic phenomena: heartbeats, planetary rotations and revolutions, the ticking of clocks...[T]here is no universal now. With different observers slicing up the timescape into “past,” “present,” and “future” in different ways, it seems to follow that all moments coexist with equal reality.

Other physicists marvelled that time travel, previously the stuff of science fiction, was apparently consistent with the laws of physics. (Then they started worrying about what would happen if you went back to a time before you were born and killed your own grandfather.) Gödel himself drew a different moral. If time travel is possible, he submitted, then time itself is impossible. A past that can be revisited has not really passed. And the fact that the actual universe is expanding, rather than rotating, is irrelevant. Time, like God, is either necessary or nothing; if it disappears in one possible universe, it is undermined in every possible universe, including our own.

Gödel’s conclusion went almost entirely unnoticed at the time, but it has since found a passionate champion in Palle Yourgrau, a professor of philosophy at Brandeis. In “A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein”, Yourgrau does his best to redress his fellow-philosophers’ neglect of the case that Gödel made against time. The “deafening silence,” he submits, can be blamed on the philosophical prejudices of the era. Behind all the esoteric mathematics, Gödel’s reasoning looked suspiciously metaphysical. To this day, Yourgrau complains, Gödel is treated with condescension by philosophers, who regard him, in the words of one, as “a logician par excellence but a philosophical fool.” After ably tracing Gödel’s life, his logical achievements, and his friendship with Einstein, Yourgrau elaborately defends his importance as a philosopher of time. “In a deep sense,” he concludes, “we all do live in Gödel’s universe.”

“To those of us who believe in physics,” [Einstein] wrote to the widow of a friend who had recently died, “this separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, if a stubborn one.”

posted by TSO @ 12:19

Good News!

Many are discovering Mary...

posted by TSO @ 15:10

March 14, 2005

Joy at Work?!

Reading a fascinating book written by a Christian who seems the second coming of Don Quixote - he's tilting at the corporate windmills by suggesting that fun, not profit, be the bottom line. And it's not theoretical; he did it for years at his energy company AES.

A sample:

Several years later, when a consultant from McKinsey was giving a presentation about AES, one of our executives asked why he hadn't mentioned our shared values. It turned out that the consultant was enthusiastic about our values - for all the wrong reasons. "They really reduce labor costs," he said. "Employees love these values, and they work harder and more productively because of them."

This is the pragmatic line of thinking about values that I had fought since the early days of the company. It ignores the moral dimension of values and regards them as nothing more than a means to make money. The distinction was articulated by an Oxford professor named John Kay: "There is a real difference between saying to your workers, 'We care about your welfare because we do,' and saying, 'We care about your welfare because that will make you work harder for us.'" Employees can tell when values are genuine and when they're adopted for ulterior purposes.

posted by TSO @ 13:31

Notes from the Journal

Sleep is always much more difficult when I’ve not read much or exercised much. We watched a movie Friday and most movies stimulate without satisfying. Books satisfy me, I rest in the print, like when reading William Trevor’s shy stories of Hibernia, sucking at the teat of the Eirean figure, familiarizing myself again with the touchstones of rurality replete with anachronistic tinctures like ‘meanness’ for ‘stingy’, to whit (concerning a man who was a bit late in offering to pay the tab at a pub):

‘That was my turn,’ Lairdman protested, just a little late.

She wouldn’t care for such meanness, Boland though. She’d notice when it began to impinge on her, which in time it would: these things never mattered at first.

Trevor writes in his short story “Third Party” of the dull provincialism of '40s rural Ireland. And perhaps there is something to the dullness of the provincial American life, rife with trivialities, that requires some level of physical activity and mental activity to sufficiently tire mind and body in order to sleep. The level of discourse on IMUS or O’Reilly is surely higher than what I’d find in my ancestral pub in Ireland, no? Would we not be talking of racehorses, of gambling, of the local politicians? Perhaps we go too far in ascribing banality strictly to American life in a television age.

posted by TSO @ 13:30


Lots of insights at Mass yesterday. A fisherman’s boatload!

Jesus blessed, broke the bread and became that bread. This is no more astonishing a feat than that the Trinity can live in us. That God can appear under the appearance of bread might be scandalous to those followers who left him (see John 6) but it is no more scandalous than Jesus blessing, sanctifying, breaking us that we may become in some sense Him. Certainly it would make little sense that Jesus said it would be best for us that he not be here so that he could send the Holy Spirit if the reason were not that the Holy Spirit makes “little Christs” of us all, thus spreading the gospel farther than Christ in the flesh did.

When Paul wrote that “Jesus was made sin” it is expressed perfectly on the Cross. Where Adam crouched naked in the garden, hiding his shame, Christ hung naked for all to see. Both were vulnerable because they were weighed down by the guilt of sins (in Christ’s case it was our sins).

When I become convinced of my hopelessness, I acquire a sense of hope because that hope is no longer mine, but hope in God.

The Holy Spirit displays our sins but is also the curative. I’ve been running Spybot software. It first finds the spyware that lurks in your computer and then fixes each problem individually. Just as I am glad that Spybot finds the spies, so I should be glad the Holy Spirit points out my sins.

I must remember and “cherish in my heart” insights given at Mass or in prayer. I know that I will lose these insights - at least in the sense that soon they will be known only intellectually and not in my heart. And the knowledge that these insights are temporary hurts but that doesn’t release me from treasuring them and holding them to the best of my ability. Alcohol is called “spirits” because the effect is temporary and yet we do not think any less of alcohol. Similarly, the Holy Spirt blows when and where He will and creates a blessed dependence because we have not control.

posted by TSO @ 13:28

MAC Conference Winners Denied

Let's have a moment of silence for those underdog Miami Redskins, aka Redhawks, who won the MAC but were denied a bid to the dance by the NCAA Selection Committee. They had the highest RPI of any team not invited to the NCAA Tournament since 1994. From the Cincy Enquirer:

"We're the ninth- or 10th-rated conference, and we never get anybody in," [Miami Coach Coles] said of the MAC. "The excuse was made that Miami didn't dominate the conference. You got to dominate the conference? Or do you have to win it?"

Miami players wore red warm-up suits while watching the NCAA selection show. Several players wore black T-shirts that read: "Why not us? MAC."
A prognosticator predicted three MAC teams would receive bids, but only one did.

posted by TSO @ 13:26

Random Thought

Sometimes it seems writing checks to charities is the equivalent of a U.S. bombing campaign - efficient but coldly impersonal. By separating charity from its effect (like war from its effect), you risk losing the data that might alter your behavior (i.e. potentially increasing charity or decreasing bombing).

posted by TSO @ 12:37

C.S. Lewis Quote

"Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is best.

I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness, and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy."

posted by TSO @ 12:31

Ancient Order of Hibernian St. Patrick's Day Celebration

“Give Ireland back to the Irish! Don’t let them take it away! Give Ireland back to the Irish! Give Ireland back today.”

The rebel songs of the last twenty minutes are unbearably poignant if only because they are so well-spaced. Spaced by 365 days apart! Too well-spaced surely, but the AOH party is admittedly made as gold by its very rarity. The scarcity principle always works, meaning that that which is scarce is held in regard.

So there, in the last 20 minutes, the crowd came to life in unbearable intensity, full-throated, full-throttled, sing-till-you-drop, standing-room-only at the Hibernian’s fest and we were ladled with songs and Guinni that arrived like an army constantly resupplied and we begged only that our superiors continue them unabated.

posted by TSO @ 12:22

A Thought

If a national church tends to destroy the church (as the Anglican church was damaged by becoming the official state church in England, or how the Catholic Church had much difficulty in the Reformation era when she was responsible for both state and church governance), then aren't Islamic states like Iran the most damaging to Islam in the long run?

posted by TSO @ 12:15

March 12, 2005

Funny Line

A co-worker is resisting his boss's attempt to move him and another co-worker from their window seats because the boss wants to create a server area there. This boss is known for his preference for machine over man since our computers are state-of-the-art even though we have to beg for a $30 training manual that help human capital become more efficient. My co-worker "Fred" thinks the cubical move is a unwitting illustration of this, saying: "I hope those Intellistations enjoy the view!".

posted by TSO @ 09:50

You Feel, I Feel, We All Feel...

Good post from Sancta Sanctis here.

posted by TSO @ 13:34

March 11, 2005


Interesting comments made by Andrew Stuttaford here and Jonah Goldberg's reply. Both make good points, though I'm allergic to the attitude of making what is good for society our first principle, and then working backwards to something like faith in God, as if let's see if faith in God is something we should encourage based on its effect on society. Utilitarian to the core.

In his latest book Peter Kreeft says many of his students are raising society to idol status, saying that for some the self is merely "the social self, a social function, an ingredient in society". (Shades of what Tom Wolfe wrote about in "I am Charlotte Simmons"? Wolfe says many kids sacrifice themselves - who they were or thought they were - for the sake of being "societally correct".) Kreeft writes:

[Many think] society is the absolute. The old tribal view is coming back into modern consciousness. Many of my students use "Society" (always with a capital S, like "Science") exactly where theists would use "God", as the ultimate authority. De Tocqueville, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Ortega y Gasset, Huxley, Orwell, and Riesman all warned of this: "photocopied" souls, standardized selves, mass conformity, "the lonely crowd".

posted by TSO @ 12:45

Public Service Announcement

You've probably noticed that The Corner and Drudge contain ads that distract and clutter the site. Some of them flash and are capable of causing epiletic seizures in the vulnerable.

But my pledge to you, the American reader, (oh yeah and that guy in Germany and lass in New Zealand), is that I will not sell ads on this blog. (For audio effect say "I will not sell ads on this blog" with the same emphasis Bill Clinton said "I did not have sex with that woman...").

To be honest, fending off advertisers has not been especially time-consuming although I did receive an email from a gentleman offering $5 per year for a 200-by-400 pixel space in the upper right quandrant (with some sort of balloon payment arrangement where the first fiver arrives in 2010). I also regularly receive solicitations from friends in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Senegal who, although not mentioning my blog or ads by name, apparently want to do business.

But I have and will continue to resist posting ads simply because I feel it makes your surfing experience less satisfying. Not to mention I don't want to get sued for inducing seizures.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

Bishop Frederick

Our new bishop has a preternatural calm about him. It's as though everyone else is losing their heads while he calmly plies ahead.

It's difficult not to succumb to hysteria given the news today, given all the things that make your head ache. Like the fact that Terri Schiavo's parents have to watch their daughter die of dehydration over a period of a couple weeks -- by court order. Like the fact that even though modern technologies tell and show us marvelous things about babies in the womb they are killed with numbing frequency, as if all that we've learned doesn't matter. And like the fact that the Catholic faith has all but died in Europe and isn't faring all that well elsewhere either.

I know if I were a bishop I'd be in a state of panic.

But he calmly goes on because he was a deep faith in God and not himself. He knows there is no earthly substitute for Faith, Hope and Love.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

Library Bells

I have an annoying tendency to needlessly embarrass myself occasionally. (This post will surely qualify.)

There's a desk bell on the library counter with the sign "please ring for service". As I handed my book to the librarian for checkout, I wondered: How is the ring connected to the service? A too literal interpretation of the wording might lead one to think that the ring is necessary for all service, rather than something needed to acquire service only when service is lacking. In other words, if I am already being served is the external signal necessary? Is this an example of a "baptism by desire" - my desire for service obviated the need of the bell's externality?

Surely I was overthinking it. But the lack of precision in the sign bothered. I wanted it to say something less pithy and elegant but more meaningful like "please ring if no one is at the counter". So as a joke I rang the bell and said something like "do I still have to ring it if I'm being served?". The bell rang out in the stock silence like a hurricane siren in a monastery. The young librarian was not amused, not getting the "joke". Instantly I didn't get the joke either. A man about my age popped up from several yards away and I had to wave him off with an embarrassed smile. I was being served already. Sometimes a library bell is just a bell and not a metaphor.

posted by TSO @ 12:44

Black Death as a Cause of the Reformation

It sometimes seems as though the Black Plague did for a relatively healthy Catholic Church what Job's persecutions did to Job's faith: weakened it without destroying it. From here:

We are talking about the death of roughly, 25% of the population of Europe. Who do you think took care of these plague victims? Who was the most knowledgeable and dedicated? They were the priests, the monks, and sister. And the Black Plague reoccurred 8 times from 1450 to 1500 AD. There was widespread starvation. This was when Europe began to fractionalize where different people met and coalesced together and they started what we now know as Germany, France, and the other European countries. People wanted to be with people they understood, to protect themselves. Strangers were driven away, as they might be contagious.

It was the priests and religious that trying to minister to the needs of the sick and dying and as a result, they were hit the hardest. In France specifically, in Europe entire monasteries were wiped out. They ended up losing 300 men of the Curia in Avignon at that time. Thousands of religious died. It could be estimate, although I have never seen any figures that 90% of the Catholic Clergy died during this period of the Black Plague. In addition, many of the educated clergy who managed to survive were put to work by the secular authorities. So what was left for the Church as the priesthood had been decimated?...The Church, in her desperation to serve the needs of the people started ordaining some men who were not really the best qualified or ideally suited. During this time of great upheaval the quality of many of the clergy was less than what would be desired.
And the Plague had another effect. From the historian Barbara Rosenwein:
Because the plague destroyed people and not possessions, the drop in population was accompanied by a corresponding increase in per capita wealth. A new type of consumer, who preferred variety and luxury, began to appear in both the towns and the countryside. People who were unsure if they would be alive the next day wanted to spend their money on fine foods and luxuries. Many lords and wealthy merchants built churches and commissioned religious art, partly in thanks for being spared the horrors of the Black Death.

posted by TSO @ 12:41

Hope & Love

Peter Kreeft mirrors Bill Luse's warning: "abandon the promise you made, and you will pay a price, because that's all your soul is - the promises you have made". Kreeft writes:

What is the self? What am I? What is the human person? ...I am that which chooses, commits, decides, and loves. The will is central because love is central. Not the intellect. That is why it is not important whether temptations come to me, but it is important whether I consent to them. "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man" (Mt 15:11). This is true not only of the mouth or the body, but also of the soul. What comes into my soul is not necessarily what I will, but what comes out of my soul is precisely what I will. The Greek philosophers did not clearly recognize this personal center. They were intellectualists; they thought the deepest thing in us was the mind.
Another quote, which seems apropos given that although I pray that Terri Schiavo get a reprieve I also understand that's not the way God normally works (i.e. by changing Judge Greer's mind via supernatural means or by reviving Terri via a miracle). From Christian Duquoc: understand power does not demand a 'conversion' of the heart. Jesus is dedicated to the very feeblest of means. To "convince" he has only his attitude and his word. This extreme weakness, this renouncement of all the apparatus of power even to allowing himself to be accused of imposture, are the sign of the greatest hope in God...To found the Kingdom by power would have been to hide the face of God and to
contradict the very meaning of Revelation. To found it in weakness and freedom was to take the risk of not seeing it come into being.
Andrew Greeley on hope:
But what is hope? It is the conviction, the modest conviction, that God is not mad--or if one happens to be Christian, that God's insanity is benign. It is the belief, as Father Gregory Baum has expressed it, "that tomorrow will be different," or, as a young friend of mine has put it, "it is the assumption that the universe is out to do you good, and therefore it's all right to do good
for yourself."
And finally, Peter Kreeft again on the unanswerable:
A student once asked me in class "Why does God love me so much?" That one really stumped me. I replied a little frivolously, "Come back a year from now and maybe I'll have the answer." But this student was not frivolous but dead serious. One year later there she was. She really wanted an answer! I finally explained to her that this one thing, at least, could not be explained.

posted by TSO @ 20:22

March 10, 2005


Christian symbolism in the film Babette's Feast

Check out the back issues of Saint Austin Review

This looks interesting

posted by TSO @ 19:45

March 9, 2005


Interesting Camassia post. I guess the fact that Newman's "development of doctrine" was itself perceived as a development suggests that the awareness of changes over time was unknown to most Christians before the modern age. Still, reading the early Fathers one is struck by how much IS the same. See St. Cyril of Jerusalem.

posted by TSO @ 14:43

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

...look upon [your wife] as approximating the incarnation of a divine mystery - a thing you can love (just short of worship), gaze upon in wonder, and come to know within limits, but never get to the bottom of. You must love everything about her that makes her a woman(both biologically and spiritually) and if you ask her to use birth control you're not doing that....Remember often how you felt about each other the day you stood at the altar. No matter in later years the ravages of time, a soul as important as any other on earth has been given into your care. Abandon the promise you made, and you will pay a price, because that's all your soul is - the promises you have made. - William Luse

Want to know something else weird? (Possibly weirder?) I've just had the thought that perhaps no one is reading this--that everyone who reads Sancta Sanctis thought that my idea to abstain from visiting other people's 'blogs rather than from 'blogging was just fabulous, and so decided to do it themselves. It has been pretty quiet lately, so I'm just wondering . . . Is anybody out there? - Sancta Sanctis

Don't have one, unless you want to consider Raymond Arroyo? - Alicia of Fructus Ventris, answering the question, "Name your celebrity crush"

The [Indian/Native American] reservation had its own small press, and my friend lent me one of its products: another piece of mock anthropology, this time called Caucasian-American Culture. It was a “study” of us white folks in the style of a middle-grade nonfiction book on Native Americans, and it caught that genre’s tone of well-meaning condescension with deadly accuracy. “Caucasian-Americans have made many important contributions to our culture,” the introduction tells us. The book goes on to describe Caucasian-Americans and their exotic customs, such as the TV-watching ritual and the jogging ritual, complete with the donning of the sacred tennis shoes bearing the name of a goddess. - Camassia

it happened to me on my way into the perinatologist's office. a total stranger opened the door to the medical building and just slid his arm down around my shoulder once i'd passed through. he was seventy if he was a day, smelled of pressed startch and cologne, and had the sexiest southern drawl i think i've ever heard. i put my arm around him and said, "you must be a native Texan." "uh-course," he said as he let go of me. i smiled, "it's so nice to be treated like a lady." he actually tipped the brim of his hat and said, "it's as it should be." i've been smiling ever since. - smockmomma

God has used this to reacquaint me with my mortality which is not all bad - as long as it doesn't become a habit (Just kidding, God.). - Ham of Bone

Read poetry and FEED THE SOUL! Poetry makes you NOTICE things--to see significance in the insignificant. - Camilie Paglia

No matter how many Catholics do commit Maryolatry (let us hope, without knowing what they are doing), this never outweighs the value of Marian worship when it is done properly. We are not to pray to Mary instead of Jesus, but pray to Jesus through Mary. Ah, the beautiful nuanced shades! The best part is that they do not stop at the abstract theology behind the devotions, but are part of the devotions themselves. "Going straight to Jesus" is great--but it seems so impatient, like preferring a photo to a painting, even if the latter were done by a master artist. Praying the Rosary is like watching a whole fresco of Gospel events as it is being painted. Naturally, the artist will put in something original and different, so that the easily-recognisable images are both ever ancient and ever new. - enbrethiel of "sancta sanctis"

You show up, I can't guarantee you won't wake up with a headache and a new set of dress whites at the novitiate in Kenya. - Tom of Disputations, concerning a Dominican conference

A co-worker who belongs to a local evangelical megachurch tells me the most common reason Catholics come there is that their own church seems content to leave them ignorant. As I've said, the Catholic Church can have the fulness of truth but many people won't stay with it if they conclude they have to pry that truth out of their bishop, priests and teachers. The response I often see to this is that people should take responsibility for learning the faith or instructing their children in the faith. I reply if we can expect people to do it on their own, then what's the Church for? People who think they don't need help wind up in no church and people who think they do in churches that offer it. -Terrence Berres

you had me right up'ntil "women -- don't nag." you may as well advise "men -- don't pass gas." - smockmomma

posted by TSO @ 14:34

Rather Loyal

Part of the reason Dan Rather fascinates me is not merely his ability to disregard inconvenient facts, like his own liberal slant, but the connection between that ability and his famous loyalty.

