September 30, 2002

To live of love, ‑what foolishness she sings!"
   So cries the world. "Renounce such idle jov!
Waste not thy perfumes on such trivial things.
   In useful arts thy talents now employ!"
To love Thee, Jesus! Ah, this loss is gain;
   For all my perfumes no reward seek I.
Quitting the world, I sing in death's sweet pain:
Of love I die!"
- Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Saint Thérèse - Pray for us!

Mother Teresa was always quick to point out that she was named not for the great St. Teresa of Avila, but the little St.Thérèse of the Little Flower.
Question appropriated from the Livelywriter site:

I don't watch the television show "Survivor," but I did notice they allow each contestant to bring one "luxury item" to the deserted island with them (make-up, a book, etc.). If you were to go to an island for three months, what five "luxury items" would you bring and why?

I'll slightly modify this to what ten books I would bring...

1) Bible (NSRV or New King James...I love the Jerusalem Bible but for the Psalms).
2) Catechism
3) Shakespeare Complete Works
4) "Civil War: A Narrative" - Foote
5) an anthology of poetry
6) "More Matter" - John Updike
7) "Confessions" - Augustine
8) "Habit of Being" - by Flannery O'Connor
9) "Dawn to Decadence" - Barzun
10) William Carrol's History of Christendom
11) Don Quixote - Cervantes
12) "My Cousin, my Gastrinolgist" - Lehner (just kidding!)

I would like to bring something funny by David Lodge...Actually I could probably get by with the four food groups of literature (history, humor, a novel, & spiritual):
Cervantes for humor and novel, Bible for the spiritual, and Foote & Carrol for history.
Sed Contra has the definitive post (given the facts we know) on the Gerard controversy, and says it very convincingly without the rancour of some of the other commentators. A post like that really makes much of the commentary seem like "noise", most especially my own drivel. In fact, I'm going to delete my posts on the subject. They only confuse the issue.
Quotes from the "Long Sunday Read"
        aka Verweile doch

Every Sunday I retire to the womb of my library and there, amid the thousand or so volumes, find wisdom where 'ere it lay. These struck me:

Sad and humous from John Toole's Confederacy of Dunces:
'What you mumbling about in there, boy?' his mother asked through the closed door.
'I am praying,' Ignatius answered angrily.
'I think it's wonderful you praying, babe. I been wondering what you do locked up in there all the time.'
'Please go away! Ignatius screamed. 'You're shattering my religious ectasy."

Walker Percy asks in The Last Gentleman
"Is it possible to come to believe in Christ and the whole thing and afterwards be more hateful than before?"

Flannery O'Connor from her letters on beat poets (written in 1959, near their zenith):
"Certainly some revolt against our exaggerated materialism is long overdue. They seem to know a good many of the right things to run away from, but to lack any necessary discipline. They call themselves holy but holiness costs and so far as I can see they pay nothing. It's true that grace is the free gift of God but in order to put yourself in the way of being receptive to it you have to practice self-denial. As long as the beat people abandon themselves to all sensuation satisfactions, on principle, you can't take them for anything but false mystics. A good look at St. John of the Cross makes them all look sick."

And another striking comment:
"If any of my kin take to reading Freud or Dostoevsky in their old age, I am going to leave home..."
Interesting commentary from yesterday's NY Times on why people want to write novels...

September 28, 2002

Long criss-cross rows of
cut-path grass
sun-kissed and dew-blissed
long gravel-winding drives
carrying the scent of life
sandalled and happy
full of pregnant meanings
and fullsome silences
meadows ripe for the ransacking
expansive lawns of dotted picnic tables
buttercup’d fields ground-swollen with bees
robed, ribbed grasses heather-high
glib crickets and harrumping toads
while the plaintive horizon hangs
with unshed tears.
Silly Saturday...a weekly ficitional foray
When I was very young I worked in John Quincy Adams’ administration as a quill-fetcher. My job was to keep the President supplied with quills and ink. “To Patagonia!” he would oft cry, when the demands of the office grew too heavy. “To Patagonia, there my rescue be effected!”. When he was especially disturbed he would add, “Get me to my livery!”, and to the horses we would fly, scent of clover rising in our nostrils.

Adams would often enough go to Massachusettes where he would find succuor in the clapboard walls of a simple Unitarian church. He would ascend the lectern and read from the Holy Books.

He regularly called former President Monroe for advice and counsel. Often it was for betting advice. The greyhounds ran every Thursday, and he knew little about dogs. Monroe’s clipped British accent gave away his patrician background. He was of the last vestige of the founders while Adams was part of the next generation. Adams always thought the accent was feigned and resented it.

I rubbed shoulders with Calhoun and Clay by way of Adams. Not to mention his crotchety old father who thumbed Thucydides greedily, cider at his elbow. Calhoun loomed as a bellicose presence, smart as a whip, with a deep, resourceful pride that occasionally frothed like a oil spigot. Clay was more concillatory. Clay’s eye for the ladies once got him in trouble. He said “physical intimacy, like political office, should not be sought, nor declined”. His wife pulled a Ruth Buzzi on him after that, and women had lots more in their purses back then (folded-up hoop skirts are extremely heavy).

Calhoun’s wounded, deep-set eyes put fear in me. “Slavery is natural. The ancient Greeks and the Roman Republic both had slavery”. I shuddered - if he thought that way, how could not the entire South?

”If this brilliant Yale-educated Southern leader feels this way..” Adams’ voice trailed off. “Oh why must all the great orators be Southern?”.

I mumbled something about the nature of the Cavalier culture and the oral tradition of the South but I soon gathered it was merely a rhetorical question.

“The devil’s greatest ploy is to convince that ‘it is natural’,” I said. “That is the most compelling of his lies.”

Adams played with the stubble of his chin-beard.

“Yes, men are comfortable with the natural, feeling it from God and therefore without culpability.”

“Conveniently ignoring the Fall, of course.”

“Yes…forgetting that what feels natural to fallen man is different from the natural to prelapsarian Man..My you are a precocious one. How old are you?”

“I’ll be ten next month.”

“My word.”

We lapsed into a thoughtful silence while he chewed his fine Virginian cigar.

September 27, 2002

I think of the pagans
their Norse mythologies
like children coloring
drawings sometimes resembling truth.
They who've not the Light mutely ask
'why should they have difficulties'?

Rich in Revelation
but never satisfied
expecting push-button answers
and neon clarity
and hard-slate certainities.
Poetry Friday

Beneath branches
Mystic of the mesotherm,
watcher of north wind darkening day,
he walks beneath arching branches;
a folly of leaves paves his path :
trees blush,
as if his will brought boorish gusts to bear upon this place
and rendered it repentant, rougissant --
his hope hastened hither the tempers of wuther and whack,
of botherbuss and bluster :
declamations of the light's decline.
       - © 1991, 2002 by dylan_tm618
Boffo quotes from GS's Blog
In heaven there are no upright, successful types who, by dint of their own integrity, have been accepted into the great country club in the sky. There are only failures, only those who have accepted their death in their sins and who have been raised up by the King who himself died that they might live. -Robert Farrar Capon

Any soul, even laden with sins, captive in its vices, held by its pleasure, imprisoned in its exile, locked up in its body, nailed to its worries, distracted by its concerns, frozen by its fears, struck by manifold sufferings, going from error to error, eaten up by anxiety, ravaged by suspicion, a stranger in a strange land, and counted with those who go down to hell -- every soul, I say, in spite of its damnation and despair, can still find reasons not only to hope for forgiveness and mercy but even dare to aspire to the nuptials of the Word: as long as it does not dare to sign a covenant with God, and to place itself under the yoke of love.... For the Bridegroom is not only a lover: he is Love. You will say: yes, but also is he not honor? Some affirm this: as to myself, I never read anything of that kind. I have read that God is Love. - St Bernard.
I can still hear, faintly but hauntingly, the faith profession of Sean Roberts of Swimming the Tiber, reciting the Nicene Creed to his parents. Hard not to get a lump in one's throat. Prepared with notes he'd written, including: I want you to know that the church believes, and I believe in a way that I never before thought possible, in [at this point, recite the Apostles Creed].
Eucharistic Adoration - the Answer?

The earliest records of the Blessed Sacrament being preserved in the Church are from the 4th century. By the 8th century the practice spanned continents and cultures.

St. Francis is credited with beginning adoration of the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass in an attempt to draw the faithful's attention to the abiding presence of Christ dwelling among us....In more recent times, Mother Theresa was a strong advocate of Eucharistic Adoration and felt very strongly that it was a means of conversion and reform....There are youth movements that have adopted the Eucharistic Adoration as a focus for conversion and holiness...
- from our church newsletter

Uh, St. Francis....Mother Teresa...? Can any spiritual practice have a better pedigree? I'm convinced. Sign me up! I think this is the answer - the balm of Gilead. In some ways I feel closer during E.A. than the Eucharist because of the quiet and privacy and length of time given during EA as compared to the Mass.

September 26, 2002

Poem Found at the Confluence of Fotos & Babelfish*

evocative of their childhood chaqueña

in the gallery of Flowery street 681
in the center of Buenos Aires
lowering the stairs
by the general have gone away by clouds
but serves to appreciate of what treats.

