October 31, 2003

Da Vinci Code

Amy describes the growing popularity of the Da Vinci Code and I think she's on to something:
My fundamental distress with this whole matter is what has happened, when you get down to it, is how this whole phenomenon works to distract the world from the truth of Jesus. Be interested in Jesus as a figure in esoteric hypothesizing. Let yourself be fascinated by conspiracy theories and be taken in by flawed logic and historical fantasizing.
I know young people who are fascinated by the Gospel of Thomas but have never read or shown interest in the canonical gospels. I think we can all fall prey, of course, to what is beguiling rather than what is real. As another blogger put it so eloquently: "Most people would not even cross the street to witness an unobtrusive act of patience being put into practice, but they will cross an ocean to visit the locale of an alleged apparition." That's not to suggestion the apparition isn't real, but it is beguiling and can distract if not put in a larger context.

Some Christians-by-birth look to Buddhism or Zen or eastern religions in part because the faith they grew up with is not 'exotic' enough. I fall prey similarly by missing God right in front of me all the time.
Kaus on Blogging

He makes the case for it here via Touchstone.

October 30, 2003

Paglia Post

The Camille Paglia post suprised some, which surprised me. I thought much of what she said was self-evident (if you're sufficiently masochistic, read the random stream of "most recently updated" links on blogger.com). She is admittedly brilliant and interesting. But only relatively; i.e. not compared to God. It seems some gratitude might be in order by our providing contrast! :)

What bothers me is her disparagement of words, but Paglia is coming at it from her worship of all things Italian. (How else to explain her Madonna fetish?) Italians love spectacle - opera, fashion and the visual. Images strip-mine the imagination - if the movie was better than the book then the book wasn't that good.

But then I'm of Irish extract. And the Irish aren't know for art or spectacle right?
A Rough Algorithm...why internecine rivalries are always the worse

Level of my annoyance at being disagreed with =

((importance of the issue) + (view of how simple the issue is to grasp)) X (degree to which interlocutor 'should know better')
It may seem as though how simple something is to grasp and the degree to which your interlocutor should know better are the same, but many issues are complex only to someone who doesn't share your assumptions and or education.

Example 1: The Catholic who is "pro-choice" (i.e. pro-choice after pregnancy):
a) Importance of the issue: 1.3 million babies a year = 10 (on 1 to 10 scale)
b) View of Simplicity: a separate DNA exists within a mother's womb = 8? (10 for partial-birth abortion anyway)
c) Degree to which your opponent should know better: For a Catholic = 10

So for me the pro-abort Catholic = 180 on scale of 0-200.

Example 2:
Level of annoyance at a liberal Democrat disagreeing with me on tax policy:
a) Importance of the issue = 3 (taxes in a split Congress will not radically change either up or down)
b) View of Simplicity of the Issue = 5
c) Degree to which my opponent should know better = 1*

Hence, a mere 8.

The formula implies an 'annoyance parity' between importance of the issue and how simple it is to discern; this is a recognition of human nature as it exists rather than logical assertion. Even minor things tear at communities - seemingly minor things from an outsider's perspective. But what they miss is a) they are not minor to the community involved and that b)'they should know better' is off the charts within a community given common assumptions and level of education.

I've noticed that I am susceptible to the views of those I respect. For example, I may change my diagnosis of a sickness if a doctor tells me my view is false. Similarly, if someone shares my assumptions and faith but has a much firmer grasp of church teaching in a certain area, I'm liable to moderate my opinion. My view of the simplicity of the Terri case, for example, went from a "10" to a "5" after reading commentary by those who have studied the issue.

* -- Reasonable people can disagree at what point punitive tax levels inhibit production, for example, and to what degree lowered production levels might serve a greater good.
Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

'Since the first Pope we have not Petered out.'......'You got Tradition in my Scripture. You got Scripture in my Tradition. Two great tastes together at last.' --Jeff Miller of Curt Jester, offering possible Catholic Church mottos after hearing of the Episcopal Church's 'We're here for you'.

What I want is a living will that says, "Please don't kill me, even if saving my life entails getting someone get off his lazy ass to put a feeding tube in my stomach." I suppose doctors used to assume that patients wanted to live, but after seeing the Terry Schiavo fiasco I think a legally-binding document saying "Please don't kill me" might come in handy. --Bill of Summa Minutiae

The Russell Kirk story was the inspiration behind our getting rid of broadcast television nine years ago. The point is that you can't be a real conservative without a healthy aversion to television and the "virtual reality" industry. Does this include the internet and St. Blog's parish? Yes, I believe it does. - Jeff Culbreath of Elcamino Real

The first couple years after initiation, I didn't feel the burden of carrying the Cross as much as I do now, but then, my love for Christ was not as strong then either, it was more a feeling of gratitude. - commenter Ben on Swimming the Tiber

Just as the illiterate cannot read books like those who are literate, neither can those who have refused to go through the commandments of Christ by practicing them be granted the revelation of the Holy Spirit like those who have brooded over them and fulfilled them and shed their blood for them. --St. Symeon, The Discourses, Discourse 24

I've told my wife that I have no objections at all to being a burden on her or on anyone else, but I may be in the minority on this. Almost everyone I've heard express an opinion has, in essence, recoiled in horror at the thought of being physically helpless. Very often, they say they would hate to lose their dignity by needing others to feed and bathe them....But here's the thing: The dignity you can lose isn't much worth holding onto. True human dignity is part and parcel of true human nature. That cannot be lost; it can only be failed to be recognized. --Tom of Disputations

I started thinking of despair, and of Denethor, because I was reading the new issue of Crisis. Now I like Crisis, but if I read too much at once, it begins to speak to my lack of hope by revealing the many weaknesses in the Church and the strengths of her enemies. I am tempted, like Denethor, to exclaim “Against the power that has arisen there can be no victory!” As the Psalmist says, “If I had said ‘I will speak thus,’ I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children” (Ps 73:15). It’s hard, but every now and then I get a glimpse of what is unseen.... If I could maintain that vision, I should be, I think, psychologically incapable of despair or any other sin. - Henry of Plumbline in the Wind

Florence King has remarked that she is ultimately less suited to writing fiction than to writing non-fiction, because she cares more about what people think than about what they do. -- Eve Tushnet's friend 'The Rat'

God wants that my soul is saved...I must obedience to God. These are the two certainties....
1. Since God wants my salvation, I must obey it (to obey it to save my soul).
2.Since I must fulfill its will, then, I must try my salvation (to save my soul to obey it).
Second she is purer ... (Simone Weil says).
Naturally, this is closely together of its other annotation "If my eternal salvation were on this table as if outside an object, and did not have more to extend the hand to take it... I I would not make it without have received the order"... and that it is as well a species of answer - unexpected to the last paragraph of the ethics of Spinoza. - Hernan of Fotos

For one who is virtuous, who has a well-formed conscience and is able to act with prudence in difficult moral situations, it is indeed possible to act swiftly and without delay or ponderous consideration of what moral precepts are involved and at stake. I certainly don't dispute this nor do I doubt that many truly virtuous folks have responded appropriately in some of the current cases in the news...But, frankly, there has been a kind of lurching about. Folks from all sides are getting white-hot about events in the media that most have no personal knowledge of. --Mark of Minute Particulars

When I went back to Portland earlier this year I would say that it is even more permeated with new age religions then it was before. The majority of signs and bumper stickers reflected a spirituality based around nature worship. I felt totally out of place and like a intruder there. Spiritually and politically the place was like antimatter to me and I felt like at any moment while walking down the street that people would point at me and scream like the aliens did in the movie "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." - Jeff Miller of Curt Jester
Interview with a Ghost

Is anyone else bored with ghost stories on the radio? All I hear are call-in shows with people telling of haunted houses. I think this must be to relieve the talk show host of having real live content by letting listeners do the work. And/or people must really eat it up.

Personally, I'm looking for ghost stories with a little more substance, a little more flesh if you will. The ol' rattling of the dishes schtick is getting old. How about an interview with a ghost?

Terrri Gross: Welcome to NPR. Hopefully you'll feel right at home since we invoke the ghosts of liberalism daily.

Ghost: Yes I know. We get NPR here in Purgatory, can't get FoxNews though. Thank you for having me.

Terri Gross: When did you begin to haunt and why did you feel it necessary?

Ghost: I was young and I needed the money. Rimshot! Seriously, it's just somethin' to do. When I was alive I used to put a lot of time into home improvements and I bonded with my house, I guess a little too much. So when I see folks messing around with it - what's up with the velvet Elvis crap! - I tried to discourage their handiwork.

Terri Gross: Did it work?

Ghost: Not as well as I would've liked.

Terri Gross: You died in 1758. What is it about we moderns that most bothers you?

Ghost: You feed your kids Fruity Pebbles. All that suh-gar! Oy vey.

Terri Gross: [chuckles] Are you, er... were you, Jewish?

