October 31, 2005

Quick Hits

On the way to work saw bumper sticker that said, I'm Proud Of My Obscurity...

Paul Harvey reports results of a new study that shows work is therapeutic. "If it came in a bottle, everyone would take it...". Something to ponder when you're not working.

For reasons unbeknownst to me, the topic of conversation at family gatherings is never about those "word of faith" preachers who say that if your daughter falls ill it's due to your lack of faith, or to those others who suggest you send them your mortgage money and you'll be given thrice back. Nope, it's always questions about why the Catholic Church is so mediocre and/or stubborn. Recent complaints I've heard: 1) since priests can't marry, you've earned your priest shortage. 2) Where's the fellowship? 3) Why hasn't the church encouraged Scripture reading until now? Numbers 2 & 3 seem valid enough. Sometimes I wonder why anyone would want to convert, but then I go to Mass and wonder why everyone doesn't.

Local Baptist ministers suggests children celebrate "Reformation Day" in lieu of Halloween. It took a great wrasslin' with my will not to email: "For some of us, Reformation Day is far scarier than Halloween". Funny enough to me, but no use irritating him.

He also claims Halloween is too pagan and "can't be redeemed". But I'm not sure it can't be used a) as a reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Intimations of our mortality can be awfully like a cold shower. And b) as dressing up as great historical figures like saints. And if Baptists aren't fond of saints they certainly like the Old Testament ones, like Elijah and Moses. I give and I give...
Why Death's Heads?

Prompted by this post, and by it being Halloween, and by my recent visit to Boston's old burying ground, I wondered: Why did the Puritan's depict such strange imagery on their tombstones?


An answer:
Why should death's heads be popular at all, and what cultural factors were responsible for their disappearance and subsequent rise of the cherub design? The most obvious answer is found in the ecclesiastical history of New England. The period of decline of death's head's coincides with the decline of orthodox Puritanism. In the late seventeenth century, Puritanism was universal in the area, and so were death's head gravestones. The early part of the eighteenth century saw the beginnings of change in orthodoxy, culminating in the great awakenings of the mid-century. In his recent, excellent book on the symbolism of New England gravestones, Graven Images, Allan Ludwig points out that the "iconophobic" Puritans found the carving of gravestones a compromise. While the use of cherubs might have verged on heresy, since they are heavenly beings whose portrayal might lead to idolatry, the use of a more mortal and neutral symbol -- a death's head -- would have served as a graphic reminder of death and resurrection.

Given the more liberal views concerning symbolism and personal involvement preached by Jonathan Edwards and others later in the eighteenth century, the idolatrous and heretical aspects of cherubs would have been more fitting to express the sentiment of the period. It is at this point that available literary controls become valuable. Each stone begins by describing the state of the deceased: "Here lies" or "Here lies buried" being typical early examples. Slowly these are replaced by "Here lies [buried] the body [corruptible, what was mortal] of." This slightly, but significantly, different statement might well reflect a more explicit tendency to stress that only a part of the deceased remains, while the soul, the incorruptible or immortal portion, has gone to its eternal reward. Cherubs reflect a stress on resurrection, while death's heads emphasize the mortality of man. The epitaphs that appear on the bottoms of many stones also add credence to this explanation of change in form over time. Early epitaphs, with death's head designs, stress either decay and life's brevity.

NRO on Russell Kirk's ghost stories...

...and this book, on religious liberty, looks interesting.
How 'bout a Rebel Song for Judge Alito!

How about a little Risin' of the Moon for the coming fight? (key of C for those singin' along at home):
Ah come tell me Sean O'Farrell tell me why you hurry so
Husha buachaill hush and listen and his cheeks were all a glow
I bear orders from the President get you ready quick and soon
For the Republican senators must be together by the rising of the moon

Chorus: By the rising of the moon, by the rising of the moon
For the senators must be together by the rising of the moon

So come tell me Senator Frist where the gath'rin is to be
At the old spot by the river quite well known to you and me
One more word for signal token whistle out the marchin' tune
With your pike upon your shoulder by the rising of the moon


Out from many a mud wall cabin eyes were watching through the night
Many a manly heart was throbbin' for the blessed warning light
Murmurs rang along the valleys to to the banshees lonely croon
And a thousand pikes were flashing by the rising of the moon!
And a nuther!
Come Out Ye Schumer Fans   -(original by Dominic Behan)

I was born on a D.C. street where the loyal drums did beat
And those loving Donkey feet they walked all over us
And every single night when me da would come home tight
He'd invite the neighbours outside with this chorus:

Come out ye Schumer fans, come out and fight me like a man
Show your wife how you won medals by your panders
Tell her how the GOP made you run like hell away
From the green and lovely lanes of Killashandra

Come let us here you tell how you slandered Justice Thomas
When you borked and him you truly persecuted
Where are the snears and jeers that you loudly let us hear
When our Founding Fathers' creed was executed


Now the time is coming fast and I think them days are here
When each pro-choice lie they'll run out before us
And if there'll be a need then our kids will say 'Godspeed'
With a verse or two of singing this fine chorus
Indian Giver

'Fall back'
they all say
so we got an extra hour Sunday morning
but we lost it Sunday night.
--this epic poem was written after waking an hour early but then falling asleep an hour too early
Power & Vulnerability in the Mysteries of the Rosary

One could say that of the mysteries of the rosary, the Glorious obviously show God's power and the Sorrowful obviously show His willness to become vulnerable for our sake. The joyful tend toward's God's vulnerability and the Luminous are a mix: The Transfiguration and the Wedding at Cana show his power, others are less clear. The Eucharist could be said to be both, for example.

Meditations on both types of mysteries are necessary in the healthy Christian diet since we need be reminded of God's love and power. In one sense, His becoming vulnerable is the greatest display of His strength, since power unused is an attribute of God that we can least understand, let alone practice.

October 30, 2005

Remembering Woody

I'm reading a bio of former OSU coach Woody Hayes, a great coach with very human flaws. In fact, one could say that you can't have his strengths without his weaknesses, at least not without divine grace.

Woody was well-known for his "old-style, traditionalist" football which was to run the ball up the middle with the occasional off-tackle play for variety. He seemed inflexible and unable to adapt to the new; some hinted that his refusal to use the 'recent' invention of the forward pass was to his team's detriment:
"Woody was a great coach...," Zelina says. "What he lacked in imagination, he made up for with hard work."
The all-too-familiar connection between ambition and temper was also mentioned:
"...Woody was volatile, had a temper, and had a drive that never quit. 'His temper was built into his drive,' Steve said to a WBNS interviewer in the mid-eighties. 'I don't think you could separate one from the other.'"
But love covers a multitude of sins and Woody had that in spades. The care and concern he showed his players, especially concerning their education, makes him old-fashioned and ambitious in the best senses.

October 28, 2005

The Hard Case of Fairness vs. What's Possible

Once upon a time there was an evil man who took control of a country by force.

Two years after he started a war with a neighboring country. Eight years and a million casualties later, they called a truce.

Two years after that, having re-grouped and learned the lesson not to take on an equal, he picked a smaller neighbor. And it would've succeeded but for a large coalition of nations that went to war against him and pushed him back to his own country.

The victors logically assumed that the lesson he learned this time was that nuclear material was the great equalizer since you don't have a coalition of nations fighting a nuclear power. So in the conditions for ceasefire he'd be allowed to hold power if he agreed to be monitored. He broke the agreement almost immediately.

The penalty was economic sanctions, the "humane" way of avoiding war.

And a half-million children died.

And no one cared.

Until, that is, a militarily stronger nation from across the sea went to war against the tyrant to force him out.

And then the world was outraged. At the stronger nation. Primarily because it was stronger and they resented that. But the nation found itself humbled and with more than it bargained for. Reality seemed to trump fairness.


And now there's a much smaller, bloodless battle brewing over judges. During the '90s Republican senators accepted that elections have consequences and dutifully voted for Justice Ginsberg, their ideological opposite, when President Clinton appointed her. They assumed the same would happen for them.

And now if Bush asks for simple fairness, a Justice Ginsberg of the right, he may not get it. Moderate Republican senators might peel off and all of the Democrats may vote against him or her. And again we'll see who wins the hard case of Fairness v. Reality.
Fair Hearing?

I'm sort of hypnotized by the backlash against the backlash against Harriet Miers. Some say she deserved a hearing.

I'm certainly impressed that people think the hearings would have been meaningful. Aren't they a sort of kabuki theatre where senators ask ten minute questions (in order to demonstrate their constitutional knowledge) and where the nominee humbly and graciously kisses the hem of their garments while saying "I can't comment on that" in ten different legalese dialects?

