April 30, 2004

The Habit of Being Buying

The ratio of religious to non-religious books I've bought during the past year has exploded compared to past years. Not that this means I'm reading more religious books though. It's just that I can more easily talk my Inner Accountant into buying them because it's for a greater purpose. My Conscience tells the Inner Accountant, in proper King James-ese: "Wouldst thou let $15 stand between me and what may profit my immortal soul?" and I.A. retreats to his corner, thoroughly beaten. Of course it's a rationalization, but as rationalizations goes it's pretty effective.
The Big Lie is Always the Most Effective

The archives aren't working, but I wrote last year about the rise and fall of our corporate library, once a source of new novels and interesting biographies.

"The library was a symbol - a chivalric nodding of the head to the liberal arts - of our inheritance from preceeding generations. I know not what rough beast, its hour come round at last, that slouches towards us with budgetary panic writ upon its face. But I am saddened that the library, which stood athwart the fortress of ignorance yelling "Stop!" is now defunct. As Shakespeare wrote: 'Sir, those cold ways that seem like prudent helps, are very poisonous.'"

So imagine my surprise when I stand outside and it proclaims its new birth. I see cheery helium balloons and two large signs saying, "Visit our newly remodeled library!". I walk in and lo and behold everything was the same - except it was reduced by half in space! I almost laughed.

"What kind of spin is this? It looks half its size!"

The librarian shrugs, smiles and says, "You're right, it is almost exactly half its size."

"So what is there to celebrate exactly?"

"I guess that we're still here."

Oh. Well, yeah that's true.
Derbyshire on Yeats:

... "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" still makes the bristles stand up on the back of my neck. Yeats came to hate this poem, through having had to recite it, by request, at every reading he gave, all his long life. (He wrote the poem when he was 23; he lived to be 73.) You can understand how he felt, but there is no denying that it's an exceptionally beautiful poem, one of the half-dozen best in our language.

It is a measure of the greatness of poems like this that they almost cannot become trite or worn. They are like gold, which never rusts. ("Almost" because obviously the poor poet, having to declaim the thing to a roomful of adoring listeners for the 1,079th time, is an exception.) The same is true of Wordsworth's "Daffodils," which still does it for me, though it really ought to come across as corny as Kansas in August.

Now, here in a Long Island suburban April, the daffodils are out all around. The poem comes to mind at the sight of them, and is as fresh and lovely as the flowers themselves.

This I hope I shall never lose — I mean, I hope I shall never get so world-weary that these spells no longer work for me.

Pondering St. Paul's Conversion

I'd always thought of St. Paul's experience on the road to Damascus in isolation, as a stand-alone event in which God said to St. Paul "let there be light" where light was his enlightenment.

But at Mass the priest started his homily by mentioning the reading from Acts 7 earlier in the week and I had one of those "ah-ha!" moments. I knew where he was going and he didn't disappoint. He linked the last words of Stephen as he was being stoned - "Lord, do not charge them with this sin" - with Paul's conversion. Stephen was praying for Saul during his moment of maximum suffering and one could scarcely imagine a more powerful prayer.

I think it suggests anew our interconnectivity and mutual influence. I don't think it an accident that Paul's conversion in chapter 9 followed so closely after the prayer of the first martyr, another Christ who followed in his Master's footsteps by asking that He not hold their sins against them.
Excerpt from Randall Sullivan book about Medjugorje "The Miracle Detective":
"It is difficult to be a visionary and mother at the same time," she said suddenly. "I love my children, my husband, my family. But there is nothing that compares to my time with Blessed Mother. That is greatest love I know, and in every other moment of my life, even with children and husband, I wish more to be with Our Lady."

There was a poignancy in Mirjana's voice that disarmed me utterly. I felt closer to her in that moment than I ever would again.

"People envy us, that we see the Blessed Mother and speak to Her, but I would not wish it for anyone else," Mirjana told me. "To know Heaven and live on earth is pain no one else can imagine."
Flannery O'Connor, from a commenter on Fr. Rob's blog:
One of the tendencies of our age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited His goodness, you are done with Him. The Aylmers whom Hawthorne saw as a menace have multiplied. Busy cutting down human imperfection, they are making headway also on the raw material of the good. Ivan Karamozov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus' hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of the innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our gain in sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.
And more:
To have the church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work through our human nature. We can't understand this but we can't reject it without rejecting life. Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does.
I think I could feel about Flannery the way Donna Marie Lewis does about Cardinal Newman.
Friday's Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items...

    the weekly lightning round of quick thoughts and links

If you're so inclined, email Deal Hudson at hudson@crisismagazine.com as I did and ask him to ask Sen. Santorum why he cost pro-lifer Pat Toomey the election in Pennsylvania. Hudson regularly gives Santorum column space in his magazine.

Am I the only living American to have never seen American Idol?

On Wednesday I celebrated "First Day For Pasty, Fat Guys to Jog Without Benefit of Shirt". Just doing my part for neighborhood beautification.

More on Toomey's loss.

They Know Not What They Do.

A ringing endorsement. (not for the easily offended.)

April 29, 2004

Spectator Cartoon

‘You’d think he’d do more with his mind control.’


Let's play... Why Is My Bookbag So Heavy?

Maybe because of these?

The Path to Rome - Belloc
Jefferson Davis, American - William Cooper
Bleak House - Dickens
The Grand Miracle - C.S. Lewis
Anecdotes of Destiny - Isak Dineson
Stumbling Blocks and Stepping Stones - Fr. Benedict Groeschel
The Human Stain - Philip Roth
Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love - Thomas Keating
Spiritual Despondency & Temptations - Fr. Michel
Revelations of Divine Mercy - St. Faustina
Those Who Trespass - Bill O'Reilly
The Miracle Detective - Randall Sullivan
Okay, But What I Don't Understand...

Greg Popcak writes about Sen. Santorum's support of anti-lifer Sen. Specter:
The sense at the table was that Santorum, who has his eye on the White House, simply cannot afford to buck the Party "wisdom" on this issue, and so had to play the game to (hopefully) do greater good in the future.
Understood, although it sounds weasley. But what bothers me far more than the support of Bush and Santorum was that the voters listened to Bush and Santorum*! Perhaps I'm too much of an individualist to be a good party man, but it wouldn't sway my vote in the least if they came out for Specter as they did. I'd say to myself, "they have to do it for the sake of the party, but I don't have to vote for Specter." I don't know what led PA primary voters to be swayed by B & S (or b.s.) but perhaps it's the simple matter of a voter being only as good as his information (including mine - see UPDATE). NRO writes:
One dentist in Lower Paxton calls himself a conservative and a pro-lifer, but Bush's relentless campaigning made the dentist think Bush needed Specter if he was going to win the November election. This reasoning is faulty, but local media parroted it, and it pervaded the state enough to push Specter over the top.
But when is a victory not a win? How about when this happens (from Greg Popcak):
Unfortunately, if Specter manages to get himself re-elected, he will have a shot at becoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of the most powerful committees in congress. The irony of Bush's endorsement of Specter is that if Specter gets this plum position, Bush won't be able to get any pro-life judicial nominees past his own party's leadership.
* - a very small but significant group. Toomey received almost 50% of the primary vote. Given that probably 40% of Pennsylvania Republicans are moderates who would've voted for Specter anyway, that leaves a very tiny but ultimately extremely powerful group that were swayed by Bush & Santorum.

Okay, Don Boyle on Amy's blog suggests that perhaps "Specter promised Santorum and Bush that he will not block prolife judicial nominees from getting through the Judiciary Committee and onto the floor of the Senate." I'm not sure I'm buying, but it's plausible and would make Santorum's decision comprehensible. It'd also a deal Specter couldn't make public, else he'd lose votes in the general election.

Update II: Okay, okay, the typically wise Mike Petric says, "Politics is the art of the possible. There is a place for principle and a place for compromise. Selecting the wrong approach at the wrong time can derail many a good cause. I have no issue with those who question Sen. Santorum's judgment in choosing compromise over principal in this instance. They may be right -- it is hard to say. But those who see fit to question Santorum's sincerity because of his support for Specter are being uncharitably presumptuous given the totality of Santorum's record in my view."
John F. Kerry & the CINO tag

It's always painful when one of your own urinates on Church teaching, as John Kerry does with regard to the life issues. I can listen to, and even enjoy, a pagan like Christopher Hitchens because his viewpoint naturally flows from his lack of faith. It's much more grating to listen to John Kerry who arrives at the same place from a different starting point.

Wanting to shame Kerry by calling him "Catholic in Name Only" is a temptation but a tag I think should be avoided like the bubonic plague. That's why I liked Mark of Irish Elk's line about Kerry believing in the divinity of bread but not the humanity of unborn life - there's a winsomeness in assuming Kerry believes in the Real Presence unless proven otherwise. Likewise Kerry is fully Catholic until proven otherwise (and not by us but by his bishop in a visible earthly way, though ultimately only by God).