Ghost: No, I just play one this time of year.

Terri Gross: If we might get serious for a minute, what exactly is a ghost? You mention Purgatory, but are you real or a figment of our imagination? Are you a demonic manifestation? A disembodied spirit?

...And that's where we lost transmission.

October 29, 2003

Camille Paglia Blogs About Blogs
"The blog form is, in my view, the decadence of the Web. I don't see blogs as a new frontier but as a falling backwards into word-centric print journalism -- words, words, words!

Blog reading for me is like going down to the cellar amid shelves and shelves of musty books that you're condemned to turn the pages of. Bad prose, endless reams of bad prose! There's a lack of discipline, a feeling that anything that crosses one's mind is important or interesting to others. People say that the best part about writing a blog is that there's no editing -- it's free speech without institutional control. Well, sure, but writing isn't masturbation -- you've got to self-edit.

Now and then one sees the claim that Kausfiles was the first blog. I beg to differ: I happen to feel that my Salon column was the first true blog. My columns had punch and on-rushing velocity. They weren't this dreary meta-commentary, where there's a blizzard of fussy, detached sections nattering on obscurely about other bloggers or media moguls and Washington bureaucrats. I took hits at media excesses, but I directly commented on major issues and personalities in politics and pop culture.

If bloggers want to break out of their ghetto, they've got to acquire a sense of drama and theater as well as a flair for language. Why else should anyone read them? And the Web in my view is a visual medium -- I don't log on to be trapped on a muddy page crammed with indigestible prose.

Every writer must work on his or her prose to find a voice. No major figure has emerged yet from the blogs -- Andrew Sullivan was already an established writer before he started his. A blog should sound conversational and be an antidote to the inept writing in most of today's glossy magazines.

As a writer, I'm inspired not just by other writing but by music and art and lines from movies. I think that's what's missing from a lot of blogs. Most bloggers aren't culture critics but political or media junkies preoccupied with pedestrian minutiae and a sophomoric "gotcha" mentality. I find it depressing and claustrophobic. The Web is a wide open space -- voices on it should have energy and vision." --Camilie Paglia
Another Times link on Murray's new book:
Why, he wondered, when he factored in population growth, did the achievement rate in Europe appear to plummet beginning in the mid-19th century, a period when peace, prosperity, cities and political freedom were steadily increasing? In the sciences, he decided, the decline was largely benign, reflecting the fact that in many fields the most important breakthroughs have already been made. But for the arts his diagnosis was grim: a collapse of social values and the advent of nihilism.

In a word, what modern Europe lost was Christianity. While other major religions, like Buddhism and Daoism preached humility, acceptance and passivity, Mr. Murray writes, Christianity fostered intellectual independence and drive. In his account it was Thomas Aquinas who "grafted a humanistic strain onto Christianity," by arguing that "human intelligence is a gift from God, and that to apply human intelligence to understanding the world is not an affront to God but is pleasing to him." And where post-Aquinas Christianity thrived — in Europe between 1400 and the Enlightenment — so, too, according to Mr. Murray, did human excellence.
Never looked at it that way...

Celibacy in the Latin Church serves as a constant reminder of the other-worldly, eschatological nature of the church. It serves the same function in the life of the church as the liturgy in the other Catholic Churches. The liturgy in the West has for over a millennium been minimalist and has become increasingly banal and this-worldly. A married clergy in the Latin Church would accelerate the secularization of the church, and probably not increase the availability of priests. --Leon Podles
Quote from Evelyn Waugh Novel... from Weigel's excellent review:
Guy's prayers were directed to, rather than for, his father [at the latter's funeral Mass]. For many years now the direction in the Garden of the Soul, "Put yourself in the presence of God," had for Guy come to mean a mere act of respect, like the signing of the Visitors' Book at an Embassy or Government House. He reported for duty, saying to God, "I don't ask anything from you. I am here if you want me. I don't suppose I can be of any use, but if there is anything I can do, let me know," and left it at that.

"I don't ask anything from you": that was the deadly core of his apathy, his father had tried to tell him, was now telling him. . . . Enthusiasm and activity were not enough. God required more than that. He had commanded all men to ask.

October 28, 2003

A Scatological Masterpiece

Fine post about what crap it is to imagine our personal dignity is tied to controlling our bowel movements.

I do admit to be worried about that syndrome where you lose verbal impulse control and start randomly spewing obscene words... (Given that I used "crap", "scatological" and "bowel" in the previous paragraph perhaps I have reason to worry.) Would hate for the epitaph to read, "showed remarkable creativity in stringing epithets". Yet we are all kings by virtue of being human as Tom disputes.

For the King of the Universe to be mocked with a crown of thorns says everything I need to know about how important we are in the Lord's eyes and how utterly small our embarrassments are by comparison.
Catholic Chic & Waugh-Waughing the Flak Catchers

Amy has the definitive list celebrating Evelyn Waugh, including this gem.
The Usenet-ing of the Literary World?

NY Times reviews a reviewer - Dale Peck, literary critic with a scorched earth attitude:
The question arises: Why should we care what Dale Peck thinks? The short answer is, He's interesting..... Writing in The Believer, a hip, new literary journal she founded with Vendela Vida and Ed Park, Julavits produced a pleading essay, ''The Snarky, Dumbed-Down World of Book Reviewing,'' that was essentially a critique of Peck's approach....Julavits's perhaps self-interested manifesto on behalf of kinder, gentler reviews (she was about to publish a novel of her own) contains the valuable insight that hostile reviews represent ''a critical attempt to compete, on an entertainment level.'' In other words, critics like Peck can be more fun to read than the books they review. Opprobrium resonates in a way that praise seldom does.

Witness the recent storm over Martin Amis's new novel, ''Yellow Dog,'' ....Fischer suggested that reading the book was like discovering ''your favorite uncle being caught in a school playground, masturbating.'' The press was ecstatic to have a new controversy. John Sutherland, the London-based critic, acknowledged that Fischer's review was ''a diatribe that most of us can now recite by heart.''
The fact is, negative reviews do stay in the mind longer than raves.
That negative reviews should be more memorable than the prose itself reminds me of what Lance Morrow, author of "Evil: An Investigation", said this weekend on one of the TV chat shows - that evil is more interesting to humans than good. A result of original sin? It is far easier to tear down than build up, which is why I'm pessimistic on Iraq. (Just to bring as many topics together under one post as I can.)
Philip Trower Excerpt --from "Turmoil and Truth"

In relation to the world, the Church or Christian people fulfils somewhat the same role as the tribe of Levi did for the other eleven tribes in Old Testament times, while the relationship of the clergy to laity within the Church is not unlike that within the tribe of Levi between the priests proper who alone could offer the temple sacrifices and the rest of the tribe dedicated to lesser forms of temple service...

Were it possible for a pagan ruler to understand these truths without himself becoming a Christian - that is recognize that the fidelity or infidelity of his Christian subjects could affect the well-being of his country as a whole - one could imagine him forcing Christians to live up to their own vocation under pain of death.
The British Library Reading Room

Under the hive-like dome the stooping haunted readers
Go up and down the alleys, tap the cells of knowledge --
   Honey and wax, the accumulation of years--

Some on commission, some for the love of learning,
Some because they have nothing better to do
Or because they hope these walls of books will deaden
    The drumming of the demon in their ears.

Cranks, hacks, poverty-stricken scholars,
In prince-nez, period hats or romantic beards
   And cherishing their hobby or their doom
Some are too much alive and some are asleep
Hanging like bats in a world of inverted values,
Folded up in themselves in a world which is safe and silent:
   This is the British Museum Reading Room.

Out on the steps in the sun the pigeons are courting;
Puffing their ruffs and sweeping their tails or taking
   A sun-bath at their ease
And under the totem poles - the ancient terror -
Between the enormous fluted Ionic columns
There seeps from heavily jowled or hawk-like foreign faces
   The guttural sorrow of the refugees.   --Louis MacNeice

October 27, 2003

Hardest Working Folks in Blogdom?

A few weeks ago George Will discussed gay marriage with a liberal pundit. Will asked what principle would allow gay marriage and not bigamy. The liberal commentator just shrugged and said we draw lines all the time, what's one more?

Those who believe in a Creator attribute to him consistency in moral judgments and it remains for us to discover those judgments (where there is doubt) rather than to just despair of finding them. There are underlying principles.

I believe, for example, that the RCC is the most consistent on issues of sexual morality than any group excepting those who believe in no morality. Is the view perfectly clear? No, but the clearest among the alternatives.

All of this is prelude to giving kudos to Tom of Disputations and his merry band of commenters who are doing some really heavy lifting at St. Blog's in attempting to discern the moral framework behind the Terri Schiavo case, and for that they should be commended.

