March 31, 2005

What He Said

The editor of our local diocesan newspaper writes:
It is amazing how a president, a governor and legislatures act impotent when facing the judiciary. What is happening in our country would be to our Founding Fathers both surprising and expected.

In the Federalist Papers No. 78, Alexander Hamilton wrote:
“… In a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The executive not only dispenses the honors but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse…and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

“This simple view…proves incontestably that the judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power….”
In the Anti-Federalists Papers, “Brutus” notes in essay XI:
“Every body of men invested with office are tenacious of power; they feel interested, and hence it has become a kind of maxim, to hand down their offices, with all its rights and privileges, unimpaired to their successors; the same principle will influence them to extend their power…this of itself will operate strongly upon the courts to give such a meaning to the constitution in all cases where it can possibly be done, as will enlarge the sphere of their own authority….

“When the courts will have a precedent before them of a court which extended its jurisdiction in opposition to an act of the legislature, is it not to be expected that they will extend theirs….

“This power in the judicial, will enable them to mould the government, into almost any shape they please.”
It seems as much as Hamilton meant well, it was “Brutus” who saw more clearly in what direction the courts would go.

Ultimately, though, we have failed. Inasmuch as the powers of government are derived from the people, we let Terri starve, just as we let 4,000 abortions occur daily, more than 40 million since the Supreme Court declared abortion on demand in Roe and Doe a right. Will we ever have the courage, fortitude and derring-do to stand and say: “No more”? May God have mercy on us. —Mark Moretti, editor
Make me to know your Christs

We know from John's gospel that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. So try substituting in the Psalms "Christ" where it says "the way", "the truth" or "the life". e.g..
Psalm 25

Make me to know your Christs1, Oh LORD; teach me your paths.

Lead me in Christ2, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.

Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in Christ.3
He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble Christ.4

1 = ways
2 = your truth
3 = the way
4 = his way
Terry Schiavo

Requiescat in pace
O grant us help against the foe,
for human help is worthless.
With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.  --  (Ps 108:12-13)

March 30, 2005

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

There was a young man who said "God,
I find it exceedingly odd,
That the willow oak tree
Continues to be,
When there's no one about in the Quad."

"Dear Sir, your astonishment's odd,
For I'm always about in the Quad;
And that's why the tree,
Continues to be,"
Signed "Yours faithfully, God."

-limerick via Brad of Defensor Veritatis

My guess is that most people shouting, "Just let her die!," have a normal, excessive fear, not of death, but of dying. Or not just of dying, but of helplessness. (Because, apparently, if we're healthy we aren't helpless. (Pelagius, call your office.)) - Tom of Disputations

One of this week's memes has been "Would you want to live this way?" Here's the news flash from my end: I fully expect to. Oh, not precisely as Terri does, but in some way, certainly. Unless I die a quick, sudden death, and who knows, even if I do,l I will probably go through a period of physical and mental incapacitation, of suffering, of decline, of being bedridden and helpless, sick, dying and in pain. The people in my family tend to live a long time, but their deaths have not been easy ones. There has been suffering, and I am not stupid enough to think that I will be excused from that table. With Terri as my teacher this week, I have gone to school. I've confronted, in some sense, my own future, and pondered my response to it. - Amy Welborn

Eleanor Smith of Decatur, Georgia, sat on Tuesday in a motorized wheelchair in front of the hospice, baking in the sun, with a sign on her lap reading, "This agnostic liberal says 'Feed Terri."' ... Smith, 65, had polio as a child and described herself as a lesbian and a liberal ... "At this point I would rather have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member," Smith said. - Via the Corner

The first step in convincing such people of the truth of the Catholic positions would seem to be convincing them the principles aren't absurd. Telling them they're indifferent to, if not advocating, murder probably won't convince them of anything. - Tom of Disputations

I still love Bird by Bird and I still think I would have retired if I'd written the phrase "would make Jesus want to lap gin from the cat bowl." - Karen Hall of "Some Have Hats" concerning Anne Lamott

When I named my health care proxy, I gave her a typed up version of guidelines for my care should I become severely disabled--things like letting her know that prayers are appreciated (but NOT rosaries recited in a dull, dead monotone), and that Mozart is always a good choice for ambient sound... I thought that a feeding tube was a really invasive thing, and didn't really want that. (That was before the Vatican determined that feeding tubes are not extraordinary; it had seemed so to me before, but even the papers now are demonstrating that it is not as complicated as I had thought.) What I am saying is that I have had to do a lot of thinking about this matter lately. The report that Terri made sounds like "AAAH WAAAH" when the lawyer said she needed to say "I want to live" has really gotten me thinking more and more about the mystery of our mind/brain connection. The doctors in general are saying that the brain tests show no activity in the areas of the cerebral cortex associated with what we call "mental" activity; that the action is all in the brain stem.... But what if the "AAAH WAAAH" is the result of the mind (which is, after all, a dimension of the soul)amazingly and magnificently using the brain stem, which is all it now has access to? I mean, thinking does not happen IN the brain, but WITH the brain. - Sister Anne of nunblog
From a Goldberg Column on how in the '50s WFB tried to keep both liberatarians and social conservatives in the conservative tent:
[William F.] Buckley was aided by the conservative theorist Frank Meyer, who fashioned the doctrine of "fusionism," which held that freedom and virtue were inextricably entwined; virtue not freely chosen is not virtuous.
National Review review of Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium
This is John Paul’s explanation of “the drama of the European Enlightenment”: In marginalizing Christ’s role in history, Enlightenment ideologies helped pave the way for the dehumanization that reached its zenith in 20th-century totalitarianisms. But this Pope’s criticism of the Enlightenment is very different from the anti-Enlightenment views of reactionaries nostalgic for the days of throne and altar. “The European Enlightenment not only led to the carnage of the French Revolution,” he writes, “but also bore positive fruits, such as the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity, values which are rooted in the Gospel. Even when proclaimed independently, these ideas point naturally to their proper origin. Hence, the French Enlightenment prepared the way for a better understanding of human rights. . . . This was the time when human rights began to be properly acknowledged and put into effect more forcefully, leaving behind the traditions of feudalism.”

The idea of a Pope praising “liberty, equality, and fraternity” would have horrified 19th-century ultramontanes; but John Paul II’s understanding of that era is deep, judicious, and devoid of sectarian spirit. Memory and Identity is, finally, a call to Christians to remember who they are: people with a mission to bring the good news of Christ and His Redemption, the whole truth about man, to their fellow men and women. “When he was instituting the Eucharist during the Last Supper, [Christ] said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ . . . Christians, as they celebrate the Eucharist in ‘memory’ of their Master, continually discover their own identity.

--Michael Potemra

Read most of Cornwell's biography of the Pope juxtaposed by the watching of the movie "The Robe" (about the conversion of a Roman soldier after touching Christ's robe), and I'm struck by the difference between the world views.

With Cornwell, one can read a chapter or two and miss it. One can see the relentless pragmatism only in hindsight. It reveals itself slowly in accumulation, the subtle mocking of anything that smacks of trust in God or mysticism. But trying to take the mysticism out of Catholicism is like trying to take a bath without water. It's an exercise in futility. Yet Cornwell tries.

To be fair, he sees the Vatican up close. And like the making of sausages, it helps to have a little distance from the very human side of the Church. But Cornwell's pragmatism looks, smells and acts like a denial of the supernatural. John Paul is called to the carpet in a chapter on AIDS because the Pope is against condoms. Resisting the seeming pragmatic good that contraception could do for Africans is controversial in part because it requires faith, faith that the Holy Spirit has guided the Church in banning contraception. The Pope is also disparaged for the pedophile crisis, but Cornwell says that the root problem is John Paul seeing ordination as a supernatural event that leaves a "mark on the soul". On the Iraq War the pragmatism comes out with Cornwell taking a swipe at Ratzinger for saying that a preemptive war is not in the Catechism - Cornwell rebuts that neither is the kind of "asymmetrical war" we are currently engaged in with respect to terrorism. And not surprisingly, Cornwell is dismissive of Fatima and the Third Secret and emphasizes that John Paul's belief in Fatima to underscore his credulity.

"The Robe", on the other hand, is open to the miraculous. It follows the travels of a Roman who is involved with the Crucifixion but who is going mad, thinking he was cursed by the scarlet robe. He goes to find it to destroy it but is slowly converted as he sees the love the Christians have. The miraculous is never overplayed; a dying man healed by Peter's prayer isn't shown leaping from bed. But it is always just burbling below the surface, such as when the robe itself begins the healing. There's also a touching scene where the Roman's ultimate confession to Peter is made much easier after Peter tells him of his thrice denial of Christ, showing that God can make use even of Peter's sin.
Fresh Content, Brewed Daily

Got a nice email from a reader in St. Louis. I'm always taken aback by the fact there are folks I don't know reading this. A failure of the imagination I guess (abetted by the tossing of SiteMeter). This Internet thing is amazing you know. Never underestimate the power of 1's and 0's.