His slowness to admit the memos weren't credible was probably due to a desire to protect his own reputation but perhaps also due to blind loyalty to his producers. His loyalty to his staffers and friends is well-known. It's hard to imagine him doing what Cronkite is doing: kicking a former colleague while he's down.

Loyalty does seem to have a component of blindness to it and while it is a mixed blessing in the earthly realm, it is a supreme good in the heavenly one because God is Trustworthiness itself. So why blind? Because we see through the glass darkly we need be loyal without sight.

posted by TSO @ 14:24

The A-Word

I fall in the same trap o'er & o'er with respect to apologetics. And that is to try to win the argument (and thus, as Fulton Sheen said, 'lose a soul').

So when a family member began arguing for the necessity of women priests, she eventually argued from pragmatism, i.e. we won't have enough priests to consecrate hosts and therefore many won't be able to receive Communion. But to me God never seems especially pragmatic. And the irony is this: who testifies that the Eucharist is Christ Himself? The Church. And who testifies that women can't be priests? The Church.

I've always thought that the most scandalous thing Jesus ever said was in Matthew 16 where he gave the keys to Peter and said that whatever is held bound on earth will be held in heaven and whatever loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. And if my family member doesn't accept that verse, then aren't all arguments on issues like women priests futile? You can strenuously attempt to tip a million dominoes or you can tip one (the authority issue) and watch the others fall.

Hell, not women priests, was the sticking point for convert Ronald Knox. I can sympathize. I tend to think Hell can be accepted only through authority, Jesus' and the Church's. It wasn't so many years ago that I couldn't fully accept Church authority. And I don't recall being argued out of that position. Like the man who was slowly given sight, I first had to recognize that "Christendom" had authority, let alone the Catholic Church. It dawned on me one day: "it's not just the Catholic Church that teaches [insert particular grievous sin] is wrong, but all of Christendom". I felt out of the loop, off the reservation, beyond the pale and that led me closer to seeing the Catholic Church not as an institution of opinions but of authority.

posted by TSO @ 14:23

Party O'er Principle?

Like the Peanuts character Lucy, who holds the football for Charlie Brown only to pull it away just before he kicks it, so Sen. Specter fools Republican senators over and over.

This week a Bob Novak column pointed out how Specter, without consulting Republican leadership, set up a procedure to undercut party strategy for confirming the President's judicial nominees. With friends like him, who needs Democrats?

Self-inflicted wounds hurt the most. And there is no self-inflicted wound worse than the presence of Sen. Specter as chair of the Judiciary Committee, especially since he probably would've been defeated in the '04 Republican primary by Pat Toomey but for the support of Sen. Santorum and President Bush. This smells like a case of putting party loyalty ahead of principle.

Meanwhile, the other Republicans senators look more like Charlie Brown every day.

posted by TSO @ 13:30

March 8, 2005

In Praise of Old Books

posted by TSO @ 13:29


FYI, my brother-in-law wants to start a political blog with me. So I combed through old VMPDS entries, hence the old dates. Nothing new there yet.

posted by TSO @ 13:00

George Washington's Faith
--& the 'fake it till you make it' theory of character

Read a few chapters of Brookhiser's biography of George Washington after hearing Janice Connell speak about our Founding Father's faith in God. Connell believes Washington received an apparition of the Virgin Mary about the time of Valley Forge. She also wrote a book.

The problem with history books is you get either secularists who simply write off anything miraculous as patently false or believers who might too readily accept supernatural claims. I guess there's nothing profound in that, it's been like that for thousands of years. I have no idea where Brookhiser falls in that spectrum but I did have his book handy. He writes that Washington was no Deist; he had a "warm and lively" belief and saw God not as a watchmaker but an active agent in human affairs:

Washington was influenced by two coherent systems of thought - Christianity and Free Masonry. No aspect of his life was more distorted than his religion.

Washington was born Anglican...The rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's in Philadelphia described him as "serious and attentive" at services, though he seems not to have taken communion (Martha invariably did).

But what did his affiliation mean? For two centuries, Washington has been a screen upon which Americans have projected their religious wishes and aversions. For the first hundred years after his death, it was fashionable to make him pious. The most famous legend of his devotion is the story of him praying in the snow at Valley Forge, but there are many others...The Shakers claim to have communicated with his spirit. Catholic magazines, until quite recently, still reprinted the supposed reminiscences of an old soldier who testified that the Commander's prayers at Valley Forget were answered by an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
More Brookhiser on the 18th century's view of reputation:
The cargo was precious because reputation was held to be the true measure of one's character - indeed, in some sense, identical to it. We worry about our authenticity - about whether our presentation reflects who we "really" are. Eighteenth century Americans attended more to the outside story and were less avid to drive putty knives between outer and inner man. "Character," as Forrest McDonald has explained, was a role one played until one became it; "character" also meant how one's role was judged by others. It was both the performance and the reviews. Every man had a character to maintain; every man was a character actor.
Brookhiser's description of Freemasonry was illuminating (pun intended). He distills it down to a page or two which I really can't summarize here but will give it the ol' college try: In 1717 it began in London, the general idea being a) the Catholic Church wasn't working so there needed to be a "new key" b) we'll borrow some of Christianity for secular purposes. "Mason" referred to 2nd Chronicles where a mason builds the temple. Ritual appears to have worked for the Catholic Church, so the idea was to apply ritual to a secret societies in order to influence politics and governance.

posted by TSO @ 12:14

March 7, 2005

Sunday Homily

In his sermon this week our (learned & orthodox) pastor said that questions about salvation tend to lead into Phariseeism. Any time we claim to know more than what God told us we are becoming like the Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus who also claimed to know everything.

He lumped in that same Pharisee category those who a generation ago read "No salvation outside the Church" in the literal sense, and those today who think "no God who is good would allow most people to go to Hell". He reminded that "there is no way to know how many are saved, or even if it be few or many." That is God's alone. Jesus did tell us everything we need to know about the way to salvation, which is the sacraments and fidelity to the Church. All we can do is point out what we've been told.

posted by TSO @ 12:04

Five Questions for Ham of Bone

Good answers from the eminently quotable Ham o' Bone concerning life in these United States (to borrow from Reader's Digest). Kids, money, books - read and reap.

posted by TSO @ 12:03

The Great NASCAR Divide

It's kind of interesting to watch the slow yuppification of Nascar. From the Orlando Sentinel:

The two camps are the antipodes of NASCAR society. Earnhardt is the icon of the self-made, down-home, rough-hewn tough guy; Gordon the guru of the polished, cosmopolitan, polite new wave whose dominance the old guard just cannot accept and continues to resist by rallying around Dale Earnhardt Jr.

posted by TSO @ 12:01

How About Dem Buckeyes!

1 Illinois 64
Ohio State 65

posted by TSO @ 14:18

March 6, 2005


....from SummaMamas. List the first five movie quotes you can think of. They must be from different movies. Here are mine:

1. "Run, son. Run like the wind!" - (Meatballs)

2. "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life" (Animal House)

3. "I pardon you" (Schindler's List)

4. "A body made for sin" (Working Girl)

5. "You son of a motherless goat!" (Three Amigos)

6. "If you build it, he will come." (Field of Dreams)

7. "Maybe I didn’t explain the nest egg to you." (Lost in America)

posted by TSO @ 01:07

March 5, 2005

Viva le Difference

A commenter on Amy's blog said, "I listened to an old BBC interview of [Evelyn] Waugh a while ago and he said "Helena" was his favorite novel"

Reminds me of how Mark Twain said Joan of Arc was the favorite of his oeuvre. Interesting how both of these curmudgeons felt closest to the least ironic/curmudgeonly of their books.

posted by TSO @ 15:21

March 4, 2005


Asked my brother how his one-year old liked the toy I got him:

We like it but Aaron doesn't like any toys. Just paper books (to chew on), newspaper (to chew on), Tivo remotes (to tick me off), small crumbs on the floor (to eat)...

posted by TSO @ 13:03

Mandatory Fun

Had lunch with my new boss, who is nothing if not candid. First some background: we have employee satisfaction surveys which were recently renamed employee engagement surveys. Apparently these are used to gauge morale and it's to the big guys' credit that they seem to care about the scores. The best companies apparently have the highest "engagement" scores.

Our scores were none too high. Especially on one of the company maxims, which is "to have fun". Seriously. One of the company goals is that we have fun. The fun score for our area was so low that the higher-ups were feeling pressure. At a meeting discussing ways to improve our fun quotient it was suggested that we have department-sponsored pizza lunches. The VP brings pizza to the conference room and we all bond. But what is outside hilarity is the VP asked the other managers to have us sign a sheet at the pizza lunch saying we were having fun! You can't make this stuff up. I can only guess the idea is that low engagement scores on fun would be refuted by this documentation, acquired under duress (i.e. no signature, no pizza - ala the Irish Soupers). My manager, attempting to keep a straight face, helped talk the VP out of it. Only in America.

posted by TSO @ 13:02

More Fr. Thomas Dubay...

On EWTN's BookMark, Dubay spoke about his book. He spent a couple years in his spare time going through every book in the bible and locating every mention of discernment or light (i.e. enlightenment) and sorting them into forty themes.

Dubay mentioned Newman's comment about "a fire was never lit by committee but by individuals" which means that all the great religious movements were started by holy individuals who were humble (i.e. never spurning the Magisterium) but also not sinners the way we are. He mentions Mother Teresa as a great example. Over 600 chapters of nuns all around the world, started by one individual who did discern well. He mentioned St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Francis De Sales, St. Alphonsus De LIguori and many others.

posted by TSO @ 12:55

Meme Me Up, Scotty!

Via camassia & Gregg the Obscure...Name ten things that I’ve done that I think my readers haven’t done. Here are mine:

1. Thought the words to '70s hit "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" were "Felix, Don't Be a Hero"
2. was warned off gypsies by a maternal-type tavern owner in Ireland
3. (censored)
4. self-published a book
5. set off museum alarms by trying to sit in LBJ's limo
6. proposed to my wife by placing ring in emptied refrigerator and asking for a beer
7. have run at least a 300 miles a year since 1978
8. taught to whistle by my father at six months old
9. was accused of plagiarism for sixth grade poem ( i peaked early)
10. been to World Series game & All-Star game

posted by TSO @ 14:16

March 3, 2005

Fr. Dubay

I recently heard Fr. Thomas Dubay on EWTN discuss his book "Authenticity", which concerns discernment. And we all could stand a bit more discernment, couldn't we? I like Fr. Dubay's no-nonsense approach. Some tidbits:

Discernment is not something you can do with a process, like going on a "discernment weekend". He is not disparaging discernment weekends but suggests Americans are far too process-oriented.

Sinners are, by definition, are going to have trouble discerning God's will, because he enlightens the humble and those who live right. There is a connection in the bible between righteous living and light given.

He says there is not one conversion in the spirtual life, but three. There is the conversion from alienation from God, then a conversion from venial sin, and finally a conversion to heroic virtue. Only those in the final category are really happy.

posted by TSO @ 13:17

Comfort Me With Spam

Spam, a potent source of poetry and the former beaten stepchild of the publishing industry, is finally being recognized by the MSM. (Thanks go to Alicia for the link.):

Who would have dreamed that spam holds the keys to enlightenment? Like many ignorant humans, I used to consider junk e-mail a nuisance. But once I opened my mind as well as my inbox, I discovered an amazing truth: All I really need to know I learned from those weird proverbs and quotations in spam messages.

A few examples:

"Never play leapfrog with a unicorn."

"If thine enemy offends thee, give his child a drum."

"If you can't be happy where you are, it's a cinch you won't be happy where you ain't."

And the mystically enigmatic, "You've built a miniature city out of little plastic stirrers."

It's chicken soup for the Internet user's soul.

--Roy Rivenburg, L.A. Times Staff Writer

posted by TSO @ 13:10

Sad News

Taken aback by news of a college fraternity member, a "stoner" who lived right next to me up on the third floor of the house back in the mid-80s.

Far as I can tell he never picked up a book. He was on the "six-year plan" back when that was uncommon, but he was extroverted and friendly. He seemed to have a big heart. But because of the drug use, his lack of intellectual curiosity and his lack of church-going I thought of him as "the other", as in being of the "other side" of the struggle between good and evil. Showed what little I knew.

I learned of his death yesterday. He was my age - 41. Played golf, ate dinner with his wife, told her he had a stomach ache and went to bed. Fifteen minutes later he was near dead. Heart attack.

Shocking as that was, I was more surprised by how lived than how he died. The great irony is that the "otherness" I attributed to him was indeed an otherness - but tinged with the odor of sanctity rather than pot. He had four children, which alone should grant him a higher place in heaven. He coached four sports teams. He started a volunteer service to help the elderly. He was president of the parish council of a Catholic church in Cincy.

Time is short and most certainly borrowed. May he rest in peace.

posted by TSO @ 12:17

Blogger Refuses Food, Drink

BOSTON, MA-- Intervention efforts continue in the sad case former presidential candidate turned Pajamadeen.

John Berry, Democrat senator from Massachusettes, has turned to blogging as post-election solace and has by some accounts become addicted. He has lost over thirty pounds during the past two months, which he calls his "blogfest".

Writing under a pseudonym, Berry's blog is a blend of anger towards Karl Rove, George W. Bush and the American public. He has emailed several bloggers asking them to link his blog in return for linking theirs. One blogger was surprised.

"I sure didn't realize it was John Berry. He sounded like any other disgrunted progressive. You look at the timestamp on some of his posts and it's 2am, 3am. The guy never sleeps. I didn't know you could be a Senator while blogging all night."

Berry has missed several recent votes, perhaps due to his blogging activities. A Berry spokesman, reached by Blackberry, admitted Berry enjoys blogging. "He feels as though the blank slate of Blogger is his kingdom, where he can 'write like the wind'."

posted by TSO @ 12:08

Brookhiser's Perspective

Richard Brookhiser opines on JPII.

posted by TSO @ 16:24

March 2, 2005

Serving Minutiae Since '01

This Onion article has a picture of a dog that looks remarkably like ours.

posted by TSO @ 13:51

From a review of Anne Lamott book:

A skilled storyteller with an antic sense of humor and a refreshing lack of piety, Lamott also writes about how "depressed and furious" she is over the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.
Yeah, that's exactly the trouble with the world today: too much piety and too little depression and fury. Imagine it rewritten as this:
A skilled storyteller with an antic sense of humor and an unabashed piety, Lamott also writes about how prayerful and concerned she has become during the Bush administration and the war in Iraq.
True, that might not sell as well.

posted by TSO @ 13:48

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

You can't have the age of Aquarius without "us." - Terrence Berres, reacting to the quote: "People here just say, 'What the bishop says goes,'" Krejci said, "but that's not the spirit or the law of Vatican II. It's the age of the laity and the age of participation."

Peggy Noonan chimes in on the Larry Summers show trials at Harvard: "But what the Summers story most illustrates is that American universities now seem like Medieval cloisters. They're like a cloister without the messy God part. Old monks of leftism walk their hallowed halls in hooded robes, chanting to themselves. Young nuns of leftist deconstructionism, pale as orchids, walk along wringing their hands, listening to their gloomy music. They become hysterical at the antichrist of a new idea, the instrusion of the reconsideration of settled matter." Get thee behind me, Summers. - Mark of Irish Elk

Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life. Repentance goes shopping for humility and is ever distrustful of bodily comfort. Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself. Repentance is the daughter of hope and refusal to despair. (The penitent stands guilty - but undisgraced.) Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds which are the opposites of the sins. It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction. The penitent deals out his own punishment, for repentance is the fierce persecution of the stomach and the flogging of the soul into intense awareness. - St. John Climacus

Now the doctrine of justification is the most important element of anthropology this side of the eschaton. Is it any surprise that Luther's novelties detonated shockwaves in the field of political anthropology? Luther premised his errors upon a deficient understanding of the relationship between nature and grace; his theology of justification redefined the relationship between the individual, God and the church; his theology came hand-in-hand with equally novel hermeneutics which elevated individual conscience above ecclesiastical authority and tradition. How could all of this not have profound effect upon the Western concept of man in political society -- a society informed for 1,000 years by a Catholic vision of man? - Old Oligarch

...And knew, knew in his heart the wrong
he had done.
And sought in this frail human way
to make it right.
In the way that we have always sought
to make things right.

But didn't we learn from Abraham
and Isaac, that it isn't blood
that you want?

Not the destruction of sinners
but their redemption?

- excerpt of poem titled "Is Judas Saved?" by Steven Riddle

Endurance is nobler than strength, and patience than beauty - John Ruskin

Mystery solved. For the past few months, The New York Times has published a raft of insightful and undeniably urgent articles on autism. I wondered in this space who at the Times has an autistic child. Today’s piece, "One Boy’s Journey Out of Autism’s Grasp", reveals that it is John O’Neill, deputy editor of special sections.... Although each autistic individual is different, at times it read like someone was taking notes inside our home for the past two years: no eye contact as a child, learned words and concepts slipping away after a few weeks, panic, weariness and fear going head-to-head with progress, humor and hope. -Phil Albinus of

I didn’t know what my poems were about, but I believed in them. I liked their titles...and I felt that they captured a realm of human innocence and experience that was unknowable, even by me. I delayed showing them to anyone else; I was waiting for readers to evolve, I suppose, to the point where they could grasp the vast spaces of my ego. - Aleksandar Hemon in the New Yorker

We cannot afford to be less humble than God: what this scene in the Garden [of Gethsemane] again shows us is indeed precisely the completeness with which God emptied Himself of His glory....Every event [in our lives] can be seen simply as a result of other events, a purely human thing; but it can be seen too as our Lord saw it: as God's will for us. And if we see it, and love it, like that, then it becomes something great and deep, something in which God's love and wisdom are active because we have made it an act of love, have made it part of the love-story. - Gerald Vann, OP via Disputations

posted by TSO @ 13:44

Childlike Trust

On the night before he suffered, he took bread, gave you thanks and praise…

Here cynicism coagulates and finds no mooring; thanks and praise given on the eve of hellacious pain! Time, a human construct, breaks before the Eucharist. Bound no more to wood, he binds to bread.

Do you know my pain? says the Theotokos, and I discover that I don’t know her pain. For you can only experience pain to the extent you have not hardened your heart, have not erected barriers, have not made yourself invulnerable to pain. And only Mary and Jesus can lay claim to perfect vulnerability.

Oh, how that elderly man stands tenderly yet stock still each time in front of the Blessed Mother icon, how after Communion his wife cradled his face - or did he cradle hers? They meld in my mind, like one flesh.