My pastor once said that "if you understand the principles, you can do a lot less reading", which is to say that if we can figure out the principles concerning end of life issues we won't have to study so much.
Rendering of Scuplture Purchased by an Art Illiterate

Like Zeus he sits
    a horned devil
purchased off some piazza in Rome
holding some atavistic charm.

'Throw that away!'
she said, when I got back
'what pagan thing is that?
I’ll not have it in our home.'

It found a closet
my little Roman miscue
until one day I learned
that Michelangelo had sculpted Moses.

Now he hangs redemptively
on the bookroom wall
rescued from the closet's noisy indencies
looking mildly pissed off.
Henry Canby - the ol' lech

I bought an antique book, more or less at random, at a Tampa bookshop this summer because I was on vacation which meant it was not just my right but obligation to buy something. It was by Henry Seidel Canby, authored in the 1930s about life in the 1890s, in which he waxes nostalgic about what he called the "age of confidence". The passage below has enough of a ring of truth to be interesting though I don't quite know what to make of it. To set it up, he says the '90s were a time in which at social gatherings the sexes would intermingle for a bit before dinner but afterwards, to the great relief of both the men and the women - they would divide by sex and go into different rooms:
For these men and women (good friends all) had tacitly agreed to look upon each other as sexless, and that was becoming fatal to their companionship. By convention as strong as faith, they left out of their relationship precisely that which might have made it as stimulating as a meeting between a congenial man or woman and sympathetic woman. Hence my father and the wife of his oldest friend, stranded in a corner, relapsed into silences... Hence every man was all man in his club or business or at the saloon bar, but less than man in the company of any respectable woman but his mother or his wife. And every married woman was less than woman in mixed soceity because her sex was dormant, canalized, inhibited...It is enough that the most settled should know that their nature is still tender, and inflammable by nature if not by will. We, in our early middle age, talked to middle-aged women as if they were cinders - agreeable, yes, admirable often, interesting often, yet cinders, good for home walks and garden beds, but long emptied of fire - and like cinders they responded. --Henry Canby
My mother-in-law says that one of the things she likes about her non-denom church is that she feels "safe" because no one looks at her in that way, which is certainly understandable. For others, perhaps, there is a bit of disappointment if no one recognizes that their "nature is still tender, inflammable by nature".

October 26, 2003

How Was Church?

My wife and wife's family are evangelical Christians who have a habit of asking a question that was never asked in my parental household after Mass: "how was church?"

It was never asked growing up in my Catholic home presumably because the Mass is much more unvarying than Protestant services. Unvaryingly good and unvaryingly bad.

Unvaryingly good because in receiving the Body of Christ there is no such thing as an "unsuccessful Mass". The Book of Revelation's revelation that Mass is heaven on earth means that "how was church?" is like asking "how was heaven?"

But unvaryingly bad given the liturgical sufferings, stylistically, we endure with the Novus Ordo.

But the question could mean "how attentive and prayerful were you in church?". Now that varies.

October 25, 2003

Writing the Great American Blog

Funniest unintentional line I've heard in awhile was from my friend Bone. I'd asked why he didn't start a blog and he said, "I only write for money", which is ironic because he's never been paid. But he has one complete and pristine screenplay which he says he can show his kids and someday grandchildren and for which he is justly proud.

I jokingly told him I have a finished book too - I could vanity-press my blog tomorrow and presto, instant book. A book without plot, rhyme, reason or genre but two hard covers with pages in between. Charles Murray, quoted in a post below, thinks nothing published in the last fifty years will last anyway so how much different are blogs? (Not that I'm defending mediocrity. I'm just saying that most books and blogs are sisters in their ephemerality.)

Anyway I know I would love to read a blog or journal of my favorite aunt, who died in 1973. Or of my great-grandfather James. And not only because I'm related to them but also because it is interesting reading about average Joes and Janes grappling with the problems and moral dilemmas of their time, especially given the hindsight that history provides.

The writer Anne Lamott was on CSPAN's BookTV Saturday and said "even if you only write your stories so that one day your children would know what life was like when you were a child - still to have written your version is the most honorable thing to have done. Against all odds you have put it on paper so that it will last."

Two hundred years from now if people read blog posts about partial birth abortion or about Terri's case they may either think "how barbaric those people were! They were like ancient Rome." Or "what antiquated scruples those people had!". I hope for the former but fear the latter.
ex opere operato

Interesting link on sacramental efficacy.

Update: A related post by Fr. Jim via Sancta Sanctis
Survey Says..?

One thing few bloggers discuss is how their blog is received by their families. I wish Chris of Maine Catholic would survey that with his question o' the week, but perhaps I'm the only one who's curious.

I know Oblique House has a strong familial presence but I don't know about elsewhere.

My question: do your spouse/kids/parents/friends know about your blog and if so do they regularly read your blog or are you a prophet without honor in your own country? Email or press the comment button for best results.

Personally, I haven't given this URL to my wife and stepson because they are evangelicals and I don't want to have to constantly tamp down my Triumphalist tendencies. (Doubt they'd read it much anyhow.)

October 24, 2003

Be Not Afraid

Mark of Minute Particulars offers his typically fresh perspective in this post. Regardless of the merits of his argument*, I found it vaguely inspiring that anyone would even make such a point in era when marriage as "the two become one flesh" has become so devauled. So I'm reading his post more broadly and not contra-Terri, but pro-marriage:
If we enter a marriage freely and appropriately (at least in the context of the Sacrament of Marriage), then prenuptial agreements or any kind of arrangement that anticipates malice from a spouse would be abhorrent to the giving of oneself completely to another. When you get married, you ought to, as the cliché goes, "work without a net.".... If we are too quick to lump the actions between husband and wife in among actions between friends, acquaintances, and strangers, we might indeed save more lives. But I wonder if our ability to see the depths and magnificence of our dignity as human beings would be diminished or even obscured by this?
I'm interested in this notion of safety nets. In the political sphere, welfare is 'safety net' writ large. It is (or was) often not so much a safety net but a safety harness, locking families into generational dependence. What is it about safety that is so damaging to the human soul that multiple generations would suck at its ennervating teat?

I'm not suggesting that there shouldn't be gov't safety nets nor that folks on welfare have it easy. And I'm guilty of sucking at ennervating safety teats. Folks in corporations, for example, often trade safety for the adventure of sole proprietorships. (Of course, it's easy for me to say that - I sense this is one of those situations where both sides look longingly at their neighbor's grass.)

Safety Second?
Can this be applied to the spiritual sphere? Were the Pharisee's corrupted by the "safety net" of the Law, which gave them a seeming risk-free existence salvation-wise? Did it make them risk-adverse in accepting a different-than-expected Messiah? Did they "ghetto-ize" themselves too much in a desire to avoid sin but fail to love?

A conservative temperament like mine tends toward risk-aversion. But it seems as though tolerance for risk ought to be higher for the Christian, higher because of trust in God and higher because love covers a multitude of sins.

* -- Personally I'm a complete "Vatican toady" on the issue. I don't want to live one minute longer than my Papa bishop says I have to, nor one minute shorter. I've not blogged about Terri because everyone else is doing it so well and - it's a cliche but true - I have nothing to add. My reaction to what almost happened to Terri was horror but I'm neither a medical professional like Peony nor a theologian like Tom of Disputations which inclines me to simply 'let others marshall arguments, evidence and hash and re-hash it and then I'll come in at the end and read the results.

Steve Sailer interviews Charles Murray, author of "Human Accomplishment : The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950":
Q. Who was the most accomplished person who ever lived?

A. Now we're talking personal opinion, because the methods I used don't work across domains, but I have an emphatic opinion.


He more or less invented logic, which was of pivotal importance in human history (and no other civilization ever came up with it independently). He wrote the essay on ethics ("Nicomachean Ethics") that to my mind contains the bedrock truths about the nature of living a satisfying human life. He made huge contributions to aesthetics, political theory, methods of classification and scientific observation.

Q. You argue that one big reason that most of humanity's highest achievers came from what used to be called Christendom was ... Christianity. Did you expect to reach that conclusion?

A. Michael Novak foretold I would come to that conclusion, but I didn't agree at the time. I didn't think you needed anything except the Greek heritage and some secular social and economic trends to explain the Renaissance.

Q. You found that per capita levels of accomplishment tended to decline from 1850 to 1950. Would you care to speculate on post-1950 trends?

A. I think that the number of novels, songs, and paintings done since 1950 that anyone will still care about 200 years from now is somewhere in the vicinity of zero. Not exactly zero, but close. I find a good way to make this point is to ask anyone who disagrees with me to name a work that will survive -- and then ask, "Seriously?" Very few works indeed can defend themselves against the "Seriously?" question.
More Jack

This is turning into the Jack McKeon blog isn't it? Anyway, I came across this from the LA Times via John at the Inn at the End of the World:
Finally, for the Marlins to win this championship, somebody also has to get McKeon to the church on time. He is one of the few people in sports who claims to attend daily Mass, and actually does.