That Miers wasn't given a chance is partially the fault of previous Supreme Court justices like Souter and Blackmum who had fine hearings but then went on to become something... else. It taught conservatives that judicial philosophy and record are crucial, a lesson that is, what, now forty years in the making? You certainly can't accuse conservatives of being fast learners. Miers, through no fault of her own, lacked a judicial record. Personally I would love to see someone on the court outside the "judicial monastery" but the Court has made itself too valuable to be gambled with.
Spam Header Poetry

it hear of inflow garden*
* - Actual, unretouched spam header, except for the asterisk.
The Introvert's Marquis de Sade Day

the sort of thing that could make even Jack Bauer cry
Well, I've just been signed up for one of those exquisitely painful corporate day-long re-programming sessions. It's a week from Thursday.

This appears to be far more structured than the old "Interaction Day" which, as the name implies, was an annual Dilbert-ish contrivance to bring us all together and practice teamwork in the non-threatening environment of a park-like setting.

The part I liked most about Interaction Day (which, by the way, succumbed to cost-cutting measures four years ago) was the softball game. I got a hold of one I did, right down the middle of the plate, and--

Where was I? Oh yeah, Interaction Day. One time there was an exercise that involved us all standing around in a very large circle. Half of us were told to squat, as if going to the bathroom I guess. And the person next to us would sit on our haunches. And this was designed to build trust somehow.

Anyway, I've been signed up for a more structured type Interaction Day this time, i.e. one with all the misery but without the consolations of softball (though there's always philosophy). And, due to the lack of Interaction Days in recent years, I've become very desensitized to them which means I find myself facing the Mother of All Interaction Days without any accompanying Interaction Day antibodies.

They sent an email asking to fill out a pre-session survey. You know you're in trouble when you're asked to fill out a pre-session survey. It means your torturers are devilishly well-prepared and that they have broken down many a stoic, cynical individual before and what makes you think you'll be different? They asked a lot of psychological questions, sort of like how Jack Bauer of the television series 24 asks CTU to get him a profile before he interrogates a "client". To give you a taste of schadenfreude, the survey begins ominously:
We have put together a number of personal gains in which people have expressed an interest. Please select the top three items you'd like to work on in the session:

Become a better team player
Get rid of the sense of panic when in multi-task mode
Get better at coaching
Learn to delegate better
Gain some insights about leadership skills
Be a better listener
Narrow the focus — create priorities
Partner with others
Find out about mentoring
Become less guarded, stoic
Yikes. Three items? You said three? I tested the website by trying to click past this. And I found their validity code was working because it gave me the message "You chose 0. Must choose 3."

I looked it over like a carnivore would the menu at a vegetarian deli. They all seemed marvelously distasteful. I kept looking for the "Get rid of the sense of panic when having to attend these sorts of sessions" without success...
On Pants

Came across an interesting blogger (via Jeff Culbreath). Ian writes,
Just as there are subjective elements to many things that have an objective basis, so to it would seem, modesty is an objective standard, with subjective elements. I say that objective standard dictates that slacks on women are a faux pas.
He gets good commenters too. "Darwin Catholic" refutes:
I think there's an important distiction to be made between an appearance which is designed to inspire lust, and one which is meant to be attractive.

Clearly, there's a point at which one is clearly going for lust, not mere aesthetic appreciation. A go-go girl is meant to inspire lust and appears crass, while the venus di milo is intended to inspire aesthetic appreciation of the female form and appears pure.

The difficulty is, some people are sufficiently twisted in their hearts that they can look at a representation of the female form and feel lust rather than admiration.

Now, I'd certainly agree that some outfits simply are designed to create lust, or are worn in such a way as to create lust. However, I certainly can't imagine that all pants are so. Some pants are attractive, some are unattractive, some are immodest.

A well fitting pair of jeans and a snug but non-skin-showing top can serve to provide a sculpted version of the female form, just as (in another sense) an 1880s hourglass ball gown provided a sculped version of the female form.

Now, I don't deny that it's a struggle at times to look on beauty with appreciation rather than covetousness, but surely that's our problem as men of God, not the problem of the beautiful woman we're looking at.
A Current Read

'Twas innocently reading Swimming with Scapulars (which is turning out to be a riveting read - the guy can flat out write) when Lickona talks of his dumfoundness when he first encountered Camus' The Plague and how it contains within it "the clearest exposition of Christianity" he'd ever encountered, despite the fact that Camus empathized with the skeptic.

Here are a couple of Amazonian links to some of the key passages of The Plague that Lickona mentioned: excerpt 1 and excerpt 2.
Brokaw on IMUS

Watching the mainstream media talk about religion is always something of a nails-on-chalkboard experience. Or perhaps a better analogy is like watching a bull in a china shop. You brace yourself for the "moment of cringe". But it is entertaining, which is why I watched Tom Brokaw plug tonight's special on evangelical Christians.

It's titled "In God they Trust" and it seems NBC has discovered megachurches for the first time. I may be biased in thinking him biased, but he seems to create an air of menace, as if it's not good so many thousands of Christians gather in one place. Obviously the only reason there is a show titled "In God We Trust" on NBC tonight is because of politics. The secular media cares about evangelicals in direct proportion to the extent they have political influence. Brokaw asks somebody at the megachurch if they want a theocracy. And they say "no" but Brokaw opines that if the Christian right gets the politicians they want into office then a theocracy won't sound so bad to them.

An interesting moment is when Brokaw says he goes to church. He says that at his church there is talk of our sinfulness and our guilt, but here, at this megachurch, there is no mention of it. And the pastor says that's right, the message here is Jesus loves you, not guilt or sin, end of story. Which is fascinating in its own right because sometimes it seems that mirrors the Christian activists on the left. This lack of emphasis on guilt or sin appears to lead to greater trust in self, which perhaps allows one to focus less on self and more on improving others, or society. Catholic activists in the '60s and '70s - the anti-Vietnam War, pro-socialism, anti-death penalty and pro-unilateral nuclear freeze folks - rejected categories of sin as mortal or venial and in fact seemed more worried about structural societal sin than personal sin at all.

They got things done, they made things happen. Good things - like greater civil rights. And bad things - like nearly destroying the liturgy (as activists within the Catholic Church almost accomplished). And now there seems a large group of Christians on the right, perhaps in response to leftist Christians of the '60s and '70s, having learned what seems to be a lesson of the '60s: the most passionate among us can have disproportionate influence. And evil thrives when good men do nothing.

Brokaw also says that most who are going to megachurches are doing so not just religious but for social reasons - they meet like-minded people, have day care centers, good coffee, etc...In a mobile society, megachurches fill a need of instant socialization.

October 27, 2005


Miers withdraws. I'm really surprised. As Rock Wren mentioned, it'll be a sore test for Bush - surely every fibre of his being is screaming to punish his base. As Drudge would say, "Developing..."

Update: NRO says no way will the president appoint someone unfavorable out of spite.
Word Among Us

...gets it right. From yesterday's meditation:
'Those whom he foreknew he also predestined.' (Romans 8:29) What does Paul mean by “predestined” here? Doesn’t salvation depend on our free will? Or does God know in advance—and even mark out in advance—which path we will choose? Worrying about this issue is kind of like being a fish in the ocean trying to calculate how high the sky is. Simply reflecting on God’s omnipotence leads us to realize that this question is not even in our neighborhood. With David, we can say, “I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me” (Psalm 131:1).

However, we can know one thing: “God desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Without a doubt, salvation is the most important item on his agenda. It’s so important that God designed all of history around it, from the creation of the world to the death and resurrection of his Son. Imagine: He planned everything just so that we could be part of his family for all eternity!
A Rave and a Whine

On the minutiae side of things, I love that librarything.com. I'll be sad when I'm done and it won't be long now. It is addicting, and every day I add twenty or thirty volumes to the list and watch it grow and I’m excited by its possibilities, by how I can export to Excel and sort by subject and print off lists by tag and be able to check out the ones I haven’t read yet and therefore make an informed decision as to the next read instead of just "monkey see, monkey read" (although I recognize and don't want to eliminate the serendipitious element to libraries).

It's nice to have an excuse to revisit those olden books of yore, those of such pungent nostalgia that the pages weep of another age, perhaps a better age or at least a more innocent one. Rodale's book of organic gardening, "Island of the Blue Dolphins", "The Light in the Forest", memories all.


It’s always foolish to deny the obvious and the obvious is this: it’s dark when I come home from work. That’s just the plain fact of it. Nature has a sort of clock-like regularity to her. I just noticed. She’s pretty strict.

