September 30, 2005

Oktoberfest! Ahhhh... It bridges my past and present. Oh language, what is language but mere arbitrary sounds! And yet when I hear the sounds of that tongue it takes me back, takes me back to my youth spent with my best friend whose parents and relatives spoke Deutsch. It takes me back to my high school German. And though I identify more strongly with my Irish heritage, it touches a chord there as well.

The band has a few exuberant hams. Like exhibitionists, or bloggers? The groups founders’ son is now in his 70s and wears the most outrageous hats. This year it was some sort of James Brown beret number with long dreadlocks flowing from it. "Is that your real hair?" asked his band member brother. “Yes!”. You could tell when he put it on that he was looking for a reaction. Other bandmembers put theirs on sheepishly. I’m with Amy Welborn when she says that “professionalism ruins everything” and he seems in it for the joy, maybe even our joy; I wondered how much of the enthusiasm of this group was born of amateurism (derived etymologically for the word ‘love’) and how much of professionalism. Of course it’s easy for me to love them – I’m drinking the first beer of the week and I haven’t heard these songs in ages. This is Oktoberfest season and Lord knows they’ve been playing them early and often.

They play this delightfully cheesy number called, "Im Himmel Gibt’s Kein Bier" (i.e. "In Heaven There Is No Beer" - next verse "and that's why we drink it here") and they offer to sing it in whatever language an audience member chooses. And the joke is they just repeat the tune to some word they associate with the language - for Italian they repeat "pizza". It's so obvious that it's funny, or at least it appeals to everyone. It's kind of how Flannery O’Connor wrote that she would name her dog ‘Spot’ as irony, her mother would without irony. She said it wouldn't much matter in the end. And then the band member who is out soliciting suggestions comes up - as if by accident! - with the suggestion "sign language". And they act all surprised, like that's never come up before, but then they silently make the motion of drinking a beer to the tune. There's always an element of acting to performing, isn't there? The crowd eats it up - imagine someone having the creativity to suggest "sign language"! - and yet no audience member did...

The scent overwhelms; the pungency of sauerkraut greets with the sound of polka as I sit down and take the first sips of Warsteiner Dunkel and the music felt gilded, as in a dream. Folks of every age surround me --all in a similarly excellent mood and why not? As the Oktoberfest T-shirts said, "no one can listen to a polka and not smile." And the dancers, well there is something to their humility that struck me. There is a humility in admitting the music has gotten to you and yes it is temporary, but so what? They understand they are human and they celebrate their response to auditory stimuli and there is something sweet in that, in anyone who witnesses unashamedly. Polkas have always been a guilty pleasure. Many don't admit liking them, they groan and think them too simple, "ooh-pah music" they call it. But I'd rather think that polkas are necessary in order to relieve smart people of their dysfunction? A Simpsons episode showed Homer sticking a crayon into the far nether regions of his brain as a child, thus explaining his stupidity, and when it was removed in his middle-age his IQ increased fifty points. Needless to say, after a couple of weeks as the "smart Homer" he had bartender Moe re-insert a crayon. Ignorance isn’t bliss, but it’s close enough for guvmint work. Or so Homer Simpson attests.
Let's Please Observe...

...a moment of silence for the demise of the marriage of Renee Zellweger and Kenny Chesney. Sure the odds were against them, but Renee...seemed different. And Kenny...was country.
Thumbs Up

Just finished Privilege, a very pleasing read. Modern fiction is often either cloying or boring or offensive, and academic/semi-scholarly books, though more dependable, quickly satiate. But this sort of book is a nice blend of the lyrical and the thought-provoking.

When I first heard of it, I figured it would be another Persecuted-Conservative-on-Liberal-Campus story, the kind of literature inaugurated by Dinesh D'Sousa. I was pleasantly surprised that it was not, having already had a surfeit of that. Part memoir, part critique of our lame education system, part rhapsody of youth, this book entertained as it educated.
Them Is True Words

Peggy Noonan writes:
The day before hurricane Rita hit Texas, last Friday, I saw on TV something that disturbed me. It was not the usual scene of crashing waves and hardy reporters being blown sideways by wind gusts. It was a fat Texas guy swimming in the waves off Galveston. He'd apparently decided the high surf was a good thing to jump into, so he went for a prehurricane swim. Two cops saw him, waded into the surf and arrested him. When I saw it the guy was standing there in orange trunks being astonished as the cops put handcuffs on him and hauled him away.

I thought: Oh no, this is isn't good. This is authority, not responsibility.

You'd have to be crazy, in my judgment, to decide you were going to go swim in the ocean as a hurricane comes. But in the America where I grew up, you were allowed to be crazy. You had the right. Sometimes you were crazy and survived whatever you did. Sometimes you didn't, and afterwards everyone said, "He was crazy."...And we will not only lose the right to be crazy, we'll lose the right to be sane....It is the government's job to warn and inform. That's what we have the National Weather Service for.
So, How Can a Christian Vote for Hillary Clinton?

I was taken aback that she voted against Roberts yesterday. Apparently her move to the center is only with regard to war (pro) and immigration (anti). And so I'm trying to figure out how she appeals to any Christian.

Issues Associated w the Christian Right:
  • pro-life
  • contra gay marriage
  • respect for Judea-Christian roots; i.e. no state religion, not separation of Church and state

    Issues Associated w the Christian Left:
  • government help/solutions to poverty
  • pacifism, anti-war
  • liberal immigration policy

    This means that Clinton is a perfect 0h for Six on the pet issues of all Christians. Only the "anti-poverty" is debatable, although during her husband's administration the welfare program was pretty much gutted, which the Christian left certainly couldn't have been enthusiastic about. What am I missing? What the heck does the Christian left see in her?


    In other news...

    Whooo Hooo! Yippee! We flunked!
  • September 29, 2005

    Catholic Education - An Anecdote & Blegasaurus

    My own parochial high school has a "story" that may not be unique.

    They are involved in fundraising for an auxiliary gym, new state of the art weight room, performing arts place and other upgrades. And I'm trying to determine how much to donate.

    The reason they are making all the infrastructure changes is simple: they are losing the best and brightest, or at least the richest, to out-of-town private Catholic schools. (Lord knows how the kids get there.) And a big part of the reason is because parents want their kids to go to high school in plush, campus-like surroundings with excellent extra-curricular programs.

    And without those amenities, you not only have a brain drain from the top and you also lose some of the middle-incomed to public schools (for the plush workout room or whatever). And that leaves mostly the poor, which is fine, but would it be self-sustaining? And if they close this school where would poorer Catholics go? They have a right to a Catholic school education.

    So it seems Catholic schools not only have to educate, but they have to keep up with the Jones's - with high schools funded from a huge base (i.e. public) and/or posh private schools who charge $10-20K a year in tuition.

    It's ugly, because education is hugely expensive (since human capital is extremely expensive) even without a lot of infrastructure. But what choice do we have? Opinions, comments, suggestions? Email me at (please remove the no spam for best results).
    Catholic School Education

    Amy (who was recently christened by Andrew Sullivan as an 'arch-conservative', which is really defining arch-conservatism down) posted some serious truth-telling (go and read the whole thing) regarding education and our battle with materialism:

    When the Church becomes a bureaucracy and a business with human resources managers, hiring committees, and so on, it is a competely different, somewhat distant feel from a community that produces religious vocations and lay people to do these works of mercy in the world. There's less of an urgency, less of a connection between these works of mercy and the people. There are fewer ties, less of a sense that they are of us, doing work on our behalf, and that we owe them our support in their living out the Gospel. Professionalization is the death of everything, in my opinion.

    Catholics don't give...partly because we haven't yet absorbed this new paradigm, that running a school or even a parish costs bunches of money. Even though we, as individuals, grapple with rising energy and health care costs in our own homes, we haven't quite grasped that institutions are feeling it too, big time... Part of the problem is the simple attraction of materialism. People who don't blink about dropping 75 bucks on dinner Saturday night think that it's not worth it to them to drop more than ten bucks in the collection plate on Sunday morning. Why? That's not a financial problem - it's a spiritual one, and one that all of us, living in this prosperous nation, share.
    Some historical background on American parochial education, from Thomas E. Woods' The Church Confronts Modernity:
    One of the primary sources of division between the parties ['Americanist' versus more traditionalist] involved the question of education. As the nineteenth century progressed, it was becoming clear to Catholics and to Christians in general that the country was moving toward a secular curriculum and ethos in the system of public education. Christians were therefore faced with a critical choice. They could send their children to public schools and supplement the secular education that they received with religious education in the home or in a church setting, or they could establish a network fo schools of their own. As we know, the Catholic Church decided on the latter course of action, though our familiarity with the Catholic school system has perhaps served to obscure the staggering amount of effort and expense that the undertaking entailed.