There can be no substitute for childlikeness. The liturgy teaches that in actions, the bowing, the prostrations, the hymns. The elderly couple seemed innocent as children.

posted by TSO @ 12:02

Touchstone: Up Arrow with a Bullet

Magazines tend to wax and wane in quality. Four or five years ago Crisis was exceptional. Now, much less so, partially due (for me at least) to Ralph McInerny's leave-taking.

I let Touchstone lapse a year or two ago but I re-started it and just got my first issue. If this is any indication the magazine has really gotten better. One of the best reviews I've seen on the Graham Greene biography is included. There's a very interesting one on reading, or not reading I should say. And finally one by our own William Luse, an excellent piece on Terri Schiavo. I'm not just saying that. It is really, really good. He writes:

You see, I know Terri Schiavo’s in there. We’ve all heard the philosopher’s words, that the “soul is the form of the body.” The soul is intact, but the body gravely injured. The soul has lost access to the instrument of its expression, but it’s in there. And I think that before a judge or a husband kills her, they ought to have to prove me wrong.
Limited range of movement and brain function doesn't limit our respect for the person because we know the soul is there. We pray before what looks like a white oval knowing that it contains THE Soul. The Blessed Sacrament would seem to be the perfect antidote for a society that sees worth only in those who can visibly exercise power. The lay apostolate Children of Mary is correct: When God-with-us, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, is adored by mankind, the heard of satan will be crushed.

posted by TSO @ 13:08

March 1, 2005

Name That Blogger -?-

Hi. I've decided to start a blog of my own...

...because I've been hanging out too much in other people's comment boxes. Not that that's not welcomed, but my posts tend to be too long and I tend to steer people off topic. With a blog of my own, I can jabber on, and whoever wants to read it may do so, while other bloggers need not feel that they're being "hijacked."

Don't know how long it will last, or how often I'll be able to blog: I'm currently taking two classes--plus, I have a husband, 5 kids, and an extremely bossy dog to care for.

I'll be praying about this: I don't just want to entertain and be entertained. God chastised my heroine, Teresa of Avila, for "holding court" in the salon of her convent, and that's a big temptation for me, too. Nothing I like better than banter.

But God wants us to edify.

posted by TSO @ 13:07


Man, what's with Paypal? Every day I get a note saying that I have to restore account access by providing my password & credit card information. You'd think they'd have it straight by now? They should improve their computer system. I certainly hope that someone isn't pretending to be Paypal? No that couldn't be.

Update: I'm kidding. This was for comedic purposes only, please use as directed. :-)

posted by TSO @ 13:05

News You Can't Use

Dean calls Republicans 'Evil' & His Supporters Object

TAMPA,Fl--Howard "MoJo" Dean said today that the Democratic party is engaged in a "struggle of good and evil - and we're the good."

The crowd applauded, with the exception of a small group of satan worshippers. Holding signs that said "Satanists for Dean", many were upset by Dean's disparagement of evil.

"I wish he wouldn't have gone there," said a young man wearing a 'Charles Manson for President' t-shirt. "I was with him when he said this was a struggle between good and evil, but not when he said we were on the side of good."

A young woman who asked not to be identified said that although she cringed when she heard it, she tried to give him the benefit of the doubt.

"When Howard left his denomination for the sake of a bike path that was certainly a good thing. Same with his views on abortion. So I guess it depends on the definition of good, though I'm not sure I like that he's trying to give evil a bad name."

Paging Mr. Bias
WASHINGTON D.C.--Former press secretary Ari "The Hit Man" Fleischer accused the press of bias in a recently published book. Meanwhile the press's press spokesman said the former press spokesman's charges are biased. Pee Wee Herman answered for both saying, "I know you are, but what am I?".

Investigators have located a Mr. Liberal T. Bias of Manhattan, but he was unavailable for comment. Bill O'Reilly said he was "hiding under his desk". Mr. Fleischer suggested he was "bound, gagged and undergoing torture at the behest of the New York Times". The New York Times stated that he did not exist, hinting that the investigators were being paid by Bush operatives.

posted by TSO @ 12:51

My Two Cents Adjusted For Inflation

Tom of Disputations has an interesting post on St. Catherine of Sienna and how it was her zeal for God that set her apart, not her asceticism.

Many of the saints seem to have a fondness for asceticism and suffering, but that fondness is only that those things provided a means to God, rather than as ends in themselves. And those means were God-appointed rather than self-appointed, meaning "your results may vary".

One thinks of the cruel nun in the '40s film "Song of Bernadette" as an example of someone who was ascetic with disastrous consequences. Better she'd been a lush. Perhaps she wanted to be holy for her own sake, not for Christ's, and that is unfortunately one of the many tedious traps in which we fall. I'm getting this secondhand but word on the street is that the during the '40s and '50s that cruel nun would not be unfamiliar figure in the Church.

posted by TSO @ 13:26


Your cubby reporter had the pleasure of working undercover last night as a volunteer at bingo. And I was fascinated by this little subculture of America. Somebody should do a documentary.

I learned that these folks are addicted to bingo, which is on par with being addicted to oh, say, dental visits. Well that's a stretch but certainly I had no idea that bingo is to gamblers what karaoke is to wannabe singers. They don't go to bingo once a week, they go every night to a different bingo hall.

And they bring stuff with them. They bring little totems. Good luck charms presumably, for they are by and large a superstitious lot. Some set up pictures of children and grandchildren. Many line up outside the doors at 5pm even though bingo doesn't start till 7. They want their lucky seat and to enjoy the ambience that is bingo.

Not all are so addicted. Some play one bingo card and never buy any of the "instant winner" lottery tickets. They simply want a night out of the house and it's better than sitting in front of the glass teat. I'm always impressed, perhaps misguidedly, by hobbyists such as these folk. Play is garlic to our vampiristic, utilitarian society. And I tend to think we readers put too much stock in the value of reading and edumacation in general. I imagine a kind of humility in coming here, a sort of public admission that their dance card isn't full (blogging can represent the same thing of course) and one can hardly deny that what they are doing isn't cool by any standards. But that is my tendency to over-romanticize "the other", and there's nothing more other to me than bingo players.

Running bingo is sort of like owning a bar. A certain percentage of the population in either case is going to abuse what you're serving. I got a little worried about the guy who wanted instant winnner tickets and came to me with $5 worth of coins gathered from his car's ashtray. At the end of the night a youngish woman threw bills at me like I was a stripper, only she was throwing twenties and not singles.

It was kind of embarrassing to have to go around selling a variety of lottery ticket known as "Redneck". Walking around shouting "redneck" seemed a bit like randomly hurling the word "kike" at a bar mitzvah. Was it my imagination that two black ladies seemed amused by my evident discomfort?

Many played five or six bingo sheets while at the same time successfully lighting cigarettes and playing the instants. Truly impressive. I couldn't play four sheets sans distractions. The atmosphere in the room as numbers were being called was similar to that of an S.A.T. test. Despite the tension, the players were polite and never, to my knowledge, took advantage of this newbie. One co-worker said they often bring money or tickets back to him if he miscounts.

And the co-workers were really super. A good reason to volunteer for anything is to meet other volunteers.

There was a farmer had a dog,

And Bingo was his name-o.
And Bingo was his name-o!
There was a farmer had a dog,
And Bingo was his name-o.
And Bingo was his name-o!

posted by TSO @ 09:08

Survey Says: TMI!

A reader I'll call "Steven"* said he was amused by the post below but that it was TMI.

I confess to TMI-ness of the post and beg the reader's indulgence. I just love testing those boundaries even though it be juvenile. Worse, when others test boundaries just for the sake of testing boundaries I j'accuse them of juvenility. Alas. Perhaps too there's some shark jumping going on here. But I am grateful to Bill Luse for posting mouse poems and therefore giving aid and comfort to blog-silliness.

The other day the lively m'Lynn of "Scattershot Direct" wrote that reading blogs makes her grumpy and that hit home. Reading blogs make me grumpy and in need of a beer. One of the reasons I hit Flos Carmeli early and often is I love the tone and I never leave grumpy. And so I'm determined to try to make this blog a similar experience, if in a lower brow'd way.

This just in...: Bill White has a fine contest entry to replace proletariat: I think Jesse Jackson would have chosen "people" with its two p's in a pod and its vague echo of "power to the people".

Precisely. That's perfect Bill.

* - new form of blogger comedy. Patent pending.

posted by TSO @ 14:51

April 28, 2005

Towards a Snicker-Free Workplace Environment

So yesterday we're at the yearly shindig the CEO throws and the theme was finding your "noble purpose". A noble theme indeed. But it sounded so similar to Navin's search for his "special purpose" in the movie The Jerk that all I could think of was: you mean no one responsible for setting up this production has seen The Jerk? Though maybe the similarity was intentional. One never knows with those marketing geniuses.


Blogger's note: Hey gang! I think I'm finding my blogging voice at last! These last few posts have been fun, have been free of preachiness, and are probably far more entertaining than posts that begin, "The cat makes a nautilus of his paw..". And come on, you know you don't read tedious long-winded treatises like this, right?

posted by TSO @ 13:00

Allergies & Sinus Problems - A Gross Industry

At work I just moved next to a poor fellow who sneezes and hacks up mucus more faithfully than Old Faithful. I'm just glad I didn't set a precedent of saying "bless you" after that first sneeze else I'd be hoarse and he'd be more self-conscious than he already is.

But what really bothers me is the constant drawn-out throat-clearing, a sort of elaborate Phlegm Relocation Program. And so yesterday I'm in the stall reading Dominus Iesus when lo and behold who enters the stall next door? Mr. Phlegmology. The lack of bathroom privacy makes me wonder if the call to nature for men is as synchronicitous as menstrual flows in women. I begin to think I can't escape this guy.

But then I'm thinking where is the milk of human kindness in me? Where is my compassion for this sufferer? Would antihistamines placed on his desk be too obvious?

Such is fallen man living in a fallen world in the 21st century.

posted by TSO @ 11:29

Novak Is A Better Man Than Me

"Cooler heads prevailed" goes the saying, but it's easier to be cooler in victory. Thus the liberal Angstmeisters are apoplectic, allowing the perception of having lost the papacy to give them license to scream.

And while I wouldn't have got bent out of shape over a Pope Martini, I would've gotten bent out of shape over a President Kerry. So I can understand the '04 ventilation. But not the papal election. After all the whining and crying and gnashing of teeth over the '00 & '04 Presidential elections and now the papal election, I'm suffering from PTWOS (post-traumatic whining-overload syndrome). Here's hoping the liberals win something soon if only for our national mental health.

But the difference between popes and presidents should be palpable to the proletariat (okay I needed one more 'p' word for proper alliteration. Please send entries to replace proletariat to tdsorama at where you will possibly win pulchritudinous prizes). Anyway, the point is, one is family, the other politics. One promises the action of the Holy Spirit, the other promises the action of good political ads. I just don't understand the froth.

So just as I was ready to take poison pen to the liberal Catholic bloggers* (purely for fraternal correction purposes of course - don't try it at home) I came across this from Michael Novak, a very gracious piece that returns Andrew Sullivan's disrepect with respect, his unreason with reason. I guess that's the way it's done. Not bad for a neocon**, 'eh?

* - all three of them
** - not a smear. I love neocons. I may even be one.

posted by TSO @ 11:08

Remedial Theology

Whenever heresies arise, the Church must treat dogma in a way that does not give due proportion to the whole truth. Instead, theologians must emphasize precisely the points that heretics deny. For example, because the Protestant reformers emphasized faith sometimes at the expense of works, post-Reformation Catholic theology has tended to emphasize works more than faith. Because Protestants have preached "Scripture alone" apart from tradition, Catholics have had to emphasize sacred tradition to a greater degree than before.

All of this was necessary in a remedial way. Yet its lingering effect has been to produce a theology that majors in relatively minor points. After all, tradition itself teaches the primacy of Scripture, and Catholic authorities from St. Paul onward have taught the priority of faith over works. In classical theology, faith and works, Scripture and tradition, all receive their due, because all belong to one essential reality...

-Scott Hahn, in foreward to Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger's Many Religions - One Covenant

posted by TSO @ 09:08

That Mysterious Non-Catholic Interest

Mystery has been in a long, slow decline. If it were a stock, you might short it except for the fact that it might've already gone as low as it can go.

Some of it is the lack of uncharted realms on the map. In the 1500s you had huge swaths of lands marked "unknown". There's something neat about a map with uncharted territory.

Back when I was a kid the Soviet Union was an unknown. They were a closed society capable of inflicting a nuclear holocaust on our ass. This concentrated the mind and made you curious about them. The odd architecture of the Kremlin added to their mystique. Red Square was different.

But then the U.S.S.R. fell and became more like us. Fewer secrets. More materialist. More sexual license. A maybe a bit more democratic.

In the '90s Islam seemed interesting. Another mysterious, closed society. I wanted to trespass in their mosques. I wanted to see how they kept faith despite the lack of truth in their religion. But it eventually became impossible to ignore their reactionary and hate-filled Wahhabism. A culture capable of producing a 9/11 becomes much less interesting. They lost some of their mystery because there is a banality in evil. Hatred is the broad highway, not the narrow, interesting byway.

All of this is prelude to suggesting why there might have been non-Catholic interest in the papal election. I think it's because there's still mystery in the Catholic Church. In a time where everything is televised and secrets are rare, the conclave was a black hole. Something going on in the Sistine Chapel that was off-limits to reporters. In a global world where diversity astronomically decreases, the papacy still has the whiff of something different and something counter-cultural.

posted by TSO @ 11:30

April 27, 2005

Spanning the Globe To Bring You The Constant Variety Of Posts

Is it possible that the Church will become smaller and holier? Sure. I wouldn't even guess as to whether it's unlikely. Is it something we want? No. We want the Church to become holier. Getting rid of the dissidents will just leave the non-dissidents looking at each other, waiting to see who's going to become holier first. - Tom of Disputations

Shortly after the election, a wave of trepidation came over me - joy mixed with fear. If God does indeed give us a Pope who expects his flock to be Catholic, and if this Pope deals the final deadly blow to the Modernists, then I am myself in trouble. My own Catholicism looks pretty good compared to the liberals and Modernists and heretics around me: it looks pretty dismal compared to the faith and life of real Catholics. - Jeff of "Hallowed Ground"

The tune of "Onward Christian Soldiers" popped into my mind after reading your post. Growing up in the Presbyterian Church, we sang this song regularly always accompanied by a thunderous organ. As a child, I visualized Christians going forth, en masse, with swords in hands, gleaming against the sun, led by Jesus' cross. Can't you just visualize Jesus' delight and glee with all these Christians going forth, as one body, swords in hand, striking down Satan and his minions as we all marched onward as one? Sadly, in this secular world, it seems to be an individual battle to garner up enough courage and faith to take a headfirst leap into that cold water. -commenter on Steven Riddle's blog

I was amazed to see the following: before standing to read the Gospel, the priest lifted a cell phone, and dialed a number. He was unsuccessful in making a connection, and proceeded with the Mass, apologizing for the delay and indicating that he was trying to learn who was the new pope. I asked myself: Do we really need to stop the Mass, just to find out who is the new Pope? The only answer I can determine is: No, we don't. - Jack of Cantànima

One of the most disturbing things about the papal election is not Ratzinger, but people who support him. I came home to find my roommate in tears because of exclusionist, fundamentalist, near-hate speech she had found on the internet written by his supporters. - commenter on jCecil3's blog

The ways of the Lord are not comfortable, but we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good. - a note from a fellow Cardinal passed to Cardinal Ratzinger at the conclave, via MamaT

Too often, men and women spend all too much time not moving forward because, "I don't know if this is God's will." Discerning a vocation from that angle implies that a vocation to the priesthood or the religious life is not an invitation but a command. It also can be a way of avoiding taking the next step, a way of putting off my response. One need only to look at Mary at the Annunciation as the model for responding to God's invitation. Gabriel was anxious for Mary's response and St. Bernard in one of his sermons tells Mary to make haste: the whole world is waiting for it's Saviour! Christ, too says to you, Make haste! I am waiting for your love. I am waiting to give you Myself. I am waiting to give you souls so that together we can lead them to the Father. Nothing gives the Good Shepherd greater joy than when we hear his voice and follow him! - Sr. Mary Catharine of moniales Op

Before [the Church] speaks, the most saintly may mistake; and after it has spoken, the most gifted must obey. - John Henry Newman

As it happens, I do think a kind of solipsism is inseparable from what is called progressive Catholicism, which to a large extent defines itself by dissent. Such progressive Catholics regard their own judgments, applied according to their own methods, as the final arbiter of what they will believe; a common trope is self-praise that one is free of "blind obedience," meaning one obeys only what one has satisfied oneself is seen clearly enough. - Tom of Disputations

There is a concern that I find reasonable about Benedict. He is a very smart man; he understands the world better than you or I. But I worry that he will not be able to make to world understand him, considering the labels he has been given before doing anything in his pontificate. I hear that he writes brilliantly, as I know John Paul II did; but how few Catholics indeed read anything that JPII had written! The respect of the world for our previous pope was gained not through any words, but through images and stories: forgiving his assassin, placing a prayer in the Wailing Wall, embracing a child, lifting the chalice with hands weary and trembling. Benedict is now known to the world for two things: the incredible homily he gave at the funeral for John Paul II, and the refrains of "reactionary, medieval, repressive" that are everywhere. He has only words to combat words, and few enough of those. The previous Pope had time to win the world's trust; Benedict has no such honeymoon. We Catholics must pick up the slack, must be honest and loving in our defense of the Church. That is why I pray. - Patrick of Orthonormal Basis

Laura Ingraham: "If only the pope was for birth control, if only the pope was more modern, if only the pope wanted women to be priests. Tells us about your thoughts in hearing that." Fr. Rutler: If only the Pope had done all those things nobody would be covering his funeral now. - Ultramontane of Roman Catholic blog

...for icons focus faith when it is weak
and faith is at its weakest when you're strong:
the victors find it hard to sue for peace.

- excerpt of a poem by Rock Wren of "Lofted Nest"

Tis it true that E. E. Cummings's "poems spend nearly all of their time in the darkness of closed books, not in the light of the window or the reading lamp" or that "Whatever the claims for his influence, he is not widely enjoyed these days"?! My injoymoments of Cummings work doth wide eyed day-lily wild daily daisy-side I daly these days. - heidi of mildred's umbrella

posted by TSO @ 09:38


The cat makes a nautilus of his paw as he sleeps on the crest of the couch. His limbs heedlessly arranged, Lazarus lives the life of Reilly. I look at him and recall why Ham o’ Bone gave away the dog he had for a couple months: the refusal to reverse the chain of command in the animal world by cleaning up his dog’s poop. Laz has much in common with his ancestors in Egypt, sans the worship part.

My wife is sleeping below him on the couch, her hair a winsome gold-brown hue that goes well with the deep brown of the sofa. She’s wrapped in the “holy of holies”, a blanket so named because we treasure it. “Can I have the holy of holies?” she’ll ask as I slowly list to the left in my recliner (listing to the left because I always sit on that side).

Our dog is never far from us. Those intelligent Shepherd eyes never miss a thing we do, especially if it involves the acquisition of food. He’s laying on his side and his back paws are so large they look like a fallen deer’s hind legs tied together after the hunt. He avoids the throw rug and lays on the wood floor as if his body continually stores up heat and requires the cool floor to drowse.

posted by TSO @ 08:45

Varied Thoughts

It seems almost a given in retrospect that the pope who was an actor, who used his face and words to communicate, would in the end be struck with Parkinson's, unable to use the natural gifts he was given in order to show us that natural gifts aren't ultimately what we're about. And that happiness in this world isn't the point. He who was charismatic showed that charisma matters not, he who spoke of suffering ended up living it. And living it is always more difficult than speaking it.