I’ve decided I’m going to forego the annual “I dislike winter” parade. I think it’s gotten old. I should go back in this journal and look at the last few Octobers and I believe only the dates have changed. Whole lot of whining. Yes it’s getting darker and colder and I have very little vacation time to make up for it. Whose fault is that? Why do I use up my vacation time when it is warm and sunny? Oh, yeah, because it’s warm and sunny.
Fragments of Shakespeare That Could Be Read Spiritually

It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
If, for the purposes of this example, we assume that Christ is speaking, then He expresses his love for us while wondering how it is that we don't realize how much he loves us. He sees her at prayer without her heart involved and he thinks "what of that?" and yet answers her anyway.
'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
If we substitute the word "sin" for "Montague" we see that a reflection of Christ hating sin but loving the sinner. His enemy and ours is sin, but we are not our sin. By saying "What's a Montague?" he recognizes sin's uselessness and unreality since only what God sanctions is in the truest sense "real". With "O, be some other name!" he urges us to be other than sinners but to be who we really are or were meant to be, i.e. Capulets, Christians, saints.
Shout Shows

You know those political talk shows where people are shouting over each other? It's all variations on a theme. It all comes down to a couple basic assumptions that are different and then you have a panoply of issues over which you'll disagree. For example, if you lack shared economic assumptions then you're going to disagree about everything derived from those principles.

And how boring is that? Two people arguing over something that is three levels removed from their basic assumption is banal beyond belief. Which is why arguments on the same side of the aisle (like the Harriet Miers nomination) are so much interesting - you begin with shared assumptions.

My take is that people have the "right to be wrong". Lord knows I've been and will continue to be. And that rightness to be wrong will naturally extend to hurting the quality of my life or others' lives, usually unwittingly (though I recognize how ludicrous it is to say that since hurting the quality of my life is as nothing compared to what that "rightness to be wrong" has done to so many unborn children's lives).

...my mostly political blog News You Can('t) Use with how you can recognize the five stages of Bush hatred.

October 26, 2005

Interesting quotations...

...from the first few pages of The Church Confronts Modernity :
Piux X would not allow [Cardinal] Gibbons to kiss his ring, instead embracing him vigorously and kissing him on both cheeks. He later told Gibbons: "I love these Americans. They are the blooming youth of Catholicism. Convey to them how gladly I impart my apostolic blessing to their whole country."
Shanahan did not enter into great detail in defense of the Catholic position on grace and justification, contenting himself with the observation that God's very decision to endow man, the summit of his creation, with intellectual faculties, was a good indication that mere passivity in reaching one's salvation was unlikely to have been the divine plan.
[William] James spotted in this argument the unwarranted invocation of [W.C.] Clifford's own value judgments: "He who says, 'better go without belief forever than believe a lie,'" James wrote,"merely shows his own preponderant private horror of becoming a dupe.'"
What the mystics did not do, according to Father Shanahan, was to divorce faith from knowledge. "They admitted external and objective criteria by which to test the truth of their experiences," he said. "They submitted their private feelings to the judgment of the public Church. They went down into experience with conviction, not for it - the exact reverse of what they should have done to become the ancestors of the modern liberals."
'Round the World in Eighty Links

Crack Cocaine for the Bellocian: Belloc the Historian ...via Chesterton & Friends, via Bethune Catholic.

Is novelist Anne Rice reading your blog?

Students in Rome on "Vestal Morons"


The Pope on economics


Taleswapper writes of That Library Thang:
"We've settled, I think, on cataloging these books, but we're going to mark them with the tag quarantine to indicate that we're keeping these books to prevent them getting loose in the wild."

Hey hey -- ho, ho -- youth culture's gotta go: according to Internet Monk & Jeff C.


Personal tics -- from The Little Professor


Finally a bit o' metablogging. Enough of others, what about me? I like maps. And I like blogging stats despite myself. Here is a map of the last hundred hits. Of course most of the hits from foreign countries come from googlers for "sex video" so grain, salt... salt, grain (say like Letterman said "Oprah, Uma...Uma...Oprah").

October 25, 2005

Spanning the Globe

One of my favorite quotes is from the journals of Father Alexander Schmemann: "God, when creating the world, did not solve problems or pose them. He created what He would call 'very good.' God created the world, but the devil transformed the world and man and life into a 'problem.'" If we want to adore God with praise and thanksgiving we are going to have to learn to stop seeing everything as a "problem" or "interruption" and begin to be open to seeing God's goodness and interventions even in the most unlikely of places. Many of the most horrific sins ever committed by human beings happen because people see problems where they should see blessings. If we do not adore God above all, we risk doing horrible things as we serve whatever else we put in God's place.

- from Michael Dubruiel's "How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist" via Julie of "Happy Catholic"

The Mennonites’ Zwinglian heritage always bothered me, because what I know of Zwingli’s method of determining church practice was pretty weird: if it’s not mentioned in the New Testament, don’t do it. Moreover, when it comes to communion in particular, what modern arguments I’ve heard against the Real Presence either come from anti-Catholic nuttery of the Jack Chick variety, or from a modern version of the Greek attitude I described above: “spiritual” things don’t really happen in the physical world. And to be honest, I think I always hoped that the Real Presence was waiting for me after baptism. The idea that if I’m baptized in this church, a mere symbolic feast was waiting for me, I found unbearably depressing.

- Camassia

One is compelled to wonder, when navigating the aisles of the juniors' department of your friendly neighborhood local department store -- is there an urgent national fabric shortage, shielded from the eyes of the public by a vast right-wing conspiracy? And if so, what can we do to help clothe these poor American teenagers? Clearly, the predicament is a portentous one. Flaunting belly button rings and blubber alike, teen girls cavort in public wearing transparent lacy garments which, two hundred years ago, would have made Hester Prynne blush. One is tempted to mass-produce iron-on scarlet "A"'s to accompany these so-called "shirts", but it is highly doubtful whether they even boast material enough to accomodate such an accessory. Skirts, too, have become as superfluous as Queen Elizabeth II...it seems that teen girls today must either have mastered the art of never bending, stretching, kneeling, crossing their legs, or sitting, or must have an inexplicable fascination with exhibitionism.

- blogger at "Idylls of the Princess"

Suburban housewives across the country are picking up guitars and drumsticks as part of new musical movement dubbed "Mom rock." Bands such as Housewives on Prozac, Placenta in California, and Frump in Texas began rehearsing in basements and garages, thrashing out punk-style songs about breastfeeding, washing dirty clothes, and burning the dinner. "Eat Your Damn Spaghetti," "Dishwashing Blues," and "Pee Alone" are some of the tunes that have given these mom rockers recognition.

- Michael S. Rose via Dr. Phillip of "Musings of a Pertinacious Papist"

After this post on a recent hurricane of recrimination Harumphalism among Catholic bloggers, David L. Alexander himself posts a Comment concluding, "Maybe sometimes there is no middle ground." Or there is but it's between the opposing trenches.

- Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails", concerning the recent dust-up over Diogenes

The attitude that "I know my faith, and could never fall" seems very presumptuous. Did Tertullian not know his faith? I have seen Catholics lose their faith, because they started out to "convert" someone, or just learn from other teachers. I have also seen many more Catholics that have had their faith weakened to the point that they are Catholic in name only. Unfortunately today in our "enlightened" era, so dominated by intellectual pride, we seem to think that we can read anything and listen to anyone, and we will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Well my experience is that most Catholics can not. Unfortunately, this attitude is even encouraged by many Bishops and orthodox Catholics. How many times have Catholics been encouraged to read anti-Catholic literature in order to become better apologists? Yet who inquires if these people have the stability and grace not to be adversely effected by it? How many Catholics have you seen reading their Bibles and coming away with conclusions that go against the faith, because they do not approach the word of God recognizing the warnings of Peter? (2 Pet. 1:20; 3:16) The Bishops would do well to look to the wisdom of their predecessors, remembering that all men suffer the effects of original sin.

- commenter on Amy Welborn's blog

His head was slumped down, his legs akimbo, and it was this latter posture that drew one's eyes inexorably to his crotch where his fly was open and his genitals hanging out. Must have passed out before he could get the buttons refastened, or the zipper up. If he had buttons, or a zipper. "Don't look now, girls," I said, but all three had already seen where I was looking. "Oh my God," said one. And I thought: There but for the Grace of God go a lot of people I have known at one time or another, but not me. And we got in the car and went home where I cooked a big ole pancake and sausage breakfast.

- Bill of "Apologia", on seeing a street person outside church; I'm hoping the word sausage was accidental here

I’ve been pretty much addicted to St. Blog’s for more years than I care to recount. I don’t think anything I’ve read compares with that post –meaning no disregard for anyone. This just resonates! It amplifies a subject I’ve been considering lately: how it is so easy to run off the rails and substitute human causes, sometimes even well-intentioned for those of Christ – and hoping I don’t do the same. It’s because humans want to discover the truth through our own abilities. We can do that to only a small degree. Now we see dimly, as through a glass. If we act on the images we see of our own power, we can only err as we also want to see what we want to see. We don’t want to see where we’re at fault. The only area where I’d take issue at all is the statement “While the teachings of Christ are spread out throughout the different books of the New Testament, the same teachings are packed in the Psalms in a superior manner, in that it is presented, already, in the form of prayer (and made by the Holy Spirit at that.)” I’d add “and Canticles” after “Psalms”. The Magnificat has taught me more than any catechism or treatise. Still, though, I know so very little.