    The reason that Catholics had chosen to establish their own schools was that in the current climate the state schools tended "to eliminate religion from the minds and hearts of the youth of the country." ...As we shall see, Farther Thomas Edward Shields, the most influential Catholic educational theorist of the Progressive Era and a man who is routinely and rather carelessly described by historians as a "progressive", could not have objected more forcefully to the suggestion that religious education could be treated as a mere adjunct to the rest of the material the child was learning.)
    Proper Credit   (or "now it can be told")

    Turns out the progenitor of this excellent map is Oengus Moonbones of Lunar Skeletons. Check out his posts on charismatic Christianity (to the extent that phrase is not redundant).
    Apologetically Speaking

    I'm currently reading A History of Apologetics by Cardinal Dulles, and in it Dulles observes that there are many different apologetic approaches, some of which don't appeal strictly to the intellect but all of which are complementary rather than oppositional.

    He also quotes Cardinal Journet, who
    "regarded Teilhardianism as a misguided apologetics --able for a time to attract some devotees of science but tending in the long run to seduce them away from Orthodox Christianity."
    Jacques Maritain writes bluntly in the "Peasant of the Garonne":
    "Is it the function of apologetics to lead minds to the truth by using seductions and approaches of any error whatever...or do apologetics have to lead us to the Truth via the truth?"
    Uh, well, you can't use a bad means to a good end, right? I have difficulties respecting people who hold other religious beliefs. Not Protestants - Calvin was a genius and developed a systematic approach to Christianity which fit the Scriptures although was inorganic (i.e. it was grown artificially, in a hothouse, rather than having developed over the centuries as Catholicism did). Even Hilaire Belloc gave Calvin his due. I greatly respect Jews: There's a book from Roy Schoeman called "Salvation is from the Jews" and he talks about the Messianic propheies in Jewish Scripture but using the same scriptures there's a book by David Klinghoffer that is a powerful apologetic for Judaism, such that even the Christian Michael Poterma said in "National Review" that Jewish parents who want their children to remain Jewish should read this book as it is very convincing.

    No, what I don't understand, and concerning which I can scarcely be charitable, is not only Islam, but sects like Jehovah Witnesses and others. It makes me want to read their literature in hopes of lessening my disgust. Yet millions and millions of people can and do accept them, such that I begin to wonder what is the point of apologetics, or even what place rationalism has in religion. It certainly plays up the point that conversions require heavenly assistance and that Christian unity is not up to us. Perhaps that's precisely the point. And it's also true that if Satan wanted to inspire credible false prophets he could do so, given his superior intellect, with the greatest of ease running rings around our retarded capabilities (though even without the devil's help, juries are often swayed by an excellent, but mistaken, attorney).

    I know that apologists do necessary work but only from the standpoint of saying "this is reasonable" and preventing unnecessary defections. The rest is up to God. And yet I consistently ignore that when talking to family members, acting as if it is up to me to make a persuasive case and/or to overcome years of deficient catechetical training.

    Dulles refers to Balthasar who thinks that the apologetics of the last century has
    "attempted to prove either too much or too little. Either it persuades people to believe on the basis of natural certainty, which is not Christian faith, or it asks them to believe on the basis of mere probability, which makes faith irrational."
    UPDATE: I've amazed at how many good bloggers there are out there now. Back when I started (effect hoary ol' man voice) it was slim pickins. So I think my job is done, I can go home now. :-) Anyway, excellent response from Dennis at Ephemeris:

    What is baffling is the human need to believe, even in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. Having been once convinced by a plausible, though false, system of thought we are all prone to cling to it despite all evidence to the contrary. Chesterton writes about what we now call the Fundamentalist Christian almost admiringly, particularly their stubborn refusal to concede defeat (intellectually). And I confess to admiring the JW’s when they come to the door. It takes a certain kind of courage to endure the abuse they must receive.

    Perhaps relationships are the most important thing in convincing us of the truth of things. The Muslim has the Umma (community) to sustains him, the JW has the Fellowship. These satisfy a deep need to belong, that, in the case of converts to these religions, wasn’t being met elsewhere.

    September 28, 2005

    Questions I Would Ask Judicial Nominees

    Years ago I was quite a fan of Newseek but now feel quite alienated from it. One article that ought draw my interest, the Roberts nomination, does not. I can guess what happened at the hearings: blowhard senators blew, hard.

    Roberts seems like a good and decent person. Hopefully he’ll stand up to the tsunami winds of the gas-baggers of the D.C. dinner party set for never underestimate the gravitational pull of peer pressure. These are the sort of questions the conservative senators should've asked him:
    "Will you, Judge, be able to withstand dinner invitations from Ben Bradley and Sally Quinn? Rupert Murdoch? And if the Kennedys invite you for a weekend to Hyannis Port? Skiing in Aspen? Will you be able to attend without letting it go to your head or wanting to fit in with eastern elites?

    Will you be able to survive the scorn of bad press, the potshots of important people, the labeling of 'Neanderthal' or worse? Most of all, are you an adult, with formed opinions and the courage of your convictions, such that you will not evolve in office in order to placate the aforementioned?
    Sorry if I sound condescending but I'm still reeling from Blackmun and Souter.
    Interesting National Review Tidbit

    Book review from Michael Potemra:

    The Complete New Yorker (Random House, 123 pp., $100), true to its name, is an eight-DVD set containing every page of every issue of the 80-year-old magazine. Virtually all of the physical weight of this gift box is accounted for by the accompanying book; the DVDs containing the actual reproduced magazines, all 4,109 issues, can be held easily in the palm of one’s hand. The bittersweet victory over paper — tons and tons of paper, but lovable paper nonetheless — is in sight.

    The most daunting question is, Where to start? The search engine is well-organized, by author and subject — so if you want to read, say, any of the 793 stories, essays, and poems written for The New Yorker by John Updike, they will be arranged chronologically for you...Another, equally pleasant strategy is the Cultural Immersion. Take an issue at random, from, say, 1960 — and flip through it from cover to cover. Here, it’s the ads, even more than the stuff that’s listed in the table of contents, that will give you a snapshot of lived history. A poem or essay is created, at least in part, with an eye toward literary eternity; the glossy ads are ephemeral by design. You want to know what people thought was really cool in 1960?
    Conservatives will be delighted to find here such old friends as William F. Buckley Jr. and Richard Brookhiser. Just as delightful, though, are the political prophecies of liberals past. In his November 15, 1976, write-up of Jimmy Carter’s election victory, Richard H. Rovere worried about the impending collapse of the GOP..

    September 27, 2005


    I was thinking today, in the context of the Terri Schiavo case, that if my wife betrayed me in some way it would be deeply wounding but I would have no regret. And regret is the worst emotion because it implies the possibility of prevention. The tragedy that could've been prevented is far worst than the tragedy that could not have. If I leave my bike unlocked and it gets stolen, I am feel regret and self-recrimination because that could've easily have been prevented. If I leave my life unlocked with my wife or my God or my brother or my sister and it gets stolen, I feel no regret because the whole point of family is trust.

    The cliche is true: if you can't trust family who can you? Yet for some, rampant divorce teaches the lesson of the pre-nuptial agreement though that is fundamentally incompatible with trust. I trust my wife or my brother or sister with my life and money because they are family and there's a bet, spoken or unspoken, that we can rely on each other. But it's a bet so interwoven within us that we're hardly ever aware of it. And that is very freeing.

    If family is the locus of trust then it's crucial to think of Christ as our brother and Mary our mother, for the alternative - to think of God as an employer or contractor - reduces trust to ashes.
    Walking Around a Modest Surburban Home

    Tis a joy to walk around the house on a fall night and remember and admire her features. There’s the soft blackness of the asphalt driveway, newly-sealed, lit from the sides by the landscape lights. There are the thriving trees I so assiduously planted in hopes of gaining an epidermis, my skin raw from overexposure since it faces the three side windows of the gape-jawed neighbors’ house.

    There’s the off-white of the garage interior, which was the first thing I painted back in November of ’98, scrubbing and painting as if removing Original Sin. I had a way to go to make the house feel like ours but I was determined to gain yardage early.

    Our shining achievement is the exterior, having chosen the perfect color and thereby covering the awful '70s-ish Brady Bunch-ish look of the old. The house looks grand under the moon & porch lights, like an old whaling ship fresh-painted.

    Other features: There’s the fetching serpentine paver stone patch to the front porch, New Englandish in her red-brick'd hue. There’s the hammock lounging between the poplars, which always reminds me of Kenny Chesey’s songs of the Carribbean. And there’s the large, thick pines along both sides, small six-footers when planted and now ravenous beauties twice that size.