I ran into one of those gratuitous recitales
with a conjuntito of tango
those "bitter" cortazianos personages
apostatized of the humanity and the cosmos

as consolation and psychic food
to prevail and to affect, through the elegance
of here cerquita and yesterday just
to ayunar as God commands.

- Hernan Gonzalez and TS O'Rama

* - while putting Fotos del Apocalipsis' site thru the BabelFish translator, I came upon wonderously strange, fragrant phrases that have a certain innocent brokenness to them while also possessing the exoticness of the foreign (i.e. the occasional untranslateable word which often enough "fits" anyway). None of the words in the poem are my own; only the arrangement of the phrases.
Beating the EWTN horse...groaners for all

20,000 Leagues under the (Holy) See
Modernist on a Hot Tin Roof
I Love St. Lucy
Gone With the Second Vatican Council
Coal Miner's Lay Aposolate
Swiss Guards: Men in Tights

That horse must be glue by now.

September 25, 2002

Proverbs 21: 1-6, 10-13 & Prov. 3:27
Like a stream is the king's heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases him, he directs it.
To do what is right and just is more acceptable than sacrifice.
Refuse no one the good on which he/she has a claim . . .
There are probably words addressed to our condition exactly, which, if we could really hear and understand, would be more salutary than the morning or the spring to our lives, and possibly put a new aspect on the face of things for us. How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. - Thoreau
For a friend, whose rather eccentric definition of life is that "which cannot be frozen and unfrozen and live."
Geneticist Lejeune talk at the Louisiana State Legislature.
Gems from C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain"
The golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for the eye to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance 'makes heaven drowsy with the harmony'.

Always it has summoned you out of yourself...if you attempt to cherish it, the desire itself will evade you. 'The door into life generally opens behind us', and 'the only wisdom' for one 'haunted with the scent of unseen roses, is work' (G. MacDonald). This secret fire goes out when you use the bellows: bank it down with what seems unlikely fuel of dogma and ethics, and then it will blaze.

"God loveth not Himself as Himself but as Goodness; and if there were aught better than God, He would love that and not Himself" (Theol. Germ., XXXII)

- CS Lewis, "The Problem of Pain"

September 24, 2002

Methinks the Americanist Protesteth Too Much
The contraception discussion on Amy's blog is riveting. I can add little other than:

* That something was prohibited for the wrong reasons does not necessarily mean that what was prohibited was not prohibitive (in God's eye). Ha. In other words, the reasoning behind decision-making is not binding, while the dogma is. I'm unsympathetic to attempts to say that JPIIs reasoning for sticking with NFP is that he would have to admit the Church was "wrong". God writes straight with crooked lines.

* I'm also unsympathetic to those who would say that the Church contradicted herself. To those outside the Christian faith, the bible appears to be contradictory. It's not surprising the Church would appear to also, to those outside the fold. In fact, we should expect that. God allows the free will of even popes to extend to the very cliff-edge of apostasy. The fact that there are 20,000 Christian denominations suggests the bible is not patently obvious. Why should we be shocked that Church teachings are not patently obvious?
Working on New Template
For weeks now I've been experiencing "Err 503"s which seem to be overcome by publishing the same post two or three times. This got tedious. Then it got to the point where I could not post at all. Very tiresome. I'm playing with new templates, as regular readers will see. Thanks for your patience.

September 23, 2002

The Bard
To Paul J. Voss’s "Assurances of Faith: How Catholic Was Shakespeare? How Catholic Are His Plays?" (July/August 2002), I would add mention of The Comedy of Errors. This early play takes place in Ephesus. After numerous confusions, the two pairs of long- separated twins finally figure out who they are through the discovery of who their mother is (an abbess). Thus, the problem of human identity is resolved through the Church and knowing who our Father and Mother truly are. As Voss adumbrates, these Catholic themes inform Shakespeare’s entire corpus. - Dr. Ken Masugi in Crisis Magazine

Why Ephesus? from a Univ. of Maryland study guide of "The Comedy of Errors"
In Christian times, Ephesus became a major pilgrimage site. St. John the Evangelist, author of Revelations, was buried in Ephesus; a large church was built near (some would say over) his grave. Ephesus was also the site of a famous ecclesiastical council, in which the doctrine of the Virgin Mary as the 'Mother of God' was first confirmed. Thus as a religious center, both pagan and Christian, Ephesus had always had a reputation as a place of spiritual mystery. - from a Univ of Maryland study guide

Lines from Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors"
He that commends me to mine own content,
Commends me to the thing I cannot get.
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop;
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself:
So I, to find a mother and a brother,
In quest of them, unhappy, lose myself.

From the Abbess in the play:
Hath not else his eye
Stray'd his affection in unlawful love?
A sin prevailing much in youthful men,
Who give their eyes the liberty of gazing.

The Abbess again...sound like anyone we know?
Be patient; for I will not let him stir
Till I have used the approved means I have,
With wholesome syrups, drugs and holy prayers,
To make of him a formal man again:
It is a branch and parcel of mine oath,
A charitable duty of my order.
Therefore depart and leave him here with me.
Ruminating on Disputation's Judgement Post

Possible Combinations of Judgements:
1) Harsh judgement towards others; harsh towards self.
2) Harsh judgement of others, easy on self.
3) Easy on self, easy on others.
4) Harsh on self, easy on others.

It's difficult for me to read the bible and not come to the conclusion that number four is the "correct" view. Number 3 is very attractive. Number 2 is equivalent with the Pharisees, although many Pharisees might've been number 1. Number 3 is what "liberal" churches often do, although we're all uneasy with tags.

The thing about the spiritual life that is unique for many is that in the physical life we normally like and participate in what we are good at. (There are exceptions - some golfers are terrible but still enjoy the game). The general idea is - I show an aptitude for this particular skill and then I do it a lot and eventually enjoy a certain amount of pride over that skill. With the spiritual life, there is never the satisfaction or pride, at least for me. If there is one area I no longer struggle with, it seems like it is merely replaced by another struggle in another venue. The hardest thing is to admit helplessness without giving into discouragement.
Interesting post from Dappled Things on the liturgical obedience of Americans versus Europeans.
That is the liturgical ideal (and maybe I'll blog on that some other day). In a perfect situation, that's what would happen. I think my problem (one shared by plenty of American Catholics of whatever stripe) was to absolutize that ideal and to forget that the Liturgy exists in the midst of a living People who have lived the Mass for centuries.

There is a funny book (bestseller in Italy) by an Italian who is quite familiar with the U.S. and writes about the "culture shock". He says that what amazed him was how seriously and innocently Americans treat traffic signs and laws. He says that in Italy, every law, stop sign, traffic light is to be individually interpreted. The Italian (and perhaps this is a European trait) considers if this red stop light is meant for him personally and for this situation. If there is no traffic, he rides on thru. The author is amazed that Americans wait at red lights even though there is no traffic.
Flos Carmeli has a nice review of Amy Welborn's "Book of Saints". I recently bought this book for my niece. I hope she likes it.

I know someonewho wouldn't pick up the bible or CS Lewis or Chesterton or anything with the "taint" of religion, he would and did pick up a book on saints. The attraction, of course, is their idealism and uncompromising love for God as shown by their actions. That is so attractive in this world of political expediency and "reasonableness". The authenticity is what he thirsts for, and the saints had it.

But if we're honest I think there's also a gothic element in many saint's books that can make the stories intrinsically interesting to today's kids. By gothic, I mean some of the more purient martyr stories that involve violence - the flaying of the flesh or repeated attempts to kill, etc. Those stories will grab the interest of kids - as does the exhibition of saint's relics. I haven't read Amy's book yet, but I hope she hasn't "tamed down" the stories and removed the more estoteric, even weird stuff since that may attract the kids initially. As I recall, "Butler's Lives of Saints" didn't pull any punches. But what do I know? Amy taught school for years and is more hip to what kids want than me!
Another Der-Hovanessian Offering

How to Grow a Sailor

Let the children be held
Around the waist
As they float on placid
Water. Let them shout:
Let go. Let go,
Full of trust
Of liquid light.

Let them grow up
In love with depth
And mystery. Let them
Float over nights
Raked by a metallic moon.

Let them go to sleep
Hearing old stories
Of islands reached
Only by full blown sails.
- Diana Der-Hovanessian

September 21, 2002

Tell me, what precisely is the magic that adheres to the phrase “place to myself”? And why when I do a search on Google, it returns over 19 screen-full of hits? Is there some message in that? Do we desperately seek family only in order to relish the few times we have the “place to ourselves”?

