August 31, 2004

    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I will admit that my heart sank when the story broke as well. Not an unfamiliar feeling these days. I felt a similar sensation when I read about the McFarland divorce and throughout the sex abuse scandal. To be an orthodox, practicing Catholic these days means having a thick skin and a stiff upper lip because, (to quote the novel I just finished reading) 'you ain't got nothing coming'! As a woman I wonder why so many men think with that small organ between their legs instead of the much more intricate and well developed one between their ears! Is it the thrill of getting caught? or is a live-for-the-moment kind of thing? My husband thinks its because these guys aren't busy enough. This from the guy who owns his own business, takes up side jobs, coaches soccer and teaches PSR to 6th graders as well as being a dad to his 5 youngsters and a loving friend and spouse to me. With that much on his plate he obviously doesn't have the time or energy to pursue illicit sexual adventures. Maybe Mr. Pete is right - there's no such thing as a vacuum, something will come up (excuse the pun) to fill the void. - Elena of "My Domestic Church", on the news about Deal

A commenter is concerned that Catholic resettlement will "further marginalize us from those whose souls we are charged with evangelizing". This strikes me as a very Protestant view of the Christian life. I remember hearing a Lutheran sermon in which the pastor said emphatically that the only reason we are living is to evangelize, to be a witness so that others might be saved. Since Christians are already saved, there is nothing left for them to do but "go out into the world and make disciples of all nations". This is a very dangerous idea indeed. How different is the Catholic view! We learn from the Baltimore Catechism that God made man "to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." In other words, our first priority is to become holy and get to Heaven -- to save our own souls and those in our specific charge. - Jeff of "El Camino Real"

As preparatory introduction to the Culture of Death, [I] studied Kubler-Ross's On Death and Dying. I remember the five stages of the dying person (which along with Avogadro's number and the Gaspee incident, are the three things that have stuck with me since then). Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I wonder, do these stages have any parallel/relationship with the commission of mortal sin or repentence? - secret agent man on St. Parish Hall

I suppose that could be even more scandalous, especially when one considers the fact that Christ Himself refuses to let us off the hook when we excuse ourselves with "well, i didn't actually do anything." that sticky point of lust in the heart being equated with actual adultery ... boy, that one smarts. - Smock of Summa Mamas

But, really, I had no time for these higher pursuits. The Catholic aesthetic and the rapine in Sudan could wait. I wanted to know the deal on Deal. I wanted to gorge on gossip...One got a sense of the writer licking his lips with each keystroke. The Bible says that that which has been done in secret will be shouted from the rooftops, but I guess this divine duty has devolved upon the organs of the modern media. Heaven (or hell) can wait...Before running the story, the editors had to confront an obvious truth: this could at the least sorely embarrass Mr. Hudson and at the worst destroy him. And how do you suppose they resolved it? Good, that's what we're trying to do. It's not complicated. - Bill Luse of Apologia

About Rod Dreher and the "Mr. Ives' Christmas" controversy ... I enjoyed "The Power and the Glory", and even though it did contain sexual situations that probably crossed the line of good taste, these were not presented to the reader in the form of literary porn. It was gritty, sure -- but not pornographic. I don't know why it is so hard for people like Mr. Dreher to see the difference. - LeXuan, wife of Jeff Culbreath of "ECR"

Is there not some sort place I can set this cross down for a spell? Or a Walmart where I can return this particular cross?! 'Cause I know that they take exchanges without a receipt. I'd even settle for swapping for a couple of days. A fresh new set of trials and tribulations. It could be a whole new spiritual reality show, "Cross-swapped" or "Extreme Cross Makeover" I pick up your cross and you pick up mine, slap on some rouge and throw in a new appliance from Sears. Sound good? Reread Job ch. 38+. Job's answer to the Lord "Therefore I disown what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." Second thought, I think my cross is a keeper. - SpecialK of Summa Mamas

Men learn to love the women they’re attracted to while women become attracted to the men they love. ..our dear mr. luse posts a lengthy article entitled philosophy on the rocks that has me thinking so hard my head hurts. two words in mr. luse's article immediately caught my attention: philosophy -- which was my minor in college -- and unchastity -- which was my major. - smockmomma of Summa Mama's

I admired Elisabeth. Ross's work very much. Her book was very helpful to me when my favorite uncle and grandfather died within a year of each other and I was going through tremendous grief. Since death WAS her work, I wonder if she looked at her own demise with a little more curiosity and with her researcher's eye. I wonder if all of that made the experience different for her somehow. Although I didn't agree with all of her conclusions, I admired her work with the dying and her importance in the hospice movement. - Elena of "My Domestic Church"

Why have we so demonized alcohol, anyhow? It can be misused, like so many of the other gifts that God has given us. I was at a bris a few weeks ago (long story). The mohel joked that the reason alcohol abuse is so rare among Jewish men is that the first time they taste is they are 8 days old, and that taste is followed immediately by getting circumcised. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"

I think I like characters like the gang in Ocean's Eleven because I have in fact met con men and thieves who had the stuff, and wistfully remember how my Old Man tried so hard, bastard though he was, to measure up to 'em.  As for me and my house, my brothers and I inherited the aspiration, but seem better at the execution.  Consider our chosen professions - the law, sales & marketing, and preaching.  Anyone who's not a bit of a con artist will never make it in those callings. - Thomas of Endlessly Rocking

The Bill Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail -title of Jeff of "Curt Jester" post after news that Gates contributed $400,000 to the campaign backing a California ballot measure that would make billions of dollars available for human embryonic stem cell/cloning research.

'Best of all, you should be on your way about 45 minutes after the procedure.' The question is.....on your way to where? - Ellyn of Obhouse, quoting an advertisement for a new permanent birth control procedure.

I sometimes find that the Catholic Classics fail me, not because they are not good works, but because so few of them come from a time near enough to address the issues I face every day. Yes, they teach immortal principles and should be read for that reason alone. But sometimes it is good to hear a voice, like that of John Paul II who faces what I face today and who gives me some guidance as to how to deal with. For that reason, I do read a variety of spiritual works from all times, not wishing to succumb to chronological snobbery in either sense. - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

The word "no" in a woman's mouth is the most powerful protest in the language. It's what separates the victim from the participant. - Bill Luse of Apologia

Effective today, the Catholic League has a new requirement for all future employees: all candidates must show proof of being immaculately conceived, that is, they must demonstrate that they were conceived without sin. - William Donohue, after NCR's hit piece on Deal Hudson

Angels are in heaven because they take themselves lightly. - GK Chesterton of Heaven
Voice from the Past

Family remembrances will necessarily be minutiae to outsiders, so feel free to move on (dot org - not!). Blogging has a tension in how much to reveal.

My great uncle, who died in '73, was a priest in the Cincinnati diocese. And I listened today to a cassette tape of him practicing a homily to be given at the commencement of a high school graduating class. It was made just nine months before he died. How special to be able to hear a voice from the past! How grateful I am to be able to listen to someone I barely knew growing up and to "flesh out" what was just a distant memory. To hear the way he said certain words, the accent and inflections, and best of all the words themselves which centered on Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life, was inspiring.

I hope it's not too personal to bring up something that occurred in the last year of his life. When a family member told him that she was flouting Humane Vitae, calling it unreasonable, it hit him hard. He grew up in a different era, an era in which the pope was considered infallible by nearly all Catholics. And to hear this was so painful to him that he didn't talk to her for months and stopped visiting. But just a week before he died he visited and was warm and friendly and able to let go not of his orthodoxy, but perhaps his method of dealing with her unorthodoxy? Maybe he came to understand that you catch more flies with honey. He died of a stroke suddenly and without warning and in retrospect the last visit feels providential.

Ran across this site. Isn't "credentialed blogger" an oxymoron?

John McCain gave what will probably be the best speech of the convention, including this line:

I said earlier that the sacrifices in this war will not be shared equally by all Americans. The President is the first to observe, most of the sacrifices fall, as they have before, to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. We may be good citizens, but make no mistake, they are the very best of us.

Ain't that the truth? To extend the metaphor into the religious realm, sacrifices, be they carried out by homeschooling mothers or as priests or nuns or the sick or suffering, are always disproportionate.

McCain also made the case that the Bush Administration should have made from the very start:

After years of failed diplomacy and limited military pressure to restrain Saddam Hussein, President Bush made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq. Those who criticize that decision would have us believe that the choice was between a status quo that was well enough left alone and war. But there was no status quo to be left alone.

The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close. The international consensus that he be kept isolated and unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military action had decided the time had come again to do business with Saddam, despite his near daily attacks on our pilots, and his refusal, until his last day in power, to allow the unrestricted inspection of his arsenal. Our choice wasn’t between a benign status quo and the bloodshed of war.