    The kitchen is finally ready for a makeover, the last holdout of obviously bad taste, festooned with painfully out-of-date cabinents. Instead of waiting thirty years for them to get back in style we've decided to go the replacement route, including the white countertop with a shiny gem-like granite one. For years I’d pitched the idea that by keeping the kitchen and the counters clean we could make the kitchen look 50% better and spend thousands less, but I eventually gave up on that due to lack of interest. I figured it’s better to have a cluttered kitchen with oak cabinents and granite countertops than a cluttered kitchen with '70s cabinents and white countertops. White shows dirt you know.

    Please send your donation between your Planned Parenthood and electric bill.

    - Jeff of "Curt Jester" on imagined progressive Catholic television network "PWTN"

    The Fates clearly have determined that all is to be settled by the three last games of the regular season between New York and Boston at Fenway. And for the third straight fall, stress, bleary-eyed mornings and Sox-induced alcoholism await. There's no getting around it: Might as well set aside the heart pills and the IPAs.

    - Mark of "Irish Elk"

    Humorous to remember: When Jacques Maritain visited him, [Thomas] Merton insisted on playing Bob Dylan songs, hoping that Maritain would agree that Dylan is a genius. Maritain was frustrated that valuable time was spent on such a thing.

    - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

    “‘If you can’t pray, say your prayers!’ People often complain that they can’t pray. St. Benedict once advised any followers of his with similar problems: ‘If you can’t pray, say your prayers!’ This little prayer book will be a help for those who want to ‘say their prayers.’”

    - Bishop Comiskey, Wexford, Ireland, review of "Shalom 2000" published by Requiem

    I've never really cared for coconut.

    - Tom of Disputations, responding to Steven Riddle's confession of never wanting to have an unpublished thought

    We do know that God does deal not just with individuals but with entire nations (or city states.) The Russians for example are inclined to believe that God visited the scourge of atheistic communism on them in the 20th century for the evils which they perpetrated against the Old Believers in the 16th. Solzhenitsyn writes about this. It's a mindset which is not popular in the West today though where the individual is the supreme unit of society and societal and historical entities are downplayed.

    - Fr. Ambrose on "Catholic Answers" website

    As my wife noted today, the media coverage, especially the interviews of poor dopes hanging out at Graceland, shows that folks who don't have a liturgical calendar really have a deep need for one; people who have no saints to venerate will nevertheless venerate.

    - Bill of "Summa Minutiae", on the "Solemnity of Elvis Presley, King"

    Personally, I notice that this sample serves to remove me from Jesus' presence. No more is he speaking directly to me as he has done throughout the Gospels ("but I say to you..."). I have enough trouble getting the path clear to be in Jesus' presence already...No thanks.

    - Julie of "Happy Catholic" on new "100 Minute" bible, a 57-page version

    It is said that married couples through the years become more like one another. (I suspect that is mostly in the bad things so that our annoying habits do not annoy so seriously.) So, if we seek the Holy Spirit through the marriage of prayer and we keep the blessed trinity company through prayer, surely we will become more like them...It is a natural human inclination to blend in. What then could be better than to blend into the company of the blessed trinity.

    - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

    Those who live lives of immediate gratification, Huxley thought, would not be able to bear solitude of any kind. As Mustapha Mond explains, “people are never alone now. We make them hate solitude; and we arrange their lives so that it’s almost impossible for them to ever have it.” A life devoted to instant gratification produces permanent infantilization: “at sixty-four . . . tastes are what they were at seventeen.” In our society, the telescoping of the generations is already happening: the knowledge, tastes, and social accomplishments of thirteen-year-olds are often the same as those of twenty-eight-year-olds.

    - Theodore Dalrymple

    When you take the procreation out of recreation, it's only a matter of time until you take the recreation out of procreation.

    - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon", on news that women are increasingly seeking "inapparopriate IVF because they do not have the time or inclination for a sex life and want to 'diarise' their busy lives"

    5 celebrity crushes:
    1. Mel Gibson
    2. Will Smith
    3. Dennis Quaid
    4. Mark Steyn (writer on National Review)
    5. Thomas Howard
    6. Peter Kreeft (had to add him!)
    7. Bill Luse, TSO, and Steven Riddle

    - MamaT of "Summa Mamas" making the geeezers in no. 7 feel good

    I like the humanness of the place. I like belonging to a communion of slobs like me (a big relief when you are coming from a tradition whose emphasis on holiness takes on a sort of quasi-Darwinian quality). I like the balance. I like the breadth. I like the Dickensian love of *characters* that the Church has. The Church has a soft spot for kooks. I like the ability the Church has to love Nature without worshipping it. I love the coolness of the Blessed Sacrament sanctuary on a hot day. I love the warmth of the sanctuary on a cold night in winter. I love being able to take my sins to confession and then forget about them. I love meals in common with our friends. I love that sex is a sacrament. I love that eating is a sacrament. I loved the sound of my friend's voice the morning he made his first confession and I asked him how it went: "I feel.... clean!" he said. I love being able to pray for my Dad, who has been dead for 20 years. I love that Chaucer was Catholic. I love being able to say that the smell of salt air on Puget Sound is what the freedom of the Spirit is like, and knowing that there is a real sacramental connection there and not simply a subjective projection on the idiotic face of matter.

    - Mark Shea on why he enjoys being Catholic

    Unlike Groucho who quipped he would not join a club that would have him as a member, a sinner like myself only glories and rejoices in being part of the Bride of Christ - his Church. Besides where else can you go to receive something so awesome as the Body and Blood of Christ followed by something so mundane as coffee and donuts afterwards?

    - Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester"
    Fulton Sheen's Inspiration...

    ...was a little Chinese girl of eleven years of age. He explained that when the Communists took over China, they imprisoned a priest in his own rectory near the Church.

    After they locked him up in his own house, the priest was horrified to look out of his window and see the Communists proceed into the Church, where they went into the sanctuary and broke into the tabernacle. In an act of hateful desecration, they took the ciborium and threw it on the floor with all of the Sacred Hosts spilling out. The priest knew exactly how many Hosts were in the ciborium: thirty-two.

    When the Communists left, they either did not notice, or didn't pay any attention to a small girl praying in the back of the Church who saw everything that had happened.

    That night the little girl came back. Slipping past the guard at the priest's house, she went inside the Church. There she made a holy hour of prayer, an act of love to make up for the act of hatred. After her holy hour she went into the sanctuary, knelt down, bent over and with her tongue received Jesus in Holy Communion, since it was not permissible at that time for laymen to touch the Sacred Host with their hands.

    The little girl continued to come back each night to make her holy hour and receive Jesus in Holy Communion on her tongue. On the thirty-second night, after she had consumed the last and thirty-second host, she accidentally made a noise and woke the guard who was sleeping. He ran after her, caught her, and beat her to death with the butt of his rifle. This act of heroic martyrdom was witnessed by the priest as he watched grief-stricken from his bedroom window.

    September 26, 2005

    Douthat Applies Hammer to Nailhead

    The context of the quote below is after Douthat describes a Harvard student protest that demanded that janitors and food servers be paid a living wage - up from their then $10.85 an hour. He discusses capitalism's contents and discontents, as well as one large negative concerning the "good old days".

    From Privilege:
    Of course, the rule of self-interest, which stretches back to John Locke's insistence that God gave the world "to the use of the industrious and rational", has made for a wildly comfortable world - a world in which a simple New England university might be worth nineteen billion dollars and its students might count on earning millions of their own. Even many of the this selfish world's apparent victims, its janitors and food servers and security guards, are victims with color televisions, with stereos and CD players and video games, with riches beyond the ken of an earlier age's servile classes.

    But somewhere in the middle of my college years, lost in the dark woods of Harvard, I decided that I wished for a different world. I had no revolutionary program, none of the rage for equality that makes for a modern Marxist. I called myself a conservative still, but I was different from the Republican I had been...I wanted something higher and more romantic than American politics could offer. I decided: something nobler than the Heritage Foundation, more ancient than FOX News. A new form of chivalry, perhaps - but no, I had read Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, like any good conservative, and I knew the age of chivalry was dead and gone. We were doomed, Burke lamented, to inhabit instead the age of "sophisters and economists and calculator," which was as neat a description of 1990s Harvard as you were likely to find.

    Of Burke, Thomas Paine once wrote sneeringly that "he laments the plumage, but ignores the dying bird." The remark is telling, a reminder that the world of chivalry was really a world of misery, of disease and death for the countless thousands unlucky in their birth or biology...('Look around you', [a professor] said to the twenty odd students, 'and know this: Maybe four of you would have reached your current age in 1300.')
    Mr. Zeitgeist

    A columnist in a small daily newspaper recently complained that the Christian right should stop telling people how to live. He said that those who don't like to have an abortion shouldn't have one, and those who don't want gay marriage shouldn't marry one. It's a familiar refrain (although the abortion argument is particularly ridiculous, as if we should all mind our own business and not worry about babies getting killed).

