May 31, 2004

May 30, 2004

        Picture of St. Gemma Galgani

"The beauty I beheld transcendeth measure
Not only past or reach, but surely I believe
That only He who made it enjoyeth it complete."

--Dante (Paradise, c. XXX, 19-21)

Revenge of the Cicadas

Born during the Reagan Administration,
we lived invisible to each other.
Until now.

Their parent's incarnation was opaque;
I was outside nature then
for nightclubs don't have seasons.

Though who can begrudge this summer rental?
Seventeen years underground gives reason to sing
though I wish someone had told me
to bring earplugs along.

And if their song displeases?
Then let its intended audience judge:
God and female cicadas.
Caution Will Robinson

NY Times article about the Internet's effect on the social lives of the young:
The Internet was billed as a revolutionary way to enrich our social lives and expand our civic connections. This seems to have worked well for elderly people and others who were isolated before they got access to the World Wide Web. But a growing body of research is showing that heavy use of the Net can actually isolate younger socially connected people who unwittingly allow time online to replace face-to-face interactions with their families and friends.

Online shopping, checking e-mail and Web surfing — mainly solitary activities — have turned out to be more isolating than watching television, which friends and family often do in groups. Researchers have found that the time spent in direct contact with family members drops by as much as half for every hour we use the Net at home.

‘Mummy, what’s play?’

U.K. Spectator cartoon
Thugs Are Innocent Until Proven Guilty

It's been fascinating watching the dramatic split between CNN's Capital Gang conservatives concerning the war. Kate O'Byrne and Bob Novak have rarely parted company so completely. I'd love to see a full half-hour debate between just them.

So does Bob or Kate have the greater credibility? The tendency is to lean towards someone with something to lose, in this case the one bucking the (Republican) party line. Which means Bob Novak.

But I submit that democracy in Iraq isn't the purpose of the war and so is not a marker of the war's success. All the little side-effects some dreamt of - i.e. Iraq as a bourgeois bohemian spreading capital instead of war - seemed a bit utopian. The purpose was to finish the Gulf War. If another thug comes to power in Iraq, so be it. Thugs are innocent until proven guilty and Hussein was proven guilty when he marched into Kuwait and again afterwards when, unchastized, he continued towards the goal of acquiring WMDs. Certainly the threat to our national security is greater than it was when we intervened in Kosovo. Kosovo was purely humanitarian. This war appears to be both humanitarian and in our national interest, although about the latter there is understandable disagreement.

May 28, 2004

Various & Sundry

Cool new blog discovered: haLf-baKed 'tAteRs. Love the quote: "dum spiro, spero quia Dominus illuminatio mea" (as long as I breathe, I hope, for the Lord is my Light).

smockmomma of Summa Mamas posted the following link:

Smock was doing this in part as a favor for a "virtual" friend and my first inclination was to post it on my blog - which I have now done, though not for the reason I initially wanted to. Rather, I'm interested in exploring whether this sort of thing is counterproductive. Why? Because those who know they can't vote for a pro-choice candidate already know it (i.e. this preaches to the choir), while those who are on the fence are supremely offput by anyone telling them how they should vote. The site is well-done and cites the Catechism, so there is a degree of distance. Rather than "I'm telling you you shouldn't vote for a pro-choice candidate" this one is buttressed by Church documents.

But still there's a point at which the message oversaturates and induces an equal and opposite reaction. I think there are some people who refused to see Passion of the Christ simply because the "group-think" surrounding the movie galled them. It threatened their nourished sense of individuality. Ultimately I suppose the hype worked because more people saw it because of the hype than those who didn't see it for the same reason. But if I am limited in who I can vote for - if I am given less choice, and believe me America today believes in choice and I'm not even talking about it in relation to abortion - then it must be delivered in very gentle terms.


I read one of my posts aloud to my wife, one which concerned humor found at a company bulletin board (and was personally unflattering).

"You didn't post that did you?" rolling her eyes.

"Yes I did...I don't want to seem holier-than-thou on my blog. Don't want to put up a false front."

"Yeah but you don't need to have your underwear flapping around." (Metaphorically-speaking of course.)

I took the post down.
John-Boy Walton & Alex P. Keaton

Our family used to take long vacation drives in a tan Dodge Dart with us kids taking turns sleeping in the back dash, a shelf small even for sixty-pounders.

The sun baked you, the motion of the car lulled you; I recall hearing Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” over and over on a trip to the Great Smokies and I’ll never forget my mother saying how horrible it was. Hill’s voice broke from emotion but Mom took it for a note he couldn’t reach. But it was a romantic era where standards musical and moral were subject to negotiation.

Art was bad but sincere. John Denver could sing, “you fill up my senses” with a straight voice. Neil Diamond soberly sang “I am I said / to no one there / and no one answered / not even a chair” or something like that. An overwrought operatic song like MacArthur Park became a big hit.

The ‘70s and ‘80s repeated in reverse order the 1700s and 1800s, with Beethoven exchanged for Barry Manilow and Alex Keaton for Voltaire. Kids are naturally histrionic so we took to it like ducks to water. Adults were acting like children and the children could relate. Parents were experimenting with open marriages and designer drugs and children experimented with life itself since life was all the high required. A game of tag or hide-n-seek at dusk with the foreknowledge of an early bedtime produced its own sort of high – we ran faster, hid harder, wanting to leave nothing behind.

Alan Greenspan was the uber-adult who ended the 70s. He came and mended a self-indulgent Nixon/Carter economy with tough love. A recession in ’82 brought about the conditions for a sustained recovery. If the ‘70s were right-brained, the ‘80s were left-brained. The pendulum swings, as it does in a micro way from our weekdays to our weekend and in a macro way the centuries.

Similarly, moralities tighten and loosen like the movements in a stock chart. But are not the lows lower and the highs not as high nowadays?
Another Book Review

...of a book I really liked:

Turmoil and Truth; The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church, by Philip Trower
New Book by David Brooks interestingly reviewed by left-leaning Michael Kinsley here.
Near as I can tell, Brooks's argument is a variation on the famous Turner thesis. The historian Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in 1893, just as America's western expansion was more or less complete, that the empty West had served as the country's defining fact and safety valve. The ever-present possibility of picking up and moving west had made Americans free and equal, and had spared us the conflicts of class and nation that infected the Old World of Europe.

Brooks's thesis -- to give it more clarity than he does, at the risk of getting it wrong -- seems to be that the suburbs and exurbs play a similar role in 21st-century America. Although sometimes he seems to be saying that the "move on" energy of Americans comes from technology like the Internet, or is more spiritual than geographical or material anyway. In any event, our defining -- and uniting -- characteristics as Americans, according to Brooks, are that we'd rather leave than fight, and we're always thinking about the future instead of dwelling on the past. That means the enormous gulfs in values, aspirations, understanding of the world and food preferences he outlines so wittily in the first part of "On Paradise Drive" don't turn Americans against one another (as they would the folks of some clotted and backward Old World nation). We all prosper in our various cultural cul-de-sacs (or as Brooks puts it, much better: "Everybody can be an aristocrat within his own Olympus"), and we don't trouble ourselves about what the folks in the next cul-de-sac might be up to.
Harper's Index

Remember the Harper's Index column where they list "interesting" statistics?

Let's do the same with the NY Times (courtesy O'Reilly):

- Number of times in last 28 days that Abu Ghraib story was on the front page of NYT: 28
- Number of NYT front page stories on Abu Ghraib during past 28 days: 50
- Page on which news of seven al-Qaida suspects and summer terrorist alert appeared: 7

I did like that the NYT published this thoughtful column by Kenneth Woodward explaining the background behind the John-Kerry-and-the-Eucharist-debate, which seemed to spring out of nowhere.
The Scandal of Instrumentality

The "scandal of particularity" - that Jesus came into history in a specific time and place - seems to me to be an on-going scandal, if you can call it that, in the sense that God comes to us in a particular person or place or sacrament. Those who are healed praying at Lourdes may not be healed praying in the 7/11 parking lot. Those who receive grace in the sacraments may or may not receive that grace outside the sacrament. I read on another blog a St. Philip Neri quote: "It is not enough to see that God wishes the good we aim at, but that he wishes it through our instumentality, in our manner and in our time; and we may come to discern all this by true obedience."

May 27, 2004


Jonathan Yardley discusses books, specifically "Speak, Memory":
Precisely how many times I have read [Nabokov's Speak, Memory] I do not know, nor do I recall when I read it for the first time, but this can be said with certainty: It is a book that I absolutely, unconditionally love...There are remarkably few pieces of writing about which I can say that: a number of poems (though I rarely read poetry anymore), James Joyce's story "The Dead," "The Great Gatsby" and "One Hundred Years of Solitude," some Faulkner and Dickens, "Jane Eyre," a handful of books treasured in childhood and youth. The list could go on a bit longer -- Shakespeare, of course -- but not much. Four decades of reading for a living have made me difficult to satisfy, easy to displease, reluctant to give my heart to any old book or any old author.