But shaming does work. It's how the Amish, remnant though they be, have survived. It works in that it discourages bad behavior even though it might leave the heart unchanged. It can lead to works without faith because someone is doing a good action (such as going to church every Sunday) because of peer pressure rather than out of God's grace. But who knows how many souls have been saved by doing "A" (and being present for the action of God's grace) even if they were doing "A" for the wrong motives? And which of us does anything from entirely pure motives?

We know there are many "C & E" (Christmas and Easter) Catholics. My evangelical stepson recently used this an epithet in connection to Kerry. My stepson understandably likes that his church is full of fervent believers with accountability (a watchword often used), while implying, but politely not saying, that ours lacks accountability and has a lot of slackers. (The irony is that he thinks I'm not one of the slackers.) But what I want to point out, given the right opportunity, is that the wheat and tares are to grow together and we cannot pull the roots out without destroying the other. The Catholic Church is just that - catholic or universal - and that means you'll have tares. It's not a self-selecting group. A parish is defined by geographic boundaries, not by enthusiasm. (KTC made this point to me last year.) The 153 fish will strain at the net.

So I can't have it both ways. I can't despise Kerry and sing my stepson's tune while playing a different tune when holding to the wheat and tares theory and how the RCC will have people of every gradation of devoutness, or lack thereof.

Mark of Minute Particulars made a particularly (pun intended) powerful mention of how ironic it is that orthodox laypeople would de-emphasize the Sacrament of Baptism:
I suggest to you that this facile treatment (it is ironic that those laypeople who purport to be orthodox would treat the Sacrament of Baptism so glibly, presume so boldly, and suggest that being Catholic might be solely a matter of a few statements one makes) does a great disservice to those who take evangelization seriously...

April 28, 2004


Fr. Rob delivers the definitive post on why abortion is the issue: "...in the eyes of some, making moral distinctions between abortion, the death penalty, and the War in Iraq is reminiscent of Clintonian equivocation. However, making moral distinctions is something we must do as responsible adult Catholics...the attempt to put the death penalty on equal footing with abortion is simply incorrect, and not consistent with Catholic teaching. "

David Mills resists Christian casualness:
One can just imagine the Apostles, whose successors an Episcopal minister claims to be, wearing such t-shirts around Jerusalem in the weeks after the Resurrection. One can imagine Perpetua and Felicity ordering one to wear in the arena. One can see crowds of Sudanese Christians standing before army firing squads in such t-shirts. One can . . . oh never mind.
Mills also discusses college binge drinking: 'drunk without leisure'.
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

As a Catholic, you perceive divinity in a piece of bread. Is it such a leap to discern humanity in an unborn child? - Mark of Irish Elk about John Kerry

The people who point out that congregations skew female are not being caricatured. The people who say the reason congregations skew female is because the priests aren't manly enough are. The only grown-up reason to go to Mass is because you love God too much not to. - Tom of Disputations

"Diary of a Soul"... St Faustina's diary changed my life. Taught me about obedience to the church under tough circumstances. And I was intrigued to see how she perservered no matter what. A true inspiration. - Jeanne on St. Blog's Parish Hall, concerning recommended reads

I had been a DJ and a bouncer; I worked in nightclubs, hung out in nightclubs (you get the picture) and then? I started dating the woman I adore, got married, became catholic and settled down and started having children. So I can understand these old friends having a certain degree of apprehension when it comes to hanging out with me. After all, the majority of them are in denial about the looming specter of middle age, and haven't really much advanced past the entire "lets get drunk on Saturday night and hang out at the club" phase. So here I come, jeans, tennis shoes and St.Thomas Aquinas T-shirt on, with two children under three in tow... Steve of November Song

Did you know that anthropologists have a hundred different words for Eskimo? - Julian of "the julian calendar"

Who wouldn't know an Irish-Scotch / Predestinarian from the mouth of his empty bottle / but allow me one last drunken reverie / before Providence overtakes my intentions - excerpt of a poem from Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

But by removing the protection of unborn life to an undefined Democratic utopian future, one might as well say "come the Parousia, then we'll do something about abortion." It turns protecting unborn human life into a meaningless abstraction. It puts defending innocent unborn life on the back burner. - Fr. Rob of Thrownback

A poet for whom prolixity is often a byword: the veritable apotheoisis of what happens when a poet succumbs to hypergraphia. But there are moments when what he says is said perfectly and captures the mind and heart. - Steven of Flos Carmeli, prefacing a Wordsworth poem.

Q: Tell me something about you that I don't know: A: After a year and a half of blogging, I'm not sure that's possible. - Kevin Miller of "Heart, Mind & Strength" responding to a quiz question

Melville on Emerson: "I could readily see in Emerson, notwithstanding his merit, a gaping flaw. It was, the insinuation, that had he lived in those days when the world was made, he might have offered some valuable suggestions." - via Mark of Minute Particulars

We are admonished to ponder daily the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell. After avoiding the unpleasantness of number one, I'm pretty good with the last three. Numbers two and four aren't a worry, because I've always presumed God's mercy, for me if not for others. Number three provides fertile ground for hours of dreamlike revelry, as long as we don't recall too often Newman's reminder of how difficult it is to get there, that the nature of sin is this: 'it and God cannot be together.' It's number one that gives us grief and misery. It's the nature of Nature that becomes the stumbling block; to imagine ourselves without ourselves, as not ourselves, seems like something we ought not have to do, a task only a hard master would assign. You would think the deaths of others would assist us in this labor, but they don't. The event may get us to thinking, but we end up putting it off to another day because we just can't get to the bottom of it. Life in the body is all we know; it's a cruelty to have to give it up. We can't even imagine it, though we try endlessly, and worse, we can't accept it. I've heard there are some who can, saints, I suppose. More than accept it, they welcome it. So I hear. I don't happen to be in their company yet ... " - Bill Luse, via Jeff's El Camino Real

The cheerful are much easier to guide in the spiritual life than the melancholy. - St. Philip Neri, via "Fiat Mihi"

Nuremburg March on Washington for Men's Free Time - Thomas of "Endlessly Rocking" on the recent pro-abortion march on Washington

So much is made of choosing the right patron saint for oneself, but hardly anyone stops to think that patron saints can do some choosing of their own. It's almost as if we see the Communion of Saints as completely indifferent to the Church Militant until they are asked to intercede--or completely powerless until they are invoked below. Yet, Kimberly's story of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (and my own story of St. Therese of the Child Jesus) remind us that the saints are as proactive in Heaven as they were on earth...All our patron saints ask for in return is our collaboration. Cirdan, one of my Opus Dei friends, is particularly POD about how he does this. He always has in supply dozens and dozens of stampitas of his patron saints, which he hands out the way other people hand out their business cards. (In a way, he is handing out "business cards"--they just happen to be those of St. Nicholas of Bari, St. Thomas More and St. Josemaria Escriva, instead of his own.) - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis
My Love/Hate Affair with Spam

I know there are those among you (maybe Bill Luse?) who would like to see more spam poetry on this blog. Oh but alas the muse cannot be forced. Sadly, I think I've taken that as far as it could go, an art form that rose phoenix-like only to return to ashes with astonishing rapidity. Maybe I can fashion something from the Google searches that have met their end in my blog:

violence damnation cormac mccarthy

hook fish "cicada nymphs"

poncer blog

wb yeats golden dawn da vinci code

Or maybe not. Back to spam. A week ago I decided to set up rules to try to defeat it and so I now automatically delete any domain address of ".de" or ".biz" or any subject headline with the phrase "Your Loan" or "Viagra" or "Vagra" or any of variant misspellings. I've experienced a 30-40% reduction in spam. But even if an individual rule only kills one spam in two million I feel I have won a small - if pyrrhic - victory for now it's a game. The spams that failed are routed to a "Neer-Neer, I got you folder". Spams that I still get are examined and see if they could've been defeated by looking for reoccurring domain names or subject headers. It's actually gotten rather enjoyable, especially when I look at my "Neer-neer, I got you folder".
Offending Everyone -  including myself

Liberal Catholics are interested in loosening Church rules and in government solutions to poverty (i.e. exhortations to give privately are rare, and I do note the oxymoronic quality of 'government solutions to poverty')

Conservative Catholics are interested in a governmental banning of abortion (i.e. exhortations to donate to housing unwed mothers are rare)

Traditionalists are interested in putting an end to liturgical abuses and restoring the Latin Mass.

Perhaps if instead it went:

- Liberal Catholics are focused on Christ.
- Conservative Catholics are focused on Christ.
- Traditionalists are focused on Christ.

...we'd all meet in the same Place. (Gosh, that's so obvious you're saying 'why'd you post that?')

April 27, 2004

Oh No....

Looks like Toomey might be in trouble in the Pennsylvania Republican primary. From the Corner:
"I saw your post regarding Toomey ahead in Lancaster. That is bad news for Toomey. He needs huge margins in the Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg areas in order to offset anticipated Specter wins in the Philly suburbs. If he is only winning 52-48 in the Lancaster area, he is toast."
Update: bummer.
Precocious Child!