Rode my bike through a poor neighborhood and saw one of those "little pink houses" that Mellencamp might sing of. Maybe 800-1000 square foot, maybe go for $50,000. And out in their tiny yard was a big "Bush-Cheney" sign, and it was inspiring to me. This was perhaps an example of the working poor not influenced by the class warfare of a John Edwards. They probably pay nothing in federal taxes and so would appear to be voting against their pocketbook by not voting for the party that promises more government services. Whatever your politics, subordinating your financial interests to something greater is a beautiful thing.

August 30, 2004

Belloc Excerpts from The Path To Rome

...politically incorrect back when you could be:
It also showed me something intimate and fundamental about the Germans which Tacitus never understood and which all our historians miss—they are of necessity histrionic. Note I do not say it is a vice of theirs. It is a necessity of theirs, an appetite. They must see themselves on a stage. Whether they do things well or ill, whether it is their excellent army with its ridiculous parade, or their eighteenth-century sans-soucis with avenues and surprises, or their national legends with gods in wigs and strong men in tights, they must be play-actors to be happy and therefore to be efficient; and if I were Lord of Germany, and desired to lead my nation and to be loved by them, I should put great golden feathers on my helmet, I should use rhetorical expressions, spout monologues in public, organize wide cavalry charges at reviews, and move through life generally to the crashing of an orchestra. For by doing this even a vulgar, short, and diseased man, who dabbled in stocks and shares and was led by financiers, could become a hero, and do his nation good.)
... and always humorous
I had marched 378 miles and some three furlongs, or thereabouts. Thus did I break—but by a direct command—the last and dearest of my vows, and as the train rumbled off, I took luxury in the rolling wheels.

I thought of that other medieval and papistical pilgrim hobbling along rather than 'take advantage of any wheeled thing', and I laughed at him. Now if Moroso-Malodoroso or any other Non-Aryan, Antichristian, over-inductive, statistical, brittle-minded man and scientist, sees anything remarkable in one self laughing at another self, let me tell him and all such for their wide-eyed edification and astonishment that I knew a man once that had fifty-six selves (there would have been fifty-seven, but for the poet in him that died young)—he could evolve them at will, and they were very useful to lend to the parish priest when he wished to make up a respectable Procession on Holy-days. And I knew another man that could make himself so tall as to look over the heads of the scientists as a pine-tree looks over grasses, and again so small as to discern very clearly the thick coating or dust of wicked pride that covers them up in a fine impenetrable coat. So much for the moderns.
More Protester Coverage!

I'm protesting the lack of protester coverage. I was saddened to turn on C-Span this morning and see talking heads on Washington Journal. A more fascinating, creative and deluded group we may never see again in our lifetime and all I can do is read about it secondhand. The sheer variety of leftist lies is impressive and oddly compelling. They do spectacle well, and I think given their radicalism they actually help Bush.

I wondered whether there would be counterprotestors and sure enough there are, the authors of counter-signs like this. So what about counter-counterprotestors and counter-counter-counterprotestors? From the Lowrey link:
We passed a group of counter-protesters from the group, who were holding up signs mocking the protesters: "World Workers Party...the last thing we do is work." A guy just ahead of us in the march was covered in green make-up to look like the statue of liberty and was wearing just a robe, with a skeletal, scary-looking set of teeth painted on his face and — for some reason — a little flower in his ear. By any standard, this guy was dressed like a freak. But he stopped us to ask, in scandalized and mystified tones, of the counter-protesters, "Who were those people?"
Ideally the silliness of the extremes (i.e. anyone to the right of me or to the left of Bob Dole) might provide the comedy needed to lessen the tensions of a divided country.

August 29, 2004

Sunday Relearnings

On my way to church today I was listening to NPR* since even conservatives like dulcet tones and a lack of jarring commercials. They mentioned that somebody, whose name slips me now, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I began considering whether that was worse or cancer and determined it was Alzheimer's.

Switch to near the end of the liturgy. A line from a song registered and reminded me of the ride: "we have no fear of evil news". Perfect. That is who we are supposed to be - fearless of evil news like cancer or Alzheimer's. And yet I have to relearn that constantly. The surprise in the spiritual life is this relearning process. I know that 2+2=4 and I know that all things are possible (and bearable) with God, but I have to relearn the latter.

Later in the afternoon I went to an Egyptian Festival at a local Coptic church. They were having church tours and I learned things like the Sunday liturgy was 2-3 hours long and that Copts heavily influenced St. Patrick by way of Egyptian monks transplanted in Gaul. The strange thing was seeing these four white ovals hanging in front of the altar. Turns out they were actual ostrich eggs. Why? Because ostriches apparently watch their eggs with unswerving dedication until they are hatched. This is both a metaphor for how God watches us and how we are to attend the events of the altar. Beautiful.

It was nice also to be among so many folks who looked like they could be terrorists, like the guy at the bookstore who looked like Muhammed Ata, but were in fact sweet Christians. It is good to experience firsthand the universality of the Church. The girl giving the talk was born in Egypt and the nervousness in her voice suggested that this was not without cost, which made it the sweeter since she was doing it for Christ. Her description of the changing of bread into the Body of Christ combined with all the Marian iconography in the church made me feel at home.

I picked up some of the brochures at the information booth. There was the occasional swipe at Rome but it didn't bother me since it was like one beautiful woman pointing out the flaws of another beautiful woman. I'm attracted to the "let mysteries be mysteries" attitude of the Orthodox church. And in the material I picked up there was even a positive, even beautiful, spin on one of the things I've often considered with disdain: free will. From the handout:
The Holy Bible presents God to us as a "Lover" of mankind; for He crowned man with free will as the greatest gift offered to His most beautiful and dearest creature on earth. He granted him authority over everything; thus man invaded space and other planets. God offered man complete freedom so as to accept God as his Beloved, to ignore Him, or even to resist Him. In all this, God tolerates man with love, not to condemn him but rather to attract him as a friend, raising him up to heavens to partake in His glories without forcing or pressing him.

* - National Propaganda Radio
Green Acres Is the Place To Be?

I don't know much about Distributism (it's always sounded utopian to me, plus Belloc & Chesterton wrote contra capitalism at a time when the latter involved child labor and 80-hour weeks, so times have changed) but I found this comment from Peter Westmore compelling:
How can the God-ordained nature of work be realised if neither his hands nor his mind manipulate materials provided to him directly by the Hand of Almighty God according to forms that are derived, through the agency of the human intellect and imagination, from the natural created structure of the world?..As G.K. Chesterton states it, "Now what is the matter with the financial world is that it is a great deal too full of imagination, in the sense of fiction."
But are we blaming the economic system when the culture is at fault? I'm reading As the Romans Do: An American Family's Italian Odyssey by Alan Epstein and I'm struck by how idyllic it all sounds. The Romans put other things before making money. The author provides anecdote after anecdote about how Romans choose family, food, and siestas over the making of money. So it sounds (anecdotally) feasible to have a capitalistic system while not losing our humanity. Still, if Italy is more warm and human it is also culturally dying since population is below replacement. The Distributists see farming as the answer by restoring the way children have been seen since Old Testament days - as assets in every sense:
"The common man in his material life is separated from God, the Cause, and a loss of human happiness and holiness results. Thus, "a man who suplies his own needs is needed." Or rather, a man who sees his needs supplied from God's creation - in the form of spouting seeds and newly-born livestock, and children suckled at the breast - is needed. A society full of machine-dependent men need only to take small steps between thinking of children as cash drains, to children as crises, to abortion as a good...[This] would give way [under Distributism] to God's design of large families comprised of needed children.
Catlicker Novels about Sin

The two big thumbs-up recently (from Amy & a Godspy writer) for Graham Greene's "The Power & the Glory" got me thinking, or what passes thereof. This will probably state the obvious, but books like Greene's can have two effects, one positive and one negative. The positive effect is the message that no one is beyond God's mercy and that we are all broken. Novels can show us our own thoughts, in all their depravity and carnality, but can also show how God can overcome them. The greatness of God is made more dramatic by showing the baseness of man; the redemption of the worse is a message of hope, which is sorely needed these days. The negative effect, of course, is that these novels can induce a sense of complacency, or worse make the sin more attractive in the sinner's mind.

August 28, 2004

Nobody Does It Better

Bill Luse has the perfect send-up on the Hudsonian situation. The whole post is a Murderer's Row of Spanning quotes to which I can only enviously sigh, "I wish I'd written that".