Contemplating his family's lost fortune -- when the Nabokovs fled to Yalta and then to Western Europe... -- he gets it exactly right: "The nostalgia I have been cherishing all these years is a hypertrophied sense of lost childhood, not sorrow for lost banknotes." The impulse to rediscover and reclaim childhood is deep in human nature, and thus the chord "Speak, Memory" touches is truly universal....
"As with smarting eyes I meditated by the fire in my Cambridge room, all the potent banality of embers, solitude and distant chimes pressed against me, contorting the very folds of my face as an airman's face is disfigured by the fantastic speed of his flight. And I thought of all I had missed in my country, of the things I would not have omitted to note and treasure, had I suspected before that my life was to veer in such a violent way."
- from "Speak, Memory"
Different Book

The cube-owner gone
I walked in
made myself at home
figured him a holy soul
for the book of Holy Writ
upon his desk.

Curiosity itched,
open it was
to the book of Job?
Or is he a Psalm-reader?
A fan of Second Kings?

The text came into view
dry and tasteless,
dull as a blade unsharpened.
I flip to the black leather cover
where gilt words proclaim:
McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated --
Section 2201-3013

not the laws I was looking for.
Pray for Dylan

There are times I suspect that the only real reason for "St. Blog's" is that we might pray for each other (something I think Steven of Flos Carmeli has already intuited). And I've recently learned that probably no one needs prayers more than Dylan. So, if you're bad at long-term intercessory prayer like me, maybe we'll improve together.

Also if you could pray for Ham of Bone, who is now out of work a year and thinking of mortgaging his house. Finally, KTC and her family could use your prayers too.
Queue Behavior

Our workplace cafeteria has four cashiers, one of whom is such a personal favorite that I feel unfaithful when I stray. She happens to be African-American (such is the tortured syntax we must employ - I'm old enough to recall a day when one could say 'black woman' and imagine a day we'll have to say 'a woman who happens to have a slightly darker pigmentation, which is not to in any way imply an aesthetic judgment, than those of European heritage.' But I digress...)

I started going to her because, quite simply, she's the best cashier. Quick, efficient and jocular about my big lunches. And what I've noticed is that her line generally includes two groups of people: 1) white males with hurry-sickness who want to get through line faster and know she's the quickest and 2) African-American females, who feel a solidarity based on race and gender.

Group number 1 makes this cashier even faster, because they pay cash and have their money ready. This is partially offset by group number 2, a warmer, caring set who look through purses the size of Manhattan and occasionally find what they're looking for.

I can't think of a pithy ending to this so I'll just leave it there.
Thought This One Up Myself

Our company offers fifteen minute "Chair Massage".

Now I can understand my wife or myself getting a massage, but the hell my chair's getting one!
Lettters to National Review on Outsourcing

Daniel Griswold recently wrote an article for NR pro-outsourcing. Following are letters to the NR editor along with Griswold's reply (insert your own National Lampoon joke here). Personally, my heart has been inclined towards saving U.S. jobs (I've never bought a foreign-made car though now that's somewhat academic since U.S. cars are made mostly from foreign parts), while my head says that is nonsensical: free trade benefits everyone involved. India is experiencing a small financial boom due in part to American outsourcing and that's a good thing, as Martha might say.

From NRO:
I find two faults with Daniel Griswold's argument for outsourcing ("Outsource, Outsource, and Outsource Some More," May 3). First, outsourcing jobs does have a negative impact on low-skilled workers. Mr. Griswold seems to assume that there are types of work only Americans can perform profitably, and which low-skilled workers can be retrained to do. But it may not be the case that today's low-skilled workers are capable of such a switch.
Second, virtually any job, white- or blue-collar, can be done more cheaply abroad than in the U.S. — if not now, then certainly in the future. Mr. Griswold argues that so far we have not lost that many jobs to outsourcing, but what is now a trickle may become a river if the economic logic behind outsourcing becomes the fashion in all our major industries. --Barton L. Ingraham Santa Fe, N.M.

Griswold makes a convincing argument that foreign outsourcing is not a bad thing — and is quite possibly a good thing. But he exposes a faulty assumption when he says: "IT companies are increasingly outsourcing thankless jobs — routine programming, data entry, and system monitoring — abroad." There is really no such thing as "routine programming." We have not yet advanced to a point where programming can be performed by anyone but a highly educated, experienced person. The construction of a software project is still a creative endeavor, more art than science.
Thus the jobs that are being exported in this field generally require a college degree and/or substantial work experience, and are very much in demand by highly trained professionals. If this foreign outsourcing is to have the effect of producing higher-level jobs at home, then it seems the only way to stay employed in this country is to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. --Darrell Wilson DeSoto, Kan.

Daniel Griswold replies:

No one argues that foreign outsourcing will leave every American better off. Some people will lose their jobs because of off-shoring, just as others will lose because of imported goods, new technology, or domestic competition. Millions of jobs are created and destroyed in the U.S. economy every year. Rather than trying to block change through protectionist barriers or other regulations, we should equip ourselves to make the transition to better jobs.
America's experience with trade has been what trade theory would predict: We do more of what we do best, and we import more of what people in other countries do best. Meanwhile, over the long haul, employment keeps rising with the size of the labor force. Americans retain tremendous advantages in creating, managing, making, and marketing higher-end goods and services.
By "routine programming," I meant those tasks that are more limited and more easily delegated.
Faith and the Tall Guy

I'm 5'11", neither tall nor short, and because of that I learned something recently from Jeff Culbreath:
Before I converted to Catholicism, I was invited to attend one of Pastor Drollinger's Bible studies with a friend who has political connections. The former basketball champion towers over his pupils at 7'2" tall -- one of those rare men I am forced to look up to. And, I should add, there are few things more intimidating for a tall man (I'm 6'3") than talking with someone a foot taller than himself. We're just not used to it.
What intrigues me is how difficult it is to escape your own experience. Tall people don't intimidate me in the least (except when I had to guard them in basketball). Jeff's point is an excellent example of something I could only learn from a tall person, not something I could necessarily "reason to". Lord, let me take on faith the spiritual lessons you teach through the saints.
Fictional Thursday   prose for Nigerian scammers

It's not widely known that Hitler didn't commit suicide but escaped to the spas of Baden-Baden where he taught German as a second language to American ex-pats.

I lived there briefly in the '60s, attracted by the nearby Black Forest which had fascinated me from my youth because of its depiction in Disney's "Snow White". I was also there because of a family rumor that my great-grandmother had emigrated from Baden-Baden. I wanted to find ancestors and distant cousins to see how the family tree branched in the Old Country, to try and discover how geography affected our psychic and spiritual landscapes. I also wanted to know why it wasn't just called Baden.

I sat in on one of Hitler's classes on a tip from a friend who'd already been there awhile; I sat in the back of the room expecting an explosion of rage at some point, perhaps over a split infinitive. I reminded myself the camps were no longer in use. It didn't take him long to mention his past.

"And then I took over the north countries. Which countries are those? Does anyone know?"

A young girl raised her hand.


"Ja, sehr gut."


"Nar-vy, ja."

He hadn't aged well and seemed a pathetic figure. He also didn't seem repentant. He boasted of taking countries as if they were fraternity pranks of a misspent youth. The deaths of so many people - did he not realize what he had done or would the knowledge have been too much to take?

"Don't you feel responsibility for the millions killed?"

"I feel responsibility for teaching you Deutsch."

The banality of evil.

I visited Baden-Baden and found my relatives, who were smoking pot and listening to John Travolta records. I wondered at their musical taste until I realized they were laughing at him, although it might've just been that the pot made you laugh at everything.

I asked them about great-grandmother and how it was said in America that she escaped Germany because of Bismarck's Kulturkampf and persecution of Catholics.

I had trouble making out their English but the phrase that jumped out was disturbing: "actresses could make more money in the States..."

May 26, 2004

About That Post...   (concerning post-Post regret)

Bill White of Random Summa Minutiae knows that "morning after" blog hangover feel:
I recognize [sarcastic] posts after I have them up for a while. It feels good posting them, then after they percolate awhile I begin to realize the spirit in which they were posted. Not an entirely objectionable spirit, but not as good as it could be...So the posts weren't objectively evil, but my motivation in posting them were far from the best...Sheesh - this blogging stuff is complicated when you think about it.

Her enthusiasm is catching isn't it? Today Donna Marie Lewis pulls out all the stops concerning St. Philip Neri.

The only thing I knew about him before reading DML's blog was his remarkable prayer, "O Jesus, watch over me always, especially today, or I shall betray you like Judas."

You might want to visit this Oratorian Litany; especially pertinent for bloggers.

St. Philip Neri, pray for us!
Kudos MamaT of Summa Mamas for finding this column on reading the classics.

Ham of Bone is reading The Grapes of Wrath , and after finishing The Human Stain I'm ready for something older. Maybe JF Powers or Steinbeck.
Satisfied Customer?

