September 30, 2004

The Wane of Summer

Sitting on his sun-dimpled back porch, Quinn noticed that every few yards floss-strands bridged random objects.

"Lots of spiders this summer. What accounts?" he asked his wife Laurie.

"Don't know. It's been wet. More grub for them?"

"They do eat worse bugs. But I don't likes the looks of them. Plus they're always in the way with the web shit," he complained.

"Well, by definition they're thriving only because they're eating. Do they like mosquito larvae? That would make you happy."

"I guess...but at some point you have to wonder when the lesser of two evils becomes evil."

"I know you don't mean Bush & Kerry."

"Right. I was thinking more of spiders and non-spiders. Not everything is a metaphor. Would you like some wine?"


Quinn's friend Eric Schall had the endearing habit of constantly worrying about what he would do in hypothetical moral situations, often so hypothetical as to make a Peroutka presidency seem likely by comparison.

"What would happen," Eric once said, "if I was in a hotel room, alone on business, and it's 2 am and I'm wakened out of a dream and a naked girl is at the door and she says she wants to have sex with me?"

"I'd say that you hadn't wakened from that dream."

"No, seriously, would I remain faithful to my wife?"

Eric and Quinn shared a concern for wanting assurance they would pass the ultimate test as if that would ensure fidelity in smaller matters. Their epitaphs could read: "Ready for red martyrdom but not to let go of the remote." It rarely occurred to them that perhaps obedience in the smaller matters ensured obedience to the larger.
Rubber Neckin'

Watching Elena and JCecil go at it is entertaining even though the outcome is never in doubt: they will not change each other's minds. There is futility and then there is "infinite futility", a metaphysical futility, and that is what is on display here.

I'm fascinated by how these two seek each other out. Far from avoiding each other they are like magnets, a regular Carville & Matalin. I was surprised to learn that progressives read her blog but shouldn't have given Walker Percy's line that "liberals and conservatives need each other...what would they do without the other?"

I was watching George McGovern on C-Span the other night. And, surprisingly, he said, "I don`t put conservatism in as one of the evils. I don`t want conservatism to disappear. I respect it." He said the genius of the American experiment is this dynamic tension between conservatism and liberalism. Like pressure producing diamonds.

It's hard to see this genius where the social issues are concerned. The extremism shown by the Democrat party on abortion appears to be hurting the party. But that very fact - as is typically the case - only tends to make people more stubborn in the defense of their cause. Slavery in the 1820s was seen by Southerners as morally neutral. By 1860 it was seen as a positive good. We're already starting to see that replayed today with the "I Had An Abortion" t-shirts and in the NY Times columnist who wrote with glee about not having to shop at Costco (by killing two of her triplets).
But Isn't That Like One Potato Chip?

News from the beer hall:
Trevithick said the study shows that drinking one bottle of beer a day reduces your chances of contracting cataracts or atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries caused by the buildup of plaque) by 50 per cent.

You and I might think that if drinking one beer a day can help you live longer, then drinking five will help you live forever. (This is also why you and I are not scientists.)

In fact, the study showed that drinking two bottles of beer a day is not as healthy as drinking one bottle a day, because it reduces the risk of various aging diseases by only 10 per cent.

And the bad news is that drinking three bottles of beer a day actually causes the blood to become pro-oxidant and increases the risk of such diseases 30 to 40 per cent.
Long Distance Dedication

The importance of prayer can scarcely be overemphasized, but it's easy to think no one's on the other end of the line. Jeff Miller recently recommended "Prayer Primer:Igniting a Fire Within" by Thomas DuBay, who eschews prayer techniques; here are some excerpts from "The Great Means of Salvation" from St. Alphonsus Liguori:
And although sometimes, when we are in a state of aridity, or disturbed by some fault we have committed, we perhaps do not feel while praying that sensible confidence which we would wish to experience, yet, for all this, let us force ourselves to pray, and to pray without ceasing; for God will not neglect to hear us. Nay, rather he will hear us more readily; because we shall then pray with more distrust of ourselves; and confiding only in the goodness and faithfulness of God, who has promised to hear the man who prays to him. Oh, how God is pleased in the time of our tribulations, of our fears, and of our temptations, to see us hope against hope!

But on what, a man will say, am I to found this certain confidence of obtaining what I ask? On what? On the promise made by Jesus Christ: 'Ask, and you shall receive.' "Who will fear to be deceived, when the truth promises?" says St. Augustine...Certainly God would not have exhorted us to ask him for favors, if he had not determined to grant them; but this is the very thing to which he exhorts us so strongly, and which is repeated so often in the Scriptures--pray, ask, seek, and you shall obtain what you desire: 'Whatever you will, seek and it shall be done to you."

..That prayer is the only ordinary means of receiving divine gifts is more distinctly proved by St. Thomas, where he says, that whatever graces God has from all eternity determined to give us, he will only give them if we pray for them.

"God commands not impossibilities, but by commanding he suggests you to do what you can, to ask for what is beyond your strength; and he helps you, that you may be able." - St. Augustine

St. Chrysostom says that the only time when God is angry with us is when we neglect to ask him for his gifts: 'He is only angry when we do not pray.'

God wills us to be saved; but for our greater good, he wills us to be saved as conquerors. While, therefore, we remain here, we have to live in continual warfare; and if we should be saved, we have to fight and conquer.

September 29, 2004

Yes, but...

This sounds all very well and true but the blogger comes at it from a nakedly capitalist point o' view.

A woman friend from the group I go on vacation trips with recently produced a beautiful scrapbook of the past decade or so of vacational experiences. It is quite an artistic production and is far removed from the scrapbooks of my youth when they consisted of photos and birthday cards mounted with those black corner thingies that fell off after a year or two.

Triplogs in this blog are in some sense the text equivalent of scrapbooks and European vacation slides but a blog gives the opportunity to read or not to read. It's hard to stay awake through Aunt Betty's slides but you can accept her book or blog without a qualm. And perhaps even enjoy it.

Part of the beauty of books is the atoms-on-paper experience, the very materiality of it. Blogs are ephemeral and deservedly so. But we waste paper on photographs of the Eiffel Tower despite having access to more beautiful pictures taken by professionals, so why shouldn't we waste paper and leave behind a text equivalent? Don't answer that. *grin*

But scrapbooks and photos differ from writing, painting and music. My tendency to label leads me to distaste (including self-distaste) for amateurs in the arts. This was brought home when I learned that Regis Philbin has a CD out Regis Sings the Standards. (Wouldn't Regis Sings the Blues be funny?) He might be a fine singer, but I'd already boxed him in as, well, Regis. I saw a TV commercial advertising it and I kept thinking it a spoof. Shame on me.
On the Feast of the Angels
I have a special devotion to my Guardian Angel. Probably like all children, during my childhood I would often pray: "Angel of God, my guardian, be always with me...always stand ready to help me, guard my soul and my body..." My Guardian Angel knows what I am doing. My faith in him, in his protective presence, continues to grow deeper and deeper. Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, Saint Raphael - these are the archangels I frequently invoke during prayer.
- Pope John Paul II, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way
Voters Say

It's interesting to see what plays with voters and what doesn't. If many folks choose the lesser of two evils, then it's interesting to consider which evils are lesser, like in a game of rock-scissors-paper. Below are reputations - I'm not saying I agree with them, merely they suggest some conventional wisdom (winners in bold):

2004 Election
Man of conviction who lacks prudence VERSUS Flip-flopper with no core convictions

2000 Election
Liar, or at least fibber/exaggerator VERSUS Dumb Guy

1996 Election
Slick womanizer VERSUS Older Guy With No Plan for Future

1992 Election
Slick womanizer VERSUS Patrician Who Reneged on "No New Taxes" and offered no plan for the future

Perhaps the common thing is that voters frown on candidates who give off the odor of simply wanting to be President to tool around in Air Force One and to improve the ol' resume. Bush-43, Reagan & Clinton were all capable of giving off an altruistic scent. Bob Dole and Bush Sr. found that the noblesse oblige thing didn't cut it. The right and left want action. Taxes cut or "free" health care. No caretaker presidents, please. Caretakers appear, rightly or wrongly, to be in it for themselves because they lack a burning desire to improve things.

The reason Kerry is behind is not because he's an egregious flip-flopper but because the flip-flopping is a symptom of a larger problem: that he simply gives off this odor of "this is not about you, the voter, it's about me since I want to take advantage of a weakened president and live at 1600 Penn Ave...". At his convention the whole Vietnam thing didn't play well because it was all about him and not the voter. I think it was Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic strategist, who said that people want to know what "you'll do for them". The role of government has morphed over the years to become a substitute mother to whom we look to for aid and comfort.
Let's play...

Why is My Book Bag So Heavy?

I have book envy. I'm envious of Steven Riddle's latest reads: Tolstoy, Stinnisen, and Nicolson's God's Secretaries. Hopefully his meaty list will inspire improvement in my lackluster one, which most prominently includes Pete Rose's Pete Rose: My Prison Without Bars. The ol' lefthander Joe Nuxhall has a book coming out so I'm backlogged with baseball books. But they be like cotton candy - oh so tasty.

Every five years I make it to the local mall (this time to rent a tux) and I came across a bookstore with the Pope's new Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way prominently displayed. I felt it incumbent to reward the bookseller for his good taste and so I purchased a copy and am enjoying it so far. Of course, the Pope could probably write about snail darters and I'd be transfixed.

Other books who have made the cut but haven't been read much lately are:
  • Jefferson Davis biography I've been reading in ten page increments for three years. We're finally at Fort Sumter.
  • The Great Means of Salvation by St. Alphonsus Ligouri
  • Bruno's Dream by Iris Murdoch
  • Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love by Thomas Keating
  • Stalin : The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore
  • September 28, 2004


    Today's saint is Lawrence Ruiz and I was struck by the juxtaposition of his story with the the first reading from today's Mass, from the Book of Job.