- Gregg the Obscure

In Psalm 129, the Pope said, the sinner recognizes God's immense mercy, as "the supplication of De Profundis, from the dark abyss of sin, reaches up to God's luminous horizon." It is God's mercy, rather than the fear of punishment, that should rouse awe in the believer, he said.

- CWNews.com, via Amy

"The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told worshippers to compare praying to sunbathing, except that it is soaking in the light of God. Williams, the spiritual leader of the 77-million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, said on a BBC radio programme that many people had trouble praying and thought it was a matter of "generally getting your act together".He said worshippers struggling to pray would be better off comparing praying to lying on a beach. They should stop trying too hard and just be where the light can reach them -- in this case the light of God."

- via Jeff of "Curt Jester"

The same complaint was made back in the early 20th century heydey of literary conversions: almost all the good writers were converts.  Why so?  Frank Sheed actually organized a debate between a famous convert and a cradle Catholic on the subject and to be gracious, each argued for the other group’s contributions to the faith.  Alas, it was acknowledged that the case for the converts won, hands down. There’s no absolutely reason, of course, why this should be so.  “New” Catholics aren’t any smarter or more devout or more gifted or eloquent.  But we do possess one advantage - bringing non-Catholic questions and life-experience to the Tradition just tends to make things wake up.  And we were raised to *talk* about our faith (some would say incessantly), to seek out opportunities to give witness to the world. When the evangelical imagination is presented with the fullness of the apostolic faith - watch out!

- Sherry Weddell commenting Dom's blog

I find it embarrassing to pray for something that is totally within my power to achieve. I'm not saying I don't sometimes do so, but isn't it rather embarrassing to ask for divine intervention to, say, eat less and exercise more, or to watch less TV and get more sleep, or to stop focusing so much on the negative news and start focusing on a positive life? Perhaps I shouldn't be embarrassed at such prayers. Our priest prays for the Holy Spirit to give us focus and open our hearts before Bible study, doesn't he, and that is under our control. In fact, many of the prayers of our church focus on what is, in fact, under our control. So why do I feel like a fat, untidy pigeon God is tossing up and telling to fly? Why do I "drop down and run back expecting to be fed" at God's hand when I know, full well, how to fly? And really, our priest has been telling us in homily after homily, in Bible study after Bible study, that the fear of God is lacking in our parish. Fear of God... our minds just cannot conceive that the God of Love is a being to fear...How many people are just like me, believing in, even seeking God's endless patience and totally unaware of the damage ignoring His guidance does to our bodies and souls. How many times can we fall from God's grace before damage and death finally follow.

- Rock of "Lofted Nest"
Another Reason to Love Elena

I think it's pretty cool Elena is sticking up for Tom Delay. Loyalty and giving someone the benefit of the doubt are of little value when that someone is popular and/or unimpeachable, but is rare and beautiful when given to someone unpopular and in questionable circumstances. Whatever you think of Delay, you have to appreciate Elena's moxie and be glad that she is, given her willgness to defend the unpopular, a Catlick.
Thoughts about David & Absalom

I'm reading the Old Testament at a glacial pace but my affection and appreciation for it grows. Years ago my attitude towards the OT was poor, since I considered it to be incomprehensible and outdated by the New. I also fell into the stereotype of it as consisting of the "mean God" in contrast to the "kind God" of the New.

But last night I was reading the story of David and Absalom and I couldn't believe how rich this is. There is so much there to reflect on that I felt if I didn't write it down I would forget or miss something. Primarily it is David's love for his son that is so affecting. It is, of course, an analogy of the way God loves us. We are often Absaloms. It helps answer the knotty question: How does a good God damn people to hell? In this story we see that David showered Absalom with gifts and loved him unconditionally but that Absalom was killed by his own design. He sent himself to hell as it were. David's weeping afterwards for the child who wanted to kill and overthrow him is how God views wayward souls.

The other interesting point is that there is actually a commandment (the 4th) that should have protected Absalom, had he heeded it. ("In your laws is my delight" says the psalmist, and that strikes a discordant chord to our modernist, law-hating ears. But his laws now are writ in our hearts, in our consciences, and we should try to treasure our consciences instead of finding them burdensome.) It's interesting that there is no corresponding commandment to the 4th that says, "Thou shalt honor and love your children". That is a given. A parent's love for the child is how we see God's love for us. Our pastor makes the case that our love with God is similar to the nuptial bond but sometimes I think the better analogy is parental.

The tragedy of Absalom was also a temporal punishment that David received for his adultery with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband. This would seem a argument for the existence of Purgatory, although it still has an aspect of eye-for-an-eye that is more punitive than healing and the pain of Purgatory exists for the latter, not the former. David received almost exactly what he had done to God. By having a son upon whom he lavished gifts and love and blessings and in having that son turn on him and rebel against him, it certainly echoed what the highly favored David did to his Father.

Update: Donna Marie Lewis makes an excellent point in an email:
Unlike the relationship between God and us, Absalom had a understandable gripe with his father. David was guilty of a shameful lack of action when his son Ammon raped his half-sister Tamar (Absalom's full sister). Absalom went out and killed Ammon himself, and got in trouble for it- which wouldn't have happened if David had been responsible in the first place.
Having spent many of the fondest, er, I mean worst (right honey?) years of my life as a bachelor, I feel qualified to present:
  The Bachelor's    Guide to Home Decor
The bachelor is above all a seeker of utility. No bachelor has ever heard the term "thread count" in connection with bedsheets. All he knows is that a sheet either works or doesn't work, and it works if it is long enough to be both bunched up near the neck and extend past his toes. That, my friends, is good sheet.

The next tip regards carpet selection, which necessitates some background info. Most bachelors find the demands of dog care far too demanding. If the bachelor wants to go directly from work to pub he finds he must get someone to take the dog outside to do his "bidness". So even though the dog is man's best friend, the bachelor finds himself drawn, inevitably, to the second-bests of the animal world: cats.

Cats have the nearly miraculous ability to go to the bathroom in the house on sand, also called kitty litter. This affords great flexibility in scheduling, but the cat is not without a great weakness. It pukes. For reasons unknown, they suddenly develop something called a hair ball, though this is a misnomer since they don't just bring up a ball of hair but also the gelantinous matter that not long ago was cat food.

This presents the bachelor a decorating problem. His carpets and rugs must match the hue of cat vomit. Now I'm not saying the bachelor doesn't clean up the vomit, it's just that he doesn't do it well enough on light-colored carpet.

The next decorating tip is how to draw the line between proclamation of your heterosexuality without proclaiming that you are a pervert. The young bachelor accomplishes this by a token poster of beautiful half-naked actress. Tasteful is the key here. The emphasis should be on cheek bones, not jumping her bones.

Perhaps no greater bacheloric enemy exists than dust. Dust is an amazingly regenerative force; you can wipe a surface and a month or two later it's as if you hadn't wiped it at all. The short cut to dusting furniture is to blow hard, which most bachelors are good at since they've yet to experience the awesome civilizing force of marriage. A good blast of air will make it look as though the dust has only accumulated for a week or two rather than a month or two. Alternatively, you can simply use your hand to sweep the dust off, though it will still congregate around the base of lamps and bowling trophies. Some bachelors actually remove objects before dusting tables but I've never tried that and so can't comment.

Another great enemy of the bachelor is a lack of coasters. The key is to have so many coasters lying around that anywhere you put your drink you're likely to hit a coaster. This is actually far more important than dust elimination, since dust doesn't leave permanent furnitural damage.

Modern inventions have been the bachelor's best friend. Once upon a time the rare beer that lacks a twist-off would be opened with a simple bottle opener. But now there are bottle openers that will play tunes as you do this, such as the Notre Dame fight song. There are also Homer Simpson openers with a recording of Homer saying "D'oh!" as you uncork your Heineken. Make sure your house or apartment includes a wide variety of tune-playing openers.

And lastly: large areas of hardwood floors are a safety hazard. Sock-skating and kitchen hockey have claimed many a good bachelor.

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Graphic credit goes to davezilla.com
Blog Muscle

Ham o' Bone was recently amazed, as was I, at the quickness and power of the Internet at getting a message out. He called me at noon-ish on Sunday to point out the egregious story in the Dispatch about the unlikely advocate for the poor: the church-going Catholic. (By the way, he is an evangelical. Gotta love the solidarity.)