One of my guilty favorites:
"I guess the calm, clear air of those Aristotelian heights doesn't stand a chance against the hot wind generated by an 18 year old belly button staring you in the face."
And oh so painfully true:
"I had no time for these higher pursuits. The Catholic aesthetic and the rapine in Sudan could wait. I wanted to know the deal on Deal."
Bill's description of seeing college aged girls in various stages of sartorial disarray doesn't surprise me except inasmuch as it takes that much these days to excite the interest of college boys. To me, there's almost an evolutionary thing going on - women are growing more blantant in having to attract attention. Reminds me of a John Updike parody I wrote for an Eve Tushnet contest on the farm bill:
Angstrom held the Times with a gathering anger, the serrate-edged pages garlanded with those ads of models, all svelte with their ring-appointed mid-drifts, slices of skin endlessly beguiling and faithful to the long evolutionary line of tricks women have used to overcome a man's fear of rejection, a display designed to marry pistil and stamen. Amid the skin and sex and perfume his attention ratcheted, quite perversely, upon a news item regarding the farm subsidy bill. This was the source of his inchoate anger, and to his Dell he flew, typing furiously into his forgiving, warm, blogger spot: "'Don't have time to link this, but it was in the NY Times today - the bastards passed a $190 billion dollar farm subsidy bill...'"
It takes real spiritual maturity for a middle-aged man to live chastely on the college campus. Or even watching the Olympics? One EWTN priest said for most men sexual sin is the easiest way to fall into mortal sin - "just two beers and a soft-porn R-rated movie away" (presumably because the beer lowers your defense, providing the opportunity for the will to give full consent to lust). TV sports, once a refuge from sexual sin, is now an "aider & abetter". When Jesus equated lust in thoughts with adultery, He gave away my moral high ground.
Olympic Update

I wouldn't walk out to my driveway to pick up the newspaper wearing what some of those Olympic athletes wear in front of an audience of a billion. I assume they're too focused about the competition to think about how much they're showin', but it's close to those dreams where you show up for work wearing your birthday suit. As a friend said, you know exactly what some of the women looked like naked. But even from a utilitarian, functional viewpoint, what's up with the woman's v-ball? Doesn't the sand go places you don't want sand to go? (Okay, ok, it's all for ratings.)

In more positive Olympic news, Australia is the real winner so far (among the top 7) based on this unscientific percentage of medals to population:

Australia 19.3 million = 47 medals = 2.43
Germany = 82 million, 47 medals = .57
Russia = 144 million, 76 medals = .52
France = 60 million, 31 medals = .52
U.S. 290 million = 90 medals = .31
Japan = 127 million, 36 medals = .28
China = 1.2 billion, 58 medals = .048

The Aussies, a nation founded on Irish rebels and criminals sent by Britain during colonial times, has reason to be proud. They also have the reputation for being fun-loving, Foster-drinking and not overly concerned with the life of the mind. It's certainly served them well in Greece.
Field Guide Dog

Pigeon-toed in a field
of Queen Anne’s Lace,
Obi snoutdriven and laced
with white weed whiskers
sings the song of dog-fealties,
tongue side-long’d in praise
of his father’s idea:
a walk thru paradise.
Via Smock & Mama T

Hardback or Paperback (although I mostly buy the latter)
Highlight or Underline
Lewis or Tolkien
E.B. White or A.A. Milne
T.S. Eliot or e.e. cummings
Stephen King or Dean Koontz
Barnes & Noble or Borders
Waldenbooks or B. Dalton
Fantasy or Science Fiction
Horror and Suspense
Bookmark or Dogear
Large Print or Fine Print
Hemingway or Faulkner
Fitzgerald or Steinbeck
Homer or Plato
Geoffrey Chaucer or Edmund Spenser
Pen or Pencil
Looseleaf or Notepad
Alphabetize: By Author or By Title (neither)
Shelve: By Genre/Subject or All Books Together
Dustjacket: Leave it On or Take it Off
Novella or Epic
John Grisham or Scott Turrow
J.K. Rowling or Lemony Snicket
John Irving and John Updike
Salman Rushdie or Don Delillo
Fiction or Non-fiction
Historical Biography or Historical Romance
Reading Pace: A Few Pages per Sitting or Finish at Least a Chapter
Short Story or Creative Non-fiction Essay
Blah Blah Blah and Yada Yada Yada
“It was a dark and stormy night…” or “Once upon a time…”
Books: Buy or Borrow (buy early & often)
Book Reviews or Word of Mouth

August 27, 2004

The New Tom Wolfe Novel

...doesn't look to interesting to me. At least judging by this chapter, which I shouldn't do.
David Mills takes down the NY Times on TPOTC:
Laura M. Holson writes in the mode taken by secular papers from the beginning when writing about The Passion of the Christ: a) assume the movie is an ideological production, by both those who made it and those who watched it, and b) treat its enormous appeal as a matter of marketing and sociology and do not — not not not — admit that the story may have some power and interest on its own.
This is a mindset of many secularists - that all interests can be explained by advertising. The story itself is compelling and the movie is devotional, a video Stations of the Cross that will disappoint anyone watching it for ideological reasons.
Interesting GODSPY article...

...on a writer's faith:
An unbelieving teacher of mine once said: 'I am not a Christian — I hate Christianity, but when I read Flannery O’Connor, for the time that I am reading her, I believe.'

I'm not sure many people think of stories as a means of thinking. We think of stories as entertainment, and we think of them as expressing ideas and values. That is not what the person who will write takes them to be. The fictional process (says John Gardner in The Art of Fiction) is the writer's way of thinking, a special case of the symbolic process by means of which we do all our thinking. Though it's only an analogy, and in some ways misleading, we might say that the elements of fiction are to a writer what numbers are to a mathematician, the main difference being that we handle fictional elements more intuitively than even the subtlest mathematicians handle numbers.

Think how powerful stories are. As a man thinks, so is he, the Scriptures say...I understand how [Leopold] Bloom [in Ulysses] looks at the world from the inside out. If Joyce were alive to write another book in which Bloom figured, I feel as if I might almost be able to predict how Bloom would act—in the same way as I might be willing to predict how an intimate friend would act in a hypothetical situation. The communion we have in friendship breaks down the ego barriers in this way.

I am not sure, however, if we are able to empathize with Christ in the way we can with a merely mortal friend or even a fictional character. Chesterton, I think, said that all heresy begins in psychology, meaning that when we try to see the world from Christ's perspective we are far too inclined to see it through our own, and then validate our own perspective by virtue of this inadequate process. Saint Paul, on the other hand, can teach us much. He recommends that we identify with him as he identifies with Christ. That has always seemed to be part of the saint's own often noted egotism. And yet in this context we can see that Saint Paul was talking about the communion of the saints as a key to the Christian life—the way in which the friends of Christ fill out our imaginations of what it must be like to be Christ's friend.

I found my first vicar of belief when I found the whiskey priest in Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory. As I have said, the intellectual and emotional profile of those around me as I grew up, at least in their representations of what it was like to be a Christian, struck me as alien, impenetrable. When I came to Greene's whiskey priest I breathed a sigh of relief and found, at last, a saint with whom I can identify.
Newman Sermons

Around the office when someone is too cryptic they might hear the response "say more words". That was my response after a taste of Cardinal Newman's sermon notes. It also brings home the (perhaps obvious) fact that he wasn't just an intellectual but a pastor. Can you even imagine him as your parish priest? Your confessor? Hearing his sermons? In these days of weak preaching it boggles the mind.

But I digress. Donna Lewis has an excerpt that makes you wish you heard the whole sermon. Here is a snippet: "Gratitude is even a kind of love, and leads to love. Against hard thoughts of God. Not [being] too proud to admit to ourselves, 'At least He is good to ME.'".

It seems to me we can error on gratitude in two ways: one, seeing others with greater gifts and given being ungrateful for what we have been given, and two, having more than others but being ungrateful out of a sense of undeservedness or because of a failure to be a good steward of them.

One book I've always wanted to read is his "Grammar of Assent". I've never been able to find a cheap used copy, but it is online. Here is an excerpt:
Here we have the solution of the common mistake of supposing that there is a contrariety and antagonism between a dogmatic creed and vital religion...The propositions [of the Creed]... are useful in their dogmatic aspect as ascertaining and making clear for us the truths on which the religious imagination has to rest. Knowledge must ever precede the exercise of the affections. We feel gratitude and love, we feel indignation and dislike, when we have the informations actually put before us which are to kindle those several emotions. We love our parents, as our parents, when we know them to be our parents; we must know concerning God, before we can feel love, fear, hope, or trust towards Him. Devotion must have its objects; those objects, as being supernatural, when not represented to our senses by material symbols, must be set before the mind in propositions... It seems a truism to say, yet it is all that I have been saying, that in religion the imagination and affections should always be under the control of reason. Theology may stand as a substantive science, though it be without the life of religion; but religion cannot maintain its ground at all without theology. Sentiment, whether imaginative or emotional, falls back upon the intellect for its stay, when sense cannot be called into exercise; and it is in this way that devotion falls back upon dogma.
Ne'er Old Till Heimer...

Received three more Nigerian scam emails. It's getting old. We had a co-worker named "Heimer" and I tend to share his tendency to beat dead horses. We had a saying that "it's never old till Heimer says it" which, by definition, never got old since Heimer never said it.

The three emails differed in the sum of the untapped funds. One was for 15 million, one 30 million, and one for 47 million. All are careful to specify the denomination as U.S. dollars, lest we think it's Confederate money or Guinea pesos. Two want to give me 30%, the other doesn't specify.