First 20 or so Example of Google Hits on the phrase "place to myself":
I nearly had the place to myself
I had the whole place to myself.
I am looking for a room of my own in a shared place or a place to myself
by chain of events I did have the place to myself
I have the place to myself
I almost had the place to myself
I'm at home with the place to myself
had the entire place to myself
But I finally, for the first time in...EVER, I have a place to myself
And again I had the place to myself
And then I think, "I have this place to myself", and I start to feel much better.
I am back to having the place to myself
I was in luck, I had the place to myself.
I FINALLY have my place to myself
After a while, I'll forget what it was like to have the place to myself
I know exactly how you were feeling, I love when I have the place to myself and I make it clean and it smells good and my dinner is for me, big salad, YUM. Of course, I've had the place to myself all summer, but I still really love that.
Luckily, I had the place to myself
Not that I don't want a boyfriend, but at the same time it's nice to have the place to myself...
One of the more inane yet joyous-songs of all time?
"I love to laugh" - from the Mary Poppins soundtrack.
On our dog Obi (aka 'Budja') in the Water*

No more a weirder sight than Budja, with his thick, muscular 100lb body, furiously defying sinking in the water. No more odd sight than our doggie in a strange environment, left to his own instinctive devices, there in mid-Lake Hope.

Yet there he be, big as life, surfing the surface, attemping to levitate his ungainly dog-body atop the water.

Looks like he’s working too hard, I feel sorry for him. He’s huffing and puffing, stream-linin’ towards you like a bead on a wire, but then abruptly he turns tail and runs back to shore like his lungs are burnin’ or something.

But I recall his flared nostrils coming at me like two steam engines and how cool it was that he seemed "worried" that daddy was too far in Lake Hope. Dang, I thought, he’s worse than Mom.

So there was Budj, not content with a duckless lake, still ready to go aquatic, pacing the ship’s bow & stern like a nervous new father.

Budj in the water is like a football player on a baseball diamond, like a professional wrestler in a ballet, like a guitar at the symphony. Yet his enthusiasm was enough to carry the day. He looked sorta like this.

* - self-indulgent post alert

September 20, 2002

A Ninth Century Irish Poem:
The Scholar and his Cat
I and Pangur Ban my cat
‘tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in it’s net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat and I;
in our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
- anonymous
Nihil Obstat Take Note
...or how two egregious misspellings could change the world

There is, at least in the Google universe, only one website which contains the misspelled words 'languoruous' and 'appropos'. This one. And this was the pathway of one visitor, who apparently likes to spell things the way I do, and who just might've clicked on Flos or Disputations or Dylan, or who might've clicked on Peter Kreeft's site and become a convert to Christianity, sired a devout son who became a priest - a priest who eventually became the first Pope from America, which led to the conversion of the U.S., which led to a revival in Europe, which led to...

Or maybe he just said, 'what the...' and clicked away thinking, 'that dude can't spell'.

September 19, 2002

By way of preface, this poet writes about the little known holocaust of Armenia and ensuing diaspora when thousands of children became orphans and the skies were littered with the ashes of burning books - used for fuel.


’What day will you have back again’
Antranig Zarougian wrote,
‘on your dying day,
if it were given, if it were given
to relive again?”

“Not my wedding day,
he answered himself. “Not the day
of the birth of my child.
Not the hour of my greatest success.
But one day from my lost
Childhood. Any day.”

“Don’t choose a special day”
Thornton Wilder advised.
“An ordinary day
will be extraordinary enough.”

And this is the day,
Driving rolling along
Not cut down, smiling in the sun
The day we’ll have back.

by Diana Der-Hovanessian

I found a book of this poet in the "Gotham Book Mart" (with the slogan 'Wise Men Fish Here') in the diamond district of Manhattan. She is wonderful; I'll have to share more.
I love the name of this blog:

There's a sort of oxymoronic quality to it. And do you get more Irish than "Maureen O'Brien"? Sounds like something out of The Quiet Man.
John Fiesole of Disputations has an intriguing policy...
The Fiesole Policy is simply this:
I am wiser than the people I am older than.

It recalls the old saying: "Young men say more than they know. The middle-aged tell what they know. Old men tell less than they know."

Think of the advantages of being young and stupid. You are constantly learning! And everyone you meet has something to offer you. (We've all met persons with a sub-70 IQ with beatific smiles, who are preternaturally nice and likewise know a few high-IQ curmugeons.) With knowledge and age comes a greater demand for virtue, in the sense that you are in a position of giving rather than receiving. I'm not sure there is anything I can offer our learned Dominican, Fr. Hayes conversationally speaking. I can't give him some insight into the gospel he hasn't heard before, or some piece of wisdom he hasn't already read. If we spoke, it would be either small talk or some pearl of knowledge from him. In other words, I am dependent on his largesse in terms of sitting down and having a conversation. He must either suffer my small talk or suffer a question he's already heard a million times.

A friend of mine still hangs out with singles who are a few years younger than him. He eats lunch with them once a month, but says he really doesn't want to anymore. The conversation is banal. "All they talk about is where they are going, where they just were or who they are meeting later this week. Or celebrities." The universe of "interesting things" seems to shrink as one ages, since my friend (and I commiserate) can no longer feign interest in the latest sitcom. Religion tends to dwarf other subjects of interest such as sports. But are we not poorer for having less in common with our fellow man, even if it is fluff? Natural affection wanes and true love must take its place.

"I went to a doctor of philosophy
with a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knees
he never did marry
or see a B-grade movie
he graded my performance
I swear he could see through me
- Indigo Girls song
How we can know the way A Greek philosopher, (and the usual Chinese wise person of histories...) would have answered something as "there is no a way" or "you must find it yourself", etc. Or simple and a humble "I don't know'". Jesus however says this enormidad: "I am the way, the truth and the life "answering Thomas.. and Pilate, and all. (excuse the Spanglish) from fotos del apocalipsis
Interesting comment on the Mother Blog (Amy)
[Sullivan writes] -"Personally, I've never been embarassed by the presence of physical miracles in the Gospels and believe them. But my own faith certainly doesn't rest on the need for such manifestations of divine power. For growing numbers of people, however, miracles are integral to the conversion experience and the lived faith. Just as in Jesus' time."

Another quotation comes to mind: "The jews want a sign; the greeks demand wisdom." Like Sullivan, I find myself in the greek camp on this and think the Church provides wisdom sufficient for faith.
TS O'Rama's Email Etiquette

We have a new email policy. Please take note.

All emails will forwarded to a lay committee, who will determine the intent of the sender and consider how private the correspondence was intended to be. The party of the first part (moi) will receive the recommendation and then review said email - parse it, interpret it, deconstruct it, re-construct it, post-construct it - and then make a judgement on its publishability. An appeals process is still in the works.

All of this, of course, is contingent on my actually receiving an email. I'll never forget my first blog email. I had been bloggin' away for a little over two months, relishing my lil' tidepool, when my first email comes across. Whoa! Look at this! With tremblin' hands I clicked to it and opened it up, wondering what I might've said that would provoke such an extreme thing as the sending an email.

"Can you change your background color? It's too dark for my computer." * to my ears.

* this email transcription was not sent to the lay committee. All emails prior to Sept 19 08:20:18 GMT have been grandfathered in.
Great posts from Steven Riddle on various & sundry including:
....Scripture no longer is a vehicle for entering into prayer, it is an elaborate complex of semantic games, archaeological discussions, historical-critical methods, and any number of other pieces of scholarly folderol that serve only to keep me from the core of what I should be doing. That said, I have to say that there are many of substantially different personality who may be able to integrate these things seamlessly into a glorious and beautiful faith-life.

That is part of my fascination with Scott Hahn and my own learned Dominican friar Fr. Hayes. They can swim in the muck and mire of the historical-critical commentary and come out smilin' on the other side! Of course one can never judge another's heart, but both appear to have this wonderful heart-head connection that Aquinas and Augustine had. How envious I am! That would seem to be the way it should be, the way we were designed. Faith and reason side-by-side in glorious company. On the other hand, if one must choose, choose the heart! For Aquinas' vision stands as a warning to us all: all his writings were as straw compared to Love.

Frank Sheed, of "Theology & Sanity" fame had some very interesting things to say about the knowledge of God and love of God. I'll have to quote him.
I've read with interest the commentary on Andrew Sullivan....When my wife and I were practicing artificial birth control I still received the Eucharist but always felt "tainted". I felt like there was something wrong, even though 80% of Catholics use the pill. Well how much worse must a practicing homosexual feel! The disconnect must be surreal, so I can understand Sullivan's desire to have the Church change. The sex drive cannot be overestimated. It is often, surreptiously or overtly, the organizing principle around which our philosophies are arranged. Thus for the person who is promiscuous the Church is, definitionally, wrong.

The problem is that we moderns cannot hold together the fact that something we do regularly could be intrinsically wrong. It's a problem with authority, naturally, but it could also be a lack of humility in not being able to say, "even if I can't personally do fill-in-the-blank, I will recognize that I am the one that is wrong and not the Church". A friend laughed when we started NFP saying, "you'll change your opinion after your fourth kid", implying not only that it wouldn't work but that we would change our minds on the rightness of it. I said that it was true, we might not be able to handle it, but that it would still be wrong. But would I? Would I give up the Eucharist in that case? I would have to recognize that I could not live up to the standards but not to move the standard. To be in the state of mortal sin is intolerable, so perhaps we would all do the same thing - find someone to tell us what we so long to hear - that we are in the state of grace.