    The argument that the left doesn't tell people how to live is very popular and hip. Very Jon Stewart-ish. And there is an explicit assertion within that that we are all autonomous agents with no influence or effect on one another. What's a gay marriage have to do with mine? Yet the columnist seems to be perfectly a man of the world - doesn't that somewhat contradict his argument? If he is so "modern" and so in sync with our age, that could hardly be seen as accidental. His own autonomy may well be overrated.

    September 25, 2005

    'Round the World

    Ignatuis Insight interview with the author of Has the Reformation Ended?
    When your weatherman is a conspiracy theorist.
    Michael Novak on the Protestant work ethic.
    ABC News thinks all blacks think the same?
    23:5 Meme

    I'm a sucker for these sorts of memes. This one via Alicia.

    1. Go into your archive.
    2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to it).
    3. Find the 5th sentence (or closest to it).
    4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
    My 23rd post is here. If the title doesn't count then the operative sentence is:
    Don't we humans only respect 'scarcity'?

    Ay yi yi, as opposed to the horses among us. I'm ever in need of an editor.
    Let's Go Take a Hike

    Well it’s late September and I really taking a hike. So I set my cap a’jaunt, find the walking stick and set out for a pristine natural refuge called Darby Metro Park. I like that city parks call themselves metro parks. Got a better ring.

    The air is fulsome with the scent of decaying leaves, the wind strong enough to help acorns thud at frequent intervals. Oak, the quality tree, produces acorns, the quality seed. Or is that vice-versa? Acorns look nothing like trashy maple seeds. Nay, these are heavy spheres, smooth and hard, with a design on top that looks as decorative as a company’s branding. At bottom is a small, sharp point which presumably stops them from rolling when they arrive on terra firma.

    I stop at a lookout with a view of a long stretch of the river and a wide expanse of “Little House on the Prairie” prairie far below. A song arrives unbidden:
    Down in the valley, valley so low
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow
    Hear the wind blow, dear, hear the wind blow
    Hang your head over, hear the wind blow.

    Roses love sunshine, violets love dew
    Angels in heaven know I love you
    Know I love you, dear, know I love you
    Angels in heaven, know I love you.
    To the woods I went and as I looked out over the serene valley part of me wished to join the wagon trains and head for those uplands, with my wife and I ensconced in some far part of Darby Metro Park where the tourists never go. And we’d live off acorns. And that’s when I woke up.

    You never know what you’ll find on the banks of the Darby. A snake, with surprising speed, avoids my step. A caterpillar makes his way across the path, snowy white with eight black dots along his back. He does the familiar sideways shuffle to locomote. Against the backdrop of green and brown there’s the thrilling purity of birch bark, so white and smooth, twin trees amid hundreds of dark-barked.

    I hear a muffled stampede coming up behind me. A bison run? Horses? Perhaps children, except they make no sound, no squeals. I look behind and see a passel of half-dressed runners, all girls but for one lone guy. Like I said, you never know what you’ll see at Darby Creek...
    Beyond the Sea

    What is this need for earthy stories that smell of sea and air? What of this craving for George Mackay Brown's tales and his simple childlike odes of sea and storm and soil that I should long to breath through these gills? I've always been attracted to the sea, to crustacians and sea nympths, to any of the sea creatures that call landlubbers to something more. Living in the land of the land-locked it’s natural to find the sea exotic, but still there is something in the calling of the seals and of coastal Ireland in her far cliffs... somehow, somewhere down the ancestral line the sea got imbedded though no scientist has found evidence such. Somewhere, somehow the scent of salt-water and the welter of waves issued into me. I was surrounded by fishermen as a youth and I was oblivious, like the Baptized who is surrounded by God but is unawares.

    September 23, 2005

    Ol' Country Songs

    They don't make 'em like this one anymore. Ronnie Dunn once said of Merle Haggard: "The emotion he put into his music was probably bad for him, but good for all of us out there listening." Country singers take care of themselves now, arguably at the cost to the listener, but how could you possibly want it otherwise?

    Modern country songs tend to be too calculated. Sometimes there's even an element of ironic detachment that all of us nursed on Letterman are thoroughly familiar with. Can you imagine George Jones with the liner note that Brad Paisley includes on his latest CD?:
    This record takes over an hour to listen to front to back. Do you know how many other things you could've done in that time? Hope you think it's worth the waste.
    Heck no, George didn't care, didn't know how long his record went, because productivity wasn't the focus of Jones's life since much of it was spent in an alcoholic haze. (I'm certainly not dissing the great George Jones by the way. There was simply less emphasis in the '50s, for good or for ill, in getting the most out of every minute.)

    In tribute, here's a song of George Jones that some may fondly recall:
    White Lightning

    Well, down in Carolina, way back in the hills
    Me and my Pappy had a hand in a still
    We brewed white lightnin' 'til the sun went down
    Then fill him a jug and he'd pass it around
    Mighty, mighty pleasin, Pappy's corn squeezin'
    White lightnin'

    Well, the G-men, T-men, the Revenuers, too
    Searchin' for the place where he made his brew
    They were looking, tryin' to book him
    But Pappy kept a-cookin'
    Ooooh, white lightnin'

    Well, I asked my Pappy Daddy why he called his brew
    White lightnin' 'stead of mountain dew
    I took a little sip and right away I knew
    As my eyes bugged out and my face turned blue
    Lightnin' started flashin', thunder started crashin'
    My goodness, white lightnin'


    Well, a city slicker came and said, 'I'm tough enough,
    I think I wanna taste that powerful stuff'
    He took one s-s-sip and drank it all down
    And I heard him a-moanin' as he hit the ground.
    Mighty, mighty pleasin, Pappy's corn squeezin'
    White lightnin'
    My Kind o' Humor

    The highest praise I can give is applicable: I wish I'd have written it. At least the answer to the first question below, which I think is comedic genius. FAQ from The Daily Eudemon, whose blog has received high praise from Mike Aquilina, author of The Fathers of the Church and EWTN talk show host:
    You refer to drinking a lot. How much do you drink?
    I wish I had a beer for every beer I’ve drank.

    Sounds like a lot. Is that a good example for your children?
    Yes. I rarely, if ever, drink to the point of losing my ability to reason, which, one priest assures me, is where drinking crosses the threshold of sin. It’s tough, of course. In the shadow lands leading to sin one walks in the slippery frontier of fun, but that’s no reason to abstain.

    Do you drink while you write?
    No, but I write while I drink.

    Does it affect your writing?
    Yes. That’s why I think the blog is worth reading.
    Liberal Biblical Exegetes

    I had a couple of ponderous posts that I was thinking of writing but I laid down until they went away.

    One of them was to ask why progressives are more likely to emphasize biblical criticism, in the form of "we don't know if Jesus was really born in Bethlehem" or "we think the early gospel writers gilded the lily on this ----".

    Obviously conservatives don't ignore the historical-critical method, nor does the institutional Church. I'm reading "A History of Apologetics" by Cardinal Avery Dulles, no liberal he, and he presents the questions about biblical accounts without making an assertion of their merit. But he doesn't emphasize it, and I'd suggest that writing a semi-scholarly book is different from giving a Sunday sermon.

    One could say progressives simply want to get at the truth. Surely curiosity is a powerful force. And it's probably good to be inoculated to biblical criticism so that when you encounter it in the marketplace, in the form of say, a Time or Newsweek, you won't be shocked and appalled or have your faith unduly tried. But some seem to take delight in it, and it's usually on the liberal side of the ledger. My cynical side wants to ask, "what's in it for them?".

    For example, I wonder sometimes why a liberal columnist in our diocesan paper, as well as the priest at my parent's parish, so relish planting doubts about the accuracy of the biblical accounts. What is in it for them? Well, if the bible is not consistently accurate then that makes their variant of Cafeteria Catholicism arguably more attractive. If we cannot trust the gospel writers, then we can pick and choose what rings true for us in the gospels. Or at the very least this sort of criticism seems to discredit those who wrote these accounts, and by discrediting the early Church, they discredit the current Church. I've felt this myself for when I was young I had zero interest in the early church, zero interest in the Book of Acts, or what the apostles did after Jesus ascended. The credible part was what Jesus said and did (and at that time I trusted the gospel writers implicitly, not recognizing that I was viewing Jesus through their mediation).

    This isn't something new. Hagiographies of saints were challenged early and often by Protestant reformers who were offended by such tall tale-telling. And there was perhaps some thinking that it's okay to advertise a falsehood in service of a truth. Decades ago, in order to protect the faith of their flock, some priests insisted that Moses wrote all of the Pentateuch: So often it's the simple childlike faith of the flock versus the need for scholars to know what really happened.