Saturday eve we went to a dinner theatre in Dayton, which seemed a longer drive than it was. "The Music Man" was entertaining in stretches if sometimes hard-core corny. Professor Hill encourages large, aging matronly women to dance and everyone laughed but perhaps it's my egalitarian impulse but I thought that matronly women should get to dance without people laughing at them. Or it could be that I'm a stick-in-the-mud.

I think plays or musicals like this are enjoyable just to see the actors radiating such pure joy and energy. Seeing them keep smile on their face so long is worth the admission price. Over time it wins you over despite yourself. It recalls that if Christians were joyous the world would be far more Christian.


Saw a personalized plate that said "MY ANGLE". Typo? I report, you decide...!

posted by TSO @ 08:35

The More Things Change...

Popes have always had their critics. In 1887 the Bishop of Mantua (later a pope himself (Pius X) and later declared a saint) had this to say concerning Pope Leo XIII:

Those who wish [the Church] ill assault the papacy in every possible way; they cut themselves adrift from the Church, and try their best to make the pope an object of hatred and contempt. The more they endeavour to weaken our faith and our attachment to the head of the Church, the more closely let us draw to him through the public testimony of our faith, our obedience and our veneration.

posted by TSO @ 13:36

April 26, 2005

Serving Reader Needs

I noticed a sudden spike in emails in response to my post about the drive into work and experiences in the cafeteria line. Accountants are going over the numbers now but the three appear to be a tripling of the daily average. An email from a reader I'll call "Roz" noticed the food focus of that post and said that Lent must be difficult for me. She's right, it's certainly no picnic. It's no chocolate-fudge covered with whipped cream dessert.

Given the customer focus here at Video Meliora, expect more posts I'll call "Adventures in Cafeteriadom" (with the necessary caveat that inspiration cannot be summoned, it can only be answered).

Today I went to the Grill line for a sandwich. The lady in front of me asked for a lot of spicy food and then added, "and an Alka Seltzer on the side". Rimshot! Another gal after my own heart. It must be a universal, this need to entertain cafeteria workers. We think of their job: "how boring it must be!". They think of our job: "how boring that must be!". And so we strive to help each other out.

One of the grill workers is white, the other black. The black guy takes the orders and when he asks whether you'll have "dark meat" or "white meat" in your turkey sandwich you necessarily cringe in a culture that is ridiculously race conscious. But they josh about it. The white guy who makes the sandwiches hands one and says "white one first" with a wink and a laugh. And the black guy rolls his eyes and grimaces in mock pain.

The sandwich I wanted was called a "Monte Cristo" so I asked for a "Monte Carlo" for them to riff off. And riff they did. One said he wanted an "SS". The other was evidentally a Ford man by the way he made the word "Chevy" sound like a word that means excrement.

Perhaps not the most edifying conversation but that's the way it was, April 26th, 2005 at the cafeteria...

posted by TSO @ 13:12

Various & Sundry

Went to Clipper’s minor league baseball game the other day and it was like a deep tissue massage. A deep bone relaxation overtook me and I could feel my lids drop anchor. The contest against the Durham Bulls had a timeless quality. The sun shown on the field in the way it does in the Wrigley Field of memory, like it did during the old Saturday Game of the Week back in the late Lou Brock Era. The stadium was built in 1927 and so has a baseball-y feel about it; sadly it's due to be torn down.

I went to the Triple A game in lieu of a Red’s game I'd planned to see. And I found not knowing who the players were was less an impediment than I thought. The sheer beauty and poetry of the diamond still works after all these years. The umpire waits until the catcher is in his squat and then lightly puts his left hand on his left shoulder to steady himself that he might call the pitch in a timeless ritualistic gesture. And so it goes, pitch after pitch, as the Bulls spray the ball all over the field. The good thing about not being emotionally invested is that you don't much care who wins...


Read some of the delicious "Bleak House" over the weekend. I have a favorite character who makes frightening sense – a layabout who asks little of life and others. He never works but is full of the good cheer of a clear conscience. He owns nothing because there are always friends to mooch off, friends who are partially won over by his exuberance (a byproduct of his never having to work). I find myself sometimes wanting to subsidize layabouts if only because I figure somebody should get to do it, if only so the rest of us can live through them vicariously. Dickens has a hilarious paragraph about how this character asks little of life but then lists a large laundry list. For me it would go something like this:

"I ask little of the world. I am a humble sort of modest means, asking only for a patch of brilliant sky, a landscape in which to wander, a few thousand books to get lost among, a steak dinner every once in awhile, frequent vacations, a healthy supply of Guinness and Beck’s Dark, a few cigars of the Dominican variety, daily Starbucks...". Simple needs indeed.

posted by TSO @ 08:59

Pope Benedict's Homily

Read Pope Benedict XVI's homily from Sunday, and I'm just amazed at how he can seemingly teach and pray at the same time. One was never sure where one left off and the other began. In speaking of the intercession of the saints, you could feel them listening and it was as if we were asking for their intercession. In speaking of the love of Christ, you could feel praise for the Lord spontaneously issue forth. The sermon could be read as catechism, poetry or prayer, or all at the same time. It never became cloying or pietistic or, on the other hand, didactic. And the overall subtext was one of holy encouragement which is Peter's role: to "strengthen his brothers".

posted by TSO @ 08:50

The Decline & Fall of Bad Catholics

Amy Welborn occasionally mentions how a big change in the past few decades is the disappearance of "bad Catholics".

Not to say there are fewer bad Catholics of course but fewer Catholics willing to admit it. I think part of it is because the great sin of our age is hypocrisy, defined in our time as standing for a standard but failing to meet it. You can see how potent the hypocrite tag is by its revered place in national politics where both the left and the right see it as the great de-legitimizer. They wouldn't use the tag if it wasn't effective since politicians are supremely efficient at finding what works and ruthlessly exploiting it.

What this means is that people will either completely reject the Faith because they don't want to feel like a hypocrite, or they will redefine it so that they can feel comfortable with it.

But what does it say that when police came out to a youngster's home during the '40s or '50s there would be hell to pay for that young man or woman. And what does it say that now, according to my brother-in-law, police have lots of 'splaining to do to parents for accusing their perfect child of wrong-doing? That doesn't go to hypocrisy, it goes more to a loss of a sense of sin.

posted by TSO @ 08:32

Recipe By Request

A dear reader asked me to republish one of my old posts, which I am happy to oblige:

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 @ 13:50

April 25, 2005

Surviving the Work Place - Tips You Can Use

On the drive into work today I was cut off by a co-worker. I'm sure she didn't realize it was me she had cut off. She waved her hand as is the tradition of those who cut others off in traffic, a gesture of gratitude though the driver had no choice and didn't intend to slam on the brakes. When I cut people off in traffic I hang my head, hoping this small sign of repentance will lessen their pique. Ironically, my co-worker forgot to "take the hypotenuse" and I beat her into work.

At the cafeteria today is "Make Your Own Chicken Salad Day". This is where the ability to see and react quickly help. You can put three chicken tenders on your salad but the chicken tenders vary greatly in size. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to quickly find the three biggest without being obvious about it. Most people are obvious about it and spend an enormous amount of time flipping through the tenders as if hoping a winning lottery ticket lay buried. But those behind in line are sympathetic; we know the object of the game is to find the largest. (I'm very Jesuitical.) But still I feel like I owe it to those behind me not to rub it in. It's just the kind of sweet, sensitive guy I am. So I scan the pan of tenders quckly and deftly make selections with what I hope looks to be a kind of randomness, as if the whopping size of the tenders I was putting on the salad were mere accident.

Last week I've made friends with the cafeteria workers who ladle out the main entries. They have a kind of warmth about them. You can tell they are Christian. By their love. Anyway, the drill is most people go up and say "I'll have the chicken" or "I'll have the turkey". The day's selections on a large, upright menu by the food and the entry names are dressed up with all sorts of fancy/schmancy adjectives as if we're on the Left Bank instead of mid-Ohio. For example, it's not fish, it's "Beer-battered Norwegian cod". And it's not "meat loaf", it's "Portobello Classic Meat Loaf with Herbs & Spices You Haven't Heard Of". The other day they had something prefaced by "Mayo Clinic" and so I throw them off by asking for the full name of the dish. "I'll have the Mayo Clinic Chicken and Dumplings on a bed of Romaine Lettuce with Worchester Sauce" or whatever it was. And she made a joke about how there wasn't any Mayo in it. My kind of gal. We all bonded. I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking about it.

When it's time to cash out, I've always tended towards one cashier because she's the fastest and most efficient and knows about combos ("combos" save you money). But recently the lines for her have been inexplicably longer and I can't very well pass up another cashier with an open line if only because that cashier might think, "what, do I have B.O. or somethin'?". So it so happened I went a week without going to my usual cashier and when I went there again she was a bit cold, as if I were cheating on her with other cashiers (which in fact was the case). "Where have you been?" she asked. And I say, "your line has been longer lately..."

I's lead an exciting life don't I's?

posted by TSO @ 12:02

Twist My Arm Why Don't You

TAN Books, a publishing house for which I have affection (I especially like the prison outreach program) is financially struggling.

They have sent a letter asking me to buy books which is like telling an alcoholic to buy Guinness (after reminding the drinker that 25% of Dublin brewer's profits go to charity).

They declared Chapter 11, but it sounds like they'll be able to weather the storm.

posted by TSO @ 10:58

The Ever Humorous Florence King

An IQ in the 120s is as convenient as wearing a B-cup bra: anything larger or smaller spells trouble.

I have been in an irritable mood ever since Vatican II. A Protestant expects the Catholic Church to act like the Catholic Church the way a woman expects a man to act like a man.

-Florence King in "Stet, Damnit!"

posted by TSO @ 09:08


This was more like George: he advanced his intellect negatively, by extending his contempt. All movies were lousy, all politicians were crooked, public education in America was the world's worst, most novels were a waste of time, everybody on television was out for your money.

-John Updike, "His Finest Hour"

posted by TSO @ 09:04

Fictional Sunday (because it's been far too long since I've written any fiction)

I was lounging in the airport watching the passersby and trying to guess their destinations by their appearance when row numbers were announced and a young man got up from his chair near me, leaving an adventure travel magazine in his wake. I picked it up and began reading about how to cross borders surreptiously. I felt that familiar travel-induced tingle travel the length of my bones, which is usually accompanied by a need to go to the bathroom.

I got back in time to board and brought the magazine with me. Fortunately I’d built in a cushion of three or four days on this South American trip and was now determined to use it to cross a few more borders than my passport allowed.

Adventure it surely was. I scarcely knew what I’d bargained for as my rental car drew near the unmarked territorial limits of Acedia and its similarly unmarked neighbor, Depression. Depression was known to be a sad land without fault since it was without natural resources and its poverty was honest. But Acedia was universally scorned because it was rich in natural resources and shouldn't be so poor. Psychologists, sworn enemies of guilt, said that there was no Acedia because it was absorbed by the state of Depression in a coup around the time of the Enlightenment.

I wondered how Depression managed to summon the energy.

Meanwhile some Christian sects scoffed at Depression, saying it was the land of the No Faiths, the non-believers.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell where Acedia began and where Depression ended or where Depression began and Acedia ended, and yet it seemed important to know since I wasn’t sure which folks were honest poor and which were dishonest poor. The only thing I knew for sure was I had to head back Norte in a hurry. Work was calling.

posted by TSO @ 23:19

April 24, 2005

What He Said

It appears I've rediscovered the wheel with my previous post. Richard John Neuhaus said it much earlier and better with respect to progressive Catholics:

Here disagreement is an intolerable personal affront. It is construed as a denial of others, of their experience of who they are. It is a blasphemous assault on that most high god, "My Identity." Truth-as-identity is not appealable beyond the assertion of identity. In this game, identity is trumps. An appeal to what St. Paul or Aquinas or Catherine of Sienna or a church council said cannot withstand the undeniable retort, "Yes, but they are not me!" People pack their truths into what Peter Berger has called group identity kits. The chief item in the kit, of course, is the claim to being oppressed.

This helps explain why questions such as quota-ized representation, women's ordination, and homosexuality are so intractable. There is no common ground outside the experiential circles of identity by which truth is circularly defined. Conservatives huff and puff about the authority of Scripture and tradition, while moderates appeal to the way differences used to be accommodated in the early church (before ca. 1968), but all to no avail. Whatever the issue, the new orthodoxy will not give an inch, demanding acceptance and inclusiveness, which means rejection and exclusion of whatever or whomever questions their identity, meaning their right to believe, speak, and act as they will, for what they will do is what they must do if they are to be who they most truly are. "So you want me to agree with you in denying who I am?"
His saying that the argument is intractable has certainly been my experience and makes me more sanguine about my lack of success. As the Italians say, "the situation is hopeless but not serious". As a blonde philospher once sang, "que sera, sera".

posted by TSO @ 21:11

Power Uber Alles

It's ironic, I think, that this is such an age of contrasts in the U.S. & Europe. It's an age of anxiety amid affluence. And it's an age of rage against the use of power when power in the secular realm has never been more fully shared (i.e. so many democracies) or in the religious realm more legitimate (see popes John XXIII thru John Paul II and then see the pre-Reformation popes). The more we taste of power the more insatiably we desire it. For many, hatred of George Bush concerning the Iraq war was less about the merits or demerits of the war but simply that he had the hubris to want to exercise power over their personal objections and perhaps the objections of a plurality of the world. Right or wrong is less interesting than whether my influence is being registered back to me in a palpable way.

I think this rage against the use of power comes in part because in this culture we are constantly encouraged to identify ourselves as aggrieved and discriminated against. This has the great positive of helping make society more just, but seeing ourselves as victims has emotional and financial rewards which assure that the sense of victimhood will continue long after justice is served.

So it seems at least some of the angst over the appointment of Cardinal Ratzinger is that he won't allow us to continue seeing ourselves as victims. He asks we carry our crosses knowing that we have already won, rather than turning them in for immediate recompense. He nailed it in the quote excerpted below but it seems modernity will not be shaken from its desire to see all power, including God's power over us (heaven's a democracy, right?), as something that should emanate from my group, where my group infinitely approaches me:

There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative. I think this ideology produces a totally false point of view, as if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association.

posted by TSO @ 22:57

April 23, 2005

The Church's Struggle With Modernity

Looking over the popes of the past one hundred years, one sees a beauty in all the different approaches that Christ, through the heads of His Church, has tried in attempting to getting modernity's attention.

Just look at the sheer variety of popes, who in every way short of preaching untruth have attempted to solve the problem from a fresh angle. Except for their common holiness, Pope St. Pius X was as different from Blessed Pope John XXIII as can be imagined. Some popes were more pastoral, some learned intellectuals, some both. Some "liberal", some "conservative". Most were very holy men. We have been gifted with more than our fair share of excellent supreme pontiffs lately, especially given the history of the papacy, and yet all of their different approaches have failed with respect to changing the direction of modernity.

Joseph Bottum makes the compelling point that we cannot write anybody off: abandon Europe may be merely to put off the problem of evangelizing democracies. When Latin American and African democracies become stable and more prosperous, perhaps they will undergo the same slide that Europe has experienced. The Catholic Church spent most of the Middle Ages learning how to rein in the characteristic abuses of monarchies, and when the European monarchies suddenly collapsed between the 1840s and the 1940s, Catholic thinkers were caught flat-footed. But in the years since, the Vatican has used much of its time trying to figure out how to rein in the characteristic abuses of the democracies--beginning with the drift down into a boring and deadening relativism.

Now the job has fallen to Benedict XVI, who must find a way to reason, with those who no longer believe much in reason, that intellectual seriousness and moral rationality--"the postulate and the condition of Christianity"--can still guide Europe away from the new Dark Ages.

posted by TSO @ 22:14

Concerning the Papal Election

Our local paper, the Columbus Dispatch, recently had an excellent article which included comments by my pastor and Scott Hahn:

Scott Hahn said he met Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger three times in Rome, and he was nothing like his portrayal in the media.

"When you meet Ratzinger, what blows you away is how completely mischaracterized he is as the 'panzer cardinal' or the 'grand inquisitor,' '' said Hahn, a professor of biblical theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville.

"He is so kind. There's a humility and a warmth about him that just draws you out. And you can tell that he is much more interested in listening to other people than in just kind of spouting off himself.''

Hahn, a former teacher at the Pontifical College Josephinum on the Far North Side, yesterday praised the new pope as a top-notch theologian.

"He theologizes on his knees. You can tell that there's a mystical element as well as a real precise intellect,'' said Hahn, who wrote the introductions for two English translations of books by Ratzinger.

Ratzinger's hard-line reputation is not surprising because he directed the church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which enforces church teaching.

"Nobody can be in charge of the CDF and not get that label,'' Hahn said...

The relatively quick decision by the cardinals shows that Ratzinger is a consensus choice at the Vatican, said Monsignor Frank Lane, pastor of the St. Margaret of Cortona Parish.

"John Paul II has been checking out for a long time,' Lane said, moments before giving a guest lecture at Ohio State University last night. "They had a lot of time to think about it.''

Ratzinger's conservatism and "impatient sense of urgency'' will "incur the wrath of the Western world,'' Lane told 50 people at the lecture, hosted by the Catholic Student Society of the Holy Name.

"He is a very controversial person. There are those who will despise him, and he will be savaged because of how he expresses himself and where he stands,'' he predicted.

Asked several weeks ago to speak on the history of the papacy, Lane revised his speech after yesterday's announcement.

Lane thinks Ratzinger is an "excellent choice'' who will be most popular with the younger generation of Catholics.

"Late baby-boomer, 1960s cultural-revolution Catholics will be highly critical of him,'' he said. "But young people are thrilled.''

Lane predicts Pope Benedict XVI will mobilize the legions of youth around the world who were "galvanized and energized'' by his predecessor, pointing to the tens of thousands of young people on hand for his first blessing yesterday.

posted by TSO @ 09:58


...from text of first message of Pope Benedict XVI, delivered at Apr. 20 Mass of the College of Cardinals:

You are Christ! You are Peter! It seems I am reliving this very Gospel scene; I, the Successor of Peter, repeat with trepidation the anxious words of the fisherman from Galilee and I listen again with intimate emotion to the reassuring promise of the divine Master. If the weight of the responsibility that now lies on my poor shoulders is enormous, the divine power on which I can count is surely immeasurable: 'You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.' Electing me as the Bishop of Rome, the Lord wanted me as his Vicar, he wished me to be the 'rock' upon which everyone may rest with confidence. I ask him to make up fro the poverty of my strength, that I may be a courageous and faithful pastor of His flock, always docile to the inspirations of His Spirit.
Pope John Paul II justly indicated the [Second Vatican] Council as a 'compass' with which to orient ourselves in the vast ocean of the third millennium. Also in his spiritual testament he noted: 'I am convinced that for a very long time the new generations will draw upon the riches that this council of the 20th century gave us.'...With the passing of time, the documents have not lost their timeliness; their teachings have shown themselves to be especially pertinent to the new exigencies of the Church and the present globalized society.
I invoke the maternal intercession of Mary Most Holy, in whose hands I place the present and future of my person and of the Church.

posted by TSO @ 08:35

To tune "I Am Stuck On Band-Aid Brand 'Cuz Band-Aid's Stuck on Me"

I am stuck on God, 'cuz God is stuck on me
I am stuck on God, 'cuz God is stuck on me!
And he really sticks to your soul when you're down on bended knee,
I am stuck on God, 'cuz God is stuck on me.

posted by TSO @ 20:14

April 22, 2005

Dazed & Confused

I'm stunned by the anti-Benedict reaction in some quarters. He's being compared to Italian dictators and national socialists. (Maybe he just needs a PR firm.) You really can't make it up. I'm hoping that this is just the blogosphere being the blogosphere, where hysteria generates hits.