I have much more of a problem with Garry Wills and John Cornwall and Fr. McBrien then Andrew Sullivan. They (presumably) don't have the sex drive in the way. And their credibility is higher than Sullivan's, who has honestly admitted his homosexuality and somewhat undermined his agenda. I empathize with Sullivan - he's held together somewhat fragilely. His much publicized bouts of horrible depression must make him think that sexual activity will keep those demons away.

Ultimately perhaps it comes down to a lack of trust - faith - that God will not give us more than we can handle, as St. Paul says. Second, a belief that universal norms can be held to universally. And third, the faith that even if the laws of the Church did not lead to optimum mental and physical health we still must follow. A perhaps flippant example of this last point is when my evangelical friend showed me an article which said that "looking at woman's breasts for five to ten minutes a day lowers a man's blood pressure" and promotes health, wealth, and longevity, blah-blah-blah. Well that's not an option. And besides, those studies are always wrong.

September 18, 2002

Powerful Advice from Justin @
"It is a simple fact. If you study apologetics for too long without the proper frame of mind, your relationship with God goes to the dumps! Don't deny it... you know exactly what I am talking about. Where God becomes more of something you argue about than a Being with whom you have a relationship. It is really sad... REALLY sad. When you read Scripture, instead soaking in the pure word of God for YOU to grow with, you search for lofty and profound verses to support your "argument."

It is at that time that something good, has turned to a work of Satan Himself! God doesn't want us to know about Him, He wants us to KNOW Him! At the Grotto in Portland, every year they have the "Festival of Lights." Thousands of people come to hear choirs sing every day from all faith traditions, and to see an awesome light display... While there a few days before Chirstmas with my family, we were listening to a chior from the "Church of Christ." They were very good. Of course there were many Protestants there. My mother wispered into my ear, "I wonder what they all think about the 'Mary stuff'?" At that point I smiled, looked up at the Blessed Mother, and whispered back, "Mom... it really doesn't matter what they think about Her."

For a long time now I have found myself moving out of the "argument" stage of my study; the stage were God and His teachings are things one simply argues about and a relationship with Him becomes secondary. Apologetics can be an Idol... and most let it get to that stage for a time--even if they don't realize it.

Since the summer, I haven't read one book dealing with apologetics and very little by way of theology. When I have read Scripture, it has been simply because God is in it and He wrote it, so out of love for Him, I want to know more about Him. I haven't read it with the desire to "know" the right arguments. Instead, I have spent time with God and when I read, I read the works of St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, St. Therese, and others who's simplicity and love for God is FAR more profound than all the books of theology and apologetics to be found in all the world .... combined!

I would like to recommened to you all a book called, "The Soul of the Apostolate." It is addressed to those who engage in evangelization work and it will tear you down and build you up again. Be Still and Know that He is God, Justin"
Verweile doch, du bist so schön...
Linger awhile, for you are so beautiful.
This is cool - I got linked on this Spanish site! It appears to be the Paul VI paragraph & the Muggeridge quote:

De un post de TS O'Rama, de Video meliora, proboque; Deteriora sequor :
... [el sentido de la oportunidad de Pablo VI]: promulgar la Humanae Vitae justo en el peor momento de la historia occidental...

Not only is the author of this site (Hernan) fluent in at least two languages, but the site design is extremely attractive (Steve Riddle's is easy on the eye too).

My stepson is in Mexico (about 40 miles from Mexico City) for a Spanish-immersion program affiliated with Ohio State. He'll be there ten weeks...He'll be visiting the Guadalupe shrine as part of the program, which just flat out amazes me. I went with a church group there two years ago, and never in my wildest dreams did I think my stepson would end up there! He's not Catholic and struggles with Christianity in general. Please pray for him and that my poor example be not an obstacle to his conversion.

September 17, 2002

Tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--is there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me I implore!"

- Edgar A. Poe "The Raven"

the Master Egalitarian
To the swamps where knowledge lay
mosquitoes breed and rile
existential questions importune
every itch West Nile.

For thou hast hid these things
from the wise and clever,
yet revealed them unto babes
till thou be our heart's endeavour.

To Humility's seat we go
- for that which once was lost
Knowledge is a spring no more
but carries a humble cost.

Dwelt there in the half-light
sweet Jerusalem's Psalm
dare we demand before the Throne
Gilead's righteous Balm?

I was thinking when I wrote this how we have to submit our intellect to God, and must accept the perpetual half-light that even the saints walked in...The fact that the saints walked in the half-light makes it so much easier - who am I compared to them?
Going thru old writings and found this....imagine if William F. Buckley had a blog!

Professor Galbraith upbraided me yesterday for my suggestion that our sojourns to Geneva be shortened to six weeks. He chided thusly: 'Oh it's to be Denmark on Tuesday, Belgium on Wednesday, eh?'"
Posted by WFB 2:35pm May 6, 2002

Survived 'Frontier House' on PBS, the premise of which was to see how three modern families might fare in the Montana wilds, circa 1880. A thought: Mrs. Glenn could travel the summer Shakespeare circuit as the Bard's 'Katherina' and be eminently believeable...
Posted by WFB 10:48pm May 5, 2002

Rich and the kids seem to be doing well at NRO. Rich informs me that he and Mr. Dreher have to shave now and no longer get carded regularly when purchasing alcohol. Jonah, like the Beatles, appears to be in his 'dark phase', probably due to his recent marriage to Yoko. I've been told that even 'serious' adults are compulsively reading 'The Corner'. Would it be uncharitable to suggest that they could find a better use for their time?
Posted by WFB 6:28pm May 5, 2002

Many "blogs" display a disdain for civil discourse and, to the extent they say anything at all, say it rather coarsely. This ensilage of words in great quantities evinces the current 'quantity over quality' zeitgeist and beg imprecisions such as the use of the word 'blue' when 'cerulean' is obviously meant. I intend to ensile my thoughts here as the spirt moves...
Posted by WFB 10:32am May 4, 2002

Buckley had a great affection for British wit/author/convert Malcom Muggeridge and had him on his Firing Line show frequently (how's that for a segue?).

Muggeridge once wrote:
When the devil makes his offer of the kingdoms of the earth, it is the bordellos which glow so alluringly to most of us, not the banks and the counting-houses and the snow-swept corridors of power . . . Sex is the mysticism of a materialistic society - in the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word; with its own mysteries...its own sacred texts and scriptures - the erotica which fall like black atomic rain on the just and unjust alike, drenching us, stupefying us. To be carnally minded is life!
Silly Wednesday (one day early)
I'm sitting at my old-fashioned typewriter (or so I imagine), the one that race-types gorgeously professional type romantically called "Times New Roman". Smartly, it creates little artworks called 'characters' out of thin white space; any of 26 of which when placed in a non-random order communicates stuff. Amaze-in'!
So here I am, at this old Remington, the kind that gurgles and pitches, speaks and whirls, jiivvies and jives at the end of a line…whiiirrrrrl - back to a fresh white line. All that potential, a line has the potential of a life, with everyone having the same 26 letters and various punctuations available to them. With those humble materials, we all fashion a semblance of order on a blank, vacumous space.

What would Shakespeare think of this? Almost 400 years have passed since the Bard of Avon scribed his thoughts painstakingly on parchment with the ink of a sow's breath, upon the scummy tableau of an animal's skin. He once sat upon rustic hills of dank England, breathing the dung of sheep, and producing the most hallucengic prose man has ever seen - the inky, fragrant prose that carried the mind off the English empire to new and heady places.

Note: Obviously the Bard didn't scribble his thoughts using those media. Merely poetic license!
Uh..yeah...well I read "David Copperfield" in high school, man
"Historically the stuff that's sort of rung my cherries: Socrates' funeral oration, the poetry of John Donne, the poetry of Richard Crashaw, every once in a while Shakespeare, although not all that often, Keats' shorter stuff, Schopenhauer, Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy" and "Discourse on Method," Kant's "Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysic," although the translations are all terrible, William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience," Wittgenstein's "Tractatus," Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," Hemingway -- particularly stuff like in "In Our Time," where you just go oomph!, Flannery O'Connor, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, A.S. Byatt, Cynthia Ozick--the stories, especially one called "Levitations," about 25 percent of the time Pynchon. Donald Barthelme, especially a story called "The Balloon," which is the first story I ever read that made me want to be a writer, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver's best stuff -- the really famous stuff. Steinbeck when he's not beating his drum, 35 percent of Stephen Crane, "Moby-Dick," "The Great Gatsby." And, my God, there's poetry. Probably Phillip Larkin more than anyone else, Louise Glück, Auden." - David Foster Wallace's reading material

I think to be a serious writer, one has to have been a serious reader. You are what you read.
This Catholic Writer's conference sounds marvelous! Ralph McInerny is my hero - why the devil didn't I go!? A mere two hours from Steubenville and I chose to camp in the woods, which can be done any old time (well, short of cold weather).
Bob Greene
Read about columnist Bob Greene's fall from grace via Nancy Nall. (Is it a tendency among journalists to become corrosively cynical? To be constantly immersed in what is sick in society - since virtue doesn't make news - probably isn't too spiritually healthy. It dovetails with the idea that our job influences us to the point where we risk becoming it).