    I've heard it said that the difference between the moderns and our distant ancestors is that they were interested in the question, "is it true?" and we ask "did it really happen that way"? There ought be little difference between the two since the Jesus of history and the Jesus of Faith is the same. If one accepts one miracle, one must accept them all, because it's no less awesome to say He healed someone blind since birth than that He was born of a virgin, or that he was Resurrected.
    Talk Like a Pirate Day

    ...was earlier this week, but I'll give it a go:

    "Man, did you get any ABs last week?" [spits some 'chaw]

    "Nah, should've hit for Wilson Tuesday. Skip dropped the ball."

    "Cincy playing well."

    "Yeah nice second half but they still can't pitch worth worn spit." [spits for emphasis]
    Oh, you didn't mean Pittsburgh Pirate?

    September 22, 2005

    St. Padre Pio

    Tomorrow is the feast of St. Pio of Pietrelcina.      

    I like many things about this saint. I like his inclusivity, his saying that he would "leave no one behind". A true soldier for Christ, bearing the very wounds of Christ, he said he'd leave none of the spiritually wounded on the battlefield nor leave them for dead. Which has a kind of personal relevance. I am attracted by his special concern for the sick (he built a hospital). I like that he somehow managed to combine amazing gruffness with amazing gentleness, when so often we see around us either marshmellowness or harshness.

    He also had a good sense of humor: "Padre Pio was no grim martyr personality. He found comfort and strength in prayer, especially in the Eucharist. He never lost his sense of humor and fondness for puns and ironic observations."

    Hear the voice of the saint himself in these excerpts from Quiet Moments with Padre Pio:

    Anxiety is one of the greatest traitors that real virtue and solid devotion can ever have. It would be well to remember that graces and the consolations of prayer are not waters of this earth but of Heaven. Therefore all our efforts are not sufficient to make them fall, even though it be necessary to prepare oneself with great diligence. Instead one must always, humbly and tranquilly, keep one's heart turned to Heaven and wait from there the heavenly dew.

    Why distress yourself because you cannot meditate? Meditation is a means to rise to God, but not an end. The final purpose of meditation is the love of God and one's neighbor.

    I understand that temptations seem to stain rather than purify the soul, but this is not really the case. Let us hear what the saints have to say about it. For you it suffices to know what the great St. Francis de Sales says - namely that temptations are like the soap which when spread on the laundry seems to soil, but in reality cleanses it.

    There are so many things that I would like to tell you, Father, but I am unable to do so. I realize that I am a mystery to myself.

    (1915 letter to Padre Agnostino): "Hence it is that more often than not, unwittingly, I am led to make acts of impatience and utter words of complaint to the most tender Lord to the point of calling him - do not be scandalized, please, Father - of calling him cruel, a tormentor of the souls who desire to love him....Oh God, King of my heart, only Source of all my happiness, how much longer must I wait before I can openly enjoy your ineffable beauty?"

    Do not sit down to a meal without having prayed first and asked for the divine assistance, so that the food you are about to eat for sustenance of the body may not be harmful to your soul. Picture to yourself the divine Master in your midst with his holy apostles just as he was during the Last Supper..Never rise from table, moreover, without having given thanks to the Lord. If we act in this way we need have no fear of the wretched sin of gluttony.

    The Spirit of God is a spirit of peace. Even in the most serious faults he makes us feel a sorrow that is tranquil, humble, and confident and this is precisely because of his mercy. The spirit of the devil, instead, excites, exasperates, and makes us feel, in that very sorrow, anger against ourselves, whereas we should on the contrary be charitable with ourselves first and foremost.

    St. Pio, pray for us!

    UPDATE: More bloggy goodness from Julie D., Jean and Hector. They have excellent taste in saints.

    September 21, 2005

    Different Styles, Universal Church

    Ever wondered what it'd be like if St. Blog's most POD, mantilla-garbed traditionalist (small 't') Catholic went to a charismatic service? Yeah, me too. You can read about it here. (Be sure to begin where she says "feel free to stop reading at this point" - that's when it really gets good.)

    Her internal struggle over it makes for interesting reading. I obviously lean towards her spirituality, which I sometimes ascribe to my naturally wanting to be "in control" (which is why I think I hold my liquor pretty well; I don't like feeling out of control). And it would seem that tongues is out of control, which is okay if you're sure it's the Holy Spirit and not the demonic doing the controlling. Sometimes I think traditionalist Catholics like myself need a good dose of the charismatic side and conversely charismatic Catholic need a dose of traditionalism, but on the other hand that might be a case of eschewing the natural gifts (or limitations) God has given (or denied) us. Still, everyone knows the numero uno problem with us Catlicks today is the lack of joy, and joy is a gift of the Holy Spirit that seems especially present at Charismatic services.

    I went to St. Thomas and read what he said, since he's very rational and very pro-self-control. Definitely not a big fan of any sort of nonsense. He's the kind of saint who puts reason so high up the chain of command that I suspected he'd not be thrilled with tongues, though that's partially a misunderstanding on my part. The authentic gift is translatable, and thus appeals to the rational mind. And all St. Thomas says is what St. Paul says, that it is a lesser gift, which is not to disparage it. The Catholic Encyclopedia speaks of abuse of tongues in St. Paul's day:
    The charism had deteriorated into a mixture of meaningless inarticulate gabble (9, 10) with an element of uncertain sounds (7, 8), which sometimes might be construed as little short of blasphemous (12:3). The Divine praises were recognized now and then, but the general effect was one of confusion and disedification for the very unbelievers for whom the normal gift was intended (14:22, 23, 26). The Corinthians, misled not by insincerity but by simplicity and ignorance (20), were actuated by an undisciplined religious spirit (pneuma), or rather by frenzied emotions and not by the understanding (nous) of the Spirit of God (15).
    St. Thomas writes:
    By the gift of prophecy man is directed to God in his mind, which is more excellent than being directed to Him in his tongue. "He that speaketh in a tongue "is said to speak "not unto men," i.e. to men's understanding or profit, but unto God's understanding and praise. On the other hand, by prophecy a man is directed both to God and to man; wherefore it is the more perfect gift.
    The catechism says:
    There are furthermore special graces, also called charisms after the Greek term used by St. Paul and meaning "favor," "gratuitous gift," "benefit." Whatever their character - sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues - charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church. They are at the service of charity which builds up the Church.
    UPDATE:It's unfair of me to pontificate on something I've never gone to (i.e. a charismatic service). Roz would be the authority here, being a charismatic and belonging to a charismatic parish. Also, Steven Riddle discusses his charismatic experiences and how he felt in tune in his apartness.

    Via Roz:
    I've seen beautiful, reverent worship in the expressive mode(because tongues is only a part of charismatic worship) in St. Peter's Basilica at a Mass that a number of Cardinals were concelebrating. Hmmm. Felt pretty POD to me.

    My default position is that things that God is comfortable with might well be uncomfortable to me. So, what else is new? I wouldn't go to Confession, either, if He hadn't told me to.
    The Uses of the Internet...

    ...never fail to surprise. Here is the "Rapture index":
    You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer. The higher the number, the faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.
    Apparently some think they will "know the hour". (Ht: Scipio) And even more wild?
    Ein Prosit

    Der Old Oligarch reminds us das es ist the time for Oktoberfest! I recall introducing Ham o' Bone to German music but it never attracted him the way the Irish music eventually did. The one Deutsche drinking song he liked was "Nach Haus", which repeats the words "nach" and "haus" a lot. That's all I recall.

    Happy group of beer drinkers

    Bavarian state governor, Edmund Stoiber, signals to the crowd in a gesture he'd surely like to have back 

    timeless photo of an elder drinking beer

    timeless photo of ein M├Ądchen drinking beer
    Downfall Review

    I rarely see movies but not long after March of the Penguins I saw Downfall, the story of the last weeks of Hitler and his regime.

    And I was disappointed, mostly because I expected too much though given the subject matter I'm not sure what I expected. Brian St. Paul, editor of Crisis, recommended it as one of the top two movies of '05 and I'd wanted to see it anyway, so that was enough.

    And it was alright. Instead of seeing Hitler, I kept seeing Richard Nixon: the same stooped posture and sweaty brow, the same sudden ranting followed by calm and the same delusions of escaping his fate.

    The story is told from the point of view of Hitler's secretary, an ingenue who really looks the part. She is the platonic ideal of innocence, with perfectly winsome eyes. She struggled her whole life to forgive her younger self for not knowing what she thinks she could've known, namely the evil of Hitler and his regime. How culpable we are for things that we don't know but ought to know is an interesting question the film raised.

    Part of the problem is we knew how things were going to turn out even if I, at least, didn't remember that Goring's wife calmly killed each of her six children. That was painful to watch beyond ken; I didn't need to see that. I've seen too much televised evil lately what with National Geographic's special on 9/11 and the destruction caused by Katrina. Time to rent a musical.
    Hedging Your Bet

    This blog, unlike your local gas station, tries to be full-service.

