September 30, 2003

I'm impressed by how gamely Nancy Nall carries on with her NN.C site. Despite how busy she must be she won't forget the little people, no, not even now that she hobnobs with the glams in Michigan (is that an oxymoron?).

Obviously she has a wider audience than most bloggers, and that is viagra to the motivation, but I'm frankly surprised by the lengths to which she is going (albeit she is switching to a blog).

I have to think that at some point her right to have ample family, study and hobnob time supercedes our right to be entertained. Theoretically at least.

Any time you get a professional performance for free, you feel a certain appreciation. Now sure, she's getting something out of it in terms of maintaining connections and business contacts, but even so she gets paid to write and is good at it so reading her blog for free has a bargain feel to it. But there are some at St. Blog's (and you know who you are) who, although not professionals, are so good at what they do that there is a similar appreciation.

Reminds me of the Holiday Strings concert our company provides. Eight or ten members of the Columbus Orchestra come and play the most marvelous music to a "crowd" of maybe ten. It has an aspect of embarrassing gratuitousness about it - like the idea of Christ dying for us alone. Mother Teresa once wrote, 'Look at the cross and you will know what one soul means to Jesus'.
Buoys, Borders and Lines of Demarcation

Disputations discusses faith as gift. I'm always interested in where the human ends and the divine begins, where human effort faileth and divine intervention beginneth. (That fascination is also part of the reason I like maps, state lines and swimming beyond lake buoys.)

But perhaps I should develop an affinity for shallower waters.

The mystery of grace and free will and predestination only make my head hurt. Jesus seemed tough on those with weak faith, "Oh ye of little faith!" and didn't work miracles where there was little faith. On the other hand, faith is miraculous, supernatural, as when Peter knew Jesus to be the Christ and Jesus said that no flesh had told him that but the Spirit of God.

Knotty spiritual problems produce two equal and opposite reactions in me: they entice, because they're fascinating (how an auto transmission works is finite, and therefore less interesting), but they repel because they are without answer in this life.
St. Jerome's Feast  excerpts from his letters
...Charity overcomes all things, and my regard for you defeats my determination. I am, indeed, less careful to retaliate upon my assailants than to comply with your request. For among Christians, as one has said, not he who endures an outrage is unhappy, but he who commits it.
I know that as you read these words you will knit your brows, and fear that my freedom of speech is sowing the seeds of fresh quarrels; and that, if you could, you would gladly put your finger on my mouth to prevent me from even speaking of things which others do not blush to do. But, I ask you, wherein have I used too great license? Have I ever embellished my dinner plates with engravings of idols? Have I ever, at a Christian banquet, set before the eyes of virgins the polluting spectacle of Satyrs embracing bacchanals?
...Let us reflect on the words of the sapiential psalm: "Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments." Only he can speak thus who in all his troubles magnifies the Lord, and, putting down his sufferings to his sins, thanks God for his clemency.
Pope Damasus, 384, addresses five questions to Jerome with a request for information concerning them [including]:Why was Isaac, a righteous man and dear God, allowed by God to become the dupe of Jacob? (Gen. 27)

In reply to the question Jerome says: "No man save Him who for our salvation has deigned to put on flesh has full knowledge and a complete grasp of the truth. Paul, Samuel, David, Elisha, all make mistakes, and holy men only know what God reveals to them." He then goes on to give a mystical interpretation of the passage suggested by the martyr Hippolytus.

September 29, 2003


I see that Gregg the Obscure has gone to Confession. Good move, for surely the Apocalypse is nigh --- the Bengals won yesterday. Scary times indeed.

September 28, 2003

Favorite Childhood Books

HMS is listing favorite children books. Here are some off the top of my head:

- A Child's Book of Poems - Gyo Fujikawa
- Lad: A Dog - Albert Payson Terhune
- A Light in the Forest - Conrad Richter
- Island of the Blue Dolphin - Scott O'Dell
- Encyclopedia Brown - Donald J. Soboll
- When the Grass Was Real - Donald Honig
- Horton Hears a Who - Dr. Suess

A couple years ago we had the opportunity to donate children's books to an inner city public school library. I donated "A Light in the Forest". And although I don't think there was anything wrong with my donation, that program didn't last long which you could've seen coming up Fifth Avenue. Too many "politically incorrect" books, i.e. books with a moral (teaching virtues is surely now suspect), or, alternatively, books "too white". The following year they provided a list of books they would accept.
Am reading Elliot Paul's The Last Time I Saw Paris, written shortly after Paris fell to the Nazi's. In it he reminisces about the City of Lights of the '20s. Inspired by his poetic descriptions (he begins by describing the sun rising over Notre Dame) I thought briefly about writing about my hometown, "The Last Time I Saw Hamilton!" but although it wouldn't be a parody, I'm not sure the reader would know that and that is always worrisome. By the way, the exclamation point was not extraneous; Hamilton, Ohio changed its name to Hamilton!, Ohio in a bid to increase tourism. Seriously.

Dawn broke over East Main; in the shadow of the Billy Yank monument we devoured bacon and eggs...

Paul's keen eye for the ladies combined with a cavalier attitude towards the French brothel led me to suspect he was no saint (takes a sinner to know one); I checked an online biography and found he died shortly after divorce number five.
Bill Cork on 'Luther'

Former Lutheran minister makes interesting comments on the film Luther.
Speyr Quote
All man was required to do was simply to accept God's judgment of the goodness of creation in an act of obedience that would not have cost him any self-conquest, because God stood in full clarity above him and God's pure judgment was perfectly valid for him. But when he found himself alienated from God through sin, he had to begin defining God. That is, in everything he undertook, good as well as evil, he had to try to recapture God's judgment, envision God's actions on the basis of his own, decide whether God's attitude was approval or rejection, permission or prohibtion. Through sin man shifted not only himself but all creation from the right relationship with God. A sign of the disturbed order was that God no longer spoke to man directly, but henceforth through mediators appointed to the task. In this state of alienation in which man found himself, he was better able to understand these voices... From now one angels are sent on missions to mankind. Angels stand directly before God in eternity. They convey what they receive of his eternal wisdom, which to them in heaven is self-evident, and they must make it palatable to man on earth...
--Adrienne von Speyr, + 1967, Swiss medical doctor, mystical writer, and stigmatic.

September 27, 2003

Written Upon Hearing the Song 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald'

A terrible irony:
he touched taut skin
strong muscles
all running to ruin;
breathed with clear lungs
moved with healthy heart...
--just geographically-sick
but what kind of sick is that?
Sick as mid-Superior
in a gale come early,
a lifetime of prayer
held in the tightening noose.
Un-Impramatur'd Thoughts

There can be no peace without courage. Look at St. Therese of Lisieux: a twenty-something profile in courage.

To be brave is this: to appropriate God’s promises prematurely. To believe in heaven, our personal salvation, in the possibility of our perfectibility without any visible proof. To thank and praise God proactively instead of retroactively is to trust, which is a way of being brave.

In the Psalms David says, '‘thank the lord for all he has done for you’. But how much more thankful should I be than David since that was before the Cross, the saving Ark?

September 26, 2003

The Hate Debate

Tom of Disputations cranks out another provocative and interesting post, this time about hatred of George Bush. I have co-workers who are militantly anti-Bush and somewhat less militantly anti-Christian. I wonder if the two aren't becoming connected in their minds and the former inflaming the latter, given the President's very public Christianity. (After all, Cardinal Newman wrote that "Men go by their sympathies, not by argument...") If every time I think of the word "blue" I got hit below the belt, eventually I'm going to not like the idea of "blue" so much.

Somewhat analogous might be Hernan Gonzalez's situation. His Argentine readers are no doubt more anti-American and less Christian than him. Since it's infinitely more important they become more Christians instead of less anti-American, it makes utter sense for Hernan to use the word yankee, with its slightly derogatory connotation, lest he become an obstacle to his friend's conversions.

But with the Bush haters it's somewhat of a chicken or the egg argument - do they hate Bush because they smell religion? Or are they turned off by Christianity because they feel it is being malpracticed by someone as visibly devout as Bush?

If hatred of Bush and his conservatism bleeds over into hatred of religion then that's all the more reason for Christians to scrupulously divide politics from religion, by remembering that Christianity favors no political parties, just issues (e.g. pro-life).

The problem is that it gets more difficult to separate a party's issues from the party itself (the 'sinner' from the sin?). The secularization of the Democratic party over the past three decades has made religion more identifiable with a particular political party than is healthy.

As Ye Olde Oligarch once wrote:
Since Eisenhower added 'under God' to the pledge (perhaps itself a buttressing of the eroding foundations of social order? It was the 1950s after all...), we've seen the legalization of birth control, abortion, and pornography; the radical secularization of the instruments of public education, a stripping of public spaces of all forms of religious expression (unless you are deemed a protected minority, like Judaism, which gets away with Menorahs on city greens from time to time), a sequence of direct attacks on the institutions of marriage and the family -- all basically the flight of alienated, anti-religious consciousness away from the tattered remnants of Western Christianity towards a collective society wherein the will-to-libido can express itself untrammelled by regulations of the public sector.