I think a good test for the Catholic is to have just sucked up no matter who was elected. Call me corny and a sap, but I felt discombobulated in not having an earthly spiritual father in the form of the vicar of Christ for a couple weeks. I am grateful mostly for the office and secondarily for the occupant.

Pope Benedict XVI is by all accounts a brilliant and a holy man but even if he wasn't that's not the point. The Lord said that in Matt 23 that "the teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you." And Moses & those in his seat weren't even given the power to hold bound or loosen either. So what's the problem?

posted by TSO @ 13:15

Big Tent, Small Tent & the Role of Culture

Sr. Lorraine homers to center on Amy's blog:

A vital part of this whole discussion is the role of culture. We no longer have a Catholic culture or even a Christian culture. Without the support of culture, religious practice erodes. It just does. It's very hard to maintain and practice one's faith while going against the culture. Many people still do it but they are heroic, so they're a minority. But without the support of culture the Church can only become a small flock. That doesn't mean everyone outside it will be damned but it will be harder for them to attain salvation without the support of the faith and the sacraments.
Rod Dreher responds:
I'm not as concerned about the loss of meaningful Catholic culture in this society. I'm really concerned about the loss of meaningful Catholic culture in the Church.
Rod's position sounds a tad unrealistic. Before the suburbs, back in the '40s & '50s, Catholic culture could establish itself in Church and the neighborhood. It's no coincidence that when Catholics became economically successful and moved out to the suburbs we also lost our moorings. I'm not sure you can establish a Catholic culture in an hour Mass each Sunday. As Jeff Culbreath wrote, "At times like this [papal election] I want to stagger over to the neighbors' house, beer in hand, and celebrate with them on the front porch until two in the morning. But alas, we have no Catholic neighbors!."

And that goes beyond just the desire to celebrate. It's harder to remain faithful in a pluralistic society than most people think.

posted by TSO @ 10:48

Joie de Vivre

Just came across ye Olde Oligarch's giddy post-Benedict XVI post. His joy is contagious, as is Jeff Culbreath's. To paraphrase what Dr. Johnson said of London, if you've tired of papal elections then you've tired of life. How nice to experience again the pure unadulterated joy of childhood which the simultaneous cries of joy across St. Blog's reflect!

posted by TSO @ 17:18

April 21, 2005

On Hatred of Jews (and perhaps Christians)

I'm reading Dennis Prager's ambitiously titled "Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism" and (to oversimplify) he argues that when a people maintain higher standards without completely separating themselves from society (as the Amish did) it tends to provoke hatred/jealousy in neighbors living with lower standards.

posted by TSO @ 16:29

Book Reviews

It's (mostly) cut 'n paste day here at the ol' blog. Here are some micro reviews I've written of books I've read over the past few years.

The Correspondence of Shelby Foote & Walker Percy by Shelby Foote Hellaciously great read. Answers the query 'what happens if two great writers correspond in total honesty'?

Of Irish Ways by Mary Murray Delaney
A great smorgasboard of all things Irish, including a history of the isle. I read it before going there in '96 and it was a great primer, giving me a taste of everything from Irish mythology to Irish recipes.

Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keillor
I liked this book even better than "The Book of Guys" and "Lake Wobegon Days", the two other books from him I've read and enjoyed. The lyrical writing includes images like old Norwegian bachelors gathered at the Sidetrack bar looking like "rock bass on a dock". A great combination of pathos and comedy!

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
Basically this is the book I was looking for to clearly and methodically express the case for the divinity of Christ and to effectively demolish the arguments of the Jesus Seminar. Should be required reading for anyone who has read Time and Newsweek's annual parade of Holy Week articles attempting to distort the historical Jesus.

The Medjugorje Deception: Queen of Peace, Ethnic Cleansing, Ruined Lives by E. Michael Jones
The Medjugorje story is one that is fascinating because searching for the truth always is. This book tells the other side of the story, one I haven't seen anywhere else. The only disappointment was that there wasn't more focus on the seers themselves, like why Jakov left two seminaries. The hunger for signs - visible manifestations of the divine - is one that is old as history and won't go away but might be approached more cautiously after reading this book.

Eureka Street : A Novel of Ireland Like No Other by ROBERT MCLIAM WILSON
Even when the plot gets ragged or preachy, which it sometimes does, the lyricism and word choice makes this a delicious read.

Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith by William F. Buckley Jr.
I was a bit disappointed that Mr. Buckley failed to come down on one side or the other on the tough issues. I assume that either he has, and did not want to share it, or that he has not yet. If the latter, it is disheartening to think that accepting or rejecting the authority of the Church in matters of faith and morals has not been definitively reached yet by such a learned figure. If that point has been reached, then contraception and priestly celibacy are non-issues.

Lost in the Cosmos : The Last Self-Help Book by Walker Percy
Walker Percy asks all the right questions in a unique way. He describes transcendence be it through art, science or God, and gives a brief rundown on his theory of sign and language or "semiotics".

Stonewall Jackson : The Man, the Soldier, the Legend by James Robertson
This was one of my favorite books of the 1990s. The book was almost healing, after theClinton years and all the cheap scandal and trivialities. It was truly inspiring to read about a figure for whom religion was not a photo-op, and to be saturated in the story of a dense, mysterious hero.

Salt of the Earth: Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millennium : An Interview With Peter Seewald by Joseph Ratzinger
There are so many fabulous insights in this book, and such honesty that it should be required reading for high school religion classes. Cardinal Ratzinger has really hit the nail on the head, giving all of us an inside view of the issues that are important to the Church. "In today's whirl of instant bliss, religion, too, is socially respectable only as a dream of happiness without tears, as a mystical enchantment of the soul. Perhaps the Church comes under heavier fire because she talks about sin and suffering and rectitude of life....Just one curious example - when it comes to the state, as soon as crimes begin to multiply and society feels its safety threatened, there is an immediate demand for tougher laws. In relation to the Church, whose laws are moral in nature, the exact opposite happens - there is a demand for further relaxation."

C. S. Lewis Through the Shadowlands: The Story of His Life With Joy Davidman by Brian Sibley
A very readable and well-done book which highlights the fascinating relationship between two people who would seem to have little in common. Even better than the movie!

Handbook of Christian Apologetics: Hundreds of Answers to Crucial Questions by Peter Kreeft, Ronald K. Tacelli
This is a tremendously important "one-stop" shop for most of the crucial Christian questions. It bears re-reading since at different times of life there are different obstacles to faith. There is also an essential honesty to the work. One of my favorite quotes is: "The tension is between appealing to free choice and appealing to divine providence and grace to solve the problem of evil. Sin is explained, on the one hand, by our free will. On the other hand, God's providential plan foresaw and used even sin. God brings good out of evil, and makes all things work together for good for those who love him. The argument between those who emphasize free will and those who emphasize providence is largely one of emphasis, for both are parts of our scriptural data. The difference in emphasis is between those who see human history as a novel, written by God, and those who see it as a play, enacted by man. The two images are not exclusive. The novel, though completely the author's creation, is about free people, not trees or robots; and though the play has a script, the actors are free to obey the script or not. If the emphasis is on God's predestination, our attitude to life will emphasize trust and faith and acceptance and hope; while if the emphasis is on human free will, our attitude to life will emphasize morality and spiritual warfare and the will to make the right choices. The first emphasizes wisdom, the second morality; the first contemplation, the second action; the first seeing, the second doing; the first faith, the second works. They are two sides of the same Christian coin."

The Miracle Detective: An Investigation of Holy Visions by Randall Sullivan
This book fills a much-needed niche. So often with apparations, you have get either a complete debunker or a credulous believer. The author is an agnostic on the question but someone open enough to painstakingly research what has been a mystery to many of us. The author's spiritual journey is an added bonus and is fascinating in its own right.

Drop City by T. C. Boyle
Really loved this book, loved his word choice and cared about the characters. Kind of reminded me of why I like Tom Wolfe novels in its journalistic approach. I ate up the details on what it's like to be a hippie. I liked that Boyle suggests there is no free lunch since "dropping out" is portrayed either as a self-indulgent loveless enterprise or nightmarish hard work, and that the extremes of either communal living or complete solitude aren't answers. Makes me appreciate the 'burbs more.

What's interesting too is how Boyle suggests we are products of our environment. The stress of Alaska broke the hippies, exacerbated Ronnie/Pan's evil and eventually caused the leader to bolt, a breach of everything he stood for. Pre-Alaska, their brotherliness and camarderie was fostered by the comfort and drugs, but how many of us our bolstered in brotherliness and camarderie by our comfort and our beer? Sess's hatred of the contemptible Joe Bosky is understandable, but he's as much a product of the environment as any wolf, heartless as the climate.

Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel
I'd already read a couple biographies of this pope and was initially reluctant to get this one. The other biographers seemed to miss the point by seeing JPII in strictly political terms. Weigel masterfully adds color and dimension so that a much more vivid portrait emerges. It is the definitive biography for me because it is jam-packed with inside information on the spiritual issues of our time and for that reason will also serve as a reference book.

Degenerate Moderns: Modernity As Rationalized Sexual Misbehavior by E. Michael Jones
An eye-opening look at the hidden motivations of many of the leading figures of modernity. Most of those profiled were/are revered for their seeming objectivity, but Mr. Jones shows the faulty moral framework that caused them to have huge ulterior motives in bending truth to their own particular problem. Powerful stuff - you'll never read anything like this for a course at a secular college or see it reviewed in a weekly news magazine!

Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany by Frederick Kempe
Very enjoyable read that examines some of the amazing contrasts in the German pysche. The author's own ancestors included a "good German", composer R. Schumann and a "bad German", a Nazi, and it is interesting to see him grapple with it.

Gladstone by ROY JENKINS
If you share any of Gladstone's passions - his bibliophilism, his religious ardor, his breaktaking political energy - then you'll like this. The writing itself is also a plus, for Jenkins writes beautifully.

Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks
I got a kick out of this book. In the "Decline of Pleasure", Water Kerr warns that people are losing their sense of play and that play means doing something that is completely without utility. Well I know of no greater definition of an activity sans utility that hitchiking around Ireland with a refrigerator!

posted by TSO @ 15:15

What To Say

Tom of Disputations writes: " will become increasingly necessary for Catholics to say to the opinion-makers, 'If you hate my Church, should I accept what you say?,' and for some Catholics, to say to themselves, 'I hate my Church? Now what do I do?'And those Catholics, non-dissenters and Ratzinger fans and boot-licking toadies, had better be prepared to help them answer their questions. If not, we will be the ones having much to answer for."

How to answer the question "I hate my Church? Now what do I do?" is the million dollar question.

What do we say? I've had many "discussions" with family members, the fruit of which appears invisible. I'm beginning to wonder if silence is golden. The impulse is to donate copies of Hahn's "Rome Sweet Home", which carries about it the scent of beauty, and go about our daily prayer.

I find that most of my interlocuters see the Church as simply a human institution. A majority of Catholics don't believe the Eucharist as the Body of Christ. Given this, it seems almost impossible to discuss things doesn't it? If you don't have the apriori assumptions? Catholics who see the Church as purely a human institution are by definition going to be mad if "their" Pope isn't elected because they reject the possibility that this is who the Spirit wanted.

You can't implant faith. Example might change hearts, not words (although Pope John Paul II set a marvelous example and was only partially successful). Chris Matthews asked a priest on MSNBC yesterday, "are people who go to church every week any better than anybody else? Really?" A fair, if troubling, question. Matthews and other Cafeteria Catholics will take notice only when they see the people who go to church every week as better people. Care, concern and listening, especially when someone is spitting on the Church is difficult to the extreme but it's what Christ did. He was spit at but reacted with patience and forgiveness "for they know not what they do". Most of the lukewarm Catholics do not know what they do, imho. And if the sensus fidelium is completely at odds with the Magisterium on an issue like artificial birth control, who wins the tie? Given that most people haven't really studied the issue or even prayed about it before coming to their conclusion, it has to be the Magisterium.

Still, the root of the scandal in the Catholic Church is the same root scandal in God coming to earth to become man. 99% of the problems with God or the Church come down to simply this: "I would not have done it this way if I were God". It takes humility.

And faith. I once received an email from a lapsed Catholic that went, "I think I'm too much of an American to be a Catholic. I don't think the Pope is the Vicar of Christ -- I think he's a politician. Not as odious as our homegrown variety, maybe, but you can't convince me the Holy Spirit guides the career of an ambitious prelate any more than Bill Clinton can convince me the devil made him do it; it's just us human beings down here, muddling things up as best we know how."

I've heard of those who have written off this Pope because they say it was rigged by Pope John Paul II who appointed so many conservative cardinals. I know that grace builds on nature and that politics is part of "nature", but doesn't this give progressives an out indefinitely? Because if this pope appoints conservative bishops then progressives will point to him, etc...

What can one do? Pray.

posted by TSO @ 13:29

Favorite Pope Benedict XVI (then Cdl Ratzinger) Quotes

Via the miracle of cut & paste, here are a few quotes from his writings that I copied a few years ago:

"In today's whirl of instant bliss, religion, too, is socially respectable only as a dream of happiness without tears, as a mystical enchantment of the soul. Perhaps the Church comes under heavier fire because she talks about sin and suffering and rectitude of life....Just one curious example - when it comes to the state, as soon as crimes begin to multiply and society feels its safety threatened, there is an immediate demand for tougher laws. In relation to the Church, whose laws are moral in nature, the exact opposite happens - there is a demand for further relaxation."

"The current era of relativism grows out of various roots. For one thing, it seems to modern man undemocratic, intolerant and also incompatible with the scientist's necessary skepticism to say that we have the truth and something else is not the truth, or only fragmentary truth. God must be unnameable. Accordingly, everything religious is just a matter of reflections, copies, refractions. Accordingly, there can't be one true religion either. In this context, Christ is, to be sure, a great, towering figure, but we have, as it were, to bring him back down to size, in the awareness of him has appeared in others too."

"The modern worldview takes a very dogmatic posture and excludes interventions of God in the world, such as miracles and revelation. Man can indeed have religion, but it must lie in the subjective sphere and can therefore have no objective dogmatic contents that are binding on all; in this view, dogma in general seems to contradict man's reason. The Church finds herself in this headwind of history. Nevertheless, the one-sidedness of this position naturally emerges, for a religion that is reduced to the purely subjective no longer has any power to form; it is then only the subject affirming himself. A naked rationality reduced to the natural sciences cannot answer the real questions like where do we come from, what am I, what must I do to live properly."

"Hobbes said that a state must have religion, and there are especially two kinds of citizens that a state can't afford to have: first, atheists and second, papists who are subjects of a foreign potentate."

"There is an ideology that fundamentally traces all existing institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative. I think this ideology produces a totally false point of view, as if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association."

"We now crusade with an understandable and legitimate passion against the pollution of the environment, whereas man's self-pollution of his soul continues to be treated as one of the rights of his freedom...As long as we retain this caricature of freedom, namely, of the freedom of inner spiritual self-destruction, its outward effects will continue unchanged. Man too is essentially a creature and has a creaturely order. He can't arbitrarily make anything he wants out of himself. He must recognize there is a spiritual ecology too."

posted by TSO @ 09:12

Shea & Shaidle on the Other Screen

Saw Kathy Shaidle and Mark Shea on television. They come off a bit softer over the airwaves than in their blogs, proving perhaps the truth of how words in print tend to seem harsher than we intend them. They also quoted other St. Bloggers which is a cautionary tale because it means that anything we write could be picked up by a much larger audience. And the word on the street yesterday was triumphalism. Lots of that on the conservative side. Ouch. But Tom nails it on the head here. If Pope Benedict XVI sees a smaller Church in the future it's because he's a realist and not because he wishes it.

Update:-> What Amy Welborn said too. Excellent. The notion of being an "irreplaceable blogger" is almost an oxymoron but Amy comes closest to fitting that bill within St. Blog's.

posted by TSO @ 20:05

April 20, 2005

Wolfgang Boehm displays a socalled 'Papstbier' (Pope beer) in front of the birth place of new Pope Benedict XVI. in Marktl, southern Bavaria, Germany, Wednesday, April 20, 2005. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

posted by TSO @ 16:35

Special Habemus Papam Edition of Spanning the Globe

Man, he wasn't even done with the Urbi et orbi and I was wanting his first encyclical already. - Jimmy Akin

habemus papam! and there is no recount! praise be to God! - Smockmama of "Summa Mamas"

To celebrate...1 oz. Benedictine, in shot glass, 12 oz. Bavarian lager, in beer mug. Drop shot glass into beer mug. Drain mug. - Tom of Disputations

The German pew of St. Blog's Parish is mostly happy - contrary to much of the rest of the country. May St. Boniface, St. Korbinian, St. Benedict, St. Matthias - the only apostle buried north of the Alps, in Trier -, may all German saints be with him and help him with his work! - scipio of Intelligam

I guess that we all want to know who the Holy Spirit will select for our next Pope - and hoping and praying that the electors are listening to the Holy Spirit! And I keep on hearing Marie [Bellet] singing "On a need to know basis, it all will unfold, but my darlings, you don't need to know." - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"

That sound you hear is Hans Küng, Matthew Fox, Leonardo Boff, and others wailing and gnashing their teeth. Ain’t it beautiful? - Thomas of ER, who because he isn't Catholic is allowed to be triumphalistic

It is nice that the conclave doesn't have any resemblance to a presidential election. No Cardinal exit polls. No world maps divided up into red and blue countries. No dirty tricksters slashing the Cardinals tires on the way to vote. No reports that Cardinal Arinze and other African cardinals were disenfranchised from being able to vote. I am just thankful thought that the conclave isn't in the U.S. You just know the EPA would force them to put scrubbers in the chimneys to prevent any black smoke from going into the atmosphere. - Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester"

Today what people have in view is eliminating suffering from the world. For the individual, that means avoiding pain and suffering in whatever way. Yet we must also see that it is in this very way that the world becomes very hard and very cold. Pain is part of being human. Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice, because, given temperamental differences and the drama of situations, it will always bring with it renunciation and pain.- Pope Benedict XVI

My Jesuit confessor in college once said, "Most converts are won through the heart, but Christianity is essentially an intellectual religion." I go back and forth on that, but it's certainly true that the intellectual aspect of the faith has been an anchor for me. I place a high value on obedience - what we owe to our Creator and our Redeemer. But even if obedience without understanding has its own perfection - casting ourselves upon the Lord - I am grateful for the Church's interest in engaging the intellect as well as the will. There's a human perfection in understanding, and experience has led me to believe that the Church in on the side of what is truly human. - Matthew Lickona, author of "Swimming with Scapulars", on Amy's blog

posted by TSO @ 16:30

Factor Notes: a VMPDS Exclusive

Dumpster diving can pay off. Found Bill O'Reilly's memo to himself concerning yesterday's program*.