    And it doesn't take a braniac to realize that when China and India begin to acquire a taste for automobiles the demand for oil and gas will only increase. So do what I did - invest in an oil stock! With as little as $500 to open an account and for $7 a trade, you can buy some of Exxon Mobile and somewhat hedge against the price of gas. I've been able to make more in capital gains on my oil stock than I've paid in increased gas prices. Plus some 401k plans allow for buying mutual funds that concentrate on a particular industry, such as energy.

    While investing isn't within every family's means, and while the timing, after the huge run-up, might not be great, it is something to think about. If you can't beat Big Oil, join 'em! Besides, oil companies have a smaller profit margin (7%) than a consumer product giant like Proctor and Gamble. Can we really expect oil companies to take the risk of exploration without fulling reaping the reward?
    Metabloggic Hangover

    I have the obligatory hangover after my map-making expedition, which seems in retrospect to smack of clique-ishness -- which I abhor unless, of course, I'm included in said clique. Yet a full cartography of gigantic St. Blogland would be impossible because no one can read all the blogs. One immediately painful omission is Don; the map has been duly updated.

    September 20, 2005

    One of the many things...

    ...that impresses me about Jesus and Mary is how they had patience with the "old way of doing things" even as the new was becoming present. For example, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple seems almost redundant, a presenting of God to God. Whatever Mary's state of awareness concerning her son, she honored what had gone before and didn't eschew the natural (the Presentation) after her experience of the supernatural (the Annunciation).

    Similarly, Jesus was baptized by John with mere water. That the Holy Spirit visited was not of John's doing, and Jesus was content before the manifestation of the Spirit, going through the motions, for our sake, of a baptism of water alone that He didn't need. The utter lack of rivalry is also inspiring. His cousin's fame was greater, and though Jesus knew Himself to be much greater He still asked for the baptism of his cousin.
    I was so inspired... that blog map that Jeff Miller posted that I wanted to do something similar. The problem is that I have no map drawing skills or software. But I didn't let that get in the way. Hope you enjoy it because otherwise I'm going to have a hard time giving God an account for this time waster. I think I got everybody who blogrolls me on there, which is a way of thanking y'all for that privilege. I considered Mark, Amy, Jeff Miller and Tom Kreitzberg to be popular enough bloggers to have had continents named for them, although Relapsed Catholic and others were obviously similarly deserving. Please tack on Heterodox-Sea, Orthodox-Sea, Veritas Bay, and Straits of Beauty where applicable.

      Click here for enlargement

    UPDATE: (or "now it can be told") -- Turns out the creator of this map is Oengus Moonbones of Lunar Skeletons. Check out his posts on charismatic Christianity (to the extent that's not redundant).

    I find it very tedious myself. I shudder to think about the arguments culture warriors would get into over a documentary about black widow spiders.

    -Patrick Rothwell, on the film "March of the Penguins" being used in the culture war to defend either homosexuality or the goodness of familial devotion

    All I remember for certain is that Mom very suddenly decided that she wanted to follow Jesus. She had followed so many different spiritual leaders and New Age paths over the years since the divorce that one could be forgiven for thinking Jesus was just the next in line. I think that everyone else in the family thought that—at least, everyone she told about it; she kept it at first from relatives who might get angry. (In Jewish families, saying one has found Jesus is often looked upon as the equivalent of saying, "Hitler didn't need to finish the job—I've finished it for him.") I never doubted the sincerity of Mom's conversion, because I knew that Christianity was qualitatively different from any of the other paths she had followed. It allowed for only one truth—not many. I also knew from being acquainted with the Gospels that there was a there there, a complete design for living that could fulfill a person—if one had faith. Whether Mom could be fulfilled by Christianity any more than she had been by other forms of spirituality was an open question. But if this didn't do it, I doubted she would return to her old, peripatetic existence. Besides, she was running out of options—there was no way Islam would suit her personality, and she'd already been less than wowed by the Book of Mormon and the Bhagavad-Gita.

    -Dawn Eden

    If everybody sold all he had and gave the money to the poor, then no one would be left to be a good steward, and creation would fail to express the good stewardship aspect of God.

    -Tom of Disputations

    There is a tendency on the part of some to deride orthodoxy--to see it as the strict domain of the ultra-Catholic. Not many, but some. I thought I'd spell out why Orthodoxy is so important to me and why I do try to toe the line, if not always successfully. I became a Catholic principally because I wanted a guide to what was beautiful and true. In my other faith life, I was told to read the Bible and it would tell me all I needed to know. There was really no reason for someone else to help you understand the Bible because it really was a "priesthood of the believer." In a sense, everyone was to fashion his or her own reality, and hence, in my estimation, his or her own perfectly suited God. This is an unfair representation of the reality and comlexity of Baptist thought, but it is what I finally made of it. Orthodoxy is valuable to me because I want to believe what is true rather than what is comfortable. My strongest desire is to grab onto the truth and hold on for all I'm worth, because the Truth, ultimately is Jesus, who told us, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." If so, then to believe the Truth is the believe Jesus and to do anything else is to miss the mark.

    -Steven Riddle

    Should my end come while I am in flight,
    Whether brightest day or darkest night;
    Spare me your pity and shrug off the pain,
    Secure in the knowledge that I'd do it again;
    For each of us is created to die,
    And within me I know,
    I was born to fly.

    — Gary Claud Stokor, via "Ever So Humble", ode to pilots published on 9/11 anniversary

    The Senate Judiciary Committee represents only about one-fifth of the U.S. Senate, but it's pretty depressing to consider what the committee membership says about the quality of the Senate as a whole. I can barely think of a single senator on that panel who hasn't behaved like a horse's patoot this week...Oh! for a Senate of Pat Moynihan, Phil Hart, Scoop Jackson, Everett Dirksen, Howard Baker, Mike Mansfield, Barry Goldwater, Richard Russell, Paul Douglas, Hubert Humphrey....when giants walked the Earth, then shared a good whiskey at the end of the day, win or lose. Alas, I show my age.

    -commeter on Amy Welborn's blog

    I think it's crucial to avoid responding to anger with equal and opposite anger. There are a lot of vices that, when seen in action, tempt you to join in, but anger is one of the vices that tempt you by suggesting indulging in them will virtuously counter another person's sin....What I have to remind myself of time and again, since ill temper is one of the vices that triggers a choleric reaction in me, is that it is not the unforgivable sin, nor a mark of utter depravity. Why a person has this vice and not another isn't generally for me to worry about. Everyone is fighting a great battle, as the saying goes, and clucking over how poorly someone else is doing on one front helps no one.

    -Tom of Disputations

    Dorothy Day was orthodox, meaning she took her commitment to Church doctrine on morality, ecclesiology and Christology as seriously as her commitment to the poor. Now, you and I may quibble with the particulars of various anti-poverty government programs she supported. And as Catholics faced with a teaching that permits broad discretion, we are free to suggest other, potentially more effective alternatives so long as we too are committed to assisting the poor in their plight. As Archbishop Charles Chaput said, 'if you don't help the poor, you go to hell'.

    - Rich Leonardi

    Encourage and praise priests and deacons who have the guts to say "no" to sacramental weddings to people who shouldn't be getting married. Stop the largely unquestioned practice of marrying couples who are cohabitating unless they agree to separate and be chaste for six months. (I am just throwing this off the top of my head). What pre-marital sexual activity and cohabitation does is, in too many case, trick a person (especially younger people) into thinking that they are intimate when in actuality they are just sleeping together. That type of pretening to be married before you're married also traps more people than we can count - people who have doubts, but have built up lives together, as well as expectations. I call it the Matrimonial Express. It's damn hard to stop, and contributes nothing to helping men and women make halfway objective decisions. (Halfway, because you know, if we were all objective...who would get married? Okay, I would have, but still. It's a balance, and I don't think contemporary culture helps. The Church should shake that dust from its feet and be bold.)

    - Amy Welborn

    Last night I was to get back to some serious BLOGGING!!! Serious blogging? Sure, right after I drink my alcohol-free vodka, have my solemn somber meditations on the Three Stooges and... Anyway, something happened. I did not blog, serious or otherwise. I painted. And painted. And painted. I should be asleep right now, but I am still on post painting mind-weird. I have been working on a theme, a glance of North Beach, in my usual custom: realist drawings, various abstractions in pencil and pen, color pencil work.

    - Renaissance man Erik, of Erik's Rant and Recipes
    From an Unknown Blogger

    This is hilarious. Found on Jeff Miller. (WSFTRB stands for 'we're still fighting the Reformation battles').
    Mr. Chairman, I'd Like to Revise & Extend My Remarks

    I updated the capitalism post with additional considerations and with the thoughtful points of a reader.
    Thomas Monaghan Interview HT: Ham o' Bone.
    Q: Are successful business leaders who aren't religious less honest, moral or effective?