See here or here, in which depicted is the unlikely event of an unsuspecting mission worker held at gunpoint to read this blog.

Thanks go to Terrence Berres, who was on mission in Guatemala, for sending this hilarious image of a Guatemalan reading about cicadas. It would have to be something completely frivolous, wouldn't it?
  Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I am probably the only person in the history of the old CNN/SI message boards to bring up G K Chesterton and St. Thomas Aquinas on one of their discussion forums. (And for the most part it did not go over well unfortunately.) - I. Shawn McElhinney of Rerum Novarum

I get the impression a lot of feminists have been disappointed with the sort of women who've attained positions of leadership. They didn't expect the first female prime minister of Britain to be Margaret Thatcher, or the top female CEO to be Martha Stewart. But I suspect that many of what they identified as male problems are really power problems. It takes certain types of behavior to get to those top positions in our society, and a lot of them aren't very nice. It takes a certain type of person to be put in charge of a prison, and to work in one. And once that power is in your hands, the temptations will be the same. - Camassia of Camassia

It may be that one of the issues that a beginning blogger must confront is that of what to blog and what not to blog. Some blogs stick to issues while others are more inclined to record the minutiae of their owners' daily lives. Oddly enough, although I greatly enjoy reading about others' minutiae, I am reluctant to write about my own, feeling that no one could possibly be interested, and that anything I blog should "amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb." This is, no doubt, vanity; so, to mortify my vanity, I shall write at length about myself....The girls and I went to the 11 AM Mass, at which the Storm Queen, who on Friday finally grasped the concept of the potty, demonstrated her mastery by six times requesting to be taken there. - Bob of Trousered Ape

A while back, I mentioned the friendly staff member at my local Curves fitness center. She got evangelized by me, more to my surprise than hers. Since then, I've run into her a few times, most recently last night, and now she has "I'm talking to a nun" disease. Remember that affliction? It's when you talk to a religious and the only subjects you feel able to bring up are churchly ones. You just can't figure out what else you both might have in common. A life lived more and more within the Church family cures that disease pretty thoroughly, but right now this lovely person has it. She has to tell me only about religious issues in her life (child's First Communion, church picnic). I find myself deliberately changing the subject to non-religious issues, just to bring the conversations back into balance. I don't want her to feel uncomfortable thinking we can only have a one-track conversation, since we started without that topic. - Therese Z. of Santificarnos

....Senor Rodriguez,the last great /Cuban cigar roller,who kept the revelers /of Duval Street,Key West in divine / smolderings,will be eighty this year,and Ps 90:10 claims that humans / only get eighty years of high rolling. /The ear-Horowitz,is dead.The tongue- /Richard Burton,is dead.The voice-Roy Orbison,is dead.The eye-Picoso(everyone / knows that womens' breasts are / divine,plain artists gave us larger and / smaller,Pab gave us more),is dead. - the enigmatic 'crossquad' on St. Blog's Parish Hall

Luke 1:28 "Hail, Nice Person, the Lord is relatively fond of you. Well-respected are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus." - commenter on Dave Armstrong of "Cor ad cor loquitur" on a post imagining a "Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version (RFBV)" New Testament

Luke 18:18-25 (RFBV): “And a ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I believe to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said, ‘All these I have observed from my youth.’ And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Know that the commandments have nothing to do with your salvation because they concern works. Have faith alone in Me alone, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ But when he heard this he became sad, for he lacked faith alone. Jesus looking at him said, ‘How hard it is for those who lack faith alone in Me alone to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a man who lacks faith alone in Me alone to enter the kingdom of God.’” - Dave Armstrong of "Cor ad cor loquitor", Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version of the New Testament

When was the last time you stopped to consider that you were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be God's own possession? It's a vertiginous thought, one might even say that it is an amazing thought. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

Every household, like every religious order, must be primarily a place of prayer if it is to be genuinely Catholic. And this prayer must be regular. The genius of St. Benedict's Rule and its amazing success have largely to do with the element of regularity he introduced into monastic life. Before Benedict, monasticism was either the pursuit of solitary hermits, often given to grotesque excesses of asceticism, or of communities with practices too severe to be borne for long by ordinary men. St. Benedict devised a way of life by which any man of good intention whom God had called might exercise his vocation in a sane, safe and effective manner. Regularity was the key. And so must it be for us. A reasonable schedule of some sort must be made and adhered to, especially by the head of the household who stands in the position of abbot and must lead more by example than by word, as St. Benedict tells us. - Edwin Faust, via Jeff of El Camino Real

It's getting to the which representatives of the Catholic Church won't be able to send a steak back to the kitchen without having to answer for abuse. - Amy Welborn

I am now officially sick and tired of the sanctimoniousness of so many Christians who have to let all the rest of us know that they haven't seen The Passion. I am sick of the foreboding tones with which they hint that the film contains some dark, cancerous infection from which they are keeping themselves safe and pure. I was at a party last night and had yet another exchange with "Another Holier Than Mel Christian." I got mad when he had to interrupt a group of us talking about the beauty of the film by shaking his head piously and looking at some gnostic horizon, saying, "I haven't seen the film yet. I don't think I will." BRN: Oh? Why is that?...GATG: Well, I don't want Gibson's images to replace the ones I have in my head. BRN: Interesting. Are you afraid of other kinds of art too? GATG: What?! BRN: Do you avoid Medieval and Renaissance Churches, old prayerbooks, and pretty much any museum with an art collection worth showing? GATG: I am not against art. BRN: No. I don't think you are....Just so we're clear.-Barbara Nicolosi of "Church of the Masses"

St. Thomas clearly articulate the need, and indeed the duty, to love what is above the soul (as the highest good) and to understand what is beneath is (as another aspect of this highest good). In each case the best is done with a given faculty--the intellect or the will. In articulating this understanding St. Thomas set the groundwork for all of western science. By declaring it both good and almost a duty, the search for understanding of the world received yet another boost from the Church. By setting this agenda St. Thomas and the Church fueled the revival of arts and knowledge that we call the renaissance.Unfortunately as time passed, the understanding of St. Thomas's teaching became distorted and unclear, as Tom points out. There is a modern tendency to love what is beneath and to dimiss or analyze in a pseudo-scientific way what is above. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

My Mom is fond of telling me the story that when I was waiting to be adopted my Foster Mother called me "Smiley", because I was always smiling and was in general a happy baby. I like to think that I smiled so much because of you, and what you did for me. Thanks Mother, and Happy Belated Mothers Day.I love you....because. - Steve of November Song, offering a nice tribute to his mom.

I've become astonishingly impolitic lately concerning politics, showing scant respect for other's opinions and dogmatically asserting my own. The mantra I remind myself is "people have the right to be wrong". I certainly want that right and so have to extend it to others.

My pledge to you, the American blog reader, is more poetry, more Spanning the Globe, and less fractiousness in the form of political opinionating. Today at least.

May 25, 2004


I'm impressed by folks who have a strong opinion on issues that are close calls ('barkeep, I'll have what they're havin'), such as the war in Iraq. If nature abhors a vacuum, then so do tough issues abhor indecisiveness.

Were the anti-war folks exercised over economic sanctions, which killed many more people than the war, albeit indirectly? Kudos for consistency go out to those who can say they a) did not support the original Gulf War and b)protested the economic sanctions. Pacifism obviates the need for thinking and for that reason alone should be applauded.

So isn't the Iraq war a continuation of the Gulf War? In the time of "peace" between the wars, 500,000 Iraqi children are said to have died due to economic sanctions. During the time of "peace" the U.S. spent billions on Iraq, enacting no-fly zones and such. If a judge lets a three-time convicted murderer loose, the judge is blamed when the murderer kills again. If George Bush had let Saddam go his own way and ignored the "jail sentence" that was imposed on Saddam after the Gulf War (which he flouted), then who would we blame when he exploded chemical/biological weapons? Bush, because he failed to honor the agreement that Saddam ignored. The die seems to be cast when the inspectors were ejected in '98. But Clinton had Monica troubles.

I'm all for letting go and letting God. But does He really want us to do nothing in the face of evil? To let evil go unchecked is good? Why not empty the jails today? Why not simply rely on God for a continuous series of miracles to prevent chaos?

The Iraq war may turn out to be a mess in hindsight. But that's in hindsight, which has a way of making us brilliant (which is why I like reading history - it's one time I feel smarter than the principals.)

Bush and Blair tried to do right by the lights given to them. I won't second guess them. I wouldn't have had the courage to do what they did, first because I could not have rebuffed my Pope and second because I doubt I would've stood up against European pressure. But I'm not a leader. It's possible they did do the right thing. God bless George Bush.

I don't have the book handy, but Tom Holland in his "Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic" prefaces the first chapter with a blank page but for two quotes making exactly opposite assertions. One is from Julius Caesar and the other is someone whose name I can't recall now. Caesar said that every man longs for liberty and the other said that every man secretly longs for a master so that he might be a slave.