Talking Points: What the New Pope Must Do to Help America Fight Terrorism

Top Story: Interview priest with my opinions about what the new pope must do. Tell him the media's going to go after him starting tomorrow unless I do first *grin*.

Impact Segment: Interview Minuteman with my opinions about the border

Unresolved Problems Segment: Interview priest from "America" magazine with my suggestions. Abortion - no. But gotta lighten up on gays, lots of folks in the industry, etc...Not helping your cause here Padre.

Factor Poll Question: Will Pope Benedict XVI be a stand-up guy in the war on terror?
* - this is a joke. I tease the Factor. Remember, don't drink & dumpster dive.

posted by TSO @ 07:20

Pope Benedict XVI's Twenty-Three Minute Honeymoon

NPR is like death and taxes in terms of predictability (though perhaps slightly preferable to the aforementioned; I leave that to you). So the fact that I listened, knowing the predictability, puts the shame on me. Some never learn.

We started with "random" interviews in Cambridge, MA and Los Angeles, CA. (Cue laugh track.) Not surprisingly, we had three folks who were quite disappointed by Ratzinger's appointment and one self-described orthodox Catholic who was enthused.

Worse, this was followed by a five-minute segment with a professor at Boston College (prone to catch phrase theft) who twice reminded us to "keep hope alive". He also reminded us that this was not the end of the story, that Pope Benedict is the 265th Pope but there will be a "266th, a 267th, a 268th, a 269th and so on" who will, presumably, rescue the Church from Catholicism. Not three hours from Habemus Papam and an "expert" from Boston College is already looking past him. It almost ruined my fine mood.

I'm also disappointed by the tone of those who feel the need to do a touchdown dance in the endzone of vanquished progressive opponents. That'll win converts. Anyway it's less the man than the office. We have another Peter!

posted by TSO @ 23:36

April 19, 2005

Journal Excerpts

What a long, strange trip it's been. Cardinal Ratzinger is Pope. What an April to remember. Heard the totemic "Habemus Papam", a phrase I haven't heard in over twenty-five years, a third of a the average life.

The tendency for me as an American is to regard what is foreign as neutral at best and against our interests at worst. So to hear the foreign-sounding words Habemus Papam provides a counterbalance. Because this European who is now pope has some measure of control over me, has some responsibility for me, and protects my interests. "Brothers and sisters" he began. We are family. Hearing the grand words "Habemus Papam" recalls the universality of the Church in a vivid way. Germans, Poles, Africans, Italians, Mexicans, Americans, bonded beyond blood to something higher and infinitely greater.


Oh to retreat to the womb of the library where the air is colored with sun-motes and thick with the scent of bindings and paper and where reassurances live in their seeming permanence on shelves that support like Atlas. The spring sun enters through the west window casting a transforming glow over the rosewood cases, turning their trunks into auburn jewels.

Like a sea maiden calling from the near shore the leather sofa sings as if to trap me in her feathery caress, into which I could slump in sublime comfort and never escape. I mean to retrieve the Ratzinger volumes and consume them in a long text-fest while not missing anything of the hundred television programs that, like Cinderella, will expire at midnight.

posted by TSO @ 23:10

Wir Haben Einen Papst!

Well it's goosebump city isn't it? Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI! The Italian gossip merchants calling him a favorite were correct - whoda thunk it? Marvelous!

Thought we'd get to learn all about someone new. I was all prepared to greed-read everything I could lay my hands on Scola or Arinze or Hummes assuming their election. But I'm already feel so familiar with Cdl Ratzinger that there is a wonderful sense of continuity. And he certainly looked pontifical at the funeral Mass of John Paul II.

He's a wonderful diagnostician. He understands the problem: relativism. Whether he has the remedy is unclear but then popes have been fighting modernism for at least a century. But it is a hopeful sign in that at least he gets it. As someone susceptible to relativism, he's certainly helped me.

His selection was surprising because most of the time the pope that follows a previous one is his opposite. (We see it in presidential elections too - Reagan following Carter, Bush following Clinton.) And yet Cdl Ratzinger was very close to JPII and in many ways very similar.

Stylistically, the former Cardinal seems most different from Pope John Paul II in the area of ecumenism. That might simply be the reflection of his former job, which goes with the territory. And it's obviously hard to be ecumenical when the tenor of the times is relativistic. When the truth is less sought there's less ability to reach out. Regardless, it will be interesting to see the encyclicals. We have yet another intellectually brilliant pope.

UPDATE: from here:

[The new pope] said his "primary task" would be to work to reunify all Christians and that sentiment alone was not enough. "Concrete acts that enter souls and move consciences are needed," he said.

The new pope said he wanted to continue "an open and sincere dialogue" with other religions and would do everything in his power to improve the ecumenical cause.

posted by TSO @ 13:07

Single Word Email from My Wife Said it All:


posted by TSO @ 12:58

Speaking of Changing Times...

Address of a trustee at opening of Miami University in 1823:

Here the ancient wisdom of Greece and Rome, the modern improvements of the arts and sciences, the morals and religion of the sacred scripture, will invite, amuse, improve, and reform the youthful mind.
Well, we still teach arts and sciences.

posted by TSO @ 12:17


The literature on the contemplative life does in fact hold out the promise of some substantial breakthrough after one has been banged around long enough. It suggests that one will enter into a wonderful interior freedom where God is within reach at every moment. The experiences of some mystics do in fact lead one to believe that this has really happened to them. But we have to understand in what sense this is so. Otherwise we may conclude naively that, if only we stick it out, we will turn into a kind of superman or woman towards the last five or ten years of our lives, at which point, nothing will be able to hurt us anymore.

But the longer we live, the more we realize that these wonderful experiences of the mystics only lasted a short time and that in between they were very much like ourselves. Perhaps the first time we read St. Teresa of Avila we do not pay much attention to the fact that her ecstasies lasted only half an hour...There is a great difference between one half hour and the other twenty-three and a half that have to be lived as an ordinary day...If for a few moments, even a half hour, some great graces come our way, they will make the other twenty-three and a half more burdensome. The great monastic fathers never held out a panacea for our spiritual ills in this life. The Christian life, they said, is perfect only in heaven. Anybody who seeks his or her reward in this life is not only going to be disappointed but is on the wrong road.

--Thomas Keating, Trappist monk and author of Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love

posted by TSO @ 21:01

April 18, 2005


Cokie Roberts on "This Week" mentioned that the reason Republicans shouldn't end the filibuster is because sometime they won't be in power and might need to use it.

I find this unpersuasive. I think the argument should be on the merits and not whether it'll be good or bad for Republicans when they're out of power. Because guess what? The so-called nuclear option will be exercised if not now then in the near future because power in politics never goes unexercised, just as money in politics can never be stopped. The reason filibusters are being challenged is the same reason money in politics has exploded: the tremendous power of a branch of the federal government. And because great power (including life and death decision-making) has coalesced in the judiciary, this results (as summer follows spring) in tremendous battles over judges. The actions of usurpatious judges over the past decades have consequences. Giving tremendous power to the federal government has consequences.

End of filibuster.

posted by TSO @ 19:32


Watching Cdl Ratzinger in his role as Dean of Cardinals this week I ask myself the unanswerable question: how much is grace and how much is nature? How much of his poise and self-control is the fruit of his own nature or the famed German love for order, and how much is from the Holy Spirit? Perhaps in the self-forgetfulness of love both give and neither keeps score.

posted by TSO @ 19:04

photo by Pier Paolo Cito of the Associated Press

posted by TSO @ 07:59


This National Geographic project looks interesting. For $99 you can receive a "DNA analysis includes a depiction of your ancient ancestors and an interactive map tracing your genetic lineage around the world and through the ages."

posted by TSO @ 07:16

Author Questions Depression/Creativity Link

Times story on depression:

To be depressed is to occupy the role of rebel and social critic. Depression, in our culture, is what tuberculosis was 100 years ago: illness that signifies refinement.

We idealize depression, associating it with perceptiveness, interpersonal sensitivity and other virtues. Like tuberculosis in its day, depression is a form of vulnerability that even contains a measure of erotic appeal. But the aspect of the romanticization of depression that seems to me to call for special attention is the notion that depression spawns creativity.

Objective evidence for that effect is weak.


The great flowering of melancholy occurred during the Renaissance, as humanists rediscovered the ''Problems.'' In the late 15th century, a cult of melancholy flourished in Florence and then was taken back to England by foppish aristocratic travelers who styled themselves artists and scholars and affected the melancholic attitude and dress. Most fashionable of all were ''melancholic malcontents,'' irritable depressives given to political intrigue. One historian, Lawrence Babb, describes them as ''black-suited and disheveled . . . morosely meditative, taciturn yet prone to occasional railing.''

posted by TSO @ 07:09

Journal Fragments...

A saint, one of the Borgias amazingly (just two generations from the corrupt Borgia popes) once converted from a dissolute lifestyle in an unusual way. He was in a funeral procession for a beautiful woman who'd died, the most beautiful woman in his town, and it happened that an accident dislodged the casket and the body, now partially corrupted, came forth. He was so stunned by this graphic display of how temporary is our beauty is that he gave his life to spiritual pursuits.

I also find it spiritually profitable (if not as profitable as our saint whose name escaped me did) to think on the corruptibility of our flesh. Age is a cruel thing but it really reminded me how meaningless looks are. We're all scarcely separated from being bones.


The tendency to whine is not something limited to moderns, nor obviously to secular types. In the last book of the Old Testament there's the desperation of a people offering sacrifices of decreasing utility and there's the questioning even of God's love: "I have loved you," says the LORD. But you say, "How have You loved us?" (Malachi 1:2). They feel the fatigue of the journey's end: "You also say, 'My, how tiresome it is!' And you disdainfully sniff at it," says the LORD of hosts, "and you bring what was taken by robbery and what is lame or sick; so you bring the offering! Should I receive that from your hand?" says the LORD.

It was to be answered sweetly and resoundingly with Christ and the perfect sacrfice of His Body & Blood in the Eucharist. God will provide, but in His time. The reward comes after the endurance. Malachi 1:11:

For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, my name is great among the nations; And everywhere they bring sacrifice to my name, and a pure offering; For great is my name among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.

My dad's side of the family always seemed infused with mystery while my mom's side seemed to have much less mystery.

Mom's side came to Ohio because a famine in Ireland in 1846 caused our ancestors to choose between death and America. No contest. No mystery why they came.

But with my dad's side it's shadier. We don't know why they left Germany, or even where James Smith came from. He is like Melchizedek - we don't know where he came from or why or when he left. His story is mystery personified.

When I was a kid the film "Roots" got me interested in genealogy. I started, naturally, with my four grandparents and realized if not for the first time how odd it was to have only three living grandparents. As I got older the loss only felt greater because you can know yourself better if you know your parents, and you can know your parents better if you know their parents. And I never knew her. Even her name was foreign to me. While "Margaret" tripped easily off the tongue, I had to remember to pray for "Ruth".

If I respect the dead too much it's because they experience what we only long for - the presence of God. And the dead have the advantage of growing greater in hindsight. But how much greater can someone grow whom I never knew! Hence I imagine Ruth as a bright spot in the heavenly firmament.

posted by TSO @ 07:08

Book Travel

It's interesting sometimes to explore the heritage of old books. I have a 1950s "Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture" with a stamp on the overleaf that says "Convent of Angels / Mt. Angel, Oregon". Via the internet I found its original (or at least earlier) home.

posted by TSO @ 00:15

April 16, 2005

Now playing... friend's uncle's CD. The earthly pleasure derived from their singing "ja, ja, so blau, blau, blau..." can scarcely be underestimated. Their German is pleasant the more so for my not knowing what they're saying, though I can tell by the beat and mood it's a drinkin' song and I can handle the drinkin' if they can handle the song.

They sing like a dream and it strikes a chord, the deep gutturals finding sympathy either with my high school German or my embedded ancestral marrow:

Blau blüht der Enzian

Ja, ja, so blau, blau blau blüht der Enzian
Wenn beim Alpenglühn, wir uns wiederseh'n
Mit ihren o ro ro roten Lippen fing es an
Die ich nie vergessen kann

Wenn des Sonntags früh um viere die Sonne aufgeht
Und das Schweizer Madel auf die Alm 'naufgeht
Bleib ich ja so gern am Wegrand steh'n, ja, steh'n
Denn das Schweizer Madel sang so schön
Holla hia hia holla di holla di ho
Holla hia hia holla di holla di ho
Blaue Blumen dann am Wegrand steh'n, ja, steh'n
Und das Schweizer Madel sang so schön

Ja, ja, so blau, blau blau blüht der Enzian
Wenn beim Alpenglüh'n wir uns wiederseh'n
Mit ihren ro ro ro roten Lippen fing es an
Die ich nie vergessen kann...

posted by TSO @ 00:13

From Richard Neuhaus:

People who are put off by the inevitable maneuverings and counter-maneuverings are lacking a Catholic and incarnational sensibility that is not offended by God's use of very human means to achieve His purposes. This does not mean that a bad pope cannot be elected. There have been more than a few bad popes in the past. The promise is that nobody will be elected who will be able to destroy the Church or betray what Catholics call the deposit of faith. And maybe, please God, he will be another saint.

It is a cliché to say that the Church is not a democracy, but it is a cliché because so many recognize that it is true. There is always the danger of the arrogance and abuse of power, and patterns of consultation and collaboration can always be improved. But those who claimed after the Second Vatican Council that the Church's affirmation of democracy in the secular realm required, for the sake of consistency, the extension of democracy in the governance of the Church were wrong--and they are still wrong. The political sovereign in the temporal and temporary realm is "we the people." Christ is the sovereign of the Church. Of course, if Christ is Lord, he is Lord of all, but only in the Church is his sovereignty institutionalized, so to speak. In everything, and certainly in the choosing of a successor to Peter, the goal is to discern the will of Christ. And that I have no doubt is what is happening--not despite everything, but through everything--during these days in Rome.

posted by TSO @ 16:34

April 15, 2005

Romantic Love vs Charity

Good Touchstone post on romantic love:

Liebst du um Schönheit, o nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Sonne, sie trägt ein goldnes Haar!
Liebst du um Jugend, o nicht mich liebe!
Liebe der Frühling, der jung ist jedes Jahr!
Liebst du um Schätze, o nicht mich liebe!
Liebe die Meerfrau, sie hat viel Perlen klar!
Liebst du um Liebe, o ja, mich liebe!
Liebe mich immer, dich lieb' ich immerdar.
Here the poet tells her lover not to love her for the sake of beauty (love the golden-haired sun instead), for youth (if he would, love the springtime, young every year), worldly goods (love the mermaid, with her many shining pearls). But if, she says, you would love me for love’s sake, then love me forever, as I will love you. The one who would be loved, recognizing that common reasons for attraction are insubstantial or fleeting, wishes to be loved through love’s apotheosis, through love itself.

At this place we touch the very heart of the difference between romantic love and Charity as Christians know it.

posted by TSO @ 10:21


Steven Riddle mentioned on his blog about his recent explorations into country music and how edifying some of the music is, especially Martina McBride's. Here's a sample of lyrics from one of her songs:

I was standing in the grocery store line
The one they marked express
When this woman came though with about 25 things
And I said don't you know that more is less
She said this world is moving so fast
I just get more behind everyday
And every mornin' when I make my coffee
I can't believe my life's turned out this way
All I could say was

Love's the only house big enough for all the pain in the world
Love's the only house big enough for all the pain

posted by TSO @ 10:11

Jonah Goldberg Column

It's surely a case of my juvenile-itis, but I can't help enjoying crass Goldberg variations like this:

Sen. Robert Byrd — that actual former Klansman and towering titan of southern gothic asininity...
Oh yeah, and the arguments he makes are persuasive and worth reading lest you accuse me of posting this only for phrases like "southern gothic asininity".

posted by TSO @ 09:59

Poem found at National Review...


Like chapters of prophecy my days burn, in all the revelations,
And my body between them’s a block of metal for smelting,
And over me stands my God, the Smith, who hits hard:
The wounds that Time has opened in me open their mouths to Him
And release in a shower of sparks the intrinsic fire.

This is my just lot — until dusk on the road.
And when I return to throw my beaten block on a bed,
My mouth is an open wound
And naked I speak with my God:
You worked hard.
Now it is night; come, let us both rest.

posted by TSO @ 09:57

Island of the Blue Mermaids

He burned his notes
for which Matthews praised him
a humble act for a pope
he said.

For different reasons
I'd best burn my notes
and the lines that arch ache
into bosom blossoms,
each nuance chiseled
by the light of lanterns
held to the holy curves of
pistillate flowers.

They haunt the inner drawers
of a former life and gather still
in the ebb-circuits of this machine.

posted by TSO @ 07:49

If Cardinal Ratzinger Became Pope...

...then Christopher's website would have to change and my Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club mug would become a collectible. Lots riding here.

But seriously, I've read where the Cardinal had asked JPII many times for the gift of retirement so that he, a fine theologian, could study the anthropology of original sin. Ironic that he may never get to retire.

I've lately been interested in the prospects of Angelo Scola of Venice, who Richard Neuhaus says was one of three Cardinals our late pontiff said would make a fine pope. (I also heard someone say the Pope predicted Cardinal Arinze would someday have his job.) Concerning Scola Michael Novak writes "[he is] truly brilliant and [a] creative student of the much-beloved theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar".

The suspense builds.

posted by TSO @ 07:36

Read it and Reap

Blogging is a forum predisposed to wits and hysterics, both of whom are very dear to me. (What would the Irish race be without either?) But when I see a post overflowing with wisdom and beauty it feels almost cleansing by contrast. And I'm not the only one to think so.

posted by TSO @ 13:28

April 14, 2005



The etiquette of the Papacy is more democratic than it once was, but the Pope still stands out among world leaders. Consider his wardrobe: Most heads of state could slip into a board meeting, or a banquette at Michael’s, without causing a ripple. Not the Pope. If clothes make the man, then unmodern clothes make an unmodern man...

...(Partisans of both monarchy and democracy sometimes claim that the Holy Spirit guides their systems, but that would take us into theology.)

posted by TSO @ 09:55

Power of the Blog?

I'm sure you've heard about a recent selling on eBay. The good news it was sold to a good guy. The bad news is the $2,000 price tag will just encourage more sacrilege. And theft is what it is - it's intended to be consumed immediately by the receiver. If a doctor gives you a prescription you can't sell it on eBay, right? Unfortunately they sent a lame reply saying that basically we're a worldwide organization and can't worry about what you happen to hold sacred. Well, if enough people write maybe they'll think twice. Contact info here or call 1-800-322-9266 or 1-888-749-3229. Ultimately I think their bottom line has to be perceived as being hurt, which is tough to do given the near monopoly eBay seems to have.