I put it on my blog and within four or five hours it got picked up by Jeff Miller, who has a circulation of perhaps ten times my own. So it went from one person to my blog (I'm too proud to announce my lame stats) to Curt Jester, all in less than half a day!

As I told Ham, it's surprising an editor didn't catch Hallet's error. I thought that was a major advantage of newspapers over blogs - they have editors and we don't. (And, of course, they have the resources to go places and report on stories that we don't). But the more slipshod and biased newspapers become the better blogs look, if only by comparison.

October 24, 2005

Boy Versus Pole

Here's a picture of the event that inspired this poem:

October 23, 2005

Submitted Without Comment

From a front page article in today's Columbus Dispatch by Joe Hallet:
Brennan would seem an unlikely advocate for the poor. A church-going Catholic, his spacious office is a shrine to power; there are photos of him with presidents and governors, a personal blessing from the late Pope John Paul II and plaques recognizing his efforts.
Update: I emailed the author and he responded, saying that he didn't mean to infer that Catholics are not concerned about the poor and that the paragraph was clumsily worded.
The Defusing of the Nuclear Option

One of the more comical phrases in political discourse this decade was terming the ability of the Senate majority to prevent a filibuster as the "nuclear option". That's right. Preventing a majority of senators from allowing a presidential-picked nomination for judge was compared to a nuclear warhead.

That the Republicans in Congress have been so cowed as to accept that phraseology tells a lot. And I think the reason for it dates back to the late '90s when Gingrich tried to hold up Clinton's budget, triggering the famous "government shutdown". Who would get blamed? The answer, as reported by the MSM, was the conservatives.

That fight scarred and scared them. Deeply. And they've rarely been heard from since. My guess is that any sort of fight for a Scalia-like justice was doomed by the Republican experience with the gov't shutdown.
Too Much Faith?

One of the things that was a breath of fresh air about George Bush was the obvious strength of his convictions and his stubbornness. After the Clinton bending-like-a-will-in-the-breeze years, W's presidency felt almost medicinal.

I now find his strengths a bit less appealing. Surely it's mostly the case that I liked his resolve and stubbornness much more when I was in sync with his choices. But the very competency with which his campaigns were run gave one confidence. The tremendous discipline in the White House was impressive; leakers there were as rare as unopinionated bloggers. And so when the Administration felt up to the task of nation-building the original un-nation it seemed they must know something we don't.

Now, as in the case of John Bolton, the President wants to fight for Miers. George Will reported today that even if she offered her resignation he wouldn't accept it. It seems personal now. (Which begs the question: What else was personal?) Plus the president still believes he'll sign a Social Security reform bill. Lots of faith, he.

In 2000 and in 2004 we faced the choice of either a spineless political creature who worships the god of all consolation (i.e. the polls) or the rare spine-full political creature who looks to a power beyond himself but...but is awfully sure of himself.
Fr. Paul

When I hear the name of St. Paul I think of preacher, writer, apostle and martyr. I forget sometimes that he was a priest too. Witness the Eucharist acts in Acts 27:35:
Until the day began to dawn, Paul kept urging all to take some food. He said, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have been waiting, going hungry and eating nothing.

I urge you, therefore, to take some food; it will help you survive. Not a hair of the head of anyone of you will be lost."

When he said this, he took bread, gave thanks to God in front of them all, broke it, and began to eat.

They were all encouraged, and took some food themselves.
In Praise of Technology & Large Families

Found a photo album behind a bookcase yesterday and inside were three tiny photographs of my grandfather's family taken in the '40s.

The photos were small enough that you couldn't much make out the faces. The clothes, more than anything, stood out.

But thanks to modern technology in the form of a $60 scanner and picture software for enlargement purposes, you can make old photos come to life and bring the individuals back from obscurity.

And look at this joyous picture of my grandfather's family! Looks almost Kennedy-esque but for the lack of males doesn't it? It's funny how you just move up a generation or two and the families seem foreign, in the sense of not knowing who they are or what their familial "esprit de corps" was like or what their interests and traditions were.

On the way to the opera? No, the zoo if you can believe it

a close-up

Old photos remind me of the brevity of life, which is a positive thing to remember I suppose. Now I'll have to see if my mother can help me identify more of these folks.

October 21, 2005

Bearable & Unbearable Doctrine

John 16:12 is a curious verse:
"I have yet many things to say unto you, buy you cannot bear them now."
Aren't you curious what it is that they couldn't bear, and whether there are things we can't bear now? It seemed that there were other things Jesus told them that they were unable to bear, such as his body being true food (John 6), or that he would suffer and be crucified and not be the Messiah they expected.

St. Augustine writes of this passage:
But what are these things which they could not bear? I cannot mention them for this very reason; for who of us dare call himself able to receive what they could not? Some one will say indeed that many, now that the Holy Ghost has been sent, can do what Peter could not then, as earn the crown of martyrdom.

But do we therefore know what those things were, which He was unwilling to communicate? For it seems most absurd to suppose that the disciples where not able to bear the great doctrines, that we find in the Apostolic Epistles, which were written afterwards, which our Lord is not said to have spoken to them. For why could they not bear then what every one now reads and bears in their writings, even though he may not understand? Men of perverse sects indeed cannot bear what is found in Holy Scripture concerning the Catholic faith, as we cannot bear their sacrilegious vanities; for not to bear means not to acquiesce in. But what believer or even catechumen before he has been baptized and received the Holy Ghost, does not acquiesce in and listen to, even if he does not understand, all that was written after our Lord's ascension?

But some one will say, 'Do spiritual men never hold doctrines which they do not communicate to carnal men, but do to spiritual?' There is no necessity why any doctrines should be kept secret from babes, and revealed to grown up believers (for the same preaching will be received by each according to their capacity, so that no difference need be made in the preaching)....

So then we are not to understand these words of our Lord to refer to certain secret doctrines, which if the teacher revealed, the disciple would not be able to bear, but to those very things in religious doctrine which are within the comprehension of all of us. If Christ chose to communicate these to us, in the same way in which He does to the Angels, what men, yea what spiritual men...could bear them?... Our Lord's promise, 'But when He the Spirit of truth shall come, He shall teach you all the truth, or shall lead you into all truth', does not refer to this life only, but to the life to come, for which this complete fulness is reserved.
He Could Flat-out Paint
Went to the Renoir's Women exhibition and it was as good as advertised. At the gift shop afterwards there was a book with a line that particularly struck me. It said the pleasure of art has been reduced to a merely intellectual - modern artists have eschewed enjoyment on any other level. I mean we're talking art here. Fortunately, Renoir was an exception.

I try to go to the Columbus art museum once a year, and I gamely look at the paintings attempting to see. And I always feel a bit sheepish that the quality of my seeing tends to be…mediocre. But after the Renoir exhibit I’m more inclined to think that it was more the case of the other paintings sucking. And here I thought only good paintings were in art museums. (Of course it could be that Renoir's works are more 'accessible'.)

Part of it is the pure pleasure of color, echos of crayola pleasures of yore. The purples and blues burst from the canvas like fireworks. And I love the three-dimensionality, the physicality of these paintings, the diamond encrustations that glitter above the swirls and highlights.

Renoir was more religious than most artists of his time. He tried to hold back the tide of modernism and its curiously pleasure-averse sensibility. I’m hypnotized by his ability to depict the innocence of children in one work and the innocence of the nude in the next. Most of us are too prudish, or actually the opposite, to imagine being able to paint a naked female without lust. And yet his nudes have that sort of Bouguereau-ian innocence. In fact, Renoir was like Bouguereau in finding his inspiration in both the innocence of children and the nude female body. There is a Catholicity in that, in being integrated enough to appreciate both without depravity.

One conundrum in the spiritual life is the role of feelings. On the one hand you can't look at God as the Great Pez dispenser of Peace, Love and Joy, as if we are somehow entitled and grow angry when they are withheld. But on the other hand we can't devalue them simply because our faith can't depend on them. It's a difficult line to walk sometimes, in neither growing discouraged by a lack of feeling nor growing dependent when they are prevalent.

I was trying to look for a pattern with Jesus in the gospels. Early in his ministry, at his Baptism, he received immediate comfort and assurance. This simple act of obedience by being baptized by his lesser was immediately coupled with his Father's message that he was beloved. In the middle of his ministry he received comfort after testing, such as when the angels came after Satan's temptations. But by the end of his ministry, in the Crucifixion, he asks God why he has abandoned him, and the comfort and assurance - the Resurrection - would not come for three days. The amount of time between the good done and the reward given is less important than the trend, which is this: expect comfort and assurance to occur at less frequent intervals over time, thus building faith and perserverance and discouraging immediate gratification.