Not to say those changes are all due to liberal Democratic judges and office holders, but...a NY Times story concluded a story about George Bush with the line, "The interesting story, then, is not that Mr. Bush is a captive of the religious right, but that his people are striving to make the religious right a captive of the Republican Party." 

The easy retort is that the Democratic Party is also striving to make the religious right captive of the Republican Party!

But don't take my word for it - as uber-liberal James Carville himself admitted, "the Democratic party could be a lot friendlier to religion". Amen.
Interesting Quote
Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder. --St. Thomas Aquinas
Blog Comedy

St. Blog's has been particularly fecund these days in developing new forms of blogger comedy. Here is my offering, inspired by this funny post from Two Sleepy Mommies:

Search engine searches:

Philosophical quotes about breast milk  ( about "breast milk, it does a baby good?")

ectasy of st. teresa (from a military domain - army) (Great minds misspell alike)

Mel Gibon's Passion (oh happy fault! That a typo could lead you here!)

Could i get notes to the song Naggin to play on my TUBA (Sorry)

sexual (Could you be more specific?)

dust in the wind kansas what it means symbolic meaning (See readings from Ash Wednesday)

CHRISTIAN BOOKSHOPS IN LAGOS (Not sure...but I know a couple scammers from there)
Defining "Commitment" Down

Ham of Bone must like to produce blood pressure variations within himself. To produce a high BP, he simply listens to NPR. But this time, instead of the usual liberal slant, he heard this from Dr. Drew Pensky:
Terri Gross' sit-in interviewer asked: "Do you think kids today need more sex education?"

And here's where we entered the twilight zone. (If you didn't know better, you'd think that Dr. Dobson was answering instead.)

(My paraphrase)
Dr. Drew: "No way! Kids today know too much! The problem today is that there is no courtship ritual; kids meet, then hook up. There is no emotional depth to the connection."

Interviewer: "Hook up. That's a recent term among kids. What does it mean?"

Dr. Drew: "It's an alarming trend whereby guys and girls hanging out together with a group pair off for quick physical contact (kissing, petting, and oral sex and intercourse) with no acknowledged connection as a couple. In the past, this kind of activity usually occurred among a pair of kids who identified themselves as "going out" or "dating".

I've held seminars and focus groups with thousands of high school and college kids and 100 percent, 100 percent!, of women that I talk to HATE the new pseudo-dating rituals. Boys get loaded before an encounter because it helps them to perform and girls get loaded because it helps them to tolerate a hook up encounter.

In every assembly, when I ask what a girl would like to happen, inevitably a girl in the room says, 'I wish he would just sit down and talk to me.' Kids need to be taught the human element of relationships. They need courting rituals that accent the human quality of a person. Kids today are so stunted socially..."

What amazes me most about this is how the "price" or "cost" of sex was traditionally commitment in the form of marriage. Then it became acceptable in any committed relationship. Now it seems that even a public acknowledgement of a connection between two is somehow embarrassing. Sad situation.
All Star Lineup - Plan Accordingly

Great week upcoming for saint feast days, so phone the kids, wake the neighbors. St. Jerome on Tuesday, St. Therese of Lisieux (yea!!) on Wednesday and St. Francis on Saturday. It's always refreshing to celebrate the lives of those who got it right, at least more often than most, sort of like watching a Ted Williams or a Johnny Bench.


Lord, scrape the barnacles of unreality off me
make me the cheerful in the face of Fallenness.

September 25, 2003

Good Friday People vs Easter People

Fascinating post from Frederica Mathewes-Green (via this Mark Shea post) that goes over some of the ground discussed at Disputations a few weeks ago (obviously Mathewes-Green is behind the times :). I think of the Resurrection as demonstrative of God's power and the Crucifixion of his love. They are inseparable because it's the combination of power and love that is the heart of what makes God so amazing and worthy of worship, but there are times one or the other of the attributes may speak to us more directly.

If we think of that love as beauty and the power of the Resurrection as truth: without truth is false, and that which is false and beautiful does not remain beautiful for very long. If the faith is no more than a pretty face, then the aesthetes are also atheists. Since miracles are an error in taste, it is far more subversive and therefore far more Christian to accept the miracles. It's also much more fun--rather like wearing a hideous hat on purpose. --Dwight Longenecker via Flos Carmeli
Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Starr is confident that California will one day return to her Catholic roots. 'The blood of the martyrs in California, in the Spanish colonies in Florida, in the French missions in Canada, and the thousands of priests in remote frontier communities herald our spiritual destiny.'" - via El Camino Real
God is not my father in particular, or any man's father (horrible presumption and madness!); no, He is only father in the sense of father of all, and consequently only my father in so far as He is the father of all. When I hate someone or deny God is his father, it is not he who loses, but I: for then I have no father. -Søren Kierkegaard via Steven Riddle
African Americans have liberal political beliefs but many adhere to a conservative interpretation of the Bible. Perhaps that's one reason why Dean rallies are whiter than the Stockholm chapter of the Barry Manilow Fan Club. -John Pitney via NRO
Even if you ditch the gender stereotypes, the stratification goes on, just reformulated...It doesn't matter what the ideal is; an ideal forms, and some people live up to it better than others. - Camassia
If a man tries to be humble, won't he be proud of his effort, and therefore not humble at all? --commenter Rob on Disputations
Now, whoever believes, assents to someone's words; so that, in every form of belief, the person to whose words assent is given seems to hold the chief place and to be the end as it were; while the things by holding which one assents to that person hold a secondary place. - Aquinas excerpt from this analogy from Minute Particulars
And, while I’m extremely grateful for the gift of Purgatory, I’m anxious to get those friends, relatives, and loved ones out of there as soon as possible. For their own sakes, of course. But — let’s face it — once they’re out of Purgatory and in Heaven, they can pray for me!
“As usual, it’s all about you, isn’t it Kelly?” -the wonderful Pew Lady
Too Much Time on my Hands (sing like Styx)

Proof positive was enduring the California debate last night, which, like a train wreck, was hard to ignore. I could've been reading Wallace's "Infinite Jest" or Paul Theroux or "The Spiritual Exercises of John Paul II". Instead I fell asleep to the jarring sounds of insults and bromides.

I watched "only" the first hour, but Huffington, my gosh, what can you say? Isabel had less hot air. If you hadn't heard the question you wouldn't know it from her answer; it appeared to be a forum to bash Arnold and Bush and Davis and she wasn't going to let the question get in the way of the answer.

There is something "pretty" about consistency. Thus McClintock's calm, reasoned conservatism was attractive. You know what he stands for. Saul Bellow called the ordered thoughts of Alan Bloom charismatic, small 'c', given his coherent world view. Aquinas could be viewed similarly.

I think the reason William F. Buckley had such deep friendships with liberals like George McGovern and Arthur Schlesinger are:

1) Intellectual honesty, which implies some sort of consistent world view
2) Perhaps Schlesinger, McGovern and Buckley are, plain and simply, good people.

September 24, 2003

Pastoral Comments IV
Twice the gospels mention that Jesus wept. Once was the death of his friend, Lazarus, about which he could do something, i.e. raise him from the dead. The other time he couldn't, which was to convince his own people to follow Him:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
The New Brain

I recently found myself in the ludicrous position of reading a book about the horrors of multi-tasking, while, of course, multi-tasking. I was in the gym on the stairmaster, reading Dr. Restak's The New Brain with the television ten feet in front of me occasionally stealing my attention (along with that annoying crawl that IMO should be reserved for catastrophes only.)

Dr. Restrak is a neuroscientist who warns that we are abusing our brains with technology, most especially television of course. The symptoms are a sort of adult attention deficit disorder, which is becoming so common that some experts are arguing that it should no longer be seen as a disorder. Apparently a neuroscientist's way of defining deviancy down.

Restrak quotes Jacques Barzun: "The machine makes us its captive servants-by its rhythm, by its convenience, by the cost of stopping it or the drawbacks of not using it. As captives we come to resemble it in its pace, rigidity, and uniform expectations."

The symptoms of adult ADD include: a frequent search for high stimulation, intolerance of boredom, a sense of underachievement, of not meeting one's goals, difficulty getting organized, impatience, a sense of insecurity and a tendency to say whatever comes to mind.

Restrak also quotes Blaise Pascal who said, "Most of the evils in life arise from a man's being unable to sit still in a room."

I'd go on with this post, but I'm afraid I'd lose your attention! (or mine!)
Another good site

Via Amy, haven't read this yet, but a must-read article on Shakespeare and the mystery of things:

Shakespeare, as an artist and poet, was called to be contemplative of this world. Was he gazing at things as if he were God's spy?
Fictional Wednesday

He was a born Materialist, only worse – a Materialist lacking imagination, at least to the extent that's not redundant. Thus shortly after he turned ten, when his father sat down and informed him of the facts of life, he gave a lecture of his own: “No dad, only pee comes out of the penis! That's why they call it a pee-nis.”

