July 31, 2005

Contra Amnesia

Infant baptism, besides being efficacious in its own right (or rite, tee hee) is a powerful instrument against self-righteousness. What purer way is there to say that it is not we who chose God but God who chose us, through the flawed instrument of our parents? One of my favorite images from the Byzantine Catholic liturgy is when the priest prays,
"We thank You also for this ministry, which You have willed to accept from our hands, even though there stand before You thousands of archangels, myriads of angels, Cherubim and Seraphim, six winged, many-eyed, soaring aloft on their wings."
And so God desires to use human instruments in the sacraments, including Baptism.

But it seems as though we forget that. John Meehan in Two Towers: The De-Christianization of America and a Plan for Renewal plainly states those who think they are better than de-Christianized cafeteria Catholics are missing something:
Too many Catholics...fail to understand that the gift of Faith is a permanent, indelible mark imprinted on the soul; it cannot be taken away from them. That gift comes from God. They also do not comprehend that growth in knowledge and love of the Deposit of Faith requires systematic instruction, including disciplined training that culminates in a knowledge and love of Christian liturgy.

As a supernatural gift, baptismal Fatih cannot be lost. But growth in, and development of, that gift can be misdirected or undernourished. In fact, reinforced by the rational choices of one's free will, the kind of catechical instruction that one receives usually determines how he or she lives in particular historical circumstances and cultural conditions.
So there's a bit of amnesia going both ways: the de-Christianized who have forgotten who they are and what they've been given, and the orthodox believers who have forgotten who the de-Christianized are and what they've been given.

This is directed at me of course: I still recoil when I hear John Kerry's name.
Man Bites Dog Story?

Rev. Richard Neuhaus recommends an Andrew Greeley book.
Greeley throws down the gauntlet in challenging the secularization theories that have dominated the last hundred years and more, especially in the social sciences. “I find no persuasive evidence that either modern or postmodern humankind exists outside of faculty office buildings. Everyone tends to be premodern.” This is the argument that Greeley made at greater length in his 1972 book Unsecular Man, and it is an argument that now appears to have been ahead of its time.

Being a Catholic, says Greeley, is a matter of what one believes, in the sense of doctrines affirmed. But it is more importantly a matter of the sacred stories told in community. “None of the doctrines is less true than the stories. Indeed, they have the merit of being more precise, more carefully thought out, more ready for defense and explanation. But they are not where religion or religious faith starts, nor in truth where it ends.” The experienced Catholic reality is communal stories, rituals, and cultivated sensibilities that engage ultimate truths.

July 30, 2005

'I Would Walk 500 Miles'

The Byzantine Catholic liturgy I attend is about twenty five minutes away. But the next time I am wont to complain about that I might think of the father of this man:

Thomas Cogan Jr.   Posted by Picasa

His father, my great-great-grandfather, emigrated from Ireland but had no nearby church. The following obituary was obtained from the local historical society:
"The Rev. James P. Ward, who preached the funeral sermon, said: 'Mr. Cogan was known to walk from Glynwood to Piqua to be present at the divine Sacrifice of the Mass. It was his earnest zeal that prompted him to have a church close at hand, and he with others of the same sturdy faith united their efforts and established a pastorate at Glynwood.'"
That's at least thirty miles as the crow flies! Hard to imagine and a bit surreal. It would surely take a minimum of six to eight hours on foot?
But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked a thousand miles
To fall down at your door
    --the Proclaimers
Offline Generations

Suppose you’ve reached your peak earning power. Suppose you own technological devices your parents don't know exist. Suppose you’re web fluent and are proficient at googling for information or finding & buying old books. Then think how odd it is to imagine that your parents have a knowledge that all the money, books, and internet sites can’t buy: They have time-traveled.

Of course they haven’t time-traveled relative to their existence but they have relative to yours. They have experienced an age we can only read about and they know ancestors we have never met. How odd! In our self-centeredness we might imagine that their lives began when we became aware of ours. They were born at 37, right?

The young are not used to limits, physical or otherwise. But our elders have experienced another world, one that is neither transferrable nor inheritable. I was born in the '60s and grew up in the '70s and my parents were born in the '30s and grew up in the '40s. There is no way for me to fully understand what the '40s were like no matter how much I might think I do. Even should I understand what the '40s were like I wouldn't know it, having no frame of reference. Books and photographs help but there is something irreplaceable in actually being there.

That my father was once a child is something I know from a photograph but it is still an abstract thought. I see him, he is smiling shyly, but that is not my father in any material way. Perhaps I'll grant that it is what my father might've looked like when he was young. That he had a mother is another abstract notion since she died before I was born. That he knew her as well as I know my own mother is completely foreign. I don’t have access to him interacting with her and on this earth there’s no password to gain it. There is no way I can imagine what my relationship would've been with her, or how my father's history would've been altered had she lived longer. If minute differences - such as words of praise or criticism that linger - alter us in profound ways, then something as large as an early death can also alter us in profound, if unknowable, ways.

July 29, 2005

Found Poetry

  Below is the verbatim verbiage printed on a can of Guinness, in reverse order, and without punctuation:

Guinness Can Poetry  

yourself for Draught
Guinness of magic
the discover now body
black, deep and head creamy thick
uniquely the forming
settle to pint
your for moments
few a for wait glass
a into gently
beer the pour immediately
and it open.

What especially interests me in this bit o' advertising is how it seems to confirm what my pastor says is modernity's greatest fault: that of looking at everything in the short term. Notice the short term words: "now", "moments", "immediately"...
The Thrill Is Gone, Baby

Last night was bingo volunteer session number four if you're scoring at home, which of course you're not. And now this vibrant, fascinating subculture is beginning to look the way all vibrant, fascinating subcultures eventually look - like average Uhmericuns spending their time holding daubers. Well they say even nudists forget they're at a nudist colony eventually.

My co-workers are dears. I'd forgotten that I'd used my "you sunk my battleship!" line (best said immediately after hearing the caller say something like B-21) on a different co-worker. Having many co-workers means you can say the same joke multiple times, as long as you don't tell them when they're in a group. So I strive for maximum joke dispersal by telling them separately. There's a tip you can use! Who says this blog isn't useful?

Oh don't get me wrong - I didn't get into the bingo racket for the thrills, chills or the joke-telling. That's all bonus. No, I fully expected the business to be as dry and necessary as tax accounting. The trick is to keep it new, keep it fresh. Like holding your instant winnner tickets in new positions. Or inserting the word "proverbial" into the instant winner ticket name, ala: "King of the Proverbial Mountain".

That's not to say bingo is now completely bereft of surprises. One lady was smoking a cigarette while at the same time breathing through a air purifier. Or so a co-worker told me. Sounds apocryphal I know. Another lady had a large placard that stated what should be done in the case of a health emergency. Either she's not well or has a problem with hypochondria; I would error on the side of the former. Another grandma had her five grandchildren's pictures, nicely framed, standing athwart her bingo sheets.

I like the non-smoking room best because there's less smoke in there. I recall back when Bone smoked that I would bring a cigar when we got together so that my good smoke would cancel out his disagreeable smoke. It was like manufacturing my own little force field. But you just can't do that here, so I walk slow when I go by the pipe smoker. You see, my uncle Ed was a pipe smoker and a priest and the fragrance of the pipe is like nothing else. (That was for Jeff.)

The non-smoking room is also good because the grandmothers are so platonically grandmotherly. They look upon me with cherubic faces and make me feel like the platonic ideal of a grandson.

There is something peaceful about bingo. Everyone is marvelously industrious, including me. There are squares to daub, numbers to call and tickets to sell before we go. And it goes for a good cause. Sounds like a win-win. Unless you lose a lot of money of course.
Who knew...

...that 19th Century Anti-Catholicism could be so darn entertaining? Great find from Dom.

Of this pic, Tom of Disputations writes: "Now, I ask you: Viewed today, does this strike you as better suited for anti-Catholic propaganda, or for diocesan vocation literature?"
Is There Virtue in the Obscure?

How much of reading or writing poetry is a desire towards mindlessness? That last post prompted a revisit of Walker Percy's nonfiction work The Message in the Bottle. Percy, who could probably fairly be called a Thomist, writes that "likeness and difference are canons of discursive thought, but analogy, the mode of poetic knowing, is also cognitive" (uh, what he said):
One is aware of skirting the abyss as soon as one begins to repose virtue in the obscure.

