February 28, 2006

'Round the 'Sphere

Dominican Students have penned articles here, including this on parents and piety:
St. Thomas Aquinas likens the reality that exists between a parent and child to that between God and His human creature. This is no empty metaphor: there is a real similarity! In the Saint’s language, “Man is debtor chiefly to his parents… after God.” St. Thomas actually teaches that, after God, it is to our parents (and country) that we must first and foremost give thanks for our existence. Evidently, there is a parallel between the way one shows devotion or thanksgiving to one’s parents and the same to God.

When love is authentic and selfless it erupts beyond sentiment and thought. Chances are that if I’m a little clumsy in showing love for my mom, I’m also a little lax in showing a duly thankful response to God’s call. Spirituality is, after all, a kind of morality: desiring what is good involves doing good.      - Br. Bruno M. Shah, O.P.
Lenten Thoughts from a homeschooling mom.
The Why of Fasting
Food and drink are one of the great treasures of our lives. They are blessings God obviously wants us to enjoy intensely. One of the great motives for fasting, therefore is the one we find most often in the Scriptures. It is a way of responding to God's persistent flirting to get our attention, of telling God we're really serious about what we pray for, whether the prayer is praise and worship, asking some favor, giving thanks or any other intention.

Some relatively recent and excellent books about fasting are on the market. One of them is Fasting Rediscovered, by Paulist Father Thomas Ryan. He tells how in the Old Testament God falls over himself to convince his people that he is there to give them what they need; they respond by telling God in this way how urgent are their wants.

Father Ryan describes how his father used to ride his bicycle around the block where his mother lived, hoping to get a glimpse of her through the window. Our sense of God, he says, must be like what his mother felt. She knew he was out there circling, watching, hoping. When she went to the window, she knew he would know her, would listen to her concerns and would make a loving response. As Father Ryan says: "Fasting is sending God a message. He's very good about answering his mail."
- Rev. J. Dietzen
Excellent Parody from Nobis Quoque:

"I need a belief system that serves my needs right away."
Our dog Obi's...

... magazine cover, via here, via Elena. Dang, but is technology rife with the possibility of comedy or what? You gotta love it. We didn't have those sorts of comedic props when I was a kid. We didn't have these amazing production values! The only way to tell a joke then was to tell a joke, or we had to walk three miles to the store in order to get construction paper & Playdough.

I also did a fasting joke but the true comedic potential of this tool remains largely untapped.

"Anyone who is not a fool at Carnival is foolish for the rest of the year." - quote via ThereseZ of Exultet

Today's feast requires that we all be chairitable to the Pope. - Curt Jester, on the Feast of the Chair of Peter

Someone (I forget who) once said that most writers have one story to tell; they're just very good at telling it in different ways. This is largely true of [Flannery] O'Connor, who writes from the perspective (the Christian one) "that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost," and whose characters are all brought to some point of desperation at which their vanity is laid low, and the illusions of their lives laid to rest. In "Good Country People" a Bible salesman steals a girl's artificial leg, without which her artificial ugliness has not a leg to stand on. In "Revelation" a woman is made to see that the aristocracy of God's favor is not at all what she imagined. - Bill Luse

As with so many heresies, Monotheletism strikes at the Incarnation, without which we're all pretty much just Shriners...We know that having a human will perfectly subject to God's will doesn't mean never feeling distress. It doesn't even mean always desiring, of one's own volition, what God desires, though of course it does mean always choosing what He desires. We are not called to agree with God, but to obey Him. But obedience is the road to perfection, and the more we obey God, the more our human wills become, not merely subject to His, but genuinely like His. - Tom of Disputations

"To change our hearts is to learn to love things that we do not naturally love." This is the core of the ongoing Christian vocation. In this simple sentence Newman speaks of detachment without ever once uttering the scary word. We must learn to love what we do not by nature love--to do so, we must unlearn our entanglement with the world, the flesh, and the devil. - Steven of Flos Carmeli

During the three years of our Lord's public ministry, He never wasted an opportunity to pour out His compassion to those who trusted in Him. He healed the sick and fed the hungry who came to Him (though he barely batted an eyelash in the direction of those who only wanted signs and spectacles), because the sight of their sufferings moved Him so deeply. Yet these acts of mercy were not His main purpose; I daresay He only gave in because we pleaded like little children and He loved us too much to resist. All these miracles were only for the short term. Even the boy he raised from the dead and restored to an inconsolable mother was still to die again--was still dust destined to return to dust. He must have known, as He explained to the Samaritan woman, that quick fixes--even His own quick fixes--would only leave people thirsty again. He must have also been aware, with every sufferer He gave succour to, that there were millions more in the world who could not get close to Him and whom He could not reach because of His human limitations. Of course, what is impossible for Man is possible for God: at the end of our Lord's three-year ministry, He offered Himself as a once and for all sacrifice--in an overwhelming outpouring that would never need to be repeated or renewed--in order to extend His mercy to every last poor, banished child of Eve. - E. of Sancta Sanctis

He who loves the most is always the weakest. He who loves the least is always the strongest. - Author unknown, via Cowpi

It’s not really surprising that the national pro-life groups can’t keep tight control of the movement. Down at the roots, the grass is on fire. After all the careful work writers in journals like FIRST THINGS have done to set in motion the analysis by which Roe can be chipped away, it’s hard to see the South Dakota legislation as anything except a tactical error. But it’s also hard to blame the lawmakers who pushed it through. As the governor said, “Many people will never believe this will not work unless it’s tried.” And the hunger for something to happen—oh, yes, anyone who is opposed to abortion knows that feeling well. - J. Bottum of "First Things"

I can't figure out what granola has to do with the permanent things. - Bill of Apologia

I'm giving everyone a hard time on this because -- well, that's what I do. - Tom of Disputations

What we saw this past week in the Islamic demonstrations over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad was another vivid depiction of the difference between Muhammad and Christ, and what it means to follow each. Not all Muslims approve the violence. But a deep lesson remains: The work of Muhammad is based on being honored and the work of Christ is based on being insulted. This produces two very different reactions to mockery. If Christ had not been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. Already in the Psalms the path of mockery was promised: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” (Psalm 22:7). “He was despised and rejected by men . . . as one from whom men hide their faces . . . and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3). - John Piper, via Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

I haven't read the book, but the title has to be in the running for the most arrogant title ever. - commenter on Amy's blog concerning the Garry Wills book "What Jesus Meant"

If you abandon prayer, you may at first live on spiritual reserves and, after that, by cheating. - St. Josemaria Escrivá via Roz of Exultet
Does History Matter?

Article from Joseph Pearce:
The truth will set us free. So says Christ. If this is so, which of course it is, it follows that falsehood will enslave us. Falsehood in history prevents us from understanding our past and, in consequence, our present...

If we don’t know why things happened, history remains devoid of meaning; it makes no sense. As such, historians must have knowledge of the history of belief. They must know what people believed when they did the things that they did in order to know why they acted as they did. They must have empathy with the great ideas that shaped human history, even if they don’t have sympathy with them.

This issue was addressed with great lucidity by Hilaire Belloc, perhaps the most important historian of the twentieth century (with the possible exception of Christopher Dawson):
"The worst fault in [writing] history . . . is the fault of not knowing what the spiritual state of those whom one describes really was. Gibbon and his master Voltaire, the very best of reading, are for that reason bad writers of history. To pass through the tremendous history of the Trinitarian dispute from which our civilization arose and to treat it as a farce is not history. To write the story of the sixteenth century in England and to make of either the Protestant or the Catholic a grotesque is to miss history altogether" (A Conversation with an Angel and Other Essays, Jonathan Cape, 166–7).
Clearly frustrated at this supercilious approach toward the past that blinded many historians, Belloc offers a practical example of its effects upon scholarship:
"There is an enormous book called volume 1 of A Cambridge History of the Middle Ages. It is 759 pages in length of close print. . . . It does not mention the Mass once. That is as though you were to write a history of the Jewish dispersion without mentioning the synagogue or of the British empire without mentioning the city of London or the Navy" (Letters from Hilaire Belloc, Hollis and Carter, 75).
...It is, for instance, almost chilling that Belloc wrote of the lifting of the Muslim siege of Vienna "on a date that ought to be among the most famous in history—September 11, 1683" (The Great Heresies, Sheed and Ward, 85). It is a date that Christendom has forgotten, to its shame, but the militants of Islam apparently had remembered. "It has always seemed to me possible, and even probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent" (ibid., 87). These words, written more than sixty years ago, went unheeded. Today they resound like the death-knell of Europe.
"Being a Tightwad Led me to the Catholic Church"