I was thinking about the slave/liberty quotes with regard to the Iraq War. The French helped us secure our freedom during the Revolutionary War, but we really really wanted freedom. The Iraqis, for all their suffering under Hussein, don't appear to want freedom that much, with the possible exception of the Kurds. And you can't force freedom on people, as oxymoronic as that might sound. George Bush constantly insists that the freedoms we enjoy are universally desired. Maybe, maybe not. Given Saddam's abuse, perhaps the kid getting beaten up on the playground doesn't want help.

Ramesh Ponnuru quotes David Brooks today and comments, "'[Bush] began this war in Iraq repeating the sentiment embodied in the Declaration of Independence, that our creator has endowed all human beings with the right to liberty, and the ability to function as democratic citizens.' I see two problems with this formulation: God has manifestly not 'endowed all human beings with...the ability to function as democratic citizens,' and the Declaration of Independence says no such thing."

The tagline at left is from Spaten beer. I don't know about you, but I get a little nervous about Germans making "purity laws". (Just a joke, I kid the Germans.)
The Dignity of Man and the Awesomeness of God

I've become more adept at picking up differences between current theology and theology 50 and 100 years ago or more (already obvious to most I'm sure). Under pressure from a culture that devalues life, the Church has switched from emphasizing the great and unfathomable gulf between God and man to the inherent dignity of man and how he is loved by God and made in His image.

And for good reason: over the past fifty years there's been an astonishing disregard for the value of human life and dignity. In this culture humans are disposable and an instrument of use. It could be thought that God treats us similarly, as mere objects of use, but the teaching of the Church has moved to correct this even to the point of speaking of the gradual divinization of man, as in the phrase "God became man that man might become God".

I see the change in bible commentaries on a passage like Isaiah 45:10. In a commentary from the 1940s there is the straightforward "creatures are as clay in the hands of the potter and must submit to their creator's demands." By the 1970s with the New Jerome we have this nuance: "God's demand of absolute obedience is not based, however, on blind subservience to fate or on the passive acceptance of brutal power, but rather in his delicate concern implied in the image of a potter, on his paternal love expressed in the phrase 'my children' and on his personal attention, emphasized by the repetition of the first person."

This move from depicting God's love as contractual to familial is something Scott Hahn is famous for. Theological conservatives like Hahn and the Pope are preaching a kindler and gentler message. I've been listening to Hahn's tapes on faith and justification (I often like his tapes better than his books - I didn't think "Hail Holy Queen" was that good while his tapes on the Book of Revelation were excellent) and in them Hahn talks about the theological virtue of hope in regard to assurance of salvation and makes the point that God loves His children more than human parents love theirs and cares more about our salvation than we do. Hahn admits, surprisingly, to sometimes wondering if he is a child of God, and he said that the Holy Spirit turns the question around: "How do your kids know they are your children, Scott?". Hahn lists: they eat at my table, they celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, they do chores, they are sometimes chastized. He then relates those to the life of the Christian: i.e. the Eucharist, saints' feast days, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, etc...Hahn points out the need to understand that God takes us as we are and doesn't expect us to grow to full maturity over night. He says that if his two-year old wets the bed he isn't the least bit angry. If his twelve-year old does, that's a problem...

In my own journey, I've decided to turn a deaf ear to the voices of those who would tear down, those who are constantly critical, and to treasure the pure golden love God has for me.

May 24, 2004

Fr. Groeschel Message
We’re coming now to the time of Pentecost, this is an important time for anyone who is trying to deal with a serious problem, suffering or catastrophe because the Holy Spirit lifts Himself far above the world. It was known even in the early Church, that in the worst of situations when the martyrs were facing a cruel barbaric death at the jaws of wild beasts that they called upon the Spirit of God. If you get a devotion to the Holy Spirit and if you have a devotion to the Holy Spirit and you cultivate it, and let it grow, and read on the Holy Spirit, you will find that you have much greater strength. In your own life cultivate a devotion to the Holy Spirit and you will find that you have a strength that you do not know the origins of. Try it; it works! Let us continue to pray for each other! --Father Benedict
St. Rita

I went to Quenta Nârwenion because I wanted to see how many of the past ten posts mentioned John Henry Newman (two this time).

And I came across her tribute to St. Rita whose feast day was just celebrated on May 22, (which is also my wedding anniversary). I'm not sure how to take the fact that she is the patroness of "difficult marriages". Consolation or worry? And isn't "difficult marriage" redundant? :~)

May 23, 2004

A Prophet Who Shepherds

Visited another parish about a hundred miles away for my niece's First Communion and the bulletin had an interesting message from the pastor:
"...If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." I think of Robert Burns' "The world is too much with us." I am troubled because I find the role of pastor to be so conflicted with the call to be a prophet in God's name. The role of pastor, shepherd, is to keep the flock together, as we journey through life. It is conflicted with the role of the prophet to bring God's word to bear on current events in both church and society. Today's world, myself included, does not readily accept the challenge to be confronted with God's Word asking us to ever become more than we are.
So far so good. And through my lenses I'm thinking, " is difficult to pastor these days, to preach against powerful abortion-enthused politicians, against artificial contraception and the contraceptive mentality, contra promiscuity and about the reality of mortal sin..."

Wrong. He went on to explain that it was the lack of universal health care and American affluence, as well as the Iraq War that bothers him. He's certainly in good company on the war given Pope John Paul II's stance, but at this point it's sort of a fait accompli since "now that we've broken Iraq, we own it" in the famous words of Colin Powell, in the sense that we can't cut & run.

Watched Brian Lamb's "Booknotes" over the weekend, and he featured Joseph Califano, former Great Society architect and serious Catholic. I think this is one book from a liberal I think I can read without retching, and since I like to puff myself up by thinking I'm broadminded when actually I'm a fervent right-winger, I thought I'd borrow it from the library. A review of the book said,"the running theme of this frank autobiography is Califano's inner struggles to reconcile the demands of politics with the dictates of his Catholic upbringing." It's refreshing, these days, for a politician to struggle to reconcile those things (or any of us actually). He got a great sixteen year Catholic education when Catholic education meant something. Will give you recaps as nec'sry.

May 21, 2004

Buffy & the Pope

Much in common?


Peg talks about blogs at the Parish Hall:
I began reading Catholic blogs after learning about them in an article in the Liguorian (as I recall). That was over a year ago. Now I find that I am not comfortable if I don't check in at least once a day with three blogs in particular, and a few more...There is a freedom in these Catholic blogs that I never saw growing up and I did not go to college so that might say something. I didn't know Catholics would be so opinionated and seemingly darn proud of it. I have always been more of the docile, obedient, nonthinking persuasion, but now believe a little thinking would be good for me, even if I can't come to any definite conclusions. I have learned that people can discuss, disagree and still come back for more. Most bloggers try to be courteous along with their sometimes strong opinions.
Monsieur Belloc...

..weighs in on the tendency of the intellect to dominate and make us crabby (mea culpa):
What! here are we with the jolly world of God all round us, able to sing, to draw, to paint, to hammer and build, to sail, to ride horses, to run, to leap; having for our splendid inheritance love in youth and memory in old age, and we are to take one miserable little faculty, our one-legged, knock-kneed, gimcrack, purblind, rough-skinned, underfed, and perpetually irritated and grumpy intellect, or analytical curiosity rather (a diseased appetite), and let it swell till it eats up every other function? Away with such foolery... Note that pedants lose all proportion. They never can keep sane in a discussion. They will go wild on matters they are wholly unable to judge, such as Armenian Religion or the Politics of Paris or what not. Never do they use one of those three phrases which keep a man steady and balance his mind, I mean the words (1) After all it is not my business. (2) Tut! tut! You don't say so! and (3) Credo in Unum Deum Patrem Omnipotentem, Factorem omnium visibilium atque invisibilium; in which last there is a power of synthesis that can jam all their analytical dust-heap into such a fine, tight, and compact body as would make them stare to see. I understand [professors] need six months' holiday a year. Had I my way they should take twelve, and an extra day on leap years. --Hilaire Belloc

Some amateurs are really funny. Here's the fifteen minute version of the movie Troy. (Not for the easily offended.)

May 20, 2004

Artless Day for Terry Teachout
Not only did I see no plays or ballets, but I didn’t listen to any music, nor did I read any new Isaac Bashevis Singer stories in between returning phone calls, answering e-mail, and fussing with my schedule. I wouldn’t say it was a wasted day, but neither can I say that I stopped very often or smelled many roses. Saddest of all, I didn’t even remember to knock off for a half-hour in the afternoon, sit down in my living room, and look at the contents of the Teachout Museum.

Why am I telling you all this? To remind myself that each day offers a new chance to strike a better balance. I have to write a Wall Street Journal review this morning and plan to make a start on another piece in the afternoon, and I’m taking Steph, my research assistant, to an early-evening meeting of jazz archivists.. All that will surely keep me jumping from breakfast to bedtime, but I hope I remember to leave at least a little time in between for spiritual refreshment.