Once we eliminate the logical approximation, the univocal figure, as unpoetic and uncreative of meaning - is it not then simply an affair of trotting out words and images more or less at random in the hope of arriving at an obscure, hence efficacious, analogy? and the more haphazard the better, since mindfulness, we seem to be saying, is of its very nature self-defeating? Such in fact is the credo
of the surrealists...If, as so many modern poets appear to do, one simply shuffles words together, words plucked form as diversified contexts as possible, one will get some splendid effects. Words are potent agents and the sparks are bound to fly. But it is a losing game. For there is missing that essential element of the meaning situation, the authority and intention of the Namer....Once the good faith of the Namer is so much as called into question, the jig is up. There is no celebration or hope of celebration of a thing beheld in common. One is only trafficking in the stored-up energies of words, hard won by meaningful usage.

It is a pastime, this rolling out of pretty marbles of word-things to see one catch and reflect the fire of another, a pleasant enough game but one which must eventually go stale.
I've written on my blog how the mundane can become fascinating if it's read by someone generations hence. I read gape-jawed of accounts of farm life in the 1800s which, to farmers of the 1800s, would presumably be jaw-gapingly banal. Percy says with respect to the power of words:
A word, by the very fact of its having been lost to common usage or by its having undergone a change in meaning, is apt to acquire thereby an unmerited potency.
Drunk on Poetry & Endorphins: WWAS?*

* -...what would Aquinas say?

When I was young I was drunk a lot.

Not on drugs or alcohol but endorphins. Which is what your body produces during exercise, sometimes called "runner's high". (Nowadays I run but not long enough for runner's high to kick in, which is an experience somewhere between going to a bar for one beer and getting a cavity filled sans novocaine.)

I was thinking about runner's high after reading Tom's comment with regard to drunkenness, "And how like St. Thomas to regard the loss of reason as a penalty, even if it's the end sought."

It occurred to me that the deliberate loss of reason* is far more common than commonly supposed and is certainly not limited to drunkenness. James Fixx, in his Complete Book of Running said that some runners find a trance so deep that they go through stop signs or stop lights and are killed by cars. If that doesn't represent a lack of reason I don't know what does.

Sleep, of course, is another reason defier. But also day dreaming, including the sort of day dreaming prompted by reading poetry. (Is that why Plato wanted to ban poetry?) Art in general, having no utility, might be a candidate. When you go to experience something that takes you outside the body, to "erase the map" as it were, aren't you experiencing a kind of drunkenness? If so, then I'm guessing there are a lot of drunks out there.

But St. Thomas recognized that value of play, saying that "playful actions themselves considered in their species are not directed to an end: but the pleasure derived from such actions is directed to the recreation and rest of the soul, and accordingly if this be done with moderation, it is lawful to make use of fun." He goes on to say that "reason itself demands that the use of reason be interrupted at times".

Perhaps it is reasonable to assume that the amount of reason interruptus required by an individual varies, well, by individual.

* - dictionary definition is "the capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence."
Wrestling with the Concrete
--by Heidi Lynn Staples

Somethings he forgets what is a Fish;
The others joke that he is hard of Herring.
It is on the table. He isn’t used to it.

He crosses and uncrosses, fidgets
In the lull, in his favorite color;
Somethings he forgets what is a Fish

And which it from widget from midget from midgets
And wanders Every melodies singing—
It is on the table. He isn’t used to it.

In prescription frames with nonprescription lenses,
Canting into the wind of his own undoing,
Somethings he forgets what is a Fish.

In need of an oar or an ore, he offers Clarinet?
He whispers and shimmers about sum thing—
It is on the table, he isn’t used to it.

Hot scolds over shadows, shipness not ships
At all: Is is only he was thinking.
Somethings he forgets what is a Fish;
It is on the table. He isn’t used to it.

From Guess Can Gallop by Heidi Lynn Staples

July 28, 2005

Via Steven Riddle...
You scored as Sacrament model. Your model of the church is Sacrament. The church is the effective sign of the revelation that is the person of Jesus Christ. Christians are transformed by Christ and then become a beacon of Christ wherever they go. This model has a remarkable capacity for integrating other models of the church.

Mystical Communion Model


Sacrament model


Servant Model


Herald Model


Institutional Model


What is your model of the church? [Dulles]
created with QuizFarm.com
Knowledge Is Bliss

Intense religious discussion last night at my sister-in-law's birthday party. To paraphrase Andy Rooney: ever notice how "intense" and "religious discussion" often go together? Might as well be redundant.

I was listening as interlocuter number 1 defended Muslims, saying that some of his best friends were Muslims and that a religion can't be held responsible for the negative actions of their followers. Interlocuter number 2 disagreed, saying that Islam was the root cause of their terrorist pathologies. (And interlocuter number 2, being the member of a new, young dynamic church with no history or baggage, made the claim with equanimity.)

I had no choice who to side with if only because the priestly scandal was still fresh on everyone's minds (and was in fact alluded to in the discussion). I sided with interlocuter number 1, saying that the fact that Judas betrayed Christ was evidence that you can be a member of the greatest religion and still badly misrepresent the faith.

But this isn't an either/or. It's like nature/nuture debate. Part of it is that bad faiths ruin people and part is bad people ruin faiths. Of course I didn't say that; I think through my fingertips and I didn't have a keypad handy (and even with the keypad bat my weight).

The other obligatory target was the Catholic church, said to be still preaching the Old Testament. An ex-Catholic said that his Catholic education consisted of "the Old Testament and Mary." I said I didn't learn too much OT in my classes but I did agree that Catholic education was poor during the '70s. I admitted that I've learned an awful lot post-college that I should've learned at my Catholic high school. Someone else said that the Catholic Church didn't teach the bible - they didn't have a bible study class until they were out of college. I said that that is why Scott Hahn is popular now; he's filling a need.
Ellis on Adams on CSPAN's BookTV

Our second president, John Adams, said that success for a person or a nation carries within it the seeds of demise. One of his biographers, Joseph Ellis, said that Adams thought once the focus moves from producing to consuming the jig is up and that the key is to find a president who will "manage American decline" effectively. Ellis laughed and said you won't hear that on the presidential campaign trail: "hire me and I'll manage American decline effectively!". Ellis said that the fact that GNP growth has slowed over the past few decades shows that the American economy is already not what it used to be during the post-World War II days of hegemony. He also said that just because a nation is declining doesn't mean that decline can't be very gradual.

July 27, 2005

Charities Dancing With Politics

I've long thought that Israel, at least since becoming a state in 1948, has been far more "sinned against than sinning". To either confirm or contradict this I began reading a book on the history of the Middle East conflict but read to about page sixty. I'm still looking for the Cliff's Notes version. The fact that I'm not that well-informed should disqualify me from commenting but... (here's where you say 'that never stopped you before!').

Thanks, you are right. So from my perspective the Wall was long overdue given that Israel has a right to exist and Israelis have a right not to have their limbs removed by a bomb while shopping at a supermarket or riding on a bus. And if a wall helps, then go for it.

What prompts this post was this, which reminded me of this article in a magazine of a charity giving aid to the Middle East, which points out the negatives of said wall. It seems rather one-sided given the lack of explanation why Israel would go to the great length of building it. One may quibble where it was built, but the relentless provocation of Israel by the Palestinians has been this side of surreal. And Israel won the West Bank in the Six Day War in 1967, after Egypt prompted a pre-emptive strike by (from here): "ordering the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Forces stationed on the Egyptian-Israeli border, thus removing the international buffer between Egypt and Israel which had existed since 1957...[then] Egypt announced a blockade of all goods bound to and from Israel through the Straits of Tiran."

It seems to me there are far greater grounds for the United States to give Texas & part of California back to Mexico than for Israel to give back the West Bank.

So in a perfect world, the article might've included these paragraphs:
Palestinians inconvenienced by the wall say that they understand the need for Israel to protect itself and know that a wall, in possibly helping to prevent terrorist attacks, will also prevent retalitory bombings by Israel.

"I think the wall is a necessary evil," said one Palestinian woman, "I might not have to worry as much about Palestinian homes being hit by Israeli bombs now. And think of all Israeli children and civilians saved by this wall! No one wants the suicide bombers and if this wall is going to stop one suicide bomber, why then the inconveniences and hassles are worth it!"

I gotta hand it to Dubya. He came through. May God help him get this guy on the Court! And may he pick somebody just as good when Rehnquist retires! O Lord, hear our prayer for an end to abortion!

- Mark Shea on Amy's blog concerning the nomination of John Roberts

What made [Sen.] Biden's concern re [Clarence] Thomas's belief in natural law [Biden wanted to make sure that Thomas didn't have any belief in something called 'natural law'] so amusing is that fact that Roe itself is grounded in natural law theory, albeit a seriously misguided varient. An application of pure positive Constitutional law cannot be reconciled with Roe.

- commenter on Amy's blog

Augustine is easily more heart-felt than Aquinas. Which I appreciate. On the other hand, Aquinas' detachment and even-handedness make Mr. Spock look like a raving hysteric.