Katolik Shinja's unusual conversion story!
Lenten Country & Western Song

Billy Dean's 1990s hit isn't a bad song for Lent, especially with the metanoian spirit in the phrase "don't like what I'm becoming":
Gonna hold who needs holdin'
Mend what needs mendin'
Walk what needs walkin'
Though it means an extra mile
Pray what needs prayin'
Say what needs sayin'
Cause we're only here for a little while

Today I stood singin' songs and sayin' Amen
Saying goodbye to an old friend who seemed so young
He spent his life workin' hard to chase a dollar
Putting off until tomorrow the things he should have done
Made me start thinking "What's the hurry, why the runnin'?
I don't like what I'm becoming, gonna change my style
Take my time and I take it all for granted "
Cause we're only here for a little while

Gonna hold who needs holdin'
Mend what needs mendin'
Walk what needs walkin'
Though it means an extra mile
Pray what needs prayin'
Say what needs sayin'
Cause we're only here for a little while
Journal Excerptables

Lent nears and I look forward to the opportunity to read Neuhaus’s “Death on a Friday Afternoon” as well as a book on the seven last words of Christ published by The Word Among Us (though someday I must read Fulton J. Sheen’s version). Will watch The Passion of the Christ again too -- sometimes you just need the excuse/permission to do things, as if watching TPOTC at any other time of year is strangely out-of-season.

Serving at bingo has been a way to break the inertia in a small way. It's about serving others, constantly attending to their cries of “Instant, Instant!” which refers to the term “instant winning tickets” but also to the expectations in terms of speed of delivery of those tickets. There is much diversity in terms of clientele. I heard recently of a study that said that criminals tend to be ugly, which, translated, means that they probably didn't receive the love and acceptance that the more atttactive get, with the result in the lashing out of anti-social behavior. The tyranny of lookism is worse than we think.

Went to Barb the barber. She tells me that it’s amazing how much people tell her while under the influence of her clippers and humming razors. They confide in her like they do a bartender. I say that instead of torturing terrorists we should get them a drink and a haircut and they’ll spill all in the truth serum of relaxation. The most drunken I normally feel is after getting a haircut like this, and during the walk home the light bends and Naughten Street in downtown Columbus becomes Main Street, Hamilton, Ohio circa 1972 and packed with memories that lay elusively just on the cusp of recall. The cars on that sun-streamed street morph from SUVs to Chevy Impalas but I ruin it by pulling out the Columbus paper I have in my coat pocket and reading about Ken Blackwell’s race for governor. The mirage is instantly broken and I recognize anew that politics is the perfect anti-reverie.

The cruise last month interrupted my grim single-minded determination to knock down the pins of winter’s bowling alley. There’s no question that it felt like cheating, like a parole of sun and thick inked books while fellow prisoners were left behind. I feel pangs of guilt since Ham o’ Bone couldn’t do the same, though that’s surely false regret since he could easily go, financially speaking, if he wanted to. Still, there are those who can’t afford it and that rankles. Meanwhile Amy Welborn goes to Rome, something more fitting and worthy.

February 27, 2006

I'm In the Money...

And to think I almost deleted this email (italics mine):

Dear Winner,

We are pleased to inform you of the result of the World-Wide-Web Internet compensation promotion programs held on the 7th of February, 2006 and it is aimed at compensating frequent Internet explorers all over the world.
Mighty kind of you.
Your e-mail address attached to ticket number:TK60019341 with serial number:SR70870169BA2006,batch number:ACW70163GLD, lottery reference number:32166LR and drew lucky numbers: 7-21-27-36-37-43 which consequently won in the first category. You are therefore entitled to the sum of US$500,000.00 (FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLAR)
You are entitled to the title F-R-A-U-D with reference number FIBBER with batch number BYTEME. Please keep for your records.
Due to the mix up of some numbers and email addresses, we ask that you keep your winning information confidential until your claim has been processed and your money remitted to you in cash, certified cheque or into your provided bank account. This is part of our security protocols to avoid unwarranted abuse of this program by those selfish participants-attempting to take advantage of others.
Mum's the word! Nobody here but us crickets. I'm appalled that someone would be taking advantage of others.
The State, Economics, & the Church

I've blogged in the past about The Church Confronts Modernity. The book is densely packed with thoughts worth quoting. I'm now on the chapter about economics (btw, see this Terrence Berres post on the controversy swirling around the holy, socialist (Communist seems too harsh) Dorothy Day).

One nugget suggests Thomists are from Mars, Augustinians from Venus:
It is of considerable significance that St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics should have rejected the the theory of the state held, for example, by St. Augustine - namely, that the state came into existence as a result of original sin. Aquinas denied that the state was merely a necessary evil, arguing instead that even had man not fallen from his original state, government would still be both necessary and just. It is significant that this came to be the dominant view within the Church, since a philosophy that placed the origins of the state in the consequences of human iniquity was much less likely to emphasize the state's positive role of securing the common good.

The blogger at Sancta Sanctis is amazingly talented. On the heels of In Hac Lacrimarum Valle, she has an another excellent post up, this one on the Catholic/Protestant satire contained in Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels. I think she's getting a little too good at this blogging thing, writing at a professional level like that... :-) And speaking of professionals (i.e. those who get paid to pontificate in their real job), professor Bill Luse has a meaty post on the symbolism in Flannery O'Connor's writing.

It's ironic that the great 2nd century Church father and coiner of the oxymoron "Credo quia absurdum" would himself become something of an oxymoron - a heretic who started out as a staunch defender of orthodoxy:
Heresies, [Tertullian] begins, must not astonish us, for they were prophesied. Heretics urge the text, "Seek and ye shall find", but this was not said to Christians; we have a rule of faith to be accepted without question. "Let curiosity give place to faith and vain glory make way for salvation", so Tertullian parodies a line of Cicero's. The heretics argue out of Scripture; but, first, we are forbidden to consort with a heretic after one rebuke has been delivered, and secondly, disputation results only in blasphemy on the one side and indignation on the other, while the listener goes away more puzzled than he came. The real question is, "To whom does the Faith belong? Whose are the Scriptures? By whom, through whom, when and to whom has been handed down the discipline by which we are Christians? The answer is plain: Christ sent His apostles, who founded churches in each city, from which the others have borrowed the tradition of the Faith and the seed of doctrine and daily borrow in order to become churches; so that they also are Apostolic in that they are the offspring of the Apostolic churches. All are that one Church which the Apostles founded, so long as peace and intercommunion are observed. Therefore the testimony to the truth is this: We communicate with the apostolic Churches".
He thought some sins - such as murder, apostasy, blasphemy, adultery and fornication - were unforgivable after Baptism, and in his fervor for the Faith he presumably considered himself more Catholic than the bishop. Interestingly, he formed his opinions before the Church condemned them, so he came to his rigorism and Montanism honestly but could not let them go, in the way all of us tend to form opinions and then fall madly in love with them. I wonder if there isn't a parallel in the recent Church. By the mid 1960s it was widely assumed the prohibition against artificial birth control would be relaxed and by the early '68 many clerics and theologians had already hardened their opinion. So when the encyclical Humane Vitae came out it was, for them, too late.
Randomized Thoughts

Sunday morning I ask my wife: "I've been reading the paper for twenty years and I still can't answer a pretty basic question. Ohio University is raising tuition six percent. Why does public higher education, year-in-year-out, go up faster than the rate of inflation? Aren't professor salaries relatively in line with inflation? Why is this information so hard to come by?"

She answers: "It's like The Wizard of Oz."


"They don't want you to see behind the curtain."

Saw two movies over the weekend that reminded me that there are good things on television but that they are very difficult to find given three hundred plus channels. The first was a documentary of a Miami high school football player named Taurean Charles called Year of the Bull. Fascinating look at a different world. And the other was "The Inn at the Sixth Happiness", starring the lovely Ingrid Berman, which is based on the true story of a Christian missionary to China. The character played by Berman shows what real proselytization is. As an aside, she taught the children English through the song "This Old Man" which reminded me of how we were taught German through songs and now they are nearly the only German phrases I remember:
"Mein Hut es hat drei Ecke,
drei Ecke hat mein Hut,
und hat mein Hut kein Ecke,
es war nicht mein Hut!"