Via Steve of November Song

Well, now, I hadn't read Thomas's moving declaration against the tyranny of experience until after I'd just posted something along similar lines, at least about how God can seem the trickster in probing our faith.

Experience can be used to our advantage, of course. It's helped me during those times I've been extremely wrong about something. (My wife doesn't know this has ever happened before and I don't advertise it.)

You would think to be absolutely, freakin' wrong about something or someone would not be a good thing, but it's been extremely profitable because it allows me to say, "well, if I was so wrong about that, maybe I'm wrong about this," where "this" is imputing something to God that just isn't so.

I heard a story once about a guy named Joe and he was following Faith and Feelings while walking single-file atop a narrow bridge. Now Feelings, unlike Faith, could make a right-turn into the river at any moment. But as long as Joe is following Faith and not Feelings he'll make it across.
Life as a Test & Christ's Encounter with the Gentile Woman

Too often my idea of life as a test is "how many beers can I drink without getting a headache the next morning?". This is not exactly the test God has in mind. To put "life as a test" more positively is to say that life is a constant vehicle for our santification.

Rev. Michel makes this point in his book when he says, "Indolence or aversion to everything that gives trouble is common to all men. When we have devoted ourselves to God's service, we would like to enjoy the happiness of our condition without costing us much...St. Paul declares: "He also that strieveth for the mastery is not crowned except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5). To aspire to the crown of justice without fighting is a contradiction to the truths of faith - to expect to fight and yet not to suffer is contrary to common sense...Therefore [the enemy] does set before our eyes a lively representation of the difficulties [while] concealing the peace of heart which we shall find in obeying God."

This testing or probing includes a Christ-approved exercise of our faith. Thomas Keating in "Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love" shows how in the gospels Jesus attempts to bring out the greatest amount of faith in a person that He can. And much of it requires losing our sense of entitlement. Of Matthew 15:21-28, the story of the gentile woman who begged for a cure for her son, Keating writes:
Jesus knows the material with which he is dealing. He is dealing with a woman of extraordinary dispositions. Gradually he leads her on from one peak of faith to another. But notice his means: silence, coldness, rebuff, humiliation.

What is her reply to this indignity?

She said, "You are right, Master." She accepts humiliation. "You are dead right, there is no question about it. It would be wrong to take the children's bread and throw it to dogs. No argument whatsoever. I agree with you wholeheartedly."

And then comes one of those answers which the Holy Spirit inspires, one of those marvelous distinctions which comes from no human wisdom however elevated. It is one of those fine distinctions only love can come up with. After having fully accepted the humiliation, her position there on the ground, and his apparent refusal, her is her reply: "It is true, everything you say Lord. But how about this? The dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table."

In other words, "I'm not asking for food which I deserve. For I acknowledge that I deserve none. I have no merits of my own. But after the children have eaten, aren't there always a few crumbs left over? How about dropping me some of these?"...

She conquered the heart of Jesus. The text reads, "Jesus acquiesced." He was beaten at his own game. But with great pleasure, because he cried out in delight, "Oh woman, great is your faith!...you can have anything you want!"

This heroic act of faith was what Jesus was waiting for. Had he acceded right away, granted her petition at the first or second request, she would have never risen to these heights. There is no way to spiritual maturity, to grown in faith, except by this road.

April 26, 2004

Blame the Beatles?
WASHINGTON - Teresa Heinz Kerry says she's pro-choice but believes abortion is "stopping the process of life," it was reported yesterday.

"I don't view abortion as just a nothing," said Heinz Kerry in an interview with Newsweek, in which she took a side in the long-festering debate over when life begins.

Heinz Kerry once said that she was "not 100% pro-choice," but told the magazine that now the issue is black and white for her.

"I ask myself if I had a 13-year-old daughter who got drunk one night and got pregnant, what would I do. Christ, I'd go nuts," Heinz Kerry said.

Asked if he shares his wife's views, Kerry told Newsweek, "I do not know the answer to that. We've never - she's never had to vote."...

Both husband and wife agree that she is more traditional in her values than the Massachusetts senator, owing to the fact that she's five years older.

"He's of the generation of the Beatles, and that's the line of demarcation," Heinz Kerry said.
Kids Are So D*mn Cute

Here's my niece holding her brother Aaron Zachary, born eight weeks early but holding his own.
Abortion & Slavery

Henry Dieterich made an interesting comment concerning an Amy post (highlight is my emphasis):
We had the same incremental vs. no-compromise debate over slavery 150 years ago. The Republicans were the incrementalists, William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown, and their allies were the no-compromisers. The slave interest could see no difference between them, and when the incrementalists came to power in Washington, they started a war to preserve slavery. The war, and the end of slavery that it brought about, would not have happened if the ghost of John Brown had not been standing over Abraham Lincoln's shoulder. Eventually, I fear, we will come to a showdown on this issue as well. Incremental measures may preserve some sort of peace for a time, but in the end, the two sides have entirely incompatible goals. The valuable thing about incrementalism is that it can build an alliance that will make the final confrontation winnable. Outright abolitionists were a minority even in the North in 1859; but in many states you could get a majority against the Fugitive Slave Act.
Defining Difficulty Downward

Okay, so it's Sunday and I'm out in our private glade, out on the back porch framed by the Norway spruce and mulched beds and the glass table is post-Windex pristine and I'm caught up in the rapture of reading (aka "verweile doch"). My wife & son are asleep.

And it's always when I try to define time as mine that I'm reminded otherwise.

In other words, there's no chance in hell I won't be interrupted.

Our neighbor, with whom I feel I have nothing in common given our age/sex/religion/reading differences (although to be fair I tend to feel that about most people) is a sixty-plus retiree and is the neighborhood expert on the other neighbors. Nothing escapes her gaze. She ferrets out information better than any reporter and I look up long enough to see that she spys me through sprigs of pine needles. A quick wave. I re-bury my head in my book but it's too late. She breaks the imaginary Maginot line and thirty minutes later I've finally exhausted her interest.

What interests me about this episode are various & sundry. One is the clash between theory and actuality. In theory I'm a small town guy, singing John Cougar Mellancamp's song. I'm all for neighbors being neighborly and I'm always railing against the atomistic, individualistic, cold world we live in, while, frankly, being atomistic, individualistic and cold. I like the idea of Gomer Pyle, small-town neighborliness better than the reality of it. This is extremely off-putting.

Second, I made a common mistake. I considered not this individual visit, harmless in and of itself, but looked ahead. Never look at the future for today has problems enough alone said God. The future presented itself as an endless series of these visits because she is obviously lonely and will be getting lonelier since her husband is in extremely poor health. She will be a widow and there will be much more call to be neighborly, even to be surrogate family since her children never visit her. Time to call on St. Therese.

Little Flower, give me your childlike faith, to see the face of God in the people and experiences of my life, and to love God with full confidence.

April 25, 2004

Belloc 'Path to Rome' Excerpt

His long walking journey wasn't all sweetness and light:
... I had marched 180 miles. It was no wonder that on this eighth day I was oppressed and that all the light long I drank no good wine, met no one to remember well, nor sang any songs. All this part of my way was full of what they call Duty.

I watched a train come in. It was full of tourists, who (it may have been a subjective illusion) seemed to me common and worthless people, and sad into the bargain. It was going to Interlaken; and I felt a languid contempt for people who went to Interlaken instead of driving right across the great hills to Rome.

After an hour, or so of this melancholy dawdling, I put a map before me on a little marble table, ordered some more coffee, and blew into my tepid life a moment of warmth by the effort of coming to a necessary decision. I had (for the first time since I had left Lorraine) the choice of two roads; and why this was so the following map will make clear....I say a day without salt. A trudge. The air was ordinary, the colours common; men, animals, and trees indifferent. Something had stopped working.

Our energy also is from God, and we should never be proud of it, even if we can cover thirty miles day after day (as I can), or bend a peony [editor's note: but not Peony of Summa Mama's! (an intentional sic)] in one's hand as could Frocot, the driver in my piece—a man you never knew—or write bad verse very rapidly as can so many moderns. I say our energy also is from God, and we should never be proud of it as though it were from ourselves, but we should accept it as a kind of present, and we should be thankful for it; just as a man should thank God for his reason, as did the madman in the Story of the Rose, who thanked God that he at least was sane though all the rest of the world had recently lost their reason.

Indeed, this defaillance and breakdown which comes from time to time over the mind is a very sad thing, but it can be made of great use to us if we will draw from it the lesson that we ourselves are nothing. Perhaps it is a grace. Perhaps in these moments our minds repose ... Anyhow, a day without salt.

April 24, 2004

Movie & Hike

Caught "Shoes of the Fisherman", starring Anthony Quinn on Turner's Classic Movies. The film feels dated because it was respectful towards the Church. How sad is that? I'm surprised that Hollywood was still capable of showing respect towards the Church in 1968. The film depicts a newly elected Russian pope (Quinn) having to make a tough decision. When I was a kid, I thought being elected pope was something to celebrate and be thrilled about and was pure joy for the recipient. Now I don't think so. I see the responsibilties they labor under, and how the more you are given the more is expected, and how difficult it is to discern the will of God for an individual, let alone for the Church. There's a nice moment though when Quinn realizes/reminds himself that he is protected from teaching error and you can see the consolation he takes from that.