Bob is one of my mother's favorite columnists, and his seeming innocence and "boy next door" attitude appeared incompatible with middle-aged forays with teens. But then looks are always deceiving (eg: the priest scandal). I don't judge him. There but for grace go I.

I remember reading a Greene column that lamented how a sense of wonder evades us as we age. When we were kids, everything was new and we were capable of being surprised. The capacity for awe seems so crucial in keeping us honest, in keeping us from sin. For the middle-aged and elderly, may God surprise us.

I'm kind of surprised at how large Nancy Nall's readership is, btw. But heck, Nancy is interesting. I guess things really exploded for her when featured on Amy Welborn's site, and now she has at least 100 regular readers, many of them "Amy-Catholics" (like myself) who have stayed, despite her cynicism and liberal view of things. Surely there is some jealousy, given I was able to retain my obscurity even after Amy linked to me. (There is a sense of anti-climax to this blog now, as if I had my turn at bat and should step away gracefully, thankful I got that shot). There is a certain deliciousness in the objectivity of blogs - the stats don't lie. I always loved it about baseball that you could check the back of a baseball card and tell if someone were a .260 hitter or .290. (I'd love it if God gave out report cards every week...St. Paul says we cannot even accurately judge ourselves and I believe it). Of course all this is pride, pride and more pride. But as Chris Matthews says, "what is it that motivates men but competition?". So we should thank God for low blog stats, because if we care- unless it be out of concern for His glory - then we obviously couldn't handle fame, or what passes for infinitessimal quantities thereof.
"He has always struggled with his sexuality, and deep down we sense that in a bizzare way he enjoys the struggle "like the souls in Dante who deliberately remained within the purifying fire".
- from an Iris Murdoch novel
Okay I'll admit it. I am a secret fan of Pope Paul VI. Perhaps because in his indecisiveness I see some of myself; I can emphasize. This man who was thrust into the malestrom of it all by good Pope John XXIII and the Holy Spirit was assigned an extremely difficult task and he saw it through. I'm reading Hebblethwait's biography now, and you have to love Paul's humility. He was so different from our current Holy Father yet but both are so saintly.

One could say his sense of timing was off; Humane Vitae was promulgated at just about the worst possible moment in Western history and the defections from trust and belief in the Church were massive. But that he made the decision in the midst of a storm makes it all the more poignant. He stood like Don Quixote, making seemingly impossible demands of the late 1960s moderns. Or perhaps I should say he stood like Christ. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote:"It was the Catholic Church's firm stand against contraception and abortion which finally made me decide to become a Catholic . . . As the Romans treated eating as an end in itself, making themselves sick in a vomitorium so as to enable them to return to the table and stuff themselves with more delicacies, so people now end up in a sort of sexual vomitorium. The Church's stand is absolutely correct. It is to its eternal honour that it opposed contraception, even if the opposition failed. I think, historically, people will say it was a very gallant effort to prevent a moral disaster."
On Reading
It could be, then, that we are just starting to appreciate the potency that reading possesses. It is an interesting speculation: that the cultural threats to reading may be, paradoxically, revealing to us its deeper saving powers. I use the word saving intentionally here, not because I want to ascribe to reading some great function of salvation, but because I want to emphasize one last time the ideas of transformation and change of state. The movement from quotidian consciousness into the consciousness irradiated by artistic vision is analogous to the awakening to spirituality. The reader's aesthetic experience is, necessarily, lowercase, at least when set beside the truly spiritual. But it is marked by similar recognitions, including a changed relation to time, a condensation of the sense of significance, an awareness of a system or structure of meaning, and--most difficult to account for--a feeling of being enfolded by something larger, more profound.

Working through these thoughts, I happened upon an essay called "First Person Singular" by Joseph Epstein, wherein he cites Goethe as saying that "a fact of our existence is of value not insofar as it is true, but insofar as it has something to signify." To this Epstein adds concisely: "Only in art do all facts signify." He communicates in seven short words much of what I have been belaboring here: Facts signify whenever one believes that existence is intended, that there are reasons that, as Pascal wrote, reason knows nothing of.
- Sven Birkerts "Readings" & excerpt
"Ravelstein held that examples of great personalities among scientists were scarce. Great philosophers, painters, statesmen, lawyers, yes. But great-souled men in the sciencies are extremely rare. 'It's their sciences that are great, not the persons.'" - Ravelstein - Saul Bellow

Ravelstein is actually the late Alan Bloom, professor at Univ of Chicago and writer of "The Closing of the American Mind".
The Consolations of Rain
I claim to love the change of seasons even though, at the cost of seasonal symmetry, I wish winter were only one month long. But just as the surfeit of summer can eventually tire one, so can the surfeit of religious consolations and universal Church feast days. I can understand, more readily, the need for feast and fast and its alternating rhythm. I believe CS Lewis suggested in "The Problem of Pain" that it's possible the physical world exists for metaphorical reasons only. Thus I should gain a clue from nature. And nature, over the micro camping trip, told me that unrelenting good weather is impossible to "live up to". The weather was surreally good for Ohio; the quality of sunshine was markedly clearer and the sky shone with that Westernish blue with nary a cloud. One cannot be as buoyant as the weather required; desire is infinite, capacity limited.

September 16, 2002

The Err503s have been brutal today...I'm thinking this site should be renamed to Dylan's.
Back in the saddle again....

Twas a grand experiment. Two and 1/2 days without internet, television, radio, music, newspaper...Hiking and reading mainly. Reading has a sort of insatiable aspect to it; I read some of Summa Theologica and couldn't put it down, although I'm not sure I got that much out of it (the lack being in me). Still, hanging in the air of those solid volumes was the ineffable scent of truth. I strove to find the low-hanging fruit.

September 15, 2002

Google hit
A visitor came by way of the search for "bell curve for women's belly size". Isn't the internet amazing?
Ruminating on Ruminating
Oh to have a two hour block once a week available to ruminate, to think, to plan, to dream! A block during which to pull together the disparate threads of our personality, to recognize our contradictions (dreams are about such – our desperate nightly gambol to make sense via nonsense…I see my dog dreaming and wonder what has him so agitated – the squirrel that got away? What disparate strands must his dogginess resolve at the end of the day – that he longs to run free but his master always has him on a leash?).

Thoreau referred to this block of time as having a “margin to life”, those white borders of emptiness framing each page of our life script. He longed for a wide margin, but a thin margin will do. Keeping a journal is a nightly attempt to ruminate, to organize, to let go of grievances against others but also against self. We all attempt consciously or subconsciously to make our lives artful, which is a way of saying to make sense of it, to realize that we are moving forward. To have nothing wasted is the aim of great art.

Ruminating is especially effective while walking. A hike in the woods is the perfect setting. Thoreau said to “trust no thought arrived at sitting down”, which may sound extreme but there is something about the beauty of the surroundings that provoke one to appreciation, which is the ultimate aim of rumination. To appreciate where we are, what we’ve been given and where we are going. How can we serve God without appreciation, without thankfulness? If we can get into our heads His dramatic love for us, then we are thankful, and if we are thankful then we our more willing to serve. When we were newly converted, how easy it was to serve Him and others: we were so thankful.

September 11, 2002

Interesting article via Gerard: infinite, but our capacity for pleasure is not. By adapting to ever-richer indulgences, we only narrow our options for pleasing ourselves. Restraint may yield higher returns.
But authentic happiness, as Seligman defines it, is not about maximizing utility or managing our moods. It’s about outgrowing our obsessive concern with how we feel. Life in the upper half of one’s set range may be pleasant, but is it productive or meaningful? Does it stand for anything beyond itself?
I read a post debunking the stigmata in part because it first occurred (at least in St. Francis' case) on the hands instead of the wrists. The writer also asked why it took thirteen centuries to happen, etc..

My two cents is that God is not static and is constantly capable of surprise with the single constant goal: winning our love. Thus, it doesn't surprise me that for 13 centuries no one received the stigmata since cultures are so different that something that might repel one culture might attract another. The stigmata spoke to that medieval culture in a much more powerful way because that culture valued the wounds of Christ more, having had the luxury of centuries of reflection and meditation on the gospel. It was a gift to that culture. That is not to say that the middle ages were necessarily "holier" but just that what moved the holy was different. For God to have caused the stigmata on the wrists would have made no sense to medieval people and thus would not have effected His ultimate purpose - to motivate us to love him, not to provide scientific evidence.

It's not surprising that Jews near the time of Christ, for example, might've mis-read who Jesus was since they understood there was only one God and G*d surely wouldn't stoop to the level of not only allowing himself to be named but also possessing a human nature. Yet the Cross was a dramatic gesture that motivates millions to a greater love of God, since a God that suffers for us is a God much more easily loved than a more deistic one.

Bottom line is that for those open to God, he responds - in the now and 'just in time' (although he is outside of time) - to what moves a culture, if they ask and our receptive.
Perhaps I should mention that I subscribe to the "Quote Protocol" as established by - forgive me - was it Disputations or Minute Particulae or? Anyway, they mentioned that quotes and excerpts are there primarily because it is something they struggle with, not as admonishments to the great unwashed masses who read them. Similarly (especially given this blog's tiny readership), I often use it for my own purposes and put quotes or make comments that I don't live up to precisely because I don't live up to them - i.e. they are there to remind me.