    A: Businessmen get a bum rap. Surveys show that the most religious profession is the military. Businessmen are No. 2. You're not going to like this, but people in the media were at the bottom of the list.

    Q: Jesus said that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Have you thought that through?

    A: The nuns told us that money was the root of all evil. But it's the love of money that's the root of all evil. Money is neutral. It prints Bibles and pays for priests, hospitals, orphanages and soup kitchens. I found a way of justifying luxuries as good for business. The car collection made sense because Domino's was in the delivery business. Airplanes because my time was money.

    Q: So, you live like Mother Teresa now?

    A: I'm not living like a pauper, but I don't engage in ostentatious things. I read the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis about 15 years ago, and that was a big turnaround. I decided to simplify my life. No more airplanes, no more yachts. It's been a big relief.

    September 19, 2005

    State of the Blog -- September 2005

    Well, the engagement surveys went out and the results are so-so. Hits up slightly, profits steady as she goes, and self-indulgent posts on the decline.

    Yet this blog aspires to be far more customer-focused than in the past. I want to begin to respond to readers' needs, instead of always addressing my own. I've gotten good feedback from both Julie and Jeff concerning this post, and so blame them, er, I mean to say, I promise more frivolous posts. After all, every newspaper has a comic section!

    A New Quiz Is Going Around:

    Your Element is Guinness

    Your power colors: black and tan

    Your energy: pint-sized

    Your season: Oktoberfest

    Like a Guinness, you are always wanted and full-bodied.

    You have good taste, especially in quizzes.

    Thanks to Steven of Flos Carmeli for the link.

    Ross Douthat

    ...writes very readable prose. Some excerpts from "Privilege":

    What made our age [at Harvard] different was the moment that happened over and over again at Harvard, when you said, This is going to be hard and then suddenly realized, No, this is easy. Maybe it came when you boiled a three-page syllabus to a hundred pages of essential exam-time reading, or when you saw that you could turn in that paper whenever and your frazzled [prof] wasn't going to dock you, or when you handed in C-grade work and were rewarded with a gleaming B+. But whenever it came, it taught us that it wasn't our sloth alone that made Harvard easy...No, Harvard was easy because almost no one seemed to be pushing back.
    ~ Delbanco says of English, the humanities exhibit "the contradictory attributes of a religion in its late phase--a certain desperation to attract converts, combined with an evident lack of convinced belief in its own scriptures and traditions."...Or as one History and Literature tutor said, "well, you know, if you want to be a consultant or an investment banker, a degree in History and Literature won't stand in your way."

    As my roommate said, you are a virgin by choice: the choice of the women of America.

    In today's meritocracy, the family fortune must be reconstituted in every generation. Even if you could live off your parents' wealth, the ethos of the meritocracy holds that you shouldn't, because your worth as a person is determined not by clan or class but by what you do, and whether you succeed at it. What you do, in turn, hinges on what you put down on your resume, and often on the GPA that adorns it.
    How to Live With Sucky Knowledge*

    Karen Hall's passionate post titled, "What do you write about while you're waiting to be blown up?" resonated strongly with me. Not because I fear an act of terrorism (though that would presumably change if I lived in Basra or Jerusalem), but because I fear getting "blown up" spiritually. And so, how to live with that knowledge? That is the dilemma.

    Knowing I'm not alone helps. St. Alphonsus writes, "Develop a great longing to leave this land of exile, this place full of sin and fraught with danger of losing His divine grace: a great longing to come to that land of love where you will love Him with all your strength. Often say to Him: 'As long as I live on this earth, I always run the risk of wandering away from You and of losing Your love. When shall I begin to love You with all my soul and be united to You without fear of losing You any more?' Such was the continual desire of St. Teresa of Avila, to whom the sound of the clock gave fresh joy at the thought that another hour had been struck off her life and the danger of losing God."

    * - answer at bottom.


    September 18, 2005

    At Mass Today...

    ...the pastor emeritus gave a sermon on the homily about the parable of the workers at the vineyard who arrived late and still received the same reward. And while listening to the gospel I reflected on it in conventional terms: i.e. that God wants us not to be jealous of those who come to the Kingdom on their deathbed or that He is speaking of we Gentiles who arrived late to the party and yet receive the same reward as the Israelites who had been working in the vineyard for scores of generations before.

    But Fr. Borelli presented in a different way. He said that we love justice so much that we might want to hold back God's generosity and mercy, asking him to give us less out of our human desire for justice. He told a story about a man who died and was shown to the "slums of Heaven" because it was all he asked or expected of God. He didn't expect God to give him far beyond what he deserved. He didn't believe God to be tremendously generous.
    Others' Wants to Feel

    Back when I was on vacation I was reading some of the offerings at the Adams gift shop in Quincy and came across this book by John Quincy Adams, a long poem which contains this haunting verse:
    I want a kind and tender heart,
    for others' wants to feel;
    A soul secure from Fortune's dart
    And bosom arm'd with steel...
    European Triumphalism

    It's kind of nauseating the way much of the European press is using the tragedy in New Orleans for triumphalistic harrumphing. Whatever self-restraint the media, both U.S. and abroad, used to possess now seems as quaint as the codes of chivalry practiced by medieval knights. Sad. A third of Germans under the age of 30 think America ordered 9/11 attacks. Is that not scary?

    From a recent Investor's Business Daily editorial:
    Many among Europe's media and intellectual classes have used a horrible disaster to score cheap debating points against U.S. culture and its way of life. This strikes us not only as false and misguided, but seriously lacking in insight. After all, wasn't it just two summers ago that Europe let an estimated 40,000 people die during a heat wave - nearly 15,000 in France alone - in part because so many people couldn't be bothered to return from their August vacations on the Riviera to help [elderly people] leave their sweltering apartments?

    September 16, 2005


    Updated (with listener comments) my post on the bible study my wife & I attended...
    Following the Curt Jester's Lead...

    Jeff Miller posted pictures on his blog which I thought was pretty cool. He looks like a friendly guy.

    I thought I'd do the same, give a little background info.

    Out on the town in Cincinnati last weekend; I need a shave but otherwise clean up pretty well.

    I work with quality people who can handle their liquor. (Is that redundant?)

    In my U.S. Navy uniform. "The password is 'pensive'".

    Okay, okay, here's my real picture:

    I'm on the horse

    Just for grins! This frivolous post won't last long.
    Short Takes

    In a day where politicians sweat over their legacy, it's to Mother Angelica's credit that she seems little concerned about the future of EWTN. Raymond Arroyo said that she understands how God can use something for temporary purposes and it's of no mind how long He uses it! Sweet.
    Oh the joy of the Sacrament of Confession! Sin doesn't occur at regularly scheduled intervals so neither need Confession. I've found it spiritually helpful to go more frequently, when necessary, than monthly.
    What does it say that a favorite song on the radio "sounds better" than the same favorite song on the iPod?
    Some funny cartoons here. (HT: Scipio)
    Wouldn't That Be Ironic?

    "When asked about the left-wing biases of his Harvard colleagues, the libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick once hypothesized that most professors are socialists because they consider themselves far smarter than boobish businessmen, and therefore resent the economic system that rewards practical intelligence over the own (ostensibly superior) gifts." - Ross Douthat
    In Ross Douthat's Privilege, he wonders if this resentment might be combined with a lack of confidence in the "inherent value of a liberal arts education...Many professors came to believe, however subconsciously, in the cultural voices that whispered to them that what goes on in the classroom is far less important than what happens later, out in the 'real world.'" He continues:
    Then there is economics, the new queen of the sciences: a discipline perfectly tailored for the modern-market-driven university, and not coincidentally the most popular concentration during my four years of college. It's no coincidence, too, that economics was the only department at Harvard where the faculty tilted rightward - on issues of regulation and taxation, at least. To tilt right is, in some sense, to assert a belief in absolute truth, and the only absolute truth the upper class accepts these days is the truth of the market.

    In this sense, the antinomian left-wing professors who crowd the humanities, are unwitting servants of the very market their socialist dogmas claim to disdain. Their decades-long wade in the marshes of postmodernist academic theory - where canons are scorned, books exist only as texts to be deconstructed by eager theorists, willfully obscurantist writing is championed over accessible prose, and every mention of "truth" is to be placed in sneering quotation marks - amounts to a tacit acceptance of capitalism's ruthless insistence that only science is important, only science really pursues truth, because only science only has tangible, quantifiable, potentially profitable results.
    This Sunday...

    ...marks the second anniversary of the first STG. I'm getting vaklempt. (By the way, Elena has a version of quote/link saving here.) In honor of this anniversary, here are some quotes from those outside St. Blog's:
    It is better to pray than to read: by reading we know what we ought to do; by prayer we receive what we ask. – St. Augustine

    I strongly suspect that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those prayers down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives. --Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College

    A divine mystery, or sacrament, is a reality which you cannot see it. It is the opposite of magic, which an unreality that appears real. With magic, you see something that isn't there, with sacrament you don't see something that is. – Fr. Groeschel, on the difference between mystery and magic.

    Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined skepticism…then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad. --G. K. Chesterton

    There is a modern ideology that fundamentally traces all institutions back to power politics. And this ideology corrupts humanity and also destroys the Church. Here is a concrete example: If I see the Church only under the aspect of power, then it follows that everyone who doesn't hold an office is oppressed. And then the question of, for example, women's ordination, as an issue of power, becomes imperative. I think this ideology produces a totally false point of view, as if power were the only category for explaining the world and the communion present in it. If belonging to the Church has any meaning at all, then the meaning can only be that it gives us eternal life. We are not in the Church in order to exercise power as if in some kind of association. –Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict

    If you pray, you will have faith. And if you have faith, you will love. And if you have love, you will serve. And if you serve, you will have peace. – Blessed Mother Teresa

    Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. – C.S. Lewis

    Some first discover Christ's Body, the Church, and are convinced by her history or theology or structure that she is indeed Christ's Body, but these people need to go on and discover the Head of the Body they have encountered, the source of her life, history, structures, theology, all of which are servants of his, Christ himself. There are others who discover the Person of Christ and are won by his glory, his truth, his power, his radiance. These people need to go on to discover Christ's Body, the Church, and learn to love her and abide in her as Christ loves and abides in her. Christ has identified himself with his Body in a remarkable way: "And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?' ….'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.' - Ralph Martin, author of “The Church at the End of an Age:What is the Spirit Saying”
    Islamophiliac Catholic Schools?

    Rich Leonardi has the sad scoop.
    Ut Unum Sint

    My evangelical wife and I had a disastrous night at bible study last night. It was called "Catholic Scripture Study" but I didn't think it'd be controversial since it was on the Book of Genesis.

    Well, turns out this first day was devoted not to Genesis but an overview of how the bible came to be. You can see the trouble a' brewing. The Dominican friar made comments like "evangelicals often don't know the bible but just memorize snippets" and that Protestants "don't understand the context of Scripture"; "Catholics believe God is powerful enough to have protected his Word over the eons and not just given it to us at one moment in time like the Muslims believe in the Koran." (i.e. that Mohammed was a scribe taking dictation, and the friar joked that some fundamentalists believe that God scribed the "thees and thous" of the King James version.)

    My wife said that the whole atmosphere is so "us against them", i.e. Catholics against Protestants and it felt so. At break we took her NIV out to the car after the negative comments were made towards that version. She mentioned how glad she was that her pastor doesn't take shots at Catholics (she offered the example of how her pastor could say that most Catholics don't know the bible very well). She also said that she believes God isn't limited by the Church in order to make sure his Word is protected and that therefore it's not only Catholics who believe God protected his Word through the eons.

    There were chuckles in the audience. Those poor, benighted fundamentalists. The bible study seemed to go on forever and she said afterward, not without reason, that Catholics are prideful. How does one say that Catholicism contains the fullness of truth and not sound prideful? I remember Bishop Sheen once referred to the differences between Catholics and Protestants as a "lover's quarrel". And I recall how our current Pope envisions not the conversion of Protestant denominations folded into Roman Catholicism but that as we both move forward, both progress, both move closer to Christ, our unity will be a natural byproduct. Those seem to be the ways to approach division. St. Cyprian, whose feast is today, wrote "Charity is the bond of brotherhood, the foundation of peace, the steadfastness and firmness of unity."

    UPDATE: Good emails in response from KTC and Roz.

    Maybe you can persuade her to do the Universal Church a service and go back-for THEIR sakes! People of BOTH SIDES who proudly sport poles up their a**es need to see that their "opponents" are living, loving believers and not some kind of bug-eyed Satanists.

    As far as the evangelical question, "why would anyone consort with such an arrogant yet ignorant bunch?" I say,

    "It's the Eucharist."

    Note that I DO NOT say, "It's the Eucharist, Stupid!"
    What makes that more poignant is KTC has limited access to the sacraments. Roz also emailed:
    There are so many ways that Catholics understand the Holy Scriptures that don't have to encompass how "our" understanding is better than "theirs." Drat. Sorry you walked into a buzz saw. Charitably, the study leader probably had no idea how he came across to a member of the "separated brethren" or even that it was an issue.

    Catholics are indeed pretty prideful - why should we be different from the rest of fallen mankind. We're also thoughtless at times, well illustrated by your experience. It especially hurts, though, when stuff like this pokes its ugly head into the sacramental bond of the unity of husband and wife.

    May God take this opportunity to give you and your wife the grace to come to a more complete understanding of each others' true hearts and Christ's love.

    Sigh. Living in a world of sinner is a tough trial. Pray for us, holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
    Gratitude, Capitalism & Sloth

    Two common modern faults are ahistoricalism and a lack of gratitude. They are connected, for if we know history then we become more grateful for what we’ve been given. We then realize that we don’t stand as isolated, self-made men and women but have been given advantages going back millennia. (Similarly in the religious realm where we stand on the shoulders of giants.) The material comfort we have now, for example, was forged to some extent by the genius of the Founding Fathers who created a political environment conducive to invention.

    And yet capitalism seems to prize ahistoricalism and ingratitude by regarding what you did yesterday as immaterial; we are told that the company not gaining market share, improving its margins, is dying. Capitalism puzzles me because it furthers radical unselfishness via radical selfishness. Perhaps due to sloth, my inclination is to thank those who came before by enjoying the fruits of their labor and to say we have enough "things" now, thank you very much. But capitalism rules out any sort of conservation in the form of simple capital preservation. To merely preserve capital is an anthemna in the supra-competitive business world.

    I asked why our successful private company became public and was told that the big guys wanted to be “where the action is”, in New York, on the exchange, in the “game”. I understand that, but I also can’t get quite past this notion that at some point the incremental gains aren’t worth the incremental effort. At what point do we say ‘enough is enough’ and say that we have enough material goods? But I am inconsistent: Despite the tremendous medical advances of the past hundred years I'm not quite ready to rest on that capital. Knowing someone who slowly died of Lou Gehrig’s disease withers my inclination to merely conserve what we’ve been given. Similarly with cancer and aids and the viruses that constantly mutate, promising one day to defeat our strongest antibiotics. In the cutthroat world of plague, it is true that if you aren't progressing, you'll die.

    Perhaps the farmer has a more natural rhythm of work and rest and conservation than the rest of us. He can work hard during planting season and then rest and enjoy the fruits of his harvest. In the modern corporation there is no harvest, there is only constant sowing. You are only as good as your last quarterly earnings statement, and Wall Street punishes unmercifully the fallow field. And yet the spiritual life is the same. If we are not growing, we are dying our spiritual betters tell us. We are only as good as the decision we make today for God. There is a constant need for sowing, for evangelization, because doesn't the mere conservation of spiritual treasure recall Christ's parable of the man who buried his talents? We can get enough of things but never enough of God, and work for the Kingdom is born and furthered by grace but abetted by historicism and gratitude.


    UPDATE: MamaT emailed with many good thoughts. Part of what I meant by "radical selifishness furthers unselfishness" is that those people who ARE producing more "things" are helpful, helpful to the economy and therefore helpful to the poor and lower class. The lower class not only needs "things", but needs an economy that is robust, and a robust economy demands that we not rest on our laurels. In a sense, those who are materially comfortable are working less for themselves than for people who are on the margins. (Of course, one can say that by spending money we are helping the economy, so I try to do my part with books and vacations. *grin*)

    Anyway, here is the needed corrective from Mama T:
    Maybe there are enough things out there. Heaven only knows that it gives me the heebie-jeebies to walk through WalMart and see the vast quantities of STUFF available to us. Something about those piles of material goods makes my soul hurt. But then, isn't it supposed to, in a way? If my problem is materialism and its brothers greed and lust, then it isn't quite fair of me to think that it would be better for me if someone else kept this giant pile of stuff away from me. Oh, yeah, and away from those poor benighted souls who ought to be worrying about it even if they aren't spiritually mature enough (like me!) to do so.

    It is really easy for those of us in the upper middle class to rail against materialism. While I am very conservative politically, economically and socially, and I realize that many of the poor in America today are not poor by a *global* standard, there are certainly enough folks who lack the accoutrments of my easy life. Do I give up my stuff, and come down to their level (which, I suspect, may be closer to the right answer than I like to think) or do we make enough "stuff" until everyone has a lot? I don't know.

    And, of course, there is the always asked question: Who decides what is *enough*? If you're tithing to your church, and helping the poor, is it wrong to have the super-deluxe bass boat? I had a long a very serious talk with my priest about these very issues. How do we live a holy life in the midst of plenty?