In "Consider the Lobster" David Foster Wallace writes, "In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard's vote."

In earlier version of films about the sinking of the Titanic, the ending came with the hope and consolation of God, in the form of the band playing "Nearer, My God" and a priest leading the doomed passengers in prayers. In James Cameron's incarnation, the hope of human love has eclipsed God, in the form of imagining the two main charactes reuniting some day (though that is in line with the hope of resurrection). Similarly, in the movie "The Perfect Storm", God is not invoked by the doomed fishermen but human love is, and predictably not between married couples but in a boy "newly in love", which seems to be the principle way love can be projected believably to modern audiences who tend to confuse love with sex.

Still, concerning the fisherman in The Perfect Storm, who thinks of God when first feeling the pulse of fear? Saints, yes, but those of lesser faith? Belloc writes comically of a small boat in rough seas in "Hills and the Sea":
"Then in despair I prayed to the boat itself (since nothing else could hear me), "Oh, Boat," for so I was taught the vocative, "bear me safe round this corner, and I will scatter wine over your decks." She heard me and rounded the point...

I most remember Don Knotts, R.I.P., for saying that he didn't mind being remembered as Barney Fife, the television character on The Andy Griffith Show. What an example of humility! How many actors can you think of who wouldn't mind being remembered as a television sitcom character, let alone one so nebbish and un-suave?


Of a fellow parishioner, who is three years into a four year Byzantine Catholic deaconate program, I asked what he's learned: "How much I don't know." I was taken aback though perhaps his response proves the worth of his education.

February 24, 2006

Pope Says Respect Other Religions

This is something I needed to hear because respecting other religions - not just Islam but cults like Scientology and other irrational belief systems - is not something I'm good at. I'd always figured that disrespect of a religion was fine, while not the disrespecting the holders of those beliefs. That is, to separate the dignity of the person from the indignity of their belief.

Yet the Pope says that
It is necessary and urgent that religions and their symbols be respected, and that the faithful not be subjected to provocations injuring their outlook and religious feelings.
Obviously this comes in context of the clash between Islam and the West, but the word choice of the Pope was interesting and challenging. I sometimes think with pity how the ancient Hebrews had to make do without the Incarnation and with their incomplete Revelation but then I realize that - duh! - I "look thru the glass darkly" and not just with respect to those in Heaven, where the gulf is astonishing, but with respect to those who are farther along the path of righteousness here on earth. I know this intellectually but it sinks in with difficulty because I assume individuals of another creed "should know better", just as saints could easily think that I ought see more clearly and could if I wanted.

I posted the following on Steven Riddle's blog, an excerpt from one of the documents of Vatican II, but it ought hang next to my computer:
Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.

This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions. God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts; for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.

Since all men possess a rational soul and are created in God's likeness, since they have the same nature and origin, have been redeemed by Christ and enjoy the same divine calling and destiny, the basic equality of all must receive increasingly greater recognition.
Malcolm Gladwell Has A Blog...   and a few old parodies re-posted

It's kind of odd that someone as young and hip and (presumably) computer-literate as Gladwell just began blogging. You'd think he'd have done so before now if only for the purpose of plugging his books.

This prompted a reverie - what if that ol' warhorse John Updike started a blog? Unthinkable yes. Though he's certainly prolific enough. Which reminded me of parodies of writers doing blogs. First Updike's blog:
Sept. 22, 2005: I held this morning's NY Times with a gathering anger, the serrate-edged white pages garlanded with those ads of models, all svelte with their ring-appointed mid-drifts, slices of skin endlessly beguiling and faithful to the long evolutionary line of tricks women have used to overcome a man's fear of rejection, a display meant to marry pistil and stamen. Amid the skin and sex and perfume my attention had ratcheted, quite perversely, upon a news item concerning a farm subsidy bill. This, I decided, would make a fine blog post, as the career politicians in Washington have again proven...
It's less unthinkable with Bill Buckley, whose sailing book Atlantic High is sort of bloggish.
Many "blogs" display a disdain for civil discourse and, to the extent they say anything at all, say it rather coarsely. This ensilage of words in great quantities not only reflects the current zeitgeist but promotes imprecisions such as the use of the word 'blue' when 'cerulean' is obviously meant. I intend to ensile my thoughts here as the spirit moves...
Posted by WFB 10:32am May 4

Professor Galbraith upbraided me yesterday for my suggestion that our sojourns to Geneva be shortened to six weeks. He chided thusly: 'Oh it's to be Denmark on Tuesday, Belgium on Wednesday, eh?'"
Posted by WFB 2:35pm May 6

Rich and the kids seem to be doing well at NRO. Rich informs me that he and Mr. Dreher have to shave now and no longer get carded regularly when purchasing alcohol. Jonah, like the Beatles, appears to be in his 'dark phase', probably due to his recent marriage to Yoko. I've been told that even serious people are compulsively reading 'The Corner'. Would it be uncharitable to suggest that they could find a better use for their time?
Posted by WFB 6:28pm May 5

Went on a Fox News show called "Hannity and Colmes" to promote the new book. Pat (Mrs. Buckley) suggested afterwards that my oratorical metabolism, uncompensated by gesticular flourishes, seemed phlegmatic compared to masters Hannity and Colmes. She recommended an aperitif in the Green Room before the next Hardball.
Posted by WFB 6:35pm July 20

Spent the morning at the NR office followed by lunch at an Indian food restaurant called "Curry in a Hurry" at Lowry's suggestion. Some have questioned handing over the NR reins to someone so young but they forget I started National Review at a younger age. Lowry's choice in restaurants does give me pause though...
Posted by WFB 11:15am July 12

Received a call from Don King, the fight promoter, regarding a possible allumette-vers le haut between myself and Gore Vidal. I replied in the negative of course.
Posted by WFB 3:01pm July 11

The thought of Catholic politicians who openly controvert Church teaching receiving at the communion rail is reminiscent of the bride who, expert in matters carnal and caught in flagrante delicto with the postman, still chooses the most achromatic white in wedding apparel.
Posted by WFB 2:12pm July 9
The late Shelby Foote:
My publisher suggested I start this "blog", an odd-sounding word and something surely intended only for Yankees and narcissists. Random House said I could increase book sales and interest in the Civil War. I don't know about that but I do wonder what my friend WP would say about this phenomenon.
Posted by Foote 4:01am March 1

I see much time has elapsed since my last post. I was re-reading Proust, as you ought be doing instead of reading this blog. To paraphrase the words of the son of Revolutionary War hero "Light Horse" Harry Lee, "It is well my blog is so terrible -- lest you should grow too fond of it."
Posted by Foote 7:21pm July 16

Bill Clinton:
The seeds of this "Hillary for 2008" blog were sewn during the last days of my Administration, during which America had the largest economic boom since the 1950s with poverty rates falling dramatically due to my job creation efforts. In fact, you may not know this, but you all would have free health care right now except for a Republican Congress that forced me to perjure myself and spend time pondering the definition of "is" when I could've been pondering how to make your life better...but I digress. I plan on being honest in this blog, just as I was honest with the American people during my time in office - a time that was cruelly truncated due to a (right-wing conspiracy?) Constitional Amendment that limits presidents to just two terms.

I will honestly say that I have in the past embarrassed my wife Hillary and that I owe her. I owe her big time. And so this blog is my small way of supporting her, of letting you in on how smart and honest and hard-working she is, like the time I was sitting in the Oval Office, working on a solution to global warming, when... Well, we'll get to that next post. Let me give you my solution to global warming. First...
Posted by Top Dog 3:08pm Feb 24
Country Song Lyrics to Van Zant's "Help Somebody"

Heard this morning:
I never let a cowboy make the coffee
yeah that's what Granny always said to my Grandad
and he'd say never tell a joke
that ain't that funny more than once
and if you wanna hear God laugh,
tell Him your plans.

Don't get too high on a bottle,
and get right with the Man.
fight your fights,
find your grace,
and all the things that you can change
and help somebody if you can.