I've always been an inveterate collector of quotations (I still have hundreds on index cards at home - I was pretty anal when I was younger), and so this blog seems like a nice repository for them (although I wanted to be able to quickly do a search for a half-remembered quote on the main page, but because it loads so slow I had to only show 20 days' history, so now I have to check archives, etc...I know, life is tough, get out the violins!).
Here's a quote Steve of Flos Carmeli probably knows, since he's a fan of St. John:
“To come to the knowledge of all, desire the knowledge of nothing.” – St. John of the Cross

Blogging will recommence next Monday; I will be doing my Eustace Conway imitation during the interim and heading for the woods for a long weekend.

September 10, 2002

I was in a meeting in a large auditorium and in the middle of it this guy walks up, appropos of nothing, and hands our Vice President a note....The VP gave it back to Matt and asked him to tell us. Our curiosity piqued, he said that New York and the Pentagon were struck by terrorists: "I know this sounds like a Tom Clancy novel...but" and then he showed a picture of the smoking World Trade Ctr buildings on the huge screen above the stage. Jaws dropped...muffled cries of surprise. Our shop closed up around noon..At confession later the priest told me to pray for those who had no time to prepare themselves. That, not physical death, is the greatest tragedy, along with, of course, the many children who will have to grow up without a parent.
    pores broke ope
Fictional Foray
I remember duck-hunting with old Uncle Coot, a lifelong Norwegian bachelor who, upon hearing of my impending nuptials, gave me the keys to his old Ford and said, “run, son. Run like the wind.” I didn’t take him up on it, due to the sedation of my 401K drip and the near-vesting of company medical benefits.

He said it wasn’t that I sold my soul that bothered him, it was how easily I’d sold it. A tear came to my eye the next morn, when in the ebullient May light I could see the charred edges of our magnolia bushes, and a big patch of blackened vegetation just beyond the welcome mat. Coot had been a little tipsy the night before, his imagination a bit overtaxed, and I reckon he thought he was out west again, where you can have campfires in your front yard since your front yard’s normally a hundred acres.

Uncle Coot didn’t have a social security card or a birth certificate or anything reeking of beaucracy, so no one knew how old he was when we celebrated his birthday. He always used to sneer the lyrics to a Merle Haggard tune: “ keep your retirement, and your so-called social security.....think I’ll walk off my steady job today”. Coot never held a steady job, or any job really, so it was kind of ironic when he sang it, although no one ever pointed that out to Coot. I thought it was really cool that he could have a blind spot that big, but then everything about Coot was big.
We don't need no..
Thomas Jefferson thought America would be a good nation only as long as we were agricultural (in the small farmer sense) and well-educated. We're neither. Higher education is falling prey to the same "we're just here to serve you" malady as the media. Instead of insisting that "we have something of value that you need" (as the newspapers should insist), higher education is saying "what do you want, sweet eighteen year old?". Grade inflation is rampant at colleges, as is an elective system run amuck, insuring that a kid can go through college with nothing but chips on their shoulders the size of boulders due to immersion in women's studies & black studies.
*end of old fogey rant*
“Alas! Where is human nature so weak as in the book-store! What are mere animal throes to and ragings compared with the fantasies of taste, of those yearnings of imagination, of those insatiable appetites of intellect, which bewilder a student in a great bookseller’s temptation hall?” – H. Beecher, 1859
Sublimination, they say, is the answer. Much of the best art in the world is the product of man’s sublimated sex drive. I’m not sure I get it.

My initial reaction is that sublimination is writing with all sorts of “just under the surface” sexual references, like a hastily dug grave for the newly entombed ‘lust’. Just a thin covering of topsoil. A random example: “Summer lay herself at my feet; I sat entranced as she danced around me, her fulsomeness exceeding the festooned cups of measure, the sun a giving lover, reaching around trees and crevices to evince a brash longing.”

None too subtle. But that isn’t really art either. I guess the answer lay in the fact that sex drive unused is a potential energy source, energy that can be used for entirely unrelated purposes. Thus, the boxer abstains from sex before the big bout. But the saving of energy is not just physical, it is apparently also mental.
From the mountains, there cometh my strength
Just finished the riveting book, The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert, the true story of Eustace Conway who left his comfortable suburban home at the age of seventeen and moved into the Appalachian mountains. For the last 20 years he has lived there. It interests me on several levels; his unqualified absolutism and idealism, the effect of constant absorption of the natural (i.e. God's) world on the pysche, and his independence, especially his refusal to let the culture mold him.

We are all, more or less, prisioners of our time and culture. And the funny thing is how little we realize that. We don't know what we don't know, and when we most think we are objective we are often being the least. This book emphasizes how conformist our culture is.

Eustace isn't content to live in the woods by himself - he wants to change the culture (like we do, for a different reason). And so he holds camps and goes to schools across the country preaching his simplicity and 'back to nature' messsage. Check out how this excerpt resonates (the author is questioning why he has so little time for what he is preaching):

'Have you ever wondered,' I asked, 'if you might benefit the world more by actually living the life you always talk about? I mean, aren't we supposed to live the most enlightened and honest life we can? And when our actions contradict our values, don't we just screw everything up even more?"...

"Whenever I go into schools to teach, I tell people, 'Look, I am not the only person left in this country who tries to live a natural life in the woods, but you're never going to meet all those other guys because they aren't available.' Well I am available. That's the difference with me. I know I present people with an image of how I wish I were living. But what else can I do? I have to put on that act for the benefit of people.'

'I'm not so sure it's benefiting us, Eustace.'

'But if I lived the quiet and simple life I want, then who would witness it? Who would be inspired to change?'"

Another excerpt:

"What remains after all this activity? That's the question Walt Whitman once asked. He looked around at the galloping pace of American life and at the growth of industry and wondered, 'After you have exhuasted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on - have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear - what remains'?

And, as ever, dear old Walk gave us the answer: 'Nature remains."

Or God. So it is fascinating watching Eustace's quest, the quest we all trod in learning over and over again that all is loss but Him.

A review of the book.
The majority of men are subjective towards themselves and objective toward all others. But the real task is in fact to be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others. – Kierkegaard

September 09, 2002

West Texas forecast, more of the same
sunny & mild, no chance of rain…

The tractor keeps rollin’
the dust rises high
creating the only
cloud in the sky.

He’s prayin’ for rain through a cloud of dust
– from country song by Brad Paisley
Percy on "CA"
The phrase "Catholic Authors" sends a chill up my spine, given its perfect nexus of two loves. But "Catholic Authors on Walker Percy" is, as the kids say, da bomb. (Did I really just say that?). Fr. McCloskey's show on EWTN features Catholic authors from Blaise Pascal to C.S. Lewis (stretching the definition eh?) to the most modern offering - Walker Percy.

Walker was one of those rare types who was very familiar with science and pyschology and at the same time with St. Thomas Aquinas (having read all of Summa Theologica). That's a nice combination for our age - devout Catholic and pyschotherapist. As is Benedict Groeschel, btw. So I reveled in the half-hour discussion.

I liked Walker Percy's analogy of our situation: we are on a desert island and receive a message in a bottle. Some of us expect the message to be a detailed, empirical message that a sociologist would appreciate. A full understanding of our situation. Instead the message in the bottle (revelation) speaks to us very directly with words like "go to the North shore and wait for a boat". Now that message may be true or false but speaks to those who understand the plight they are in - marooned on a desert island. It's highly relevant to them.
Liked this poem entitled The Wise via Dylan. Reminds me of this doggrell I once wrote:
Oh the dignity of the dead!
how quiet and decorous
taking neither too much space
or time
ever-gentle, non-complaining
bones giving mute empathy.

September 06, 2002

Poetry Friday

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.
- Thomas Aquinas
The fort of Rathangan
Once it was Bruidge’s, it was Cathal’s,
It was Aed’s, it was Ailill’s,
It was Conaing’s, it was Cuiline’s
And it was Maelduin’s;
The fort remains after each in his turn –
Kuno Meyer
'I am a believer in invisible ancestral influences’, Tom Hayden writes, 'and I imagine that few people of Irish heritage anywhere in the world do not share that belief, at least privately.' – NY Times book review

Born to Clan na Gael
near the cliffs of Moher
held fast by the thatch of mud huts
meld with candlewax.