The Nigerian scam writing genre could use a bit more creativity, imho. My take on the scammers is that if everyone replies to them their inboxes would crash. Towards that goal I offered this reply:
Hallo Chide John!

Iô ouk oid' hopôs humin apistêsai me chrê, saphei de muthôi pan hoper proschrêizete peusesthe: kaitoi kai legous' theossuton cheimôna kai diaphthoran morphês, hothen schetliai proseptato. aiei gar opseis ennuchoi pôleumenai es parthenônas tous emous parêgoroun leioisi muthois ô meg' eudaimon korê, ti partheneuei daron, exon soi gamou tuchein megistou; gar himerou belei pros tethalptai kai sunairesthai Kuprin thelei: FOURTY-SEVEN MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS(US$47M)? Su d', ô pai, mê polaktisêis lechos FIFTY-SEVEN MILLION? (U.S. opseis). Al' exelthe pros Lernês bathun leimôna, but boustaseis te pros patros, hôs an to Dion omma lôphêsêi pothou.

Leioisi muthois ô meg' eudaimon korê Reserve Bank of South Africa eoikotes ômophagoisi e-mail nêusin pesseuonto, 30%. aiei gar opseis 35%?

-kaitoi, TSO

August 26, 2004

Iris Review

  Interesting Amy Schneider review in Gilbert magazine of Iris, about English writer/philosopher Iris Murdoch and her husband:
The key to the film... is hinted at in something one of the characters says in Murdoch’s 1961 novel A Severed Head. “In almost every marriage there is a selfish and an unselfish partner.”

It is vital to understand that the Iris we see in every scene of this picture is never shown except from the perspective of her adoring husband. Iris is always center stage; every scene is about her and her painfully evident self-centeredness. Well, she’s a genius, isn’t she? And there in the background, or in the audience, or on the sidelines, we see John. He sees Iris clearly, inflated ego and all. He has no illusions about her. He simply loves her. His is that unconditional love we hear of so constantly, and so seldom ever see.

It is John who watches in growing dismay as his beloved Iris slides into the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease. It is he whose memory is jogged back to their younger days by these horrific events in the present. What happened when these two first met, for instance? For Iris, nothing happened. For John it was an earthquake. They court or date or whatever it was called in their circle. Iris is casual; John is buffeted between joy and despair. Iris seduces John. She is by no means faithful to him, however, and that he does not complain reveals rather than hides the depths of his hurt.

Iris loves John in her own way, but her own way is “free.” Chesterton called free love a contradiction in terms: by its very nature love seeks to bind. Iris Murdoch never understood this. John Bayley did. He bound himself to Iris knowing that she would never, by her own will, be bound to him. And then the day came when her will had nothing to do with it, when her will retreated to places her intellect could no longer understand or express. John Bayley, watching that slow retreat, realizes that at last she will be his.

“Where are those others now?” he shouts at her in a moment of angry frustration.“I have you now, don’t I?” And then the movie asks its big questions: Does he still want her now? Is it possible to love someone who doesn’t know who she is or where she is? And are we really loving her, or only the shadow, the memory of her? And lastly, is it possible that this person with her mind in a fog might love you back.
Good thread on joy here.
The Grey Lady's Slip is Showing

Hilarious - from NRO's Nordlinger:
Readers of conservative material know that we have long had an interest in the obits of Communists published in the New York Times. Why? Because they're hilarious — outrageous and hilarious. The Times is ever reluctant to call a Communist a Communist. We're apt to hear that the deceased had "strong beliefs," or "unpopular opinions," or maybe even "radical politics." But the Times will seldom blurt out the raw truth. They might call the guy a "victim of McCarthyism" or something — and then savvy readers will have to infer all the rest.

Well, the Times published what ought to be a classic obit the other day, of Elmer Bernstein, the composer...This is what the Times wrote: "His career was sidetracked in 1950 for five years because he considered himself a Communist."

Don't you love it? Because he considered himself a Communist! I note and make fun of this because I consider myself a conservative anti-Communist who knows when a sometimes-great newspaper is acting foolishly.
We Like Beer

Somewhere it's Tuesday?:

...[C.S.] Lewis [drank] beer at the Eagle and Child pub on Tuesday mornings. Not only is beer a Taoist-like drink that enables the drinker to obtain a small amount of inebriation that shrinks the self and enables the objective goodness of things to shine through the soul, but the Tuesday morning gatherings at the pub were good and Lewis, a man of the Tao, was able to see it and take it in.

To the average man, Tuesday morning drinking sessions are outrageous. Tuesday, after all, is a far cry from the weekend, the “proper” time for drinking. Tuesday morning drinking interferes with one’s pursuits and ambitions; morning beer makes you drowsy; spending time in a tavern in the morning takes away some of the most productive hours of the day.

But Lewis didn’t care because he didn’t care about ambition and the efficient use of time. The Tuesday morning beer sessions were good. His friends were good. The beer was good.
Enjoyed this also from Eric Scheske:
I'm thinking about becoming an alcoholic. Beer and wine are my favorites, so I'll drink a lot of them. I don't like hard liquor, but I'll drink it if that what it takes to realize my ambition. Unlike some people out there who want things handed to them, I'm willing to work and am dedicated to achieving my goals.

I have little doubt that alcoholism is a good career move. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers can't take adverse employment action against a reformed alcoholic based on his alcoholism.
Art credit
The Pope & Realpolitik

This looks interesting (found via Collected Miscellany). Book blurbs include:
This is a very valuable book. There are many treatments of the various aspects of John Paul II's philosophy, but very few that study the application of his philosophy to practical political thinking on the international scale, as does this one. Drawing on a thorough knowledge of John Paul II's philosophy, of which he gives a fine initial exposition, and a wide reading in contemporary political theory, the author shows the profound practical relevance of the pope's central ideas on the dignity of the individual person, the necessity of taking into account spiritual values and not just material and economic ones in making political decisions, and the guiding ideals of a family of nations and a civilization based on concern for the common human good rather than a competition of power centers. Yet he is critical of the consistency of the pope's application of these ideals to certain difficult cases, such as humanitarian intervention in another country.--W. Norris Clarke, S.J., Fordham University

For those unfamiliar with the influence of Scheler on the thought of John Paul II, this book is a welcome introduction. However, Jeffreys also helpfully puts his account of the pope's moral and political thought in conversation with the realist school of international relations. No doubt some will challenge his account of realism, but at the very least he has begun a conversation that needs to take place.--Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

August 25, 2004

Econ 101

Provocative thoughts on economic issues.
Dealing With It

One punishing aspect of all the Deal Hudson coverage is dealing with the rampant wordplay on his first name, a veritable Hudson river of punnery not seen since the last Scott Hahn book.
The Therese Film!

"A lot of people aren't going to sit down and study doctrine or read theology, but they will be inspired by seeing God work in her life. I know that's what inspires me." Link here. Coming out October 1st.

Been pondering Steven's post, specifically Willard's line "As this revolution culminates, all the forces of evil know to mankind will be defeated and the goodness of God will be known, accepted, and joyously conformed to in every aspect of human life. He has chosen to accomplish this win and, in part, through his students."

In a recent conversation I was told that no one can look at the face (metaphorically-speaking) of God and reject him because he is so beautiful. And I certainly believe that is true. So my response was "so are people who reject God rejecting a false notion of God?" to which he replied, "No, God reveals just enough of himself and gives enough nudges to make a rejection meaningful."

I've also been thinking about Christ's words, "my yoke is easy and my burden is light" in light of Fr. Joe's comment to Tony Hendra that "the whole point of the mystical path to God is that it's arduous. That's why it's often called the Way of the Cross. It takes years of dedication, hard work, and discipline, with few rewards. There are no shortcuts. Certainly not the coup de foudre you're looking for. We leave that to the holy rollers. The trouble with being a holy roller is, it's wonderful at the time, but what do you do the next day - and the day after that?"

I suppose the answer to the paradox between the ease of the yoke and the arduousness of the path is Mother Teresa's words: "I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy, I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy."
Remembering George Sheehan

This'll probably be minutiae to most but I liked reading marathoner & philosopher George Sheehan in Runner's World years ago. Just came across some of his essays online:

On family ...On running & religion...On the importance of play...and on heroism:
"George Sheehan," one critic has said, "is a legend in his own mind." Of course I am. So is the shingler. You should be, too. Each one of us must be his or her own hero. Our highest human need is to be a hero; we are here to lead a heroic life. When we cease to be heroic, we no longer truly exist. A.E. Housman describes that condition well: "Runners whom renown outran? And the name died before the man." What fame, you ask? The only true fame, I say-the inner celebration of self. Heroism is ever available to each of us. Through ordinary experiences, the ordinary person can become extraordinary. Life boils down to finding the best means of expressing heroism; each of us needs to find our own personal arena, our true talent, our gift, our vocation. We all must be heroic, but in our own way. That way can include shingling a roof or running an hour on a sultry summer's day.
Clinton & Hudson?