Now Granny said sonny
stick to your gun if you believe in something
no matter what
cause it's better to be hated for who you are
Than loved for someone you're not.
She was 5 feet of concrete
New York born and raised on a slick city street.
She'll stare you down, stand her ground,
still kickin' and screamin' at 93
I remember how frail she looked
in that hospital bed
taking her last few breaths of life
and smiling as she said

Don't get too high on a bottle,
just a little sip e'vry now and then,
fight your fights,
find your grace,
and all the things you can change
and help somebody if you can,
and get right with the Man
Felix Culpa

Mary Herboth of the old "Ever New" blog sent a picture of her son Jordan, who is in the first year of his novitiate. She mentioned the low resolution and how it came out blurry, but it has a pleasingly otherworldly quality about it, doesn't it? (Hence the title of this post.) Jordan, called out of the world, can more fully pray one of St. Alphonsus De Liguori's most beautiful Marian prayers:
'My most beloved, most lovely, and most loving queen, I always thank my Lord and thee, who has not only drawn me, out of the world, but also called me to live in this Congregation, where a special devotion is practiced to thee. Accept of me then, my mother, to serve thee. Among so many of thy beloved sons, do not scorn to let me serve thee also, miserable though I am. Thou after God shalt always be my hope and my love. In all my wants, in all my tribulations and temptations, I will always have recourse to thee; thou shalt be my refuge, my consolation. I am unwilling that any one except God and thee should comfort me in my combats, in the sadness and tediousness of this life. For thy service I renounce all the kingdoms of the whole world...Thou are the mother of perseverance; obtain for me to be faithful to thee until death.'
Update:Mary writes on Secret Agent Man's blog:
He thought about changing his name to "Br. Leo" when he entered the novitiate after a saint (the one he chose for his confirmation name) but decided against it when he found out that there is a "St. Jordan." Everyone, please remember to pray for all the young men and women in formation - they need our spiritual love and support... so many are so young!

February 23, 2006

A Few Satirical Entries

...that somehow didn't make the satirical blog. Not sure why they were sitting in the draft folder. (And comedy is a terrible thing to waste.)
Jack Chick Torn Over Brown's "DaVinci Code"

JOHNSON CITY, TN--Comic book evanglist Jack Chick said he can't make up his mind about Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code".

"I love the anti-Catholicism. Brown's a man after my own heart when it comes to that whiff of Whore of Babylon stuff. But I'm troubled by his saying Jesus was married to Mary Magdalan. There's no Scripture to back that up. Reading that book is like eating ice cream with a manure topping. I just have mixed emotions..."
Benedict XVI Hires PR Firm to Overcome Rottweiler Image

VATICAN CITY--The Washington Post has learned that Pope Benedict XVI has retained the services of the prestigious public relations firm Liebowitz & Associates to counter falling poll numbers among American Catholics.

The firm's head, Edgar Liebowitz, will personally handle the case and has guaranteed a certain number of column inches, air time, sound bites, Web hits, and at least one feature in an influential journal. He also hopes to win the Pope a Nobel Prize.

Mr. Liebowitz plans to effect greater customer awareness of Catholicism (referred to as "branding") as well as a specific number of converts within a specific timeframe.
I's So Confuzed...

See Rich Leonardi's post.

Is it just me or does it seem like you need a detective agency to figure out if your donation goes from your local United Way to Planned Un-Parenthood? A listing of the 77 agencies of United Way. No listing of PP.

But meanwhile, over at Planned Parenthood's Central Ohio site:
Did you know that Planned Parenthood of Central Ohio is one of the largest recipients of United Way donor designation dollars in Franklin County?
I did not. So, is this a case where you can still designate P.P. but if you just give to the general fund none of your dollars go towards it?

Update: This looks reassuring.

Update 2: Devious, that ol' United Way. There are so many good charities in that basket but Gregg the Obscure found an obscure one - www.firstlink.org - which funnels money to the Columbus Health Dep't which in turn gives to PP. What I couldn't understand was how PP could've withstood the tremendous funding cut that UW would've represented (PP used to be a main agency in United Way). Looks like they still get funding, if roundabout.
Taking a page...

...out of Disputations' book, I thought I'd react to Dreher's manifesto with my response in italics:

A Crunchy Con Manifesto    By Rod Dreher

1. We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.

This is elitism, not conservatism. (Not that there's anything wrong with elitism except that you can't defend democracy at the same time since the notion that the herd can't see clearly flies in the face of the democratic principle that the herd usually gets it right.)

2. Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.

How does one categorize a thing as large as "modern conservatism"? Do you merely look at the President and Congress or have you polled all those who call themselves conservative? And couldn't you substitute "modernity" for "modern conservatism"?

3. Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.

Uh, like, has anyone missed Enron in the news? Anyone who works in the business world knows that business is to be treated with skepticism, so this feels like a non-sequitor. But I'll grant the possibility that this hasn't sunk in yet.

4. Culture is more important than politics and economics.

Indeed, this is/was a huge blind spot for the current Administration, and everyone with a three-digit IQ now understands this. Even uber-rationalist David Brooks got the memo. Mentioning this now is like telling the farmer that his horses are clearly out of the barn long after they'd escaped from the barn.

5. A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.

Yes, I don't know how this differs from the classical notion of conservatism, which has the root word "conserve". Not controversial unless one wants to subordinate man to nature, as if man should no longer be the steward of creation but its servant.

6. Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.

Again, this is a mantra of conservatism, at least Russell Kirk 101 conservatism. How you implement the encouragement of the small, local, old and particular would be the interesting point here.

7. Beauty is more important than efficiency.

Indeed, this is a point well taken.

8. The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.

Yes but how that relates to politics I'm unsure, unless you're seriously in favor of government censorship of Britney Spears.

9. We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”

The conservative party is already at the forefront of attempting to preserve the family. Banning gay marriage and attempting to outlaw abortion are two examples.

10. Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.

Of course. The conservative party is the party of personal responsibility, which is another way of saying the government can't save you. This is another non-sequitor. Something can be important and yet not be the most important thing.
Since I'm already beating this subject dead, I'll quote Rich Leonardi, who understands that the devil is in the details:
Don't most of us recognize and register our opposition to this [material] crassness, albeit perhaps less emphatically and sans granola, by catechizing our children? ("Pushing back against the culture" -- to use Flannery O'Connor's phrase -- and all that.)

I do hope that there isn't some sort of predictable policy agenda associated with "crunchy conservatism." Otherwise, it runs the risk of being a Catholic variation of the elusive "third way." For example, a year or two ago, a Catholic civil war erupted over the subject of Texas' CHIP, a state assistance program designed to provide healthcare to the working poor. It was more or less taken for granted that the "right" Catholic position was support for the program. Anyone who dared oppose it or pointed out its flaws was heckled as "putting his party before his faith" or "wedded to a hoary ideology."
Crunchy Cons...

I'm kind of scratching my head over this Crunchy Con stuff. I haven't read the book, but I'm thinking what's the point? I sent an article that Dreher wrote a while back to a left/liberal co-worker (though he doesn't like labels), and my co-worker responded with this zinger (proving that even so-called conservatives and liberals can see eye-to-eye occasionally):
Finally got to read this. Cute. It's amazing to me that there are people who are this concerned with conforming to behaviors that keep them in accord with an arbitrary category that they have placed themselves in.

Let's see, if I think of myself as a moderate suburban traditionalist with leanings toward libertarianism, what brand of beer can I allow myself to drink without slipping into some other ideology ? And what if I like a different brand, do I have to vote against the school levy ? But if I think about this very long that makes me too bookish with a deconstructionist bent and once I figure out what brand of beer I can permit myself to drink, what's next on the list ? Or can I even drink beer at all...
Update: It looks like Jonah Goldberg is similarly discombobulated.

February 22, 2006

Saddam Had WMDs?

The conventional wisdom, which is often wrong, insists that Saddam had no WMDs. But on O'Reilly's show Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney said otherwise, claiming that the recently released Hussein tapes show he did during the '90s. McInerney thinks Saddam allowed the Russians to move them to Syria and that the reason the Bush administration isn't talking this up is because they see Russia as crucial in the war on terror and are looking forward not backward. Normally I'd think this unlikely, but the Bush Administration is so inept at defending itself that it actually seems plausible. More here.