I feel a heightened sense of responsibility. A new determination to be the best blogger I can be. To blog with renewed vigah (say like JFK) -- to blog like the wind!

I'll lie down until it passes (rimshot).

But seriously (and blogging means never having to have a segue), I've been reading & enjoying Mr. Blue. Blue has a very Thoreauian view of life and in fact quotes Thoreau in a letter. Here are some nuggets to whet your interest:
People remember sorrow much longer than they remember laughter...Literature is to be blamed. It has never cooperated with the gayer side of mankind. The biographer is to be blamed as well as the poet and novelist...The biographer exaggerates the serious side of man to given him importance, for it has always been felt, peculiarly enough, that seriousness is a sign of importance. The biographer stresses a man's work so much that the reader is led to believe that the subject did little else. And yet all men loaf far more than they work. All great men especially.
The older a civilization, the more it approaches the glumness of stagnation. Capacity for laughter could well be employed as the index of the wisdom of a man or a civilization.
There are few of us who do not grow a trifle in importance when we take a pen in hand.
He was born a Catholic, but he had all that enthusiasm of discovery that heaven usually reserves for converts.

March 29, 2005

Judiciary Trumps Executive (Again)

Well, the Miami Herald is reporting that Gov. Jeb Bush sent some officers to possibly take Terri but when the local police heard they were coming they said they wouldn't budge, they'd defend Judge Greer's order.

Whether true or not who knows, but if I were Jeb I'd surely have put some feelers out just to see what was possible. It seems that even though the judicial branch has made power grabs at the expense of the legislative and executive branches for decades, custom and tradition accept it. Police presumably feel more comfortable following the judicial since they deal with lawyers and judges all the time.

I thought the whole point behind the Judicial branch was to protect rights. The irony is they are now most likely to strip rights, most grievously with respect to the right to life of the unborn.
The Cardinal & the Priest

Anybody else see Rev. Richard McBrien on O'Reilly yesterday? He flat out refuted Cardinal McCarrick's clear statement on ABC's This Week that removing Terri's feeding tube is tantamount to murder. Cardinal McCarrick said that what made this murder was the removal of the feeding tube. Once you put it in, then you can't remove it, deftly avoiding whether the decision to hydrate is an ordinary or extraordinary means. At least that's the way I understood it.
Hilda Doolittle Poem

dusty feet
sink in soft drift of pine
and anodyne
of balm and fir and myrtle-trees
and cones
drift across weary brows
and the sea-foam
marks the sea-path
where no sea ever comes;
islands arise where never islands were,
crowned with the sacred palm
or odorous cedar;
waves sparkle and delight
the weary eyes
that never saw the sun fall in the sea
nor the bright Pleiads rise.

Byzantine Simplicity

The noble savage Homer Simpson once toasted alcohol as the solution for, and cause of, all of life's problems. Perhaps with regard to religion simplicity is the same, since it is both the mother of heresies as well as the very ground we walk on.

I like the Eastern Rite's simple and straightforward seasonal responsorial:
Priest: Christ is Risen!

All: Indeed, He is Risen!
Patience - NOW!

I've been pondering a m'Lynn post. I've always been fascinated by borders, especially the border between Quietism and Pelagianism. My understanding is that Quietism leaves everything up to God and we don't have to do anything and pelagianism assumes all virtues are man-made.

Peter Kreeft writes about attempting to gain patience:
Just try being patient without agape. It simply will not work. It works only as long as you feel patient. So then you try substituting hard "will power" for soft feelings. "I'll be patient with that so-and-so if it kills me." And it almost does. You discover two things: that your will is ridiculously weak and that even when you succeed in repressing your impatience, it is still there. You have buried it alive; it is not dead. Your love is false and forced and formal. Patience has to come from the heart, not from either undulating feelings or from iron resolution.
Arguably, the two most morally flaccid decades of the American 20th century were the '20s and the '60s. The '20s came just after WWI and the '60s came not long after the WWII/Korean war period. Could those wars, with their "white-knuckling" aspects of self-denial and self-sacrifice, led to the morally fatuous periods? Was the answer to repression the flaccid decades? If so, it shows what we already know - that only Christ avails.

Herald birds sing their heraldic songs
holding the tri-color against their breasts
glide-hangs under severe clouds
and sere branches that wend along banks
of the damp Burgess
and the roiled earth up-planted, cross-sectioned,
where torried tan streams snake
at hover-angles till
release into the grand Present:
the river Darby.
Interesting comments...

...from Randall Sullivan, author of "The Miracle Detective" here:
"I think there are a lot of people out there who can relate to your book and to you," Margi English, the producer on the project, told me, "because most of us believe and question that belief at the same time." I certainly hope she's right, for all the obvious reasons, but also because I'm awfully tired of hearing only from those who don't believe at all on the one hand, and those who don't doubt at all on the other.

Mostly, though, I feel a growing sense of peace about having revealed myself as a person who can never be one of the former and will never be one of the latter.
This speaks to what I wrote earlier, that those with small faith may occasionally minister most effectively to those with even less. But at the same time I'm reminded of the necessity of certitude, which I believe the Catholic Church was designed by Christ to give. Cardinal Newman wrote that "no man can worship, love or trust in a probable God" but it's even more difficult to imagine willingness to be martyred for a God about whom you harbor some doubt.
A Whimsical Post

Are you a recent convert but culturally adrift? Are you listening to Alice in Chains but know that Bach would be better for your soul even though you're not ready for the shock of immersion into the culture of the 1940s let alone the 13th century?

Well, here's the plan, Stan:

Every three to six months go back in time by one year. Indulge books, music and movies that came out only within that year. You can profitably skip the '20s and '60s and '70s. Enjoy!

March 28, 2005

Love is Rude?

Was listening to Lisa Marie Presley on Oprah today and she said that her attraction to Michael Jackson was how he took her into his confidence and how she felt as if she were his savior. Oprah asked how she got from wanting to help Michael to saying "I do" and she said "Love is rude. Bono once told me that 'love has no manners' and it's so true."

Love has no manners? Hmmm...the love described in 1 Cor 13 sounds exceedingly mannerly. And God, who is Love, resolutely does not force himself on us. "Love is patient, love is kind, love does not put on airs. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, it is not snobbish. Love is never rude, it is not self-seeking."

On the other hand, one could understand her comment as an assertion Love chooses you, an echo of how Jesus said that "first I have chosen you." She must've felt she had been chosen.

But what about love is unmannerly? Is it the prodigality, a prodigality that offputs the gentrified? Does love seem unmannered given the Divine Mercy will not be collared by protocol? The lesson of the Prodigal Son is that God will not abide limits to his love. The lesson of the Cross & Eucharist is that God will humble himself for our sake, most definitely a breach of manners. Kings shall act as kings, so goes the protocol. But not so with God, who became servant of all!
Rule By Nine Lawyers
"We're either living under a Constitution or not, and at the moment because of the way the Court interprets its role we're not - we're living under the opinions of nine lawyers." - Mona Charen, 3/17/05
Peter Kreeft Quote
A poll revealed that of all the scientists in America, those in psychology include the smallest percentage of religious believers. Astrophysics and cell biology were among the hightest - probably because they study divine order rather than human disorder. Right at the center of life we have an irrevocable conflict of philosophies: Jesus versus the vast majority of modern psychologists on how to save your soul and even on whether you have a soul.

March 24, 2005

Powerful, bracing post from Amy Welborn .

Amy's post dovetails with news from my wife concerning the funeral Mass of her co-worker, an ALS patient who died last week after years of suffering. The priest said he spoke to John last fall and that he said he considered ALS a blessing in that he treasured and enjoyed life so much more fully, knowing it to be precious, and knowing that love survives death.
light reasserts
his power
reclaims the lost;
in a new blaze of splendour
calls the host
to reassemble
and to readjust
all severings
and differings of thought,
all strife and strident bickering
and rest;
O fair and blest,
he strides forth young and pitiful and strong.

- Hilda Dolittle
Passion Film

Watched TPOTC again, a rich mine indeed. Mary Magdalen is slow to understand why she is taking the towels to wipe Christ's blood, but she does so because she is following Mary's lead. Obedience before clarity. As she wipes up the blood it suddenly dawns on her that this was for her, confirmed by a flashback to Jesus writing in the dust before the crowd who wanted to stone her.