We see this also in the progression between the Testaments. In the Old, reward and consolation would come in this life, in the form of wealth and old age. In the New, the reward and consolation need be deferred to the next, again de-emphasizing immediate gratification and exercising the faith muscle.

One of the benefits of cataloging your books is you find ones you forgot you had.

So it was nice to find The White Stone: The Spiritual Theology of John Henry Newman by Vincent Blehl, which "challenges the views of some scholars that John Henry Newman has no specific spirituality by presenting for the first time a comprehensive synthesis of his unique spiritual theology". And as Eric and others have mentioned, Cardinal Newman is a figure of increasing interest, given the recent news.

It seems the saints, in being contra-symbols of this world, end up having to take whatever spiritual sicknesses they see around them and imbibing them in order to reverse them. Our time is probably characterized by one of doubt and atheism and of a spiraling decline in regard for the value of the human person. Thus a saint like Mother Teresa showed us the value of the human person, by ministering individually and personally to the poorest of the poor, and showed us, by going through her own grave doubts and darkness, faith in an age of faithlessness.

So the problems of the world become the problems of the saints in a most personal way. If the world is hedonistic the saints will, by their contrarian example, become ascetics. If the world is Albigensian ascetic, the saints will become as "hedonists". So be careful which age you're born in (rimshot).

An exerpt from Blehl's book concerns both Newman's "contra" aspect and his prophetic foreshadowing of the Second Vatican Council:
Newman placed special emphasis on obedience, self-denial, and detachment from worldly comfort to redress the imbalance of the Evangelicals who preached the necessity of faith to the neglect of the importance of good works. He was also reacting against the 'religion of the day' which, concentrating on the brighter aspects of religion, forgot its darker side.


It is commonly admitted that before the Second Vatican Council Easter and the resurrection had lost their central place in Western Christian consciousness. Moreover, theologians treated grace mainly as a quality of the soul, forgetting or undervaluing the doctrine of the indwelling of Christ's Spirit, the Holy Spirit who is the sanctifying agent of the soul. Under the influence of the Eastern Fathers of the Church Newman restored this doctrine to its central place in Christian revelation and Christian spirituality...With the entrance of the Holy Spirit into the individual soul in baptism, the latter is placed in ontic union both with Christ and with the entire mystical body including the saints in heaven. This ontological basis of spirituality and growth in holiness has been reiterated in the Second Vatican Council.

October 20, 2005

'Who else is sezzing it?'

Excellence in anything is a rare enough thing. My particular bit of excellence appears to be recognizing it in others, which isn't especially marketable or particular praiseworthy but there you go. And today I recognized it in blog commenting. There ought to be an award.

A couple metaphors leap to mind while reading the thread connected to Tom Kreitzberg's quixotic post.

Remember how Rambo, strapped to the gills with seemingly superfluous ammunition, would kill an entire army by himself? That's sort of the feel of Tom answering critics of his encyclical Summa Contra Diogenites, which many are now weighing and interpreting in order to discern the level of authority and degree of adherence. Tom answers with dastardly insouciance; never has so much witty repartee been displayed since Thomas Jefferson blogged alone.

The exchanges also have that Question-Time-at-the-British-House-of-Commons feel, only without the prefacing "Would the Honorable Gentleman..." (which is typically followed by something like "admit that he is a frequent practitioner of buggery?")

Here are a couple examples:
Q: Tom, if you had to do it over, would you have phrased your original post in the same way, or would you have looked to provide case in point rebuttals which would have saved you time in the long run and most likely avoided much discord?

A: Oh, who knows? I'm not a very quick learner, and I'm less interested in devising an extended argument to prove what I consider obvious than in stating the obvious in terms blunt enough to be heard, even in the overheated sea of St. Blog's.

Like cursing, it's something that can't be done very often without losing its effectiveness (of being heard, I mean; it isn't meant to be, and it isn't, effective at changing minds). As it is, a lot of people still seem to think that Cardinal McCarrick figures prominently in it all.


Q: Is the author of this blog merely a hypocrite?

A: That's entirely possible.

In fact, it's far more probable that what I do here is wrong than that what Diogenes does there is right.


Q: With all due respect: Sez you.

A: Well, of course sez me. Who else is sezzing it? I invoked no other authority, meaning I invoked only my own.

Anyone who accepts everything I say on faith is a fathead and should send me all their disposable income.

As for the point in communicating it, each reader has to decide for himself what if any value he ascribes to my statement.
Negativity Fails   -or let me rephrase that: 'positivity succeeds'

Part of the reason Sen. Kerry lost in '04 was because he became a "nabob of negativity". All he did was attack.

And negativity is obviously not confined to presidential candidates. The egregious publication NOR is exhibit "A". Crisis is sliding. (Fortunately Touchstone is a breath of fresh air).

I recall a recent Crisis issue in which the editor - the editor - referred to the liberal Fr. McBrien as "cadaverous". So unnecessary. I don't like Fr. McBrien. I think he's one of the most dangerous and destructive forces within Catholicism. But there's no sense in personally attacking his looks or age.

Was this post too negative?
Poem Fragment and Bookish Aromas

Delicious stillness! Unthought of thought.
If you thought of it you hadn't ought to.

- excerpt of Richard Eberhardt poem
This has been on my list so long I may as well just order it and bow to the inevitable. Meanwhile, on Barnes & Noble the Compendium to the Catechism shows a pub date of 10/28 while amazon.com appears to have them already available. I'm hoping there'll be a Companion to the Compendium to the Catechism soon. (rimshot!)

Finally, Peggy Noonan has a book out on JPII next month. Also, (insert some sort of seque here) Ham o' Bone has posted a characteristically imaginative response to a meme.
Great Post...

...here titled "reverse triumphalism".

HT Julie.
Funny Line About the British

Link (via Amy):
Although a dossier on Cardinal Newman’s beatification was first opened in 1958, no miracles had, until now, been attributed to his intercession. “I had to tell John Paul that the English are not very good at miracles,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. “It’s not that we are not pious, but the English tend to think of God as a gentleman who should not be bullied.”
The Dispute

Regarding Disputations' disputation, I think I've read Diogenes twice, so I don't know him from Adam, but hinting that Cdl McC was involved in some sort of quid-pro-quo is following filmmaker/liar Michael Moore's evil playbook.

The predictable circular firing squad has ensued. Carrie on Dom's blog says:
One thing blogging has taught me. If you want to be a Roman Catholic blogger, put on a very thick skin, because half of Roman Catholicism at the very least is going to disagree with you and may do so in a most disagreeable manner. The process of growing that skin goes like this:

Step 1: Suffering shock and awe that a fellow Catholic blogger would make a mean-spirited personal attack rather than discussing the subject at hand.

Step 2: Oh, look who has been reading my blog again! I see he hasn’t changed his mind about me.

Step 3: Hey! The hit counter went up! This generates interest in what I have to say!

Step 4: How can I get ______ to come in here and make an acrimonious attack? Now if you’re really good (or lucky) you can actually generate one of these little firestorms and increase readership. So far I confess to still being a student of the technique, but there are some past masters in St. Blogs.
The most hilarious stuff was someone dogging Mark Shea for holding the bishops' miter. Zippy commented hilariously: "Yeah. Because, you know, that whole Catholic Apologist Racket is such a moneymaker." You really can't make this stuff up.

October 19, 2005

Personality Test

Draw a Pig!
Woodrow Wayne Hayes
Been time-traveling lately and doing it the easy way: been watching the Woody Hayes Show, as broadcast originally in the 1970s. The past is a different country and it becomes obvious how much is stripped when we read only transcripts or biographies. It makes me long to have heard Cardinal Newman speak, for how much richer is the visual experience and how much richer to hear Newman than Woody. No wonder the Old Testament words became the visual Word, Jesus.

Hayes died before I became a Buckeye fan and so his legend was mostly a disembodied spirit which clung over Columbus like Thurber's. Seeing these old shows bring his ghost to life. My brother-in-law has a shrine, and only the votive candles are missing. But what is interesting is all the little intangibles that have changed, the pace of speech, the mannerisms and gestures, the clothes and the words.

More painful than Vlisides's clothes was his one-on-one chat with the coach. In an act of comical cruelty, Channel 10 plopped the aging Hayes down in a mod, low-slung chair they must have borrowed from a campus apartment.

At one point, Woody launched into a rambling preseason monologue that was trademark Hayes:

"We'll run the ball a lot and pass a little. We don't like to pass too much because it softens you up, and we don't like that kind of football."