I hike three miles in the woods every weekend, 52 weekends a year. It's interesting to watch the seasons unfold and mark exact boundary lines of events. I think the first bit of greenery (grasses) was the last week of February. Then come the shrub-like plants and finally the leaves on trees.

Although only seven sunsets and sunrises separated this week from last week, nature seems to have turned a corner and gone beautiful. Switched to glide. In midsummer and you see only the green leaves. Midwinter you see only the knarled, twisted trunks. But this time of year you see the delightful minuet of green and brown, of St. Jerome trunks and Little Flower leaves. One without the other feels false. And since the canopies haven't formed, wildflowers like children are scattered providentially over hill and dale. White and purples tossed recklessly about.

I visited a small lake last weekend and brought the essentials: beer, books & a folding chair. The Canadian geese have nearly taken over though. Their poop was literally everywhere, and I tried to tell myself that they are far enough down the food chain that it doesn't matter. (For example, no one is bothered by worm dung.) After a couple beers, the manure didn't bother me as much.

Interesting discussion (scroll down) of bible translations. Be sure to read the comments.
Bookstore Tour

Country singer Clint Black sings that “love always looks the same” and so do rare book stores. They also always smell the same and I love that. I walk in and my senses heighten and take on the acuteness of a hunter’s, abetted by the adrenal shot of book dust and leather bindings. However different than scent of hotel rooms, this hits your gut the same way: the thrill of the undiscovered lay in front of you. Gleam volumes in neat rows, like soldiers in dress or spiffy orphans looking for a a home. I pick up a biography of Evelyn Waugh’s last years. Endings matter.
Friday's Hodge-Podge of Discontinued Items  - the weekly lightning round

Do you ever get the feeling that through pure, cussed persistence Steven will make Carmelites of us all?

Good question.

Has Gresham's Law come to St. Blogs?

Sometimes I'm tempted to think that religious blogs should have an expiration date on them. It seems a sort of scandal if we don't evince a certain amount of spiritual growth over a given stretch of time (to the extent that can be ascertained in a blog). Spiritually, it's okay to be at any given point, but it doesn't seem good not to be moving much from that point. (I'm speaking only of my own blog here.)

Blogger Sulpicius Severus has left the building.

My slightly younger brother finds things with a GPS. I've joined him on "treasure" hunts, the treasures being junk toys and stuff. That I can't really share his enthusiasm makes me feel old.

April 23, 2004

Book Thoughts

I'm reading the parts I'd previously skipped of "The Miracle Detective" by Randall Sullivan and although I've tended to be skeptical concerning the authenticity of the apparition of Medjugorje I do marvel at times thinking, 'yes, that does sound like something God would do'.

Little things make it seem plausible, like the fact that the children were not only disbelieved by everyone but experienced persecution from the secular authorities. Also, the visionaries made an assumption about when they thought the visions were over, which proved to be false since they experienced them even when they weren't together at the apparition spot. It is typical to come to our own conclusions about what God will or will not do and have them smashed.

Mary doesn't watch them pray, she prays with them, though her prayer is like music. She isn't depicted as some messenger who has come down to monitor and straighten out the kids, she's portrayed as utterly at peace but still humbly and devoutly praying the "Our Father":
The absence of grandiosity on the part of the visionaries was immensely reassuring to all of the clergy who came to investigate their claims. Vicka, asked by a priest if she experienced the Virgin "as one who gives graces or as one who prays to God," replied instantly, "As one who prays to God." When the same priest asked her if a prayer in the church at Medjugorje carried more power than a prayer in another church, the girl said she would ask at the next apparition. The Madonna had told her that the power of prayer varies only according to a person's faith, Vicka reported the next day.
It is interesting how the apparition is embraced by some pious Catholics who surely wouldn't like to hear the famous line from the apparition: All religions are similar before God. "Although six days later, in answer to a question from one of the seers she said, 'There is one mediator between God and man - Jesus Christ'".

The author also obliquely address why these seers seem not to fit the Fatima and Lourdes mold, where the visionaries became cloistered nuns:
"Why are you appearing to us? Mirjana asked. "We are not better than others."

In response, the Madonna smiled again, then told the seers, "I do not necessarily choose the best."
She suggests they fast on bread and water but tells them constantly they are free. Free to choose.
Nash has an Equilibrium?

Good to know the money spent towards our son's education has not been wasted. He weighs in on this:
I think the real result of increased productivity is exactly what he touched on, a shift from the manufacturing sector to the service sector in all post-industrial economies. People won't "not work", it's not a rational decision, it's not an equilibrium if nobody works and we keep our present standard of living.

Think of it this way: All haircuts are done by machines and nobody works, I start cutting hair and I'm a person and I'm the only person who cuts hair. If we assume a preference for diversity, some people will want the "natural" hair cut, and I will make a huge profit (as I am the only human cutting hair), so my standard of living goes up. Then my neighbors see there is money to be made and they start cutting hair and the process continues.

Basically I believe that if enough people don't work, the marginal profit of working would be so high in service sectors that everyone would start working again until it reached a market clearing price where the cost of working was equal to the gain from just hanging out. It would be sort of like Organic Food, it would be more expensive to have a person do it but you would want that "personal touch". In summary I think he's been proven right by the shift from manufacturing to service industries, but I believe that same argument won't carry an economy from a service based economy to utopia, not as long as money still exists anyway.

So, the answer to: "Is there anything in the realm of pure economic theory which says that a very large society couldn't simply exploit the highly productive (and therefore highly compensated) labor of a relatively small few? Or am I missing something having been absent from this issue for so long?" is: Yes, Game Theory, this set up is not a Nash Equilibrium as long as a profit can be made ie as long as we have a monetary system and a society that focuses on aquiring material wealth.
Democrats and Catholics

A local minister who hosts a radio show asked African-Americans to call in and explain why, despite their conservatism on social issues, they continue to vote Democratic. Most who called pointed to the party's record on civil rights.

The loyalty of blacks to the Democratic party is understandable - even admirable - given that in the '60s the Democrats were the party of civil rights. But parties are not human beings and loyalty is misplaced when the party changes and becomes the standard bearer for death, as the Democrat party has.
Pope John Paul II on Mercy
What took place in the relationship between the father and the son in Christ's parable [of the prodigal son] is not to be evaluated "from the outside." Our prejudices about mercy are mostly the result of appraising them only from the outside. At times it happens that by following this method of evaluation we see in mercy above all a relationship of inequality between the one offering it and the one receiving it. And, in consequence, we are quick to deduce that mercy belittles the receiver, that it offends the dignity of man. The parable of the prodigal son shows that the reality is different: the relationship of mercy is based on the common experience of that good which is man, on the common experience of the dignity that is proper to him. This common experience makes the prodigal son begin to see himself and his actions in their full truth (this vision in truth is a genuine form of humility); on the other hand, for this very reason he becomes a particular good for his father: the father sees so clearly the good which has been achieved thanks to a mysterious radiation of truth and love, that he seems to forget all the evil which the son had committed.


The cross is the most profound condescension of God to man and to what man-especially in difficult and painful moments-looks on as his unhappy destiny. The cross is like a touch of eternal love upon the most painful wounds of man's earthly existence; it is the total fulfillment of the messianic program that Christ once formulated in the synagogue at Nazareth and then repeated to the messengers sent by John the Baptist.

April 22, 2004


We've been discussing/recussing anger and Traditionalism over at El Camino Real, and how some Trads could profit from an anger management class (Jeff excluded). For those in communion with Rome, I'm personally pro-Trad. For those not, I think they show - unwittingly - why the Chair of Peter is not vacant.

Why so? Because just as Jesus had "liberals" (Saducees) and "conservatives" (Pharisees) on his right and his left, so has the Church naysayers outside its Body who represent heretical doctrine on both the right and the left (using those horribly imprecise labels - but this is a blog, so what do you expect?). The truth is that truth and orthodoxy usually lie in the middle.

But Trad anger strikes me as a wrongheaded even from a purely strategic standpoint. It didn't work on me, and given my embrace of all things middlebrow I'm pretty much your average American. I started smoking cigars just before the boom. I embraced country music in '90, just after it started getting hot. I began blogging in late 2001, after Amy paved the way. (I often think that if I'd simply invested in the stocks of products I liked, I'd be rich. But if I'd have been smart enough to have done that I wouldn't be everyman would I?)

This is just a preface to say that my reversion, as incomplete as it is, was not due to anger but to beauty, and if my reversion is typical then it suggests anger won't work. Pointing to a defining moment is relatively simple. It's when I read Scott Hahn's exegesis of John 6 in Rome Sweet Home. Did not my heart burn within me?
Charitable Home Run

This looks like a very worthwhile cause.
Interesting Hot Potato on the Corner

...To sum it up, Americans -- like everyone else in the industrialized world -- are having too few babies. If, by "too few" you mean not enough babies to replenish the workforce going into entitlement-rich retirement. Not enough workers at the bottom of the system means not enough taxpayers to generate Social Security checks. In America we offset this problem to a certain extent with immigration. We import young workers to make up for the ones we don't manufacture at home.