- John Farrell on Amy Welborn's blog

I believe what the Catholic Church teaches not solely--not even, when I'm at my best, primarily--because the alternatives are ugly. Quite often the alternatives are attractive, insofar as they partake in a partial share of the goodness, love, and grace that God offers. I believe what the Catholic Church teaches because, when I'm at my best, I love Jesus Christ, I love God, and I can faintly discern the beauty, hope, and peace He wants for me.

- Eve Tushnet

Lady at the rock who waited for Bernadette,
asthmatic child sleeping in a stone jail.
She met her at Massabielle, this rock
I touch while icy water seeps
in rivulets down the blackened crevices.
She waits to meet me now--
will my daughter have Mass said over me?--
now and at a time soon.
Ashes to ashes

- Excerpt of poem by Sharon Mollerus, via blogger at "Clairity's Place"

In his talk, Cardinal George raised some interesting questions he felt the Church faced about the compatibility of democracy with the Gospel...He emphasized that in the past, under other governmental structures, laws were imposed on the people and that was a basis for explanation of why they varied so much from the natural law. But with democracy, the people freely choose the laws, yet we still choose laws as immoral as other governmental structures. And that, albeit in a different way, authentic religious liberty is no better protected under democracy than other regimes. Well, that's my loose summary of the comment. And in fairness to Cardinal George, I think he would expand upon the nuances and complexities if time was alotted and wasn't at all suggesting that he didn't have explanations for why democracy produces immmoral laws (i.e., I'm sure the Cardinal is well aware of sin ;-) ). But I thought the topic worthy of reflection. Thoughts?

- post at "Cahiers Peguy"

Decided to Google Onan some more this morning! (Don't go there!)

- Elena of "My Domestic Church"; too late!

So, was my first kiss a Lutheran one, because of the simple *faith* the girl had that I wouldn't turn out to be a total jerk. Or was it more "Catholic", due to all the *works* I had to perform to get her alone and in the dark?

- Protestant commenter Rob on Disputations

Should a blogger get off a good word-lick, he thinks, hopes and prays he might get into Spanning the Globe. When he does, it's often not for the utterance he thought would do the trick, but for one least expected.

- William Luse, though it's never least expected when STG is mentioned. *grin*

The man who brought American democracy to the Church’s attention was Jacques Maritain, the French convert and philosopher. Maritain, having accepted a teaching position at Princeton before France fell to the Nazis, lived for over a decade in America and published a long essay, "Reflections on America", in which he expresses his deep admiration of the American experiment, and his hope that it could lead to a New Christendom—not the Christendom of the Middle Ages, which cannot be reinstituted, but a different, new, pluralistic order, which upholds human dignity and liberty as its foundational principles.... Thanks to the influence of Maritain, Pope Pius XII became the first pope to speak favorably of democracy, in 1944—eighteen years before the opening of Vatican II, nineteen years before "Pacem in Terris"...I am not going to answer Jack’s question too emphatically—“Is democracy compatible with the Gospel?” I will let the American Bishops do it for me. Aware of the uniqueness of the American experiment, and aware that it could provide a model for re-establishing the social order, the Bishops decreed the following in the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, 1884: "We believe that our country’s heroes were the instruments of the God of Nations in establishing this home of freedom."

- blogger at "Cahiers Peguy"

[She] made me think about this adorable 85 year-old woman I used to sit next to at church, back when I lived in Pasadena and had a real parish.  One day there was an earthquake in the middle of Mass.  My first thought was that the 85 year-old might be so scared, she'd have a heart attack and keeel over on me, and what would I do.  Her first thought?  She squeezed my hand and said, "Just hold on to me.  I'm strong." When I get old (presuming the world is around that long), I hope I'm that kind of old lady.

- Karen of "Some Have Hats"
A Sap For Happy Endings

Sleep comes in fits and starts for the read-deprived. My dreams feel contrived compared to the ocean that awaits in the bookroom. And some of the stories contained therein nag for their lack of ending.

I spent part of my reading life this weekend caught up in the drama of Isak Dinesen's real life. Hers was an undeniable but often misdirected courage. A natural contrarian, she flailed at whoever was in authority causing her values and beliefs to fluctuate accordingly. Her allergy to the bourgeois in religion would seem to make her good ground for the gospel message if unfit for the Victorian obsession with appearances. But she saw the sexual norms of the bible and church not in terms of heroism but joyless puritanism.

I follow the ups & downs of her story:

She has syphilis!

Oh -- she got it from her philandering husband.

She divorces him?

No - he divorces her! She'd forgiven him. Wow.

She loves God!

No - she sold her soul to the devil.
Say what!? Well there are three references in the biography mentioning her vowing herself to Lucifer. Surely she jests? There's little accompanying detail, other than to say that she did it in exchange for receiving her stories. Which makes reading her stories seem like an ill-gotten gain.

Is there not a symmetry to pacts with Satan compared to our relationship with God?
With Satan:
you choose him, he doesn't choose you

With God:
He chooses you, you don't choose Him

With Satan:
You give him nothing, with the assurance of receiving something (in this life)

With God:
We give him everything, with no assurance of receiving something (in this life)

With God:
eternal life

With Satan:
eternal death
There is the natural - and naturally impossible - desire to discern the state of her soul at the end of her life. One can have no tragedies in life, not if one hopes Hell is empty, though I recognize the futility of that particular bit of cognitive dissonance. Still there's nothing more alarming to a sheep than seeing another one cliff-diving, though admittedly most don't know what they're doing. It is consoling to know we have a Savior who will search for the one sheep amid the hundred.

July 26, 2005

Could It Happen Today?

The blogger at Annals of Desire asks with regard to this monument:
"Would today's men have done the same? If they did, would today's women condemn them or praise them?"
They say the past is a foreign country and that picture affirms it. There is something achingly anachronistic about it, not only in men acting like gentlemen under great stress, but in the expression of gratitude by the women. To be grateful, even if it is for something expected, is as beautiful as it is rare. More here.

I've been off and on fascinated by the evolution/creationism debate. Here's an interesting excerpt from John Allen's latest:
Even processes that appear random, he said, can have an underlying logic.

“The idea that calling something ‘random’ means that it’s without direction is a mistake,” [Nobel laureate Charles] Townes said. “In a gas, for example, random interaction among particles ensures uniform distribution and temperature. In other words, an unplanned process produces an orderly outcome.”

“Evolution,” Townes said, “is like that. It’s a random process that produces spectacular things.”
And an excerpt from the Vatican’s International Theological Commission document, “Communion and Stewardship: Human Persons Created in the Image of God.”

In the Catholic perspective, neo-Darwinians who adduce random genetic variation and natural selection as evidence that the process of evolution is absolutely unguided are straying beyond what can be demonstrated by science. Divine causality can be active in a process that is both contingent and guided.
I can see why it's such a debate. Moderns crave the personal and evolution seems too impersonal for some tastes. Not to mention the long-running debate over scriptural inerrancy, another hot-button issue. Combine the two and voila! From Catholic Answers' Karl Keating:
Q: I was under the impression that death in the world (all death- plants, animals, and humans) was a fruit of original sin, ie. God did not create death. If this is the case, then how could the Church accept the idea of biological evolution? Since death would have to occur over the course of generations to provide for "natural selection" and "survival of the fittest." Thanks for your time.

A: by Karl Keating: You have brought up one of the difficulties in squaring evolution with the biblical account of the Fall. There have been various attempts to do so. Whether any of them is adequate is for the individual to determine for himself. All the Church teaches is that theistic evolution is not necessarily incompatible with the faith. It doesn't teach that it really happened--or that it didn't.
Putting the Me in Meme

Karen tapped me and so I thought I'd do it from a vacation perspective.

What I was doing 10 years ago...I was experiencing the post-vacational glow, this time after a trip to Texas. We hit Austin, San Antonio, Bandera, & LBJ's ranch.

Five years ago... Smack dab in the middle of a trip to Richmond, Virgina.

One year ago... a vacational re-run of this year. A 25-mile bike trip day in July.

Yesterday...I walk the dog and there's nothing to pick up his poop with. So I grab something out of the garbage, a small piece of plastic. He goes twice. We shorten the road trip because I'm holding uncovered poop at arm's length. TMI, I know.
Of Pictures

Steven Riddle understands the need to preserve mystery, hence he provides a picture of himself only in shadow. Of course I do not approve. I think every blogger ought to post a clear picture of themselves because my curiosity deserves to be sated.

And so you ask where is mine? Well that begs a story.