    Understandably, Job is wearing down quickly now. All the natural props of wife and children and wealth have been taken away. He has nothing in the bank, literally and figuratively. He says, "Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?"

    I read that passage shortly after finishing Theroux's "Dark Star Safari" in which the author paints an Africa that is hideous in its poverty, crime and filth. Some living there probably ask Job's question. Africans often pray for terrible natural disasters because that brings the attention of the West and more aid.

    But then we have the cheerier story of St. Lawrence, who was tortured and killed. And I'm not being facetious. "St. Lawrence was a devoted husband and father of three children in the Philipines during the seventeenth century. After he was unjustly accused of murder, he fled with Christian missionaries to Japan where he was tortured for the faith and died professing: 'I shall die for God, and for him I would give many thousands of lives if I had them.'"

    It's as if St. Lawrence has the new Wine of grace and Job had only the old wineskin of the Law (though the new wine was outside time; there are OT figures possessing it such as the young men thrown into the furnace). The early Christian martyrs, if the stories are not apocryphal or hagiographical (admittedly a big if) embrace their deaths seemingly without pain and certainly without complaint.

    I suppose we should pray that we know the exhilaration of St. Lawrence in our infinitessimally smaller crosses.
    Why So Many on the British Left...

      ..."are prepared to make some sort of common cause with hardline Islam":
    “We must always remember the Western radical intellectual’s wish to identify with the world’s rising and most frightening power. Coleridge spoke of Napoleon’s British admirers possessing a ‘prostration of the soul’. But British Napoleonists differed from British Stalinists, and were similar to today’s Muslamists in one respect. They did not want the foreign power to rule Britain. Byron said that Napoleon was his hero ‘on the Continent; I don’t want him here’. Those feminist columnists and academics — proclaiming Islam’s great past — do not want to have to go veiled in their native Camden Town or Islington. Their game is to use Islam to demoralise Western bourgeois life.” - Frank Johnson in the London Spectator
        Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    "There are three influences which appear to Us to have the chief place in effecting this downgrade movement of society. These are-first, the distaste for a simple and labourious life; secondly, repugnance to suffering of any kind; thirdly, the forgetfulness of the future life." - Pope Leo XIII... Remedies: Dislike of Poverty - The Joyful Mysteries, Repugnance to Suffering-The Sorrowful Mysteries, Forgetfulness of the Future -The Glorious Mysteries - Mary of Ever New quoting Pope Leo's diagnosis & remedies

    Our kids like to call my wife's womb Babytown, and each current occupant is given the title Mayor of Babytown. It's good, I think, that each new child is welcomed not as a competitor or burden, but as the exalted and honored leader of their native place. - Bill of Summa Minutiae

    Tonight my husband and I debated whether one needs to wear pants while praying. My position: no. His position, "You don't have to wear pants, but it helps."- Zorak of E-Pression

    God has made us for delight. One of the signs of this is summer. Another is children. Still another is fall...We'll be over on the Olympic peninsula and the weather is supposed to be beautiful: a crisp cool Indian summer tinged with Autumn just as as ripening apples burn from green to red. Upshot #1: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! - Mark Shea

    The Pope regrets the war in Iraq. President Bush regrets it as well. However, where is there a statement from the Pope which condemns the United States for conducting an unjust war, or a statement even discussing the doctrine's application to the war? I'll stipulate that many Cardinals have condemned the United States. It's a difficult situation for a just war blogger because of the anti-war groupthink among Catholic bloggers that have concluded that because other anti-war Catholic bloggers discuss the war as if everyone knew the war was declared unjust. - Patrick of Extreme Catholic

    I absolutely despise most magazines aimed at Christian Women. Especially the couple that I have seen aimed at Catholic Women....Every single woman writing in those magazines apparently has perfect children who say their prayers on cue. They live in immaculate houses. They spend time with their husbands praying and discussing their feelings. They bake bread from scratch, or grind their own wheat, or know the best kinds of non-white-sugar-sweetners that you can buy at the health food store. And they never, ever, EVER watch any of that nasty old television. In fact, they've taken their televisions out of their living rooms and have turned them into planters. Inadequate. Makes me feel completely inadequate. And not in a way that makes me want to "improve myself." The kind that makes me kick the magazine into the trash and watch Fear Factor on TV. I told a friend once that if I ever wrote an article for a Catholic magazine, it would have to start with these words: I live in a house covered in white dog hair. Catchy opening, huh? But at least maybe some other woman, struggling to make it through a day would nod and think, "Yeah. Me too." - MamaT of Summa Mamas

    You know, in the past few days I've read a lot about how blogs are revolutionizing the media, or something like that. Apparently, we bloggers are forcing a seismic shift in the way 'big media' goes about it's business. I have to admit that I was, at first, skeptical of this claim. However, after writing this post, I see that I am indeed on the crest of a cultural tsunami. It feels great, if a little vertiginous, to participate in such a revolution. - Thomas of ER, written tongue-in-cheek within a post offering a recipe for eggs benedict

    Kangaroo courts are killer courts, and their ultimate victim is civilization itself. Defend life! Defend Terri! In doing so, you are defending the noblest ideals of our once great nation. - Earl Appleby of Life Matters

    Jeff Culbreath has been discussing Catholic Communities on his blog for a couple of weeks, where Catholic Families buy property and live together in a community. It sounds good in theory but I'm not sure I would want to live there. My sister and her family lived next door to me for a year or so and it was awful!! Not at all what I expected and instead of bringing us closer together, it drove a wedge between us. I like the alcoholic handyman that lives there now. We barely speak and we have nothing in common. It's perfect. About 15 years ago or so, there was a community in my town of very devout Catholics who sort of tried out this experiment. They moved into the same part of town, they went to the same church, they had meetings etc. But then it started to get kind of cultish. Leaders of the group, I am told, started to pressure people to live their lives in a certain way above and beyond the call of Catholicism. Like women were encouraged to wear skirts and dresses only. No slacks. The men were told to leave the diaper changing etc to the wives because they were the spiritual leaders not the childcare givers, arranged marriages within the group. Weird stuff like that. - Elena of My Domestic Church, who receives this week's 'honesty in blogging' award (MamaT a close runner-up)

    The enlightened class obviously does not understand Catholic teachings about many things, nor does it wish to, and it gives itself license to trash those teachings. Ellen Goodman thinks the Vatican needs a hearing aid because the pope does not listen to her, not that she needs to listen. If consecrated virginity, or the required use of wheaten bread, were beliefs of a Native American tribe, the enlightened class would be very severe in cautioning us to respect precisely what we do not understand and to learn from it.... - James Hitchcock, via Donna Marie Lewis 

    Mr. Hudson's exemplary conduct in the face of a revelation that should have remained a private matter, has inspired me...We are all sinners. He owes me no apology. The persons deserving an apology long-ago received one--he owed me nothing except a visit to the confessional, which I will believe he did as a matter of course. -Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

    I had a discussion with a friend about what books it is acceptable to read on the loo: we agreed that the Bible is out, but hagiography is okay on the whole. - berenike commenting on zorak's blog

    I have a very difficult day facing me Tuesday, and again I ask for your prayers of support and friendship. You don't have to go out of your way, just do me the kindness of saying "...and for Chris" at the end as you offer your intentions to Our Lord prior to your regular prayers. I'm not sure what God has in mind with all this, but I am placing all my trust in His hands. - Chris of Maine Catholic's last post, written over five months ago
    New Yorker review of Graham Greene bio

    I learned more about Graham Greene from this:
    As he once explained to a journalist, “I have often tried in my work to show the mercy of God. You cannot show it by portraying only virtuous people; what good is mercy to the virtuous? It is in the drunken priests that you can see mercy working. And I call that optimism. But they call it Greeneland, as though it bore no relation to the real world. And yet, one is simply trying to describe the real world as accurately as one sees it.”...He once quoted a line of Browning as a suitable epigraph for all his novels: “Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things. / The honest thief, the tender murderer, / The superstitious atheist.”

    ...his failings as a Christian were his virtues as a novelist, because the novelist’s dedication is to humanity, not divinity. If man truly is made in God’s image, then the distance between the two poles may not be as great as Greene thought.
    This reminded me of a letter Chesterton wrote to his friend the atheist H.G. Wells. Wells said if there is a God he hoped Chesterton could get him in to Heaven. Chesterton said that if Wells got there it would be on the literary/humanitarian contributions he'd made to mankind. I always thought that was surpassingly generous of Chesterton. (Link via Amy Welborn.)
    It's extremely unlikely that we have too great a detachment from this world, but here is Pope Leo XIII's refutation of that:
    Our future hope is not of a kind which so monopolizes the minds of men as to withdraw their attention from the interests of this life. Christ commands us, it is true, to seek the Kingdom of God, and in the first place, but not in such a manner as to neglect all things else. For, the use of the goods of the present life, and the righteous enjoyment which they furnish, may serve both to strengthen virtue and to reward it. The splendour and beauty of our earthly habitation, by which human society is ennobled, may mirror the splendour and beauty of our dwelling which is above. Therein we see nothing that is not worthy of the reason of man and of the wisdom of God. For the same God who is the Author of Nature is the Author of Grace, and He willed not that one should collide or conflict with the other, but that they should act in friendly alliance, so that under the leadership of both we may the more easily arrive at that immortal happiness for which we mortal men were created.
    Source here (Link via Mary @ Evernew.)