“Consider it a dual-use instrument,” his father replied, “like a trumpet that becomes a trombone.”

“No, that just isn’t possible…how would it know when to pee and when to, when to…do what you said?”

“Well, you have a point there. It’s not exactly known as an organ of intelligence.”

And so the child went his way like St. Thomas the Apostle, not believing until he experienced it for his own, at which point he was briefly surprised by how wrong he was, and of his reluctance to believe his father, but that soon passed...

September 23, 2003

Jonah Blog

Jeff Miller continues the fine tradition of his humorous bible blogs. I was thinking briefly of Methuselah's. Lots of posts like: "All right with the emails already. I'm still alive. Just because I miss a day posting doesn't mean I'm dead!"
Also, very interesting Disputations post discussing "Love the sinner, hate the sin".
Willing to be Free

Bill O'Reilly recently had a guest who was a PhD in sex therapy, and he attempted to discern the nature of free will in a five minute segment. I'll try to name that tune in three minutes.

The subject was sex addiction, and O'Reilly argued that the sex addict in question had free will all along, while the PhD said that, by definition, having an addiction means not having free will.

My understanding of it is that there is a continuum along with you are less and less, or more and more, free. Not an either/or.

The therapist suggested that addicts engage in behavior that is self-destructive. It follows their will must not be free, since why would anyone intentionally hurt themselves? O'Reilly then asks the other guest (the sex addict) how he stopped. The addict said that it got too self-destructive. So O'Reilly implied that okay, you could stop at point A, but not point B, which suggests some freedom.

It reminds me of one of Amy's favorite Flannery O'Connor lines, the one that goes something like, "she coulda been good with someone to shoot her everyday". You might look at that statement two ways: that she was less free, because she had a gun to her head improving her behavior, or that that proved she'd been free all along, because her behavior was changed given the proper motivation.

It also reminds me of the parable of the prodigal son, where the son engaged in much self-destructive behavior but wouldn't go back to his father until the destructive behavior reached the level where he was living worse than his father's livestock. It was then he swallowed his pride and went home.

September 22, 2003

May Your Days Be Long and Stressful
From NYT article:
To many, the good life may be lying on a hammock strung between palm trees, sipping a long cool drink, doing nothing, planning nothing, worrying about nothing.

But the latest scientific research offers more evidence that this version of the the good life and good health may not be the same thing.

Of course, the research is preliminary and involves mostly insects and rodents, but some experts, like Dr. Mark Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, are taking no chances.

His goal is to subject his body to daily low-level stress — like abstaining from food for much of the day. "Stress is a very ill-defined term, and there's clearly bad types of stress," Dr. Mattson said. "It is very clear that uncontrollable chronic stress and psychological stress is bad for the brain and the body." But, he and others say, mild stress is a very different, beneficial thing.
On Prostelyzin'

My wife's sister received a book as a birthday present from a family friend yesterday. Since books aren't normally given as gifts (my wife's family aren't big readers, hence vive le difference), I was immediately suspicious. And since the giver is left of center politically, I thought: ' way did she give her an apolitical book'.

My suspicion was confirmed when I went to and looked at some of the reader's comments on the book given - a left-winger's wet dream. You can say it takes a prostelyzer to know one, for I am not without sin - years ago I gave the same sister-in-law Scott Hahn's "Rome Sweet Home", which seems embarrassing in hindsight both because I didn't know her very well and she wasn't open to it. It seems a measure of respect to not try to inflict your faith or ideology on someone else, unless they are hungry for or open to it. My sister-in-law didn't read Hahn, dismissing it with an amused look: "you aren't trying to convert me, are you?". Since she is a conservative, I think this book will hit her similarly. In both cases, while the giver of the gift ostensibly wanted the person's highest good (in their view), they wanted the good in a way that was forced. But at that time I was in the giddy mode of the recently reverted, with the attendent high of wanting to solve other people's blindnesses (OPBs) since my own was now gone. Eventually you realize your own self's got a long way to go yet.

Our pastor recently said that it is only when others want what we have that conversions will result. And it is only when Christ is incarnated in us that we will have what others want.
Video killed the newsprint star

Frank Rich's white-hot hatred of Mel Gibon's movie The Passion is due, I think, to a tacit understanding of what was discussed here concerning abortion pictures. In the game of rock-papers-scissors, rock trumps paper and likewise do pictures trump text, at least non-biblical text. Mr. Rich understands this, and hence the hysteria over a movie - moving pictures, both literally and figuratively. If Rich's goal is an utterly secular society, a movie like Mel Gibon's is a terrible threat indeed.
Vas You Ever in Zinzinnati?

It wouldn't be fair to my German forebears to celebrate only Irish festivals and not German ones like Oktoberfest. So, in an an act of ancestral piety, I enjoyed an intellectually-arid but family-rich weekend at the Zinzinnati Oktoberfest. My brother delivered the gladsome news that I will be an uncle again next March. This surprise led to our pitching possible names to his wife. My brother suggested Killian, and I Spaten, after our respective beers (any St. Spaten's or St. Killian's?).

The Spaten Doppel Bock was remarkably good - first time I'd had it but it immediately overtook Warsteiner and St. Pauli Girl as my favorite Deutsche beer for many good reasons including these.

No nephew named 'Spaten' likely

Update: Kudos to Bill White for pointing out that there is indeed a St. Killian. My sister-in-law expressed concerns that his nickname might become "Kill" though, so I doubt this new information will change things.
Gall Stone

To his cell the monk repaired,
held fast by some exotic puzzle
bound in thorned caliography
of St. Matthew’s Passion story;
a galling stone
he could not pass.

Down the long hall he strode,
past a statue of St. Therese
in whose arms a crucifix bloomed
from a bouquet of roses.
He kissed her left hand,
the hand that held both rose and crucifix.

The white-stone walls whispered
of freedom and captivity;
bare but for the Corpus that
radiated a sober warmth;
While the green-bound bible on his bed
lay open to John 11:39--
“‘Take away the stone’, Jesus said.”

September 19, 2003

Hilarity Ensues

Jeff Miller strikes again! Hi-laire!
The Parable of the Challenge Lane

There's a congested road near us that has two lanes going north for about a mile, although the right lane eventually becomes a turn-only lane. The temptation, of course, is to use this "free" lane to pass a zillion cars and then get over into the left lane.

There are three methods drivers use to getting back into the coveted left lane (assuming they don't want to make a turn):

1) Roll down your window, make eye contact with the driver to your left and make an arm motion that basically says, "can I squeeze in?".
2) Given six inches between bumpers, simply muscle into the spot. Turn-signals are frowned upon because they telegraph the move.
3) Slowly troll down the lane with your turn signal on, hoping for some unwarranted grace, but being willing to make the right turn rather than simply stop in the lane and hold up drivers behind you who want to make a right.

Assuming the driver is intimately familiar with this particular strech of road then:

Number 1 displays the sin of presumption. I will pass all the other drivers and then presume upon their good grace to let me in.
Number 2 is the sin of despair. I despair of anybody letting me in, because they know that I'm cutting in line and I wouldn't let a bastard like me in.
Number 3 gets it about right, neither presuming nor despairing.

Saints, of course, patiently wait in the left lane and let numbers 1, 2 and 3 in.
Oy vey, You Can Tell It's Friday

Blogger's been a pain in the proverbial lately (blame it on the hurricane?) so I got to musing...what if I lost all my archives and posts, and tomorrow I had to start again with just my children and my wife? ....hmmm, with help from Lee Greenwood...
If tomorrow all the posts were gone,
I’d written all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my laptop and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘Cause the blog still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away....

REF: And I’m proud to be a blogger,
where at least I get my say,
And I won't forget the folks who hit my site
some I don't even have to pay...

And I'd gladly stand up,
and write a poem and blog it here today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love St. Blog's
God bless 'em every day.

From the lakes of Disputations,
to the hills of Particulae.
Across the mines of Gospel,
From fotos to Flos bay...

From Wolfram down to Kairos,
and Amy to Mark Shea
Well there's pride in every St. Blog's heart,
and it's time we stand and say....

So Much Material...

Camassia shoots barrelled fish here.