On his office wall is a picture of St. Theresa of Lisieux. He prays in the car, prays in the dugout, praying for hits and runs and lost souls.

As a baseball writer covering McKeon's wild San Diego Padres two decades ago, I remember strolling into the team hotel around dawn, just as McKeon was leaving for morning Mass.

"You really do go to church every day," I said.

"Somebody's got to pray for you guys," he said.

When we later engaged in a theological discussion based on my discovery of his devotion, he said he felt there was only one true religious mystery.

"I've been reading all these letters from Paul to the Corinthians," he said. "Don't the Corinthians ever write back?"
Consolation for Red Sox Fans?

I'm guessing not....from Cap'l Gang:
MARGARET CARLSON: I don't think you have to make it a -- there's a no curse. To make it interesting, I mean, it's very interesting. Mickey Calsiu (ph), who writes for "Slate" magazine says that, you know, if the Sox and the Cubs were to win like any other team, oh, they'd have a party, you know, their salaries might go up a little bit, but then they'd be just like anybody else, and now they're the two most famous teams in the world.

NOVAK: That's really incredible stupid. I'm sorry.

CARLSON: Bob, I'm going to put a curse on you if you don't stop.

October 23, 2003

Clear as Mud?

I'd been tempted to consider reluctance by bishops to provide clear moral guidance concerning end of life medical decisions to be a function of wanting to avoid controversy.

After all, Pope Paul VI gave us Humane Vitae (a heroic act for a man who was, by nature, not confrontational), and there is the opinion that he never wrote another encyclical because of the reaction to HV.

But after reading Tom's post, I guess it must be a prudential matter... although I'm leery of comparing burdens and benefits given that "burden" is such a highly subjective term. Reminds me of the "health of the mother" clause that pro-aborts hide behind; if the mother has a headache that's reason to end a pregnancy.

Even for those with the best of intentions weighing how burdensome something really is can be difficult. And for scrupulous souls it must be especially trying.

Update: To clarify my confusion: the burden of the caregiver is irrelevant, it is the wish of the patient, to the extent that can be discerned. And if it can't be then it's a simple matter of "erroring" on the side of life.

Zippy's comment on Disputations says: "Being a charity case is one of the most difficult vocations out there, but it is also one of the most spiritually rewarding to all involved."

Henri J. M. Nouwen gave up his writing and thinking career and for the last five years of his life severely disabled patients. When asked why he gave up so much he said "because they give me so much".

So, in 'opposite world' (as my wife refers to the world view of Christianity), the notion of 'burden' is problematic. If you are the patient you could look at the burden on your caregivers as a gift.
Security Blanket

Some are born evil, some achieve evil, and some have evil thrust upon them - and there is nothing more evil than what was just thrust upon me: an electronic book reader, aka a PDA.

E-books strip reading of the sense-pleasures, of broad white margins, scented pages and architectural flourish. Real books are Eastern liturgies, e-books the low Mass.

And yet when my wife offered me her old Palm pilot, what couldst I do? Her company told her it was obsolete, apparently because it was not "in color".

For a tenth of a second I was conflicted between two great biases: "if it's free, it's for me" and "real readers read real books".

The first won out and I am no longer conflicted. I carry the PDA as an amulet against boredom, secure in the knowledge that any long queue can be eased by what is contained therein.
Like Children Playing

My uncle Mark is an environmentalist of first order. His ardor for things natural has been intense for over forty years, ever since his first issue of National Wildlife magazine arrived (pornography for nature lovers).

We were discussing the possibility of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska and he said "it doesn't matter if no one is there or even ever goes there - knowing that an utterly unspoiled place exists gives me joy."

I thought of his words while reading Hernan Gonzalez's post, which was inspired by this picture:

(Orginally in Spanish; translated here roughly via Babelfish:)
"For me it is a joy and a consolation; like that one feels like when seeing children playing, but more stop and better; or, to put an example in the other end: like the one to have a feeling the happiness of God distantly, and to be glad of that.

And when they leave the objetores to object that "I against the nuns do not have anything; but that works, that helps the patients, that they do something; nuns who only say... why serve " ... they give desire to answer - badly-that to only see them, only knowledge that they are, she cheers to us and she gives forces us; although only outside for that - but she is not for that -, even measured in terminos that inmanentes, already they would be more useful than anyone of these objetores, in general so activists in the ideas as sterile in works." --HJG
Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I know why the caged whale sings --title of a Kairos guy post

How long do you suppose it would be between the time an authoritative "Declaration on the Use of Feeding Tubes" was issued, which provided precise and unambiguous guidelines for all cases, and the first time the statement, "The bishops are exceeding their spiritual authority by meddling in medical matters," was made? --Tom of Disputations

My post on Saturday was partly inspired by my own frustration with the individualist attitude toward religion, which ultimately comes from my frustration with the modern individualist attitude towards everything. I am certainly glad for the freedom that I have in this society compared to others I could be in, especially as a woman. But the dark side of basing society on elective groups is that a lot of people...never really find them. -Camassia, who recently elected to join a Lutheran church.

Openness to the Other requires specificity, not vagueness; attention, not conformity; humility, not pride.... Artists are almost never aesthetic relativists. That's because they know they aren't good enough, and they know they need to improve, and they want to know how! --Eve Tushnet

Te acompaño en el sentimiento --Hernan Gonzalez, offering words of healing as I approach my little Gethsemane.

Go Warn the Children of God of the Terrible Speed of Mercy --line from Flannery O'Connor's "The Violent Bear It Away"

'Stop the Bus, Stop the Bus!' Fearing the worst, he did so, and from the back three [inner city] kids pile out of the bus. My friend got out with the other counselor to break up whatever is going on and they see the three kids with cameras taking pictures of one of those vast fields between Columbus and Dayton. One of the kids says, 'What's that?" pointing to the crop growing at the side of the road, and my friend answers 'Corn.'--Steven Riddle

[Oscar Wilde] wrote in De Profundis...that the evil of sin is not in what one does, but in what one becomes. The Gnostics were wrong: the sexual sins touch the soul as well as the body, and they can change the soul for the worse. Dietrich Von Hildebrand explained, "Every manifestation of sex produces an effect which transcends the physical sphere and, in a fashion quite unlike the other bodily desires, involves the soul deeply in its passion," and "The unique profundity of sex in the physical sphere is sufficiently shown by the simple fact that a man?s attitude towards it is of incomparably greater moral significance than his attitude towards other bodily appetites. Surrender to sexual desire for its own sake defiles a man in a way that gluttony, for example, can never do. It wounds him to the core of his being, and he becomes in an absolutely different and novel fashion guilty of sin."

"Whoever denigrates marriage also diminishes the glory of virginity," said St. John Chrysostom, one of the most kick-butt Saints of all time. "Whoever praises it makes virginity more admirable and resplendent. What appears good only in comparison with evil would not be truly good. The most excellent good is something even better than what is admitted to be good." --Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

Only Anglicanism could produce C.S. Lewis. Only Anglicanism gone bad could give us John Shelby Spong. Orthodoxy can give us Dostoyevsky when it's good and Rasputin when it goes bad. No other tradition could. And Catholicism can produce both John Paul and, when it goes sour, Antichrists like Hitler. Same with American Protestantism: at it's best you get saints like Billy Graham or Jim Eliot. At its worst, Brother Bubba's Informercial Gospel Hour.--Mark Shea

'Well, I guess you could call him a vegetable. I called him Oliver, my brother. You would have liked him.' --Christopher de Vinck writing of Oliver, his brother who was severely disabled from birth, unable to communicate and barely move --via Amy Welborn

October 22, 2003

Cap'n Jack

Article on Jack McKeon's Catholicism written back when he managed my sainted Cincinnati Reds. I'd wager that ol' Jack is wiser than many modern theologians because he understands that it's all about prayer. Broadcaster Thom Brennaman, engaging in the hyperbole so necessary for announcers and bloggers, called Jack "the most likeable man ever to put on a uniform".
What's the best, most accessible book on Christianity you have ever read?

Interesting survey.
Blogger Meets Blogger...film at eleven

Reports of Columbus, Ohio's backwardness must be greatly exaggerated. How else to explain the presence of one Mighty Barrister in our fair city? (Business reasons.) The Barrister and I had a Guinness at O'Shaugnessey's Pub (okay he had a Guinness, I was on lunch hour and so was reduced to a Sierra Mist).

Twas very nice to discuss various & sundry things with someone so totally in sync church and faith wise, something rare in my circles. Not just a Catholic but a 'conservative' one (I know, people hate labels...how about one who knows what the word 'Magisterium' means?).

October 21, 2003

Hilaire Belloc and Islam.