    September 27, 2004

    William F. Buckley on Hurricane Charley & Faith
    So how explain devotion to a God who permitted Charley? Over 70 years ago, two thoughtful British intellectuals exchanged views on basic Christian questions. One of them, Ronald Knox, was a Catholic priest, a convert, who would soon embark on a retranslation of the entire Bible. The second, Arnold Lunn, was an adventurer, a mountaineer, a philosopher who was seeking his way to Christianity through the rubble of Christian history. The published exchange — Knox the learned evangelist, Lunn the obdurate skeptic — threatened at one point to abort. "I think the point of our difference may be expressed thus," said Knox. "You will not go with me to worship a God who is limited by nothing outside Himself, because you do not think that He exists. And I will not go with you to worship a God who is limited by anything outside Himself, because I do not care a rap whether He exists or not."

    Knox was saying: If you are preparing to worship a God who doesn't have the authority to tame a hurricane, your God is not grand enough for me to venerate. A few years after their famous exchange, Lunn inscribed himself as a Christian.

    What the Christian cannot do is adduce a reason for everything that happens. A rabbi told me many years ago that after he discovered the Holocaust, he gave up his religion. A God who permits the Holocaust to happen is not a God that rabbi wished to worship.

    There was no answer to the rabbi, unless one is bent on composing a ledger that ends up with God doing more good things than bad. Fr. George Tyrrell wrote early in the 20th century that human beings could not be expected to love God, but rather to aspire to love him. To love the God who devised Charley would require the discovery of an intersection between what Charley has done, and the blessings it would some day be conceded to have brought on.

    That is too big a job for most Christians to take on. The best a Christian can do is to take refuge in what we have called the Butler Escape. Bishop Joseph Butler, 18th-century theologian, conceded that "the world would be different if I had created it." Yes, in the world you and I would have created, we'd have done without all those things, hurricanes and holocausts and hate and envy and spite and . . . gratitude?
    Brookhiser on Alexander Hamilton:
    Russell Kirk's grudging account of Hamilton in The Conservative Mind set the tone for conservative minds. Kirk saw Hamilton as a sorcerer's apprentice, who, by encouraging the growth of manufacturing and cities, uncorked the genies of mass politics and change. Kirk also, inconsistently, thought Hamilton was a 17th-century mercantilist. Libertarians suspect Hamilton as the big-government man among the founders. Free traders dislike him as a patron of protection — a mild patron: He supported subsidies for new industries only, which is anathema to pure free trade, but a long way from Bismarck. What militates most against Hamilton is the cult of Jefferson, the anti-statist southern agrarian, for it was Jefferson who said that Hamilton's career had been "a tissue of machinations against the liberty of the country."

    Some of this criticism is true; anyone in search of a perfect father among the founders (or in life) will be disappointed. But why does Hamilton deserve a second look? One large, though seldom acknowledged, factor in the great game of historical favorites is personality. One must know Jefferson and James Madison well to dislike them, but dislike them one inevitably does (wisdom comes when we recover our admiration)...Three aspects of Hamilton's career claim the attention of conservatives.

    First is what put him in George Washington's cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury — his understanding of debt and finance. America emerged from its revolution encumbered by a load of debt, unable even to make the interest payments.

    A second subject Hamilton understood was the world. He knew it was a dangerous place, and that the United States would have to back diplomacy with military might. Hamilton's experience of the Revolution underlay this insight. Many of the great founders — Adams, Jefferson, Madison, the aged Franklin — served as political leaders or diplomats. Hamilton fought.

    A third Hamilton trait that claims our attention is his legal thinking; Hamilton's day job, when he was not fighting or running the Treasury, was lawyering. John Marshall, the great Chief Justice, is the father of judicial review. But Marshall said that, next to Hamilton, he felt like a candle by the sun at noon. Hamilton is the grandfather of judicial review.
    Attack of the Killer Yard Signs

    Ever since Tim Russert said "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio" on his little show Ohioans have taken their role in the '04 election with great seriousness.

    This has most obviously shown itself by a superabundance of yard signs and bumper stickers. Kerry & Edwards have the most, presumably because much of the Left thinks the world can be saved through politics instead of through Christ. But all the Kerry signs and bumperstickers have created a bit of a backlash and I see more Bush signs now than a month ago.

    It's a bit of theater of absurd, isn't it? Yard signs don't convey convincing argumentation, so it's an act of faith that someone is actually swayed by one. Let's listen in on one swing voter's thoughts: "Well, now since there are 3.2 Kerry signs for every 2 Bush signs I'm going to have to go with Kerry".

    I understand that humans are pack animals and that everyone wants to be on the winning sign side, so I guess that 'splains it.
    The Wedding

    Went to the Big Wedding this weekend, my stepson’s grand affair. Weddings are inspiring, the triumph of hope over experience, and the vows said by the bride & groom remind all married couples that they said similar things even if they don’t remember them due to numbness and nervousness.

    An hour before the wedding I was talking to a friend of my wife’s parents. I recalled meeting “Ted” a few years ago; he was an opinionated retiree who spent his days pleasantly in Orlando watching the History channel. He knows more about Hitler than anyone and recommended a book on the WWII & the Holocaust he is currently reading. My father-in-law said he was anti-Bush, so I thought I’d ask why. Now we know that could only lead to trouble but politics looms o’er the landscape like a Ty Rex. And I had magnaminously decided that good reasons for voting against Bush were the war and jobs, so I didn’t think he’d say anything that could provoke irritation. Wrong.

    Turns out a year or two ago he saw an IQ test among presidents and Bush finished last. Clinton was numero uno and Carter number 2. Hence, he became a Democrat. Now I could've just said Hitler had a high IQ too but good lines elude me in the moment. Instead I said that that was false, just an internet ruse. He didn’t believe me of course. I said, “I sure hope you’re not voting if that’s the source of your information” or words to that effect. As the narrator in Elinor Rigby said, no one was saved.

    It's too easy for me to look down on him, just as it would be easy for St. Francis to look down on me given the spiritual chasm between us. We don't know what we don't know, so I too could be tusting something not true or missing something key. All voting is necessarily flawed because all information is never available. The amazing thing about voting is that it ever produces good results. But it does. Lincoln. Roosevelt. Reagan.

    But I digress. Then came the fine ceremony and the kids got hitched. He sports a new ring and she a new ring and name. It’s odd to think how powerful a symbol the simple ring is: his left hand changed reflecting the change in status, two becoming one.

    The groomsmen were a tough-looking bunch who could’ve doubled as a lineup for America’s Most Wanted but the bridesmaids were impossibly beautiful, fresh-faced, with bodies contrite before the physics of physical attraction. It was nice that afterwards my wife could talk openly of the beauty of bridesmaids. I'll never forget years ago the first time she casually mentioned what great breasts some woman had. Put me on the spot!

    My tendency is to shy from the topic since I always think I'm not supposed to notice anyone but her. But we freely discussed who looked good, who was showing too much cleavage, who had the best hairstyle etc. Sometimes I can be such a sensitive male ya know?

    September 26, 2004

    Good Sermon

    Our pastor had interesting things to say about the gospel reading today from Luke 16:19-31. The story is that of the rich man who feasted sumptuously and gave nothing to the poor man Lazarus. He noted that the rich man still didn't "get it" after they'd both died; the rich man still thought that the poor man was there to serve him (i.e. by asking that Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool his tongue). The rich man showed a bit of compassion by remembering his brothers, but his suggestion that someone be sent from the dead to warn them showed that he still didn't get it.

    Our pastor asked, "what is the rich man's problem?" and my thought was humility. But the answer was that the rich man was never able to live outside the present moment. He was never able to grasp that the present moment has future consequences. Ouch.

    The homily continued: "Our culture is so deeply saturated with the idea of getting everything out of the present moment that we all have one foot in it. Our presence at Mass at least gives a glimmer of hope that we're not completely compromised and that the other foot seeks the higher."

    September 25, 2004


    From "A Splendor of Letters" by Nicholas Basbanes:
    A walk through the stacks of any large library gives off an aroma that for many bibliophiles is akin to sipping nectar with the gods on Mount Olympus. "It is an intoxicating fragrace, I quite agree," Kenneth E. Carpetner said one morning while escorting me through Widener Library..."But what you smell is decaying paper."

    September 24, 2004


    I'm reading a book written in 1952 and one can only marvel at the specificity of instruction pre-Vatican II Catholics must've received regarding what is sinful. Sin is a decision of the will and can't be inadvertent, but the level of consent seems to vary much.

    Here's an excerpt from Francis Ripley's "This is the Faith", written in '52, concerning sexual impuritites:
    There is mortal sin when what a person does is something which of its very nature is apt to excite sexual pleasure, and at the same time the person has no serious reason for so acting [i.e. outside the lawful use in marriage]...For example, to look closely and for a time at one's own or another's nakedness, to let one's thoughts dwell on impure matters, to handle (not as a passing act) oneself or another indecently, to look fixedly at obscene pictures or to read obscene literature would be mortal sins.

    There is venial sin when what we do is something which of its nature is not likely to produce sexual pleasure, even if at the same time we act out of no good motive, but merely, e.g. out of levity, imprudence, curiosity, bravado, vanity or the like. For example, deliberate but only passing glances at a naked body, a passing glance at immodest pictures, reading unsavory paragraphs in a newspaper out of curiosity, touching oneself deliberately but only lightly or in a passing way, deliberately entertaining for a moment an immodest (not an impure) thought - these would be venial sins.

    There is no sin at all when what we do is quite innocent or decent in itself, or even if it is something which of its very nature is very likely to arouse sexual pleasure, provided that we have an adequate and just reason for doing it and there is no real danger of our consenting to the pleasure aroused...The following stages in temptation should be distinguished; we can compare them to someone at the door:
    1) Temptation to sexual pleasure - the knock at the door
    2) Feeling the pleasure - the mind goes out to see who is there;
    3) Taking the pleasure - "I want you; come in."

    September 23, 2004

    Oktoberfest ins Deutschland!