One catches the facial nuances with repeated viewings, the flicker of recognition that crosses Christ's face when he looked up and saw no one had condemned Mary Magadalen, as if intuiting he would be the lamb of sacrifice for her. When Mary Magadalen in that scene crawls, or more accurately slithers, to Christ it intentionally recalls the scene in the Garden where the devil slithers in the form of a snake and Jesus crushes it. But Jesus does not crush Mary but offers his hand and lifts her up, an iconic image of the dignity afforded to man.

March 23, 2005

It's an Odd World After All
PINELLAS PARK, FL-- The National Guard was called out today to prevent good Samaritans from attempting to give fluid to Terri Schiavo. Two were killed and scores injured when rioters carrying only ice chips which they longed to put on Terri's tongue were denied entry.

"Yeah we had to kill a few," said a spokesman for the Guard. "Sometimes it's necessary to kill in order to save--er, I mean end-- a life."

Other guardsmen were less pleased.

"I don't understand it," said John Silver of Darbydale, Maryland. "If it's all about Terri's wishes, then wouldn't Terri wish to be divorced given he has two kids with another woman?"
Living Wills & the Catholic Church

I was watching O'Reilly last night and he was confident about his status with respect to end-of-life issues. "I've got a living will," he said, as if the matter were closed.

But do living wills conform to the teachings of the Church? Dom is asking this same question.

I did find this Florida directive. And there's more here and here. It's almost like we have to provide our own legal documents to our attorney, since it's likely he's not going to be too worried about what the catechism says.

UPDATE: Via Dom: Catholic guide to end of life decisions
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Aristotle wrote, "The law is reason free from passion." Modern society accepts, "The law is agenda free from reason." The law cannot but fail us if it is reason free from compassion, and it has once again failed us in the defense of life. However, one can no longer argue that the unfortunate, indeed evil, result of Ms. Schiavo's case is a single person's point of view. Too many sources have reviewed and upheld it. I do not know the law, but it appears that all who do seem to think things were conducted as they should be. This suggests that there is something malign and dangerous about the law as it presently stands. Hence, the law must change. - Steven Riddle

There is definitely a sense that I see among those concerned about this case that justice has not yet been served - and if it's not, it weighs on us, for this is our country, our system. What our judicial system does reflects on us, and should reflect our values, as difficult and contentious as it may be to tease that out, and as often as we feel it doesn't.... But in this case, there is merit, there is value. There are actual issues at stake. There is real action that's been taken. There are questions - important questions - being addressed. There is an uncomfortable vibe out there, among many, that something is not right. No need to apologize for caring. - Amy Welborn

A friend of mine takes serious umbrage at the political hay and posturing that accompanied this extraordinary maneuver by Congress. I hope I am not sinful nor intellectually sloppy to say "Who cares?" My guess is that posturing is a chronic condition of congressmen. If the desire to posture causes them to do the right thing, then give it your best shot there, guys. - Roz of "Exultet"

I'm in love with Tom DeLay...And I'm not ashamed to admit it. - Therese Z of exultet, winner of this week's "Honesty in Blogging" award (and most cringe-worthy also)

It is difficult for our younger sisters not to have the experience of life, freedom and joy, and this is blocked now. Sometimes they are angry and resent having to struggle so much. We try to be with them during these times. As religious, they are not mature enough to cope so we try to help them understand. I would tell them: "Now you are praying real prayers. When you are angry, confused, abandoned, you talk about these feelings and fears and give them over to God, like the psalmists. Our suffering deepens our prayer and makes it more real". - Dominican sisters in Iraq

He must have been strong, I suspect he had a good sense of humor, and as for humility -- how would you like it if the only sinner in your family were you?- Roz of Exultet on St. Joseph

Only after long years of practicing the interior and spiritual life does one experience the intimate divine presence and for long periods of time. At the beginning, one must fight off concupiscence, noise, confusion, ignorance, self-love, and all the countless predicates of being a sinful creature. Eventually, if one is persisent, he begins to be mostly conscious that he is never alone. - Fr. Bob Levis of EWTN'S Q&A

And in another place, speaking of the petition of the mother of Zebedee's sons, on the words, "It is not mine to give, etc." he observes: "By this Christ wished to show that it was not simply his to give, but that it also belonged to the combatants to take; for if it depended only on himself, all men would be saved." - St. Alphonsus quoting St. John Chrysostom

After five months in the novitiate of a certain religious order, he told his novice master, "I am finished. I am done. I've been praying four hours a day, like I was told, ever since I got here. I've said everything. I've gone over with God my whole past, everything in my present, and every possible future. How can I possibly get through another nine months of four hours of daily prayer?" The novice master said, "Brother, now is when you do butt prayer. Go sit your butt down in the chapel, in front of the tabernacle. You listen to God, and you start to pray." - Tom of Disputations

Christ went to His death for us. We arranged it, and we were responsible for it, but He took it up and bore it. Questions as to who was responsible miss the point entirely. As in any murder mystery, the most likely culprit is the one who benefits most. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli, regarding anti-Semitism

When I was a younger man, I despised small talk, thinking only serious conversation to be worth the air we breathe. Anything less was bad stewardship of my vocal cords. I've come to realize that deep conversations have rhythm and depth only when preceded by lots of small talk. Small talk is like lay-ups before a basketball game—routine, mundane, predictable, but absolutely necessary to stretch tight muscles and get one's timing down, so that when the real game begins you do not pull a muscle or lose the grace of your jump shot. And this is the final madness. That a bracket guessing game about a bunch of athletes trying to toss a leather ball through a metal hoop, players we don't know from schools we hardly care about playing in arenas we've never visited, all striving for an ephemeral title of only a fleeting glory, that this ultimately meaningless and arbitrary game, can become a means of grace, a means of small talk, by which I ever so gradually stretch more deeply into relationships, find my relational timing with Jennifer and Collin and Mark and others—why its madness—"an incipient madness, and ready to grow, spread and consume, when the occasion [March!] comes." - Mark Galli in "Christianity Today"

Like many historical movies, the history is not always accurate, however, if you like movies about the real IRA guys of the old days (not the marxist IRA thugs we have today), you will like this movie. - Fr. Ethan of "diary of a suburban priest" reviewing movie "Michael Collins"

The argument that compassion, or justice, or any other good thing must be reasonable is as old as Socrates. In practice it means that the best reasoner is the best person in the room. That is certainly how Socrates used it. - Richard Brookhiser of "The Corner"

CNN's Catherine Crier, a lawyer who wrote a book making the case against lawyers, quoted De Tocqueville who predicted that Americans will eventually lose their liberty to lawyers.

We are ruled by law which in reality means rule by courts since he who interprets the law owns the law. Lawyers are the kingmakers in a litigious society. And if they didn't know it at our country's founding (when the judicial branch was perceived as the weakest) they sure do now. Everybody knows it now.

Of course we're between a rock and a hard place. We can't much trust mob rule (i.e. us) but we also can't trust morally confused secular elites wearing robes. I guess in the short run it'd be better to have mob rule. It's certainly no wonder the Republicans want to end the filibuster rule in order to get sound judges appointed even though that could certainly come back to haunt.

Regarding Michael Schiavo, I heard some hearsay that certainly paints him in unfavorable terms. But even if he is the devil himself every good has a foil. Evil in this world should not surprise - that's what courts were designed for. Child-abusing priests and loathesome ALCU lawyers are the reason safeguards exist, in the form of bishops and judges. When they fail? That's when it really, really hurts.

The all-painful award to the media person most discordant to the ears was won by Bob Schieffer, who opined that the whole thing was just awful but that he was outraged that Congress would get involved, especially in the middle of the night like that.

Uh, newsflash -- she's dying. No food or water. It's all about time right now.

He also was mad about a law being passed for one person. Don't we have lots of tax loopholes that apply to select groups infinitely approaching one? And if we can enact a law honoring a single individual (like Martin Luther King) then why can't we enact a law hoping to save a single individual?

Even though a red-faced Tim Russert ripped pro-life conservatives a new one on Chris Matthew's show, at least he wasn't as patronizing as Schieffer.

March 22, 2005

Temptations as Graces

Found this helpful post from Catholic Analysis.
Terri Schiavo Case

Good posts on a grim topic:

...from Some Have Hats, who quotes a pundit who says your view of the case "depends on whether you think that moral law should trump legal law."

...from Amy Welborn on the fact that Terri's potential recovery is completely irrelevant (I guess holding out hope is an appeal to the 'swing voters').

...from KJ Lopez on the demonizing of Michael Schiavo.

Derbyshire, by my lights, is way too chummy with Michael but I think (if I may play amateur psychologist) that we're seeing the natural reaction of someone who started out leaning against Terri but was so hammered by the good Christians who wanted their pound of flesh (i.e. hateful emails) that the Derb is now actively antagonistic. Calling someone a dumb ox will only hurt your case, unless you're talking to an Aquinas. We Christians are naturally our own worse enemy although admittedly the courts have been giving us a run for the money at least since Roe v. Wade.
Another Scanned Photo...