Another interesting comment was made by a Brit a couple weeks ago (I've forgotten his name). He said that Blair wanted to go into Iraq but didn't want the de-Bathification that Bush insisted on (i.e. no nation-building). He wanted simply to remove Saddam and his sons & immediate cabinent and that's it. Tony Blair looks like a genius now, as if he alone found the elusive middle way between irresponsible negligence (i.e. allowing Hussein to make and use WMDs despite the Gulf War ceasefire agreement) and chaos (i.e. now).
Call Me Easily Amused...

...but not late for dinner. Terrence Berres (who emailed me: "athletes should give 110% to avoid cliches like the plague") remarks on the change of his diocesan newspaper from The Catholic Herald to Our Catholic Herald. Now there's your democracy in action boys and girls! No top-down organization there, at least when it comes to names.

I love things like that. Like when my hometown of Hamilton, Ohio re-named itself Hamilton!, Ohio in order to increase tourism. There's a sort of naive innocence in those who actually think those things work. You can see them around a board table and their eyes light up: "You know, we could change the name!"

The Herald's substitution of the personal pronoun reminds me how when I go to McDonald's fine restaurants I'll sometimes say, perversely, "I'll have your Quarter Pounder with Cheese" as if the cashier feels a sense of ownership. (And while on the subject of McDonald's, here are a few ways to have more fun during your drive-thru visit: Pronounce "filet of fish" as "fill-ett o' fish". Roll your r's when asking for a breakfast burrito. And when they ask you how many creams for your coffee, say "2.5".) Anyway, Terrence B. writes,
I suppose that this blog might serve as something of a journal of semi-pro manipulations by parish and archdiocesan staff. They do seem to often forget to close the cover, and we see the gears turning and stripping...

Perusing other postings, I could vicariously appreciate Patrick's smittenness with ice dancer Elene Gedevanishvili. Having watched all of thirty minutes of the Games, it's possible I'm giving these Olympics short shrift...

Speaking of Russians, heard Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture this morning on the way to work, a piece I'd hadn't heard in years, and was struck again by the climactic ending. Ravel's Bolero is supposed to be erotic but I think the 1812 Overture could give it a run for its money.
The writer at Simply Wait writes of the best places to write:
I once considered moving back to the mother country, where undoubtedly the writerly impulse slipped into my genes as stealthily as my melancholic temperament or my fondness for black beer. Yes, I could go back to Ireland, the country my malnourished ancestors fled, rent a little cottage in the countryside, drink Guiness and wait for the golden river of prose to start flowing.
And if the prose doesn't flow, there's always that black river of Guinness...

Novelist David Foster Wallace reads sports biographies despite constant disappointment over their banality. He wonders why athletes of genius are so incapable of describing their art, wondering if they are "stupid and shallow" or "somehow natively wise and profound, enlightened in the childlike way some saints and monks are enlightened.":
How can great athletes shut off the Iago-like voice of the self? How can they bypass the head and simply and superbly act? How, at the critical moment, can they invoke for themselves a cliché as trite as "One ball at a time" or "Gotta concentrate here," and mean it, and then do it? Maybe it's because, for top athletes, clichés present themselves not as trite but simply as true, or perhaps not even as declarative expressions with qualities like depth or triteness or falsehood or truth but as simple imperatives that are either useful or not and, if useful, to be invoked and obeyed and that's all there is to it.    (--from "Consider the Lobster")
David Brooks of the NY Times...

...has belatedly discovered that culture trumps economics and actually seems disappointed that human beings are more than automatons seeking the dollar:
Once, not that long ago, economics was the queen of the social sciences. Human beings were assumed to be profit-maximizing creatures, tending toward reasonableness....

As the world has become richer and better educated, religion hasn't withered; it has become stronger and more fundamentalist. Nationalism and tribalism haven't faded away. Instead, transnational institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union are weak and in crisis.

Communications technology hasn't brought people closer together; it has led to greater cultural segmentation, across the world and even within the United States.

All of this has thrown a certain materialistic vision into crisis. We now know that global economic and technological forces do not gradually erode local cultures and values. Instead, cultures and values shape economic development.
What I Learned During My Ancestor Project

I've collected and re-sewn posts of what I learned while doing my little ancestral study, which is chiefly that over the past century as the sacraments have been de-emphasized the popularity of a kind of semi-Pelagianism has increased. Link here.

February 21, 2006

Image from the....

...latest Columbus Dispatch:

Full image here
Diagnosis versus Cure

Steven Riddle has that rare gift of encouragement. He is not blind to reality yet exudes hopefulness. I think most of us appear more interested in diagnosis than in cure simply because, at least in the spiritual life, there is more complexity in diagnosis and we love complexity. There are a million ways we or the Church can stumble but only one way we or the Church can go right: Christ.

It seems a shame but is not surprising that St. James is remembered for the diagnosis - "faith without works is dead" - rather than the Cure, which he gives a few lines later: "Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you."
This is cool...

Here's a site that allows you to search some 600+ Catholic blogs for a given search term. Tim Harrison is apparently the creator. (HT: Dom)

When I was visiting Westfield Monastery, I told Sister that prostitution is a lot like an addiction. And like many addictions, the struggle to not slide back into that addiction when things in life get rough is an on-going battle. Even now it is something I struggle with as the days pass and I’m still not working, and the University folk can’t get their act together and get things up and running for this degree I was supposed to start working on this week. I could log onto Craig’s List this minute and be turning tricks in an hour if I slipped and “took that first drink” as the metaphor goes. The only thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow is going to Confession and confessing the temptation. But there is a certain grace here as well, because it is in these moments of weakness that I am reminded once again that God uses his servants to give me strength. Each time I face a priest in the confessional and bring up the topic of prostitution, I brace myself for the condemnation. I’m still waiting though. The only thing I’ve received is love, empathy and compassion, things I find I’m completely unable to brace myself for and so they end up breaking me apart in ways that I cannot predict. But through God’s grace and mercy, I am reknit and each time the sutures that hold me together feel stronger and more secure. - Jennifer of "Confessions of a Wayward Catholic"

If there is one thing that I can give my children that I, for whatever reason, didn't have in my childhood, it will be a love for and regular practice of the Sacrament of Penance. I do not want them, as I did, to fear and avoid it, and spend many years without it. - Bob of "Trousered Ape"

I don't much like the idea of Rome "negotiating" with the SSPX as if it were just another political faction to be appeased. This political approach is to be contrasted with actually taking SSPX arguments seriously and making a place for Tradition for its own sake. But neither do I like the idea of Rome acceding to a list of demands (for that is the perception) presented by bishops who still refuse obedience - no matter how justified that refusal might be. When the SSPX bishops are regularized, they should return with a proper attitude of submission - an attitude which isn't likely to follow a political victory after negotiating favorable terms with the Holy See. It's just bad psychology. Better, in my opinion, for Rome to free the traditional rite from the arbitrary suppression of hostile bishops, eliminate the abuses which have universally followed the Novus Ordo, impose a strictly orthodox interpretation of the Council, and possibly lift the excommunication of Lefebvre alone, quite apart from any overt efforts to reconcile the SSPX. Then let the SSPX bishops - those who are still Catholic, anyway - return on their own initiative, with bowed neck and bended knee, to the filial obedience that is their heart's true desire. - Jeff C. of "Hallowed Ground"

- Roamin' Roman

She concludes, "I'd rather have real history." And this is what is so sad and so maddening about this phenomenon - isn't it? As millions are determined to find Leonardo's codes, they miss Leonardo's art and real brilliance. As tourists look for where Robert Langdon stood, they miss Caravaggio. As Jesus' royal bloodline and marriage are analyzed, 'Blessed are the poor' is ignored. And as to that last point - no wonder The Da Vinci Code is popular. The DVC Jesus goes down a whole lot easier then that other one, doesn't he? - Amy Welborn

I'm not sure what I think about this whole BLOG phenomenon, but I thought I'd give it a try. The title of my BLOG comes from the book of Jeremiah, where he complains, "You duped me, Lord, and I let myself be duped!" Few lines from Scripture better describe the mystery of a religious vocation. God called, and I answered, but, man, I didn't know what I was in for! It's difficult, but wonderful. - seminarian blogger at "You Duped Me Lord"