Anyway, suddenly, some liberals are becoming pronatalists (i.e. someone who favors policy supporting higher birthrates) when a little more than a decade ago they were saying folks like Wattenberg were right out of the Handmaid's Tale. That's cool.

But here's my question and it is entirely theoretical (for I am still very much a pronatalist): Don't the unprecedented increases in productivity mitigate the pronatalist argument somewhat? In theory couldn't we make a comparatively small handfull of workers (or, heh, nanobot androids) so productive that we wouldn't need that many more workers? Is there anything in the realm of pure economic theory which says that a very large society couldn't simply exploit the highly productive (and therefore highly compensated) labor of a relatively small few? Or am I missing something having been absent from this issue for so long?


Emails are piling in. Let me clarify one thing. I wasn't proposing, even hypothetically, that only a handful of people work and the rest of us spend our time around the pool (or reading the Corner). No, what I guess I'm getting at it is this: Couldn't you have a system extending pretty much the trends we're already seeing in which a huge proportion of the society are in service-area and artsy-fartsy jobs and a tiny number of "productive" workers do the same amount of work it took hundreds of people to do just a few generations ago. After all, a couple guys with tractors and combines do the work of hundreds of field hands today. Anyway, economics isn't my strong point but it just seems to me that if productivity keeps soaring that the old arguments about importing labor and/or increasing the birthrate change. That's what I'm really getting at (though I'd love to discuss the Nanobot Androids all day). Am I missing something on that point?
I'm no economist, but I wouldn't want to deny you my ignorance, so here goes: Why do we see so little fruit (in terms of leisure) from increased productivity? Because we spend 90% of any raise we get. The square footage of the average home has exploded over the past fifty years despite smaller families. That a couple guys with tractors and combines do the work of hundreds of field hands today is true, but the hundreds in the field turn around and want a bigger house, a pool, a DVR, etc...So we basically take all the benefits of technology and exchange them for more stuff instead of more free time. That's my best guess. Email me your best guess and become eligible for a drawing to win stuff.

April 21, 2004

Stalin Biography

...is reviewed in the NY Times, reminding us of the mystery of iniquity:
What we do learn is that Stalin had an unexpected human side to his personality. He could sentence thousands of innocent people to death with a stroke of the pen and then go to his private cinema to enjoy an American cowboy movie, yet he could also display affection and tenderness...There are numerous examples of Stalin's affection for his children and friends of his youth. And he looked after his associates, making sure they took good care of themselves. Once, when Artyom Mikoyan, designer of the MIG aircraft, ''suffered angina and was put to bed, he was aware of someone coming into his room and tenderly laying a blanket over him. He was amazed to see it was Stalin.''

How to reconcile such manifestations of humanity and intellectualism with the persistent sadism, clinical paranoia and debauchery that fill so many of the pages of this book? For life at Stalin's court was a kind of Grand Guignol, dominated by the unpredictable and irrational behavior of the leader -- with his ''swarthy pock-marked face, gray hair, broken stained teeth and yellow Oriental eyes'' -- who kept his entourage in constant dread of his outbursts. People were expelled from his presence for no apparent reason, sometimes simply demoted, sometimes arrested and tortured. In 1937 he had the Politburo formally authorize physical torture of ''enemies of the people,'' and he would add the words ''Beat, beat!'' next to a victim's name...Perhaps the explanation for the contradictions in his character is that the savage tyrant needed to calm his conscience, to assure himself that he was really a decent human being.

Willie Mays steals third (from NY Times, 1960)

I love those oldey-time baseball pictures.
Sad Situation

Drove by the seedy part of town and saw a young waif, as poor and bedraggled as anything in Dickens. She was obviously a prostitute, and like most of the prostitutes on Broad St, there was nothing erotic about her. That seemed odd, like a mathematician not good at numbers. But such is the result of drugs and hard-living.

I was tempted to drive around the block and give her a $20 for free, if it be used for her "prostitute retirement fund" and not a fix. As unlikely as that might be. More likely a cop would charge me with soliciting. No good deed...
West Virginia Rust-Proofing

via Hokie Pundit
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Again, it'll probably be years before this is directly relevant, but just as the Day of the LORD will come like a thief in the night, I suspect that True Love sneaks up on people as well. - Robert of HokiePundit

I would like to cut their pitiful arguments to shreds like a Zorro- but not only do it with a smile on my face- but to conjure a smile from their bleeding lip as well. I do think that the "offensive" strategy is working to a degree. The louder we shout the more people will hear. - Michael Brendan Dougherty, a "non-angry" Traditionalist. (I'd hate to see an angry one.)

My wife, a convert to the Faith, found the Baltimore Catechism much more useful in learning about Catholicism than the R.C.I.A. documents she was given. Without something like the B.C., and yes, an insistance on memorization of basic dogma, too many Catholic kids grow up religiously illiterate, easy marks for the secular and religious hucksters who infest our culture. -Donald M. on Amy's blog

Introducing Pope-In-A-Bag©, all you need to fulfil your plan for yourself. With Pope-In-A-Bag© you get these great components. • Personal Papal Smoke Generator - Safely generates white smoke to announce the day you elected yourself to the Papacy. Crowd cheering sound effect is available in both CD and Cassette. - Curt Jester, offering accoutrements to those declaring themselves infallible on faith and morals.

When I was in high school, girls aspired to become cheerleaders for laudable reasons. Primarily, it was all about a concept called “team spirit.”...My motives for coveting a spot on “The Saint James High School Something-or-Others” cheerleading squad were a tad different. First, the glory! After all, being a cheerleader was a sure-fire ticket to, if not immortality, then at least popularity. No cheerleader in my high school lacked for week-end dates! ...I couldn’t lose. Except I lost. As one of the judge’s explained to me, I lost a lot of points because I didn’t bother mentioning the team’s name in my cheer. And why should I have done that? As should be painfully clear by now, the entire fiasco was, as is so often the case, all about me. Not, in my opinion, unlike the upcoming Boston College Conference. If you go to the conference web-site, you will find that there is no mention of the Name of Jesus. What does that tell you? Is there no room for Jesus in the “Church That Women Want?” The first workshop is entitled: “Women Leaders Creating Church.” I’m not kidding! Never mind that Jesus Christ created His Church a couple of thousand years ago. These “ladies” — like that insufferably arrogant would-be cheerleader — seem to believe, God help them, that the Church is all about them. - Pew Lady

Tom doesn't disagree with Steven, Steven doesn't really disagree with Tom, and the Carmelites don't really have dramatic 'night and day' differences from, er, most Dominicans. There, that was helpful and worth the time, wasn't it? - Thomas of 'Endlessly Rocking' on Tom of Disputations & Steven of Flos Carmeli

Try suggesting that John Kerry's views are not consonant with Catholic teaching. They call you Torquemada for that. - Rod Dreher on Amy's site

"No fecal material, Sherlock," you are no doubt saying to me now in a grim tone... And we all need to guard against is an attitude like this one: "Well, if there is such a thing on earth as 'UUU-nion,' then, by golly, I demand to have it! "I study and work hard on my faith--I honor God and my family and neighbor. "What am I, chopped liver?" In the words of Francis de Sales, if God chooses to make a marble statue, then leaves it alone to remain motionless till He returns to gaze upon it, why should the statue complain? Remember, if we desire UNION with Him, we must desire HIS will, no matter what it may be. - Kathy of GospelMinefield

For men, it is a great misfortune to have never fought in battle for a noble cause. Miserable is he who has never been a crusader or a warrior or a soldier. Of course, a crusade might take many forms other than literal military warfare -- but woe to the man who does not answer his call to arms! And where are such calls and such causes today? At best the crusading spirit has been emptied of noble motives: we are exhorted to fight for "freedom" and "prosperity" rather than truth or virtue. That is, if we fight at all, and most of us don't. - Jeff of El Camino Real

My lovability quotient is how lovable I am divided by how lovable I should be; my only concern with it is that it not decrease with time.-Tom of Disputations

...Courtesy of Video Meliora. Speaking of whom, I find myself often trying to write clever, profound observations in the hopes of being included in T. S. O'Rama's weekly quote round-up. Of course, trying to be clever or profound never works. It's like watching for a pot to boil. - Michelle of "And Then?"  I'm amused & honored that people care about being on this list. It goes without saying that I miss more good quotes than I catch.