We couldn't help thinking, This guy does a great Woody Hayes imitation.
RCIAin' It

Went to an RCIA class in order to listen to hear our learned pastor speaketh. (This one is at St. Maggie's - I find myself belonging to both an Byzantine Catholic & a Roman Catholic parish. And I often go to Mass at our Dominican downtown parish. So there's three parishes I speak of, with all sorts of priests and pastors floating around.)

The talk concerned human sexuality and the book of Genesis and how the latter informs the former. And this pastor is so fascinating because he seems to be a traditionalist with progressive tendencies, or is that a progressive with traditionalist tendencies? It's always rare to find someone so outside the boundaries, but there are a lot of them (witness John Paul II). He seems devout, devoted to Eucharistic Adoration, exceptionally learned (teaches at the seminary and will give a talk at the Coming Home Network conference next month), dislikes the lack of reverence in the new Mass but dislikes the Jesuitical strain of the '50s church.

What interests me though is sometimes I wonder if he is less interested in whether a particular doctrine is intrinsically true or not true but what effect that doctrine has on people. A bit utilitarian? In other words, he seems not to emphasize the truth of the church ban on artificial contraception on its own merits, while being utterly convinced of its truth in waging the war against the forces of eugenics, Planned Parenthood, etc., who espouse a demonic dehumanizing re-shaping of society. (As he said, "why don't we become robots and be done with it?".) He talked about the perfidious Margaret Sanger and how the pill was first tested in Puerto Rico and the cynicism implicit in that action. At that time New York City was being "overpopulated" with Puerto Ricans and the elites were less than subtle in wanting less of "their kind". Ironically it worked exactly the opposite: the Pill thinned out WASPS, which is why many today are frantic to introduce birth control to third world countries and which is why the Catholic Church must oppose it with every fibre of her being.

So one could say that he was trying to sell the ban as a way of seeing the overarching vision of the Church and to attract potential converts who might stumble over church doctrines such as that one. Perhaps he could be said to be similar to the gospel writer who tailors the message to the audience. He says that one has to remember the Church has a billion Catholics and is waging an epic fight. This pastor seems most convinced by Pope Paul VI's famous encyclical for its correctness in terms of what negative effects on society the pill would have, rather than to the individual (to the extent one can divide the two). It seems like there's a tension for the church in promulgating a truth for it's own sake versus a truth in reaction to a demonic foe.
Let the Little Children Come

One benefit of blogging for me has been to see intelligence as worthless as a three dollar bill when it comes to God. He shows no favoritism. When I see the comments of a sharp guy like Rob here it makes me cringe.

Intelligence is an advantage and blessing in almost every earthly situation imaginable. Even in something as physical as sports it is an advantage. But in the spiritual realm it is worthless. No wonder Jesus was glad that the Father hid from the worldly wise what only the simple knew.
Meme of Sevens

So I was reading Sancta Sanctis and she listed the seven people she admires (St. Paul, St. Athanasius, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic de Guzman, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis de Xavier, St. Therese of the Child Jesus - an admirable list) and I thought I'd tweak it a bit and list the seven people I've been recently most taken with. And then I saw that she tagged me, so there's even more reason. Besides, to paraphrase Paul McCartney:
You’d think that people would have had enough of silly memes.
But I look around me and I see it isn’t so.
Some people wanna fill the world with silly memes.
And what’s wrong with that?
I’d like to know, ’cause here I go again!
I hereby tag Ham o' Bone and Roz and anyone else who wants to play.

7 People I Admire (in no particular order):

1. Pope John Paul the Great
2. Blessed Mary Teresa de Soubiran
3. St. Anthony Claret
4. my grandmother
5. St. Pope Pius X
6. Mother Angelica
7. my wife

(Mary and St. Joseph are not on the list only because they are such obvious choices.) Most of the other seven lists are either in my blogger profile or have been meme'd before.
Spanning the Globe

Mass intentions for extremely dead people?

- title of a Therese of "Exultet" post that asks how long Masses ought be said for the repose of the souls of people who have died

As our priest said to us the other day, "This is the first age I have ever read of where we think that life is supposed to be nice and happy instead of hard with some gifts of joy to lift us on the way."

- Julie of Happy Catholic

Lust devours reality, because it's all about "me."

- Bill of Apologia

Radically and courageously following Christ is not important to Church bureaucrats. If it were, they wouldn't be Church bureaucrats, after all. What has been important is maintaining image: maintaining the institution's image, as well as the image of individual priests. Not only maintaining the image of those priests, but keeping their egos intact and, dare we say, keeping them quiet. We can only hope that the price paid now has been high enough that this is changing. Judging from the continued obfuscations and self-justifying cries emanating from both coasts, it doesn't seem as if the lesson has been learned quite yet.

- Amy Welborn

Ya know, there's nothing better than a waltz by Strauss; the solemn childlike joyfulness is just what I need.

-Bill of Summa Minutiae

It's hard for us to think that that unmade bed, or that messy car, might be a visible sign of a not so nice invisible reality, isn't it? But I know that in my case it is certainly and completely true. When I allow all the little things in my life to get out of control, it is only a sign that the interior of my life is out of control as well. I don't know if it is the chicken or the egg. But when I make the effort to do the small things that keep our family life on track--timely washed clothes (not washed in panic or to order), decent meals (not just something grabbed at random), a picked up and organized house (not one that you have to hunt through the piles to find the play tickets) it seems like the whole of our lives, including our spiritual lives, run better. So whether the spiritual malaise comes first, leading to the messy house, or the messy house comes first, leading to the spiritual messiness, it really doesn't matter. Getting the environment in order puts the rest in order. I know it's possible to have a vibrant spiritual life in the midst of chaos. But I wonder. Is it possible to have a vibrant spiritual life in the midst of self-created clutter?

- MamaT of "Summa Mamas"

A slice of cheesecake, under normal circumstances: c. 600 calories.

A slice of cheesecake, when handed to you (unsolicited) by your department chair: 0 calories.

Amazing how this works.

(Remember that, by virtue of its location, any food left in the department office automatically drops to zero calories. Context is everything.)

- Miriam of "The Little Professor"

Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one's first feeling, "Thank God, even they aren't quite so bad as that," or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally, we shall insist on seeing everything -- God and our friends and ourselves included -- as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.

-C.S. Lewis (via Mark Shea by way of Disputations)

The White House apparently thinks so little of its base that it believes breathlessly assuring James Dobson that [Miers is] an evangelical is a sound tactic.

- Amy Welborn

In a post below one of the readers commented and asked how much of our time should be spent focused on the things we need to do to clear the way for God.The answer is almost none at all. The miracle of divine union is accomplished by God alone. There is very little we can do to aid its progress. There is remarkably little we can do to achieve detachment. There is very little we can do to deepen prayer. But our little is the widow's mite. We offer it out of our poverty. And it is the greatest treasure God can have from us. As a father, one of the most precious things my son can give me is something, however naively done that has taken him some time. He has produced reams of art the paper the wall of my cubicle and each piece is precious because each piece represents a time when he was thinking about his daddy. So it is with our Father in Heaven. No matter how poorly done, our little widow's mite is infinitely precious to Him. Praise God there are no cubicles in heaven, but if there were, they would be peppered with these little offerings, the signs of our attention to our Heavenly Father.

- Steven of "Flos Carmeli"
None Too Subtle

A nearly century-old United Methodist church put up a gigantic banner in a gay-friendly neighborhood in downtown Columbus that says, "ALL are welcome here!" And then below it, "Inclusiveness as God intended it". Literally the "ALL" is almost a full story high.

I don't get it. Isn't this the message of every Christian church? God hates sin but loves the sinner, so I guess it's only when we faultily equate ourselves with our sin that we assume that God hates the sinner or lacks inclusivity. Inclusivity and the Catholic Church are synonymous, literally, since "catholic" means universal. It's likely the sign-maker means by inclusivity "our God makes no moral judgments" which is certainly not what God intended.

October 18, 2005

Beer o'er Wine!

HT to Julie
The Bush Judges

What we thought we'd get: 

What we got:    

October 17, 2005

A Chipperin' * We'll Go!

A chipperin' we'll go we said
when casting off the shore
of the fat ol' city sewer line
that leads to lands of lore.

We'd take that humble tunnel
to a muddy, skinny creek
where it flowed again to the river christen'd
"Little Miami" meek.

From there we'd sail to where it went
the river "Great Miami"
and take it thirty miles south
to the Ohio in Cincinnati.

Westward ho! We wouldn't rest
in this our native state
but find our raft a-buoy'd again
to the Mississippi's gate.

And down the Mississippi past
city, town and lick,
until we reached the Gulf at last
and then the broad Atlantic.
* - written for my brother, chipperin' is what he and I called rafting back in our youth.