    Thanks to Old Oligarch for the heads up.
    Olde Time

    I look up at a full canvas of sky, an uninterrupted, unfragmented sky that fills my whole field of vision. I can go days, weeks, without seeing a panoramic view. My focus is fragmented; the small screen of a computer or TV, a book, a person, a meal, or the car in front of me. We are so removed from nature. For millennia our ancestors could name the most obscure stars while I have trouble identifying the Big Dipper. A hundred years ago my relatives could close their eyes and identify the type of tree – maple, oak, elm, etc.. - just by the sound the wind made in blowing through it! It is a loss, though we know it not.

    We've also lost our ancestor's mental rewards from exercise. I recall when I was younger getting home from preternaturally exhausting workouts, slumping into an exquisitely comfortable bed which Solomon in all his wealth couldn’t have constructed more comfortably because this repose was won by dint of pure muscle-dying, by forcing the majority of one’s major muscles to failure and wounding cells so that they would rebuild and multiply and create stronger ones.
    Love of God

    Excerpt of sermon notes of John Henry Newman, via Donna Lewis:
    Nature tells us we should love God. Nay, a natural inclination and leaning to the love of God. Still, it never will lead us to love. It fails for want of strength, and the feeling comes to nothing and dwindles, as a tree of the south planted in the north. Grace essential...

    [Men] begin with self-indulgence and self-gratification. Here is something which is not love, yet acts as love does.

    Perhaps ambition, martial spirit. This possesses them—this not love.

    Love of home: [a man is] a good father, a good son, [devotes himself to such duty with] concentration of mind —this not love.

    Love of consistency, character; self his centre—this not love.

    Ease and comfort in old age—this not love.

    How are we to gain love? By reading of our Lord in the Gospels.

    ...BeliefNet's best spiritual blogs tells us more about the author of the story than which blogs are the best spiritual ones. You might say "how could it be otherwise?" and I wouldn't have a ready reply.

    In the first place the article didn't mention any truly spiritual blogs, so far as I could tell. Tom Kreitzberg and Steven Riddle are just two of many with a real spiritual bent. (Posts about church discipline, for example, are more political than spiritual. Have you been spiritually enriched by the discussion on whether John Kerry should receive Communion?)

    Second, it's odd that Mark Shea didn't get listed at all and Amy received mention only as an aside. Of the blogs listed, Amy's is the only one I would recommend. It might be part of my bias to see bias, but I sense it here. Kathy Shaidle is a bomb-thrower. I like her, but she's the Ann Coulter of religious blogdom. They weren't doing conservatives any favor by highlighting her.

    The beauty of blogs is the democracy of it: the lack of biased supervision in the form of the Dan Rather's of the world. When bigger media outlets don't ignore blogs, they use their large audience to list those amenable to their viewpoint, or so radical as to turn off everyone outside the choir. I know we all try to exercise influence. But I like that blogs operate in a completely free market. Don't let non-blogging elites try to influence the market by telling you which blogs are best. As Dan would say, "that dog won't hunt".

    I've been meaning for some time to link to this poem on tolerance via Donna Marie Lewis.

    Also, marvelous post from Bob. I can much relate, especially concerning post-convention irrational exuberance. I'll also be going on a retreat, two weeks hence.
    St. Pio of Pietrelcina
    "How important it is to avoid being upset by the trials and troubles of this life, for these things always tend to contract the heart rather than opening it up to trust God.

    The Spirit of God is a spirit of peace. Even in the most serious faults he makes us feel a sorrow that is tranquil, humble, confident and this is precisely because of his mercy.

    The spirt of the devil, instead, excites, exasperates, and makes us feel, in that very sorrow, anger against ourselves, whereas we should on the contrary be charitable with ourselves first and foremost.

    Therefore if any thought agitates you, this agitation never comes from God, who gives you peace, being the Spirit of Peace, but from the devil." - St. Pio
    It's difficult to think of a recent Catholic saint who didn't have a strong attachment to Our Lady and Padre Pio was no exception. His last word on earth was "Maria". He urged us to say the rosary, calling it a great bulwark against evil. St. Pio, pray for us.

    September 22, 2004

    VS Naipaul...

    ...says this concerning multiculturalism: 'A man can't say, "I want the country, I want the laws and protection, but I want to live in my own way." It's become a kind of racket, this multiculturalism.'

    Isn't that similar to cafeteria Catholicism? 'I want to be Catholic, I want its protection, but I want to live my own way?'
    Poem Written While Drinking a Guinness

    Tis a single Pint
    the way to do it
    a poem in a pint
    a pint in a poem
    a hedge-school of liquorish stout.

    A Guinness 40% full
    (tis sober to notice?)
    A swig big
    25% left
    my own hourglass.

    Guinness smells of irony
    of dried blood
    cool & detached
    smooth as Bond.

    Now a tenth left,
    like the tithing of skin that meets in coupling.


    My pint-glass
    wears no collar
    he's transparent
    I bury him
    in the swim
    of the dishwasher
    where all good dishes go.

    * - period is there because in the olde days they put periods behind titles.

    Letters, We Get Letters, We Get Lots & Lots Of ...

    As Smock said recently, sometimes you need a break from over-seriousity (I'm paraphrasing though she'd have said it sans capital letters).

    First, a preliminary aside before featuring reader email. Proof that even in suburbia having your eyes open can occasionally bear fruit: I'm at the carry-out window at Frisch's Big Boy Restaurant and there's a fellow in his late 20s, early 30s wearing a t-shirt with the words "Front of T-Shirt" emblazoned on, uh, the front. Helpful on those hard-to-wake-up mornings. He was taking a photograph of his mother hugging the large plasticine Big Boy while his father grinned nearby. The phrase "they don't get out much, do they?" came to mind.

    On to more serious matters. Every once in awhile I do a reader email column but since this requires actual, real live reader emails you can understand the infrequency. Worse, I have an annoying email policy, to wit: "all emails can and will be used against you in a court of law but not on my blog without permission". I'm too lazy to email the former blogger formerly known as Davey's Mommy in order to ask her if it's okay to use hers, but everyone else I will assume permission since I knows they won't mind.

    • From Bill Luse, concerning the final Spanning the Globe entry:

      "...via blog I forgot to note." That's hysterical.

      My reply: Yeah the old STG ended with a whimper instead of a bang, proof that this is a human operation ...I figured the owner would come forward if they read my blog, but come to think of it they probably just think it lame I didn't remember them.

      His reply: :~) maybe he/she is a Christian and will forgive you.

    • From Lee Ann Morawski of Literarium fame:

      You'll be happy to know I've weathered the storm, no worse for wear. I never even lost power. I did enjoy the Hurricane. Turns out drinking beer and watching the rain is one of my favorite things.

    • Another from Bill Luse:

      "...stretch like cats in semi-somulent moments...?" New one on me. Somnolent, perhaps?

      My reply: Nice catch. I must've been sleeping.

    • sent me a warm email confirming purchase of a book.

    • Remember ol' Gregg the Obscure? He provided the encouragement I need to start keeping up with my elders (see post below titled "Falling Behind Our Elders").

    • Me to Bill Luse:

      It's taking all my strength of will not to insert an adolescent comment on Elena's blog referring to her line: "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!" I want to say, "hey, hey, it's NOT small!"

      His reply: You're not the only one who was tempted. I may yet yield.

      [Editor's note: He did yield.]

    • A reader named George Muonek, who I was previously unfamiliar with, sent me the following startling email:
    • As you read this, I don't want you feeling sorry for me, because, I believe we will all die someday. My name is GEORGE MUONEK, a Merchant living in Abijan, Ivory Coast. I have been diagnosed with Esophageal Cancer, which was discovered very late, due to my laxity in caring for my health. It has defiled all forms of medicine,and right now I have only about a few months to live, according to medical experts. I have not particularly lived my life so well, as I never really cared for anyone not even myself but my business. Though I am very rich, I was never generous, I fought against the abolition of apartheid and l was a member of the Herstigte Nasionale Party-HNP always hostile to people especially Blacks and l only focused on my business and the dominance of the white supremacy as that was the only thing I cared for. But now I regret all this, as I now know that there is more to life than just wanting to have or make all the money in the world.... So far, I have distributed money to some charity organizations e.g. the National Union of Ivory Coast Students (NUIVS) in Ivory Coast, Romania and Afghanistan. Now that my health has deteriorated so badly, I cannot do this my self anymore...The last of my money, which l had kept aside during the dark days of Apartheid no one knows of, is a cash deposit of Sixty Four Million United States Dollars(US$64,000,000.00)...I will want you to help me collect this....
      Note: Today's reader email column was inspired by this.
    Quotes found here while looking for something else:
    But if providence ultimately determines the degree and variety of spiritual vitality, our cooperation with graces offered is also a large determining factor. The supernatural life is capable of increase and depth, depending on the frequency and fervor with which the sacraments are received, on devotion to prayer and, in fact, on the whole gamut of good works performed, which merit growth in sanctifying grace and advancement in the soul's nearness to God.

    It was not a passing remark when the Council of Trent described justification as a "renovation of the interior man through the voluntary reception of grace," since our free wills have much to do with setting limits to divine generosity. St. Francis de Sales observed that in the measure to which we divest ourselves of self-love, so that our heart does not refuse consent to the divine mercy, God "ever pours forth and ceaselessly spreads his sacred inspirations, which ever increase and make us increase more and more in heavenly love." He then asks how it happens that we are not so advanced in the love of God as some of the saints: "It is because God has not given us the grace. But why has he not given us the grace? Because we did not correspond with his inspirations as we should have. And why did we not correspond? Because being free we have herein abused our liberty."