Ireland 1997 Posted by Hello
Jensen's Story

Somewhat related to that last post I found this review of Jan Lars Jensen's "Nervous System" worthwhile. In it Jensen describes his descent into madness and paranoia:
When his loving wife Michelle brings him homemade grape juice in the hospital, he fears it could be poison. But the more we become privy to Jensen’s fears, the more we follow the inner logic of his paranoia, the more we come to realize, ohmigawd, this is what it’s really like to go bonkers, this is insanity...

But this narrator is so deeply self-absorbed, we don’t necessarily feel compassion for him from the outset. How can someone so precise and articulate be simultaneously so feckless? Can’t this guy just snap out of it? The question arises as to what extent mental illness could sometimes be some twisted form of self-indulgence.

We remain on the periphery of Jensen’s predicament, neutral but entertained, until we come to realize Jensen is providing us with a very privileged viewpoint. Nervous System is a deeply human reporting of a remarkable journey. We gradually come to appreciate, along with him, that lots of people must feel and think as he does. Jensen is a rare messenger from the land of inner torment, an ambassador of madness, a Marco Polo of paranoia, who has come a long way back to unravel his tale....

In just 48 hours, J.L. Jensen went from being an atheist to someone who deduced, on paper, an equation that proved the existence of God. “You know your life has changed when you wake up in a psych ward. There is the time in your life before this moment, and the time after.”

This change for the better is, to some extent, not just the product of his circumstances. Jensen does a lot of hard work—thinking work—experimenting with prayer, re-examining his family background and questioning the nature of his character.

“…my thoughts had turned to my life and decisions that shaped it, and even if I wasn’t fundamentally wicked, I realized that I had made choices based on self-gratification, the most obvious example being the pursuit of a career as a fiction writer.

“A desire to help people had never motivated me. No, I had hoped to be seen as gifted, that was what it reduced to, and if my motivation wasn’t evil, it was undeniably self-centred.

“I must incorporate good acts in my life—selfless behaviour—if there was to be any chance of feeling comfortable with my place in the universe. I wanted to make this change immediately, make an effort.”
Art & Sin

I found this Barbara Nicolosi comment interesting:

I used to think sin was necessary to making a great writer. But, then, a good woman I met in Ohio straightened me out, saying, "It isn't sin that makes someone deep, but rather suffering. It's just that the worst kind of suffering is that which has the added burden of remorse."

It reminds me of what Shelby Foote said in a letter to Walker Percy (from The Correspondence of Walker Percy & Shelby Foote). He said that in the end you have to choose to serve God or art and that no great writer serves both. If you put anything before your art you are holding back. (I can't remember what he said about Dante - my best recall was that because Dante was so set on vengeance - by gleefully describing people he didn't like in Hell - that perhaps Foote didn't consider him devout enough to be applicable.) Foote says Flannery O'Connor was an excellent but not great writer for that reason. (Of course, the fact that O'Connor suffered so much supports the good woman in Ohio's point rather than Foote's.)

My literature palate is insufficiently developed to be able to tell the difference between an good and a great writer. James Joyce (at least Ulysses) makes no sense to me and seems hardly worth the effort. I'm told that T.S. Eliot wrote better before his conversion but again I'm not astute enough to discern. (On that note: I've always wanted to try to compare a $500-a-bottle glass of wine and see if I could tell any difference between that and a $30-a-bottle glass.)

Of the list of writers just below the "immortals" there are Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh...who aren't exactly models for the faith I'm afraid? No one can judge another's soul, but supposing their faith was weak then perhaps the nearly faithless might sometimes evangelize the totally faithless more effectively than the devout. God can surely wish to use those who can speak fluidly the language of modernity, though that still assumes (one would hope) that the writer is seeking first the Kingdom. For what is it to gain the whole world but lose our immortal soul?
Amazon's Suggestive Selling

Amazon suggested purchase emails are often amusing. Buy a gift book for somebody on a subject you're completely uninterested in and for years you'll be getting, "As someone who once purchased 'Your Guide to Menopause', we thought you'd like..."

With that in mind, I've added a few more:
As someone who purchased Paul Johnson's "Birth of the Modern", we thought you'd be interested in "Birthing Techniques for Modern Mothers"

As someone who purchased Kathy Shaidle's "God Rides a Yamaha", we thought you'd be interested in Tubb's "The Story of Hell's Angels"

As someone who purchased Tony Hendra's "Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul" we think you'll like "Father, I'm not a 'Ho!: Story of a Daughter who Dressed Immodestly"

As someone who purchased "The Divine Comedy" we think you'll like "The Comedy of the Divine Miss M"

As someone who purchased "Karl Marx : His Life and Environment" we think you'll like "My Democratic Party" by Teddy Kennedy

As someone who purchased "The Evidential Power of Beauty" we think you'll like "Metrosexual Beauty Tips"

As someone who purchased "Morte D'Urban" we think you'll like "The Death of Urban Rap"

As someone who purchased "Twelve Steps for the Biblioholic" we think you'll like "The ABCs of Book Collecting"

March 21, 2005

Being Right Does Not Make Right

Interesting conversion-within-a-conversion story by Jeff Childers:
Most compelling to me, the prophets foretold a Church that would never cease to teach to truth -- a Church that would, by the grace of God, always be right. Said God through the prophet Isaiah: "My Spirit that is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children's children, says the LORD, from now on and forever." Learning from the Christian Fathers that the early Church was Catholic, and from the Hebrew prophets that the Church was to remain faithful - indefectible - from her Messianic foundation until the culmination of history...I was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday, 1998...

My faith had always been primarily an assent of will -- an acknowledgement that what the Bible or the Church proclaims as true is, in fact, true. This is, of course, an important and necessary aspect of the Christian life. For me, this was the essence of Christian life: to conform my opinions to objectively true reality. In other words, it was all about being right.

The denomination in which I was raised, the Church of Christ, puts a particular emphasis on the objectivity of truth. It's a "just the facts, ma'am" approach to the gospel. Emotions are downplayed as irrelevant and distracting to the pursuit of truth-a religion of the head rather than the heart.

I brought this intellectualist, dogma-centered approach to the faith with me into the Catholic Church. For me, it was not the love of God, prayer, or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that was the center of my faith, but the simple fact of being right - of having found the truth. It would have made more sense to me to be devoted to the Sacred Brain than the Sacred Heart.

This great danger of a head-centered Christianity, especially when it is not properly balanced with a truly heart-centered life of prayer and love, is that it is a constant occasion for pride. I studied God's Word, I dealt with the difficult issues, I discovered the truth, I'm right. Just as Moses had erred grievously when he took credit for discovering the rock with life-giving water, so too did I err in taking credit for discovering the rock on whom Christ built his Church. Self-satisfaction in one's intellectual discoveries, as true and real as those discoveries are, can not long sustain someone in his life of faith.

The Angelic Doctor tells us that "in order to overcome pride, God punishes men by allowing them to fall into the sins of the flesh, which though they be less grievous are more evidently shameful." Then, humbled by our often public shame, God uses tragedies - a house fire, the death of a loved one, a serious injury, or, for someone as bullheaded as me, all three at once- to show us our need for his love. And what a great love it is!
Update: a felix typo was corrected *grin*. That ol' Tom don't miss a trick.
Michael Potemra in NR:
Jews today will frequently encounter the well-meaning Christian who is, frankly, puzzled: Why do Jews remain Jews? Hasn’t the old issue been settled by mere numbers, by the Christian preponderance in both population and cultural influence? Why don’t the Jews just be good sports, and go along with the rest of us who are fortunate enough to be in the majority of Americans, i.e., those who accept Jesus as the Messiah? The easy answer is the one Thomas More gave in A Man for All Seasons. Norfolk was hectoring him: “Dammit, Thomas! . . . Why can’t you do as I did and come with us, for fellowship!” To which More responded: “And when we die, and you are sent to heaven for doing your conscience, and I am sent to hell for not doing mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”
Pro-Life vs. Pro-Rule of Law?

I was somewhat surprised to learn that George Will is fiercely against the recent Congressional measures taken with respect to Terri Schiavo. My brother-in-law is also apoplectic at this infringement of the Feds. As a conservative I suppose I'm supposed to be too. Federalism... the rule of law, the principle... I suppose I'm for states rights as long as nobody gets killed.