I was at a country & western bar about ten years ago when a comely lass happened by and pinched me on the ass! "Cute butt" she said, smiling as she passed. I was struck dumb for I'd never been told that before. I consider myself average-looking, but(t) it occurs to me now that my backside might be my best side. And I refuse to post that. This blog has standards you know.

July 25, 2005

Fun With Scanners


This scanner is addicting. Here is the frontispiece to the 1958 edition of the forthrightly titled "I Love Books" (click to enlarge) Posted by Picasa
Thank You St. Joseph!

...And to all who said a prayer for my stepson, who has decided against joining the Navy and instead got another job much more suited to his personality.
What Kind of World?   - new fiction
Back in the days of winos & roses I was following the Alaskan Pipeline for the same reason people climb mountains: because it was there. And I happened across more than my fair share of colorful characters including one chinless man going to Ketchikan who seemed a cynical soul. Spying the rosary in my hand he said, "Ah priests! If they had a real job they wouldn't be so nice. Put them in a business suit and they wouldn't be so peaceful!"

I wasn't a priest and he seemed a long way from the business world but I assumed from the scars he'd been there and from it he was running.

I told him about a pain from my past. "I once had a crush a girl who liked another fellow, a guy who was drunk all the time. Real light-hearted. He'd give you the shirt off his back too. But he had a buzz 24-7, the kind of light buzz Larry Hagman had during the '70s and '80s. He was such a friendly guy you didn't know if it was him or the alcohol. And I remember wanting to tell her, 'hey I'd be fun too if I was half-drunk all the time!' But I was wrong."

"Hell right you were wrong. I've been drinking heavy for three years now and it ain't done my attitude any good."

"Not just that. It's this thinking that everything can be explained by chemicals or the environment. Deep down we want something in reserve. We want to know that we can protect ourselves like you think priests do, or that I can fix myself a drink in case of anxiety. But the only true reserve is the one you can't see and maybe not even feel."

"Can't feel? A reserve you can't feel? What the hell good is that?"

"More trust really. Trust in God. I'm still working it out, though it's probably a sign of desire for control that I'm even thinking about it, as if I'm trying to build up a reserve in advance for my own damn sake."

He fiddled with his shirt.

"I had a friend who always said it's a 'doggy-dog' world instead of 'dog eat dog' world. I mean I actually saw him write it out that way so it's not like I was just hearing him wrong. Which do you think it is?"
Jumping the Shark

Come on, you know you want to see pictures of my great-grandparents don't you? Don't you? Surely it beats putting a picture of my cat on the blog, right?

Here is one pair. And another. And another.

My mom is sending a picture of the two missing great-grandparents and I'll have pictures of all eight, which I'm naturally very pleased about.
The "Surprise" That Was Not Surprising

David Brooks thought the suspenseful thing in the Roberts nomination would be how Sen. Clinton would vote - but come on, was there really any doubt? She wants to be President and it's metaphysically impossible for her to offend her base (and thus be denied the nomination) because the base knows that she's a true believer.

In fact, the more obvious Hillary becomes in moving to the center the more obvious it becomes to her base that it's all a ruse. Liberal primary voters weren't born yesterday - they know it's "wink, wink - I've got to do these silly things so I can win the general election. You know how crazy those Ohio voters are."

In fairness to Sen. Clinton, having been so close to the presidency she is far more sympathetic to rights the president exercises than most congressmen. She understands the President should be able to nominate his or her preferred judges. And pardon criminals in return for funding presidential libraries. (Ok, so how fair did you think I was going to be?)

July 24, 2005

Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J. in First Things...

...has interesting things to say about C.S. Lewis:
In Surprised by Joy [C.S.] Lewis mentions that in the first years after his conversion he started attending Sunday services at his parish church, but adds: “The idea of churchmanship was to me wholly unattractive....I was deeply antiecclesiastical....I had as little relish to be in the Church as in the zoo. It was, to begin with, a kind of collective; a wearisome ‘get-together’ affair....To me, religion ought to have been a matter of good men praying alone and meeting by twos and threes to talk about spiritual matters....Hymns were (and are) extremely disagreeable to me. Of all musical instruments I liked (and like) the organ least. I have, too, a sort of spiritual gaucherie which makes me unapt to participate in any rite.”

These words, I believe, point to an individualistic and academic quality that affected Lewis’ religion almost to the end of his life. His “mere Christianity” is a set of beliefs and a moral code, but scarcely a society. In joining the Church he made a genuine and honest profession of faith—but he did not experience it as entry into a true community of faith. He found it possible to write extensively about Christianity while saying almost nothing about the People of God, the structures of authority, and the sacraments.

Apologetics, in Lewis’ view, provides a road map, but the map is no substitute for the journey. The relation between faith and reason becomes radically different once a person has made the act of faith. The believer enters into a personal relationship with God that involves far more than assent to propositions. He places total trust in God to such a point that he would continue to believe even if he ceased to see the reasons. Those who have experienced this interpersonal relationship know enough about God to trust Him even when He seems absent. On this ground Lewis defends what he calls “obstinacy in belief.”

Lewis proposes a very interesting definition. “Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Arguments do not secure us against the fluctuations of our moods.
Another Reason to Love Amazon.com

Manishevitz do I like this "search inside" feature they have on so many books. It's perfect for bloggodocia too because although you can't cut & paste from the actual page it brings up, you can from the index listing the pages where your search item appears since it gives you the context around the search item in plain text.

So I found the following quote from Catholic author Ron Hansen in his book "A Stay Against Confusion : Essays on Faith and Fiction"
"Babette's Feast" merges incongruities, reconciles the irreconcilable. With Soren Kierkegaard, Karen Blixen argues against the either/or proposition that there is only one correct way to live one's life, that we are faced with a series of critical choices and if we choose wrongly we are lost. In her story the hedonistic general finds in the miracle of Babette's feast both ecstatic pleasure and a joyful, magnanimous God whom he otherwise could not imagined.
One thing that interests me about Isak Dinesen is how her writing, especially in Out of Africa, is so damn lyrical. It's evocative and beautiful, like Updike's only without the sex. And while she tells good stories one could enjoy them strictly for the words & phrasings.

I think the rationalist likes stories, the romantic likes the poetry or melody. Flannery O'Connor, whose fiction I've never liked that much (though I love her letters, The Habit of Being), seems not all that lyrical but straight-ahead-always-going-forward-no-wasted-motion. The story is what is important for the holy (I don't mean that facetiously) O'Connor. Is the lushness of Updike or a Dinesen a form of debauchery? Is "good romantic" an oxymoron?
Excerpts from Judith Thurman's Biography of Isak Dinesen

But as much as Tanne [Karen Blixon, aka Isak Dinesen] loved her brother and missed him when he was gone, his vagueness and solemnity got on her nerves. They often quarreled...and Tanne thought that Darwin for one, ought to have been burned at the stake for his "depressing" view of life. He called her a reactionary, and she countered that he was a Bolshevik. They disagreed about sexual morality - his point of view was wholesome and romantic; hers enlightened, in the eighteenth century sense of the word - and about birth control, which Tanne thought was radically practical but not esthetic. Thomas told her that considering her general outlook she ought to become a Catholic, and she responded that without subscribing to any dogma she was a sort of Catholic..."I think so often about those words in the Bible: 'I will not let thee go before thou blessest me.' I think there is such deep meaning, something so glorious in them. I almost take it to be my 'motto' in this life."
If the feudal world of "Out of Africa" works so well, is so harmonious and beautiful, it is precisely because of its fixity. Love of fate is its central principle or, as Dinesen puts it, "pride..in the idea God had, when he made us." Its inhabitants take their places in the hierarchy according to the degree of pride they manifest, with the Africans - mystically forbearing and amused - at the top. The European aristocrats - the great atavisms like Denys, Berkeley and the narrator - defer to them, but just slightly and in the same spirit a gentleman feels himself to be morally inferior to a lady. Their fatalism is assertive; it is expressed as honor, and through it they have the privilege to understand tragedy. "If a man has a steadfast idea of honor," Dinesen told Curtis Cate, "he is absolutely safe as to what can happen to him."
Also found this link on Dinesen's "Babette's Feast", which includes this snippet:
Like great moral deeds, artistic creation absorbs our entire energies. Preparing a great feast or singing an aria by Mozart removes us from the range of the ordinary and makes reentry, in the words of Walker Percy, an urgent human problem. Percy renames "reentry" what Kierkegaard calls the second movement, the return to the finite. After the great discharge of the all-consuming deed, how do we resume the ordinary tasks of life without scorn for the smallness at hand? In Lost in the Cosmos, Percy seems to assume that faith’s trek back to the finite is no longer much of an option. His account of the modern alternatives to faith is bleak indeed.
And in a stroke of luck, you can now Amazon search inside Flannery O'Connor's "The Habit of Being". And I found these references to Dinesen. Unfortunately there's not much. In a letter in 1957: "All I have read of Isak Dinesen are the twelve Gothic Tales and some of them I like right much-the one where the old woman and the money change places - but I can't take much of her at one time." Later in 1964: "I'm still reading 'Out of Africa' by Isak Dinesen too."
Excerpt from Isak Dinesen's "Out of Africa":

People who dream when they sleep at night know of a special kind of happiness which the world of the day holds not, a placid ecstasy, and ease of heart, that are like honey on the tongue. They also know that the real glory of dreams lies in their atmosphere of unlimited freedom. It is not the freedom of the dictator, who enforces his own will on the world, but the freedom of the artist, who has no will, who is free of will. The pleasure of the true dreamer does not lie in the substance of the dream, but in this: that there things happen without any interference from his side, and altogether outside his control. Great landscapes create themselves, long splendid views, rich and delicate colours, roads, houses, which he has never seen or heard of...
From Our Diocesan Newspaper

VATICAN CITY --Eucharistic adoration may seem like a waste of time to beginners, but experience demonstrates that it yields great spiritual gifts, said the preacher of the papal household.