I live and work in an apartment crammed full of books and CDs and works of art. Outside my office window is a beautiful green tree, and a half-block east of my front door is Central Park. How can I possibly spend a whole day with my face turned from such things? I don’t know, but I’ll try not to do so, at least not today. Tomorrow can take care of itself.
Hodge Podge of Discontinued Items  ...a lightning round

"You didn't even say goodbye" --Cap'n Von Trapp

Buddy Holly, Amelia Erhardt, I'm intrigued by sudden departures in the real and blog worlds. I guess Fearsomepirate and Michelle of "And Then?" and Chris of "Maine Catholic" have left the building and you wonder why. The Mighty Barrister took a long break. Why remains unanswered. Disgust at blogging? Disgust at lack of feedback? Blog fatigue?

I know we're all crack-cocaine addicts when it comes to the discussion of great Catlicker books. Although a bit triumphalistic, if you need a fix, go here.

Was shopping at Walmart this morning and was distracted by the phenomenon of "Walmart radio", a insular ham radio type of operation that apparently broadcasts across the USA to Walmarts from Sacramento to Savannah and all points 'tween. I felt I was eavesdropping.

The announcer had that chipper "win one for the Gipper" sort of voice, a sort of Bronx cheer for the morning, which is better than Napalm in the morning. He read a list of anniversaries of employees; "Judy Smith, Benton, Arkansas, store number 1, is celebrating her 23rd year...". A cashier broke in and broke the spell: "Sherie, line one, Sherie line one." Someone's anniversary was missed, hopefully not one at this, store 36721.

Anniversaries in corporations are often tainted, since staying at one place too long often signals a lack of ambition. "You've been here 20 years and you're still a ----?". You'd prefer they thought it was only ten.

If it's La Traviata, it must be pledge week.
Why Do I Blog About Politics Anyway?

A recent Salon excerpt, saying how the Republican party has changed:

"If you're fiscally responsible, this is not your party. If you believe in a moderate foreign policy characterized by alliances, free trade and the ability to operate in an international environment, this is not your party. If you believe in limited federal government, this is not your party. If you believe that the government should stay out of your bedroom, this is very definitely not your party. In fact, I would argue that unless you believe in the American imperium, imposed on the world by force, or unless you believe in the literal interpretation of the Book of Revelations, this is not your party."

Let's examine these:

If you're fiscally responsible, this is not your party.

What will potentially bankrupt the country is not temporary spending but long-term entitlements. To the extent current spending makes long-term promises impossible, it is a good (if very imperfect) solution. Witness Reagan's deficits which were both temporary and thwarted lasting damage. Left-of-center columnist Michael Kinsley says Americans are big babies who want big spending programs without big taxes. Deficits are ultimately the voter's decision. The die for a sizeable budget was cast when Bush lost the popular vote in 2000, and by 9/11. That said, the unfunded mandates of the No Child Left Behind program were extremely irresponsible.

If you believe in a moderate foreign policy characterized by alliances, free trade and the ability to operate in an international environment, this is not your party.

There is no party more dedicated to free trade than the Republican party. The politically popular thing would be to outlaw outsourcing, but you don't see that happening. Alliances require two to tango, and I think both sides are to blame. But this is the strongest Salon point, imho.

If you believe in limited federal government, this is not your party.

See explanation above.

If you believe that the government should stay out of your bedroom, this is very definitely not your party.

A non-sequitor. Everyone believes the government should stay in their bedroom, if it's incest we're talking. And no one cares what a homosexual couple do in their bedroom. It's the gay lobby who wants the government to stand over the bed giving its imprimatur. If it were only about financial issues, the problem would be resolved by now.

In fact, I would argue that unless you believe in the American imperium, imposed on the world by force...

Gag me. Regime change in Iraq after twelve years of brutal sanctions that hurt only the Iraqi people is imperial? The U.N. nations that voted against U.S. use of force turned out to be in bed with Saddam (not that we should care what goes on in Saddam's bedroom). Not only is America not intent on making Iraq the 51st state, but is racing to hand over power, desperately looking for a way to withdraw while saving face. Somewhere Alexandar the Great is laughing.

Cringe and cower when you see that Blogger has made an update because it means six more weeks of winter in the form of odd outages and sluggish service. Get what you pay for, of course.

This was what I was thinking until I read today's business section of the Columbus Dispatch, when I begin to think that maybe the folks at Blogger deserved a song like other "real American heroes" have.

Dispatch columnist Barnet Wolf wrote, "If it hadn’t been for the folks at Anheuser-Busch, some of America’s authentic prodigies might have been overlooked. We’re talking about real men of genius, such as Mr. All-You-Can-Eat Buffet Inventor and Mr. Bumper Sticker Writer... These formerly unsung heroes, along with nearly seven dozen others, have been acclaimed in a series of eccentric radio and television commercials for Bud Light. The commercials broke in 1998 and since then the radio campaign has earned more than 100 advertising awards."

Inspired by the ads, I offer lyrics to "Mr. Blogger Software Developer":

Mr. Blogger Software Developer

Bud Light Presents: Real Men of Genius
(real men of genius)
Today we salute you, Mr. Blogger Software Developer
(Mr. Blogger Software Developer)
You've given us the real American dream: self-publishing for the lazy and self-absorbed
(Pinch me, I'm dreamin'!)
Toiling in obscurity, you work so that we can tell the world what we had for dinner
(pork chops & gravy!)
No clock-watcher you, you are the Helen that launched a thousand blogs
(Homer'd be proud!)
So crack open an ice-cold Bud Light blogger boy, because if not for you
this parody wouldn't exist!
(Mr. Blogger Software Developer!)
St. Thomas

I love St. Anthony and St. Therese of Lisieux and Our Lady. I respect and admire and feel connected to St. Pio and St. Patrick. But the saint I may be most flat-out fascinated by is St. Thomas Aquinas. Here's a true blue intellectual, with all the attendant temptation to pride and spiritual dessication and doubt, who apparently didn't fall to prey to those faults but was gentle and humble and not at all abrasive in a St. Jerome sense (with due apologies to St. Jerome of course, who gives hope to many blog parishioners).

Part of what interests me about Aquinas is the sheer imbalance of his life. No wife, children, novels, hikes in the woods. He didn't join the "Inklings" and drink at the local pub as Tolkein and Lewis used to do. His productivity showed an amazing single-mindedness despite lacking (it seemed) a corresponding dose of "beauty", which many need as an antidote to too much logical thinking. But I think the fact that on his deathbed he asked that the Song of Songs be read said it all. There was his beauty and his respite: God alone.
Celebrity Endorsers

Wow, Scott Hahn has some big names among his commentors for his latest book... And here I thought them Luddites:
Most enlightening and helpful for Catholics AND Protestants, May 19, 2004
Reviewer: Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. from New York City
As one who has lived with a lifelong realistic understanding of the sacraments, especially of the Holy Eucharist, I found Scott Hahn's journey from Calvin's devout but symbolic understanding to the traditional realism of the Church Fathers most enlightening. This book will be a big help to Catholics confronted by careless and inaccurate teaching about the sacraments. It will also aid Protestants, who have often lost even the sacramental piety of the Reformation and who are beginning to rediscover the sacraments instituted by Christ.

Clear & compelling look at how God works through sacraments, May 19, 2004 Reviewer: Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan from Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Dr. Hahn has done it once again: he has given us a crisp, clear and compelling look at the very essence of Catholic life, the sacraments. Simply put, Scott believes the sacraments really do work. And he believes that the sacraments are God's work for us, not our work for God.

Discover a deeper understanding of sacraments in Scripture, May 19, 2004
Reviewer: Edward Cardinal Egan from Archdiocese of New York City
In Swear to God, Dr. Scott Hahn provides his readers with a fresh, enthusiastic introduction to the theology of Sacraments. His readers will be rewarded not only with clear theological information but also with authentically Catholic inspiration. His pen continues to be a blessing for all who seek a deeper understanding of what the Lord has revealed.

May 19, 2004

There's Babies in Thar!

Amy W. links to a NY Times story that discusses how ultrasounds are leading to more respect for unborn babies.

It's kind of ironic in a way. Baby boomers who worship success know that you don't get into Groton by accident. Where a generation ago it was important to get into the right college, the right pre-school is crucial now.