Jonah Goldberg puts the best spin on our inconsistency:
I do think conservative Republicans are at a minimum inconsistent in their sudden love of the fourteenth amendment and an activist federal government. But liberals are no less inconsistent in their sudden love of states' rights on such issues. The difference is that Republicans are embracing a principle they've spent some time upholding -- a culture of life -- while Democrats are spending most of their time whining about the "hypocrisy" of their opponents. I would respect the Democrats more if they had the courage to argue that Terri should die. That is their position.
Those Darn Conservatives

Gotta love Publisher Weekly's review of Ted Dalyrmple's book:

Dalrymple, a noted conservative columnist in London's the Spectator, collects pieces he wrote for the conservative City Journal, using his own work as a physician in British slums and prisons as fodder for an analysis of the underclass

Message received. This guy is....(whisper if you're in mixed company)... a conservative.

I don't think the left has managed to demonize the word conservative yet though they certainly are a tryin'. The Jesuits prayer site, of all places, had this recent bon mot concerning St. Patrick: "He is our antidote to conservatism – a slave who ran away from his owners and returned to Ireland to face down kings and chieftains." I hope your non-sequitor secret decoder ring went off too.

Progressives have been more successful demonizing the term "neo-con", but since "neo-con" and "Iraq War" seem to be joined at the hip I guess it depends on one's view of the Iraq war.
God is just a prayer away

Got up early enough Sunday morning to hear Ed Bousman , a preacher from that other Lynchburg, e.g. Lynchburg, Ohio.

Ed Bousman has been on WLW for at least 30 years. I heard him off and on back in the '70s, with his wonderful bass voice singing the signature song of his show: God is just a prayer away. It's nice to know that in a world of constant change Mr. Bousman has not changed his show a lick. The recording of the song mentioned above was exactly the same I heard in 1975. On his website there's an announcement that he's retiring. Or maybe not:
Retirement comes to some earlier than for others, but sooner or later because of the inexorable march of time it comes to us all. Many have asked me when I would retire, and now at long last I must announce what many have thought was long over due. I have retired as of the last of August 1942.

At the end of August 1942 I quit my summer job in the Shipyard at Newport News, Virginia and I haven't done a lick of work since. I have good verification that I haven't worked in over fifty years. My father in the flesh commonly called Dad was in the Barber chair. The barber was doing his usual thing namely talking while giving a haircut. He asked Dad how many kids did he have and Dad said three.

The barber asked and what do they do. Dad told him about his youngest son who he said worked for the railroad and a daughter who married a telephone man. He stopped at this point and said no more.

The barber said well, how about the other son? What does he do? Dad said, He doesn't do anything. The barber said what do you mean he doesn't do anything? Dad said he's a preacher.

In addition to announcing my retirement which began at the end of the summer of 1942 I would also like to announce that on Valentines Day of this year I shalt begin my fifty-fourth year of doing absolutely nothing at all.

"There's certain things I won't do, I don't care how much you pay me. I won't drink a rat." - co-worker overheard, discussing the television show Fear Factor
Verweile Doch

Oh to alight the captain's chair where I read like a drunken soldier - drunk on prose! After three busy weekends, this one presented itself as especially conducive to a long, varigated reads. I've lately not been too good at moving from book to book in a single evening, tending to linger too long in pollinating bliss at a single flower, but the excess of time allowed even Christopher Nolan's "The Banyan Tree", a novel as cryptic as Spanish blogger Hernan Gonzalez through the lens of Babelfish, to be enjoyed. Nolan uses nouns as verbs ("Manchestering?") and hues the print with delicious imagery. It began to taxiderm my eyelids, so dreamlike his prose, that I had to switch to Iris Murdoch's "Bruno's Dream" before Dickens' "Pickwick Papers", William F. Buckley's sailing adventures, "The Enemy Within", and finally a biography of Jefferson Davis.

It was a dizzingly joyous return to reading; when my wife got back from shopping I could speak in full sentences again. (The NBB - 'nothing but basketball' - on CBS had reduced me to grunts and nods and irregularly-spaced adrenalin flourishes.)

I recall writing a poem a few years ago about the foothills out in Southeastern Ohio, in the Hocking Hills region, where "lay a field in view of the highway...[that] bid me come like Lorelei to see what lie beyond." There was the small archway in the middle distance that lead to a field beyond, a passageway to which I entered and "tread the threshold once reach the thrice-hid field held back perchance another meadow loomed."

This imagery gave great joy so I was pleased by something similar found in Iris Murdoch over the weekend:
The gap, which the yews were just beginning to roof over with the long feathery boughs to make into an archway, somehow made the tiny garden into a dream place, made it seem longer, as if there must be more beyond, another garden, and another and another beyond that.
More Iris Murdoch quotes (from "Bruno's Dream"):
Art cannot but console for what it weeps over.

"Do you believe in Shiva, Parvati?"..."But do you believe in him, in him?"
"Perhaps. Who knows what is belief?"

How hard it was to describe things. How hard it was to see things. He wondered if, since he had completely given up drinking, he had actually been able to see more. Not that he had ever drunk much, but any departure from total sobriety seemed enough to damage his perception. Even yet he was not sober enough, not quiet enough, to take in the marvels that surrounded him.

Gwen was usually tired to the point of collapse. Miles felt guiltily how easy a life he was now leading by contrast...It was just, she reflected, that any man, as soon as you get to know him well turns out to be totally selfish. Danby did exactly what he wanted and never seemed to think that this might not suit Adelaide perfectly.

NY Times article on lexicographers. They aren't your father's lexicographers.

(Photo credit Peter Thompson for the New York Times)
Journal Excerpts


The ALS patient died yesterday.

He worked at my wife's shop.

He was brave and gentle and heroic as
his muscles failed one by one by one
by years til he lost the breath
and there was suffocation.

Those with the strongest will to live
make their suffering longer.

I want to cry bitter tears for this
man I scarcely knew
just for the outrage of it
this macabre death
this slow freeze.

At least the butterfly flies aloft now.

Pray for us, John.


He was too glad to see my wife. That was my first thought. The second was that he looked the part of uninteresting social climber. Probably read management books and went to sleep at night by counting the commas in his paycheck. He had opaque oval blue eyes and wore a gay green party hat on his head. This passed through my mind even while being introduced to him, before I could dismiss them as uncharitable thoughts which betrayed my snobbery and jealousy.

"This is Eric...this is the one I was telling you about who read "Dawn to Decadence".

I looked at him with renewed interest and curiosity. So this was the dedicated reader my wife spoke of. Who'd read the magisterial Jacques Barzun, the wise man of history who'd written an 800-page book describing the fall of the West from 1500 to the present.

"You two are exactly alike," my wife said.

March 20, 2005

God Himself

The common Lenten responsorial psalm in the Liturgy of the Hours is "God Himself will set me free, from the hunter's snare", a consoling and personal refrain.

God Himself is what really interests us. True, we'll take help from wherever we can get it. But it's really God himself that we all hunger for. So there's nothing in us that is interesting, per se, it's only to the extent God is within us. And this dovetails nicely with the scriptural verse that unless God builds it, we labor in vain. Unless we are reflecting God Himself our labor is vain, even if that labor is doing something positive.

So how do we know if we are reflecting God? I dunno, although I suspect attitude might have something to do with it. The necessity of cheerful giving becomes clearer to me.

March 18, 2005

Just Got a Scanner!

I could wish for just a tinge better quality. The actual picture looks much better, trust me.

Picture taken in Mexico City, 2001 Posted by Hello
Harvard's Beleagured Lawrence Summers

The Summers flap is interesting because of what it symbolizes - the tendency of those on the left (and right too, but I think more so on the left) to refuse to deal with inconvenient facts.

The progressive flirtation with communism was never impeded by the inconvenient fact that free enterprise creates the most wealth for the most people. Similarly with abortion. A baby can be inconvenient, so let's call it a fetus and kill it.

We all have a tendency to cater our world view to our convenience. And we're only on the hook for as much truth as we are given (Jeremiah sounds harsh in today's reading when he asks the Lord, "Let me witness the vengeance you take on them" but only to New Testament ears. It would be chronological bias to think him less saintly for it.)

Regardless, it seems a bit odd to blame the messenger for bad news. Studies show that white men about my age are most likely to be serial killers and yet I don't want to go out and censure anyone who repeats that.

I realize with Summers it's probably more about his personality and management style than perhaps his recent statement about women and science but still the reaction of Harvahd professors to his statement was astonishing.
Notable & Quotable

A family member recently said that she was mad at God, saying "He loves suffering!". I didn't know quite what to say, but Bill Luse had a good response when I mentioned it to him. He said, "No, God loves those who suffer."
From the latest Nat'l Review:

Ted Dalrymple is good with words. Excerpts from a recent column:
It is a truism that it isn’t easy being a Royal Family these days. It used to be so much easier. When the existence of social hierarchy was taken for granted, someone had to be at the top of it, rather like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover. But nowadays, not only is Jack as good as his master, he also insists upon repeated public recognition of the fact. How, then, can a Royal Family be justified? What is it for? Upon what sentiments may it depend for its support among the population?