Turf fires smelt peat to matter
indissoluble to Catholic souls
with nothing but the wind to evangelize,
and only our young to catechize.
What Chesterton might say, via Mark Shea.
Speaking of making my head hurt is an email response to the universe link:
Mr. Smarty-pants physics professor made my head hurt. So tell me: If a tree falls in the forest, and one person is there to hear it, but it scares him so bad he runs headlong into another tree and sustains total amnesia, but fortunately he has his audio cassette recorder on and records the sound of the tree falling, but unfortunately he leaves the tape in his shirt pocket while he's subsequently in the MRI machine and the magnetic waves erased most of the tape, but fortunately the whole episode was caught on videotape as a potential "Jackass" episode, but unfortunately the video ended up on the cutting-room floor, and the editor forgot to remember anything about it later, did the tree make a sound?
Interesting article on the universe for you science freaks
More Fodder for Amy's Question: Then Why Bother?
Bill O'Reilly interviewed a Baptist minister who described himself as "a Baptist who lives in the south, not a Southern Baptist". He is also a professor at some posh eastern university/college whatever. Anyway, they talked about the "hate mail" O'Reilly received in response to his comments on the Bible. The Baptist minister sat there nodding his head in agreement with everything Bill said. Even when he related how as a child in Catholic school he was taught that the stories of the Bible are nothing but allegories meant to tell us that we should be good to each other. They were in full agreement that the heart of every religion is to love God and your neighbor as yourself--as if they had intimate access to the TRUTH that so many others had missed or want to negate for their own ends. I just sat with my mouth hanging open in unbelief at these two men negating the belief systems of billions and reducing those beliefs down to a one line truism. O'Reilly is no more representative of Catholicism than one of my cats. Indeed, either one of my cats, if he or she could speak English, would probably make a better apologist than either man I listened to for cats know that life is more than merely not fighting with one another or having a sentimental regard for the Great Cat above, even if Bill and the Baptist minister don't. - Kathleen Gavlas

September 05, 2002

I was in a church in London in 1996 and was struck by this statue of a woman who lay on the floor either dead or in a posture of supine obedience. I took a picture though I didn't know the story behind it or whom it depicted (St. Cecilia). Then, last year, in the Catacomb of San Callisto, we came across that statue, at least another reproduction. Her body was found in this particular catacomb, a marytr beheaded during the Roman persecutions. The tour guide explains that there is a visible line on her neck (symbolism for how she died) and one of her hands one finger is pointing (symbolism that there is one God, instead of the Roman formulation of many gods) and her other hand holds out three fingers (symbolizing the Trinitarian three persons in one God).

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The form is so natural and lifelike, so full of modesty and grace, that one scarcely needs the sculptor's testimony graven on the base: "Behold the body of the most holy virgin Cecilia whom I myself saw lying incorrupt in her tomb. I have in this marble expressed for thee the same saint in the very same posture of body." If it were art alone, it would be consummate art but Cicognara bears witness that in the perfect simplicity of this work, more unstudied and flexuous than his other productions, the youthful sculptor must have been guided solely by the nature of the object before him, and followed it with unswerving docility.
Quote from priest in EWTN forum:
"Your salvation is in the hands of God. You are asked to place your faith and hope in that God, who alone knows your eternal destiny and whom alone you can totally trust. Thus, there can be no greater certainty than that in your faith and hope in God saving you. And remember that the faith and hope are themselves also gifts from God. There is no purely human knowledge of one's eternal destiny that can contain the infinitely greater certainty contained in your faith and hope through Christ our Lord."

Charity Uber Alles
I don't enjoy these fights about the Cathedral or the pedophilia issue or any of these "controveries" that constantly arise. When I join the fray it doesn't engender any of the "fruits of the Spirit" in me. But I think some things are worth fighting for, or discussing, although I tend to think the number of minds changed is miniscule. Is the L.A. cathedral important? Maybe, maybe not. Is the pedophilia/bishop issue? Yes, in my opinion. If the laity had raised heck about it 10 years ago, I don't think we'd see all the priest-shuffling we've seen since then and perhaps a few chldren wouldn't have been molested. Evil thrives when the good do nothing.

The apologetic debates get mind-numbing. The Protestant-Catholic debate has been going on for what, 500 years? But if we truly want full communion don't we at least have to try to present the case that the Catholic faith is reasonable? Recently a local Baptist radio host talked ad naseum about the fact that the Council of Trent damned him to hell by the use of "anathemna"'s or "curses", and he wanted to know whether the Church still taught that. If the Church did, he had us because his listeners would laugh at the outrageousness of that. If it didn't, then the Church had changed its teaching and thus infallibility was nonsense. So I called up and got on with "Pastor Bob" but I wonder if that was the right thing to do. I think his show, in the style of Rush Limbaugh, is to gin up controversy, and I was inadvertently 'feeding the machine'. Besides, we all know that actions speak much louder than defenseless words. On the other hand, isn't it crucial to present both sides?
From the Magnifcat:
Men Fishing in the Arno
"Of secret desires yet keeping a sense
Of order outwardly, hoping
Not too flamboyantly, satisfied with little
Yet not surprised should the river suddenly
Yield a hundredfold, every hunger appeased."
- Elizabeth Jennings
Hie thee to the Middle
Read an interesting post on the Particulae blog about the L.A. Cathedral controversy. I think part of the problem is that modernity has made all art political, and thus we are all (understandably) hyper-sensitive to "what are they really trying to say with this?".

We all know what was going on when the tabernacle was moved off-center, sometimes even out of the church proper - it was a move to de-emphasize popular piety and Eucharistic adoration. The thinking went that piety didn't often translate to holiness or good deeds or (especially) social justice concerns.

Balance is necessary. What did Hawthorne write? Something like, "humans say 'yea and nay' but God's way is in the middle". I butchered the quote but you get the idea. So we look at the L.A. cathedral with jaundiced eyes ("Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me") because we had been had before - we know that art makes political and theological statements and we long for a brave orthodoxy.

September 04, 2002

Kudos to a fellow blogger (he knows who he is) who hath retrieved from obscurity - at least for me - these old-timey words:
* sapient
* bibliophagy
* sobriquet

Aren't words beautiful?

He also mentions a deliciously esoteric-sounding read: Essential Portuguese Grammar

I've never seen the word "essential" used in proximity to "Portuguese Grammar" but now I have.
the Hidden
I cannot do justice to the bliss that attends getting even a single string of dialogue or the name of a weed right. Naming our weeds, in fact, seems to be exactly where it's at. I've been going out into my acre and trying to identify the wildflowers along the fringes with the aid of a book, and it's remarkably difficult to match reality and diagram. Reality keeps a pace or two ahead, scribble though we will. If you were to ask me what the aim of my fiction is it's bringing the corners forward. Or throwing light into them, if you'd rather. Singing the hitherto unsung. That's applied democracy, in my book. And applied Christianity, for that matter. I distrust books involving spectacular people, or spectacular events. Let People and The National Enquirer pander to our taste for the extraordinary; let literature concern itself, as the Gospels do, with the inner lives of hidden men. The collective consciousness that once found itself in the noble must now rest content with the typical. - John Updike
On the Drying Qualities of Paint
It's almost midnight and I can't quite turn off C-Span. Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle is doing his "campaigning by driving around" thing. Every August he drives the highways and byways of South Dakota and just talks to people. Sure, it was like watching paint dry. Sure I was hoping for a miscue of some sort. I don't know, the sight of Tom Daschle walking into a 7-11 and looking for a certain type of "Twizzler" stick was just d*mn compelling, I'm sorry. So too was his preternatural calm and easy-going Dakota manner. He mentioned his hobbies and they all sounded wonderful - he loves being outside, loves to fish and hunt, loves to read, etc... Not uncommon interests I know, but they dovetail with mine. And finally, I just couldn't quite get my arms around the fact that this gentleman is contently pro-abort. I mean, he's no Kennedy...
Silly Wednesday*
There, upon my wall, ne’er a finer red pub appeared: “P . E G A N” it said, writ large in the fine white letters upon a strip of Eire-green. Fine molded columns were carved to the left and right, and two old-fashioned bicycles, one festooned with a wicker basket, stand in front of the two windows. In the doorway, a door cut in two with the bottom half closed, two gents stand in a pose of public house friendliness. Below the picture a familiar monthly grid was displayed (February 2001 - I’m a bit behind). I wonder: what would these two think to find their cheery non-sober mugs upon the wall of a house in the middle of Ohio in the middle of the States?

So I asked ‘em. Called ‘em up. Tracked down all the “P. Egan” pubs I could find through an Irish ad directory and then called it and asked about the two chipper fellers. One was a part-time sheep farmer involved in the “Troubles”; in between pasturing sheep he smuggled guns to IRA extremists (which is saying a lot ya know, to some the phrase is redundant).

“What’s yore favorite ale?” I asked, to change the subject.
“Ach, like I the (indescipherable), except on Friday’s when it’s (indescipherable).”.

I called the other one, a younger man, in his mid-30s, whose hair was still dark and had about him the manner of the manor. He explained that he liked to go to the States now & again. I asked whereabouts.

“I’ve been to New York, L.A. But my favorite city is Columbus, in Ohio”.

”How did you know I was from Columbus?”

“I didn’t!”

”Come on. Columbus can’t be your favorite city.”

“Why not? The sky is azure between clouds that sit like pillows. There is a wonderous bronze statue of Christopher Columbus downtown. His jaw is set like a martial man, standing athwart history and yelling ‘Go!’. The Scioto river rushes like a colossus over the landscape, the great southern boundary that separates a Centre mall from “little Germany”. The city sits like a jewel in the middle of Cornfield, USA, a megapolis of ‘scrapers rising from the ground at right-angles.”

“But plenty of cities rise out of cornfields at right-angles.”