UPDATE: Jimmy Akin thinks silence is golden. He may be right. We'll do worse damage by publicizing it if eBay can't be shamed.

posted by TSO @ 08:53

It's funny how... remember little things our Holy Father taught. I recall reading one of his homilies in which he said the words "Hail, Mary full of grace" could also be translated as "Rejoice! Mary filled with grace" and that you might want to substitute that in your rosary. Which I do sometimes, especially during joyous seasons such as the Easter season.

posted by TSO @ 19:42

April 13, 2005

Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

10 Italians forming a line is a Miracle. 1,000,000 is an abolute act of God. I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it. -- Fr. Todd of "A Son becomes a Father" regarding a possible first miracle towards the canonization of JPII

I can sing as well as Yoko Ono. - Ellyn of Obhouse, which is non-miraculous

The Pope's evident goodness had softened neither the heart nor the hyenic howl of the culture of dissent, which had midwifed the [priest] scandal itself. Something had to be done, something radical and violent. Why didn't he do it? All the while plagued by reservations, admitting that I could not know what was in his mind, that my merciless American fondness for cleaning house might not be the way of purification for a body of believers whose relation to each member of it was, at bottom, mystical. Leave the perpetrators and their protectors to the mercy of secular law, to the humiliation of the faithful's swelling outrage. Dangling in the wind must be most excruciating for those charged with guarding, and leading us down, the path to virtue. The arguments have been made, will be made, but not by me anymore. Is it possible that a man upon whom rests the finger of God might know something I don't? Aside from the victims and their families, is it even conceivable that any of us were more grieved by events than he? -- William Luse of Apologia fame, who grows restless in proportion to the number of weeks that go by sans STG mention. But then what's Touchstone's circulation compared to mine?

Life experiences show us that humans are untrustworthy, and perverting the principle found in the first Letter of John, we say to ourselves, "If I cannot trust what I can see, how can I trust what I cannot see?" The irony is that it is precisely what we cannot see that is most trustworthy. We can be certain that under ordinary circumstances hydrogen will form one bond in which it tends to "lose" an electron. We can pretty much rely upon the Kreb's cycle. When we move from the unseen to the seen, we begin to doubt. - Steven Riddle

And the image of a sword is a fitting one, because the right thing, the thing we’re really made for, often feels like death. My friend Kevin told me that with words, and Jesus told me by substitution. --Sandra McCracken, via Joy of karagraphy

The truth of the Church is like physics. Once you learn a law of physics it is yours forever... it will never change. It's predictable and reliable. The thing that changes, though, is our knowledge and application of that law...There would be no sense in saying, "I hope the new president of PGE will make electricity less shocking" because a man can not change the law and properties of electricity to suit his own needs. Man did, however, learn to adapt his behavior/actions in order to be protected from electric shock. Screw drivers come with rubber handles! The electricity does not change for us but we change for it. - Mary of Ever-New

As a convert, I owe my faith to the Second Vatican Council and the Church which [Pope John Paul II] has led since. --Laurel of "The Dizzy Disciple"

What happened in Poland should give us a lot to think about when it comes to unpooring the poor. Does Christianity, particularly Catholicism, need a class of poor people to keep it going? Do we have an institutional invested interest in material poverty? Is there a theology of living above the poverty level? How does one end poverty without destroying the virtues of the poor? --commenter Caroline on Amy's blog

God's ways do sometimes seem like a "tedious argument of insidious intent." Indeed, from the point of view of the selfish ego, what God asks of us is insidious indeed. We can see the fear and the crisis it causes in the desires of a million people to reform the Church each in their own image... Many do not wish to serve the Church as it is. Many do not desire to serve the truth unless they have first recast it in their own image...I think that the question which has become more pressing and more urgent throughout the last century and into this one, the question that has been prevalent through all of time is "Do you love Me?" The form that this question has taken on more and more is , "Do you trust Me?" - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

Funnily enough, I've been thinking of St. Jerome a lot this week, ever since a Professional Christian(tm) scolding me for running a "mean-spirited" blog. This from a fellow who'd made snide, sarcastic comments about almost everyone and everything for most of the evening... - Kathy Shaidle of "relapsed Catholic"

* * *

Obligatory Disclaimer: Spanning the Globe has become the raison d'etra for many who visit this blog which strikes your proud correspondent, natch, as a case of the tail wagging the dog. But it is as it is. A couple of notes:

We (meaning the crack staff here at VMPDS) accept submissions, which must be double-spaced using Times New Roman Catholic font

STG reflects an extremely non-representative sampling of St. Blog's and as the number and quality of blogs grow, the disparity between what should be quoted and what does also grows. The omission of something you wrote pains me nearly as much as it pains you. Almost anyway. In theory.

Payment accepted in American dollars, yen, or doubloons. Make checks out to me. Prayers always needed.

Opinions of quoted author do not necessarily reflect opinion of blog owner, except in Alaska and Hawaii and where otherwise inhibited.

posted by TSO @ 13:47

Blessed Margaret

Today is the feast of Blessed Margaret of Castello, who was born a blind, lame, deformed, hunchback midget. Her story is particularly important because she exposes our modern sins, such as those against chastity. Chastity includes not just moderation of our sexual desires but also protects against judging someone based on looks. Seeing an attractive women gives me pleasure but I wish that pleasure reflex was more connected to attractiveness of soul. Blessed Margaret had a face not even her mother could love but her worth was beyond compare.

Her mother and father left her for dead. She was, in a way, the Terri Schiavo of her time but with parents in the role of husband Michael. The trust Blessed Margaret had even though she had no human trust on which to base it reasonates. I have parents and loved ones far superior to hers but less trust in God. She is a powerful role model.

Most of the apparitions of Mary present a beautiful virgin and this is surely to represent the inner beauty of soul outwardly. Yet the most affecting of the apparitions in a way is Our Lady of Guadalupe because she condescended to present herself as less beautiful (if only to American-Western European eyes), her mix of Indian and Spanish features appealing to those of that time and culture. Looking at Our Lady of Guadalupe I see someone trying to get through to us - trying to make us see the love God has for us - and that is beautiful wherever it is encountered because it gives hope.

A saint, one of the Borgias amazingly (just two generations from the corrupt Borgia popes) once converted from a dissolute lifestyle in an unusual way. He was in a funeral procession for a beautiful woman who'd died, the most beautiful woman in his town, and it happened that an accident dislodged the casket and the body, now partially corrupted, came forth. He was so stunned by this graphic display of how temporary our our beauty is that he gave his life to spiritual pursuits.

posted by TSO @ 12:46

Graham Greene

A rich and sympathetic discussion of the writer in the latest Crisis. Well worth reading!

posted by TSO @ 09:57

This Just In...

The Flannery O'Connor blog and News You Can't Use blog have been updated.

posted by TSO @ 09:28

Poem Fragments

your grasp is frail
on the edge of the sand-hill,
but you catch the light--
frost, a star edges with its fire.

* * *
dusty feet
sink in soft drift of pine
and anodyne
of balm and fir and myrtle-trees
and cones
drift across weary brows
and the sea-foam
marks the sea-path
where no sea ever comes;
islands arise where never islands were,
crowned with the sacred palm
or odorous cedar;
waves sparkle and delight
the weary eyes
that never saw the sun fall in the sea
nor the bright Pleiads rise.
- Hilda Doolittle

posted by TSO @ 15:50

April 12, 2005


Jeff Childer's conversion/re-conversion story, which I excerpted awhile back, is online now.

posted by TSO @ 15:34

Blogging Abhors a Vacuum.

...and excellent reflections from m'Lynn of Scattershot Directly.

posted by TSO @ 10:01

Spam Poetry - manufactured with 100% spam by volume, with only punctuation and other liberties taken

Is easier this time

Is easier this time
Hello, Do You.
Want to spend Less
on your medicattions?
by mail shop

posted by TSO @ 09:13


Seeing the sun in Central Ohio is a bit like receiving a celebrity. Everybody comes out of their houses to see what's up.

But I think the sun's a bit of a scold, a bit uptight for my tastes. She's moving westward as if on a schedule. She must be an Anglo-Saxon, one of the cold people who looks on pleasure with suspicion and too eagerly consults her watch.

Ach but there's... sun. music. beer. My bet is that all three mean temporal bliss. Two out of three and you're in business. And if only one? Take the sun.

My uncle is in his upper 50s now and every winter grows worse for him. He finds winter a bitter pill and less endurable each year. He vows a yearly January vacation as is the rage among the comfortably retired, although he's not of that set yet. Seasonal affective disorder means never having to say you're sorry for winter vacations.

I find his attitude worrisome in that I recognize the pattern: as you age winters age even less gracefully. Though it does appeal to one's pride: 'if they can't do it, I can!'. Make it a competition and guys will kill themselves to prove their worth. It's in our DNA.

I've of two minds on the winter. One is that that which does not kills us makes us stronger. I romantically imagine that winters toughen and will help prepare for illness and old age. After all, hedonism seems poor training for aging, hardship or Christian virtue. But sometimes I wonder if you can train for hardship. It requires the grace of God and difficulties may weary you without improvement. As the mutual fund prospecti say, current hardships do not guarantee future endurance.

But on to brighter subjects. Tis no time to worry, not on this warm sunny day with the sun playing Beethoven on my skin. My mind goes to sea cruises in sailboats in the blue Carribbean...As Kenny Chesey sings:

Sun tanned toes ticklin the sand
Cold drink chillin in my right hand...
This old guitar and my dark sunglasses
This sweet concoction is smooth as molasses
Nothing to do but breathe all day...

posted by TSO @ 19:00

April 11, 2005

Zeitgeists 'R Us

Depressing Times article discusses how Justice Harry Blackmun came to be Mr. Roe v. Wade. The general impression is that Blackmun was a zephyr carried by the Zeitgeist, making up the grounds for abortion-on-demand as he went along. The Constitution is scarcely ever even mentioned; it's all about Blackmum's feelings. He begins with sympathy for doctors and ends with sympathy for women's rights, but never do we catch a glimpse of sympathy for a child in the womb:

For Blackmun, who had spent nine years as general counsel to the Mayo Clinic and who held the medical profession in high regard, state laws that criminalized abortion were indeed troublesome -- not, particularly, because they interfered with the rights of women but because they put doctors at risk for using their best judgment in treating their pregnant patients.
Sanctioning the murder of innocents to avoid putting doctors "at risk". You just can't make that up.

posted by TSO @ 12:10

Well Worth Reading

Once upon a midday dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious Goldberg link of lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my office door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my cubical door -
Only this, and nothing more.'...
That was the start of my Poe-inspired "The Corner" poetry contest entry....And speaking of Jonah Goldberg (your cue to drink, if you're drinking at every awkward segue) our Jewish friend is more of a Catholic apologist than most Catholics. It's a sign of his skill that he can take what we already know and make it interesting.

posted by TSO @ 09:26

Lightning Round

I'm just not understanding the Google map craze. I mean all you can see is tiny specks that represent the roofs of houses. Show me the whole house and I'll be impressed.

A stripjoint here in Columbus has an American flag out front that is flying at half-mast in honor of the pope.

No comment.

Watched a Western over the weekend called "Monte Irvin" starring Tom Selleck and Isabella Rosselini. And it was painful to watch Isabella's character because she was so relentlessly loving towards someone obviously undeserving. In fact, Selleck's character was a basic jerk for whom the significance of her feelings approached zero. But by the end of the film he eventually learned to love in part due to her example.

Still, if Isabella's character was off-putting how much more would be God, who loves unconditionally. The irony of my thirst for justice is that the disparity between our love for God and God's love for us is much larger than that between the characters played Rosselini & Selleck.

posted by TSO @ 20:43

April 10, 2005

How the Byzantine Catholic Liturgy Saves My Life

It's sung
with little time for negativity
no silences to fill
with the self-recriminations
preaching sows.

We are asked to leave
all earthly cares behind
and that is bliss
for those who follow instructions.

Gradually, repeated touches
ease defenses, soften the eyes
and I'm surprised
because I didn't know
that my eyes needed softening.

Liturgy is untensing
unclenching if you let yourself go
make the mental connections
His Blood, His Pledge
a wellspring for thanks and praise.

posted by TSO @ 17:08

Prince of Darkness Sees the Light

Pretty cool to see Robert Novak air his conversion story on CNN's Capital Gang. He's known around D.C. as the "prince of darkness", hence the title of this post. I've heard Capital Gang will be ending its long run this summer, so it's nice ol' Bob is going out with a bang by talking about the things that matter most.

posted by TSO @ 20:15

April 9, 2005

Ireland We Hardly Know Ye

Shelby Foote once wrote concerning James Joyce that if the "Jesuitical strain" is improperly administrated it results in its direct opposite - a militant pagan.

So it's so sad to see that the country of Ireland is going the way of Joyce. Mass attendence in the Emerald Isle is in a free fall and is now below 50%. CNN reported that the President of Ireland couldn't muster a national day of mourning for the Pope due to concerns about effects on the businesses. How ironic is that? A Pope that spoke out against materialism is failed to be honored because of the effect on the bottom line. And this from a country called the "Celtic Tiger" for its strong economy. It seems the relationship of faith to wealth is so knee-jerk inversely proportional that it makes you want to despair. It would be laughable if it wasn't so serious. The landscape in Ireland may be beautiful, but the people are losing what made them beautiful. This is one tourist who is losing his desire to return.

posted by TSO @ 20:07

JPII's Day

"Regrets..I've had a few..."...I feel sheepish that I watched the Holy Father's funeral on tape this morning instead of getting up at 4am to watch it live as apparently some did. But am more regretting I didn't see the Pope in '99 when he came to St. Louis. Sometimes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is not an exaggeration.

Saw Jacques Chirac sitting near President Bush and I reacted as most of the world probably did - with revulsion towards either one or the other (I'm sure you can guess which for me). But then I realized how proper the Pope be a peacemaker in death and how great a thing for Clinton, the Bushes and Chirac and company to be there. I feel closer to JPII now than when he was alive here on earth. He seems more accessible now, and well he is.

Have been making my way through the backlog of papal television programming. Was disappointed by Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" which was totally outclassed (for once) by George Stephanopoulos's "This Week". "This Week" devoted a decent portion of the broadcast to clips from the Pope's trips to America and how wonderful it was to hear him - it's like going back in time and listening to St. Paul speaking to the Corinthians. I wish there were a DVD available of all his American talks.

posted by TSO @ 13:08

April 8, 2005


Some commentators are laying the problems such as the lack of Mass attendance in America and Europe at the pope's door.

But how "on the hook" can/should a pope be for such things? We all have free will. Could he have forced us to go to church even though coercing didn't fit easily with his respect for personhood? And I'm not sure coercing worked very well when it involved attempting to extract a pledge of loyalty to the Magisterium from professors at Catholic universities (as was done in Ex Corde Ecclesiae). Where there's a will to be unfaithful, there's a way. Unfortunately.

I'm not saying he couldn't or shouldn't have done anything differently. But at the same time I ponder our Lord's difficulties with respect to his own people. And how He wondered if there would even be faith in the world when he comes again.

posted by TSO @ 13:34

April 7, 2005

Prudential Faith

One of the things interesting in the Pope's final days and in his last will and testament, released today, is how he personally struggled with the tension between the virtue of prudence and faith. That seems a tough line to decipher - am I presuming upon God or am I simply allowing his will be done? The Pope had to discern God's will and trust that he would not become mentally incapicated, lapse into a coma for a long period, or in some other way fail to function as pope without a successor. Perhaps contingencies were made, but when and if he had to resign was on his mind. It'll surely continue to be a thorny issue for popes as we go forward, in part due to modern medicine making deaths and declines more lengthy than in the past.

posted by TSO @ 10:17

High-larity Ensues

Watched NBC's "The Office" last night and it was hilarious. The original British show was funny too, if a bit darker & more bitter. Last night's episode shows the manager delegating the choosing of a health care plan to an employee. This employee asks other employees write down the medical conditions they want covered, anonymously, and some of the illnesses included: "Count Choculitis" & "inverted penis". Just laugh out funny, especially in the delivery.

posted by TSO @ 09:08


I once received a flame email from a fellow St. Blogger who obviously considers herself an elitist, and who longed to instruct me whether I wanted to be instructed or not. She'd disapproved of a quiz I'd written about books and said that I was a middlebrow and that basically I should know my place. And it stung as the truth often does. But I recently read something in Myles Connolly's "Mr. Blue" that was interesting and somewhat consoling in regards to posing:

Most of us like to pose. And most of us when we pose are found out. And most of us, accordingly, suffer. Yet there is something to be said for posing. All poses reveal imagination. Some reveal vanity, to be sure, and some reveal humility. Every poseur does not deserve the black name of hypocrite. We meet a man who is playing at being hero or saint. The man may be tired of himself. He may know in his heart that he is not so good or great as he might be. His pose is an attempt at nobility. We laugh at him. But we are laughing at ourselves. It is because most of us are such poseurs to ourselves that we so readily find a poseur out.

posted by TSO @ 15:07

April 6, 2005

The Sweet Taste of Powerlessness

The beautiful thing about the coming election - the election of a new pope - is we don't have to do a thing a single thing except pray. We don't have to knock on doors to persuade people to vote for our candidate, or donate money to a campaign, or endure misleading television ads, or write letters to the editor. The College of Cardinals are immune to pressure of Sixty Minutes. The Holy Spirit even more so, who will take care of it all. It feels so....restful.

And what of those who worry that the Church will split if the new pontiff doesn't allow women or married priests or gay marriage? Then, que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. I'm going down with the barque! There's nothing so heady as a lost cause, especially one in which we know the cause is not lost but has already been won!

posted by TSO @ 13:28

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

For at least a couple more weeks, we're all sedevacantists. As of this afternoon, the chair of Peter really is vacant.- John of "The Inn at the End of the World"

[The Pope's] magnificent encyclicals are beautiful minglings of heart and head knowledge, heart and head love. As a result they are not always satisfying to those who demand a rigorous logic in their approach to theology--there is entirely too much reliance upon metaphor and analogy for their comfort. Further, they tend to be disconcerting to those who want to love without thinking about it; the Pope demands a certain intellectual rigor to be understood. His actions, many of them criticized during his reign show the same dichotomy. There are a great many who criticized the liturgy for the canonization of St. Juan Diego because so many native dancers and rituals were incorporated into the Mass. And yet, it is the heart that became briefly ascendant there with the consent of the head acknowledging the individual differences in cultures. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

He took office when I was about eight, and to me he was always just there, like the Empire State Building. - Camassia, on the pope

Americans make up something like 6 percent of the Roman Catholics on the planet, so what our polls say is not all that significant. If the Church reacts to those statistics at all (and I wish the Church would), it will be to explain to the afore-mentioned Episcopalians that they are Episcopalians. Seriously. -Karen Hall of "Some Have Hats"

With our tradition in Chicago of dead people voting, one wag said that the entire Communion of Saints would be voting in the next Papal election. - commenter on Amy's blog

When I was a Protestant, John Paul II helped to give me a hunger for Catholicism. As a Lutheran (WELS) Sunday School teacher, I once believed that the pope was the Antichrist. But then I saw John Paul II on television during his visit to Denver, heard him give a beautiful Christian homily, and concluded that if the pope was really the Antichrist, he wasn't a very good one. - Jeff Culbreath of Hallowed Ground

Girl Disappointed in Love
--Karol Wotyla, Bishop of Krakow

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits--
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love---
why don't you see?
The human heart--what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.
- via Steven Riddle

Much of the coverage we are seeing on the cable networks has been wonderful, and much of it is very good, still. But we are seeing, now, little things, like Chris Matthews screaming at a young priest that celibacy is (basically) stupid (how come Buddhists never have to deal with that crap? Everyone calls them enlightened! ). - the Anchoress

What a perfect group of people for me to be with when Mama T got the sad call that the pope had died. We were in a restaurant but it was as if we were in a soundproof bubble. Nothing else existed except the four of us and our shared, mingled sadness and joy. Tears flowed and we clasped hands and shared prayer together for our pope and our church. What an odd "coincidence" for us to be together to share that moment ... as if I believed in coincidence. In fact, my husband has said three times that he still can't believe how odd it was that I was with those St. Blog's parishioners at that time (and he doesn't repeat himself like that). - Julie of Happy Catholic

Just saw Chris Matthews on MSBNC - bawling again. Is there a reporter on television who cries as much as Chris? He's such a sloppy, sentimental Irishman! :-) I can say that, being a sloppy, sentimental Irish woman! - the blogger at Anchoress

posted by TSO @ 10:18

Saul Bellow Died

I loved Ravelstein, his last novel. From the Times:

Throughout Mr. Bellow's life, his approach to his art was that of an alien newly arrived on earth: "I've never seen the world before. Now I was seeing it, and it's a beautiful, marvelous gift. Enchanting reality! And when the end came, I was told by the cleverest people I knew that it would all vanish. I'm not absolutely convinced of that..."

posted by TSO @ 08:05


Watched Sixty Minutes from Sunday night and our friend Rev. Richard McBrien was front and center. So was a guy from the Catholic liberal America magazine ("Commonweal" got a mention too).