Those who see the world through a liberal lens want to equate Deal Hudson with Bill Clinton. I'm not buying that dog food.

Clinton's problem was the cover-up (just ask Dick Nixon) and Clinton's "impeachable moment" was not the sex but the perjury. The chief law enforcer of the country showing a contempt for the law is newsworthy. A thrice-removed Presidential advisor engaging in a grave sin is not.

Second, not all public figures are created equal. We don't seem to be very good at drawing distinctions these days are we? Not all public figures should be held to the same level of scruntiny and accountability. Clinton was leader of the free world and, not to diminish Deal, but he's a spectacularly marginal figure in the big scheme of things. We are increasingly defining the term "public figure" down. I think it's silly to think the character of the guy who tells Bush's chief of staff which Catholic cardinal to visit, or that pro-life issues are important to Catholics, matters, except with respect to his own immortal soul and the Body of Christ.

At this rate, hit-man politics will soon reach the shores of - yes - blogdom. If Mark Shea started getting too influential then what's to stop NCR from hitting him? As was said of the Nazi's: 'First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat, so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left to stand up for me.' Do we really want NCR snooping into our backgrounds?

August 24, 2004

    Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Deal Posts

Dr. Deal Hudson got a raw "deal" from the National Catholic Reporter. And later this week, I'm going to spend $24.95 and subscribe to Dr. Hudson's magazine, just as a protest. If you want to do the same, check out Crisis magazine's Subscription Services link. (I get no commission for this.) As I said, I'm not a Roman Catholic, but I know a mugging when I see one. - Mark Kellner of

All I ask is that you spend at least as much time praying for Deal Hudson as you do commenting about him. May God have mercy on him and on all of us. - Patrick Madrid

Way on the other end are those who some of us, for one reason or another, look to for some kind of wisdom or witness or inspiration. It's different for all of us. For me, it tends to be writers. Graham Greene has prompted me to reflect very deeply of various issues of faith, but his life is not something for me to emulate. We could multiply that example by the dozens, uncovering lots of people who, from the midst of messy lives, somehow, in some small way, and certainly incompletely and sometimes even paradoxically, witness to the love of God and the truth of faith. - Amy Welborn

Among the grave injuries done to the Church in the United States through imprudence in the years following the Second Vatican Council is the distrust, among those reacting against that imprudence, of compassion and love as motives. As someone commented below: "I am also sick of charity being used as an excuse to cover up, if not ignore, the doctrines and dogmas of the church. This is the approach that has been used since the late 60s, it is time we see it has not worked, and has led millions upon millions of souls astray." This seems to be where we are. One generation called ignoring the teachings of the Church "charity"; the next generation regards expressions of charity with suspicion. If we don't pay attention to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church in order to produce compassionate hearts, though, why do we pay attention? - Tom of Disputations

The "logical pressure" of Christian division ended up "distancing theology from its sources of cogency, vigor and cognitive power," whether they be Scripture or the Creeds or the Sacraments, because these sources could not by themselves distinguish between the true and false churches. Perhaps we see the same "logical pressure" in discussions WITHIN our now polarized Church, resulting in an unrelenting focus on what we do not share in common and how to distinguish ourselves from those who must be condemned. Thus the endless parade of imperfect Roman Catholics and the neverending game of Musical Judgment Seats. And our 'notes' are those familiar neologisms: orthodox, conservative, traditionalist, liberal, progressive. The prognosis is, I would say, rather grim. - Neil on Tom's blog, concerning the effect of the Reformation on theology

I am beside myself with joy! I have just been pointed toward this site, put together by the Contemporary Christiam Evangelistic Library, which is a licensed copy of The Persecutor, ONLINE! I have posted several excerpts from this book on here--in all honesty, I think it's my all-time favorite autobiography (sorry, St. Therese. :-( ). - Kathy the Carmelite? *grin*

I'm a recovering alcoholic, and I *do* take the Cup at Mass. It has never tempted me to relapse. In fact, I'm often lost in wonder that what was once a means of death to me is now a channel of grace and life. - commenter on Mark Shea's blog

A few years ago, Crisis magazine published a glowing review of "Mr. Ives' Christmas", a virtually pornographic novel written by Oscar Hijuelos. (I read most of the book but tossed it aside in disgust before finishing it.) I don't remember who wrote the review, but the book would have easily earned a place on the Index in years past. I think this is what Al might be getting at with respect to the neo-conservative's (including Crisis and Deal Hudson) embrace of a thoroughly decadent popular culture. If I know that a certain person believes "Mr. Ives' Christmas" is a great Catholic novel, I will be less surprised to hear about him doing what Deal Hudson is alleged to have done. There is a connection. - Jeff Culbreath on Amy's blog

My friends all think that I am mad because I am making my own copy of Uncle Gilbert's Orthodoxy by hand. We live in an age of flatbed scanners and printers, they tell me, and I don't have to use stone-age technology like notebooks and pens. Sigh! Obviously, none of them was ever a child who daydreamed about being a monk....Anyway, until Kiwis discover the greatness of Uncle Gilbert and start stocking their bookstores accordingly, I'll be transcribing away, as happy as a monk. - Sancta Sanctis

Lord, have mercy on me and bless them. This simple prayer is proof that you do not have to "feel" the prayer. You simply must be willing to say it, however grudgingly. Considering the circumstances that lead up to it, I always am upset and irritated whenever I say it. Do I actually want those annoying people to be blessed? Hmph, I should say not! (At least I don't feel as if I do, although I am going to the effort of saying the prayer...) In fact, yesterday I was shaking with anger when I suddenly realized that prayer was running over and over in my head. But it is the classic case of "ask and you shall receive." Whenever I say it, I never fail to be reminded of my many imperfections, my pride, and that we are all sinners together. Often that is just what I need to calm down and let my anger go. - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

This is just part and parcel of the erroneous idea that if "men were just like women wouldn't the world be a lovelier place" that *some* women and certainly the media have picked up on. And it's part of the devastating trend toward completely uncommitted men, in my opinion. Who wants to be committed to someone who is going to treat you like either a servant or another child? Smock and I have talked about this issue. We like men. We like men who aren't Alan Alda types. We like men who AREN'T like women. We want our hubbies to be who THEY are, in all their God-given maleness. Who in her right mind wants to be married to the functional equivalent of another girl??... Sure, does it make it difficult to understand sometimes? Yeah. But there is nothing like the perspective that PapaC can give me when I'm all upset about something. He's got that "cut to the chase, let's fix the problem" mentality that kicks me out of the emotional uproar. I think men in general, and husbands in particular, are the most under-appreciated resource in the universe. - MamaT. God bless Texas, and God bless Smock & MamaT

I was listening to a rerun of Raymond Arroyo interviewing Joseph Pearce about his recent biography of Oscar Wilde, and a line struck me. God granted Wilde the mercy of a deathbed conversion after a lifetime of sin and of flirting with the Church. Yes, there is hope. Hope, like faith and love, are not feelings but actions. We are commanded to have faith, to love, and to hope. That doesn't mean we can sit on our fannies and wait for the Deus ex machina - God made us for a purpose, and we have to get moving. But sometimes the most efficacious action is a seeming non-action - intense and continuous prayer. - Alicia on ECR

My position, obviously, is that Catholicism (if not each individual Catholic) is both poetic and philosophical, and rightly so. The trick is to present both story and reason in a way that isn't entirely ad hoc and self-serving. It's a trick I've by no means mastered myself, but I think it has to be based on one of the assumptions any attempt at a logos has to make: that the world is intelligible to humans. - Tom of Disputations

The National "Catholic" Reporter is supposed to be, well, Catholic. Indeed, to hear the Reporter tell it, they are far more deeply Catholic than any of those Awful Right-Wingers who practice the politics of personal destruction. But viewed from a Catholic rather than a purely journalistic perspective, I can see no justification whatsoever for the piece they ran. None.The Left, like the Right, is quite capable of showing that for it too, the most scandalous and repulsive teaching in the whole corpus Catholic moral doctrine is the shocking affirmation, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." The editorial staff of the Reporter manifestly believes in no such thing. They believe in exposure, destruction, shame and humiliation of a penitent member of the Body of Christ if that member holds political views with which they do not agree...Eggs must be broken to make the omelette of a Kerry Presidency and to see the establishment of the Correct Kind of Church here in America. Despicable. - Mark Shea

The hypocrisy of this [National Catholic Reporter] article on the heels of the McGreevey scandal is staggering! McGreevey's positives went UP 2 points after his "confession". - commenter on Catholic Answers forum
Dealing with Forgiveness

I would never have had the brass to be so publically Catholic after what Mr. Hudson did. But I'm starting to see that not as a good thing and less a sign of humility than a misunderestimating of God's grace as George Bush might say.
What else does it mean that our past sins as far from us as "East is from the West", as it says in Scripture, if not that they have completely vanished? God is said to have "forgotten" our sins, which means that when he sees Deal Hudson writing an essay contra adultery, He has forgotten that's what Deal did. There is a freedom in forgiveness. You can write with a clear conscience it seems to me.