"To engagine in eucharistic contemplation means, in concrete terms, establishing a heart-to-heart contact with Jesus, who is truly present in the host," Caupchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said.

Just as standing in the sun for an extended period changes the lines of the face, eucharistic adoration works its changes, too, he said.

"To stand before the Blessed Sacrament for a long time and with faith, not necessarily with a lot of passion, we assimilate the thoughts and sentiments of Christ, in an intuitive way," he said.
The Gospel for the Competitive

At our Byzantine parish the gospel today was from Matthew where Jesus says that he has come not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it, and thus anyone who encourages the smallest sin will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. This reminded me of where elsewhere Jesus says that if you want to be greatest in Heaven you must serve the least.

It's interesting to me that Christ so desires that we imitate him that he offers motivations that sound almost base. In order to aggrandize ourselves - to be great in Heaven - he suggests we perform acts of charity and not lead others to sin. Shouldn't we want to do good out of love for Him and not out of love for ourselves and our position in Heaven? It as if Jesus is not afraid of intermediate stages in the spiritual life. One could say that he shrewdly understands human nature and that in condescending to become human he also condescended to appeal to our natural desire for hierarchy and competition. The desire to avoid Hell or shorten Purgatory are also motivations which seemingly fall short of perfection but have been/are powerful motivators in their effect.

Christ's desire that we exercise faith is also something that must be purely for our benefit. Faith offers God the trust and glory he deserves but in no way requires. Seeing how there is nothing in it for Him, it must be for us that we suffer here below in what Fr. Groeschel once said was proof of the doctrine of Purgatory (he said something along the lines of: "for those who don't believe in Purgatory, this earth isn't Club Med.").

July 23, 2005

The Sower Who Read   ...a cautionary tale
He was a farmer who tilled soil by day but at night tilled a different sort of soil, a soil rich with the scent of paper and ink and dense with the thoughts of the long dead. Every night he would retire to the lamplit bookroom, the century old lighting an affectation that had caused three fires and no fatalities (unless one counted books, and he certainly did).

The room was quite ordinary. Twelve by seventeen, a bit narrow feeling, and after wiping the dust away he wallpapered it with dead presidents both literally and figuratively. He hung portraits of Washington & Monroe & purchased four of what would be many bookcases. He carefully applied two coats of rosewood finish to the cases, proudly noting each swirl against the grain as if he were Michelangelo admiring his Giuliano de' Medici.

The room narrowed, exponentially it seemed, as he fed it new books. The gyre was not widening yet the center could not hold; everywhere he looked there were books, books, more books! They enveloped him as if in a womb or cocoon and it was as if they had come to life and had begun spinning a web slowly around him, ‘round and ‘round, and if his limbs were no longer free to move about, what was that to him? "Come, my pretties, come!" he said. And they gathered in waves, torrents now, and his books had books until the dead presidents were obscured and he could no longer leave the room, could no longer move, and so the farm began to waste but the books gleamed, gleamed in supernova fashion, gleamed with an exponential shine. And one fine April morning it happened: his books had tilled him.
Balthasar & Prayer

Edward T. Oakes, in America (via Amy Welborn):
Because I have spent much of my life trying to convey Balthasar’s massive achievement through translations, essays and monographs, I am often asked what first drew me to his theology. Actually, it was rather accidental. I had entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1966 and came across a book by him titled simply Prayer. The first paragraph showed me that here was a writer who got down to business right away. The opening lines struck me as so relevant to my own experiences in prayer (or rather lack of them) that their author captivated me from the start. Here is how the passage begins:
Prayer is something more than an exterior act performed out of a sense of duty, an act in which we tell God various things he already knows; a kind of daily attendance in the presence of the Sovereign who awaits, morning and evening, the submission of his subjects. Even though Christians find, to their pain and sorrow, that their prayer never rises above this level, they know well enough that it should be something more. Somewhere, here, there, is a hidden treasure, if only I could find it and dig it up—a seed that has the power to grow into a mighty tree bearing abundant flowers and fruits, if only I had the will to plant and cultivate it.

Ah yes, I said, that’s me! Rote prayer I knew well enough from my Catholic upbringing, but when I entered the novitiate I thought there should be something more. Yet here I was, trying to pray one hour in the morning and a half-hour in the afternoon, but I was apparently still the same religious automaton I had always been. Balthasar seemed to know just what I was feeling: Christians, he said, often feel like a foreigner forced to speak in a language whose rules they have never learned, or a stuttering child who wants to say something but cannot.

Still, how was Balthasar going to solve the problem he had so accurately diagnosed? Imagine my surprise, then, when I found the problem resolved not just over the course of the whole book but in the very next paragraph! The point of prayer, Balthasar said, is not to learn some new way of speaking, a task as arduous as memorizing French irregular verbs. No, prayer is first an act in which we learn, in his words, that “our halting utterance to God is but an answer to God’s speech to us.”

This might sound all well and good, but how is one to pray in a language God has spoken, when one’s very aridity in prayer makes God seem so silent? Again, the answer was not slow in coming: “Just consider a moment: is not the Our Father, by which we address him each day, his own word? Was it not given to us by the Son of God, himself God and the Word of God? Could any man by himself have discovered such language? Did not the Hail Mary come from the mouth of the angel, spoken, then, in the speech of heaven; and what Elizabeth, ‘filled with the Spirit,’ added, was that not a response to the first meeting with the incarnate God?”

Among other things, this passage explained to me why the Rosary is so popular. For it is almost entirely composed of these God-given prayers to help us in our need. Why worry about aridity or “experience” when we can resort to the Rosary when contemplative prayer seems to fail? Of course, Balthasar did bluntly assert in the first paragraph that prayer is something more than stereotyped formulas, and the Rosary is often considered to fall into just that formulaic rut. But as the book progressed, Balthasar explained that by interiorizing the Our Father and Hail Mary, one gradually learns to make use of the key privilege of prayer, what the New Testament calls parresia.

July 22, 2005


There's been some discussion/recussion concerning the group "Feminists for Life", sometimes with a whiff that it is somehow less orthodox than your typical right to life group. Judge Roberts' wife served in an official capacity for FFL and David Brooks of the NY Times tries to use that to suggest Roberts is more moderate for it: "he's not a holy warrior, and his wife is active in the culturally heterdox Feminists for Life".

I support FFL but I hope it doesn't make me less a holy warrior (a tag I'm unworthy of but to which I aspire). I see FFL as the more loving way of framing the argument. Being pro-life is truly win/win - both mother and baby win if an abortion is avoided - and FFL emphasizes that point instead of buying into the false premise of pitting mother against baby. I see FFL not as a repudiation of groups like the American Life League but the culmination or the fruition, or at the least complementary. Of course, Sister Christer supports FFL so I might be wrong. :-)

I was thinking about something I wrote not too long ago, a story about a woman who celebrates her birthday daily (a metaphor for what Christians must do – celebrate their baptisms daily) when it occurred to me that one of the more explicable reasons to write poetry or short stories is to invent something that someone hasn’t invented before. That’s not to say that what we write will be unique, since there is nothing new under the sun, but it will seem unique to us in the way a tribe in New Guinea might re-invent something we take for granted. Maybe it would take a mountain of reading to find that particular paragraph or story for which we hunger. What we say may leave 99.99% of humanity cold but if it warms our hearts it somehow seems an invention were inventing. Perhaps it's as simple as the creative juxtaposition of two words... Unfortunately, writers as a group are an extremely unimpressive lot. The Venn diagram of saints and writers wouldn't have much overlap. The inventions of the most inventive writers - Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Greene, Joyce - aren't worth a bucket of warm spit if it didn't bring them closer to Christ.
H & H

Paysage Irlandais - oil; Guy Chevallier

Well yesterday was the annual 25-mile bike ride through the hills and vales of southwestern Ohio, traveling along bike paths to towns so far from the madding interstates they approach invisibility (without ever quite reaching it).