British patriotism is dead — although a nasty form of nationalism remains a minority interest — while Welsh and Scottish patriotism consists mainly of self-pitying hatred of the English. There is no quicker way of emptying a room in Britain than to play the national anthem, which causes the acutest embarrassment. How can a God in whom no one believes be invoked to spare the life of a woman to whom all now believe themselves equal or even superior?

The present queen has behaved so well, for so many years, that she represents the greatest modern exemplar of devotion to duty known to me...It is not so much that she has no actual, real, personal personality, as it were: It is that that her public personality is entirely coterminous with her public duty, to which she has subjugated everything else. Modern people cannot understand this: They cannot conceive of a duty so imperative that the expression of one’s own personality — beautiful and unique, as almost by definition it must be — is unimportant beside it. From this fundamental incomprehension comes the now widespread criticism that the Queen is a cold, unemotional person. But she believes that it is not her job to be emotional: Her emotions are for strictly private occasions. Her job is to perform her duties to the best of her abilities, and never mind what she is feeling. Needless to say, this is not a view of life with which much of the population below the age of 60 now sympathizes. The Queen spent many of her formative years during the war, when there was much talk of duty.

March 17, 2005

Of Irish Interest

Trip log of a visit to Ireland by Terrence Berres...and what would St. Patrick's Day be without a good donnybrook?

From Practically Useless Information: Food & Drink by Norman Kolpas:
Robert Louis Stevenson took Guinness with him to the islands of Samoa.

Guinness has fewer calories than a glass of orange juice or skim milk.

"Mind your p’s and q’s" means "Mind your own business." The phrase came from an English pub keeper who would tell customers to mind their pints and quarts of beer instead of what anyone else might be doing.
Parade Time

It's a shame I only walk the few blocks downtown when there's a St. Pat's Day parade. It's urban from the suburban, humanity from sterility.

It's stimulating. There are the people sitting at stools in a bistro with whom you feel oddly intimate, their drink and food choices a pane of glass away. There are the shop windows aglitter with handsome watches. There are the shadowy alleyways and the steam-ventish scent in the streets that smells of wistful, reminding me of New York City.

I loved seeing the children flock to the scattered candies. It was electric, the way they appeared out of nowhere, hidden by the trunks of their parents until all fly to the street and gather golden chocolate coins. How natural to see them flock to sweetness, without airs or shyness or hesitation!

St. Patrick himself led the parade, and he sure looked the part. He blessed us as he went by and it was fitting the sacred lead the secular. Cars and walkers strode by afterwards, Happy-St. Patrick'ing and waving us to death. One said, "be proud to be Irish!".

The high point is when the pipers come by and played their stirring tunes. Every year they sound better.

On the walk back the tune "Down by the Salley Garden" came to mind unbidden...

Down by the salley gardens
My love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens
With little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy,
As the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish,
With her would not agree.
Lie of the Land

Had an interesting discussion with a co-worker, a daily Mass goer who described her frustration at the fact that her previous parish priest was a child abuser but was generally beloved and forgiven because he was gregarious and warm and all those things people apparently want in a pastor. Their current priest is less liked because although he's a good administrator and dutiful and thoughtful, he is more reserved.

That's the culture we live in. People are so hungry for fellowship, for glad-handing, for warm and fuzzies and camaderie that they are apparently willing to overlook what stinks to highest heaven - the abuse of minors. How sad.
Questions from Gregg:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
A book that survives 451 degrees.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Cervante's Dulcinea, although I've obviously been unduly influenced by the shapely Sophia Loren in Man of La Mancha.

The last book you bought was . . .
A tie: "The Birth of the Modern: World Society, 1815-1830" by Paul Johnson
"Helena" - Evelyn Waugh

The last book you read was . . .
"C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church" - J. Pearce

What are you currently reading?
Might be easier to say what I'm not reading, but I'll pick two: "Robert Hamilton Bishop" - biography of the founder of Miami University, and "The God Who Loves You" - Peter Kreeft.

Five books you would take to a desert island:
1. Bible - Jerusalem version
2. Life of Johnson - Boswell
3. Summa Theologia - Aquinas
4. Good Poems - Keillor
5. Don Quixote - Cervantes

What three people are you passing this stick on to and why?
-Ham o' Bone
-KTC (just kidding)
-Bob of Trousered Ape
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

From the Jesuits' Sacred Space site:
If there is a hierarchy in heaven based on the churches named after you, Patrick must be at the top. He is our antidote to racism – a Welsh boy educated in France and missioned by Italians, who became the loved apostle of Ireland, and the toast of Irish people everywhere on 17th March. He was a visionary who followed his dreams, and loved the high mountains like Slemish and Croagh Patrick. Above all he was a religious man who turned to God during his leisured hours as a swineherd. All through his Confessions you sense his overflowing gratitude for the privilege of knowing Almighty God and Jesus Christ his son as he wrote:
In the light of our faith in the Trinity, regardless of danger, I must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear and frankly. I must spread everywhere the name of God so that after my decease I may leave a bequest to those whom I have baptized in the Lord — so many thousands of people

March 16, 2005

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

I must point out that the reasons to be Catholic far outweigh the nonsense that one too frequently encounters in the liturgies. I would rather endure a century of hippy-dippy liturgies, guitars and pianos and "On Eagles' Wings" over a minute of beautiful High Anglitic liturgy, even if the High Anglitic liturgy were breathtaking in its grandeur and solemnity. --Erik Keilholtz of 'Eriks Rants & Recipes'

The beauty that exists in the core of truth that is distorted to form the heresy--that God loves each of us intensely, personally, and eternally, and desires not the death of His servant but his eternal life. That is the beauty of universalism--the real good that is behind the distortion. To deny that there is beauty is not to see the heresy for what it is--the distorted reflection of the truth. - Steven Riddle

I look more like Grizzly Adams after a four-month bender. - Gregg the Obscure

Let us always remember that looking for the "God-shaped hole" is a two-edged sword. If there's one thing [Hunter] Thompson did well, it was holding up the eviscerated carcass of modernity and pointing to the bleeding cavity where once beat God within it, bellowing like some debauched Levite in mirrored sunglasses playing an updated scene from Judges 19. For despite how powerfully Thompson stared at that hole, it remained an unfilled void. Nothing appeared. Or so we presume? I cannot say. And so he shot himself. There but for the grace of God go many of us. Pray for all of them. - Old Oligarch

Quite true that the 1960s reforms were marked by their pace, and that plenty of changes just as remarkable occurred over previous centuries. One element of the former changes that was unique, I think, regards what Newman considered an innate mark of authentic development, viz. a conservative action on its own past. Many of the post-Vatican II reforms, I think, lacked this mark, especially the liturgical ones. This is not to deny their authenticity, only to suggest that the backlash against them was more than a mere incipient resistance to change as such. - Jamie of Ad Limina Apostolorum

All you need to know about the National Catholic Reporter can be found by noting which social issue its Washington correspondend Joe Feuerherd gives scare quotes and which he does not: '[Senator Rick] Santorum, who shepherded the ban on "partial birth abortion" through Congress and coauthored the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage....' - Tom of Disputations

to relax, i go to bed. - smockmomma, answering a quiz question on what she does to relax

The insidious evil that resides in theological error is that it gives sinners (including myself) an excuse to sin. My understanding of Universalism is that it is the belief that all will be saved, regardless. That all will end up in heaven, the baptised and the unbaptised, the one who lived a life of heroic virtue and the one who lived a life of recalcitrant evil. But how can that be true?...What brings this to my mind is that I repeatedly hear young women justify their abortions by stating that they sent their babies straight to heaven and that the babies would never have to suffer here on earth. Infant damnation is a difficult teaching, and I prefer that we defer the fate of the dead unborn to the mercy of God, but absent Universalism we would not be in the position of assuming that they are in heaven. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

"Ok, we're gonna play tag.
Here's the rules:

You can't cheat.
You can't act like a dog.
You can't act like a car.
You can't act like a fish."

-Catherine, age 3

Very Cute. I wonder if we, in our child-like perceptions, sound that way to God?
-Mary of "Ever New"
Joke I heard at the AOH party...

Baptist minister tells his parishioners "Take your whiskey, your wine, your beer and throw it all in the river!" Later comes the closing song: Shall We Gather at the River?
Understanding Love (and other oxymorons)

Alas, “it used to be so natural” to quote the old Neil Diamond song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore”. Love that is. It was simply acting on an feeling or inspiration to do someone good. Feeling? Or inspiration? Is there a difference?

A loved one (pun intended) loved (pun intended) the quote I posted from C.S. Lewis. It confirmed that doing things for others doesn’t necessarily make you happy, which surprised her. And I was somewhat surprised that she was surprised. It's better to give than to receive, but I wasn't under the impression that that meant in this life. But reading Kreeft's book, perhaps I am mistaken.