Psalms for every need (link via Disputations).
For Best Results, Keep Moving

I happened to be downtown Sunday and ended up watching the finish of the Columbus Marathon. Having never run a race longer than 9.3 miles (it seemed like only 193 miles), I stood gap-jawed as wave after wave after wave of runners finished twenty-six miles. It seemed as though these folks were filling some sort of primeval need; you can't run a marathon without a life-changing training schedule.

During the Middle Ages, melancholy was most often attributed to scholars, the erudite equivalent of the 20th century office worker. A 17th century axiom went something like, "Oh how much misery is escaped and frustration averted by frequent and violent agitation of the body!"; i.e. exercise lessens depression.

In "The Joy of Running", Dr. Thaddeus Kostrubala says that humans, after many millennia of activity as hunter/gatherers, paid a huge price mentally in becoming mostly sedentary.

There are surely spiritual causes too. Walker Percy wrote that in an unnatural culture, it is not normal to be normal. When depression is the major illness in a society, as it is generally recognized to be in ours, then you begin to suspect something is amiss.
Feasting on Books

Went to the library Sunday and picked up Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast. Borrowing a book inhibits procrastination; I read it immediately and enjoyed it. My new rule of thumb concerning books should be: buy only books I don't want to read, borrow books I really want to read. (I knew I should've borrowed the Summa.)

Some excerpts from "Babette's Feast":
Young [Loewenhielm] till now had not been aware of any particular spiritual gift in his own nature. But at this one moment there rose before his eyes a sudden, mighty vision of a higher and purer life, with no creditors, dunning letters or parental lectures, with no secret, unpleasant pangs of conscience and with a gentle, golden-haired angel to guide and reward him.


Nay, but an absurd thing had lately been happening to General Loewenhielm: he would find himself worrying about his immortal soul. Did he have any reason for doing so? He was a moral person, loyal to his king, his wife and his friends, an example to everybody. But there were moments when it seemed to him that the world was not a moral, but a mystic, concern...He found himself longing for the faculty of a second sight, as a blind man will long for the normal faculty of vision.
Racing to Compromise

Country artist Patty Loveless recorded a song entitled You Can Feel Bad if it Makes You Feel Better and musing on that last post I think there's something to that. I feel better, aided by some consolatory emails. Is it oxymoronic to praise God for the ability to whine?

Popular country music is for me what democracy was to Churchill - excreable but for the alternatives. Being relentlessly middlebrow means classical music is beyond my reach; rap and rock and pop repel. So I'm left with country.

Fortunately, one of the two country music stations in town decided to boldly play "old" country - George Jones, Willie & Waylon. But the station didn't want only "old" listeners (nevermind that Johnny Cash had a big 20-something following) so after a giddy week or two they began spiking their playlist with 90s pop country songs, songs already played one bazillion times just a few years ago.

The other radio station in town, in a reactionary move (not wanting to be known as never playing classic country) began playing 90s pop country songs and labeling them "classic country".

So we're left with two stations playing mostly 90s pop country songs and NO one is happy, not the ones who like old country nor the ones liking new country.

This can happen with political parties to - the rush for the middle becomes so intense that the left and the right are left for dead.

And it can happen to Christians, when we seek to compromise our way to lukewarmness - pleasing neither ourselves or God.

October 20, 2003

Visiting Dante's 9th Circle...so you won't have to

I've been on one cruise in my life. My wife has never been on a cruise. So in an act of spectacular husbandly devotion I said 'yes' when she asked with all her heart to go on one with two couples I don't know (one works with her and the other knows the one that works with her). I know enough about the male half of the duo who works with her to be concerned. Concerns grew a bit when I learned I have to buy a purple shirt for some photo opportunity at the formal dinners. My guess is that someone thought it would be funny if all the guys were dressed in suits & purple shirts. Pretty funny 'eh?

Since I am a curmudgeon by nature, deliriously happy reading anything by Joseph Pearce, the idea of the enforced sociability of a nightly 3-hour dinner with strangers has me writing this, pre-agonista, for therapeutic purposes.

I don't expect a pity party. Lord knows a cruise by any other name is heaven. But the awful secret about cruises is they make money on alcohol and they lose money if people ask for seconds on steak. The answer to this is simple: sit the people down at tables of eight or more strangers. (Hence, alcohol.) Give them lots of little "pre-game" snacks like salads, fruit-like concoctions, and bread. Bring on the main entree - i.e. da' meat - only after two hours and four glasses of wine have elapsed. Voila! They won't ask for seconds and the bar bill will be high.

Call me a cynic and call me late for dinner.

Of course, ideally I would look upon this as a chance to meet new people, bond, and get into those religious discussions Olde Oligarch is famous for. Ideally.

October 19, 2003

Interesting Dispatch review on book above:
Not long from now, according to essayist Gabriel Zaid, more people will be writing books than will be reading them.

This phenomenon is probably already true with poetry.

'If not a single book were published from this moment on, it would still take us 250,000 years to acquaint ourselves with those books already written.'

But Zaid is not an elitist. And he's certainly not arguing for the avant-garde, which stakes its life on being 'other'. While 'uniformity is boring and numbing,' nevertheless, 'absolute differentiation isolates us.'

In other words, 'What is desirable is not that all books should have millions of readers, but that they should attain their natural readership.' --Bill Eichenberger

Oh profligate dandelions
who summer in Hilliard, Oh
grow I wistful at your stubborn roots:
I’d dance an Irish jig
to see you again mid-December.

I love the root crops,
the carrot who hides her grace
beneath a crust of soil
a goodness unknown
until harvest.


Cast your worries, cast your fears
Cast them into the sea-blown ocean
Roll them into an Omnibus bill
and send it to the Governor.

October 18, 2003

Alexis De Tocqueville in Democracy in America
Equality makes men want to form their own opinions; but, on the other hand, it imbues them with the taste and the idea of unity, simplicity, and impartiality in the power that governs society.

The men of our days are naturally little disposed to believe; but as soon as they have any religion, they immediately find in themselves a latent instinct that urges them unconsciously towards Catholicism....One of the most ordinary weaknesses of the human intellect is to seek to reconcile contrary principles and to purchase peace at the expense of logic. Thus there have ever been and will ever be men who, after having submitted some portion of their religious belief to the principle of authority, will seek to exempt several other parts of their faith from it and to keep their minds floating at random between liberty and obedience. But I am inclined to believe that the number of these thinkers will be less in democratic than in other ages, and that our posterity will tend more and more to a division into only two parts, some relinquishing Christianity entirely and others returning to the Church of Rome.

October 17, 2003

Waugh and Robertson

Interesting link on Evelyn Waugh via Amy.

I was fascinated by the Ker's asserting Waugh loved "cut and dried theology, ex opere operato sacramentalism", the kind that Flannery O'Connor was so horrified by.

That type of mentality also reminds me of evangelical Pat Robertson's "The Secret Kingdom" where he compares faith in a similar manner. Robertson explains there are spiritual laws and if you do a - b - c you will be the recipient of this, that and the other. It made God sound much like a power company - impersonalized and bureaucratic but without the inefficiencies.

It smacked of the "God as a mechanical lever" approach - a sort of attitude that leaves God with no choice. On the other hand, since God loves us and wants us to save us more than we do ourselves, we can rely on him more fully than we can on any one or thing given that he not only possesses that "automatic reflex to love" but is Love itself.
Vote Early & Often

Interesting poll from Maine Catholic:

Sheen was easily my first choice but for second I was torn between Pope John XXIII and the children of Fatima.
If you could spend an afternoon alone in conversation with one of the following prominent Catholics of the 20th Century who have since passed away, who would it be?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen (47.6%)
Mother Teresa of Calcutta (0.0%)
Blessed Pope John XXIII (19.0%)
St. Edith Stein (4.8%)
Pope Pius XII (14.3%)
St. Maximilian Kolbe (9.5%)
The Children of Fatima (4.8%)
Other (0.0%)
Honoring Pope John Paul II

"Love inspires the culture of life, while selfishness inspires the culture of death." -- Pope JP II
(Drawing by da Vinci.)
Some Day I'll Sleep Again

My condolences to the Red Sox fans and to anyone in the Eastern Standard Time zone foolish enough to stay up all night to watch a game that had "Red Sox Tragedy Redux" written all over it from the get-go. Did we learn nothing from the Cubs? Was the outcome ever really in doubt?

I'm not a Sox fan but I play one when they play the Yankees since the Yanks buy pennants like some people buy scarves. But this is the Red Sox way - never lose in 4 when you can lose in extras in 7 games. Hie thee here for bereavement purposes (Bone, that means you - you might want to join that Sox message board).

O Boone, thou hast cleft my heart in twain. - Shakespeare's Queen Gertrude speaking for Sox fans (with a one word substitution.)