Did I bury the lead? Have I not yet mentioned it was hot outside? They say it's not the heat, it's the humidity, but is this really either/or? Can I get an "and"? It felt like the sun was superglued to my hat, so inescapable was she. And the humidity! Oy vey! The combination was Dante-ian.

But we were glad to have the sun because Ohio has been under the remnants of Hurricane Dennis for lo these many days. Worse than having rain or clouds is not being able to complain about it, but I have Florida readers and they would rightly find such complaints scandalous. It's almost as obscene as an American complaining to a Russian about a lack of economic opportunity. So into a each life a little rain must fall but spare me the remnants of 'canes.

One of the great delights of the annual bike ride is to find these small little towns. I would rather see a small Ohio town for the first time than most large cities, for large cities come with crowds and noise and sensation overload. The trail led to a new, good-sized library and we wondered if it was a mirage. The tiny town of Cedarville (reminiscent of Hooterville) has a nice new library? Population 3,828? Looked to be about ten books per resident.

Cedarville, like all small towns, has a main street called "Main Street" and, like all small towns, can be found almost immediately. And we stopped at various places along it, like the historic Opera house, built in 1886. The Opera house is registered as a national historic landmark (some verbiage like that, you can't expect me to read those signs), and so I was stunned when I found the door unlocked. Got to love small towns where even their treasures are unfettered. We walked in and wandered up the staircase to...to...a room the size of the modern McMansion's bedroom! Okay I exaggerate. Still, they shouldn't call this the Cedarville Opera House but rather the Cedarville Opera Family Room. And I thought how odd it would be to go to a play or movie here and know most of the people there. I go to a play or movie in Columbus and will, of course, know no one there. Of course, it doesn't reflect well on me that I usually consider that a good thing. Small towns are certainly a different world.

We continued up (down?) Main Street to the top of the hill, where all churches ought to be, and where stood a gigantic Baptist church, a Methodist church and a very old Presbyterian church. (Hearing Cedarville was dry, we safely assumed there were no Catholic churches in the area. Ha.)

The Baptist church promised more on the outside than delivered in the inside. The church proper was an auditorium. But they do do air conditioning well. I moved to the more interesting Presbyterian church, built in the 1800s, with the first pastor installed in 1829. This church looked like a church on the inside, with vaulting ceiling and lots of dark wood. But oddly, the "altar" was filled with life-size (and larger) Disney character cut-outs from The Lion King. There was something oddly humorous about the disjoint between the old and the new, sacred and secular. Despite my self-pledge to avoid metaphors ('I am Bill W. and I am a metaphorholic') one could see it as a symbol of where some churches have gone wrong - as a desperate "please love us! We're cute & cuddly!".

I walked back to the entrance where there was a mini-museum. Glass cases held beautiful old books with quiet, restful bindings. There was an aging bible and an old notebook with parishioner contributions. And there was a framed picture of a 19th century national woman's guild thanking this church's women for contributing the princely sum of twenty dollars. Similarly parsimonious will today's thousand dollar contribution eventually look. The large certificate of gratitude contained the photos of about a dozen women and I was struck by how uniformly homely Victorian women look. At first I think surely it's just their hair style and clothes but it seemed they just don't look that good facially either. And yet I'm sure they were a fine-looking bunch to the men of their time. Just another of life's little mysteries.

We stopped at the "Beans 'n Creams" coffee shop for a beer lemonade and a sandwich. I got a chocolate shake too. It was surreally good. Just other-worldly.

Then it was back on the bike trail, that long black roadway breasted by beeches and birches, thistles and Queen Anne's lace. Every once in a while we'd view paradisiacal homes nestled on hillocks with long porches aching for rocking chairs. *sigh*. I console myself that living there can't be nearly as good as imagining living there.

Since I'm no Lance Armstrong, biking twenty-five miles under an azure sky makes me sleepy. On the drive home I find myself falling asleep. But thankfully I discover anew that beginning to drive off the road is a powerful stimulative. After that there are no problems.

Oddly, energy usage begets energy usage, so once at home I take the dog a walk and tidy up the house a bit. Later that evening, I slept the sleep of the dead.

Cedarville Opera House; object is smaller than it appears
Poetry Friday

Oh To Be Shootin' The Breeze With Barney Fife

The weight of issues
the sturm & drang
the manipulations and gesticulations
i'll move you, you'll move me ---

I hope we can get to the small talk.

High Naturale

'Eye hath not seen nor ear heard'
is the language of the psychedelic
but this drug won't corrupt
its ecstasy is Physician-directed.

pre-Vatican I*

How perfect,
I think,
that the Church could act infallibly
without yet knowing it
like an infant with powers
she could not yet conceive,
like the Baptized still struggling
in the land of bereaved,
showing in growth
their dependence on Him.

* - Inspired by Pontifications' Swimming the Tiber, or How I Came To Love Infallibility

July 21, 2005


Never has so much been made about so little concerning these two characters. Given current evidence, they both seem harmless to me.
Gratitude is Elusive

Tom has been studying the Great Flood and it occurred to me that it seems as if God is constantly trying to cultivate gratefulness in human beings.

To greater appreciate the covenant given to Noah (i.e. the blessing of fruitfulness despite man's sin) there had to be a cursing of unfruitfulness due to man's sin (the Flood).

To better appreciate the NT there is the OT.

To appreciate Grace, there is Law.

To better appreciate Heaven, we have earth.

While earth, the Law, the Old Testament (I won't say the Flood) are good things, we don't seem to be able to appreciate gifts except through their denial, or at least through a kind of "relational assignation".

My father came home from work and whenever our mother would talk about how stressful his job was he would remind her and us of the poverty in China. I came to find that that was not just a platitude with him. He kept that in mind. He reminded himself that his job was not stressful comparatively speaking. (I'm not sure who the Chinamen coming home from a slave labor camp could compare his situation to.)
Understanding Styles

Interesting link via Amy's blog on the difference between "winter" and "summer" Christians.

July 20, 2005

Watching the Boob Tube

On Imus this morning non-Catholic NY Times editorialist David Brooks made an interesting observation:
"You look at the chief Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, you've got Biden, you've got Leahy, you've got Kennedy, you've got Durbin - all Catholics - and you look at the attention-grabbers on the court - Scalia, Thomas are Catholics, Roberts is a Catholic, and so sometimes I think that this whole thing is an argument between different types of Catholics. So I think it'll be interesting little dispute about what sort of Catholic Church we should have."
Meanwhile over on O'Reilly, Bill says that the reason pro-aborts are so rabidly pro-abort because "deep down they know the destruction of a fetus is problematic", so they need "affirmation".
Stuck in the '90s

Fox News analyst William Crystal called Bush's pick "bold" because Roberts wasn't a woman or Hispanic. And I thought: gosh how touchingly anachronistic.

Identity politics is so '90s. Nobody much cares about race or gender anymore. White conservatives love Justice Thomas and black liberals hate him. If Condi Rice was a liberal Democrat, Hillary Clinton would look like a red-headed stepchild by comparison, so fawning would be the mainstream press.

Wars tend to concentrate the mind. No one cared that Lincoln was homely or that FDR was disabled. And we're involved in not only the hot war in Iraq but the culture war. And in a foxhole you don't care what the race, gender or ethnicity of your fellow soldier is, but only whether they can do the job.

Update: Today's chuckle is provided by Jeff Miller:
Thank you President Bush for selecting Judge Roberts, someone who actually believes in the Constitution as it was written. I know for myself if I ever saw a living Constitution I would get out my Holy Water and dowse it generously.
Now them's good comedy. First (to use an odious phrase) he's thinking outside the box. I've heard the phrase "living Constitution" so long that it no longer registers, I could on longer see the words-as-image the way Jeff did. I also like the word 'generously' at the end. "I would get out my Holy Water and dowse it" would work but "generously" gives the joke its proper inflection of exaggeration. The joke is also effective by its placement. He begins with "More evidence that George W. Bush is different than his father..." and we think that this will be serious post, but then the joke appears and lands all the more humorously for its unexpectedness.
Valley of Tears

"I weep for you, as Jazer weeps, O vines of Sibmah." - Jer 48:32
I wonder why
so many Marian statues
are said to be weeping.

I want to say:
‘cheer up Mary,
you’re in Heaven!'

It's not like the commercials
where the sportsman smiles,
says 'I'm going to Disney World!'