Like most of us, his strength is also his weakness. He sinned boldly, but the other side of the sword is his boldness in the culture wars. Yes, you can have the latter without the former, but it seems to me we who are more timid in publically standing up for our Faith should be forgiving towards him. God did.
Let's Play...

Why's My Bookbag So Heavy? seen on Steven Riddle's blog

I need me one of these bookmovers. The one on the left I meant.

I'm reading Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle for reasons unclear, finding it oddly compelling despite the suspicion that translated works lose their lyricism. I was about a third of the way through Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and it (the dialect?) began to cloy somehow. It's difficult to find fiction I really like but I recognize the need of it given a "surfeit of journalism" (and politics).

I am surprised at just how good Ralph Wood's Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South is. There are so many things I could quote from there, which is a downside of blogging because I think: "I should copy that down for the blog" instead of just enjoying it on my own. For example, novelist Mary McCarthy is quoted saying. "only good people can afford to be religious. For others, it is too great a temptation - a temptation to the deadly sins of pride, anger, chiefly, but one might also add sloth."

Next up is St. Thomas with The Summa Theologica. It is almost impossible to put down because of its arrangement into questions and answers, points and counterpoints. Very hard to disengage since it's not one long prose stream but broken into bite-sized pieces. I stayed up long into last night reading about sloth. I'd like to give more time to St. Augustine: I haven't read much of City of God, which I suppose is his Summa. Nor have I read enough of either to determine if I'm more Augustinian or Thomist. Amy Welborn and Fr. Groeschel are Augustinians, Flannery O'Connor & Tom of Disputations more Thomist.
Writing Tips from a Nigerian Scammer

I received two mint-new Nigerian scammer offers out of the blue. What I like about scam emails is that in order to convince they need to be good. This is writing that must elicit action. There's probably some sort of theiving meritocracy here: good scam writers are "rewarded" with more fools parting with their money. After so many years of scams the letters you receive are now finely-honed, so let's tease out the first two paragraphs:

"Dear Sir, Firstly, I introduce myself as Mr. G.Annan, from Bukina faso living and working in Burkina Faso under Annan chambers with branches in most of other African countries. I am writing, following the impressive information about you through one of my friends who runs a consultancy firm in your country. He assured me of your capability and reliability to champion this business opportunity.

We discovered an abandoned sum of U.S 15 m dollars (fifteen million USD) belonging to one of our late client by name Authur Bills from China who died four years ago in a plane crash together with his entire family living behind his contract sum unclaimed in our bank. According to one of the banking policies which stipulate that after three to four years of unclaimed fund, the fund will automatically go into the treasury of the bank..."

Already we have distant locales, the bread and butter of good travel writing: Burkina Faso - wherever that is - and China. We want to read on because Otherness is fetching. The phrase "abandoned sum" suggests a treasure hunt, appealing to the Robert Louis Stevenson in all of us. He sets the mood: get ready for Adventure. But lest you think it be too much adventure, the passive "unclaimed" reminds you it's just lying there. But he adds a timer lest you grow complacent - the treasure will eventually disappear and the bank will be the beneficiary (echoes of Cinderella & her midnight deadline).

The moniker "Arthur Bills" combines the patrician "Arthur" with the perhaps a tad too obvious "Bills". This is arguably overkill. The writer wants to tell us that the guy had money, but how many Arthur Bills' are there in China? Might I suggest "Arthur Yen"? In his defense I will say that the Western mind wants a Western name in here somewhere since too much foreignness might scare him away. I'll let the reader decide.

The tragic plot twist of a plane crash adds to our interest, as well as the personal flattery of my "impressiveness" since people like to receive compliments. The writer is other-directed; we can see that he's interested in things, locations and people outside himself, though regrettably for dishonest purposes.

The rest of the letter gets bogged down in the details of who gets what, percentages, etc...but he figures if you've read that far you no longer care about exotic locales or subplots like how Mr. Bills made his money or even flattery. There is no surprise twist at the end, no "the butler did it!" moment. This is arguably one of the chief defects of the Nigerian scam-writing genre and prevents it from gaining the notice of the Nobel committee.

August 23, 2004

Mom & Me & Vatican II

I received a catalog from Roman Catholic Books in which was a prominent ad for an anti-Vatican II book which included the word "blarney", as in "don't believe the blarney...(of the benefits of the Council)". Which reminded me of how last year, visiting my parents, I played the traditionalist because I liked the chutzpah it takes for a post-Vatican II baby to lecture pre-Vatican II folk on the real truth. And because I must like arguing. I told my mother "at least we can agree on the reverence of the Latin Mass" and she reluctantly agreed though she said that no one paid much attention to the Mass because it was in Latin and only the altar boys knew Latin. Everyone else just said a rosary or said prayers out of their prayer book.

I grimaced and moved on, since this seemed an unpromising field to hoe. I said, "how do you explain how bad things are now compared to the way things were before the Council?". And she had a ready reply that I didn't expect - she said that Protestants were much better before the Council too, at least as measured by divorce rates and crime and other indicators.

It appears that it was the culture that swamped the Church and I've suspected that one way to have avoided the culture's devasting influence was not to blame the Council but to have avoided affluence. Affluence brought us the suburbs, which brought us out of our Catholic ghetto and into the larger culture. When JFK became president and Catholics were perceived as acceptable, we seemed to lose our way. We became influenced by the culture instead of influencing the culture. And the cost has been enormous.

But back to the Latin Mass. I do have a soft spot for those who think a return would make more saints. I catch a glimpse of that sometimes in the Byzantine liturgy when I wonder the same thing...
Defending Deal

Alicia has a fine post here. Also came across this GK Chesterton quote: always urged against the religious in the past, as a point of inconsistency and duplicity, that they combined a profession of almost crawling humility with a keen struggle for earthly success and considerable triumph in attaining it. It is felt as a piece of humbug, that a man should be very punctilious in calling himself a miserable sinner, and also very punctilious in calling himself King of France. But the truth is that there is no more conscious inconsistency between the humility of a Christian and the rapacity of a Christian than there is between the humility of a lover and the rapacity of a lover. The truth is that there are no things for which men will make such herculean efforts as the things of which they know they are unworthy.
My Advice to Al Sadr

From here: "...members of the Mahdi army still control the mosque and portions of the vast, adjacent cemetery. (Within the mosque is the ancient tomb of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, a cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed.)"

Al Sadr could take the old hiding-in-the-mosque trick one step farther by hiding in the tomb of Talib. Think of the outrage Al-Jeezera could muster if an American or even an Iraqi in league with Americans came near the bones of a cousin of Mohammed? This was supposed to be a joke, but seeing it written out it sadly seems plausible.
Spanning the NY Times

The Times has the useful 25 Most Emailed Articles, but the quality has deteriorated greatly during this political season since every third link is "This Just In - Bush Is Satan!" So I was pleasantly suprised to find some interesting articles today:

What Would Henry David think? is a story about how Thoreau would view our fascination with trivia. Another link concerns the Japanese discovery of depression, and the most shocking story of all is this pro-Bush man bites dog'r.

Meanwhile, did you ever wonder (hep me, I'm becoming Andy Rooney) why so many award-winning children's books are so unredemptive? From Laura Miller:
Her curiosity plunges Feinberg into the contemporary genre of young adult (Y.A.) ''problem novels,'' the bane of her son's existence. These books describe, with spare realism, child and teenage protagonists weathering abuse, addiction, parental abandonment or fecklessness, mental illness, pregnancy, suicide, violence, prostitution or self-mutilation -- and often a combination of the above. ''Teachers love them,'' the local librarian explains as Feinberg scans a shelf of such titles. ''They win all the awards.''

[Feinberg] sees the memoirlike problem novels as symptoms of ''the drastic fall from grace that the imagination has suffered in popular understanding'' and her generation's insistence on ''making our children wake from the dream of their childhoods.'' Adults, she suspects, secretly resent the sheltered, enchanted world children inhabit and under the pretext of preparing them for life's inevitable difficulties, want to rub their noses in traumas they may never actually experience and often aren't yet able to comprehend. All the better to turn them into miniature grown-ups, little troupers girded to face a world where they have no one to count on but themselves.
Now that's depressing.
I Resemble that Remark

Bad news for Toms, although it's a matter of trivia to me now (I sniff).

Link via Hambone, who, pretending to be liberal and enlightened under the sobriquet "Richard Beach" writes that he can't quite live up to his lefty ideals:
I've got a dilemma. As a sworn imbiber of liberal enlightenism (A "bright" and proud of it), I want to jump on board the class warfare that Kerry, who's just following the party line, engages in when he talks about taxing the rich.

But I can't.

I can't because I know that rich people are a "symptom" of economic health, and I like the standard of living that economic health brings.