I recently decided against buying Benedictine Daily Prayer...it's all-inclusive, all the time: new Grail inclusive Psalms and the NRSV. On further reflection, perhaps this new fad of gender-inclusive and number-challenged language is our new vulgate - the vulgar language of the masses parallel to that which Jerome, that agonizingly tasteful Ciceronian, used in his translation of the scriptures. - Bill of Summa Minutiae

Indulgences are fully appreciated only in the context of Penance: personal sinfulness, societal sinfulness, the need for saving grace, sacramental absolution, the importance of works of penance and satisfaction, a realization that hell and damnation are concrete possibilities, etc. Where consciousness of these realities is weak or absent, an indulgence looks at best like cheap grace and at worst like a useless exercise. - commenter on Amy's blog

But then, the angel Gabriel came to me and said, “Hail, Full of Vainglory! The Lord still kind of likes you in spite of your miserable self, and He still wishes to bestow abundant graces upon you even though you don’t deserve squat. But He kind of likes your brother Der Tommissar too, and wishes to bestow grace upon him. It would be an act of charity for you to help Brother Tom to place last, so that he may be first.” I said, “How can this be, for I am not linked to by Amy Welborn or Mark Shea? Gabriel said, “The holy little Therese will come down upon thee and beat thee with roses and then varied endorsements will arise....And I said, “Behold, I am the moron of the Lord, let the Lord’s will be done.” Then the angel departed. - Rick Lugari of De Civitate Dei

Beer taster (I was never hired, but I showed up for work anyway.) - Ham o' Bone of Social Engineer, in a 4-meme on one of his four occupations

When he said, "In the world you will have troubles, but BE OF GOOD CHEER, I have overcome the world," Jesus was letting us in on the joke. More than that, he was telling us that he was the head writer. The situation may be unbearable, but the way out has already been provided for and so, a Christian can always look forward to Heaven and see the resolution to his problems which only Jesus can provide. This is why Jesus gives his followers permission to laugh at hopeless situations. Jesus is the Way and has given us that hope that the apparent contradiction is, after all, not so real as the world would have us believe because this is not the real world, after all. That "imaginary" heaven of the pagans or atheists is the real one. So, just as humor involves moving between a real and an imaginary world, just so, the Christian moves also between a real and an imaginary world, except, "this" vale of tears, the atheist's real world is, in fact, the imaginary, transient one. And Jesus says to every Christian at Baptism, "Surprise". This is why Christians should be of good cheer. - Donald Casadonte via Disputations
Various & Sundry...

1) I'm enjoying Masterpiece Theatre's Bleak House, though with all the cognitive dissonance one would expect to see in a conservative enjoying publically funded television.

2) This just in: It appears reports of winter's demise were premature.

3) I suppose, for someone who hasn't been robbed, the closest experience to highway robbery is one of those speed traps where a lack of signs fail to notify you of a decreased speed limit. But, on the other hand, it goes for the good cause of feeding policeman families.

4) Many a romance begins by projecting all virtue upon your potential spouse while being blind to flaws. A milder case of this seems to adhere to politicians, where I apparently see virtues in Bush that others don't, and contrarily see nothing good in a Kerry or Clinton where others do.

5) A good thing about the St. Blog Awards is the introduction of new bloggers. A bad thing is that by allowing multiple votes you allow those with the most time on their hands to unduly impact the results.

6) A priest on the gospel of Mark where Jesus says "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod": "That is, beware of lawlessness - Herod - and lawFULLness - the Pharisees."

7) If love = sacrifice and sacrifice = suffering, then doesn't love = suffering?

8) Shopping, for the male, is akin to death. The Kubler-Ross' Five stages of death and dying applied to shopping:
  • Denial and isolation: "This is not happening to me. My clothes are not threadbare and there is food in the pantry."

  • Anger: "I'm so angry at myself for not going to Sam's Club last time and buying in bulk!"

  • Bargaining: "Please, just don't allow these jeans to rip any further and I'll shop next weekend."

  • Depression: "I can't bear this. I have to go shopping."

  • Acceptance: "I'm ready. to. go. shopping."
  • February 20, 2006

    "Moderate" Muslims?

    Mansoor Ijaz, who is quite open in his dismay over the violence, says there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim:
    The second truth — one that the West needs to come to grips with — is that there is no such human persona as a "moderate Muslim." You either believe in the oneness of God or you don't. You either believe in the teachings of his prophet or you don't. You either learn those teachings and apply them to the circumstances of life in the country you have chosen to live in, or you shouldn't live there.
    Resurrection & Eucharist

    One of the small mysteries of the Eastern rite liturgy is why the priest obscures the view of the altar during the words of Institution. Well, now the truth can be told: because the Eucharist is the Resurrection, and who witnessesd the moment of Resurrection? That's right, no one.

    Michael Dubruiel talks about the Eucharist and the Resurrection in his book "The How-To Book of the Mass":
    The priest will break off a small piece of the Eucharistic bread and drop it into the chalice that contains the Precious Blood of Jesus while he says a prayer silently. This is called the co-mingling of the bread and wine. It is a small act, but rich in symbolism. First, it symbolizes the Resurrection of our Lord. At the consecration our Lord came to the bread and wine separately - this is my Body, this is my Blood; symbolic of His death on the cross. Now the two are joined.

    February 19, 2006

    The Night Our Tivo Died   (to tune 'The Night Chicago Died')

    In the chill of a winter night
    In the land of the dollar bill
    When the drives of our Tivo died
    And we talk about it still

    When the tube said "Pogue Mahone"
    for the tv had no tone
    And when I called in for a fix
    it'd be weeks without our kicks.

    I heard my mama cry
    I heard her pray the night my Tivo died
    Brother what a night it really was
    Brother what a fight it really was
    Glory be!

    I heard my mama cry
    I heard her pray the night my Tivo died
    Brother what a night the people saw
    Brother what a fight the people saw
    Yes indeed!

    And the sound of the silence rang
    Through the house at the town's west side
    And there was nothing to do but read
    when Tivo up and died.

    But then shouting in the street
    And the sound of running feet
    As a crowd in unison said
    "Our Tivo is dead!"...
    The High Cost of Sin & Unforgiveness

    Kate Michelman. Hugh Hefner. What do they have in common? Besides both being advocates for policies that cause great societal harm, in the past both were greatly sinned against.

    In the beginning Hefner was happily married and wanted nothing more than a normal family life. That is, until he found out his wife was cheating on him and the marriage ended. Greatly despondent, he came out of the experience much changed and began to preach a gospel of hedonism, seeking sexual satisfaction without commitment or responsibility.

    Kate Michelman was married with three children and any sort of activism was the last thing on her mind. But then her husband abandoned her, leaving with her with three children and one on the way. She decided to end the life of the child in her womb, vowing "never to be humiliated again" and became a leader in pro-abortion movement.

    So both were sinned against, and both would not forgive those who hurt them. And we - all of us - live with the repercussions today, showing again that no sin is private, including the sin of refusing to forgive.
    Eucharistic Thoughts

    Pondering the Last Supper I'm grateful that Christ made us a part of that event by virtue of our participation in the Eucharist. It fulfils the mutual longing between God and man without robbing us of our free will, which a more demonstrable display of his power might. We seek God with intensity and sometimes think ourselves unrequited, causing laughter in Heaven since exactly the opposite is true. God wants us far more than we want Him. And the Eucharist - by virtue of God remaining hidden - facilitates this togetherness without compromising our future good and glorification. Why should his hiddenness be for our future good? Because it builds faith. And why should building faith be for our good? That question looks at it backwards. God is good, therefore nothing other than good can come from Him.

    When I was a kid I recall being bummed that Jesus ascended to Heaven - why couldn't he have stayed here where we so obviously need him? I thought that his Ascension was for his and His Father's good, though at our expense. A zero-sum game. False! There is no "at our expense" when it comes to God! In some mysterious way, the Ascension and the hiddenness of God both express a desire on His part to be with us in a more fruitful way. The Eucharist is a particularly ingenious method to build faith, exercise obedience, and provide a conduit of His grace that doesn't impinge on our free will. All at the same time!

    February 17, 2006

    Get Ready...

    ...for a new sport to be added to the 2010 Games - the sport of Olympic Curling...iron!

    Young athlete in training...
    Week in Review  - a stream o' conscious post on the week just past

    Ahhh...but I can close my eyes and still feel the cruise-sun full on my face and the dispensation that allowed the reading of something as sweet and cotton-candyish as Jack McKeon’s autobiography...