She cries the tears
her son had asked
‘Do not weep for me,
weep for your children’

We are her children.


Religious sentiment, they say,
is the partner of pornography--
"sensation for sensation’s sake"
to quote the late Flannery O'.

But oh it's not so with Mary
where sentiment isn't sentimental
emotions aren't chimeras
and love is real.

July 19, 2005


I am giving up blogging pretty much. Still, I think people ought to read my stuff even if I don't write it.

- Bill Luse of Apologia; my sentiments exactly

I frequently recommend The Habit of Being as rather essential spiritual reading. I gave a copy to my mother a couple of years before she died, and a few months before she passed away, she told me how tremendously helpful and meaningful the book had been.

- Amy Welborn

I'd binked and bonked around the Summa [Theologica] for years, and then by reading Fr. Farrell's Companion [to the Summa] realized . . . that God actually wants me to be happy. Now why, exactly, God allows people like me, who go about living as though He doesn't want them to be happy, to exist is (somewhat) another subject. The point is that if you're one of us, if you admire the Summa -- either in an abstract "will-have-to-go-there-someday" manner as one might admire the Taj Mahal or Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, or in a confused "gee-I-know-the-Summa-but-don't-think-God-wants-me-to-be-happy" way -- you ought to read Fr. Farrell's Commentary. You can find it online here. Or, if you want an even shorter version, pick up My Way of Life, which is a kind of prose-poem Fr. Farrell helped write about the Thomist view of the universe.

- Secret Agent Man

Look at nudies on the memorial of St. Maria Goretti? Never! Not that I look at nudies on any of the other 364 days of the year, of course. (To this day, I don't know what those images of Graham Faulkner look like.) This story just happens to be a great introduction to the point I want to make about Sta. Maria Goretti: she shames me into choosing the good.

-Enbrethiel of Sancta Sanctis

The Kolbe medal that I'd taken to wearing around my neck suddenly made me feel a little embarrassed. Not that there was anything wrong with it, but it struck me that, if I were to meet Kolbe, he'd find it sadly amusing that I was wearing his image rather than Mary's. Kolbe pointed to Mary—it seemed awkward that I should merely point to him....Last Sunday, I made the trip up to the Church of Notre Dame at Columbia University, a beautiful church with a lovely service. Afterwards, over refreshments, I noticed a parishioner was wearing the Miraculous Medal, and I asked her where I could get one. A young man who was standing nearby with his wife immediately proffered me a Miraculous Medal he'd apparently been carrying for just such an opportunity. It took me a moment to process that he was actually giving me the medal. Then I thanked him and took it happily. It was one of those magical moments of serendipity.

- Dawn Eden of "The Dawn Patrol"

Dawn Eden earlier this week posted a story about NARAL picketing outside of a crisis-pregnancy center with signs such as "FAKE CLINIC."...Their carrying signs that said "FAKE CLINIC" is especially ironic. Aborturaries don't offer medical services that perform healing. They don't heal what is broken, rather they kill both the life of the child and as a consequence do serious damage to the psychological health of the mother and can cause other possible medical side effect. A clinic where you are worse off when you came out then when you went in is by definition a "FAKE CLINIC."

- Jeff of Curt Jester

I have always hated domestic work, especially cooking and cleaning the kitchen. The kitchen is where I most felt like an unappreciated martyr. I started by bringing it to the confessional, and that helped some. But the greatest graces came when I offered up cooking more often and focussing on the kitchen for my lenten offerings. I began by placing a Crucifix on the window above the sink, so that whenever I felt like a martyr, I would remember what Jesus did for me. My husband tells me my kitchen is turning into a church, but he doesn't complain about the meals and cleanliness there now. As for me, I really enjoy cooking and cleaning for my family now--I offer a lot of it up for them and feel joyfully buoyant doing it! As for the idea of acting our way into feelings, I think that this is why we talk about love being an act of the will. Too many people divorce when the feeling of love first deserts us. They never make it to the stage where you have to think about why you first loved your spouse, and then take the initiative to treat him with the same joyful, loving spirit you did in the beginning, even if the feeling isn't yet there. Nagging and complaining will never bring the love back, but loving him usually will. The fact that the love is greater and stronger than ever is something too few couples realize anymore.

- commenter on Sr. Lorraine's site

Welcome to the reader who reached this site searching for "Catholic Church prostitute 15 century florence monday". Sorry, but I've only dealt with that topic as it pertains to Tuesdays, not Mondays.

- Greg the Obscure

This Harry Potter jazz makes me conclude that it's a race between the libs and the cons as to who wants the Index of Forbidden Books back in action.The libs can have something either to ignore or to insult. The cons can have extra ammo to act like know-it-all goon squad cops (whose help was never asked). God bless the "Caelum et Terra" crew. That was a welcome journal. It was like a good chill pill after a hard swallow of something in either "Crisis" or "The National Catholic Reporter".

- Fr. Shawn O'Neal on Amy's blog

I still sometimes think of poverty in [a] positivist way: I assume that it will breed crime and often blame it for many of society's other problems. Such a view implies that money can solve everything--which anyone can tell you it has no power to do...What I'm saying is that I wouldn't fault anyone who let desperate economic realities sway their moral choices. This is precisely why I'm in such awe of those who don't let desperate economic realities sway their moral choices.Sta. Maria Goretti puts me to shame not just because she said no to a particular grave sin, but because it is obvious that she had a habit of saying no to sin on principle.

- Enbrethiel of Sancta Sanctis
Bait 'n Switch

I jumped the gun on that last post. As a strategy to distract extremists it was pretty effective. (I wish the Prez & his staff were as good at planning for the aftermath of war as they are at winning elections and announcing Supreme Court nominees.)

John Roberts appears to be no Scalia or Thomas, but the bench folks seem to think he's a good choice. His wife has served as executive vice president for Feminists for Life, which can't be a bad sign.
Judge Clement to Get the Nod?

Red State.org seems to think so.

The fact that we don't know much about her speaks volumes. It represents a remarkable capitulation on the part of the President if she's nominated because it illustrates a spectacular double-standard.

Democrat presidents can nominate judges with paper trails who support abortion and who are not particularly attractive (see Ruth Bader Ginsberg). Republican Presidents have to slink around and find someone without a paper trail who is photogenic and by one report called Roe v. Wade settled law.

Certainly Bush would be hewing to the letter, if not the spirit, of what he promised - she's said to be a strict constructionist. But when you have a Republican Senate and a two-term Republican president, you just have to shake your head to see the President out skulking about in the bushes looking for a woman who won't offend Arlen Spector and Teddy Kennedy. It's really pathetic.
Need Some Good News?

Go here!
On The Glories of Nature & Why Southerners Make Good Writers

Letter from Reid Buckley to his brother William F. Buckley, as printed in National Review:

Walking a country lane and simply looking about one can be among the most rewarding experiences available to us in this vale of tears. Have you noticed the lyre-shaped sparkleberry tree at the head of the Pasillo, the tall, handsome hickory by the Plazuela de la Lealtad that looks as though it was at one time circled in chains, the trailing arbutus on the path entering the Peninsula, the birdsfoot violets and wild iris across the Big Pond? I can always tell a farmer when I receive his visit. His eyes take in everything, and he will say, "I notice you’ve put out milo where you had browntop millet last year. Any reason?"

I remember Icky Guy remarking to me how it is that southerners, who may not visit a book other than the Bible twice in their lives, yet turn out a disproportionate number of our country’s finest novelists, or used to. He explained the phenomenon by saying that southerners prefer to live their lives directly and intensely, as a personal experience, rather than derivatively — wasting their time buried in a book. But when they are called on, or feel the impulse, to write, they pour into their writing all that passionate and closely observed devotion to the land.

...The profound pleasure of nature is cost-free but jealous. It will not brook competition; requires total concentration. The trick is this: Keep the ego from intruding. Let the glory and balm of nature flood into your soul, in silence. Harken to nature. Sieve it through your eyes, suck it in through your nose and mouth (and pray that you do not suck in a deer fly at this season). Let your whole being float in what surrounds you, and shut up. Shut up! Do not talk, even if it kills you to keep silence. Do not even think, if you can avoid that. Nothing you may think or say is of the least importance to the cosmos. You will not be here for long; nature is here forever.

A Paul Harvey joke:

There are three types of people. Those who can count and those who can't.
Recognizing Muslims Are Different

Jonah Goldberg, as usual, gets it:
The scandal wasn’t that there was a "backlash" against the Muslim community. It is that there wasn’t more of a backlash within the Muslim community. We now know that the attackers were British born and raised Muslims. Yet there’s precious little evidence that the Muslim community is eager to turn on the enemy within with any admirable enthusiasm.