    It is here that Francis de Sales' contribution to Catholic life and piety has been so great. He foresaw, with the gradual urbanization that tends to alienate individuals and fragment their families, the need for each believer's personal decision to put some definable form into his service of God while living in the amorphous civilization of modern society....After recalling such figures as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Sarah,Rebecca, and Judith in the Old Testament, and the numerous lay persons mentioned by St. Paul, Francis de Sales concludes, "It has even happened that some have prospered among the multitude, which seems so unfavorable to holiness, better than in solitude." The secret is to do God's will, since "wherever we are, we can and should aspire to a life of perfection."
    Free Deal Hudson!

    The level of vitriol some aim at Deal Hudson in Amy's comment boxes surprises me. Righteous anger directed towards bishops who passed around pedophile priests made sense but this seems pure overkill. Hudson is unelected to public office and holds no position of authority in the Church. Most Catholics haven't even heard of Crisis.

    I think it shows that once you start shunning it's very hard to stop since the desire for purity in others is insatiable. I must be missing something important, but if not I expect some to call for all public Catholic bloggers who have had pre-marital sex retire their blogs.
    O father Abram, what these Christians are,
    Whose own hard dealings teaches them suspect
    the thoughts of others!

    - Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

    Haitians endure not only unbelievable penury but now this. It's strange when I think I was just thirty-five miles away from Gonaives earlier this year. But we are geographically fortunate. As Pearl Jam sang:
    He won the lottery when he was born
    took his mothers white breast to his tongue...
    big hand slapped a white male 'merican...
    From Psalm 30:
    "Two things I ask of you, O LORD ;
    do not refuse me before I die:
    Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
    Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, 'Who is the LORD?'.

    September 21, 2004

    Optimism is Hip..

    ...pessimism not, sayeth a new book. I'm pessimistic on how long this will last.
    The Decline of Newspapers

    Interesting link concerning fish wrap:
    It used to be that newspapers were the principal disseminators of news. In all major cities, there were at least two newspapers — one or more in the morning and at least one in the afternoon. This created competition for ideas as well as readers.

    In any town with two or more papers, one paper would tend to be liberal and another one conservative for purely competitive reasons. In practice, this usually meant that the major paper (usually the morning paper) was liberal and the secondary paper (usually the afternoon paper) was conservative.

    Changing work schedules, rush hour traffic, and the advent of evening television news broadcasts killed the afternoon paper. I don’t know of a single one left in the country. Unfortunately, this tended to kill off the conservative paper in most markets.

    Sadly, the achievement of one-paper status has tended to neuter the political edges of every paper that has achieved it. These papers, once proudly liberal or conservative, are now mostly mushy centrists. All their editorials seem to be of the “on the one hand, but on the other hand” variety with no firm conclusions. One wonders why they even bother publishing editorials at all.
    From Michael Hanby in Communio via Thomas of ER:
    It is difficult to imagine that a culture which does not know how to feast or how to pray, which makes no distinction between hours of the day or the days of the week, and has forgotten how to mark the passage of time with seasons of celebration and solemnity, will be capable of great art, music or craftsmanship or that it will be able to sustain marriage, rear children, or fulfill the natural obligation between generations in caring for the sick and the dying...

    By the "intergenerational obligation" I do not mean charity in its modern form of abstract benevolence, or even the welfare state, laudable as this might be, each of which has contributed to the creation of industries that allow both the old and the young to exist largely out of societal view, under the care of strangers. Rather I mean a form of obligation, socially embodied, that instantiates the obligations of friendship.
    Matthew's Day

    The call of St. Matthew is a nice antidote to our tendency towards rationalism, which has already eroded belief in the Real Presence. (Though when one sees a crucifix, and how God bound himself to a body and to a cross, it isn't hard to imagine him binding himself to bread.)

    In today's account Jesus says only "Follow me". The reflex reaction is to think something was omitted in the gospel story, that more words were said. One can imagine Jesus persuading Matthew to follow him using beautiful arguments, just as the twelve-year old Christ wooed the scholars in the temple.

    But what better way to illustrate that God can not only tame the winds and raise the dead but change our thoughts and actions? It is a miracle account. It's an exercise of God's supernatural gifts of faith, hope and love rather than the natural gifts of intelligence and wit and charisma. Of course the trick is to not disdain and fail to use the natural gifts we've received. Such as sneakiness. Is that a gift? For example, if your corporation is into Diversity (capitalized since it is carries quasi-religious status in many companies) then it might be celebrating Hispanic Heritage month with display booths & arts & crafts. Use your sneakiness gift to slip a stack of Our Lady of Guadalupe prayer cards on a display booth and thus add a bit more diversity. For to celebrate Hispanic heritage with beads and music and information booths while ignoring the soul of their culture makes a farce of the whole educational experience.
        Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    I'm still catching up on the blogs, and am not making much progress (thanks, Dan! And...oh, yeah...courage!) Amy Welborn

    Stop Reading my Blog - title of post from Jeff of ECR - shades of Abbie Hoffman's 'steal this book'

    There are times when I become resigned to the ugliness of rap thudding down the street, to bleak concrete buildings, to crudeness of imagination and stinginess in ceremony. I become embarassed at expecting anything better. And then this beautiful polyphony, so generous, so full of richness and dignity. It cheered me to think that this music wasn't outmoded by the passage of time, that it wasn't denied even to deracinated moderns like myself. It seemed to say to us, "You are not doomed to be children of your age. You are not estranged from your ancestors. You are one with your fellow Christians throughout time. Your lives have the same eternal significance, the same weight. The world is more wonderful and dangerous than you know, and God is greater than all of it." Oh, we say we believe all that, but the music makes you feel it in your bones. - Meredith of Basia Me

    What I think it most troubling, with only 2.1 or 2.3 children per family, just about half the kids have no experience of having both a brother and a sister. Half the boys can't really understand the words of the lover in the Song of Songs, "My sister, my bride," and the other half have no access to what it means to care for "the least of my brothers" literally, and thus less analogically. The sister thing alone is perilous. How much less will a young man value chastity when he has no sister! - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

    [W]hat is the impact on us of this whole "find a story that means something to you" business? Does it motivate us to do anything? Of course not. Our tradition shows that the bulk of ministry to the suffering in our history has been done by people who knew Jesus as a real person, not as a character in a narrative, listened to him, and followed him as disciples because they believed what he said was true...what you do for do for me. This is why it matters. If I read a novel, it might inspire me on some level. If I identify with a fictional character, that might enrich my consciousness and my choices slightly. But it's only when I meet a person...a real person..and heed his voice, am strengthened by reality, not just in my imagination, that life turns from a game into something important. DVC embodies the opposite recreate life constantly in our own image, to weave stories today that can be abandoned tomorrow if they fail to resonate. That's why it matters. That's why it's worth talking about. - Amy Welborn

    We accept and embrace our crosses and offer up our sufferings as a gift, as a sacrificial offering. Elsewise we are bound to them resisting and unwilling,and we are crushed and broken by them. Not having a cross is not one of the options. - Karen of Anchor Hold

    I paid a visit to Dawn Eden's blog, scrolled down, and discovered that Tuesday was Frau Margaret Sanger's birthday. What does one do to commemorate a woman who, literally, wanted nothing? - Thomas of ER

    If there is an epitaph for your generation, it will be: They died with their options open. - Dean Harold Koh, Yale Law School (via Mark of Cowpi)

    I don't think God loves suffering though. I think God could never bear to cause one of His children to suffer and that is why He took suffering upon Himself for love of us. - Isabel on Parish Hall

    Magazines have to work at getting readers, and not just small religious magazines. I read somewhere that Penthouse magazine was going under and Playboy’s readership declining, and I would have thought that the lust-ridden moron readership would have kept them in clover. (My sincere apologies to those of you who read the magazine for the articles.) We publish as a ministry, but ministries need money to survive. (If we just liked publishing magazines, we’d publish something like The Christian Man, with articles like “Burning With Passion: Why St. Paul would want you to take viagra” and “Golf Tips from Galatians” and “Lazarus’ lessons for retirement planning,” and make money on it.) - David Mills, Touchstone blog

    Lyin' in Dan's den. - Dan Ratherian pun from Terrence Berres

    Reform of the Church almost always comes about from teenagers. - Athanasius of Summa Contra Mundum

    Bread for myself is a material question; but bread for my neighbor is a spiritual one. -Jacques Maritain, via Summa Mamas

    I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? - C.S. Lewis, Till we Have Faces, via blog I forgot to note

    September 20, 2004

    Divine Grace

    By Fr. Tadros Malaty, St. George's Coptic Church
    It is not strange that Dr. James Dobson in his broad-spread cassette messages and books concerning adolescence, starts by dealing with the following problem: Why do American young people feel inferior? He gives three elements that many of the teenagers think they lack: physical attractiveness, intelligence and money. He clarifies that in many cases they do lack these elements, or some of them, but it is just that feeling which destroys a teenager's life.

    In fact it is not the problem of American young people alone, or young people of other countries, but rather it is the problem of mankind as a whole through all ages. They feel inferior, for they are involved in matters outside their inner life. God, Who alone is able to fill our hearts eternally, declares His desire in dwelling within us, so that we may attain Him as ours, destroying the spoiling feeling of inferiority. This is the grace of God as God's Self-Giving to man.
    Voyeuristic Moments

    One of my guilty pleasures is watching C-Span when they mike an author at a book party. Seems tacky to agree to the fantastic invasion of privacy, but then most of the party-goers are used to television cameras and the author wants to sell books. So last night I spent time inside Maureen Dowd's house, hyp-mo-tized by the hit parade of the power types. There was Russert, winning the Profuse Sweating Award, with Christopher Buckley a close second. Apparently they don't have A/C in D.C.

    Maureen is someone I can't help liking despite representing everything I find evil or distasteful. It's ironic that someone so shy & seemingly vulnerable is so murderous and unfeeling with the pen.

    It was also an instructional video on how to mingle. "You came!" she would exclaim. Her brothers, God bless 'em, reminded me of the Amish among the city kids. Culture clash.