When a leftist talks to me about the ideals of their party - small gap between rich and poor, ultra-clean air, and free health-care for all - I always get an image of a small Third World village where there are no evil rich, the air is clean because there is no industry, and the health-care is pro bono compliments of the local shaman or missionary doctor. You get all of that...along with a laundry list of negatives that you can well imagine without me spelling them out.

Who would campaign for that way of life?
To Write Or Not To Write: That is the Question

Whether tis better to write
and expose to yourself
unclaimed, unticketed thoughts
unwanted luggage circling
and risk in the expose
reinforcement of the negative.
Or whether tis better to be writeless
to not give negativity the airtime
to praise in the teeth of it -
that is my question.

Comfort food for ears, on “Amish in the City”

Penn-Dutch kids lapse into
fetschsome German talk
and it strikes Hefe-Weizen chords
und Schneee found Geld
flow-syllables and guttural Gs
the shock of partial recognition
like womb-talk.

August 22, 2004

Letters From Flannery O'Connor - Excerpts
Whoever was responsible for that editorial on John Updike's novel, Rabbit Run, should be confined for a while... If you get a chance you might like to look at that book. It is true that the sex in it is laid on too heavy. It is so burdensome that you want to skip those parts from sheer boredom; but the fact is, that the book is the product of a real religious consciousness. It is the best book illustrating damnation that has come along in a great while.

I feel that you are distracted, particularly when you say, for instance, that it is B.'s writing that interests you considerably more than he does. This is certainly not so, no matter how good a writer he gets to be, or how silly he gets to be himself. The human comes before the art. You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit.

As between me and Greene there is a difference of fictions certainly and probably a difference of theological emphasis as well. If Greene created an old lady, she would be sour through and through and if you dropped her, she would break, but if you dropped my old lady, she'd bounce back at you, screaming "Jesus loves me!" I think the basis of the way I see is comic regardless of what I do with it; Greene's is something else...
Following up...

...on that last post. That committed Christians can "sin boldly" in dramatic Jimmy Swaggart-fashion is always possible of course. And I wondered what role fear or anxiety has in preventing sin. The line to find is between being neither too comfortable or too uncomfortable. Hans Von Balthasar on the subject of anxiety:
...But from here it is only a small step to the anxiety experienced by the "righteous" man who, again and again failing, falling away, or lulling himself in false security, is led by God to the utmost brink of anxiety, so that he might pray himself back, with greater awareness and gratitude, into the midst of hope.
To the subjective inability to distinguish, in a state of anxiety, between one's own guilt and God's testing is joined an objective dialectic (which will later be Kafka's starting point): on the one hand, between Job's friend and accusers, who bring out the inevitability of guilt, and the sufferer, who protests his innocence; on the other hand, within Job himself, between God's own declaration of Job's guilt, which is incomprehensible to him in his anxiety...

Yet all these anxieties...are subsumed and rendered unimportant by the anxiety of the Redeemer himself, which signifies the difference between the anxiety of the Old and that of the New Covenant, a difference that is unique yet revalues everything.

August 21, 2004

What Went Wrong?

So went the title of Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis's book on the Islamic world. Perhaps there ought to be a similar book for what went wrong in the Church with regard to the virtue of chastity. Under the category "too much information" falls a sad piece in NCR with revelations concerning a convert who works for Crisis magazine. I wish he'd write a book about how he overcame that problem, assuming he has. Although I suspect the answer is simply to admit helplessness and ask for God's grace.

The problem of unchastity has rocked the American church with the priestly scandal and a great public service would be for someone to figure out what works, since the 50's solution of repression* arguably didn't, nor obviously feeling a bit too - at ease? comfortable? - with one's sexuality, as perhaps some who fall are.

This is a delicate subject and I'm not sure I should write about it at all, but the revelation is not all that surprising in hindsight. College professors surely find themselves sorely tempted. And it seems the very way he found God and the Church - through beauty - might've also been the path that led to grave sin. His unabashed appreciation for art and rejection of puritanism was appealing, but the unspoken assumption was that sex was part of that appreciation but was neither repressed, nor expressed outside of marriage. I (naively) thought that mainlining Catholic novelists, as he did, helped inculcate a proper view of sexuality.

Of course I understand that he is forgiven and that this should in no way taint him (just as no one thinks less of St. Augustine because of his past) but I think looking for ways to prevent or explain lapses is a good thing, as Martha might say.
* - Since I wasn't around for the 50s, I'm coming by this second hand: via my older and wiser pastor, via anecdotal evidence in the painful books of Frank McCourt, and also via Fr. Groeschel, who mentions this in the beginning of "The Courage to be Chaste".

August 20, 2004

Various & Sundry

Saw the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's and the lesson seems not that a “true phony” is better than a “fake phony” or that petty theft at Five & Dimes is good. It seems to be the folly in refusing to be owned, as Holly Golightly did until the end, a refusal that ironically imprisoned her. In an act of pique she set her cat free (named “cat” to ensure futher detachment) but her precious distance fell upon itself when she realized that to refuse to be owned (or loved) is to miss the whole boat.

The music of Chrissie Hynde and the Pretender’s has always resonated with me. The yearning and longing in her songs is a truth of the human condition. The opening to “Back in the Chain Gang” seems to be one of cheerful resignation, a sentiment I’d always associated with St. Thomas the Apostle when he said “let us go and die with Him”. Rarely does a song so well express the happy-go-luckiness of the already dead going about their Father’s business.

Her song “Brass in Pocket” is a pluperfect one of personal affirmation despite appearances: that every human is indeed special, if only because God says so. In this world most of us are average in every department except the only one that matters: God’s. While this, like most rock songs, can hardly be taken as Christian, the underlying tone can be seen as one of a yearning for God, to be requited in fullness only at the end of our lives, just as Abraham’s faith bore fruit only in his last days and just as Christ suffered death before his Resurrection. Much of the bible can be summed this way: that love for God will not go unrequited. The Christian can thus be comfortable with yearning.

Sitting on the front porch and the rain is falling hard, a cold stiletto rain I experienced the hard way. Retreating under the cover of the porch’s overhang I appreciated our house anew and how it is, at its most basic, protection from storm. Inside the house rain goes unnoticed but here on the porch the home’s service is marveled at.

August 19, 2004

Appreciating Hooligans

On the long drive today I had a flashback to the Dublin Irishfest, when Hambone & I were listening to the Hooligans, America's finest Irish band.

It's a conceit of mine that we've made ourselves so vocally conspicuous that the Hooligans recognize us for who we are - their greatest fans. We have their two CDs but never listen to them since the live concert is the thing. The CDs are merely an insurance policy, a death benefit you long never to collect. The peak moment is when they sing "Finnegan's Wake" with the lyrics "Mrs. Finnegan called for lunch..." to which we respond hoarsely, in loco Mrs.Finneganis, "lunch!". When that happens the Hooligans look at us with beatific smiles yards wide, and the sheer delightful silliness of it all is on the order of a child's but hey, even now, two weeks later, it prompts a smile. So there you go.

The Hooligans are old and fat weight-challenged and that contributes to the scarcity principle - every performance could be their last, at least as an intact group. They are our hometown Hibernian secret which success would surely spoil. The group Gaelic Storm was discovered by the producer of Titanic and every subsequent CD has declined while their star has inexplicably ascended.

I'm impressed by just how sublimely unattractive a candidate John Kerry is. The Democrats have done their level best to alienate Midwest & Southern voters and George Bush has only himself to blame if he loses. I'm politically conservative so he wasn't going to win my vote anyway. But my mom's vote was in play because she loathed the war. One of the coveted Ohio swing voters up for bids - but she's fervently anti-Kerry. Bad Dems, bad!

The latest statement that induced headscratching was Kerry's suggestion that we return to our tradition of fighting wars only when we have to, not when we want to. This redefines the word "tradition" since we've not been in the habit of fighting wars only when we have to. It might be a good policy, but it wasn't operative during the Mexican War, the Spanish-American War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War or the Bosnian conflict.

Most are saying that it'll come down to the debates and it's hard to imagine Kerry fumbling too badly given that he's a seasoned pro at that sort of thing and given that he's more articulate than Bush. Still I can dream...

Top Four Ways Kerry Could Fail in the Debates

1) Inexplicably lapses into French
2) Mentions that he served in the Senate too, not just the military
3) Obfuscates previous obfuscations by nuancing previous nuances.
4) Waves a bottle of Heinz before the camera and says his wife made him do it.

August 17, 2004

Blog Forecast

Blogging will be light to nonexistent for Wed & Thurs since I'll be traveling. In the meantime here's an interesting Ratzinger quote (excuse the redundancy of 'interesting Ratzinger quote'):
In the course of history, Turkey has always represented a different continent. Making the two continents identical would be a mistake. It would mean a loss of richness, the disappearance of the cultural to the benefit of economics.
Personally I wouldn't mind a loss of religious cultural diversity to the extent that would mean the disappearance of Islam in favor of Christianity...
A-Doin' Their Job

I must've missed the notice but apparently today was the weekly fund raiser for the Columbus PD. I saw three cruisers doing the radar thing within eight miles of each other. They gotta eat too.