This prompted a potential new form of blogger comedy - what would a teenage 'zine bible for boys look like? I briefly thought alonge the lines of the Field & Stream...then Maxim...the only thing that immediately came to mind was:

The Ultimate Fantasy Football League - Rating Your Bible Heroes

This is obviously a job for Jeff Miller.
Nicht zu Gut

My bookroom is the one place where I more or less keep things in order, mostly because I'm not in there all that much, at least during the summer. So I notice when books are disturbed. And two books were disturbed, presumably by my evangelical stepson (my wife doesn't read outside of her MBA stuff). So which two volumes were apparently tolle lege'd? Augustine's "City of God". Fine. And Belloc's "How the Reformation Started". Ouch. My stepson's pastor is no fundamentalist; he is very respectful of Catholicism. So now Belloc's red meat approach will not do much to further Christian unity. Belloc is sort of the Ann Coulter-like in that he preaches best to the choir. Hope I didn't dog-ear/highlight any anti-Protestant passages. Relatedly, regarding this discussion, my pastor recently suggested that Protestants are in the same position as Jesus' disciples before the institution of the Eucharist, i.e. ministers of the Word.

St. Augustine once said that he trembled at being placed in the bishop's chair rather than with the congregation, saying "salvation" lay there, with his brethern, rather than being placed in a seat of responsibility. This reminded me of Amy's quote of another saint who suggested that hell is lined with the bones of bishops. Gruesome image! But Catholics, given the greater responsibility of being ministers of the Word and Body, should probably likewise tremble given our (read: mine) lacklusterness.
LA Times article via Amy on Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life book.

Say what you will about the "fads" of evangelicalism, as Mark Shea's blog attempts to deride, but I think they're on the mark with this one. This ain't no Jabez, it's about service and doesn't deserve to be dismissed.
Please say the Mighty Barrister's inspiring prayer.

September 18, 2003

Pantheism, Trinitarism and other "isms"

The "Bible Answer Man", the alliteratively-named Hank Hanegraaff, says that most heresies occur out of a mistaken understanding of the nature of God.

I think that's true, and I pondered that recently in connection with Islamic fundamentalists. If you see God as totally transcendent, as wholly "other" as the Muslims do, then humans (at least of the non-saved variety) tend to look totally depraved and murdering infidels less of a difficulty.*

The other extreme, Pantheism, makes moral absolutes impossible. Everyone is their own god, doing their own thing.

But Christianity seems to reconcile these two opposite notions about as well as they can be reconciled.

I've often tended to see God more as Father than as Trinity, to my detriment. (Gosh, Mark's going to say I sound like Peggy Noonan - I've, my.) Tom of Disputations says, "I think it's as hard as it is important for Catholics to be consciously Trinitarian." Our pastor recently pointed out that "unless you see God as a relational God, you will not understand that we are most human when we are relational, since we are made in the image and likeness of God".

* - (Not to say that Christians are without blame in this area, we just have less of an excuse.)
Cross and Clocks...Sacred and Secular

Alicia of Fructis Ventris has a post that asks whether you have more clocks than crosses in your home...

What especially interests me most about this question is whether I should worry about becoming somehow immune to, or at least less moved by, the Crucifixtion by seeing it too often, in too many rooms. I have a dread of taking God for granted. I already wonder about running the risk of having the Eucharist too frequently could lead me to take it too lightly. I do realize that too many pictures of my wife would not lessen my affection for her so perhaps it is groundless.
Ready for the next you won't have to

Nigerian scammers are sort of like restaurants that serve Hungarian Goulash - they're never around when you need one. But I am now prepared should the need arise, in this "kill 'em with kindness" reply:
Dear Nigerian Scammer,

Greetings my new-found Republic of Burundi friend, and thank you for the email dated September xx, 2003. Back in the late '70s I had a foreign penpal from Norway, just outside Stavanger, which is about a hundred miles from Oslo. I'm sure you know where Oslo is - just go to fjord in the road and take it, tee-hee!

Anyhow, my correspondent was a very prolific writer despite the time it took to receive mail. You mightn't believe this unless you're of a certain age, but back then we had to write letters by hand and then pay seventy cents for an airmail stamp, which would take upwards of 4-6 weeks to arrive by carrier pigeon.

But you're probably not interested in my old penpal (although do let me know if you are, because there are many stories I could tell like the time she casually mentioned "bottle parties" and I had no idea what that meant because I'm not Norwegian nor could I easily read her writing and I thought she wrote "battle parties" and asked her what battle parties were and she said something about drinking, which, I'll be honest, was not even on my radar since KoolAid was the strongest stuff I drank and to this day I'm not sure what bottle parties were because she was vague about it, as if if I didn't know she wasn't going to tell me just like you'd get with kids who know about the birds and bees but don't want to discuss it with you unless you already know, but if everyone did that how would anybody know anything, ya know what I mean? You don't happen to know what bottle parties are, do you?).

As I said, you're probably not interested in those days before email, this amazing electronic invention. I greeted your note with gladness and surprise, since I share your interest in free market initiatives such as the one you are proposing, as long as they be of a legal nature. The situation you describe reminds me of a clogged drain - if I spring for the Drano, you'll have water galore with which to share with me.

But one thing still bothers me though. Bottle parties....just what the heck are they?
Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of posts

On Books (from Spanish Blogger Hernan Gonzalez, thru the fracturing lens of Babelfish):

I bought some books the weekend. And it gives a little me shame to confess it. Because I have too many books (and too many without reading...)? No, not as much for that reason... to that already I have resigned myself.

Anyway, the Yankee technical books (at least, those that are not too popularizer , those that has quality within their branch) usually have his; there is writers who have their cuasi-literary grace, and some that another characteristic of culture, breaking a little the stereotype nerd...

And - retaking what said in the beginning, on libraries too much populated... brought an appointment of Borges, that alluded as well to Cicerón (I mention of memory, safe Borges that it said it better):

"Like all person who has a great library, Cicerón felt like culprit not to know it absolutely..."


Indeed... I do feel like a culprit sometimes, most especially when recently, and astonishingly, I lost two books. I hie'd to the library and borrowed one of them, which is surely what I should've done in the first place.

Reading Hernan Gonzalez thru the lens of babelfish, we Northern Americans are usually referred to as "Yankees" which either makes me feel like I wear the pinstripes Mantle wore, or I'm about to battle the greycoats at Gettysburg. Update: Hernan G. wrote me and said that to refer to us as Americans is of course, not precise since since he is an American also. So "North Americans" is sometimes used, albeit wordy. Nothing wrong with Yanqui, just don't call me late to dinner!
Kathy Defends an Ass! at 11

"The only thing I would quibble with (both then and now) is the defamation of the character of Balaam's ass. Balaam's ass was the instrument of the Lord; her speech was supernaturally produced!"

Other colorful KTC quotes include:

"I did inform one young lady that she was on 'the bullet train to hell'".

"In my little sphere, though, I'm not asked so much to give advice; rather, I end up hearing presentations of the cultural values of my seeker friends (and they ARE friends, not merely curiosities or my version of 'the white man's burden'."
"...thyme’s always short."
- Gregg the Obscure
"There’s a word for this book and the word is crap. This cost maybe $0.75 at the thrift store. When I think of the 20 oz. Coke I could have bought with that money, I’m peeved." --Literarium

On the more serious side of things, see Crystal's confessional story.   And from today's local paper came this bon mot: "The icon of mother and child is probably the most powerful symbol and the most accurate synthesis of Christianity....Between divinity and humanity, there is a unity. God made himself little to join humanity and allowed man to achieve his full dignity." - Rev. Johann Roten
"If they knew what it was, they'd know where to put it." - our pastor, regarding confusion over where to place the Tabernacle in the sanctuary.
Karol Wojtyla Minces No Words!

This is from a series of sermons he preached during spiritual retreats in the 1960s. This excerpt was from a talk for male students:
There is a certain tendency to see religion as a women's matter and something rather unsuitable for men. Men always feel more at home in the role of Nicodemus, who was a member of the Sanhendrin who recognized Jesus, but only in secret. We have a tendency toward the Nicodemus type of religious attitude, toward the type of devotion which is characterized maybe only by superficial discretion but very often also by fear of what others might think.

This male Catholicism is not interior or deep enough; the male believer does not have a true interior life. What he maybe thinks of as his own particular religious style - this discretion and distance or detachment from devotional practices and the sacramental life - in effect means that his interior life is defective and lacking depth.

Christ said that we should go out and teach. My dear sons, this does not refer only to bishops and priests, but to all of us. Now, when have you, as grown men, taught somebody? Have you taught any children their catechism? Or started a discussion of some religious topic with a colleague? You may feel that such matters are embarrassing, but here we must make a clear distinction between discretion and cowardice or simple superficiality...

September 17, 2003

What Value Symbol?

Amy posted a link of atheists wondering aloud. They are wondering, "why do we fight Christians over trivial issues like the slab of Ten Commandments?".

CalPundit links Alan Dershowitz, who apparently opines that fighting the fight against Judge Moore is something upon which lies the fate of civilization. But then Alan's business is controversy, he makes money off of it, so it's easy to discount.

But what about when my side weighs in?

Deal Hudson, for example, a better Catholic than I, strives to remove pro-abort Leon Panetta from some bishop's panel. Tom of Disputations asks, "does this solve anything?", and it does make the issue look paltry when he puts it that way. Leon Panetta seems an unlikely target for all our Catholic angst.