Now we all know love is not an emotion, not a feeling. Got it. But apparently it’s not not an emotion either. Because Peter Kreeft writes that if we do something uncheerfully it is not love. Isn’t cheerfulness an emotion? Kreeft refers to St. Paul’s famous passage in 1 Cor 13: “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” In other words, the simple will to love is not enough. There must be more. Kreeft writes that God doesn't want works of love, but love. From the heart, that most affective instrument.

To further complicate matters, love includes being harsh to those who need it, kind to those who need it. So if your feeling/inspiration tells you to be kind and kindness is needed then that feeling was an inspiration and love, otherwise it was just a feeling and a potentially destructive one.

I’m embarrassed to be writing about love (“you’ve been with me so long Thomas and you know me not…?”) but then I started reading commentaries on 1 Cor 13 and felt a bit better given the confusion. The Haydock notes to the Douay Rheims says that 1 Cor 13:2-3 proves that “faith without good works, and especially charity for God and our neighbour, cannot avail to eternal life; faith and charity are both essentially necessary”. The Jerome Biblical commentary suggests that love is not within our innate ability, which makes sense given that you must do good for another but must be given supernatural means to know what that good is: “This is supernatural love, what theology terms the virtue of charity. It is distinguished sharply in v. 3 from philanthropy and humanitarianism.”

Orchard’s commentary has an interesting take: “almsgiving is among the charismata in Rom 12:8. It must mean almsgiving on a heroic scale….The two best Greek manuscripts read: ‘If I lay down my life for vainglory and have no love’”. Now at least that one is pretty clear. It speaks to motivations, not feelings. I think I'll quit while I'm behind.

March 15, 2005

Effective Habits of the Five People You Meet in Heaven

Steve Kellmeyer is a marketing genius. Just imagine the success of a blog named 7 Highly Effective Habits of the Purpose-Driven Blog.
Always on the Edge of a Precipice

I was reading some of Warren Carroll's The Glory of Christendom over the weekend and he describes how quickly things began to slide from the "glory days". A society that produced the Cathedral of Chartres and saints like St. Francis, St. Thomas & St. Dominic suggests a healthy 13th century Church.

But within a remarkably short time things began to decline and in a couple hundred years the Reformation came and the Church split. Carroll suggests it begins with popes becoming too reliant on war as a means to solve problems. He begins the chapter that starts with the year 1275 with the verse "he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword".

But the reason I bring this up is that I've heard it frequently asked - and I've repeated it - that if the pre-Vatican II church was so healthy then why did it collapse like a proverbial house of cards? And I think my reading over the weekend suggests that question isn't relevant. Apparently the spiritual health of the Church (or an individual) is completely "in the moment" and almost unrelated to what comes before. Perhaps it's too pessimistic to see it as a contrary indicator, as if "walking on water" leads us, like Peter, to look at the waves and become fearful. (Contra that, Fr. Thomas Dubay gives the impression that the spiritual walk is progressive rather than moment-to-moment; he says there are three distinct conversions, one from mortal sin, one from venial sin, and one to heroic virtue.)

Quick declines can be seen as discouraging since there's the Sisyphean aspect of having to "start from scratch" every day, but the encouraging side of that coin is when we do fail we get another chance and our past is not held against us.
How True

...via Elena of My Domestic Church:
We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. --C.S. Lewis
Sort of reminds me how there's good news and bad news... The good news is that God loves you. The bad news is that God loves you (-- that is, too much to let you stay as you are).
Congressional Action for Terri Schiavo?

Handy link here to express support for H.R.1151 and S.539 (Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act).
Rather Doubt It

A new gig for Dan Rather?
Interesting New Yorker article

...on the slipperiness of time:
It was the sacrifice of absolute time that was most stunning. Isaac Newton believed that time was regulated by a sort of cosmic grandfather clock. “Absolute, true, mathematical time, of itself, and from its own nature, flows equably without relation to anything external,” he declared at the beginning of his “Principia.” Einstein, however, realized that our idea of time is something we abstract from our experience with rhythmic phenomena: heartbeats, planetary rotations and revolutions, the ticking of clocks...[T]here is no universal now. With different observers slicing up the timescape into “past,” “present,” and “future” in different ways, it seems to follow that all moments coexist with equal reality.

Other physicists marvelled that time travel, previously the stuff of science fiction, was apparently consistent with the laws of physics. (Then they started worrying about what would happen if you went back to a time before you were born and killed your own grandfather.) Gödel himself drew a different moral. If time travel is possible, he submitted, then time itself is impossible. A past that can be revisited has not really passed. And the fact that the actual universe is expanding, rather than rotating, is irrelevant. Time, like God, is either necessary or nothing; if it disappears in one possible universe, it is undermined in every possible universe, including our own.

Gödel’s conclusion went almost entirely unnoticed at the time, but it has since found a passionate champion in Palle Yourgrau, a professor of philosophy at Brandeis. In “A World Without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Gödel and Einstein”, Yourgrau does his best to redress his fellow-philosophers’ neglect of the case that Gödel made against time. The “deafening silence,” he submits, can be blamed on the philosophical prejudices of the era. Behind all the esoteric mathematics, Gödel’s reasoning looked suspiciously metaphysical. To this day, Yourgrau complains, Gödel is treated with condescension by philosophers, who regard him, in the words of one, as “a logician par excellence but a philosophical fool.” After ably tracing Gödel’s life, his logical achievements, and his friendship with Einstein, Yourgrau elaborately defends his importance as a philosopher of time. “In a deep sense,” he concludes, “we all do live in Gödel’s universe.”

“To those of us who believe in physics,” [Einstein] wrote to the widow of a friend who had recently died, “this separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, if a stubborn one.”

March 14, 2005

Good News!

Many are discovering Mary...
Joy at Work?!

Reading a fascinating book written by a Christian who seems the second coming of Don Quixote - he's tilting at the corporate windmills by suggesting that fun, not profit, be the bottom line. And it's not theoretical; he did it for years at his energy company AES.

A sample:
Several years later, when a consultant from McKinsey was giving a presentation about AES, one of our executives asked why he hadn't mentioned our shared values. It turned out that the consultant was enthusiastic about our values - for all the wrong reasons. "They really reduce labor costs," he said. "Employees love these values, and they work harder and more productively because of them."

This is the pragmatic line of thinking about values that I had fought since the early days of the company. It ignores the moral dimension of values and regards them as nothing more than a means to make money. The distinction was articulated by an Oxford professor named John Kay: "There is a real difference between saying to your workers, 'We care about your welfare because we do,' and saying, 'We care about your welfare because that will make you work harder for us.'" Employees can tell when values are genuine and when they're adopted for ulterior purposes.
Notes from the Journal

Sleep is always much more difficult when I’ve not read much or exercised much. We watched a movie Friday and most movies stimulate without satisfying. Books satisfy me, I rest in the print, like when reading William Trevor’s shy stories of Hibernia, sucking at the teat of the Eirean figure, familiarizing myself again with the touchstones of rurality replete with anachronistic tinctures like ‘meanness’ for ‘stingy’, to whit (concerning a man who was a bit late in offering to pay the tab at a pub):

‘That was my turn,’ Lairdman protested, just a little late.

She wouldn’t care for such meanness, Boland though. She’d notice when it began to impinge on her, which in time it would: these things never mattered at first.

Trevor writes in his short story “Third Party” of the dull provincialism of '40s rural Ireland. And perhaps there is something to the dullness of the provincial American life, rife with trivialities, that requires some level of physical activity and mental activity to sufficiently tire mind and body in order to sleep. The level of discourse on IMUS or O’Reilly is surely higher than what I’d find in my ancestral pub in Ireland, no? Would we not be talking of racehorses, of gambling, of the local politicians? Perhaps we go too far in ascribing banality strictly to American life in a television age.

Lots of insights at Mass yesterday. A fisherman’s boatload!

Jesus blessed, broke the bread and became that bread. This is no more astonishing a feat than that the Trinity can live in us. That God can appear under the appearance of bread might be scandalous to those followers who left him (see John 6) but it is no more scandalous than Jesus blessing, sanctifying, breaking us that we may become in some sense Him. Certainly it would make little sense that Jesus said it would be best for us that he not be here so that he could send the Holy Spirit if the reason were not that the Holy Spirit makes “little Christs” of us all, thus spreading the gospel farther than Christ in the flesh did.

When Paul wrote that “Jesus was made sin” it is expressed perfectly on the Cross. Where Adam crouched naked in the garden, hiding his shame, Christ hung naked for all to see. Both were vulnerable because they were weighed down by the guilt of sins (in Christ’s case it was our sins).

When I become convinced of my hopelessness, I acquire a sense of hope because that hope is no longer mine, but hope in God.