    Speaking of culture clash, I was surprised Cal Thomas was there. He looked wallflowerish, but then how much does he have in common with those lefty D.C. types?

    I'm glad I wasn't the only blogger watching it.
    Bill Luse's Grand Adventure

    I had a feeling this was going to be good. I read the first paragraph and thought: "Like, I can so totally relate!". I don't normally think in Val-speak so here's hoping that's temporary.

    I printed it off, the better to savor it, and the phrase "now how the hell 'em I gonna overdub something like that?" came to mind after finishing it, which was what George Jones said after a duet by Alan Jackson. In other words, how can I span-the-globe it? It's best in its entirety.

    His response to the old gentleman was the big pay-off, something I could never have said. I'd have probably said, "well, you can't know what you don't know, and if Hussien had used WMDs Bush would've caught the shrapnel since it wasn't like he could plead ignorance. Not like Bush didn't have enough advance warning, what with twelve years of flouted U.N. resolutions."

    But that would've made for a weaker story. Bill has a flair for the dramatic.

    I can relate to his reluctance to be more sociable. Bill was talking about neighbors and not friends but his post reminded me of a column by Fr. John McCloskey on friendship and how the average American male's only friend is his wife. And I recall thinking, "Cool! if Bone moves I won't be the only one!" followed by "what's wrong with that? Has he met the average American male?". (Just a joke.) Fortunately Bone is quite literally a godsend, though he constantly threatens to move out to the Arizona desert and live in a trailer. Three hundred days of sun a year out there I hear.

    Bone's idea is that we all move in together in a sort of Christian commune. Expenses could be slashed requiring only one income-earner for the two households. We agreed my wife would be the one, though I haven't mentioned this to her just yet...
    Less Sex by Volume

    Ham of Bone and I were discussing how R-rated movies from the '70s and '80s were much worse, nudity-wise, than most of today's R-rateds. And when I picked up an old Phillip Roth novel for a buck at a book sale I found out later it was literary pornography - unlike his more recent The Human Stain. This is also true of John Updike, whose earlier novels had a lot more gratuitous sex in them than his later ones. It's as if the elite authors and film-makers have "grown up" with respect to sex.
    Pun with Dan Rather

    At last, someone has made a pun with Mr. Rather's first name. Terrence Berres offers "Lyin' in Dan's den."


    September 19, 2004


    Bono seems by far the most decent and credible of the left-leaning celebs. He made some excellent points in this recent exchange with Bill O'Reilly::
    O'REILLY: Let's talk about AIDS, because this is a very controversial topic within the United States itself. Now, we've got the epidemic under control here, primarily by education and frightening people into safe sex and all of that. In Africa, the education is almost nil. And that there's a tradition of men, as you know, not having sex protected, because of some kind of macho thing involved in it. Now, Americans are going to say, I don't want my tax dollars going over to a civilization or a society that no matter what you tell them, they're going to continue to do disruptive practices. How do you answer that?

    BONO: Look, if you see a car crash, somebody's lying there in the middle of the road bleeding and it turns out they're a drunk driver, you're still going to call an ambulance. We can't make these judgments about entire civilizations. We try to re-educate people, we try to deal with the problem...

    O'REILLY: Now what do you want America to do?

    BONO: Get the message because these are great advertisements for America products. For your technology, your ingenuity. Imagine China, when Europe was going through the Bubonic Plague and lost -- 1/3 of Europe died in the Middle Ages to the Black Death. Imagine, say, China had a treatment for the Black Death and hadn't because it was difficult or expensive. What would we think of China now?

    O'REILLY: You want American drug companies then to send to Africa all the drugs they can possibly...

    BONO: I'm not asking drug companies to behave like philanthropists. I'm saying we, our governments, United States and Europe, have to deal with this problem. If we don't, we will reap a very ill wind. This is -- it's not just being bleeding hearts here. The strategic implications. There's 10 million AIDS orphans in Africa right now. There will be 20 by the end of the decade. 12 right now. This is chaos.
    Good Godspy article on suburbia, via El Camino Real.

    September 18, 2004

    From Our Diocesan Newspaper...

    ...came this interesting tidbit:
    The subject of a sermon by a priest in my parish had to do with the practice of Catholicism. His advice to the congregation was, "Do not try to be more of a Catholic than is required of you. Catholicism is the hardest religion to live by, but the easiest to die by." That sermon was more than 50 years ago and I have never forgotten it.
    - Mary Santanich
    When I think of the good thief and the rich young man in the gospel accounts, it does seem that Catholicism, mirroring the gospels, is the hardest to live and the easiest to die by doesn't it?

    A Picture of Ireland

    Precious little feels as poignant as the shot I took of the little thatch-hut in some forsaken place in rural west Ireland. I gaze now in complete amazement that I was ever there. It contains the magic of a jig or reel, the reassuring recycling of a variation on a tune, the lustrous green door bespotted with dirt so artistically arranged! There is the perfect white of the house, the touching unevenness of the bottom of the door frame possible in a climate where the temperature never deigns descend below 30 Fahrenheit. There is the Gilligan's Island shag of a roof, sensuous and wavy. The window forms a redeeming cross with a charming a-kilter ledge, at once too long and unlevel.

    Beside the dirt yard there are plenteous bushes, one rising nearly one and a half times the height of the house. It is art, this picture, and that it really exists an ocean away is a phenom to me even now. I wonder how this 1996 image appears in its current evocation, unfrozen and alive to change. A farm house in a distant locale, I joy in the fact that the owner is blissfully unaware that at this moment in time an American gazes intently at his home and finds great sustenance!


    similar, but all different

    The 5-Miler

    The annual test of bravery and courage occurred today: the five-mile-race. I’m vaguely discombobulated that Ham of Bone has begged out; his fifteen minutes of running fade eroded in the half-light of a heifer-beer. Pain certainly loves company. But we all die alone and we all run alone. Five consecutive torturous miles, the pluperfect physics test: how fast can one lug 200+ lbs for five miles given that many of those pounds offer little towards the goal of forward progress? The steely facts lay in the gutter of High Street: can calves and quads racheted to & fro with velocity and pace cover consecutive sub-9 minute miles? It attains a black-and-whiteness not found since high school algebra. Would we all not be better if we received a grade from God at the end of every day? I receive my lame grade of 45:36, an average of 9:07 per mile. If not as easy as it looks on paper, for there are hills and lung limits and stride lengths to consider, but I cringe at comparable past thirty-two minute five-milers traveled when I wore a younger man's clothes. And so I re-discover all the errors man is heir and hair to. The first quarter mile was easy, if accompanied by dark if inchoate thoughts. I run til I prove my laziness a rumor, or rumor until laziness proves true. I run in fear of finding a fraud. I run as I would a visit to the doc, a self-check, a rain-gauge, a gut-meter. Do I expect life to grow ever easier? By mile four I run like a scalded dog. Uncork one, I tell myself, as if a mantra. Uncork one! Uncork a seven-minuter for olde time’s sake! I run to force the issue. Can I still endure pain? Am I as disciplined as the 25-year old? 35?

    At home every muscle sub-waist sings in his bloody agony and I listen in sweet satisfaction, repose-reclined in resplendent comfort. The cells feel the oxygen-push. I’m normally an easy manager, preferring the slow stirring of a home-cooked meal, but every oncet in a while I force the issue and all the hemo’s are a’globin’ and there’s protests and general strikes and marches on the streets...

    September 17, 2004

    Falling Behind Our Elders

    While the firm doesn't have specific data for Cincinnati, Gary Hemphill, Beverage Marketing's senior vice president, said per capita beer consumption in Ohio last year was 23 gallons.

    In 1894, Cincinnati's beer consumption was 50 gallons a person, according to Cincinnati Breweries, a compendium on the city's early brewing history written by Robert J. Wimberg.
    UPDATE:  Ye olde Gregg the Obscure came out of his obscurity! One of the delights of blogging is the element of surprise. He sent me this:
    Your post about beer consumption caused me to muse a bit. The old time number is just under a pint a day per person, however in the 19th century, there was a large disparity between how much the average man drank and how much the average woman drank and there were a whole lot more young children about who wouldn't account for much beer either. I'd guess it would be enough to get the average adult male's consumption up to over 3 pints per day on average in a good Deutscher burg.
    Gotta Love Terry Teachout. A high-brow non-snob:

    Dumb and Proud of It
    By Terry Teachout

    ”No man,” Dr. Johnson assures us, “is a hypocrite in his pleasures.” I try never to disagree with the good doctor, so I’ll freely admit that along with hot dogs, fireworks, small-town parades, and old-fashioned country music, I dote on the kind of lowbrow comedy that can best be described as dumb, as in “Oh, why don’t we just rent a dumb movie tonight?” I rarely write about such movies in this space because I tend not to have anything trenchant to say about them. Films like Animal House, Airplane!, or There’s Something About Mary don’t exactly lend themselves to Orwellian pop-culture analysis, much less the spiritually informed aesthetic commentary crisis pays me to dispense. As the U.S. Supreme Court once said of pornography, they have no redeeming social value, save for the incalculably high value of distracting careworn viewers from the infinitely more consequential stupidities of daily life. When you live in a place like New York, sometimes a dumb movie is the best possible thing to see on Friday night.

    All this is prelude to the confession that I loved Adam McKay’s Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which may possibly be the dumbest movie I’ve ever seen, up to and including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
    I'm Always on the Lookout...

    ...for those who fit outside typical labels. So when I came across a vegetarian-conservative-hippie-Catholic, well, paydirt. See here and here.

    I was too chicken - pun intended - to click on her meat link.
    Minutiae Friday

    New book called Who Let the Blogs Out?