This leads inexorably back where? The womb. Pre-natal care becomes vital if you want your child to recite Shakespeare at two. Fortunately the more attention paid to the unborn the more consciences may be triggered.
    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

My own mother, who is actually anti-breastfeeding, was constantly hounding me to wean my first child. Finally one day she said, "really darling, when ARE you going to wean him?" and I said very matter-of-factly, "when his five o'clock shadow starts to irritate me." She never asked again. - smockmomma of Summa Mamas

Minds are like parachutes: If you leave 'em open all the time, they get all tangled and grotty. - commenter on Mark Shea's blog

They break the most beautiful things
But I hear violins
When I close my eyes
I am at the center of the sun - unattributed, via Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things"

It's a sort of catharsis, just encountering such certainty: furious certainty of rhythym, certainty of definition that leaves the dark, nebulous spirit of neopaganism "formulated, sprawling on a pin." It is meant to be a war poem, to rouse and encourage resistance. But it is tempered with caution: the White Horse must be patiently and continuously tended, or the grass will cover it. Evil is like the grass - it cannot be conquered "once and for all" (until the end of the world, anyway). There is no earthly "end to evil." Complacency is death. In this Chesterton is very close to Tolkien (the points of overlap between the two have become more apparent to me lately), as in several other places in the poem. It is interesting to see how Tolkien quotes Chesterton in his lectures and letters. Tolkien didn't care for The Ballad of the White Horse; he thought that Chesterton didn't know anything about "Northernness" and that the ending (where the King retakes London) was ridiculous. (He didn't explain this last judgement.) Of course, Tolkien and GKC were very far apart in style and vocation and temperament. Still... both of them understood the "tree" of tradition, the power of "fairy-stories," the need for humility - and the savour of eucatastrophe. - blogger at "Basia Me Catholica Sum" on Chesterton's "The Ballad of the White Horse"

Dear Abby: Dateline Rome...I wasn't going to marry a Mohammedan anyway, being already married to the only woman who'd ever put up with me, but in case you were here is some good advice from Rome: Don't. - John at the "Inn at the End of the World", on the recent Vatican suggestion not to marry Muslims

There is *nothing* more dangerous to the soul than being really right in a fight. Under the influence of original sin, the sense of justly aggrieved righteousness (not phoney righteousness, but the real deal) is most potent blindness-inducing chemical on the planet. - Mark Shea

"Rebuke not thy neighbour in a banquet of wine: and despise him not in hip mirth." -- nice typo, from Douay-Rheims online version,

The people we meet: great sinners all. The people we meet: beloved by God all. It's said St. Catherine of Siena was able to perceive the state of other people's souls. That's not a charism I'd want for myself, tempting as it is to someone as filled with the vice of curiosity as I am, for fear that I might be able to perceive the state of my own soul. I suspect, though, that it's my dullness regarding my own relationship with Christ that makes it so unnatural for me to even consider that the people I meet each have their own relationship with Him, whether they know it or not. If I were suitably aware of and concerned with my sins, and so suitably eager to ask Jesus to give me eternal life, then I bet I'd be more honestly concerned with the sins of others, not in a holier-than-they sense, but out of a zealous (St. Catherine might say burning) desire they too receive eternal life. - Tom of Disputations

Given that 46% of the population doesn't even think that homosexual acts should even be legal, I'm practically bleeding-heart on the issue. Just keep the snake in its cage while the kids are around, and I think everyone will do pretty okay. - Robert of "Hokie Pundit"

I don't believe a person can remain in mortal sin while praying the Rosary. -Pope John XXIII

The unborn had faith in Santorum / For he said, "You bet, I'm all for 'em!" / But when their protector / Met Senator Specter, /He said, "What the hell, I'll ignore 'em." - Bob the Ape of "Trousered Ape", who humorously calls his blog an "exercise in presumption"

I don't keep these commandments in order to make God love me. This is extremely important for us to understand. I don't keep the commandments so that God will love me. God will love me regardless. God will love me, I think, even if I'm burning in Hell. I keep the commandments because they are the concrete way for me to love Him. If I ignore these commandments, it means that my love is cold. - Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things"

I've been Catholic all my life, but I've been a practicing Catholic again since March 27, 2004. I left because it seemed like it was the right thing to do. I came back because the grace of God drew me. I've been freshly acquainting myself with the Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, daily Mass, morning and evening prayer (thanks very much, Magnificat magazine). I'm rich. Who knew it would be such a blessing? - Roz of "In Dwelling"

I became a Catholic because they had all the cutest girls: Italians, French, Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, even half of the Germans and a fair number of the English, for heaven's sake. - Dave Armstrong, who forgets about the cute Irish girls.

This is your pastor...and I approve this message. - our pastor, playing comedian, after his homily
Poetry from the latest National Review:

Raising their arms, they scream — no, squeal — for joy,
Palms up and out to press the gamboling ball.
(It frisks from side to side; they re-deploy
Accordingly, in bunches, lest it fall.)
But no one in her — is it pinafore
Or Mother Hubbard? — springs to drive a spike.
The game seems pointless (no one keeping score),
And yet a dozen bonnets all alike
Lift up and scan the sky as if this counts,
Yes, really counts. They show a rapturous care,
But unconcern at what each shriek and jounce
Makes clear: as jocks, they haven't got a prayer.
Still, twelve long skirts keep sweeping up the sands.
Still, twelve young girls abandon all reserve.
The ball leaps wildly from no idle hands,
Until it's plain: these handmaids aim to serve.

Path to Grove City

Chapter 3

I passed a church presently and bowed my head for the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and raised it again to find an elderly woman before me, working over an embroirdery. Her art showed a bucolic scene of man and woman riding horses with a pony between them, as if guiding it to a greener pasture.

“Excuse me,” I said, “but I’m walking to Grove City and was wondering how far to Ponderosa Avenue?”

“About a mile or so,” she said, exuding sereneness and a quiet joy. Her back was noticeably humped and for the first time I realized she was blind. Appearances can be eschewed with the blind and I felt freer.

“What is that you’re stitching? It’s quite beautiful.”

She laughed softly and said she wasn’t stiching it but merely fingering it, a gift from a parishioner at the church I was passing. I wondered what it meant to get a gift you couldn’t see and marveled at the care with which it was sewn.

“You see the riderless pony? It wasn’t always so, this was the return trip. Blessed Margaret of Castello was born blind and lame and hunchbacked and her parents took a trip and left her behind. Like they used to do with unwanted cats and dogs. My parents left me on these church steps for much the same reason.”

“And yet this must remind you-- aren’t you bitter towards them?”

“Bitter, no. ‘Though my father and mother forsake, yet the Lord will take me up.’ says the Psalm. God's love is far greater.”

Infused love given the bereft of example or experience? Interesting, I thought, how those with the least excuse to believe God’s love for them tended to trust it most. I thanked her and continued towards Ponderosa with renewed vigor.

May 18, 2004

How large are Cicadas?

The largest Cicada to appear in Cincinnati is shown above causing several hours of downtown traffic congestion... - via

I'm kind of disappointed we're not getting them here in Columbus, at least not yet. Cincy will be hit hard and often. Fortunately I'll be visiting there on Sunday, a chance to see them while also experiencing the relief in leaving them. I'm guessing a little bit goes a long way.
On Semiotics

Walker Percy's old hobby:

Shout the word semiotics across a room today, and the room will very likely shout back at you, "What do you mean, semiotics?" It is a good question and at the same time, according to semiotics, a uselessly subjective question, for semiotics is the study of meaning itself -- or rather how images and words (like semiotics, for example) come to mean anything at all...Put another way, semiotics is about how we derive meaning from context.
Shall we play... Why is my bookbag so heavy?

Steven Riddle posted today his reads and so I'll do likewise:

Stet, Damnit! - Florence King
Evelyn Waugh: The Later Years - Martin Stannard
Albion's Seed - David Hackett Fischer
Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love - Thomas Keating
Stumbling Blocks or Stepping Stones - Fr. Benedict Groeschel
The Miracle Detective - R. Sullivan
A Seeker's Dozen - Kathy Shaidle
Getting it Right - William F. Buckley
Revelations of Divine Mercy - St. Faustina
A Green Journey - Jon Hassler

That should hold me.
Thoughts on Roth's "Human Stain"

I sent part of this in an email to Terry of Summa Mamas so I thought I'd blog it too. Cutting and pasting is a magical thing.

About the book: I have mixed emotions. Some of it I really liked. I read most of it on a cruise in January and I wonder if I was unduly influenced by the environment. I think I could read "Dick and Jane" while sipping drinks next to the ocean and think it a work of genius.

But I thought it was entertaining and parts of it exceptional. I'm glad I read something by Roth, who is supposedly the best of the best of modern authors.

One test is how many dog-eared pages (I dog-ear great passages) and there was maybe seven or so, i.e average. The character of that Delphine Roux though was as finely drawn as anything in Dickens. Really vivid.