Splendid driving conditions also make for good fund raising because Central Ohioans get lead-footed when especially good weather comes their way. I escaped notice but then these cops weren't even trying to camo themselves - they were sitting on the shoulder of a flat, straight stretch of road. Any tickets they write could only be considered a taxation of the oblivious or the blind. Which seems unfair to oblivious and blind people. Where's the ACLU?

It reminds me of a song. Guitarist/country songwriter Junior Brown has a funny ode to the highway patrolman:
Highway Patrol
by Junior Brown

I got a star on my car and one on my chest,
A gun on my hip and the right to arrest
I'm the guy who's the boss on this highway
So watch out what you're doin' when you're drivin' my way
If you break the law, you'll hear from me, I know
I'm a-workin' for the state, I'm The Highway Patrol

I'm the highway patrol, the highway patrol,
My hours are long, and my pay is low
But I'll do my best to keep you driving slow
I'm just a-doin' my job, I'm The Highway Patrol

If your drivin' to fast like you shouldn't do,
You can bet your boots, I'm comin' after you
If you wanna race then get on a race track,
'Cause if you try and run away I'm gonna bring ya back
I'm here to keep all the speeders driving slow
I'm just a-doin' my job, I'm The Highway Patrol
The Conflict Between Poetry & Conflict

From Mark Shea.

August 16, 2004

The Pope at Lourdes
The Pope, who on Saturday - the first of his two days at Lourdes - appeared briefly to lose his balance while kneeling down at Bernadette's cave, made a rare reference to his state of health at the start of the Rosary prayer. "I feel with emotion that I have reached the end of my pilgrimage," he said, and was seen to shed tears.

The Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls talked down the significance of the sentence. "The Pope is showing his emotion over this pilgrimage to Lourdes which he has been looking forward to for a long time.''

But many see the Pope's visit to Lourdes - only his second trip outside Italy this year - as a symbolic farewell on Earth to the Virgin Mary whose hand he believes saved his life when a Turkish would-be assassin shot him in May 1981.
Blame it on Mr. Core

I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. Donna Marie Lewis referred to my quote of her Newman quote. Suggested here so I can't be held completely responsible.
Sheepish, he wrote

I feel a bit sheepish. Last year, in an ad hominen to my Protestant interlocutor I said “no one who believes in Predestination believes they are not among the elect.” Smugly, I wrote.

But last night I read this, from Fischer’s “Albion’s Seed”, about the Puritans:
The Puritans of Massachusetts shared [a] feeling of insecurity in an exaggerated degree because of their theology. Their Calvinist faith was one of the most harsh and painful creeds that believing Christians have ever inflicted upon themselves. One New Englander described this dark philosophy as a “bitter pill in a chestnut burr.” The fabled “Five Points” of New England’s Calvinist orthodoxy insisted that the natural condition of humanity was total depravity, that salvation was beyond mortal striving, that grace was predestined only for a few, that most mortals were condemned to suffer eternal damnation…The people of Massachusetts were trained by their ministers never to be entirely confident of their salvation. From childhood, they were taught to believe that a sense of certainty about salvation was one of the surest signs that one was not saved.
So I feel understandly sheepish.

Relatedly, I came across this from Fr. Eckert of the EWTN Q&A forum: must continue to be on guard throughout life--though not paranoid--in order to keep from falling away or failing in the life of Christ. Unfortunately, many Christians have been influenced by figures of the past such as Martin Luther, who tormented himself with the conviction that even with baptism and the sacrament of reconciliation and in the state of grace, he was still ontologically unworthy to be in the presence of God. His solution was to create a theology in which we are all unworthy and remain such even after baptism; however, by a juridical declaration of God we are reckoned as justified and saved--no matter what we do, once we have professed faith in Christ. As the Catholic Church teaches, we do not merit sanctifying grace but once given it in baptism, we do merit heaven by the presence of such grace within us. However, we can never know for certain in this lifetime whether we are in a state of grace, and so we are urged to avoid the extremes of presumption and despair with regards to our own salvation. Now that is a biblical approach to this matter!

August 15, 2004

A Downside of the Coming Republican Convention.. that prominent speakers will include Schwarzneggar & Guiliani. And they aren't supporting Bush (and possibly taint, by association, their own hagiographies) for their health. They're going to want to their chits cashed but there are few chits to give pro-choice Republicans imho. A test for Bushies is to remain true to this pro-life principles post-election.
John Allen's Word from Rome

...column seemed awfully negative toward the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Even in the 4th century St. Augustine was proposing something like it when he said that all have sinned, "except the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom, for the honor of the Lord, I wish no question to be raised at all, when we are treating of sins. After all, how do we know what greater degree of grace for a complete victory over sin was conferred on her who merited to conceive and bring forth Him Who all admit was without sin."
Initial Thoughts on Fr. Joe

Reading Father Joe this weekend and I can certainly understand its bestseller status. Tony Hendra can flat out write and doesn’t lard the book with unnecessary asides. Everything in it is breathless forward progress, and the story of his near Benedictine vocation is agonizing and heart-breaking. In the end it was the theatre that did it. And humor. He writes: “Save the world through prayer? I don’t think so. I was going to save it through laughter.” The use of the personal pronoun is instructive; the notion of a collaboration with God apparently gone. But it saddened me because Christians have a reputation for dourness it's a shame that humor and prayer are so often seen as either/or.

The thrilling part of the book is Father Joe’s merciful trust. Trust in God. Trust in Tony Hendra. Fr Joe's favorite writers were those who inspired rather than systematized and that was greatly attractive to Hendra. He loved Dame Julian and The Cloud of Unknowing and the passionate Meister Eckhart while running from the “adamantine desert fathers”. One can see in Father Joe a combination of humor and joy and sanctity that was so elusive both for his other monks, who were mostly humorless though saintly, and for Hendra, who was more humorous than saintly.

Another riveting part was his discussion of art. “Here’s my problem, Father Joe: if art describes the way things are in the world, not the way things should be – and the more memorably the better – isn’t that, well, celebrating evil and sin?...Does God like art? Does art like God? Is it a substitute for God?”

Hendra takes on Waugh and other Christian writers: “I didn’t find the Catholic writers other than Greene much help in these concerns. I’d read Waugh’s Vile Bodies and The Loved One, which were cruel and hilarious; not much Christian charity going on there, and the less there was, the funnier. Eliot I worshipped, but my favorite poems (“Prufrock,” “The Waste Land”) were devastating compassion-free commentaries on desperate humanity – who presumably would not have been desperate if they’d found God.”

Apropos of nothing, Hendra adds long rants against Reagan but I see this as a price of doing business when reading “really smart guys's” books. They loathe conservativism, which is why William F. Buckley was such an oddity. Reading the NY Times is a similar case – you could forgive the bias because of the comprehensiveness and beauty of the writing at least until recently when quality declined and bias inclined.

I’m about 2/3rds and will say more about this remarkable book when I’m finished.
Weak on Merit

The thing about taking a long weekend is you totally lose the scarcity principle with respect to time. So there’s absolutely no sacrifice involved in anything, not in doing something extra for your spouse or in taking time to help out someone. There’s no cost because you know you’re going to get to watch your movie or read your book or take the long forest hike. It’s like someone who's much more friendly when they're drinking - it’s the liquor talkin'.

And so there’s a falseness about vacation time because it’s so easy and it feels like a dead time as far as spiritual strides (other than during prayer). If something would normally get on your nerves but it doesn’t because you’re on vacation, then that has nothing to do with grace.

August 14, 2004

Cardinal Newman..

...had an apt way of putting things, even in his sermon notes:
I said last week that no one can be saved without love of God. This the awful truth.

In fact this is plain, but considering the state of the case—the immortal soul—how tired it will get of everything in eternity, except of something which is infinite. God in Himself a world; His attributes infinite.

Yet how can we love Him? See how much against our nature it is. We take delight in things of the world, etc., etc., in science, in literature, etc. These are our aims; but to love God is an aim above our nature.

Granted it is so. However, God does not command impossibilities. Therefore He gives us grace to raise us above our nature. Even angels need grace.
Can you guess who posted this?
Random Thoughts

I've long appreciated oxymorons, but when I saw someone at the local mart buying a welcome mat that read "Go Away", I had to shake my head.

A utilitarian notion of life has long turned me off since it reeks of “I am what I produce”. It is also essentially anti-art since art is naturally superfluous. But age sets a trajectory towards utilitarianism since we're on earth to do good and have such a short time. Heard the song “Y-M-C-A” on the radio and for the first time it occured to me: ‘it’s not addressed to me!’ I’m not the “young man” the singer kept mentioning...(plus I'm too straight).

The sheer shock of your words having impact is an oddity on the order of creation itself. Given the differences between taste and palate, it’s a wonder anybody overcomes distances with words. For fragile symbols employed meaningfully to cause even momentary gratitude is an astonishing thing and something to be cherished.