Charity toward others is the desire for their salvation, not the desire for the satisfaction of telling them you doubt their salvation. I am not very perceptive spiritually, but I do not discern much desire for the salvation of others in the henhouse, compared to the desire for the satisfaction of seeing someone else get it in the chops from a stud bishop. If, however, the "that" that Cardinal McCarrick is like is "kind," then those who think the times call for him to be more like something else would do well to pray that his kindness grow to encompass that something else, rather than that he stop being kind and start being their puppet. (By the way, I'm inclined to think that how much and how earnestly people pray for something -- and I mean full-bore prayer, with vigils and fasts and candles and Rosaries and kneeling and maybe even some tears -- is a much better indicator of whether they truly desire it and whether the desire comes from God than how much and how earnestly they complain about it on the Internet. And that includes, naturally, complaining about complaining.) - Tom of Disputations

Standing between the wasteland and the valley is one little book, The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Everything changed after I met St. Therese, so much so that I started to think I was special to her in some way. It was a conceited way to think, I realized, but I had no other explanation for the great interest that it was obvious (yes, obvious) she was taking in me. What did she see in me that made her stick around even after my reversion? It seemed that the hard work had already been done and she was free to leave. Yet it was almost as if she wanted to be . . . friends. Now I see why! She is my Confirmation patron, though I didn't choose her. At the time I was confirmed, I didn't even know her. So it was she who chose me. I still don't understand why she wanted to do that, given how unlike her--and ignorant of her--I was for a long time. It is very humbling . . . and beautiful... A few years ago, I read a review of Saving Private Ryan that described Private Ryan as "Everyman." Well, St. Therese of the Child Jesus is "Everysoul." This is why everyone--missionaries, martyrs, priests, religious, lay people, parents, children, scholars, etc.--can be moved by her story and touched with devotion to her. She gives new meaning to the expression "kindred soul," for she is everyone's kindred soul. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis
Corporate Comic Relief

A couple hundred of us received this seemingly non-controversial blah-blah:
From: John R.
To: Diversity Invitees
Subject: Diversity for 2004


Welcome to the continuation of our series of Diversity Round Tables, now in our third year. The first presentation for this year is on Gender. The title is "He Talks ... She Talks". Please go to our website to see the particulars, and register using MS Explorer (only). As usual, the meeting will start with lunch. If you need vegetarian, please let me know.
Which was followed up by this missive:
From: Sarah, Senior Consultant Human Resources
To: Diversity Invitees
Subject: Diversity for 2004

John, I think it would be helpful to put "Gender Differences in Communication at Work" .....instead of just Gender.
The obligatory comment is to say "I see gender differences at work already!" Russell took the bait and replied to everyone:
See, and I understood John just fine. John: I hope you are attending!

To which Sarah replied:
Let me apologize to everyone whom I offended by sending the note to John asking him to clarify the title of the Roundtable. I received a note from someone who called me ignorant and rude....and said I should not have sent the note. It was not meant to embarass John in any way!
Stand I dumbfounded, thinking, "you can't make this stuff up".
Say it ain't so

What fresh hell is this?

April 20, 2004

That's What Makes a Horse Race

Alice von Hildebrand received some interesting letters (scroll down if you hit the link) concerning her article warning that we not disregard feelings in the spiritual life:
Alice von Hildebrand delights us with her defense of feelings in our psychic and spiritual lives, yet she inserts one lone paragraph into her article that she doesn’t explain and that appears to be out of context. I quote: “Original sin, however, has not only affected man’s feelings. Both his reason (intelligence) and his free will have also fallen victim to man’s revolt against God.” It is a hair in the ointment.

She is not alone, of course, in assuming that Adam broke something in us that Christ did not fix. Father Kenneth Baker, S.J., for example, wrote that “as a result of original sin man is burdened with concupiscence, which is an innate tendency towards evil and rebellion against God”. We agree, of course, that after Adam and Eve sinned, sin now abounds on the earth. But do we, as individuals, walk as crippled human beings even after Christ restored us to the state of grace in baptism? Pope Saint Leo the Great, on the contrary, tells us to be jubilant because Christ restores what Adam had lost for us: 

Old becomes new. Strangers are adopted and outsiders are made heirs. Rouse yourself, man, and recognize the dignity of your nature. Remember that you were made in God’s image; though corrupted in Adam, that image has been restored in Christ.

There was a time—before we were baptized—when our nature was still fallen. There can be a time when we fall again—by mortal sin. But happy are the adopted children of God who flourish in the state of sanctifying grace, whose souls God enriches lavishly with the infused theological virtues; with faith to be loyal to Him, with hope to expect heaven, with love to adhere to Him and to reject rebellion.

From the baptismal font, we jump up totally restored, as did the crippled man to whom Peter said: “Silver and gold I have not, but what I have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

Admittedly, a few theologians actually hold that original sin has affected our natural faculties adversely, rendering us less inclined toward good and more disposed toward evil than we would be in the purely natural state. Canon J. M. Herve mentions four of them in a footnote: De Lemes, Contenson, Sylvius, and Schmid...Herve disagrees. He finds that there is no proof in the sources of revelation that the natural powers of will and intellect were diminished by original sin... -Rev. Anthony Zimmerman
Alice von Hildebrand responds:
...St. Benedict prohibited his monks from having private possessions but nevertheless found it necessary to check regularly whether his sons had not hidden some forbidden object in their beds. We can assume that those who enter a monastery aim at holiness, and would therefore abstain from committing an act of disobedience to which teenagers are prone. Does Father Zimmerman imply that this could have taken place before original sin?... Original sin did not deprive man of his ontological freedom but very many men have lost what St. Augustine called their moral freedom. Those hooked on alcohol, drugs, and sex have become slaves to their concupiscence. He who would rather die than ask for forgiveness is a slave of his pride. How things were before original sin, I simply don’t know and feel incompetent to discuss.

...My husband was converted upon discovering that the Church produces saints. It would be strange indeed if his wife challenged his profound conviction that man can “be transformed in Christ” and become a “new man.” But the way to holiness is a very narrow one. Man’s pride remains throughout our lives a re-doubtable enemy. Our self-will constantly tries to assert itself. Our heart can become a heart of stone. That grace can triumph is something that no Catholic can doubt. This triumph implies that our self-will joyfully accepts being defeated by Christ.
Leave Comedy to the Professionals?   Heaven forfend!

Scene: the elevator at our workplace.

A distinguished-looking grey-haired gentleman walks in. Sees someone coming just as the doors are closing. Extends hand to prevent closing. Two fellow 60-yr olds enter elevator. He knows them.

"Hey I wouldn't have held it had I known it was youse guys!"

Loud guffaws & hilarity ensues over the witticism.

As an amateur studier of human nature, I'm amused by their amusement. Perhaps a bit jealous that grown men could grow so jocular over this joke, sans liquor. One of the men entering perfectly executed the ol' fallen-face pratfall, a regular Screen Actor's Guild member was that guy. Scarcely a week goes by at the ol' workplace in which someone isn't trottin' out this ol' "I-wouldn't-have-held-it-open-for-you" chestnut. Ham of Bone and I had a saying for this form of perennial comedy: "ngo!" meaning, "never gets old!"

Tom mentioned that a religious fanatic is sometimes defined as anyone more religious than ourselves. A corollary is that a silly person is anyone who is more silly than ourselves. Less silly then us and they have no sense of humor. Obviously.

Sometimes I imagine how fun it would be to see how WFB and Kirk interacted. But have I not sinned? Didn't I say last week "it all goes to the same place" when our secretary insisted on separate plates for her spinach & mashed potatoes? Didn't I say, "that wasn't so bad" ten seconds into my dental exam? Didn't I give my number as "522-7282, in that particular order" last week? Sometimes it's hard to be a Midwesterner. :~)
Click & Say Awe

It's really amazing how beautiful some blog templates are.
Kreeft's Story

I used to wish the Church's infallibility claim be downgraded to just a claim of authority, since I can understand authority, it being a purely human thing and more easily believed. But then I realized that if the Church taught, for instance, that Jesus wasn't really God, then the gates of Hell had, in fact, triumphed.

And then there's also a nice parallel between Christ and His Body as Peter Kreeft points out in his conversion story:
The parallel between Christ and Church, Incarnation and Church history, goes still further. I thought, just as Jesus made a claim about His identity that forces us into one of only two camps, His enemies or His worshippers, those who call Him liar and those who call Him Lord; so the Catholic Church's claim to be the one true Church, the Church Christ founded, forces us to say either that this is the most arrogant, blasphemous and wicked claim imaginable, if it is not true, or else that she is just what she claims to be. Just as Jesus stood out as the absolute exception to all other human teachers in claiming to be more than human and more than a teacher, so the Catholic Church stood out above all other denominations in claiming to be not merely a denomination, but the Body of Christ incarnate, infallible, one, and holy, presenting the really present Christ in her Eucharist.
He also had a good line in this: "I think that in Heaven, Protestants will teach Catholics to sing and Catholics will teach Protestants to dance and sculpt." I can country line-dance, that's about it.

April 19, 2004

Around the Blog Horn

Say it ain't so. A "Catholic Nigerian scammer"?

Henry is a truth teller concerning health care.
Book Recommendation from Bill Bannon

Over at the parish hall, the learned Bill Bannon has an interesting suggestion to an inquirer asking which spiritual book to read. He suggests Thomas Keating's, "Crisis of Faith/Crisis of Love":
Excellent and by a Trappist Abbot...Often goes into the deeper reason for apparent roughness of Christ even toward those He is healing and shows the Love beneath the appearance. His approach cannot be replaced by simply reading ancient authors. The Holy Spirit guides in different ways in a given century.
Monday Silliness

I've noticed that a song will occasionally come to mind when I see a given blog title.