The Holy Spirit displays our sins but is also the curative. I’ve been running Spybot software. It first finds the spyware that lurks in your computer and then fixes each problem individually. Just as I am glad that Spybot finds the spies, so I should be glad the Holy Spirit points out my sins.

I must remember and “cherish in my heart” insights given at Mass or in prayer. I know that I will lose these insights - at least in the sense that soon they will be known only intellectually and not in my heart. And the knowledge that these insights are temporary hurts but that doesn’t release me from treasuring them and holding them to the best of my ability. Alcohol is called “spirits” because the effect is temporary and yet we do not think any less of alcohol. Similarly, the Holy Spirt blows when and where He will and creates a blessed dependence because we have not control.
MAC Conference Winners Denied

Let's have a moment of silence for those underdog Miami Redskins, aka Redhawks, who won the MAC but were denied a bid to the dance by the NCAA Selection Committee. They had the highest RPI of any team not invited to the NCAA Tournament since 1994. From the Cincy Enquirer:
"We're the ninth- or 10th-rated conference, and we never get anybody in," [Miami Coach Coles] said of the MAC. "The excuse was made that Miami didn't dominate the conference. You got to dominate the conference? Or do you have to win it?"

Miami players wore red warm-up suits while watching the NCAA selection show. Several players wore black T-shirts that read: "Why not us? MAC."
A prognosticator predicted three MAC teams would receive bids, but only one did.
Random Thought

Sometimes it seems writing checks to charities is the equivalent of a U.S. bombing campaign - efficient but coldly impersonal. By separating charity from its effect (like war from its effect), you risk losing the data that might alter your behavior (i.e. potentially increasing charity or decreasing bombing).
C.S. Lewis Quote
"Which of the religions of the world gives to its followers the greatest happiness? While it lasts, the religion of worshipping oneself is best.

I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness, and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult! I am not approaching the question from that angle. As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy."
Ancient Order of Hibernian St. Patrick's Day Celebration

“Give Ireland back to the Irish! Don’t let them take it away! Give Ireland back to the Irish! Give Ireland back today.”

The rebel songs of the last twenty minutes are unbearably poignant if only because they are so well-spaced. Spaced by 365 days apart! Too well-spaced surely, but the AOH party is admittedly made as gold by its very rarity. The scarcity principle always works, meaning that that which is scarce is held in regard.

So there, in the last 20 minutes, the crowd came to life in unbearable intensity, full-throated, full-throttled, sing-till-you-drop, standing-room-only at the Hibernian’s fest and we were ladled with songs and Guinni that arrived like an army constantly resupplied and we begged only that our superiors continue them unabated.

March 12, 2005

A Thought

If a national church tends to destroy the church (as the Anglican church was damaged by becoming the official state church in England, or how the Catholic Church had much difficulty in the Reformation era when she was responsible for both state and church governance), then aren't Islamic states like Iran the most damaging to Islam in the long run?
Funny Line

A co-worker is resisting his boss's attempt to move him and another co-worker from their window seats because the boss wants to create a server area there. This boss is known for his preference for machine over man since our computers are state-of-the-art even though we have to beg for a $30 training manual that help human capital become more efficient. My co-worker "Fred" thinks the cubical move is a unwitting illustration of this, saying: "I hope those Intellistations enjoy the view!".

March 11, 2005

You Feel, I Feel, We All Feel...

Good post from Sancta Sanctis here.

Interesting comments made by Andrew Stuttaford here and Jonah Goldberg's reply. Both make good points, though I'm allergic to the attitude of making what is good for society our first principle, and then working backwards to something like faith in God, as if let's see if faith in God is something we should encourage based on its effect on society. Utilitarian to the core.

In his latest book Peter Kreeft says many of his students are raising society to idol status, saying that for some the self is merely "the social self, a social function, an ingredient in society". (Shades of what Tom Wolfe wrote about in "I am Charlotte Simmons"? Wolfe says many kids sacrifice themselves - who they were or thought they were - for the sake of being "societally correct".) Kreeft writes:
[Many think] society is the absolute. The old tribal view is coming back into modern consciousness. Many of my students use "Society" (always with a capital S, like "Science") exactly where theists would use "God", as the ultimate authority. De Tocqueville, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Ortega y Gasset, Huxley, Orwell, and Riesman all warned of this: "photocopied" souls, standardized selves, mass conformity, "the lonely crowd".
Library Bells

I have an annoying tendency to needlessly embarrass myself occasionally. (This post will surely qualify.)

There's a desk bell on the library counter with the sign "please ring for service". As I handed my book to the librarian for checkout, I wondered: How is the ring connected to the service? A too literal interpretation of the wording might lead one to think that the ring is necessary for all service, rather than something needed to acquire service only when service is lacking. In other words, if I am already being served is the external signal necessary? Is this an example of a "baptism by desire" - my desire for service obviated the need of the bell's externality?

Surely I was overthinking it. But the lack of precision in the sign bothered. I wanted it to say something less pithy and elegant but more meaningful like "please ring if no one is at the counter". So as a joke I rang the bell and said something like "do I still have to ring it if I'm being served?". The bell rang out in the stock silence like a hurricane siren in a monastery. The young librarian was not amused, not getting the "joke". Instantly I didn't get the joke either. A man about my age popped up from several yards away and I had to wave him off with an embarrassed smile. I was being served already. Sometimes a library bell is just a bell and not a metaphor.
Public Service Announcement

You've probably noticed that The Corner and Drudge contain ads that distract and clutter the site. Some of them flash and are capable of causing epiletic seizures in the vulnerable.

But my pledge to you, the American reader, (oh yeah and that guy in Germany and lass in New Zealand), is that I will not sell ads on this blog. (For audio effect say "I will not sell ads on this blog" with the same emphasis Bill Clinton said "I did not have sex with that woman...").

To be honest, fending off advertisers has not been especially time-consuming although I did receive an email from a gentleman offering $5 per year for a 200-by-400 pixel space in the upper right quandrant (with some sort of balloon payment arrangement where the first fiver arrives in 2010). I also regularly receive solicitations from friends in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Senegal who, although not mentioning my blog or ads by name, apparently want to do business.

But I have and will continue to resist posting ads simply because I feel it makes your surfing experience less satisfying. Not to mention I don't want to get sued for inducing seizures.
Bishop Frederick

Our new bishop has a preternatural calm about him. It's as though everyone else is losing their heads while he calmly plies ahead.

It's difficult not to succumb to hysteria given the news today, given all the things that make your head ache. Like the fact that Terri Schiavo's parents have to watch their daughter die of dehydration over a period of a couple weeks -- by court order. Like the fact that even though modern technologies tell and show us marvelous things about babies in the womb they are killed with numbing frequency, as if all that we've learned doesn't matter. And like the fact that the Catholic faith has all but died in Europe and isn't faring all that well elsewhere either.

I know if I were a bishop I'd be in a state of panic.

But he calmly goes on because he was a deep faith in God and not himself. He knows there is no earthly substitute for Faith, Hope and Love.
Black Death as a Cause of the Reformation

It sometimes seems as though the Black Plague did for a relatively healthy Catholic Church what Job's persecutions did to Job's faith: weakened it without destroying it. From here:
We are talking about the death of roughly, 25% of the population of Europe. Who do you think took care of these plague victims? Who was the most knowledgeable and dedicated? They were the priests, the monks, and sister. And the Black Plague reoccurred 8 times from 1450 to 1500 AD. There was widespread starvation. This was when Europe began to fractionalize where different people met and coalesced together and they started what we now know as Germany, France, and the other European countries. People wanted to be with people they understood, to protect themselves. Strangers were driven away, as they might be contagious.

It was the priests and religious that trying to minister to the needs of the sick and dying and as a result, they were hit the hardest. In France specifically, in Europe entire monasteries were wiped out. They ended up losing 300 men of the Curia in Avignon at that time. Thousands of religious died. It could be estimate, although I have never seen any figures that 90% of the Catholic Clergy died during this period of the Black Plague. In addition, many of the educated clergy who managed to survive were put to work by the secular authorities. So what was left for the Church as the priesthood had been decimated?...The Church, in her desperation to serve the needs of the people started ordaining some men who were not really the best qualified or ideally suited. During this time of great upheaval the quality of many of the clergy was less than what would be desired.
And the Plague had another effect. From the historian Barbara Rosenwein:
Because the plague destroyed people and not possessions, the drop in population was accompanied by a corresponding increase in per capita wealth. A new type of consumer, who preferred variety and luxury, began to appear in both the towns and the countryside. People who were unsure if they would be alive the next day wanted to spend their money on fine foods and luxuries. Many lords and wealthy merchants built churches and commissioned religious art, partly in thanks for being spared the horrors of the Black Death.