Oh it was artfully done. Nothing too outrageous. McBrien is so jocular he could sell ice to Eskimos. And 90% of Catholics don't know America from Crisis from Touchstone. And the scene where McBrien chides Morley Safer for being too pious is classic Sixty Minutes. The innocent reporter surprised by an insider. Well-done, at least as theatre.

The unmistakable sense in the segment called "The Priests of John Paul" was that these young priests for Pope John Paul are cultic and scary, and it featured a seminarian who, not surprisingly, was neither photogenic nor articulate. And the emphasis was how radical the Pope's (and these seminarian's) beliefs were, rather than how radical modernity's ideas are.

But could you imagine an alternate universe where Sixty Minutes does a story on the large numbers of homosexuals running the seminaries (known coloquially as the "lavendar mafia") and depicting them as cultic and scary to those in the pews? I certainly can't. No way.

Of course the story of Christianity in the world is that if you're doing it right you're going to be ridiculed. Or misrepresented. Or, heaven help us, worse.

posted by TSO @ 07:49

Is é Íosa an Bheatha [Jesus is the Life]

There is something elegiac, almost atavistic about a picture of a shepherd being carried by the flock. It shakes us out of our complacency and wakes us from our sloth.

It's also heartbreaking to see he who is so strong made weak, and weakness is never made more visible than in death.

The scene reminds me of how Christ died that we might live, how he became man that we may become as God. This sense of taking another's role reminds me of a beautiful Irish tune that goes:

O Bridget Donahue, I really do love you,
Although I'm in America, to you I will be true;
And Bridget Donahue, I'll tell you what we'll do --
Just take the name of Patterson, and I'll take Donahue.

posted by TSO @ 18:32

April 5, 2005


Updating my other blog, News You Can't Use.

posted by TSO @ 16:33

Memories of the Washington Administration

I recently won a Blogspot contest that granted me a meeting with our first President. After some initial pleasantries, here is what transpired:

GW: Why do you write in dis...'blog? (Ed. Note: why do I want to make heem zound French?)

Me: Purely for love of the adverb.

GW: Dr. Johnson suggests using adverbs sparingly.

Me: Sparingly indeed. So, what is your general (pun intended, gotta keep it hoppin' here Mr. President) opinion of the direction our nation is going?

GW: Not good. Most of us up here are frankly appalled at the power of the judicial branch. There was no intention at the founding for the Judicial branch to decide moral issues any more than we wanted King George to do so. The court has substituted a jury of nine kings for what was a jury of one. In our time the Supreme Court would've found slavery unconstitutional which might've caused a civil war and in our weakened state allowed Great Britain to resume her rule over us. Mr. Jefferson was asked to remove his clause about freedom applying to the slaves too for precisely that concern. Regardless, the Judicial branch has no more right to determine moral virtues than the eldest of Jesse's sons had right to claim Samuel's annointing.

Me: Right on, Mr. President. Thank you for your time.

posted by TSO @ 09:20

Various & Sundry

I want to get personalized license plates that say "if you have personalized plates then you have too much money" but I'm having trouble fitting it into seven letters.

Alex Sanchez must've missed the news lately. And that happens. Does he know we're in Iraq?

The Cincinnati Reds are in first place.

Sigh. Boy we wish we were too (created by Jeff Miller).

posted by TSO @ 09:06

Personal Impressions II

The pope coverage was oceanic and it bothered me that I couldn’t be everywhere at once; I constantly felt like I might be missing something. But I didn’t. I “got it”. I got the simple, stark beauty of God taking him in such a telling way: following on the heels of the first Holy Week he couldn’t attend after a long illness that somehow felt exactly long enough*, and just after the vigil Mass of the Divine Mercy, the beloved feast he gave the Universal Church and which, like much of what he gave us, we ignored. (How many parishes celebrate it the way it should?) The ending was storybook, a touch of “The Natural”, God's gentle probing of the wounds which so wound us today: our death-fear of suffering and our strange allergy to Divine Mercy. Yet subtly but surely He poured out a teaching medicine in the end of our pope's life.

The networks all went to live coverage beginning Friday night because the Vatican had admitted the gravity of the Holy Father’s situation. That never happens. The Vatican always puts a mild face on papal illnesses and never cries wolf. So the news divisions kicked into overdrive. But the Pope stubbornly lived on into the wee hours of Saturday morning and the on-air types wondered whether he’d already died and the Vatican was waiting till morning for greater publicity. Maybe God and not the Vatican was arranging greater publicity because Saturday morning came Rome time and there was no announcement. Then Saturday morning New York time and there was no announcement.

There was the oddity that he was dying and he wasn’t going to hospital and I felt cheered by it, by his desire to die at home (or at least in his papal apartment) and there was the sense that he navigated well over the rough terrain: avoiding both the mountains of dehumanizing medical procedures that prolong life by a matter of hours but also the valley culture of death that would deny a brain-damaged woman a feeding tube.

Finally, around 3:30pm I heard the news on the radio while going to pick up some food and I'd wished I could have heard it when it happened. I wanted to turn around and head back home immediately to see if I could pick up the announcement via Tivo (which automatically tapes the previous thirty minutes). But that wasn't what was important. What was was a bishop speaking for us all when he said that "we all feel like orphans now". I'd lost the earthly Papa who was looking out for my spiritual welfare an ocean away.

* - His suffering was long enough to get the attention of the least attentive while at the same time showing his resiliancy and endurance. Like a fighter who got knocked down over and over, he kept getting up.

posted by TSO @ 16:23

April 4, 2005

Le' Blogatory Backlash

I see some secular-minded bloggers heavily resenting that the Pope received as much attention as he has. The coverage does seem chivalrous given our irreverent age and of this backlash I can't say I'm surprised. But the media is good at building up and then tearing down, so if the non-believers are patient within a couple weeks the MSM will be tearing him down.

MSNBC, which is by far my favorite network (though I do regularly watch O'Reilly), is in a bit of a no-win situation. Many on the left and right have already retreated to media bunkers: NPR or NRO, CNN or FOX. I once thought that media ghettos were a big mistake but now I'm more sanguine about it. Life's too short to have to deal with a news source that you can't trust or is not concerned about what you are concerned about. Life's also too short to be reading purveyors of hate but then see my blog title.

posted by TSO @ 13:41

Times Change...

Our ancestors dug canals in order to save enough money to buy a patch of farmland in order to eke out enough of a living to put food on the table and to help build a church in which their children would worship and Catholic schools in which they could be educated....Now we finance the schools by providing bingo in one of the few smoking venues left in Columbus. Go figure.

posted by TSO @ 12:15

Reviews Whilst Sick

Finally caught a cold last week, after going all winter cold-free. It's always darkest just before the dawn.

I ill spent my illness I’m afraid. Although that does sound oxymoronic. I laid down and watched all of “Lawrence of Arabia” which led to a bit of curiosity about T.E. Lawrence. I read an encyclopedia entry about him. He seemed a daredevil but what made him tick? Did he really die in a motorcycle accident after the war? How like Patton this sounded. Both took enormous risks in war only to die in the vehicle accidents in the safety of peace.

I did profitably watch the “Passion of Joan of Arc”, a 1928 silent film. It was pretty good if only for the excerpts from the transcript of her trial. Enjoyed seeing when and where she made those comments that seemed to twist her persecutors in knots, so like Christ did of the Pharisees who were constantly trying to trap him. Some of the faces were positively Fellini-like. Very odd and memorable. The film certainly lived up to the title – she was depicted as having something similar to Christ’s passion. Even to being mocked by wearing a faux crown and scepter. And the feeling of being forsaken leading her to sign a confession.

Also watched “I Dream of Jeannie” and “The Munsters” which are the sort of sticky confection that go so well with sickness. Both were wonderful. I can’t imagine watching “The Munsters” healthy. I just can’t slow my mind and body sufficiently to do something so wasteful and in the moment. Sad.

But what I really wanted to do was read. After the last Walker Percy read there’s a real hole in my reading artillery. I can’t find anything lyrical and consolatory. Although I do have that Iris Murdoch book. Maybe I could try Proust. Instead I was reading about a woman reading Proust. Two degress of separation kind of thing, which isn't the same. Accept only original sources.

posted by TSO @ 12:11

JP II Links & Comments

His encyclicals can be purchased here... Dives in Misericordia (Divine Mercy) and Ut Unum Sint (That All May Be One) are the two I haven't read but desire to.

His last message on Divine Mercy and possibly his last words.

I was a teen when he was elected and I recall being disappointed he took the name "John Paul II" since it suggested a lack of creativity - we just had a John Paul, if only for a month. That obviously doesn't say much for my maturity level and becomes hysterical in hindsight because to attribute to him a lack of orginality would prove so absurdly false. True freedom and creativity come paradoxically in following God. George Stephanopoulos reported that in his last moments the Pope asked that Psalm 119 be read, and in it contains the key to his life:
I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free.

posted by TSO @ 09:45

Our Pastor's Sermon

Our pastor was upset by what he heard on CNBC over the weekend, saying that the world does not "get" it in seeing the papacy purely in political terms: (a paraphrase)

The Pope was a figure of interest not because he was his celebrity but because he is the St. Peter that God has given us, and to hope that the next pope will change doctrine is to miss the point of everything. The papacy is the embodiment of Christ risking Himself in the Church, making himself vulnerable by putting Himself in the hands of humans...The crucifix is another embodiment of His showing that he will become vulnerable to us and put himself in our hands, as he does today literally in the Eucharist.

posted by TSO @ 11:38

April 3, 2005

From Dallas News writer Rod Dreher:

As you know, the two Marian events/devotions to which John Paul was most committed, and most identified, were the Divine Mercy, and Fatima. The Church's celebration of the feast of Divine Mercy began at sundown today, the First Saturday (cf. Our Lady of Fatima's request) of April. Because he died after sundown in Rome but before midnight, he passed on the one sliver of time in the entire year -- maybe even in years, given that Easter is not on a fixed date -- when both Fatima and Divine Mercy intersect.
Even in the timing of his death the pope teaches.

posted by TSO @ 07:38

Personal Impressions

I was so surprised, despite his long illness, when Reuters errantly reported news on Friday that he had died for it seemed this pope always survives close calls. But so it soon was, with the wonderful homage playing out on every television screen in the world. What a longing I felt to be there in St. Peter's square on Friday night, a place that is more like home than home.

The first time I was personally influenced by him I think was in reading his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope around 1994. I remember thinking, "my gosh, he's not like other popes is he?". We tend to forget now how odd it sounded to hear that the "pope has a book out". My impression of popes (I'm not old enough to remember John XXIII) was that they were formal and distant and wrote only dense encyclicals, not popular works like this. Taking questions from just an average person seemed a very democratic thing to do and was obviously appealing to me, an average person living in a democracy. It seemed to show a liveliness, an openness and a willingness to take chances that was very appealing. And of course the substance of the book was greatly educational for me and prepared the ground for my reversion. Many of the questions the interviewer asked I had always wondered about.

* * *

Billy Graham was one of my favorite evangelists during the 70s. I loved his books and would tune in to his revivals on television. And so to hear him praising the Pope on Larry King warms my heart because it connects two figures who have influenced me. But the connections go beyond the personal - they both have lived long, good lives and have had to undergo suffering at the end. They both were telegenic and charismatic but firm with regard to standards. And both were criticized for reaching out too far ecumenically. I've listened to radio shows highly critical of Billy Graham for his closeness to the Pope and for suggesting that Muslims and others who don't profess Christ might be saved. And the Pope has been criticized for some of his outreach by some Traditionalists. The Pope took his hand and called him a brother at their first meeting and that is an apt characterization.

* * *

I'm really surprised by the secular media coverage, which was as respectful as it was extensive. It began to look like EWTN sometimes. Being able to see the viewing of the Pope was special. His death becomes manifest when you see him lying down, hands clasping a rosary and head propped up by pillows. I wonder if coverage will be extensive for a pope's death a fifty years from now. My hunch is no, but a Church the size of over a billion is hard to ignore.

posted by TSO @ 17:13

April 2, 2005

posted by TSO @ 11:16

God Bless Pope John Paul

The last battle continues. I'm surprised and gratified by the wall-to-wall press coverage the Holy Father is receiving on the cable channels (I've been watching MSNBC). Much of the coverage is even positive; I've witnessed holy priests speaking the truth. Coming on the heels of Terri's death, this is a holy synchronicity, even more so than Mother Teresa's coming so soon after Princess Di's.

* * *

Two Saints

Before their passings we were
already wrung-out, hung-out,
news-shocked at the brevity of life:
the ground was tilled.

Befitting still
that the princess preceded Teresa
and the defenseless John Paul,
mother teaching beauty
with poverty
father teaching strength
with weakness.

posted by TSO @ 10:59

Mr. Blue Excerpt:

I told him I was willing to try to love a villain but that I could not arouse any affection for a mere annoyance, an irremediable nobody. "I think I could love a lion," I said, "but I doubt very much if I ever could love a mosquito."

He regarded me seriously. "You consider yourself too much," he returned. "You could love a great enemy. Any healthy man could. Men have boasted that they were to be slain by Caesar. But one needs more than vanity to love a...a...what you call a mosquito."

He meant, I suppose, that I needed special graces in charity and fortitude.

- Myles Connolly

posted by TSO @ 09:41

April 1, 2005


I've always enjoyed Jonah Goldberg's ability to turn a phrase. He's the proto-blogger, the John Belushi of the Animal House that is blogdom. A recent line:

Just for the record, I've found British lefties to be just as capable as American lefties of performing pirouettes of hysterical jackassery.

A minor rhetorical masterpiece. First there's the aliteration of "performing pirouettes" nicely balanced by the similar syllabic weight of "hysterical jackassery". But what makes the whole sentence is the ending crescendo of "jackassery", a word my wife and I shared a fine, if unrefined, laugh over.

posted by TSO @ 09:20


Roz relays a fine commentary on hope:

A friend of mine had a sign in his room which said, 'Don’t worry. It might not happen.' I composed another for him which said, 'Don’t worry. It probably will happen. But it won’t be the end of the world.'

I tend to tense up when I watch the agony in the garden scene of "The Passion of the Christ", the one where Jesus has to make a decision to resist the temptation of the devil. Even knowing the outcome it is hard to watch given how much was riding. I get a flavor of this too during the Joyful Mysteries when thinking about how Mary's fiat changed the course of the world.

That's the thing: that so much was riding. That burden. And I try to take that burden by putting myself in their places and wonder if I will succeed or fail, even though that is not the right mindset of a Christian. The right mindset is: we have already won! How can I be truly grateful for what Jesus accomplished and still think that everything is on my shoulders? I can't. The gratitude that comes from celebration for His victory is that His fruits will be conferred to you, instead of a tensing up in consideration of whether we will follow Our Lord's and Lady's example.

posted by TSO @ 09:17

What He Said II

Steven Riddle offers a fine prayer for the Holy Father.

posted by TSO @ 09:14


I'm reading the fascinating book "Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class" by Ross Douthat, causing me to reminisce...

Harvard. The mere word connoted a magisterial sense that appealed to my young brain. After all, it was the best and why bother with anything less? What is interesting in mediocrity?

Its rich, arterial crimson seemed to denote its excellence, a dream land where there were castles and kings and moats about which crews sculled. Crimson was the cloth of regents and the color of blood, the fluid that sustains earthly and spiritual life, and Cambridge was the first vacation trip I took after getting a real job in the summer of '86. It was to the great Widener Library I first repaired, the beating, bookish heart that fed the far-flung campus.

There was nothing anti-climatic in the trip because I was young and easily impressed. Small things mattered for I was an innocent; it was enough to sit in a Harvard study carol (I'd brought the Greeks in translation to read) or to see students in their natural environs.

I bought a T-shirt at the Co-op endowed with the simplicity only class confers - the unadorned letters "Harvard" across a vast maroon backdrop. For the maker to have embellished the letters or added flourishes would've only gotten in the way of the simplicity of the message. Weeks later I wore it on the dance floor of a dive in Columbus that served beer by the bucket. A young woman came up to me, her eyes large, asking, "did you really go to Harvard?" Apparently I wasn't alone in seeing the mystical where none existed.

College was like a life. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. There were four years, or seasons, at the end of which you felt like a spent salmon who had head-rushed upstream hoping to spawn a Latin phrase of praise on the diploma. We were drunk on nostalgia that last month, trying to absorb every detail from this Land soon Lost, trying to make sense of it all.

Update: Therese Z of Exultet shares an amusing anecdote via email:

"You remind in your Harvard article of when I (fresh out of college and easily impressed) worked for DePaul University (that "Catholic" college) and I had to call colleges all over the country to get information and transcripts. I called them and the operator answered "HAH-vuhd" with a chilly lilt on the first syllable. I was so enchanted that I called back a few minutes later just to hear her say it again, then hung up."

posted by TSO @ 08:59

No Tasing, but Dehydration OK

Was listening to a radio show yesterday and they were discussing how protest groups are asking that police not use tasers. One person said, "can't they use nets?". Ah yes, the old net gun. Didn't Batman have one of those?

I'm impressed by the compassion some of my fellow citizens have. For all the derogatory things we say about our time in some areas there have been remarkable strides made. But it is surreally selective.

It's as if there is the huge wellspring of compassion that is suppressed in certain areas and so comes welling out in the less likely places such as pain-free guarantees for those resisting arrest. But what is surprising is how there is no prioritization, no sense of proportion. Witness Terri Schiavo. Witness babies, for whom the womb used to be the safest place in the world but now is the deadliest. I was thinking maybe it's part and parcel of the democracy experience which teaches that every "body" (including animals and criminals) are entitled to total equality and that hierarchies of any kind are to be shunned, but that wouldn't explain the lack of sympathy for unborn babies. Rev. Sharpton on O'Reilly the other night could not offer the least bit for a baby eight months in the womb. It's still strikes me as odd at how illogical today's compassion appears. On the other hand, passions often aren't all that logical.

posted by TSO @ 08:12