(I didn't realize until recently that I had a litmus test as to who is a "real" Catholic - those who are against abortion. My pride in proclaiming that I would become a Democrat if they became the pro-life party morphed into the thought that any Catholic Democrat voting for a pro-abortion candidate isn't a real Catholic. But since Christ wasn't in the business of litmus tests when He walked the earth, nor can I. Although for me, Ono's blog is still a near occasion of sin.)

In the political arena, the two most effective political lobbies are probably the NRA and NARAL. What they have in common is a take-no-prisoners, surrrender-no-ground attitude. Thus the NRA can defend firearms designed to raze a village and NARAL can defend partial birth abortion and cast a blind eye to infanticide. They see value in symbolic victories.

Obviously just because something "works" in the political sphere doesn't mean we should approach religious controversies the same way. Maybe it should even be a "contrary indicator", although we are told to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves." At the very least, the no surrender approach leads to polarization rather than fraternization. JPII, to my mind, has walked that tightrope as well as anyone, sometimes polarizing sometimes fraternizing and thus gaining enemies on both the "left" and the "right".

For now I'm going with my pastor and following the kids. Like this one.
What if the prophet Jonah had a blog? inspired by Jeff Miller

Awful dark in here. I'm guesstimating it's been three days but my sense of time is hosed. Seems like an experience worth blogging about. I'm writing on my hand just now.
   posted by Jonah 806 BC 10:09 a.m.

Hmm...maybe I got my lighter in my back pocket....let me "fish" for it. [insert groan here] There, got it. I can see! Reminds me of the ol' saw about the blind carpenter: 'I can see', said the blind man, as he picked up his saw and saw.
   posted by Jonah 806 BC 10:11 a.m.

Peeps, I got to be honest, the smell in here leaves a lot to be desired. Whale bellies could use one of those odd-looking air freshners some people got in their cars. My advice to you is just do what the Lord commandeth so that you won't find yourself in this position. Maybe a cigar will overcome this stench.

Ahh...that's better.
   posted by Jonah 806 BC 10:14 a.m.

whoa moby what the h*ll is happening?! The cigar smoke must be causing him to regurg--
   posted by Jonah 806 BC 10:15 a.m.
Paraphrased Pastoral Commentary III
On the importance of loving self
St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote that we cannot know or love others without first knowing and loving ourselves. What makes this possible is that we were made "in the image and likeness of God" which means there is a divine element within each of us. Christ came not only to reconcile the world to God but to reconcile us within ourselves, our own sinfulness with the divine within.

On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross
Jesus made reference to this obscure anecdote in the book of Numbers [the death of some by serpents and their healing by the bronze serpent mounted on the pole] in order that we might see sin for what it is and be converted. In the OT, the serpent is a symbol of sin, and many of the Israelites, disgusted by the journey in the desert, were bitten by the sin of desiring a return to the former lives of slavery in Egypt. When we look at our sin and where it leads, we see the folly in it, we open ourselves up to purgation. Any time we look at the Cross we see where sin leads and how horrendous it is.

A seminarian came to me recently and said that he was thinking of leaving the seminary. I asked if it was because of the scandals in the Church and he said no it was because he has seen a side of himself that scares him. But that is where healing begins. That is what we and the Church need, for as many of the Israelites who saw the sin for what it was lived.

On Michael Jackson
There is no such thing as a "self-made man". Yet we live in an age in which it is our desire to re-make ourselves. Michael Jackson is the icon for our age. Neither black nor white, neither male nor female he is a prime example of someone who desires to make himself in his own image.

September 15, 2003

More Commentary from our Pastor
Look at Youth 2000. The positive side of the crisis is that it is our purgatory and that makes things clean again. American bishops prior to Vatican II, influenced by the culture of their time, wielded great power. Do you an event like Youth 2000 would've happened if Cardinal Spellman was still around? Or Cardinal Cody? They would've squashed it like a bug. And yet, these kids have an authentic faith, great enthusiasm, incredible devotion to the Eucharist and to Eucharistic Adoration. Follow the kids, for the Holy Spirit is there. They'll sin and often get it wrong, but they will lead us out of this Egypt.

I have a good friend who lives in Paris. He told me that when the Pope came there, the media was very dismissive and treated it as a joke. They were shocked and even angry when one million showed up for the outdoor Mass. A reporter on live TV caught a young person running towards the Mass and asked him, "Do you know what this Pope thinks of condoms? What do you think of that!?". The teen looked at him and said, "What I think of condoms is none of your business. And if you think this is about condoms then you're crazy".
From Terry Teachout's Blog.. my fav's:

PAINTING: any decent Eastern Orthodox icon

MUSIC: La Mort de Cléopâtre

NOVEL: Don Quixote

FILM: Schindler's List

POP SONG: Seal's "Kiss by a Rose"

Update (this just in...): Sub "I'm getting married in the morning" as pop song, any Walker Percy novel for Don Quixote.
Poetry Corner

Well, the local paper is having a poetry contest and so I went through the old stuff and contributed the following poems. In the second poem, I start out with somewhat disjointed and not rhyming leading to rhymes. This is to show how my foray into the fields lead to harmony and peace. You buy that? :)

Premature Enfrostation

The cold enters by the back door;
October leaves with a growl and a whip
The hourglass runs out
with no redemption left.

They fall in great numbers;
a Persian carpet of hoarfrost
into the dark abyss they drop
like deaf and blind soccer players
the ball never sent true
half-hits and lucky glances
the ball advances only by grace.

Believing evergreens stand athwart the winter yelling “stop!”
they keep their heads
while all about lose theirs
and calmly face the summer’s demise.


Hocking Hills in Indian Summer

There lay a field in view of the highway
a field mown high for my tastes
chastening heels and calves
though bidding me come like Lorelei
to see what lie beyond.

A sea of sailors with dashed hopes
the up-cupped lip of earth beckons
as if this greenish knoll
should prove the earth flat after all.

A passageway to a field beyond
I tread this new-secluded land
how maddening it was to see
another bank of trees and passage lea!

I tread the threshold once again
enclosed and ovalled like a womb,
to reach the thrice-hid field held back
perchance another meadow loomed.
What if Adam had a blog? Curt Jester has uncovered a new form of blogger comedy here...the mind reels at the potentialities, though it's tougher than it looks. I started Jonah's blog but only got as far as "Awful dark in here."
Excerpted below is one of "Adam's" posts... I found it especially humorous given my inclusion, four years ago, in the son-in-law fraternity:
Be careful what you ask God

I was walking in the garden today and I started to feel really sleepy. I laid down to take a nap and fell into a deep sleep to wake up some unknown hours later. When I woke up I was missing a rib and my new helper was there.

It is hard to describe my new partner, looks much like me but significantly different in some parts of the anatomy. Overall I am pretty impressed and I had to create something which I called poetry to describe this event. So here goes:

This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.

I named her Eve and she didn't seem to object. So far so good.

I also now have this strange compulsion to tell mother-in-law jokes which is kind of strange considering that neither of us has mothers.
Dylan speaks! Yea!
Pastoral Thoughts

My pastor is a marvel. I know I sound like a broken record, after my praise of the recently transferred Dominican friar, but you, the reader, can make the call. I'll post some of my pastor's reflections this week in ye old blog and if I'm lyin', I'm dyin'. Rather than to constantly write "he said", I'll do the blockquote thing even though it's a paraphrase...
In order that we might better understand Christ, we must understand the milieu and culture from which he came. Rather than stripping Christ from his Judiasm and presenting his life out of context we must study where he came from in order to understand what he was trying to do.

For the Semitic mind, image = reality. That is why there could be no graven images of God, because to create a graven image meant you could control God. Similarly with words, since symbol = reality, they couldn't say the name of God.

They also didn't see time the way we do. They saw time as non-linear, as the past wrapped up in the present which is wrapped up in the future. All at once. The linear view of time became prevalent among Christians with the Protestant Reformation; many reformers criticized the Church for being too Judaic.

But for the Israelites, the past was not merely remembered but could become present by saying certain words and phrases - ritual. The words are what that which gets them beyond themselves, otherwise it is their own creation. This is ancient and inborn and God-intended; every religion from animists to Buddhists to Native Americans have ritual. We call this liturgy.

The Hebrews didn't believe in the afterlife as we do now. They believed that the way you "lived forever" was through your ancestors (given their notion that time was not linear). Father Abraham wasn't the founding father as George Washington is for America, but actually is still alive, coursing through their veins. Blood for them was the life-force. This is why having descendants as numerous as the stars meant everything to Abraham - it meant he would have eternal life, because his offspring would be so numerous as to never be wiped off the face of the earth. The problem with the Pharisees (and we have to deal with the same issue) was that they knew salvation was guaranteed - the future is secure because the blood of Abraham was inextinguishable - therefore they naturally turned to ameliorate the present. The mystical is out, the externals are in. We fight the same battle. "Peace and justice" is in. Not to in any way disparage working peace and justice! But it can't be divorced from the mystical.