    My boss Rick is a character, especially at an office where we all compete for the Most Milquetoast Award. He’s of a perpetually sunny disposition and has large eyes that have a tendency to roll about in his head when he laughs, which is often. He tells me of his appearance at a slot machine tournament in Las Vegas. They take you to the machines in groups of twelve, and he almost got in a fight with someone when he mistakenly took the chair at their slot. He said that you have three or four minutes and you press a button as fast as you can. He said it felt ridiculous. There was even someone there cam-recording the whole thing. He just looked around and thought to himself, ‘look at all these ridiculous people constantly pressing a button’ and then he realized he was doing the same thing. He ended coming in fourth despite the distraction of looking around at his fellow players on the strength of hitting a decent jackpot at the end. He goes often to Vegas and Tahoe and when a co-worker told him he might have a gambling problem, he took it seriously: “I’m taking the month of February off to prove I don’t have a problem,” he told me but then added, “but I chose it because it has the fewest days!”. He may have a problem.

    I told him I’d like to have experienced the slot tourney just so I could write about it, which befuddled him since he wondered why would I want to write about it, so I added it “I mean just for the experience of it”. It’s funny to see the expression of those who find out I write; they all can’t imagine I would do so. I learned I’m a blockhead (which you already knew): MamaT quoted Samuel Johnson as saying only a blockhead would write without getting paid. There’s a lot of truth in that. If there’s one thing we learned over the past election cycle is how little impact even paid writers have on the national discourse. Look at the pounding Bush took from editorial writers just before the ’04 election and how he won it handily. The Frank Rich’s and Mo Dowd’s of the world have much less power than they think. They say don’t fight with those who buy ink by the barrel but Bush did and lived to tell about it.

    I’m really impressed by Rick Lugari’s website. I think it’s called City of God or something and the tone and design is pitch-perfect. He’s stopped blogging, or resumed briefly to support somebody in the blog awards. But what he’s doing there is attractive. If I could be more like another blogger, I’d be more like the comic Lugari or maybe Bill of Summa Minutiae, who confers a sense of well-being with posts about obscure books collecting dust in old libraries. Blogging about the issues of the day is important but a skill I don’t have because I’m not an expert on them, and given my hit numbers, no reason to be.

    Lent is coming, and it seems by the end it’s like I’m struggling for air. I fly through the first two or three weeks, effervescent and enthusiastic, going to extra services and going the extra mile, but by Good Fiday I’m pretty much out of gas and spiritually numb at the very time I’d like to be most keen. Perhaps that's as it should be, though I'd like a different approach this year. Not less difficult, but maybe differently difficult?

    What else? Well, we’ve got the whiphand on winter, she’s declining and shows it by how late it stays light now. It feels a bit of a hollow victory, like fighting Frazier when he was past his prime. I mean, come on, this was winter? When I was a kid we had real winters, like the blizzard of ’78. I have to say this was the most pansy-ass’d winter of all time. We had one tough month I guess. But I’m not complaining! I could live with these sorts of Gentle Ben winters where nobody gets hurt...
    For lovers of beautiful churches. Breathtaking.
    Fictional Friday

    They say that the past is a foreign country, which makes reading it a particularly frugal form of travel. But reading about one's own ancestors imbues it with a richer dimension because to see the rogues and heroes of your own line brings home the knowledge that the potential for good or bad lies within you. It also brings out the dreamy...(fade to dream sequence)
       I was born two miles from the Irish Sea, where oft we'd catch salmon and sell it at the markets at Killybegs, Howth, Castletownbere, Rossaveal, Greencastle, Dunmore East, Dingle, Skibbereen, Kilmore Quay, Clogherhead and others along the coast. We’d smoke aged seawood in leeward winds and run-sail in our parent’s crude dingys. I’d stare at the agate sea until my mind was blank and the waves became as music. We would go to Mass at the church built in stones ten centuries old and dream of the Hill of Tara and hero Patrick’s burning the Druid altars. Sometimes the Sheridan girl would come with us, named like every other Eirean girl for the Blessed Mother. So fair she was that the Blessed Mother herself might be jealous, such be the beauty of this black haired Iberian. In the daily toil, we did the work man was meant to do – we free’d our mind from mental hardships and strife by dint of sheer effort. Work all day with your body and your mind become oddly satisfied...
    Good George Weigel Column:
    Second, the Pope suggests that the image of God in a culture will have a profound effect on that culture's image of man. The fundamental orientation of a culture is not derived from its family patterns, its way of doing politics, or its method of allocating goods and services. Rather, cultures take their basic direction from what they worship: from the way in which a culture imagines the divine, thinks of the divine (if it imagines that the divine can be "thought"), and relates to the divine. To believe in and worship a God who is love "all the way through" (as Thomas More puts it in A Man for All Seasons) gives Christian cultures a distinctive view of the human enterprise in all its dimensions. Which brings us to a third point Benedict makes, if briefly: warped ideas of God lead to warped ideas of the human, warped understandings of human relationships, and, ultimately, warped politics. When Pope Benedict speaks of "a world in which the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence," it is not difficult to imagine at least one of the primary reference points. That the Pope has jihadist Islam in mind here is also suggested by his address to the diplomatic corps at the Vatican on January 9, when he spoke of a danger that had been "rightly" described as a "clash of civilizations".

    Read this link from Amy, and one commenter said, "Shaken? It makes a good headline but seems a bit melodramatic. By definition, religious faith requires some voluntary suspension of disbelief."

    The post reminded me how in the past I've always been very supportive of Christian fundamentalists who take a literal view of Genesis (i.e. the earth was made in 7 literal days and dinosaur bones were tossed about to test our faith) because I'd always thought it's better to error on the side of credulity than incredulity. But that doesn't take into account the scandal to the Christianity that ensues in the minds of unbelievers. They are apt to tar the Christian religion as incompatible with science. For example, the agnostic who wrote "Under the Banner of Heaven" said that Mormons are unfairly targeted as being irrational merely because their irrationality has occurred in recent times, when these things can be documented.

    Of course we all give scandal in other ways, so I should be far more concerned with my own scandal-giving.
    Tortured by the Torture of Another

    Watching all these episodes of 24 gives me the willies. If torture was an abstraction before, it's all too real on this simulated show. If I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy before, that sentiment has been brought home far more viscerally.

    Which reminds me of the First Law of American Sympathy (which is just after the Law of Thermondynamics in its certainty) - what is on television is definitionally that which provokes pity. Example 1: as soon as the devastation of Katrina was not regularly on television, donations began drying up.

    24 shows torture regularly and shows it even when the viewer is aware the victim is innocent. In some ways this is worse than suffering caused by a serial killer or a natural disaster since we can write off both of those to forces beyond our control - i.e. nature or insanity. But on 24, it's the good guys, in full control of their faculties, who are doing the near killing.

    Torture makes me think, naturally enough, of suffering. Which reminds me of a Zippy comment on Disputations. He cautioned, "be careful what you pray for." I'm not sure how to read this except in the context of bringing unexpected woe and suffering upon yourself in a desire for greatness. An example of not being careful would presumably be the mother of the Son of Thunder, who blithely asked Christ that her sons be given seats at his right and left and Jesus says, "can they drink of the cup?". The cup of suffering.

    What fascinates me is how the crucial aspect of whole-heartedness with respect to God squares with the seeming half-heartedness of cautiousness during prayer, since whole-heartedness has a sort of heedlessness, a kind of drunkenness about it. Perhaps it is merely the difference is between volunteering for suffering and being willing to endure it if it is thrust upon you. Since you can't be courageous without fear (bravery requires it, otherwise you are simply reckless) I’m obviously not saying that fear automatically taints whole-heartedness.