This is a recipe for unmitigated disaster. Obviously, it makes terrorism more likely. And it also makes precisely the sort of climate the press and moderate Muslims fear most. If normal Muslims can’t be counted on to turn on terrorists in their midst, how can a nation avoid taking measures that will seem unfair to normal Muslims? Already nine out of ten Brits support sweeping new powers for the police. If jihadis can hide among the larger Muslim population, it’s obvious that the larger Muslim population will come under greater scrutiny. The logic of the cancer cell kicks in, and even more young Muslims feel “oppressed” and the number of jihadis will grow.
Our mutual dependence is shown by the fact that we must wait for Muslims to get their act together in order for there to be fewer terrorist acts. And the mainstream media isn't doing us any favors -- rather than shaming Muslims they encourage the further production of imaginary chips on their shoulders. I suppose even if the Western media woke up and started calling a spade a spade (i.e. if the BBC & NY Times headquarters were hit) the Middle East would cling even tighter to Al Jazeera. The plain fact is that Western culture is skeptical of itself while Muslim culture is extremely self-confident. We do have a lot in common in that regard: we blame the West first and they blame the West first. Looks like we're in for a long wait.

Speaking of differences, came across an article on Christian-Muslim relations on the website of a humanitarian papal agency titled The Vocabulary of Dialogue. It's a good look at how we lose something in translation and how sometimes semantics can make a big difference:
One of the more interesting areas for the study of semantic fields is in words for color. Every language I know of has words for color. The healthy human eye sees the colors of the spectrum and names them. Nothing seems more natural or self-evident – the sky is blue and the grass is green. So there. What is interesting is that it is not so self-evident, especially at the “boundaries” of colors, where the semantic field of the word for a color in one language is broader or more constricted than the corresponding word in another language.

Two examples: When asked the color of dried, dead grass most English speakers will say that it is brown. Germans will say that it is gelb, yellow. When asked the color of a frost-covered field, most Germans will say that it is grau, grey, while most English speakers will say the field is white. It is clear that both the German and English speaker are looking at the same phenomenon. It is not that one sees one thing and the other sees something else. It is the case, however, that the semantic field of the English word yellow does not usually cover dead grass and the English word grey has a semantic field that does not cover the color of a frost covered field. The semantic fields of the German gelb and grau, however, do not cover this phenomenon, despite the fact that we often translate them as “yellow” and “grey” respectively.

This may seem like an interesting, but basically useless, piece of information, scarcely relevant, if at all, for the Catholic-Muslim Dialogue. However, I do not think that is the case at all. Roman Catholic Christianity, Protestant Christianity and a good part of Orthodox Christianity developed their vocabulary over centuries in Greek...

Simply put, if at the beginning of the Catholic-Muslim dialogue a great deal of energy was spent– and rightly so – on "how you are like me," the mature dialogue must eventually spend a great deal of energy on understanding "how you are not like me."
UPDATE: More from Lofted Nest...and from Daniel Pipes: Is Allah God?

July 18, 2005

Memes Happen

Summer meme makes me feel fine,
blowin' through the jasmine in my mind...

Elena has tagged me with what looks to be the world's longest meme:

What I was doing 10 years ago: eating pizza?

5 years ago: probably watching that I Dream of Jeannie episode where Tony yells "Jeannie!!...Jeannie!!" multiple times

1 year ago: I'll take Blogging for $500 Alex

Yesterday: Mass, read McCullough's account and analysis of Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs (fascinating read), grilled out shish-ke-bobs (actually my stepson did the cooking), drank two beers, mediated a family quarrel, hiked four miles.

5 Snacks I enjoy:
Ding Dongs
King Dons
Life cereal
Oreo's with new chocolate center

5 songs I know all the words to:
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Billy, Don't Be a Hero
Star Spangled Banner
Take Our Bread
The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha

5 things I would do with $100 million dollars:
Unstrap our financially-strapped Byzantine Church
Buy a kayak for Darby Creek wanderings
Donate to my Catholic high school
Ditto Elena, back to school for theology/history and/or literature
Acquire ten acres out in the country

5 locations which I would like to visit:

5 bad habits I have:
too much internet
trouble on the greens & off the tee (chip well)
too much dependence on self
answering memes

5 things I like doing
listening to music
beer drinking

5 things I would never wear:
a lampshade
an earring
a man bro
Bill Clinton-length running shorts

5 TV shows I like:
The Apprentice
The Munsters
BookTV's "In Depth"
Franciscan University Presents

5 biggest joys of the moment:
beauty of summer
the Mass
a plethora of great books to read
seeing my previously liberal stepson donating to the Cato Institute
the Sox are in town when I go to visit Boston o'er Labor day! Yea!

5 favorite toys:
my 'puter
lawn tractor
my dvd player
cell phone

And these from Bill of Summa Minutiae (for once, living up to his blog name):

What are the last three things that made you sweat?
Reading in backyard sun on Sunday
Hike in woods Sunday
Cleaning house on Saturday

As far as tagging people, consider this an open invitation. I wouldn't want to be responsible for furthering a possible internet addiction. :-)
Bumper Stickers

Jeff Culbreath is looking for a few good bumper stickers. Which reminds me of a SUV I saw recently with a Marine Corps sticker beside another that said, "Martyrs or Marines? Who do you think is going to get the virgins?"
It's Intended to be Win-Win

I often forget that we're to thank God both in good times and in bad. This is a "win/win" situation: when times are going well we thank God for it and when times are not going well suffering offers us an opportunity to become closer to Him & so we thank Him. A saint once wrote "what's it to you whether you come to Heaven by way of the fields or the desert?".

But our lives are not all desert nor all field. And the difficulty is quickly accepting the desert after enjoying the field. To use a trivial example, if I'm involved in doing something and my wife asks me to help her do some cleaning or some other task. To switch gears, as it were. Similarly a weekend that looks free and then suddenly I'm told there's a third straight gathering with the in-laws. To smile and thank God seems a foreign concept while I'm out playing in the field (both literally and figuratively).

Some try to avoid re-entry difficulties by attempting to make life all field or all desert. The former is much more common of course, but there are remnants of the latter such as the stripping of physical beauty from churches, or such as shown by the way some denominations forbid drinking, gambling and dancing.
A Shocker

The conversation had the same quality we'd been having for years but this time with a shocking twist for an ending. (Though perhaps she's just more honest than most?)

Her goal is temporal happiness and to avoid suffering, and so there's always a wrestling between her and God.

"Look at the way he treats his friends- the Jews, the Irish, His Son!"

I had no answer. This didn't seem to be an opportune time to mention Pascal's line that "every conversion is a sentence" or quote the writer Paul Claudel: "No one can foretell where the demands of God, which the Scriptures tell us are harsher than Hell, will stop. Small wonder that your flesh shudders where so many of the greatest saints have trembled before you."

I'd certainly tried St. Paul, who said that God never gives us more than we can bear.

She asked me to pray for something concerning a mutual loved one.

"I'll pray that God's will be done."

"No! Don't pray for that!"

"What? You're kidding right."

"No, I never pray for that."

I should've asked her how she makes it through the Our Father. But I also realized anew the natural end of apologetics, that point at which only Love can take somebody. There's a gospel account of Our Lord saying that it's better to do something after saying you won't do it, than saying you will and not doing it. I hope and pray she's in the former category.
Negative Aspects of Blogging

Inspired by the news that Hilary of Fiat is leaving the blogosphere...

1) Dysutopian responses common

Being called a jackass in print, without the ameliorating gestures of tone and body language, often triggers negative emotions in the receiver.

2) Inoculative effects of tiny doses of fame are, in fact, not inoculative.

It is been shown that the negative impacts of fame on the human psyche are not only not avoided by tiny doses of fame but instead these trigger only the desire for greater fame. Site statistics are to bloggers what the Coke bottle was to the Aborigines in The Gods Must Be Crazy.

3) Words as plumage

Inappropriate mating rituals can occur. The male blogger engages in preening activities such as aggressive behavior in comment boxes in order to secure admiring glance of female readers.

4) Taboo Breaking

Saying that which cannot be said can be hellaciously appealing. This most often takes the form of profligate usage of cuss words.

5) Disproportionate Time Spent Polishing Posts of Utter Insignificance

Here the blogger revises and extends his remarks as if they're appearing in the Congressional Record. (Note: since most blogs have more readers than the Congressional Record, this is not necessarily irrational behavior.)

6) Rise of "blog coaches" a sure sign of the Apocalypse

Lavishly paid consultants known colloquially as "blog coaches" provide ideas for posts, analyze content for audience appeal, counsel on when to use "that" versus "which". (Ok, I made this one up.)