Some are obvious. "Secret Agent Man" goes with the song of the same name. "A Plumbline in the Wind" nicely morphs to Elton John's "A Candle in the Wind". Others are more inexplicable, such as:

Camassia ("Camassia, Camassia" to '80s song "Amadeus, Amadeus")
El Camino (sing like "Operator" from Jim Croce song)
Curt Jester ("Moon Raker" as in Bond, James Bond)
Swimming the Tiber ("swim that tiber" to ragtime tune "Catch That Tiger")

Please remember what you paid for this.

April 18, 2004

Belloc "Path to Rome" Excerpt
So little are we, we men: so much are we immersed in our muddy and immediate interests that we think, by numbers and recitals, to comprehend distance or time, or any of our limiting infinities. Here were these magnificent creatures of God, I mean the Alps, which now for the first time I saw from the height of the Jura; and because they were fifty or sixty miles away, and because they were a mile or two high, they were become something different from us others, and could strike one motionless with the awe of supernatural things. Up there in the sky, to which only clouds belong and birds and the last trembling colours of pure light, they stood fast and hard; not moving as do the things of the sky. They were as distant as the little upper clouds of summer, as fine and tenuous; but in their reflection and in their quality as it were of weapons (like spears and shields of an unknown array) they occupied the sky with a sublime invasion: and the things proper to the sky were forgotten by me in their presence as I gazed.

To what emotion shall I compare this astonishment? So, in first love one finds that this can belong to me.

April 17, 2004

A Connecticut Yankee in Santa Anna's Court

I tend to have an overly romantic view of Mexicans because I perceive them as being poorer and more devout than most Americans. Thinking theirs is a country of saints is flawed - all of us are pocked by Original Sin - but leave me my illusions and I'll leave you yours. It's not that there is anything intrinsically good about being poor; it just seems to offers you fewer obstacles to union with God and a greater sense of dependence on Him.

I hike in a park in Central Ohio that is exceedingly popular with Mexicans. So much so, that this Caucasian is in the distinct minority. I often get suspicious, stony-eye'd looks and I want to reassure them... (Fade to music...)

"Greetings my Mexican brothers and sisters!" I say to a family walking in the opposite direction. "I welcome you to the shores of America on behalf of our shared patroness, Mary the Blessed Virgin."

Though I am reading from a prepared script, I try to make it natural by maintaining eye contact as much as possible. I talk slowly in what is called "broken English". But unfortunately they don't even stop or acknowledge me!

I continue up a high ridge and there's a bench where two teenagers are holding each other passionately, but chastely. I know about "Latin lovers" but I also know that as Mexican Catholics they hold to the Magisterium.

"May God bless your union and make it fruitful!" I exclaim. "Remember that the unitive aspect is secondary!". Again, blank looks. I figure perhaps it's because they don't know English. I remind myself to pick up a Spanish phrase book, preferably one with terms like "hypostatic union".

I continue the hike in a more pensive mood. I've not made the connection I sought. I arrive back at the parking lot where some sort of loud Mariachi1 music is coming from the open windows of a vehicle containing two young men in their early 20s. One is wearing an Indians uniform top and the other is shirtless.


They turn down their stereo.

"Thank you for sharing your music, the fruit of a culture with with roots that go back to the Mayan civilization. Beethoven said that music is more revelatory than philosophy--"

They flipped me the bird as they drove off. I never even got the chance to quote from JPII's "Letter to Artists".
1 - Not really Mariachi, but I'm playing an ignorant American in this post (not exactly a stretch). Erik Keilholtz suggests that I was hearing "norteno or banda sinaloense, pure German/Moravian polka/schotisch/vals accordion music sung in Spanish". Yeah, that's what I meant (wink, wink). Erik's reaction reminds me that some posts are here only for my own amusement. :) This post is, of course, fictional - beginning with the word "Greetings"...
Random Thoughts

Monday we go to Larry’s bar and the passionate poet reminds me of my own lack of creativity. Shouldn’t Maslow have included “creative writing while drinking beer” on his list?

I’m ready to dive into my books; the latest arrival is a sweet firebird-red 1905 edition of Chesterton’s “Heretics”. The cover alone breaks your heart with its beauty, the simplicity of that single word in the typeface time forgot. Nearby is Paul Theroux’s odd “Hotel Honolulu” and next door is Belloc’s wonderous travelogue “Path to Rome” where all the reds in the obscure European villages he traverses are of a remarkable vintage. I note the little TAN insignia at the bottom of Bellocs's neighbor “This is the Faith” and it warms, just the mere insignia. It reminds me of TAN’s “Glories of Divine Grace” and how I treasure it by not reading it. That is the fate of the books in the rareified air of the top .01%. They cannot be read because they would disappoint, or even if they didn’t reading them would be consuming them and I prefer they not be consumed. They are worth more in their virginal state. Pearce’s “Literary Converts” shares a similar fate, to be read when no other Pearce books are available, or on my deathbed, whichever comes first. A book can be too highly valued to be read. I've managed to avoid this practice with respect to the Bible, convinced by the truth of St. Jerome's “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”.

I tire easily of the endless debates about lax bishops and GIRM and modern liturgical music and other hot-button St. Blog issues. And unfortunately I’m usually not pious enough to appreciate the posts of Steven Riddle or Mary of Ever-New. So I look for something else, something surprising and artful, something Dylan-esque. Something I can’t even define it other than I know it when I see it. Mostly it’s the case of someone saying what I’m thinking but am too reticent to talk about, like the Internet Monk's refreshing “I Hate Theology” bit. (He doesn’t really hate theology so much as he hates how it tends to make one proud, less appreciative of devotional practices and too vigilant of other’s error.) Ultimately world politics and church politics and theological debates all tend to exercise the same overused (left-brain) muscle. There’s a need for beauty, but it shouldn't be mere afterthought, as if to “set the plate” for more politics. Politics is an accelerant. Beauty is often a somnolent. Lush prose or poetry rests me. A strange word or bucolic image will strike a chord of a memory past and I’ll slide to dreamland.

Blogs can provide the “surprise” that newspaper columns can’t or won’t. They seem more human - there’ s an element of self-disclosure found previously only in diaries published after famous person’s deaths. I venture occasionally outside of St. Blog’s though it’s usually a fool’s errand. Most bloggers are young and most of the young are simply foolish (I certainly was/am). I come across a blogger who links to a site that raises money for breast cancer by having women bloggers submit pictures of their breasts. Has it come to that? That we have to see naked pictures in order to donate to charity?


Our bed is a magnet for animals. No, not that. I mean first our cat & now our dog. Obi lays his head so sweetly against the pillow, intuiting its purpose if by accident. He understands creature comforts and we share that trait in our mutual embodiments. Oh but what of responsibilities? They sleep free of care, their small brains their comfort.


My evangelical wife decides, for the first time ever, she wants to go to a Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. Where this inspiration came from I know not. After a few calls I find a Stations and it’s at a parish I infrequent, at 7:30pm. Her sister Karen joins us, and it’s as desultory as Roman church services are reputed to be. The church is nearly empty, the priest old and limping and skips every other station’s singing verse presumably in order to shorten the service. It seems to reinforce the reasons they left the Church: a lack of excitement, the lackluster crowds, the minimalism rather than maximalism. But it is not my business but God's.

April 16, 2004

On Blogway

From a Wash. Post article:
...This may change, of course, as the blogosphere moves further into the mainstream. Already there are turf wars, low-level spats. No doubt a pecking order will gradually materialize, since even cyberspace operates according to the familiar logic of Animal Farm: All bloggers are created equal, but some are more equal than others. There will be stars, contract players, boffo traffic numbers. There will be a proliferation of advertising on the most visible sites -- there is already, in fact -- and a defiant tug-of-war between the early bloggers and their entrepreneurial successors.

Perhaps I'm being too cynical. If the blogosphere turns out to be a brave new world after all, where logrolling and cronyism fear to tread, I'll be the first to applaud. In any case, there's no denying that the practice is on the rise: According to a recent study by the Pew Institute, up to five percent of all Internet users have created blogs in the last year alone. We do seem to be on the verge of that radiant future in which everybody, as the saying goes, is a critic.
Internet Monk

It is amusing how I end up by the side of the road watching theological debates that have only been going on, oh, for say hundreds or thousands of years. Lots of 'been there, done that's' I suppose.
Several years ago, I was reading A.W. Pink's book, The Sovereignty of God. I knew nothing about Pink, except that my friend was convinced if I read Pink, I would become a Calvinist. (I later joined the Reformed camp, but it was in spite of Pink, not because of him.) At the end of Pink's book was an appendix on John 3:16 and Pink's view that God doesn't love everyone. If you have been around Calvinistic circles, you know that the question, "Does God love everyone the same way?" is a live wire, and you also know there are lots of Calvinists who say "No. God does not love all people in the same way." In fact, there are people quite excited by this doctrine.