Update: Received this email from Sox fan Bone:
Knowing as I did beforehand the final outcome, I boycotted Game 7 and watched two movies instead....At one point, my curiosity got the better of me and I switched over to Fox to see how the game was going. The score was 5-2 in favor of the Sox going into the bottom of the eighth. Elated, I switched back to the movie and, doing Beantown calculus in my head, figured we had increased our chances of winning from 0 to 10 percent....

Update 2: You must read Tom of Disputations on baseball religiousity.

October 16, 2003

My Heroes Have Always Been Marians

Reading the lives of saints as well as studying the thought of Pope John Paul II and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, I am struck by the consistency of a devotion to Mary among spiritually healthy Catholic souls.

Our current Pope is famous for his devotion to Mary, right down to his motto. Archbishop Sheen is similarly famous.

I used to think that we should de-emphasize Mary for ecumenical reasons. I thought that Mary would want it this way (presumptuous as that was), that she wouldn't mind being hidden if it would further the cause of bringing Christian unity. Of course, wanting to hide your Mother in the backroom when company comes is the sign of someone who doesn't love his Mother very much. But I was glad to read that I wasn't the only one thinking about de-emphasizing Mary, if more mildly:

From Crossing the Threshold of Hope:
"Totus Tuus. This phrase is not only an expression of piety, or simply an expression of devotion. It is more. During the Second World War, while I was employed as a factory worker, I came to be attracted to Marian devotion. At first, it seemed to me that I should distance myself a bit from the Marian devotion of my childhood, in order to focus more on Christ. Thanks to St. Louis of Montfort, I came to understand that true devotion to the Mother of God is actually Christocentric, indeed, it is very profoundly rooted in the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity, and the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption. (John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, pp. 212-3)
Close Encounters of the Papal Kind

Amy is reflecting on Pope John Paul II's papacy (who isn't?) and I thought I'd give a personal testimony, for what it's worth, of an early 'encounter' with this Pope. I remember reading Crossing the Threshold of Hope and being wow'd. I thought: he isn't like other popes, answering questions from the common man like this.

I'd not been exposed to apologetics, and it was not in my experience for anyone, let alone a Pope, to tackle questions like, "why do they call priests 'father' when the Lord said 'Let no one call you father'", as well as the more serious questions such as ecumenicism and how Christianity compares to other world religions.

Reading that book helped open my mind towards the Church and begin to trust what she said was true.
Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Please pray for us. This is perhaps the biggest leap of blind faith I've ever taken in my life, but we both really want to make a REAL marriage this time. --Kathy the Carmelite

Our natural condition is sundered at death, and we can no longer make choices, no longer use our intellects in the manner we'd grown accustomed to. This is why there is an urgency to our fundamental choices while we are alive, for after death we are no longer able to make such choices. This cleaving of our natural way of being is why death, anyone's death, is tragic. And this is why our resurrection will be bodily, for it will free us from the unnatural condition of the separated soul and make us whole again, albeit in a manner that we can't fully grasp this side of Heaven.
--Mark of Minute Particulars

I love that 'patron saint of miracles.' You can imagine St. Alexius, patron saint of belt makers, slapping his forehead and saying, "Why did I have to specialize?"
--Tom of Disputations, after hearing manager Jack McKeon refer to St. Therese as the patron saint of miracles

'I can't believe how vulgar and backwards you are. If your wife is not appalled to be married to you, she should be.' Well, she may be, ma'am, but not for the reason you think. She has never begrudged me my fascination with her breasts." --William Luse responding to a commenter

And the [Church of Christ] preacher admitted, in fact, that the Restoration leaders were rather naive about human rationality; they figured if everyone got together and talked things out in good faith, they would at least roughly agree on interpretations of Scripture. But, as he succinctly put it: 'The Bible is hard.' --Camassia

When asked, "What is it that you desire of God's Church for your child?" the present ritual has the parents answering, "Baptism" rather than the older form, "Faith." In my mind, the emphasis upon the communal nature of faith added by baptizing during the Mass is reduced by the aforementioned revision. (Here again, the motivation seems to be in line with the modernist mindset which insists that faith is an entirely notional decision of the atomistic individual -- the same view of faith that leads them to encourage, contrary to canon law, the practice of postponing baptism until the child is "older" and "can make up his own mind.") --Old Oligarch

It is true that storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it, that it brings about consent and reconciliation with things as they really are, and that we may even trust it to contain eventually by implication that last word which we expect from the ‘day of judgment’. --Hannah Arendt

Here's what saddens me the most with [Andrew] Sullivan and others...where's Jesus? I'm not saying that if you focus on Christ, you'll automatically and every time wind up okay with Rome - we all have free will and different experiences and viewpoints that make that unlikely, to say the least. But when we struggle with faith - the Christian faith - I think the only sensible thing is to go back to the Gospels and to prayer and the re-connect with Christ. A faith that is based on the efficacy of leaders is not faith, I'm sorry to say. Certainly, our relationship with Jesus is mediated a thousand different ways from Sunday, but still, what I don't see here and in so many other discussions is the question of faith in Jesus - and where that takes us? --Amy Welborn

Modern culture places a greater premium on expression than study, which is why so many modern thinkers seem to be so astonishingly unaware of the thinkers before them. The modern impulse is to write, not read, so it really shouldn't be surprising to see so much warmed over sophistry, hedonism and biological materialism expressed by pretty smart folks who have obviously never read the Greek sophists, epicurians, or materialists, let alone their even more notable rebuttals. --Mike Petrik on Amy's Blog

Never, ever underestimate the combination of guilt plus moral dissociation. Remember how tripped out you were when I told you about the women at the pregnancy center who think "Abortion is wrong, but..."? Or, "I'm a Christian, but I'm sleeping with my boyfriend"? People don't think of moral imperatives as in fact *imperative*. --Eve Tushnet on Old Oligarch
Soft on Sentiment

Hambone (nicknamed via the -ham suffix in his surname) and I often rail against the easy targets: NPR, the Oprahization of society, the preference of emotion over logic.

The eschewing of the sentimental in religion is something he is especially ardent about (I get a pass; the Irish are congenitally sentimental - I kid). He's an evangelical who doesn't like the manipulation of the emotions and the highly-charged Christian entertainment that uses as an index for your goodness how emotional you become during services.

So I was surprised when Bone showed a chink in his Spock-like armor and gifted me with a Christian music CD that included a song that really moved him (and me), lyrics below.

But Neil Dhingra on Flos Carmeli writes "....[Rowan] Williams sees the "eroticism" of some sorts of medieval and Tridentine spirituality towards the passion reappearing in current "praise and worship" music. "Jesus as object of loving devotion can slip into Jesus as fantasy partner in a dream of emotional fulfilment." This slippage can occur rather easily because eroticism is addictive. As Augustine says, "My love was returned and finally shackled me in the bonds of its consummation." Such can happen even in our devotional lives, under the guise of piety."

Hungry (Falling On My Knees)
by Kara

hungry I come to You
for I know You satisfy
I am empty
but I know Your love does not run dry
and I wait
and I wait
so I wait for You
so I wait for You

I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

broken I run to You
for Your arms are open wide
I am weary but I know Your touch restores my life
so I'll wait for You
so I'll wait for You


and I wait for you
and I wait for you
and I wait for you
and I wait

I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for
Oh, I'm falling on my knees
offering all of me
Jesus, You're all this heart is living for

October 15, 2003

Marlins win in dramatic fashion. Never bet against St. Therese.
Pray for Kathy and her husband Chris

Just received this email from Kathy of Gospel Minefield. What a good soul - she is truly inspirational. It's easy to pray for people like this isn't it? "Let God be true and every man a liar."

Guess what? I'm offline now, officially. Gospel M*I*N*E*F*I*E*L*D is no more. Chris wants me off the Internet. He wants to build a real relationship with me, and for that I need to (perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently) put aside other relationships that fill my niches.

Chris is having me resign my teaching positions as a CCD and Carmelite teacher. He's talking to Fr. Guest today.

Yes, I'm worried about the efficacy and wisdom of all this; however, just as Therese trusted God to lead her through her Mother Superior (right or wrong) in Ch. 10 of "Story of a Soul", so I'm willing to trust Chris to lead me. This time he's really sincere about LOVING me (like Christ), not just CONTROLLING me (like, say, Herod).

Please pray for us. This is perhaps the biggest leap of blind faith I've ever taken in my life, but we both really want to make a REAL marriage this time.

Pray especially for this: "let God be true and every man a liar." As an adjunct to all this, I will be attending Chris's church much more, and clinging to the Catholic Church much less (at least outwardly). I will always be Catholic. Please pray for me.

Please post this on Video Mel--e-mail it to whomever you think would want to see it. I'd rather not post it at GM myself because Chris might misunderstand my motives. I just want to say a proper thanks and goodbye. (AND GET PRAYERS).

Update: Chris says a hiatus from the Internet (including e-mails) of 6 months so that he and I can build a loving relationship of real knowledge, understanding and mutual respect. He's really trying. He doesn't want to stifle me -- he wants me to stop running away from him so that he can get to know me, too. He never used to want to bother, but now he honestly does.