I missed the greatest game of the century?
Now That's Super-Sizing

Restaurant serves 9-pound burger, which no one's ever finished. Hungry? Ingredients here.
Snippets from ye olde National Review

From Ramesh Ponnuru:
Milton Friedman has analyzed federal spending as an equation: Take available revenues, add the maximum politically allowable deficit, and that’s how much spending there will be. So conservatives have tried to reduce the available revenues in the hopes of reducing the spending. This is the “starve the beast” theory of tax cutting. There is probably something to it, in general, but it hasn’t worked recently. It may be that the passage of tax cuts made deficit spending more acceptable. Friedman’s variables turn out not to be independent from each other.

If one wanted to try to keep government spending from growing from one year to the next, one might very well have favored John Kerry last year on the theory that congressional Republicans would be tougher on his budgets than on Bush’s. Someone trying to follow the long-run strategy to cut government — such as Norquist — would, on the other hand, have favored Bush in order to have a chance at Social Security reform and the like. The ambitious strategy, in other words, may lead to higher spending in the short run; but the long run may never come.
During Sunday's Sermon...

...the pastor at the Byzantine Catholic church admitted he didn't know what faith is, asking "if you know of a definition of faith, I'd love to hear it." Honest guy.

Update: Had a couple inquiries as to context. All I can say is that I'd wish he'd "said more words". I assume what he meant is that faith is a mystery and it's not something we can simply equate with intellectual belief. It's also a mystery in that it's both a theological (and thus infused) virtue, as well as a virtue we can exercise and build.
Causes of Civil War & Confederate Flag

Dispatch reviews a new book that asks a perennial question:
Cheers to any historian hip enough to borrow a scene from The Simpsons, as Edward Ayers does in the collection of essays, What Caused the Civil War?

Ayers cites an episode in which the immigrant store owner, Apu, is taking an oral quiz en route to earning American citizenship.

The final question is "What was the cause of the Civil War?"

Apu launches into a long, complex answer about abolition, economics and international politics, until the frustrated official interrupts: "Just say slavery."

Ayers sides with Apu. He rails against those who come up with easy answers to his central question.

While, of course, he is right — no human event as cataclysmic as the Civil War can be reduced to a one-word answer — Ayers’ aversion to making any real conclusions renders his What Caused the Civil War? frustrating.


[Ayers] is at his best when analyzing the mind-set of his native South, such as this explanation of why the controversial Confederate battle flag is still displayed so prominently:

It stands, he writes, "for resistance — resistance to bosses, Southern yuppies, the North, blacks, liberals and political correctness. In their eyes, it stands for the same thing they imagine it stood for in 1861: ‘Leave Me the Hell Alone.’ "

That attitude might be as good an answer as any to what caused the war. Too bad Ayers only offers more questions.
On Miers

It's interesting how most on the right are on the same page - i.e. the disappointment page - with respect to the Miers pick. That helps gives lie to critics who say Limbaugh and others on the right are mere party hacks.

The Scientist

Had a "debate" with a fellow parishioner whom I had just met after Mass at coffee and donuts.

He is a retired professor of biochemistry and when he identified himself as a scientist he wasn't just making small talk. It seems he considered this component of his identity to be his entire identity.

It started out innocuously enough. He described himself as politically moderate, which I've learned to take as extremely liberal. (The word 'liberal' has fallen into disfavor after all.) And I was not wrong, as he thought of the Jesuit order as "conservative" and the Dominicans as heretic-burners. He was "personally opposed" to Roe v. Wade but considered it not his business to export his view of morality. And he had no quarrel with euthanasia, having seen a friend die from Lou Gehrig's disease.

He was hungry to argue over Galileo and Copernicus and how the church history is abysmal. And all that's within the pale. But then he went a step further that revealed much: he was not a Christian who was a liberal, but a liberal without faith. He argued against the bible, saying that the earliest writings were fifty years after Christ's death and we know we can't trust anything written that long after an event. I found myself in an argument I couldn't win, for you can't argue someone into faith.

He admitted losing his (which begs the question of why he was at Mass; a mutual friend assumed it's for his wife's sake). He blames it on a pastor previous who was "rigid and dictatorial". He said that religion has done more harm than good in the world and that we should all live by science, his pure unspotted bride. If humans wearing clerical clothes have ever treated science roughly, well, then and he was going to hold a grudge. Sometimes I think it is harder for a scientist to believe than to pass a camel through the eye of a needle.
Matthew the Wonder Boy

the tumbling rumbling hay wagon stopped
when a tassle-haired boy of seven got off
and before his parents descended the cart
he claimed two pumpkins and held them aloft

and afterwards he squired his sister around
to a contest for teens, or older, it seemed
a long greasy pole if he climbed he would reach
a prize of twenty dollars and smiles that beamed.

he waited his turn, calm as a lark
as scores of visitors tried to unlock
the secret of climbing that frustrating pole
but his confidence held, the little boy jock.

but the task wasn't easy it soon became clear
there was an effort to climb he'd not seen before
his face wet with sheen he wouldn't give up
and for that alone the crowd did adore.
The Dialogue

I sweat
He whispers
I speak of fairness
He answers of Matt 20:1-16.
I laugh:
"Be thou always so unfair!"
I say 'I am weak'
He says Paul boasted of as much.
I ache for the water of human knowledge
He aches to give more.
Fictional Monday
John Flanagan was not a sinner in any exceptional way. He was a Christian, a Christian who would never reject Christ because that would be irrational and he considered himself above all a rational man who looked at the world with an eye wrily arched at the foilbles around him.

He had a thrist for control but never saw that as a contradiction to faith. He beheld the Giver and had great self-confidence that he would not reject Him or his Gift.

But the world worked on him like water slowly changing the contours of a stone and eventually he gave in, by degrees, until he realized he had rejected the Giver and his Gift. But after the peace of conversion and repentance an odd and paralyzing fear began to gnaw, a fear he'd never experienced before: if it happened once, why couldn't it happen again?

October 15, 2005

Fall on the Rise

Went on a nice ride down the bike path yesterday; the weather feels so wistful I think of John Denver songs I didn’t know I knew. It's near unbearable to see the quaint houses in the dying light, to ride down a new road still made of dirt, to inhale the scent of the timber as the new houses go up. The fall plays the chords of memory like Horowitz. The tomatoes in the garden still hang on the vine, blood-red; I refuse to take the vines down until after the first frost. Did take down the patio umbrella down, which seems concession enough.

October 14, 2005

Self-Indulgent Seniors   -and one who's not

 It is disappointing to see my former "heroes", to use the term very loosely, Garrison Keillor and Harold Bloom, grow increasingly batty and self-indulgent as they age. It's like watching Willie Mays in '73 or John Denver in '82, though more damaging. 
 Keillor's books have slipped greatly; his Love Me is nothing more than a blog disguised as a book-length narrative. It's disjointed and decadent and has nothing of the old Keillor warm-heartedness or innocent, country humor. And Harold Bloom has a new book, which apparently (I haven't read it) is a slapdash-hash of "arguments", backed up with whimsy, designed to provoke a reaction like blogs do. Bloom has Christ escaping crucifixion and traveling to India and thinks the gospel of St. Thomas is the most credible of the gospels, presumably because it's not canonical.
 These two, a humorist with a measure of self-restraint and a scholar with a measure of carefulness, have fallen prey to the bloggadocia culture of lazily letting it all hang out. It's like they've ached for standards to ebb and now are going like gangbusters. And I could add to the list respected journalists like Walter "Conspiracy Theorist" Conkrite and Bill "Left Wing" Moyers. It's disturbing to see our elders aging so ungracefully. Certainly a cautionary tale for us all.

It’s sobering how un-adult the elite have become: the authors, journalists, judges, politicians and scholars. It’s like when you’re on a sports team and you see the leading scorers having bad games. You feel a sense of doom and try, usually impotently, to assume greater responsibility.

When I was a child I recall asking my mother why it seemed that every generation got less holy. Of course there was the haze of nostalgia associated with this because grandparents always appear like saints to children compared to parents, having nothing but sweetness to offer the three times they see them a month. But my mom didn’t disagree. She said it did seem like every generation was losing ground.

I began reading the newspapers during the Nixon administration and though Nixon was caught in lies and a cover-up, he seemed to have a greater gravitas and seriousness, as did the journalists of that period. Or is it merely that adults always look impressive to children? I don’t know.

Part of it seems just a simple measure of how much you've suffered. It's too mechanistic to simply say your holiness = the amount you've suffered, but my grandmother puts up with stuff better than myself or my mother. And that suffering, in the Depression and the war years and in having six children, seems to have helped give her a greater capacity to suffer in her old age. She lives in a nursing home, never watches television and is always praying Mary's beads. And she always has a smile despite (normally) not having what anyone would consider "health". They say if you've got your health you've got everything, but she doesn't...