It's nice I can read a modern author and not be assaulted by sex. It's the reason I haven't read Franzen's "The Corrections". Ham of Bone read it and said the message was basically nihilistic with lots of very vivid sexual imagery. Not exactly what I need, ya know? Call me a Puritan, but don't call me late to dinner.
Quote Encountered
On a personal level, too, art is life intensified: it delights more deeply, consumes more rapidly; it engraves the traces of imaginary and intellectual adventure on the countenance of its servant and in the long run, for all the monastic calm of his eternal existence, leads to self-indulgence, over-refinement, lethargy, and a restless curiosity that a lifetime of wild passions and pleasures could scarcely engender. -- Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
...via a fellow Columbus Ohioian at Collected Miscellany
Books that most influenced C.S. Lewis:
1) Phantastes by George MacDonald
2) The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton
3) The Aeneid by Virgil
4) The Temple by George Herbert
5) The Prelude by William Wordsworth
6) The Idea of the Holy by Rudolf Otto
7) The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
8) The Life of Samuel Johnson by James Boswell
9) Descent Into Hell by Charles Williams
10) Theism and Humanism by A. J. Balfour

May 17, 2004

Catlicker Answers Msgboard

I had a question I wanted to ask last week, but I can't recall what it was. Well, when the student is ready a msgboard will appear.

Here's an interesting one.
Jessa of Bookslut is peeved
Dear Bookcase Store to Remain Unnamed:

Four weeks? Are you kidding me? I was all ready to hand over a full two week unemployment check for you to make my apartment into one giant library, but then you told me it would take four weeks minimum to fulfill my order. I nearly cancelled on CB2 when they told me it would take them four days to deliver my dining room table. There's just no way I'm going to spend that much money without instant gratification. But your bookcases are very pretty. You make me sad.
I Did Not Know That... From NRO
Whether or not Bishop Sheridan's edict about the voting duties of Catholics is wise, it is not unprecedented. In July 1949, Pope Pius XII declared that any person who consciously advanced Communism was “without question excommunicated.” The declaration was consistent with the 1937 statement of Pope Pius XI that any form of support for Communism was sinful. Voting for a Communist Party candidate would obviously be a form of conscious support for Communism.
Kathy Shaidle Quote
We offer ourselves to God, good and bad. We leave it up to God to decide which of our defects of character need to be removed. And God is the one who will remove them, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.

Given our limited human perspective, it is usually unwise to embark on a self-propelled project to "make ourselves over." Traits that we think of as flaws may be necessary for us to keep, as part of God's overall plan for our lives, and the lives of others. (What if Oskar Schindler had decided to give up his slick, conniving, worldly ways, and become a cloistered monk..?)

The key word is "humbly." As Bill Wilson liked to say, "Humility has a hard time of it in our world." Many people confuse it with humiliation or obsequiousness....But humility is about being realistic. Humility is not about thinking very little of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less...Notice that the worst defects are those that interfere with our usefulness to God and our neighbors.
- from "A Seeker's Dozen: The 12 Steps for Everyone Else"

Went to see the movie "Troy" starring Brad Pitt and Peter O'Toole. The anticipation to see how the filmmaker would depict the Trjoan horse and the death of Achilles was delicious and the film delivered magnificently. The scene that will also reasonate was Priam's (O'Toole's) visit to Achilles' tent. But I shan't spoil it.

The problem with the movie is it's almost three hours. This would be a great 2-hour movie, but they larded it with long and endless battle scenes. I'm tired of war movies but I'm also fascinated by them. They display the virtues of courage & honor & discipline but you have to wade through war pyrotechnics. The spectacle is nice but after all the LOTR movies I'm jaded. The less grandiose single combat between Hector and Achilles wore on forever too.

Bone's love for movies is one I've never been able to share. Movies are a good break from books but are so under-nourishing by comparison. Hambone is much more interested in plot than me. I finished "The Human Stain" yesterday and I remember Bone worrying about the plot and though I'm sure I miss a lot in not attending to it more carefully I like ideas and philosophical asides, not stories. I understand that "stories are more truthful" as the sages tell us but I'm not there yet. I read Updike and Roth and Shakespeare not for the plot but for the ideas and the plush word-play.
Olde Trip

A sense of wonder is proper to travel
as homage to a king-
one can scarcely forget to pack wonder
as your toothbrush.

Eight years ago it was
our first trip to the olde sod,
every stone hid a leprechaun,
every meadow an ancestor.

How I’d planned
for that ’96 trip!
I consumed travel guides
and Celtic myths
such that if I met Cuchulain himself
I’d be at ease.
One can forget how freeing our relationship with God should feel. One can’t tell your wife, for example, that you think she’s gained weight or that you’re struggling with the sin of lust unless it's her you be lusting after. It’s like confessing to your black friend that you have a problem with prejudice.

With God it’s so different though, in two crucial ways. One is that he already knows what’s going on, there’s no secrets to Him. And second that you’re so truly forgiven.

I feel often enough a sense of un-ease, a little underbra of anxiety which I can’t quite put my finger on though I suspect it’s a lack of sex, a handy enough excuse. With the good weather comes an astonishing lack of female clothing which often strikes a chord more of surprise than lust, since the latter takes a bit longer to develop. You don't know what hit you half the time, and the other half you're just saying how great a job God did in designing the female form.

Man seeks reassurance from food and sex, and unfortunately there’s a reason for it - I have to admit they usually deliver. I can see so clearly why the Church expresses a preference for the poor – it’s more difficult to believe you are loved when your stomach is empty. And this coming from a stomach perpetually full.

May 16, 2004


Thomas of ER's recent lament about books got me trying to remember a quote of Samuel Johnson's which, thanks to the interent, I found here:

"Alas, Madam! How few books are there of which one can ever possibly arrive at the last page."

Others found:
General irregularities are known in time to remedy themselves. By the constitution of ancient Egypt, the priesthood was continually increasing, till at length there was no people beside themselves; the establishment was then dissolved, and the number of priests was reduced and limited. Thus among us, writers will, perhaps, be multiplied, till no readers will be found, and then the ambition of writing must necessarily cease." -Johnson: Adventurer #115 (December 11, 1753)

Literature is a kind of intellectual light which, like the light of the sun, enables us to see what we do not like; but who would wish to escape unpleasing objects, by condemning himself to perpetual darkness?
Gospel tune heard yesterday:

When I cross over
I will shout and sing
I will know my Savior
By the mark where the nails have been

By the mark where the nails have been
By the sign upon his precious skin
I will know my Savior when I come to him
By the mark where the nails have been

A man of riches
May claim a crown of jewels
But the King of Heaven
Can be told from the prince of fools

On Calvary Mountain
Where they made him suffer so
All my sin was paid for
A long, long time ago
CHORUS --Gillian Welch

May 14, 2004

NRODT Review of "Russell Kirk and the Age of Ideology" by W. Wesley McDonald
Central to Kirk's philosophy is the connection between order in the soul and order in the commonwealth. A society's politics reflects its culture, and hence its morality. Kirk sought — in McDonald's words — to "rediscover, articulate, and defend those enduring moral norms, now blurred in our consciousness, by which civilized peoples have governed their conduct." McDonald situates this effort within the concept of "ethical dualism," as fleshed out in the work of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More. In this view, man is torn between two natures: his lower self, which focuses on selfish and momentary goals, and his higher self, which has the ability to envision something nobler. The moral man checks his lower self and seeks to strengthen his higher self.

Out of this inner tension comes an outer tension, one between order and freedom. For Kirk, true freedom is not the libertarian's total lack of external restraint but rather the opportunity to attain one's own natural potential, and to live in harmony with the moral order. "Liberty," writes McDonald, "can be found neither in individual self-gratification (as the utilitarian would hold) nor in flowing with one's spontaneous impulses (as the Rousseauists would affirm), but resides instead in [what Babbitt called] the individual's 'ethical self; and the ethical self is experienced not as expansive emotion, but as inner control.'"
Spiritual Interconnectivities

I recently happened upon the blog of a nurse, a blog reflecting alarming malevolence and spiritual emptiness and my knee-jerk reaction was auto-focus. Sadly, it wasn't pity or prayer that leapt to mind, it was self-pity in the form of thinking, "the world is going to hell in a handbasket and when I'm sick and in need of a nurse, they'll all be evil and full of hate."

In other words, it sent a chill up my spine to realize that my physical health in my waning years will be dependent on a generation of nihilists. And then I began to wonder if our spiritual health is tied to this generation. When I read about St. Joseph of Cafasso, and how he delivered the Balm he got from Christ, I realized anew how dependent we are on one another not just physically but spiritually.

But this is still coming at it from a selfish, auto-focus view. The real way to approach it would be to welcome the opportunity of being a force for good in that nurse's life, either now or in the future. It's going to be a target-rich environment for all Christians, spiritually speaking. Pray up, boys.

Came across St. Joseph Cafasso and this quote: "A single word from him - a look, a smile, his very presence - sufficed to dispel melancholy, drive away temptation and produce holy resolution in the soul." -Saint John Bosco, writing about St. Joseph Cafasso
Friday's Hodge Podge of Discontinued Items

...the weekly feature where I empty the cupboards of items that didn't make the blog during the week, for reasons that will become obvious.

I'd forgotten my Confirmation name and now after eighteen years I finally got around to calling my grade school parish and confirming (teehee) what I'd suspected: William. Must read about St. Williams's now since I know precious little about them.

Overheard someone saying that they'd read the Da Vinci Code and "didn't know there were over 400 gospels!". Oy vey.