In 6 months I'll be back with e-mail (and perhaps in comments boxes).
Exposing the Crack Epidemic

Our priest gave a sermon in which he described much of fashion as simply the desire to be loved. When we see teenagers with their navels pierced, their tongues forked, wearing black shirts and shorts 3 sizes too big, it's a desire to be loved written in big block letters. As is the butt crack epidemic (link via Camassia).

My wife's family is large (in numbers) and so we go to about twenty birthday parties a year. (My 'freshman ten' after marriage was due to cake and ice cream.) My wife's nieces, two of whom are aged 15 & 17, hug everyone when they leave. The huggees, weighed down by cake and ice cream, do not rise from their chairs. This means the nieces have to bend over in order to give the hug. In order not to expose themselves (at least more than what already is), they look like participants in the '70s game Twister. Very awkward, but I suppose it increases flexibility.

I'm not criticizing. We all want to be liked and will go to some pains to secure being liked. Hannah Arendt made the very true statement that the desire for human praise is not the worst of sins, but it does make us look foolish, which I know from personal experience.

October 14, 2003

Received a forwarded email from my dad with the following attached:

A review by Keith A Fournier of The Passion:

I really did not know what to expect. I was thrilled to have been invited to a private viewing of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion," but, I had also read all the cautious articles and spin. I grew up in a Jewish town and owe much of my own faith journey to the influence. I have a life long, deeply held aversion to anything that might even indirectly encourage any form of anti-Semitic thought, language or actions.

I arrived at the private viewing for "The Passion", held in Washington D.C., and greeted some familiar faces. The environment was typically Washingtonian, with people greeting you with a smile but seeming to look beyond you, having an agenda beyond the words.

The film was very briefly introduced, without fanfare, and then the room darkened. From the gripping opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the very human and tender portrayal of the earthly ministry of Jesus, through the betrayal, the arrest, the scourging, the way of the cross, the encounter with the thieves, the surrender on the Cross, until the final scene in the empty tomb, this was not simply a movie; it was an encounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced. In addition to being a masterpiece of film-making and an artistic triumph, "The Passion" evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children. Frankly, I will never be the same.

When the film concluded, this"invitation only" gathering of "movers and shakers" in Washington, D.C. were shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad-handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak, because words were woefully inadequate. We had just experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth.

One scene in the film has now been forever etched in my mind. A brutalized wounded Jesus was soon to fall again, under the weight of the cross. His mother had made her way along the Via Dolorosa. As she ran to him, she flashed back to a memory of Jesus as a child, falling in the dirt road outside of their home. Just as she reached, to protect him from the fall, she was now reaching to touch his wounded adult face. Jesus looked at her with intensely probing and passionately loving eyes (and at all of us through the screen) and said, "Behold, I make all things new."

These are words taken from the last book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelation. Suddenly, the purpose of the pain was so clear and the wounds, that earlier in the film had been so difficult to see in His face, His back, indeed all over His body, became intensely beautiful. They had been borne, voluntarily, for love.

At the end of the film, after we had all had a chance to recover, a question and answer period ensued. The unanimous praise for the film, from a rather diverse crowd, was as astounding as the compliments were effusive. The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released:

"Why is this film considered by some to be "anti-Semitic?" Frankly, having now experienced (you do not "view" this film) "The Passion," it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded, "After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn't." He continued, "It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus." I agree. There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive and profoundly engaging way. Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations.

This is not a "Christian" film, in the sense that it will appeal only to those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply human, beautiful story that will deeply touch all men and women. It is a profound work of art...It should be seen by as many people as possible. I intend to do everything I can, to make sure that is the case. I am passionate about "the Passion." You will be, as well. Don't miss it!

--Keith A Fournier is a constitutional lawyer
More on the Assumption

Darn. I'd been satisfied with the argument that a lack of physical corruption was the way to see Mary's sinlessness in lieu of the "sin = death" equation. But after reading Mark's powerful post it seems less satisfactory. That which makes us humans is our combination of body AND soul. It does seem that the cleaving of the two is a violent act that is "unnatural by nature" for humans. It seems to me not much ameliorated by the preservation of a corpse. (I'd always imagined that the stories of incorrupt bodies of saints was God's way of hinting that sin causes physical death.) Tom of Disputations responds to Mark.

Here are some excerpts from EWTN's forum concerning the differing views of the East and West on Original Sin:
The Orthodox understanding of original sin, which equates it first and foremost with mortality, is based largely on how several key Eastern Fathers read the scriptures. St. Maximos the Confessor, for instance, is very clear on this point. He believes that Adam's fall initiated a process of disintegration and death, in which all of creation is spiralling away from God. Christ's death and resurrection reversed this process. Likewise, Maximos doesn't believe that physical death is an entirely bad thing. By causing us to die physically, God placed a limit on our sinfulness so our evil wouldn't be immortal. You may want to read the article on this subject which I wrote for Eastern Churches Journal: "Byzantine Perspective on The Fall," in Vol. 8 No. 3. --Anthony Dragani

More here also by Anthony Dragani:
I have heard that the Greek biblical texts of Rom. 5:12 do not contain the phrase "in whom all have sinned" relating to Adam's sin. Consequently, I gather that the Eastern churches' doctrine of original sin developed differently than that of the Western churches. Is this correct?

The Greek biblical text of Romans 5:12 contain(s) the phrase "eph'ho pantes hemarton." The Western Church has traditionally translated this as "in whom all have sinned."

In contrast, the Eastern Fathers understood the word "eph'ho" to modify the preceeding word "thanatos," which means "death." Therefore the Eastern Church translates the phrase in question as "because of which (death) all have sinned." Both are legitimate translations of the text. However, this difference in translation changes the meaning of the entire verse.

Thus, the Western Church has traditionally translated the entirety of Romans 5:12 as such:
"Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world and by sin death: and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned," (Douay-Rheims Version). The Eastern Fathers translated the second part of Romans 5:12 as follows: "...and so death passed upon all men, because of which all have sinned."

In part because of this difference the Eastern Christian teaching on original sin developed differently. In our [Byzantine] tradition, the primary effect of original sin is not a "stain," passed on from generation to generation. Rather, it is death. Because "death passed upon all men," all of us now sin. It is death itself that causes us to sin.

Can you explain the difference in the way the East views Original Sin?
I'll try to briefly summarize the issue, but I can't do it justice in so little space.

In the East: The primary consequence of Original Sin is death. The reality of death causes people to desire that which can distract them from the realitiy of their impending death. Hence, people turn to sex, money, and power as a way to forget about death. In this way, death leads to sin.

In the West: The primary consequence of Original Sin is a "stain" of guilt. People are born with a guilt that needs to be washed away as soon as possible.

Both the East and the West agree that original sin causes an ABSENCE of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit can again dwell within man.

It should be noted that the Catholic Church has adopted a much more Eastern understanding in recent years. In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is very Eastern in its approach to original sin.
Serendipitous or Godincidence?

A fellow blogger of high repute recently commented that he writes and reads few poems these days and thus is surviving rather than living. I tried to console with the message that it is when we are just surviving that we are most living because Christ is nearest to us in our poverty. But do I really believe that? Is this a case where the physician should heal himself?

Do some, for whatever reason, have a higher “minimum daily requirement” of art? Of plays, music, books, theatre, film, paintings, architecture, poems?

I think of the Little Way of St. Therese and wonder: If we could see life as it truly is, as spiritual warfare in which our most insignificant actions have rippling effects -then would not our lives be infused with meaning and art be, extraneous? What need has the soldier on the field of battle for novels when his own life is the stuff of legend?

But do not our dreams at night point to the need to make up stories? To add meaning to our existence? To re-shape the randomness of our day to a coherent incoherent storyline?

One of the delights of trading away an early retirement for a large home library is the possibility of surprise. So, last night while involved in the sisyphean task of placing books in their proper home (only to be removed tomorrow), I came across Hannah Arendt's Men in Dark Times, a profile of various personages of the 20th century. It's one of many books I not only haven't read but had only the vaguest suspicion that I owned. I must've picked it up at one of the OSU booksales, where you get a bag of books for $1 or $5, depending on how panicked they are in wanting to move books.

A brief glance at the back cover caught my eye – “Isak Dinesen”. This called for an immediate read. It was a rich vein that echoed the blogger's sentiments:

"Without repeating life in imagination you can never be fully alive, ‘lack of imagination’ prevents people from ‘existing.’..'All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them’ she said.