    John Miller, on the nicest guy in D.C. - yes, Kenneth Starr

    I've noticed it's fatiguing posting and commenting on things about which I know little. You've heard of "buyer's remorse"? I tend to get "poster's remorse". I should follow the example of Mark of Minute Particulars, who offers the following on his blog:

    "So, rather than appear foolish afterward,
    I renounce seeming clever now."
    -- The Name of the Rose

    But let's change the subject to something more interesting. To what I heard a woman on the elevator say today.

    "...then I dreamt I was with Clinton and his wife at a birthday party with ice cream and cake. No wonder I'm so tired, I--"

    And that's when her floor came up.
    Sin & Politics

    In an earlier link on Bush Administration efforts concerning abortion, I didn't mean to imply that I don't favor the simple power play of appointing pro-life Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe. I certainly do. Abortion kills innocent victims and justice requires it be immediately banned.

    But in the meantime - i.e. while we're waiting for judges to retire and while we're waiting for the issue to be fought fifty times over again at the state level - I have a bias towards subtle rather than sledgehammer approaches. Perhaps it's part of my midwestern constitution, but the strategy may woo (as the cliche goes) hearts and minds.

    What is difficult is that all sin is both symptom of, and a furthering agent in, our moral decay. A national sin like abortion is not simply a cancer, but a cancer that creates further cancers. If one saw it merely as cancer then one could say "don't mask the symptom but fail to treat the cause"..i.e. we need a spiritual solution, not a political one. A political solution is necessary to protect the culture at large from even worse evils since abortion not only kills the baby but coarsens the woman and society, making it a breeding ground for further decline.

    But on the other hand, if it were possible to make all visible sin as close to impossible as possible by legislating against everything - the ludicrous extreme would be the prison terms for speeding on a highway and less extreme the code the Puritans put in place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony - then you are seeming to seek to eliminate free will, something God intended to give us. By making every sin literally a federal crime, how does one freely choose not to commit sin? But that gets into the whole religious freedom and 'errors have no rights' debate, which is obviously way beyond my competence. Which this whole post already is.

    So where were we? Yes, abortion. Were the victories for anti-life forces, beginning with the Griswold decision in '65 which legalized contraceptives and ending with Roe in '73 stealthy and subtle? Perhaps not. They seemed quick and unsubtle. But perhaps the tearing down of anything takes much less time than the building up.

    The battle has been fought and won before, since America has had periods of banning abortion and periods of allowing abortion. It's an issue without end, like all sin.

    September 16, 2004

    Sept 16, 2004

    Raw fall. Timeless. Lawns separated by black wrought iron. The sun moony-eyed. Rays stretch like cats in semi-somnolent moments. The sound of classical music mixes with the scent of grass clippings and the faint odor of gasoline, a secret pleasure. Undergrads loll about before the start of the school year, their industry shown by fine pointless towers of aluminum beer cans, their restfulness by the ease of movement. A sentimental old building stands in the near, an aged manse dressed in Georgian brick.

    Apartments dot the peripheries. A nostalgic 1960s look to them, advertising signs that have grown ironic with age, surrounded by orangy brick buildings made young by the students, by the bicycles, by the "Delta Gamma" sorority stickers in the car windows - those sister-antagonists to the mighty Tri-Delts: "Delta Delta Delta" rings loud with the power of association and with the bold bi-syllabic repetition.
    True, It Isn't Fair to Dan

    From Drudge:

    "The audience appears to [be] polarized," a top CBS source said from LOS ANGELES on Thursday. "Rightly or wrongly, we're being perceived as 'anti-Bush,' which I do not think is fair to Dan...

    Calling Rather "anti-Bush" in comparison to Brokaw or Jennings is like calling only one of the Three Stooges stupid.
    Columnist Changes His Mind... 

    ...concerning "The Passion of the Christ". Link here:
    Let us use the metaphor of the swimmer. I was thrashing about in a frightening sea, making the water splash into the air around me. Much motion, little progress. Not swimming but drowning. It was only when I relaxed and allowed the waves to take control that I felt safe again.

    Yes, I relaxed. "Do this in memory of me. Do this in memory of me." I swam, and the ocean lifted me up and made me feel warm and strong and full. Here was truth, in front of me for so long but seemingly out of reach.

    I am not saying that a movie alone was responsible for this, but I am saying that it was part of a greater and perhaps inevitable process. To watch it now is like watching an entirely different film, one that seems a companion rather than a foe.
    Rev. George W. Rutler Writes in Crisis Magazine...

    ...On the influence Professor Gertrude Elizabeth Anscombe had on Pope John Paul II and C.S. Lewis:
    She may have been the greatest of 20th-century analytic philosophers, a claim staked in her treatise Intention in 1957. One cannot imagine Karol Wojtyla writing The Acting Person without it.

    A bishop and a professor told me that in separate audiences, the first thing John Paul II said when they mentioned Oxford was: “Do you know Professor Anscombe?”

    From 1970 until her retirement in 1986 she held the chair at Cambridge University first held by Wittgenstein. When she confounded C. S. Lewis in a response at the Oxford Socratic Society on February 2, 1948, he never attempted theology again, except to alter the third chapter of his Miracles. She was surprised and edified that he was so abashed, and their bond was unbroken.

    A. J. Ayer once told her: “If you didn’t talk so slowly, people wouldn’t think you were so profound.” Elizabeth talked slowly in part because she was constantly drawing on cigars, blowing smoke rings like the caterpillar in Wonderland before making a pronouncement. Entering a Cambridge common room, she was bemused to hear some earnest women arguing that nothing in the Bible prevented the ordination of women. She calmly leaned her rather comfortable flesh against the mantelpiece, recited the names of the Twelve Apostles, and blew a smoke ring at them.

    She was too Catholic to be patient with third-rate feminism, outward appearance notwithstanding. Elizabeth always wore trousers. Entering the apostolic palace to see the pope, she approached the gate in trousers and pulled a string, lowering her skirt like a parachute...

    As a maelstrom of dissent groaned at the publication of Humanae Vitae, she and her husband toasted it with champagne. I rather thought her brilliant essays on abortion were academic exercises until she was dragged into court for demonstrating outside an abortion mill. A picture of her standing before the judge, with Professor John Finnis as her barrister, should be painted as an icon for the coming generation. While she was not a Wittgensteinian, she vigorously lived out truth as an action.
    Foreknowledge & the Eucharistic Prayer

    "On the night he was betrayed, He took bread and gave you thanks and praise."

    This is fascinating for what it DOESN'T say:

    It doesn't say, "On the night he didn't know he was going to be betrayed..." for he did.

    It doesn't say, "On the night he was betrayed, He took bread and gave you lukewarm thanks and praise and hurried to the petitions."

    Jesus, like Mary (who was told that a sword would pierce her heart) lived with greater foreknowledge of his suffering than most of us. And yet both lived in the present and gave God thanks and praise regardless of the prevailing conditions.

    So when I hear, "thank God that he spared us from the hurricane" when other people were not spared (i.e. a zero-sum game) I certainly understand the sentiment but it leaves me cold. I suppose it shouldn't, because as Cardinal Newman said in his sermon notes, "...Not [being] too proud to admit to ourselves, 'At least He is good to ME.'" Better to be thankful in good times only than not to be thankful at all; best to be thankful in all times.

    September 15, 2004

    Stream O' Conscious Thoughts

    Well I said farewell to summer but summer hasn't said farewell to us. No premature evacuation here and I'm pleasantly surprised. We've had a remarkable string of beautiful days.

    Last weekend was the Covington Oktoberfest, which was a pale replacement for Zinzinnati even though you might think that if you'd seen one lederhosen-clad oom-pah banded gathering you've seen them all. But tis not so even though it did satisfy my gluttonous appetite for polkas. A fine time was had by all, I think.

    On the same weekend as Covington, our small suburb had an art fest, which arguably offered neither art nor fest. I did a five-minute walk-thru before driving to Covington and there was nothing much interesting. Lots of trivial booths and from the booming speakers of the main stage came Shania Twain music. I don't know it all just felt oppressively suburban. I wanted to like it because otherwise it seems a sign that I'm jaded and spoiled, which I am. And my heart went out to them for trying so hard. The infant festival is in its third year.

    The town where I went to high school knows what it's like to try harder. The rust-belt city of Hamilton has seen better days and is now trying to resurrect itself by renaming itself Hamilton!. Yes, they officially added an exclamation point a few years back though I'm not sure if Rand-McNally got the memo.

    Hamilton! recently discovered that the way to recovery would require more than punctuation, so they are now trying to attract tourists via art. They want to become known as "the city of statues" and have somehow come up with the money to fund thirty or forty life-size life-like statues of people doing everyday things. There's a guy cutting the lawn just outside the court house so life-like that you want to steer clear of his path. There's a man shining shoes outside the barber shop. I guess the art is Norman Rockwellian, but I don't much like it. One guy wrote the local paper and said, "well, at least it'll look like there's somebody downtown now!" Another wrote, "the statues look creepy, like something from a Stephen King novel."

    That might just draw tourists.
    A Sign...

    ...that the Republican Party isn't always the "stupid party" since they're smart enough to know you can't do it all at once:

    Banning abortion one small step at a time.
    Father Joe Excerpt:
    I'd been doing no reforming, but I was not without blame. Like my contemporaries, I'd for years bought in an attitude that went well beyond Henry Ford's reprehensible "history is bunk." In our version, history was far worse than bunk: it was suspect, the enemy, invariably evil, a repository of constant failure and deadly delusions and appalling role models. History was when all the mistakes were made, all the atrocities committed, that time before we knew better. History was before we born again to the One True Faith: only change, with its benison of the new and the now, can lead to salvation.