"I stink" he said.
"Well yes but that's a bit harsh, you're not so bad."
"No, I mean I stink. Haven't taken a shower yet."

On the recent EWTN show "Church & the Culture Today", Deal Hudson and Charlotte Hayes talked about Catholic authors Jon Hassler and J.F. Powers. Hayes committed a small heresy when she declared Powers the best modern Catholic author. As much as I like Flannery O'Connor, I've always assumed Walker Percy should have that honor. I haven't read any of Powers, but you can bet I will now. Hassler too.

Catholic/Nazi voting patterns

Scott Hahn interview (kudos to Curt Jester for the find).

Added a blogger profile today.

Nice mousepads!
If You Can't Jog, Write

Wash Post article suggests more art in our lives for better fitness:
Forget broccoli. Forget the treadmill. Go play the violin!

Doing something creative is good for your health...That's the conclusion of a recent study assessing the health effects of participating in music, art, dance and poetry programs.
Tucker and Victor

Interesting interview with CNN's Tucker Carlson who is becoming more paleo by the minute (he even apologized to Pat Buchanan). Meanwhile, Victor David Hanson lends perspective. Fair and balanced, that's me.

May 13, 2004

Path to Grove City    a fictional journey

Chapter 2

My progress towards Grove City moved in fits and starts; the well-traveled roads often led in other directions, and sometimes I took them just for distractions’ sake.

I came across the sight of a women and her teenage boy having a loud argument. He sported a mullet haircut and she wore a bathrobe. For a minute I thought I was watching Jerry Springer and I shamefully slowed my pace that I might hear them, although they were screaming at a volume that one could pass quickly and still hear everything a block away. They argued with great loquaciousness and impressive word play; I was taken aback by the finely-honed verbal skills. Both cut the other with the sharpest stilettos and no mercy was shown though the woman was sobbing profusely, her face blanketed with tears.

A woman crying is something that I can't bear to hear and yet the child granted no quarter, at least not initially. It seemed that the emotions of these people were closer to the surface than most, they loved more ardently, fought more furiously, sobbed more uncontrollably. I sat at a nearby bus stop, too caught up in the soap opera to leave and hoping for a resolution, which finally arrived. They alternately gave and conceded ground before finding resolution, after which they hugged and forgave each other such that the argument seemed to serve only to bring them closer, as if the expenditure of emotional energy and the copious tears were proof of their love. And I briefly thought of Israel-

LECTOR. Israel!? What does Israel got to do with a mother and son arguing outside a bus stop? Must you always bring up religion?

AUCTOR. It’s my story and I can talk of religion if I like. As I was saying…Israel literally means, “struggles with God”, taken from Jacob’s wrestling match. God was also a parent to Israel so there is that parallel, and it was interesting to see how this mother/son struggle seemed necessary to get to a greater love.

LECTOR. I'd thank you to leave your symbols to yourself and continue the story.

I continued my travels another mile before stopping at a local tavern named the "Abner's Elbow Room”. It was dusty and quiet and dark, and accurately reflected the image of the bars of my youth, a place almost meditational at this hour of the day for it was just two o’clock in the afternoon. I sat in a stool and asked for a PBR. A man who looked hard on his luck was sitting a couple stools over, nursing what looked to be a plain water.

“Pacing yourself ‘eh?”

“I’m a recovering alchy. Been dry two weeks. Missed the quiet time so I come back for this,” pointing and grimacing at his drink.

I come to find out his name was Bill and bit my tongue in order not to ask “Bill W?”. I asked instead if he’d been to AA and he said he that’s how he’s been dry, although he shouldn’t be here now.

I’d always wondered about the “Higher Power” mentioned at AA meetings. No God who entered history, who died for you personally, no god who gave Himself to eat. Just a “Higher Power”, thin gruel it seemed but it worked. They were changed men which spoke to God’s power but also to the men themselves, men beaten down and given up, who in their misery were more inclined to say uncle to God. Prodigal sons.
A Switzerland in British Attire:
...rather than validating the neoconservative vision, Iraq, a year on, has discredited it. For all America's brilliant show of arms, it seems likely to be another instance of Ferguson's paradox of a mighty America that miscalibrates its attempts to project that power.

The challenge for the United States, especially after our reversals in Iraq, is to model American power to fit the real strengths and limitations of our culture and political experience. The most intriguing passage in Ferguson's book is his discussion of an imperialism that would be an appropriate fit with globalization. I suspect he's wrong in thinking the answers can be found in a centuries-old British tradition. We haven't the stuff for that, as Ferguson says, but we may have the stuff for something else that will suit the world far better. We will surely fail as a modern-day version of Gladstone's Britain, but we may yet succeed as America.
What if you were given an empire but didn't want it? Yes.
Sad commentary on the changes in society from one on the front lines: a teacher.

‘Don’t talk to that weirdo; apparently he’s got a mother and a father.’

(cartoon via UK Spectator)
Local Columnist says 'a pox on both your houses'

The columnist for our local paper whispered sweet nothings today into the ears of political moderates, writing that "When liberals and conservatives meet, they find out what they have in common: They are equally closed-minded."

I'm obviously biased since I'm a conservative, but I'm more skeptical of moderates than he is. I'm thinking that perhaps we should be more open-minded about how virtuous open-mindedness really is. If it's is a good thing in the young it can be embarrassing in adults because it often indicates a lack of principle. In an age where social issues are extremely divisive, liberals and conservatives have at least taken stands that reflect a coherent world view.

Swing voters and moderates are the ones influenced by cheap campaign slogans like "compassionate conservative" and swayed by Kerry's supposed Botox treatments. Not something to be proud of.
Fr. Groeschel

...still writes with humor and grace despite his pain:
As I read through a selection of the mail and e-mails that we receive in response to these daily thoughts from the hospital, I’m amazed at the number of people who speak about the fact that my problem has been the cause of their conversion. I don’t really understand this. If I was shot by the Communists or beaten up by the Klu Klux Klan, I could understand it, but I was hit by a car after buying Mexican food for the two people who were traveling with me. Somehow or other my pain and suffering has been an opportunity for a lot of people to think life over a little more seriously....God will use anything to cause grace, and if he uses my illness to cause grace in the life of others, it’s certainly worth it....Last year I published a book called The Rosary: Chain of Hope. Little did I realize that the Rosary would be my chain of hope this year. When things are going badly or when the darkness of it all settles in on me, I turn to the Rosary. I made a Rosary retreat during the first month of my consciousness while I was on the respirator. It kept me going. I wish I could convince everyone to try the Rosary. Naturally when you first get started, it seems to be boring and repetitive, but if you turn your mind to the mysteries, you will see that it is a great blessing and a great school of spirituality. The Rosary is recommended to us by Our Lady herself and by the saints. I can only tell you that I don’t know where I would be right now if it were not for the Rosary....One of the things about being quite sick and wounded is that you begin to recognize that the rest of the world is much in the same situation and those who are not will be eventually. This is why our ultimate hope and trust must be in God and in Christ, His crucified Son.
How to See Deer
-- by Philip Booth
Forget roadside crossings.
Go nowhere with guns.
Go elsewhere your own way,

lonely and wanting. Or
stay and be early:
next to deep woods

inhabit old orchards.
All clearings promise.
Sunrise is good,

And fog before sun.
Expect nothing always,
find your luck slowly.


things even out. Be
careless of nothing. See
what you see.
Speaking of Oil...

The Derb just linked to this dire forecast of decreasing oil supplies.
Spring Sprang

What bliss to find a night such as last, the front porch our harbor against the sturm and drang! I alit there at 7:15 and savored a cigar, surrounded by books but unwilling to choose so I sat in sublime comfort and watched the trees grow and marveled at the beauty of the light and of the pure variety of planted things in our neighborhood, from griping pines with boughs hung low to sprightly Glendalough ferns and nubile cherries.

Neither the cigar nor my spirit flagged as I sat there for past an hour, just soaking in the splendour of summer and at this new thing that's arrived in my life, this new place to sit, this new place to ponder, this new place to ----

And then came the thunderous roar of a lawn tractor, some beastly hundred decibel maniacal noise that was three houses away but joined me on the porch. After that came our neighbor out with his gas-powered hedge clippers which also clipped my hearing faculties. I went inside briefly and got some ear plugs, and soon I was luxuriating in the fresh-tight prose of "Albion's Seed", lingering amid the foothillian footnotes and white, printless valleys sans twenty-five decibels. Or so it said on the earplug packaging.

History calms and soothes; newspapers lift our finger nails and pierce. I read with great delight of the early American settlers, of their fresh experiment about the 'city upon a hill'. The book itself is new and pristine as America herself then, with accompanying broad margins. My wife joined me and read Business Week and then a book about sled dogs in the Arctic. Soon natural light abated and our porch lamp sufficed; gorged on book and beauty, we went in to suck at the glass teat (watch TV) at a quarter past nine.
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