So when Jesus instituted the Eucharist and started a new ritual - a new Covenant - what was "New" in the "New Covenant"? It is nothing less than exchanging the blood of Abraham for his own. It was de-linking the salvation and life-force of Abraham's blood and substituting "God's DNA" in the Eucharist. It was saying that salvation would now come from Jesus, and not from being Abraham's offspring, and that now you would have Christ's blood within you instead of Abraham's.
languorous thoughts ...aka a self-indulgent post signifying nothing

Spent the long Sunday read in the print-scent of an evanescent Percy novel. Languidly the words pass easily as through a thin membrane, inducing either sleep or reverie or sleepy reverie, and it impregnates memories - inchoate memories of a land as foreign as that of German soldiers wearing the Kaiser Bill helmets - i.e. my youth.

Fatigued of late by a surfeit of argument, of bickering: “left!, left!, left-brain, left!” goes the marching chant. Great suffusions and infusions of poetry needed, 'where is my Yeats!' I call to the assistant librarian, a sprawled cat. My hand finds the fat volume from the library’s moted shelf; reads lead to other leads and I go to the computer and parse online biographies of disparates like Milton, Mae West and Ben Franklin and ask - how did they die? Looking in the back of the book, West was 86 and unrepentant. On his deathbed Franklin was asked: ‘do you consider Christ divine?’. Franklin replied that he hadn’t fully studied the issue but that he expects he’ll know soon enough.

Der Bone

My unemployed friend "Bone" continues his existence outside of reality. He works hard on his lottery tickets, known vulgarly as screenplays. I’m more curious, though I forget to ask, about such matters as whether his attention span changed, if it’s affected his marriage and how, whether he’s gotten to know the neighbors better…How do the satisfactions of corp life compare to creative writing? What is it like grocery shopping in the meditative non-weekend hours? Does he ever hang out at the local McDonald’s chewing tobaccy and the fat with the AmVets? Lingering over coffee with the 3-day bearded anarchists at Starbucks?

September 14, 2003

Blame it on the Irish?

Our pastor recently made some interesting statements concerning the scandal. He told us that it is pretty much limited to the English-speaking church - there were only a couple cases in Germany, for example.

The root cause is surely a lack of faith, but since he recently worked at a seminary for five years, he seemed to imply that seminary formation might have something to do with it too. Or which candidates for the priesthood are accepted (good ones sometimes slip through and become priests, he said, alarmingly).

But I wonder...he pointed out that the main problem occurred in the the American, Irish and Australian churches. What do they have in common? 19th century Irish emigrants heavily influenced all three. Even though there were many German Catholics, the American church was more or less Irish-controlled, in terms of hierarchy and seminaries. And the epicenter of the whole crisis might well be Ireland, in terms of per capita numbers.

So one has to ask what is wrong with the Irish church, much as the subject pains me. And while she had strengths such as an incredible exporter of priests, perhaps her view of sexuality leaves something to be desired. I've heard it said that it was taught as something dirty, the body treated as evil... and thus sexuality in becoming the forbidden fruit becomes all the more enticing. And sex becomes the worst sin. As our pastor once said, "when in habitual sin, if you determine to end it by focusing all your strength on it, you feed it. You begin obsessing over the sin instead of looking to the only thing more powerful than sin - Christ. Sin falls off as heavy baggage as you get closer to Christ."

Perhaps I'm off base on blaming the Irish. But I do wonder what was special about the English-speaking church...

Update: Thomas the M.P. says that a priest he spoke to "made an interesting connection between the sort of Manichean hatred of the body and hedonism. For both there is no essential connection between the person and their body. The body is either an evil to be punished, or an instrument for getting all the pleasure one can. In neither case does our embodiment, especially our embodiment as male and female, signify." Good point.

September 12, 2003

Wonderful Eve Tushnet post:
You know the thing Stephen Fry says, in his amazing novel The Liar? The thing about how everyone is afraid that he will be found out? How you are not merely wrong in certain particulars, but somehow horribly wrong and wrong-footed from the start?

God has found you out. He knows; and He forgives; and He will make you change; and He will make it possible for you to change.

That's all, really. What else can there be?

September 11, 2003

It's Sex Week at St. Blogs says Fructus Ventris, from whom came these links:

Sex and Growing up Catholic by Fr. Jim, (who also homered with this post).

and this at Cross & Crown.
Baton Dropped?

Jeff of El Camino Real has an excellent post exposing the GNP for what it is.

He also has a post stating that the "main event of the 20th century is this: the Greatest Generation failed to pass the baton."

I don't know. Seems as though the problems go back farther than that. I've been reading about the 1920s and given the excesses and promiscuity I'm wondering how spiritually healthy that generation was. Perhaps it was somewhat masked by the U.S. still being mainly a rural nation; farms give you less opportunity to get into trouble. (Thomas Jefferson felt so strongly about the virtues inculcated by farming that he wrote that America would be a good nation as long as it was mainly agricultural). The 1940s & '50s almost seem an aberration caused by the hard times of war and Depression, since hard times appear to have a spiritually healing dimension to them. Perhaps this new book, Turmoil and Truth by Phillip Trower might provide more of an answer.

I came across this recent review by Barry Gewen of a Rudoph Valentino bio:

''SEXUAL intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (Which was rather late for me).'' Philip Larkin was off by 42 years. Sexual intercourse actually began in 1921, on Oct. 30 to be precise. That was the date on which ''The Sheik,'' featuring Rudolph Valentino, opened at two movie houses in New York City. Valentino had already become a star some months earlier with his dazzlingly erotic tango in ''The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,'' but it was ''The Sheik'' that launched him into the stratosphere. Crowds mobbed the theaters, breaking attendance records. Across the country, female fans shivered and went limp. Smart young men with an eye for the ladies were soon being called ''sheiks'' -- and looking for adventure with girls called ''shebas.'' Some years later, Sheik condoms went on sale, with a silhouette of Valentino on their packages. What does a woman want? Apparently, in 1921, what millions of women wanted was the fantasy of a swarthy, intense, exotic stranger with flowing robes and piercing eyes sweeping them up and forcing himself upon them.

The ground for Valentino had been prepared in the preceding decade -- with bobbed hair and rising hemlines, dance crazes and petting parties, campaigns for birth control and woman suffrage. But you would have to look back to 19th-century celebrities like Byron, Liszt and Paganini to find comparisons, and even those pale: it took the modern media to turn female hysteria into a mass phenomenon. And if a Rudolph Valentino had never been seen before, it is necessary to add that nothing truly like him has been seen since.

Later in the century, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles all attracted followings that were Valentino-like in their frenzy. But there was a difference. The crowds pursuing the singers were made up of girls, not yet enmeshed in the web of interconnections and responsibilities that is adult life. Their sexuality was innocent, prelapsarian, even if it oozed out of every pore. The teeny-boppers lost control of themselves when all the Beatles asked to do was hold their hand. The Rolling Stones pushed into darker realms, but they were promoting the same kind of carefree sexual utopia, ecstasy without complication; ''Midnight Rambler'' was sadomasochism as good clean fun, S-and-M with a smiley face.

Valentino's fans came in all ages, but generally they were older, more mature than the fans of the teen idols who followed him. They had spouses, children, often jobs; so in this sense their open display of sexual energy was much more subversive of the social order, even if that's not what the parents of teenage daughters thought during the Presley and Beatles madnesses. (The one pop star whose audience might be said to bear a resemblance to Valentino's was Tom Jones, but the resemblance is only casual. Jones's women lacked the honest spontaneity of Valentino's hordes. The matrons who threw their underwear up onstage at Jones concerts were self-consciously acting out a ritual.)
Around the Proverbial Horn

"Well Daddy, don't you know it's a fallen world and I have a sin nature?" - seven year-old girl to group leader after being asked, "why did you pick that flower when I asked you not to?"
"Still, if it's true, at least according to Samuel Johnson, that 'No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money,' it's probably more the case that, 'No man but a blockhead ever edited what he wrote, except for money.'" - Mark of Minute Particulars
"Note that St. Catherine failed in her attempt to prevent schism, few of her pleas bore the fruit she intended, and the Church in the years following her death wasn't appreciably holier than it was during her lifetime.