She goes on to discuss this tension between living for art and letting art come from our living. This has a reasonance for me in not wanting to "get ahead of God" (laughable as that oxymoron is), which is a way of saying letting God lead. In her youth Dinesen made the mistake of wanting to create herself, ex nihilo:
...She did write some tales about what must have been for her the obvious lesson of her youthful follies, namely, about the ‘sin’ of making a story come true, of interfering with life according to a preconceived pattern, instead of waiting patiently for the story to emerge, of repeating in imagination as distinguished from creating a fiction and then trying to live up to it…Thus, the earlier part of her life had taught her that, while you can tell stories or write poems about life, you cannot make life poetic, live it as though it were a work of art (as Goethe had done) or use it for the realization of an ‘idea’. Life may contain the ‘essence’ (what else could?); recollection, the repetititon in imagination, may decipher the essence and deliver to you the ‘elixir’; and eventually you may even be privileged to ‘make’ something out of it, ‘to compound the story’. But life itself is neither essence nor elixir, and if you treat it as such it will only play its tricks on you…Wisdom is a virtue of old age, and it seems to come only to those who, when young, were neither wise nor prudent.

Update:I hope I didn't imply a favorable view of a minimalist or Puritan or anti-art philosophy in that post. Not in the least. I guess my issue is how to live on a Wednesday afternoon - as Walker Percy put it so beautifully. Living in Central Ohio - mecca of civilization that it is - tends to make life seem a bit on the dry side a lot. I know you won't believe it, but it's not exactly Florence, Italy. There's a part of me that believes/wants to believe that life can be gloriously interesting in Central Ohio if I'd only see the spiritual war more clearly.

October 13, 2003

Feast fest

Saw an excellent film over the weekend as recommended by Kathy the Carmelite: Babette's Feast. The haunt of wasted talent, of questionable choices, the General's speech about mercy being infinite - twas all moving. The stranger welcomed in who gave everything, providing a feast fit for a wedding...sound familiar? And oh how I enjoyed the General's first sip of wine! World-weariness replaced with wonder.

It was based on the story by Isak Dinesen and my respect for her grows. In an feat of impressive book-lust discipline, I did not buy Dinesen's "Babette's Feast" but will go to the library to rent it. Out of Africa is full of lyrical prose and interesting anecdotes. Here is an example of each (the second excerpt concerns a Muslim girl):
Small, very slight, red-haired, with narrow hands and feet, Berkeley carried himself extremely erect, with a little d'Artagnanesque turn of the head to right and left, the gentle motion of the unbeaten duellist.

She was of a theological turn of mind, and we had many religious discussions...She would admit Jesus Christ to have been born of a virgin, but not as the son of God, for God could have no sons in the flesh. ...In the course of our debates I one day showed her a picture postcard of Thorvaldsen's statue of Christ, in the Cathedral of Copenhagen. Upon that she fell in love, in a gentle and ecstatic way, with the Saviour. She could never hear enough about him, she sighed and changed colour as I narrated. About Judas she was much concerned, - what sort of man was he, how could there be people like that? - she herself would be only too happy to scratch out his eyes.
Low Country

A stiff sand-breeze grazes
his bearded face;
Strong toddies and stiff upper lips
Taste of ocean
Of dark sky sugared of stars
with a jellyfish twist.

Low-cropped mansions
hug the grub-line;
owners walk black dogs
near a slate sea
while fishers cast nets
starboard side.

I see there is much joy in Mudville, for the mighty Rush has struck out. Paralleled only by the glee with which Bill Bennett's fall was received, liberals and elitists are pilin' on.

Newsweek's Evan Thomas begins his article with "Rush Limbaugh has always had far more followers than friends...". Nancy Nall attacks Gary Bauer for attempting to defend Rush. Bauer made the reasonable claim that someone who goes out seeking a high is morally worse off than one who becomes addicted compared to someone who became inadvertently addicted through legal use. "The new loyalist line was only a matter of time coming," Nancy says.

I was tempted to write, "yeah, loyalty, what a rotten thing". But how does the cycle get broken? Not by snide remarks like that but perhaps by silence. Not by defending Rush, which convinces no one and merely enrages the liberal millions who want their schadenfreude undiluted, but by allowing him to accept responsibility and his fans accepting his responsibility.

Now I don't listen to Rush, I never bought any of his books, don't particularly like his style although I do share his politics. Many claim tit for tat - conservatives celebrated Clinton's moral failings so we're returning the favor. But is this a cause for trumpets to be sounding?
Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of heaven, justify it in the end.
There won't be any trumpets blowin' come the judgment day
on the bloody morning after one tin soldier rides away.

--ONE TIN SOLDIER, words and music by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter
Faith as Gift from Newman Quote

I had this conversation recently concerning the Church:
    "I hope the next Pope isn't so conservative and will allow priests to marry and women to become priests. If another conservative Pope is elected the Church will split and I will go with the liberal side," she said.

    "The Church has already split. Many times."

    "But I'll still be Catholic."
Cardinal Newman, in this quote via Donna Marie Lewis, helps me take a more sanguine view towards her situation.

Why? Because she has not been given the gift of seeing the Church in supernatural terms. She does not see the Church has having had authority granted to her by Christ. Without that conviction then the tenuous hold the Church has on her will remain (understandably) tenuous.

She begins with what she knows is authentic: the appearances of the Virgin at Medjugorje. She's read every book on them and is convinced they are of God. The bible, in her hierarchy, is less divine/credible/supernatural than Medjugorje because the infancy narratives and much of the Gospel of St. John were "made up by later Christians". The present-day Church looks the LEAST supernatural of all given the nightmare of bishops shuffling around pedophile priests. Plus the host still looks like bread after the Consecration and she says Catholics aren't any holier than other Christians.

What does all this say? Simply that faith is a gift. If you must see to believe, then Medjugorje is the most visible and most "easy" to believe in one sense. That all of the Scriptures are inspired of God is more difficult. That a fallible human being (the Pope) is protected from preaching heresy or apostasy is most difficult. And a gift.
All we are saying....is give Zim a break

I don't know which was worse - watching 72-year old Don Zimmer charge Pedro Martinez and being thrown to the ground, or watching his abject apology for charging the mound and being thrown to the ground. I hope the apology was his idea. If not, ease up on the Zim! Let he who has never charged a mound cast the first baseball. Surely landing on his head is punishment enough. (He was also fined $5,000.) Pedro rightly received a much more punishing punishment - $50,000 - while proffering no abject apology.

October 12, 2003

St. Thomas Aquinas on How to Study

Because you have asked me, my brother John, most dear to me in Christ, how to set about acquiring the treasure of knowledge, this is the advice I pass on to you: that you should choose to enter by the small rivers, and not go right away into the sea, because you should move from easy things to difficult things....

Embrace purity of conscience; do not stop making time for prayer.

Love to be in your room frequently, if you wish to be lead to the wine celler.

More here.
Not sure how many of you saw ABC's This Week today, but the segment on JPII was moving beyond ken. From former Soviet leader Gorbachev's tribute to the anonymous tearful young woman who kissed the Pope's ring (he responded by cradling her forehead), it was just plain emotionally charged. Next Monday & Tuesday Good Morning America is broadcasting live from Vatican City.

Also, the NY Times today has a David Brooks piece on the Pope that Amy has linked.

October 10, 2003

Seminarian Article

The Dispatch today had some interesting comments from seminarians who come from the world o'er:
Some are surprised that so many Americans go to church on Sunday. For most, getting used to the U.S. style of the English language takes some time. Above all, there is something about the food. ‘‘It’s not bad. It’s just different, so I can’t eat everything," said Maris Rasa, a Latvian seminarian at the Pontifical College Josephinum who finds hamburgers particularly hard to swallow.

Kalamuzi, 26, said he had a hard time getting used to the time change, humid summers and cold winters.

‘‘I don’t think I’ll ever get used to this weather," he said.

Kalamuzi said that before coming to the Josephinum, he had the image of the United States as a ‘‘pagan country." That notion has been dispelled, he said. ‘‘I have been overwhelmed by the number of people I see going to church here," he said.

Just making it to the Josephinum was a major achievement for two seminarians from Myanmar, a southeast Asian nation formerly known as Burma. It has been embroiled in political unrest since the military seized power in 1988. One of the men, who is 30 and in his third year at the Josephinum, said he was struck by the freedom in the United States.

‘‘When I came here, I could go wherever I wanted," he said.

The second seminarian is 25 and in his second year at the Josephinum. He said Americans seem ‘‘very pious" and are not obsessed with work and money, as he had been told. Only 3 percent of the Myanmar population is Catholic, they said, and there are few priests. People rely on priests not only for spiritual guidance but also for advice on other issues, such as politics, they said. Both intend to return to Myanmar when their studies are finished at the Josephinum. It is likely they will be asked to teach in the seminary there, they said.

In true central-Ohio fashion, Kalamuzi has become a rabid football fan, epecially of Ohio State.

‘‘After the national championship game this past January, we had several phone calls. But the first phone call was from Ivan. He was so excited," Mr. Metzger said. --Dennis M . Mahoney