    There was an object lesson here that went beyond the chaotic state of the Church. To reject any vast group of one's cultural ancestors in the cause of some current theory is not just arrogance; it's posthumous mass murder. It's the same kind of thinking that makes genocide possible. The masses (albeit the dead masses) and the pathetic little lives they lived are irrelevant compared to this greater purpose we have at hand. Write them out of the record. They never existed. - Tony Hendra
    Where the Puns Have No Name

    It's rather daunting to try to come up with anything that hasn't already been said concerning Dan "I Am Not a Crook" Rather. Even more difficult is to pun his first name since any idiot can pun his last name. Rather humorous, no?

    You either love or hate puns, just as most folks seem to love or hate Bush. So what is my responsibility to the public? When I see a Kerry sticker (as I did in the church parking lot last Sunday) it makes me cringe. Am I inflicting similar pain on others with my Bush sticker? When I pun without a licence and you cringe, am I inflicting on others what I would not have them inflict on me? Or, rather, am I...(I just wanted to say 'rather').

    You can see I have nothing to say today. But blogs abhor a vacuum so I'll say the whole 'cane would've blown over if Dan had the humility to admit he might've made a mistake. It's always the inability to say you were wrong that makes people pile on a story until the perp says "uncle". It's the cover-up, not the crime. The whole Clinton mess could've been avoided by an admission instead of a perjury. And Martha Stewart wouldn't be doing jail time except for ill-timed hubris.

    For Dan this might've been easy except for the fact that humility is the single most elusive quality in the universe. In fact, if humility were a stock I'd short it. IMHO.

    September 14, 2004

    Fr. Joe

    Remarkable book, as previously blogged. After finishing it I googled for other reviews and found (nota bene Bone - there's nothing new under the sun) that another reviewer used the exact phrase I did: he can flat out write. Ne'er gets old till Heimer says it.

    As the other reviewer said you wish for more Fr. Joe. But Hendra is fascinating in all his paradoxes. He defies labels. He thinks little of Vatican II, considering it an example of chronological hubris, and he finds the Novus Ordo contemptible. But at the same time he loathed Mel Gibon's movie calling it anti-Semitic and a bath of bloodlust. I wonder how often those views intersect? I checked out his recent columns and saw that his politics haven't changed; perhaps he'll be an "Apostle to the Left". All groups need their missionaries.

    Meanwhile here's a WaPo review with a humorous poke: "[Hendra] thought of himself as tormented and put-upon, and it would seem he was perfectly sincere about that. He brought his son for one last visit to a desperately ill Father Joe. Here the book ends. It is a book for men who think of themselves as trapped, misunderstood geniuses, so it should sell well."

    Finally, from the Godspy review:
    The question: "What would Jesus do?" will always be a bit unreal (partially because the real question is, "What, as a follower of Christ, should I do?)—unless you know people you can trust to be Christ for you, as Father Joe was for Tony Hendra. Better to ask yourself, "What would my friend the purchasing agent, or teacher of English as a Second Language, or priest do?" Best of all, you can call them up and ask them what the hell they'd do if they were in your shoes.

    Andrew Sullivan, in the May 30 New York Times Book Review describes Father Joe as seeming "so far removed from the cramped, fearful admonitions of today's Vatican." Sullivan misreads both Father Joe and the Vatican. To be true to the Catholic faith or its teachings doesn't mean to betray or deny your humanity.

    But he's changed (and was able to change) because he has known "a saint," who told him: "Tony dear, you will only be able to love when you understand how much you are loved. You are loved, dear, with a limitless ... fathomless ... all-embracing love."

    Sort of like John and Andrew.
        Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

    My 14 y/o cousin Sophia started a blog/livejournal a few weeks before the accident that ultimately took her life. the title? Life's short - live it. I'm in tears again seeing your message for the day. -Alicia commenting on another blog

    I received a kind note today lamenting the fact that I had give up my blog. It's very nice to be missed but, in case anyone else wondered, I haven't given it up. When I first started this little project I made myself a promise that this would not become another one of those things that I let take over. The word "obsess" springs to mind. Mostly, I haven't. Unless, of course, you count assessing every event of the day as to how it would work into a blog post. Still, mostly, I haven't let it take over. Which is why you haven't seen anything new here for the past week: I have let other things take precedence. - John at the Inn at the End of the World

    I've never bought into the "women are kinder and gentler" theory. The meanest people I ever worked for were uniformly women. When I read articles that have that old cant "if women just ran the world there'd be universal peace and harmony" it makes me gag. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

    How often, when someone sins, do you feel sorrow that they have sinned, that they have injured and possibly broken their relationship with God? Not very, if you're like me. I understand the evil effects of sin on the sinner, but I really don't feel very strongly about it unless the sinner is someone I know and love (me, for example). While you can't make yourself feel something you don't feel, I think the lack of sorrow for the sins of others is a sign of the lack of love for others. - Tom of Disputations

    I own plenty of books I want to read, and plenty I want to have read, a few I want to reread some day, and a few I want to reread periodically. The Bible is the only one I want to be reading. - Tom of Disputations

    Rest assured that we have no little baby blankets around with little GOP Elephants embroidered on them! Pete doesn't have a Bush/Cheney tattoo and I'm not about to go out and purchase a Laura Bush suit either. In fact you might be surprised to know that up until the 1992 election, we both thought of ourselves as primarily Democrat. I even considered voting for Clinton in his first term and if his running mate had been pro-life I might have! It was with much pain and a little bewilderment that I found the Democratic party LEAVING ME!!...I know a little bit about this topic [poverty] as [Pete] and I are both small business owners AND we have lived below the poverty line for 10 years. While I agree that government has some role to play that is not it's sole purpose. Indeed how can anyone look at the messed up Medicare and Social Security systems and say that government is the best possible way to run social programs!! Heavy tax burdens... make it harder for people like us to crawl out of the poverty cycle. - Elena of 'My Domestic Church'

    God wishes that all will be saved, there is every possibility that some, perhaps many will be lost, but the driving dynamic of the system is the vector toward salvation. The "unknown" factor in the equation, the variable as it were that introduces the chaotic dynamic, is free will. God may know the outcome, but those of us on Earth see a violent lurching first toward and then away from Home and Heart. These erratic motions make no sense unless we understand them as the motions of free-will on a body already in motion sending it into currents and eddies that are not predictable to the human mind; however, God knows everything. Everything we say can'[t be known--the famous Heisenberg uncertainty (you cannot know both the velocity and the position of an electron or sub atomic particle)--even the outcome of the day's weather is known and has been known by God from the beginning. Nothing is uncertain with Him and our hope lies in the fact that He is the dynamic system behind it all. It is His will that is the driving motivation behind all of our motions. Now, we can go with the flow or spin off in any of seven million directions (Strait is the gate and narrow is the path that leads to salvation, but that unto destruction is broad and wide and smooth). Nevertheless, at each stage, at each point along the way, the overriding dynamic comes back into play. And at any point we can choose to abandon our own willfulness and allow the dynamic of Love to carry us Home to Him who drives all things toward salvation. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

    This to me is one of the greatest mysteries to have that knowledge of creator and yourself as creator and then to peform the only sin possible for an angel, that of intellectual pride, is surprising. But it is good to remember that knowlege and intellect alone don't get us to heaven. That faith and grace are much more important. - Jeff Miller on Steven Riddle's blog

    Notice the progression in the three parables Jesus tells in Luke 15. First, there are one hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost. Next, there are ten coins,and one of them gets lost. Then comes two sons, and one of them gets lost. We go from a 99% rate of righteousness, to 90%, to 50%. And by the end of the parable of the prodigal son, that 50% rate drops to zero. "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" is a psalm of joy and praise -- not to mention deep personal relief -- whether the psalmist realizes it or not. - Tom of Disputations

    The passage I find intriguing in this regard is the story of the Gerasene demoniac. When Jesus is ready to cast out the demons, they plead with HIm and beg not to be cast into the abyss, but into the bodies of a nearby herd of swine. Jesus acquiesces nd allows this to happen. How so? Why should Jesus pay attention to the pleadings of demons? - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

    [From] Father Jim Tucker: 'While it's useful to compare and contrast the traditional Roman Mass with Paul VI's version and with the various Eastern Liturgies, it is obnoxious to make disparaging comments about any of them. The excellence of one or another of these Liturgies doesn't require anyone to criticize the rest." As with the preference for Macintosh or PCs, there is a strong subjective strain to our preference of one form of celebration over another. We do well to bear this in mind as we recognize that they are all approved of God through his Bride. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

    I share your disinclination to read the Scriptures. I blame mine on two things - cultivation of a habit of concordance-driven prooftexting while a Protestant, making scripture seem like a big dreary puzzle to solve; and lack of will to cultivate a new habit nowadays. - Bill White on Steven Riddle's blog

    When it comes to foreign policy, my default position is to trust their judgment and to let them do their jobs. This position, of course, is not absolute. Our statesmen and experts might well prove themselves unworthy of our trust. But it would be impossible for our government to sustain a cohesive, consistent, and effective foreign policy if Americans were not instinctively deferential to their leaders on this point. There are many who have the opposite instinct, a default position of mistrust and hyper-criticism -- an attitude left over from the '60s counter-culture that has now become respectable, even among so-called conservatives. In my opinion this attitude is destructive of order and a threat to the peace. It is true that our leaders, like we ourselves, come from a culture that is degenerate and disordered. Therefore I expect them to get social and domestic issues wrong most of the time. But the principles of national security are not that complicated. The interest of our government in national security, for the most part, coincides with yours and mine. Let's not undermine the efforts of our President -- who, for all his faults, is a competent leader with sound instincts -- because we don't want to admit our own limitations. - Jeff Culbreath

    I recall something of Castellani, long ago. He said that, by greater than outside the Summa Theologica (for example), it was a book; whereas the gospels are another thing: After all I realize of which "I need" to read the gospel, that speaks to me; I do not have that necessity with the Summa or any book. - Argentinian blogger Hernan Gonzalez, through Babelfish