Pink's appendix made me angry. I found myself thinking of a song we used to sing when I was a child: "Jesus loves the little children. All the little children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world." I imagined a little children's choir, made up of all the children in this song. Pink was saying God didn't love some of those children. He was so devoted to the "L" in the TULIP, that he wrote an appendix telling me I cannot look at a room full of children and truthfully say, "God loves all of you."

Could Pink come up with the scriptures and the logic to sustain his theology that John 3:16 isn't true for all the children of the world? Certainly he could. Would Pink vigorously defend his theology as being a true presentation of who God is and what God is like? Is this about the Gospel or about Spencer's schmaltzy illustration? Does it matter that it's offensive? Pink would defend his interpretation as God's way of dealing with human beings. If I don't like it, that's my problem. I should quit trying make God into nice and let him be Yahweh. Well, I'm feeling it again. I hate theology that is this inhumane. --Internet Monk
Friday Hodge-Podge of Sale Items -  50% off; volume discounts in select markets

This is an occasional Friday tradition where we visit the "staging area" of wannabe posts, posts that just didn't quite make the blog. Here I exercise mercy and give them their fifteen seconds of fame. Call it the land of misfit posts:

"It is in the nature of civilization that it must be in constant conflict with barbarism. Very few empires have been the result of a deliberate ambition. They have grown, inevitably, because it has been found necessary to expand in order to preserve what is already held. The French had to annex Algiers because it was the only way in which the Mediterranean could be made safe from pirates. Empire moves in a seties of 'incidents,' and these 'incidents' mean that it is impossible for a country to live in isolation. Barbarism means constant provocation."
-----From "We Can Applaud Italy" (1935), in The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh.
I recall Billy Graham saying his constant regret is not "being prayed up enough". If prayer is the oxygen of the soul, as St. Padre Pio said, then we're all chronically gasping for breath!
I was thinking the news of a recent devout Catholic’s marital woes; I realized anew the truth of the cliché that no two marriages are the same. The two who-shall-become-one have a fingerprint all their own. Two country singers were apparently happily married when they became fabulously wealthy and famous in the “oil boom” of the ‘90s country music landscape: Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. And both marriages went through tremendous strain with the avalanche of money and women and fame. But Jackson’s endured and Garth’s failed. What was the difference? We look for formulas in a world that resists formulas as vampires do garlic.
Stepson calls his mother. "Did Tom spill ketchup on my bookbag?" His mother: "No...I'm sorry, I did." (Rant ensues.)
Now what fascinates me about this little exchange are two things. One is that he owns what looks to be a plain, firecracker-red burlap bookbag. But turns out there's nothing plain about its worth -- $400. Now I'm sure he got a "deal", although I'm skeptical how the word "deal" can ever be used in connection with a originally-priced $400 bag. I guess the name is "Prada" or "Pravda"; it's some sort of elite name brand that people feel compelled to own so that they can report its original price. My take on the matter is that since the bookbag has been present in the kitchen about 50% of the time during the past two years, it's downright miraculous that nothing has been spilled on it before. That's worth $200 right there.
Robert E. Lee
-steady, even-tempered horse "Traveler"
-devout Christian but saw slavery as allowable
-aristocratic Virginia cavalier
-died of natural causes

Abraham Lincoln
-mercurial wife Mary Todd
-struggled with faith, but understood the evil of slavery
-poor, born in log cabin
Why do I knock my head against the wall trying to reconcile the irreconciliable? Paul tried valiantly to communicate it to me in Romans 9 & 10 but all I could come away with is that God hardened Israel's heart and Israel hardened herself against God, leaving me back at square one.
Last year I read Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Last American Man", the story of the modern American frontiersman Eustace Conway and I was struck by how similar his true story is to the fictional “Ladder of Years” by Ann Tyler. In both cases you have someone living by themselves in hermit-like conditions. Both initially exult in the freedom and isolation. But eventually both strive to enmesh themselves again in families and relationships, messy as they might be.
"Knowing your love for hearth and home, Mystery Blogger Not Exposed hooked me, fileted my Ham of Sole, and left me wishing I had belaid (belied?) my plans and gone." - Ham of Bone, regretting that he didn't go to Larry's bar, as well he should.
"You're Fired"

I got sucked into The Apprentice whirlpool last night. A two-hour "live" episode with only 15 minutes truly live. Truth-in-advertising laws, where are you? But it was entertaining. Someone said the show is all about schadenfreude, but how seriously can you take getting fired? They've all got plenty of job offers as well as their 15 minutes of fame. Bill might be the real loser because he has to work for the demanding Trump for $250,000 a year. $250K has got to be a come-down for someone who made a ton of money in a start-up cigar company. Omarosa might make that much just from her book and radio show, sans the heavy lifting. But of course it's not about money with Bill, he's a true believer and wants to learn from the Trumpster.

I'm amused by the helicopter with the huge name "Trump" landing on a hotel with the word "Trump" emblazoned on it. On the show it's everywhere and it strikes me as similar to the way you see a dictator's name and image everywhere in fascist countries.

The worst thing about The Apprentice is the materialistic bent. "The Donald" shows his apprentice-wannabes his apartment and says, "this could all be yours". Bwwaa-haa-haaa! I think, "who cares about this stuff?" But of course, if he had some tremendous floor-to-sky library I'd probably feel differently.
Diocesan Newspaper Excerpt
Mercy is woven throughout the entire collection of Sacred Scripture. Yet we dare not forget that mercy does not exist unless there are those who are merciful. The world we live in had a "show no mercy" predominance that is contrary to every line of the New Testament. Without mercy there will never be peace.- Fr. Lawrence L. Hummer

April 15, 2004


I'm hypnotized by Christian hawks, jealous of the level of self-confidence they have regarding war. Mind you, the Iraq war is something we now have to carry through, so there's no doubt there. But VDH goes a step further and says that we should've nipped Islamic fundamentalism in its 1979 cradle.

I have no such confidence concerning war. It seems resistant to formula (even the Just War theory forces you to make some rough guesses) and the unforeseen ramifications of going to war are...well..so unforeseen. And lacking order and principle. Saul Bellow wrote that part of the attraction of his friend Allan Bloom was his coherent world view. Bellow wrote that "order is charismatic".

This is a prelude to Victor David Hanson's interesting article which is nakedly pragmatic (a particularly American trait/sin). Sometimes the Christian has to be unpractical, and I wish Victor David H. had said more words from that perspective, though I realize he's arguing purely from history. (Brian Lamb once asked him if he was Christian and he said he was, although "not a very good one" (who is?). When Lamb asked how it was that he was such a hawk and Christ apparently not, Hanson answered that from the 4th century on Christianity has accepted that war can be just.)
In the article linked VDH imagines a world in which the U.S. stood up to Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic fundamentalism back when the hostages were taken, but the truth is that Iran's experiment has failed, a failure that could only have been known in the full ugly "blossoming" of that state. Iranian citizens are about the only Muslim Middle Easterners who don't blame their problems on the U.S. (they blame their cleric leaders) and that seems like it ought to be worth something.
Imagine a different November 4, 1979, in Teheran. Shortly after Iranian terrorists storm the American embassy and take some 90 American hostages, President Jimmy Carter announces that Islamic fundamentalism is not a legitimate response to the excess of the Shah but a new and dangerous fascism that threatens all that liberal society holds dear. And then he issues an ultimatum to Teheran’s leaders: Release the captives or face a devastating military response.

When that demand is not met, instead of freezing Iran’s assets, stopping the importation of its oil, or seeking support at the UN, Carter orders an immediate blockade of the country, followed by promises to bomb, first, all of its major military assets, and then its main government buildings and residences of its ruling mullocracy. The Ayatollah Khomeini may well have called his bluff; we may well have tragically lost the hostages (151 fewer American lives than the Iranian-backed Hezbollah would take four years later in a single day in Lebanon). And there may well have been the sort of chaos in Teheran that we now witness in Baghdad. But we would have seen it all in 1979—and not in 2001, after almost a quarter-century of continuous Middle East terrorism, culminating in the mass murder of 3,000 Americans and the leveling of the World Trade Center.
He whips out convincing classical allusions:
As long ago as the fourth century b.c., Demosthenes warned how complacency and self-delusion among an affluent and free Athenian people allowed a Macedonian thug like Philip II to end some four centuries of Greek liberty—and in a mere 20 years of creeping aggrandizement down the Greek peninsula. Thereafter, these historical lessons should have been clear to citizens of any liberal society: we must neither presume that comfort and security are our birthrights and are guaranteed without constant sacrifice and vigilance, nor expect that peoples outside the purview of bourgeois liberalism share our commitment to reason, tolerance, and enlightened self-interest.
Most of the left simply spout slogans, which have all the thought of a squirrel. Alternative solutions are rare. But I do recognize that for Christians "doing nothing" (other than prayer and fasting) is sometimes the valid solution. On the other hand, sometimes we must fight. Where is that line between self-defense and aggression?