Further, whoever claims her as their patron in the charism of exhortation should know that she taught that those who punish priests on account of any personal defect offend God, that the faithful owe bad priests reverence that should never diminish, and that it is forbidden by God for layfolk to judge His priests." - Tom of Disputations
Amy Welborn's favorite Flannery O'Connor quote - "She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life" - always makes me wonder how much firmer my "firm purpose of amendment" would be if I had a gun to my head.
"I do not live in the hinterlands but in The Southern Promised Land, the One True State, the Land Where Literature is Alive and Prized, a Land So Beloved of the Lord that all Prayers are Local Calls, Alabama" -- Literarium
"Tu quoque." comments "RC", to which Tom points to his post title. A blog with a name like mine works really well.
Fr. Paul wrote on Amy's blog, "I've always been wary of charismatic priests - not as in the charismatic movement, but in those who have such charisma that they attract a following of devotees. Peter Kreeft once said that the Lord allows those who suffer from pride to fall into sins of the flesh to keep them humble. I don't particularly like that explanation, because it seems like a cop-out, but I have noticed one common trait among many abusers: narcissism."
"I will continue to ensure that California’s prosperity is shared by the very people who created that success. As a former state controller, I know how important it is to be tight with tax dollars and to live within our means.” – Governor Gray Davis on his website, doing his part to rob words of their meaning.
One Promise Keepers rally = 992 more days in prison   via the Dispatch
Willie Chapman’s request to stay an extra day in prison for a religious rally was costly.

Willie Chapman made headlines this summer by seeking — and receiving — permission to spend an extra day in prison so he could attend a Promise Keepers rally at the Marion Correctional Institution.

Turns out he’ll get an extra 992 days — at least.

Demonstrating an almost-biblical ability to give, take away and give again, the Ohio Parole Board voted yesterday to postpone Chapman’s release until May 1, 2006, at the earliest.

"I’m basically devastated," Chapman said last night after learning of the decision.

The 36-year-old, in prison for killing his wife, said he realizes he’d be free now if he hadn’t asked to stay in prison long enough to participate in the Aug. 12 religious rally.

"I did that for God, and I could never regret that," he said. "I’m going to keep my faith. I’m not going to give up."

The parole board, which initially had decided to free Chapman in August, reversed course after the children of the woman Chapman stabbed to death in 1988 came forward — for the first time — to fight his release.

Chapman, who became involved in Promise Keepers, a nationwide Christian ministry, two years ago, said he intends to move to Cleveland and become a preacher after he’s released. He said the extra time in prison will give him an opportunity to do more work "on the inside."

"I just look at it as a trial or tribulation," he said. "God has given me the strength to get through it. There’s no need to get mad at the parole board or the victim’s family.

"I’ll continue to pray for them." --Eve Mueller, Columbus Dispatch

September 10, 2003

Exhortations R Us

Tom of Disputations pooh-poohs the idea of exhortation excess. It's an interesting subject to me since I actually sympathize with both sides. The old bromides apply: the squeaky wheel does get grease* and evil does thrive when good men do nothing.

I'm not sure conservatives (excuse the use of labels - for illustration purposes only - please don't try this at home) are by nature activists. Recall the liberal shock and awe when there were Florida protestors - thickish 30-ish white men who looked about as comfortable protesting as they would dancing - during the Bush/Gore fiasco.

Of course Popcak's proposal would mainly be a letter-writing campaign, as I understand it, which ought to be in the sweet spot of the blogger's swing.

But I have reservations my own self. First, I like my bishop and trust him and consider the student teaching the teacher a distasteful role reversal, although if I lived in Boston's diocese I'd probably feel differently. Second, I recognize that my ability to see the big picture is limited at best (that's the best I can do modesty wise, I wouldn't have a blog if I didn't think I didn't know everything). Third, the disciplinary pendulum naturally swings from "kumbaya" to "strictness unto death" and I'd rather not affect the pendulum, even in a minuscule way, since over-swings are brutal. The 50s were one extreme, the 70s another. Who am I to say how tight or lose the fisherman's net should be? If they go after the sinners of omission as vigorously as sinners of commission then they'll probably throw me overboard.

* - witness KTC's recent winsome request for emailed affirmations
Your Musical Guide to Fall

Well it's officially fall, the start of the liturgical season of Nostalgia in the secular world. The radio announces this with songs like Kansas's "Dust in the Wind" and Don Henley's "Boys of Summer". The mood is wistful (say in your best Password voice). Where's the station with the Irish Republican standards? How about a little rebel chune?

"Oh then tell me Sean O’Farrell tell me why you hurry so"
“hush me bhuachaill hush and listen” and his cheeks were all a glow
I bear orders from our Captain get ye ready quick and soon
for the pikes must be together by the Risin’ of the Moon

I flip to the country station and hear a song that doesn't even pass the "straight face" test:

"She says: "Don't stare at me."
She's afraid that I might see,
Those five extra pounds she talks about.
Man, I don't know what she's talking about."

Five pounds? Jumpin' Jehosaphat I should hope not. Crazy newlyweds.
Foreign Language Blogger Discusses Foreign Words in the Gospel at 11

Hernan Gonzalez of fotos del apocalypse posts something of interest on the gospel reading from last week. That blasted Babelfish butchers, but here are some enticing entrails:

... "and it said to him: " Effathá ", that it means: "Abrete" ... ".
Why, we asked , the gospel of Marks contains the original word, along with its translation?
Some data, first:
One assumes (that somebody corrects to me if makes lack; I am touching of ear, as usual) that Jesus spoke in arameo , the common language of the Palestine of then. Although Greek vulgar ( koiné ; the international language) and the Latin (the language of the empire) enough were known.
By his side, one thinks that Marks - Jew-it wrote (around year 60) the gospel in Rome, in Greek , for a mainly Latin public, desconocedor of the language and the customs of the Jewish town.
This last one returns more explicable the one than Marks are the unique one of the synoptic ones that bring translated Jewish words (" Talita kum ", " Eloi Eloi... "). But, it does not explain why it indeed left the original word ("ipsissima vox") in the case that occupies to us (and other very little ones more). In almost all the rest of the gospel, Marks simply relate the sayings of Jesus without worrying to put the words "original". Why here yes? What adds knowledge that Jesus pronounced " Effathá "?

Interesting... Our priest briefly mentioned this in the homily Sunday. He said that the reason for the 'Effatha' (or however you spell it) was a word that would resonate with the Jewish people given that it was a sort of liturgical word - it meant to "open" in the phrase "opening of the scrolls".
Novelist David Foster Wallace's favorite books....
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 the vital stuff 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."

September 09, 2003

Over, Around or Through

Greg Popcak says we have to yell, yell, yell that we might counter the liberal voices influencing the bishops even though yelling on our side will beget more yelling by theirs, ratcheting up in a sort of arm's race of screaming.

In the political sphere, conservatives impotently cried in the wilderness for years while the network anchors and the New York Times and The New Republic howled with laughter.

They don't laugh anymore. And since Mr. Popcak says we're in a battle, I'll stick with the war imagery. What finally "worked" for conservatives was not a frontal attack, not a charge of the stupid brigade, but a flanking manuever. And so was born National Review magazine, which greatly influenced Ronald Reagan. Later came conservative talk radio and cable TV pundits. Hearts and minds were won.

Now the bishops don't howl and the cases are dissimilar in other ways. But the principle remains that converting hearts and minds, rather than power displays, ultimately wins the day. (Which is why I'm pessimistic about Iraq, but that's another post). As far as universities go, you can try to force Ex Corde Ecclesiae down their throat, but their heart won't be in it. Institutions, like nations and individuals, rise and fall in their religious devotion, and rarely do forced conversions work. Rather than beating up recalcitrant universities who will make niggardly progress and follow only the letter of the law, why not support new ones? Heterdox universities may be moved to a more orthodox flavor simply by the existence of alternative universities.

So, instead of yelling at the bishops what excites me is the following strategy:

1) Donate to alternative universities like Ave Maria and Franciscan University. May their tribe increase.
2) The check on corrupt clerics is done by Caesar, not the Church, as Mark Shea wrote.
3) Check pro-abort policians by converting Catholic voters via the spread of magazines like Crisis.
4) Grass roots - holy priests via holy families via prayer.
Tuesdays with Flannery
On Bad Bishops & Other Catholics:
"As for bad Catholics, this is simply one of the facts of life. I am reviewing some sermons of St. Augustine on the psalms and ran across this:

'Still I want to warn you about this, brothers; the Church in this world is a threshing floor, and as I have often said before and still say now, it is piled high with chaff and grain together. It is no use trying to be rid of all the chaff before the time comes for winnowing. Don't leave the threshing-floor before that, just because you are not going to put up with sinners. Otherwise you will be gobbled up by the birds before you can be brought into the barn.'

She probably sees more stupidity and vulgarity than she does sin and these are harder to put up with than sin, harder on the nerves."

Of Faith & Novels:
"I don't think you should write something as long as a novel around anything that is not of the gravest concern to you and everybody else and for me this is always the conflict between an attraction for the Holy and the disbelief in it that we breathe in with the air of the times. It's hard to believe always but more so in the world we live in now. There are some of us who have to pay for our faith every step of the way and who have to work out dramatically what it would be like without it and if being without it would be ultimately possible or not. I can't allow any of my characters, in a novel anyway, to stop in some halfway position. This doubtless comes from a Catholic education and a Catholic sense of history - everything works towards its true end or away from it, everything is ultimately saved or lost..."