“I don’t compare to Columbus to Kansas City or Sacramento. I compare her to the cities near the Yangtzee in 17th century China I’ve never been to China or lived in the 1600s, but I’ve seen pictures in Nat’l Geographic. If you compare fair Columbus to 17th century China, she looks positively other-worldly.”

“How is it that you chose China to compare her to?”

“China, schmina. You’re missing the point completely. You measure everything, set up elaborate hierarchical models…you want to know if Ted Williams was a better hitter than Lou Gehrig and why. You'd be critical of Jennifer Lopez's toenails.”

“Not likely!”

”Ha, you say that now. You’d frown at the wrinkles on her little toes. See, it’s not about toenails. It’s that to the extent you see, you do not see. You look at Columbus, and Lopez, with your eyes, and jaundiced eyes at that. Sophistication is the paintin’ that learning puts on tin structures. Still tin underneath, like the lean-to I lived in outside Boone, North Carolina. Split an oak to put shingles on it; still tin underneath. Get it?”

“I think so.”

“The radical thing is divine innocence. God’s not parceling his love out based on the latest numbers manufactured by angels in the Division of Statistics. Yes, the hairs on your head are counted but that’s a different Bureau and is completely independent of the Quantity of Love Committee.”

“Since you brought up the subject of God, did not Jesus love John the most?”

“Yes, but that was with his human nature. Two natures, remember?”

“So what does all this have to do with the price of tea (near the Yangtzee) in China?”

* - can you guess where the blarney begins?

September 03, 2002

Labor Day weekend, we hardly knew ye
But oh for those glorious days I was free! I landed in Casa de’ O'Rama, a little piece of real estate, earned by merely planting (not a flag) but an ez-folding chair, and in minutes I was contemplating the lovely of lovelies, that Waldenesque lake in front of me, decorated with the summer confetti of tree blossoms. I sat there in the reverie, beneath shielding tree limbs, as a soft breeze whispered and Thoreau called. My bare feet propped atop the cooler, I drifted off to a wholesome rest before being awakened by marauders and quiet-thieves, four teenage knaves bent on fishing and gabbing. I moved along unbothered, there would be more private shoreline ahead. And so I alighted upon another part of river, lit a cigar and felt a degree of ownership never felt when I hike – ownership conferred merely by a chair.

Down the long path with summer’s glory at the height, and I could not help feeling that here was an aesthetic beauty not easily repaced; one cannot easily imagine being so impressed by winter’s stoicisms. What would I do without it? Had I become too accustomed to her charms?

The day was set up by a long, hard run down the bike path, 45 minutes in the sun, with the headphones giving reason to dance. I had finished the “Johnson County War” that morning; late model Westerns being this dreamer’s delight. It was four hours but could’ve been four minutes for it’s power to engross. The combination of variations on the endless theme of good versus evil and the power of the scenery captivate.

After Mass on Sunday, I read voraciously. “The Last American Male” is the current read, the true story of Eustace Conway, who has lived off the land for the last 20-plus years. Snippets of Kerr’s “Decline of Pleasure” provided nothing but the latter.
How do we get to know [Jesus]? Read the scriptures. Not just the Mass readings every day, but read the gospels every day and every night. Did you know that one of the three general grants of indulgence is for the reading of scripture--and if that reading is for more than a half-hour each day the indulgence is plenary? Such is the power the Church recognizes in the transformative capabilities of the Word. - sage advice from Flos Carmeli
One of the things I was thinking of in the post Amy linked to was motherhood. That is a practical example, since motherhood and sanity don't always go together. I know two elderly women who had the traditional huge "Catholic" families while paying dearly in terms of mental health. They were apparently bitterly depressed and horribly overworked. (Now we take Prozac and have small families). I wouldn't be here but for the sacrifice of one of those elderly women.

The Byzantine authors seem to presuppose that good mental health is a natural by-product of faith but I don't know. Certainly St. John the Baptist's diet of locusts couldn't have been the most advantageous physically - and isn't that the point? That health, certainly not physically and perhaps not even mental, is not the most important thing. Radical, but surely a non-starter in terms of evangelization. That's no Prayer of Jabez.

The gracious link from the Mother Blog has left me with heretofore unimaginable numbers of visitors. Self-indulgent posts like "what I did on (non)Labor Day" will wait till the tide ebbs.

September 02, 2002

Love (and write about) Your Enemies?'s hard to give an account of your religious beliefs without sounding mawkish. William James understood this. Though he claimed to admire the pious, in ''The Varieties of Religious Experience'' he distanced himself from them with an occasional twinkle of irony. The irony can be detected in the list of moods he says are indicative of true spirituality: solemnity, serenity, cheerful gladness, tenderness. Religious discourse ''favors gravity, not pertness,'' he wrote. ''It says 'hush' to all vain chatter and smart wit.''

Still pondering this NY Times piece...writers have to reflect their millieu and environment, sometimes to their joy? I'm not pointing fingers here, because Lord knows I'd have nine more pointing at me, but Updike might be able to write about his joy - sex - and be able to rightly point out that it is what is on society's mind and therefore must be "dealt" with it. If the ending of the story is negative towards adultery, then he can write his fantasies secure in the knowledge he has done the Christian service. Dante was said to have something of an "anger management" problem and no doubt took a little schadenfreude at some of the damned he was portraying. Some of his enemies were thinly disguised indeed. But isn't that cathartic and isn't each writer 'following his bliss' and thus producing something beautiful even if the means might be a little ignoble? "Men of few words are the best men" . Shakespeare
A Byzantine Perspective
Our Byzantine Catholic parish included a long article on what is the "real crisis" in the church, and it is persuasive. I couldn't find it anywhere online but Hegumen Nicholas and Stavrophore Maximos make the point that all of us are called to form what St. Peter refers to as a 'royal priesthood' and points out the errors in so-called 'conservative' and 'liberal' prescriptions:

There was a time within living memory when the institutional Church seemed much stronger...The 'conservative' is acutely aware of the comparative weakness of the current institution. His solution is to bring the institution back to its former glory by a program of moral and doctrinal discipline....The conservative and liberal error in that they both view the Church primarily as a thing rather than a mystery. They both tend to see the Church through the prism of the secular world. Consequently, both are obssessed by the organization of the Church, especially with the institutional priesthood...The world can only comprehend the Church as a means to some end. Conservatives to make it more moral, liberals to make it more modern....[The Church] is not a means to an end. It is the end! The Church is the goal of all creation: to be incorporated in Christ. Membership in Christ is a sacramental fact, which is to say, it is a mystery.


It is here we face the real priestly crisis. Christians do not want totally to consecrate their lives to God. Monasticism and martyrdom are no longer the models. Instead the models are drawn from secular systems of moral or pyschological 'improvement', so that the ideal Christian is no longer seen as the saint but as either the moral paragon, or perhaps worse, the well-adjusted person . We do not want to measure ourselves against eternal life...Moral and pyschological health are no longer seen in their correct perspective as indicators of a more profound sanctity with its roots in eternity. They are viewd as goals in themselves. It is as though salvation in Christ was merely designed to make us better or happier.

The ordained priesthood is drawn out of this other priesthood (that of the laity) and exists to serve it by ensuring that its holiness becomes concrete in the lives of Christians.

In other words, we cannot expect the instituitional priesthood to be holier than the charismatic priesthood which is its source. The clergy do not create holiness. At best, they can only express it. If the people of God prefer not to exercise their priesthood it is inevitable, and even perhaps desirable, that all other orders in the Church should also suffer. The Church can never be reformed purely as an institution. That would be a terrible curse: to have a well-functioning organization which will come to an end with the rest of the world! God has given us not an institution but a mystery; not a thing that will finish and die, but a life to be lived eternally.

This view seems dead-on. I posted a quote from Ratzinger a few days ago (via Mr. Dylan) that pointed out the constant tendency of humans to see the Church in strictly moral terms. But morality is not an end in itself. This Byzantine view is such a healing one because it recognizes the "reason for the season" - i.e. everything: Christ.

Lots to discuss & recuss here, but one thing is that I can see constantly that emphasis on spirituality 'done' for our mental health - as an end in itself. Some of the saints weren't the most mentally balanced folks, so that article was telling since our culture does preach 'health uber alles'. A friend has told me that she doesn't trust many of the saints because they were 'crazy'.

And Prayer?
This is interesting to me is where prayer begins being about "us", our health & happiness and not about pleasing God. If prayer leads to scrupulosity or depression, then of course it is not of God and should be discarded. But if some time of prayer is 'boring' or is not fun in the sense of focusing on Christ instead of ourselves and our needs (I'm thinking of the rosary here, and its mediations on the mysteries) then...

September 01, 2002

I'm intrigued by the fuss raised over Nihil Obstat in general, and his/her identity specifically. That blog's popularity somewhat befuddles me. I suppose I should see the "service" performed by Nihil as a good thing, given that some readers not sympathetic to the views expressed in St. Blog's blogs might be put off by a spelling or grammatical error.

But how we humans love a mystery. Won't there be an inevitable let-down when their identity is exposed? Isn't it smart of God not to totally reveal himself (not that we could absorb it anyway) given that we love to search?