Billy F.:
"Yesterday I sold a pair of [peacocks]...These people showed up in a long white car...The man was a structural engineer. He said he had a friend who was a writer in Mississippi and I said who was that. He said, 'His name is Bill Faulkner. I don't know if he's any good or not but he's a mighty nice fellow.' I told him he was right good..."
--Flannery O'Connor
Back, back, back...

Mark Shea hits a 500-footer with this post:

Does that mean there should be no check on corrupt clerics? No. There must be. And that check exists: his name is Caesar and he is doing his job tolerably well in this hour. But the way to *reform* the Church is not to turn it into a department of Caesar's state. It is to raise up holy bishops, holy priest, and a holy people.
Walker Percy Excerpt

Spent a lot of Sunday reading Percy's "The Last Gentleman" and came across this excellent diagnosis of modernity. The protagonist of the novel finds these notes/journal of a psychiatrist:
Lewdness = sole concrete metaphysic of layman in age of science = sacrament of the dispossessed. Things, persons, relations emptied out, not by theory but by lay reading of theory. There remains only relation of skin to skin and hand under dress. Thus layman now believes that entire spectrum of relations between persons (e.g., a man and woman who seem to be connected by old complexus of relations, fondness, fidelity, and the like, understanding, the comic, etc.) is based on "real" substratum of genital sex. The latter is "real", the former is not.

Science, which (in layman's view) dissolves concrete things and relations, leaves intact touch of skin to skin. Relation of genital sexuality reinforced twice: once because it is touch, therefore physical, therefore "real"; again because it corresponds with theoretical (i.e., sexual) substrata of all other relations. Therefore genital sexuality = twice "real"....

Christianity is still viable enough to underwrite the naughtiness which is essential to pornography (e.g. the pornography of the East is desultory and perfunctory).

The perfect pornographer = a man who lives both in the anteroom of science (not in research laboratory) and who also lives in the twilight of Christianity, e.g., a technician. The perfect pornographer = lapsed Christian Southerner...who presently lives in Berkeley or Ann Arbor, which are not true places but sites of abstract activity which could take place anywhere else, a map coordinate; who is perhaps employed as psychological tester or opinion sampler or computer programmer or other para-scientific pursuit.

The so-called sexual revolution is not, as advertised, a liberation of sexual behavior but rather its reversal. In former days, even under Victoria, sexual intercourse was the natural end and culimination of heterosexual relations. Now one begins with genital overtures instead of a handshake, then waits to see what will turn up (e.g., we might become friends later). Like dogs greeting each other nose to tail and tail to nose.
In the Garden

Cry tears
Nearing the

Knew he the prophet’s fate
Shan’t Divinity itself
the pattern break?

May this Cup pass, he asked
while obedient to the last.

September 08, 2003

More Flannery O'Connor quotes here from Mark of Minute Particulars.

This Times article suggests we Ohioans wouldn't be any happier in a sunnier climate...

... if Daniel Gilbert is right, then you are wrong to believe that a new car will make you as happy as you imagine...''You know, the Stones said, 'You can't always get what you want,' '' Gilbert adds. ''I don't think that's the problem. The problem is you can't always know what you want.''... Why did I think retiring to Sun City, Ariz., would please me?

There's a few things in this article that rankle. From a Christian perspective, obviously, the number one goal shouldn't be maximizing our happiness but discerning and following God's will, but from within His parameters we usually attempt to maximize happiness.

What is interesting to me is this "adaptibility" feature. It suggests that even if we find sacrificing (money, time, food, etc...) painful in the beginning, we will pyschologically adapt to it. Which suggests that to the extent sacrificing is regular, rather than irregular, we will be happier for it - both in the short run and the long run.
Books do not avail...

From NY Times Laura Miller:

I can't say I've seen much evidence to support the notion that reading is good for us. Some of the most voracious readers I know are also some of the most rigid thinkers. An individual can be remarkably insensitive to the feelings of others despite having studied stacks of great novels. As in the case of Emma Bovary, reading can even spoil your appetite for real life. There's not much indication, either, that reading substantially improves anyone's character -- in fact, it often seems to have the opposite influence. Nor does it sweeten the disposition. The imperious Harold Bloom could well serve as Exhibit A to that effect.

Ouch. I had no illusions that reading the classics makes us better, but I was surprised that Laura Miller thinks it might have the opposite effect...
Short Atttention Span Monday line thoughts. Remember what you paid

Does the tune of this song match its lyric? The former seems more cheerful & consoling than the latter...

I love relics as much as the next guy but am glad for the Assumption. Viewing her relics would just seem unseemly.

Never feel cocky about humility.

Dislike change? Become a Cincinnati Bengals fan.

When tempted with lust at the sight of a beautiful person, turn to God and say, "Okay! You sure knew what you were doing."

A combination of words I never thought I'd hear: "Some 'bakers’ get all medieval on mixers." - Lee Ann Morawski

September 07, 2003

Therese Movie

This movie looks good. Here's the form to request a showing in your town.
The Scandal

Amy Welborn hits a nerve, writing this and answering here..

Just as we can't link efficacy of a sacrament to the personal holiness of the minister, we can't link what the Church brings with the holiness of her members. I don't believe that grace, thank God, is dependent on our performance. Commenter Steve posts this Flannery O'Connor quote on Amy's blog:

"The merit of the Church doesn't lie in what she does but what she is. The day is going to come when the Church is so hemmed in & nailed down that she won't be doing anything but being, which will be enough."

Mark Shea writes: Truth is, we know no more about where the Church Really Is In the Grand Scheme of Things now than we did when it seemed everything was going swimmingly. My own suspicion is that the worst may already be past (in terms of sin in the Church) since it was a sin that fed on darkness and darkness is no longer being provided. So I have hope that the Spirit is doing his work of healing and giving life. It's just that the surgery is a bitch and will be for the foreseeable future.

Our pastor mentioned in his homily today that the two wrong reactions people have to miracle stories in the Gospels are doubt, or seeing them as "magic".

He said that we too often tend to think of miracles as supernatural "intrusions" on "natural" life. But the whole of Scripture suggests that it is not "natural life" that is natural, but the opposite, at least for humans. Moral and physical evils are of the same ilk, and miracles give us a glimpse of the next life.

There seems to be too much tendency to respect what is natural rather than what is good. Some homosexuals equate "God-given" with the natural, saying that since they were "born gay" there can't be anything wrong with it. But what of the studies that heterosexual men are biologically programmed to spread their seed, to impregate as many women as possible? What of those who claim monogamy is unnatural?

That the natural is flawed as a result of Original Sin should be obvious. The fact that a child instinctively does not want to share his toys or food does not make the practice of selfishness worthy of respect.

September 06, 2003

Local Pastor Email

The local Protestant pastor was declaiming against the Eucharist on the airwaves last week, and since I had just written about the subject on my blog, I felt the perverse need to offer it since it would only involve a cut ‘n paste.

I have of the past year a much more sanguine and laid-back view of my Protestant brothers and sisters, partially due to the fact that I’m more interested in goodness just now than truth. I fought my truth battle and understand where it lies and so now understand my battle is to be virtuous. A man who’s just slaked his thirst but hasn’t eaten for a week is necessarily more interested in food than a Coke. Flannery O’Connor wrote in one of her letters that the old saw about Catholics being more interested in truth and Protestants in goodness was only a “partial truth” - which I found amusing, given that she was doing the “Catholic thing” in discerning truthfulness while saying it wasn’t a necessarily “Catholic thing”.

So he emailed me back saying he appreciated my writing more than I would know, which I honestly wasn’t exactly sure how to take given that the rest of his email attempted to disprove the Eucharist, in part by saying that Christ isn’t a physical door, yet He called himself one. I wasn’t sure whether I should be flattered that he was taking his precious time to try to disprove the Eucharist to lowly me or be insulted because he was trying to disprove the Eucharist to me. Mixed emotions ensued.

I do respect him - he has more strength in his convictions than most Catholics do theirs and he also recently took the unpopular stand that Judge Moore of Alabama should've resigned. Given that 80% of his radio audience disagreed with him and vehemently let him know, he gets points there.

I replied that before my reversion I used to think that the material elements in the Sacraments were for those weak in faith -i.e. the water in Baptism and bread in Eucharist were those for those who needed a physical thing to believe that a spiritual thing occurred. But that I've come to the realization that God could do things the way he wanted (imagine that!) and that he created us as physical beings with souls and intended likewise with the sacraments - physical things which carry great grace, up to and including even Himself. I told him I didn’t expect him to see my view of the Eucharist, of course.... Ironically, the thing I much respect about him - his impervious faith - is also that which would be his greatest foe as far as being able to view the Eucharist for what it is.