    There’s a certain inevitably to facing the question, though preferably without an accompanying morbidity. (DNA is not destiny, but the Irish are morbid and sentimental.) I tend to alternate between the positions of “God suffered so you don’t have to” (i.e. "by his stripes, you were healed") and “God suffered, so why shouldn’t you?” (or "There’s no Easter without a Good Friday"). The fact that others are similarly afflicted is oddly consoling - I suppose the anticipation of suffering is a kind suffering, surely not meritorious (?) but at least there's some togetherness. Perhaps the reason the suffering are in such a better position spiritually is their lives are already misery, they are used to it and there is no inertia to overcome. Resistance or disinclination to motion, action, or change is not their problem, because change is seen as an unalloyed good. They can look forward to its relief, in this world or the next. On the other hand...from this link:
    St Paul says, "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4: 17). But as Balthasar readily concedes in the fifth volume of the Theo-Drama, "To someone who is really suffering, Paul's words on the relationship between earthly suffering and heavenly joy are hardly to be endured." And yet, with St. Paul, and based on his own theology of Holy Saturday, Balthasar will go on to claim that suffering is something good. In a modern utilitarian world, whose ethic is largely based on a pleasure-pain calculus, such words will provoke outrage. But Scripture does not flinch from boasting of suffering. "I consider that the sufferings of this present age", says St. Paul, "are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us" (Romans 8: 18)
    Update: See this on the divine comedy.

    February 16, 2006

    The Rosary: It's Not Just For Catholics Anymore

    Michael Poterman, who isn't Catholic, calls it a "marvelous form of contemplative prayer" in the latest dead tree National Review:
    [This is a] specifically Catholic form of devotion that deserves a lot more attention from other branches of the Christian community...Owing to the repeated prayers, it has been viewed with great suspicion by Protestants anxious to avoid the “vain repetitions” Jesus warned against (Matt. 6:7). But the repetitions are actually a great aid to contemplation: “Changing the rhythm of one’s life, freeing the mind to move in a different way, involves slowing down the tempo of thought, entering a stalled state.” The idea is not to wear out the divine Hearer with a rote recitation, but to calm the mind of the one who is praying — and thus enable him to focus on the Bible scenes being meditated upon. I would add another consideration: The chief impediment to prayer is distraction, and the rosary helps solve this problem by building the distraction into the prayer itself. If the mind wanders from the mysteries, it can wander to the repeated prayers — and vice versa. To wander away from the prayer entirely requires more than the usual amount of mental agility.

    Another objection frequently raised to the rosary is that the prayer most frequently repeated within it is addressed not to God, but to Mary. Is this not idolatrous on its face? Wills ably explains that this asking for Mary’s help is not idolatrous; it is, he writes, merely “to rely on our fellow member of the mystical body of Christ.” It is standard practice among Evangelicals to ask our fellow church members to pray for us; the Hail Mary simply extends this practice to the woman who was the Church’s first member. (Anyone whose theological conscience absolutely forbids addressing in prayer — of any kind — a non-Divine person can replace the Hail Mary with another short prayer, e.g., “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” What’s essential for this form of devotion is to preserve its two-track structure.)

    In 2002, Pope John Paul II expressed the hope that the rosary could become “an aid and . . . not a hindrance to ecumenism.”
    Happened Across...

    ..this review contra "The Miracle Detective", which attempted to explore the authenticity of the visions at Medjugorje:
    Similarly, much apparently impressive medical evidence is put forward in support of the visionaries, but the crucial point, that supernatural visitations cannot be determined by scientific methods, has not been grasped by Sullivan. There is no way that a genuine seer can be scientifically detected with 100% accuracy, any more than a consecrated host can be differentiated from an unconsecrated host scientifically. Discernment is an essentially spiritual process, and while scientific tests may be able to uncover cases involving mental illness or hallucination, they are incapable of determining whether or not a person is a genuine seer—or a fraudster for that matter. Only the Church can give us a degree of moral certainty about these things.
    Sympathy for Dick Cheney

    Not much to say on the Dick Cheney story other than he could've handled the press and reporting of it better. I don't find it all that persuasive that he wanted to wait to report it, pending the condition of the shooting victim. After all, Whittington's condition is still pending. Yet I'm amazed by the Beltway fire storm. It's as though all the hate that has smouldered for years within the White House press corps has been lit by the match of this accidental shooting. For most liberals and much of the press Dick Cheney is, literally, the devil.

    So I was going to re-write the lyrics of the Rolling Stones' song Sympathy for the Devil ("Please allow me to introduce myself / I’m a man of wealth and taste / I’ve been around for a long, long time / Served in the House and Dep't of Defense"... "I was there when Lincoln died / made damn sure Booth did the deed") when I realized that it wouldn't read as parody. You can't shock and awe when the Left has already shocked and awed us with its fierce hatred of Bush & Cheney.
    What's in HIS Bookbag?

    Bill of Summa Minutiae links to someone who writes:
    At first I was excited to hear that the Monumenta Germaniae Historica was available for free on the Internet. No more traipsing to the library and lugging home those heavy tomes containing Venantius Fortunatus, Symmachus, Sedulius Scottus, and all the rest.
    Uh, yeah, ol' Symmachus. He's a pal of mine too. And Sedulisu Scottus? Why that ol' rascal and I are on such good terms I call him "the Sed man".

    February 15, 2006

    This Post...

    ...is dedicated to Elena, Rich, Thomas, Suburban Bansheee, Ham, Jeanine, former Buckeye Steven and all you other proud Ohioans out there. From Henry Howe:
    A song most widely sung is that entitled “The Hills of Ohio” by Alexander Auld. He was born in Milton, Pa., and came to Ohio in 1822, when a child of six years...The words are not original with Mr. Auld, but were set to music and largely sung by emigrants in the early years of this century.
    THE HILLS OF OHIO  ...From “The Key of the West” by Alex. Auld.

    1. The hills of Ohio, how sweetly they rise,
    In the beauty of nature to blend with the skies;

    When fair azure outline, and tall ancient trees,
    Ohio, my country, I love thee for these.

    2. The homes of Ohio, free fortuned, and fair,
    Full many hearts treasure a sister’s love there;

    E’en more than they hill-sides or streamlets they please,
    Ohio, my country, I love thee for these.

    3. God shield thee, Ohio, dear land of my birth,
    And thy children that wander afar o’re the earth;

    My country thou art, where’er my lot’s cast,
    Take thou to they bosom my ashes at last.
    Today, Feb. 15...

    ...is the feast of Blessed Claude de la Colombiere. He is best known for his devotion to the Sacred Heart, via St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. From one site:
    It was after this revelation that St. Margaret Mary was to meet and be guided by the great Jesuit priest, St. Claude de la Colombiere.(d.1682) He would be the first, after St. Margaret Mary, to respond to these requests of the Sacred Heart. Our Blessed Lord, in speaking to Sister Margaret Mary, even called him His "perfect friend."
    And part of the revelation:
    Revealing to me His Divine Heart, He said: 'Behold this heart, which has loved men so much, that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify to them its love and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges and by the coldness and contempt which they show me in this sacrament of love.'
    Random Thoughts

    MamaT thanked me for STG'ing the quote via Terrence Berres which highlighted our Christian duty to get enough sleep. I'm hoping for a similar duty to drink beer, though I'm not holding my breath.

    ~ (official delimiter of the 2006 Olympic Games)

    In a negative review of Randall Sullivan's "The Miracle Detective", the reviewer said that Sullivan's prose is self-absorbed and hence it's not surprising it would appeal to a self-absorbed generation. But if you're self-absorbed why do you appreciate other's self-absorption? Isn't that "other-absorption"? *grin*

    The explosion of Catholic blogs is amazing. I can't read but a fraction, which means that STG grows ridiculously non-representative of the whole. One of the more attention-getting names on that list is You Duped Me Lord, the blog of a seminarian who writes, "Thanks to all who nominated You Duped Me Lord (and me -- am I my blog, is my blog myself?) for Best Blog by a Seminarian."

    Ralph McInerny writes about his writing life in the latest issue of First Things. He begins, "It is the rare reader of fiction who does not at some time or other consider becoming a writer."

    Fiction only? I think it affects all avid readers. After all, sometimes you can put more fact in fiction. Carlos Eire, author of "Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy" said that he can say many things in fiction that he wouldn't dare in non-fiction.

    But self-expression isn't the point, which is easy to forget but which McInerny reminds us. He says the plot is a story's soul and "producing a well-made story is all that counts." (Score one for Ham o' Bone!)

    February 14, 2006

    Ohio, Say It Loud And There's Music Playing...

    A thoughtful reader sent along the link of a genealogy site on which I found the following. Written in 1888 by Henry Howe:
    Poetry and song ever appeal to the imagination, and so helped its quick settlement. Great things always require them—as war and religion. All soldiers, even savages, have their war songs, and the only religionists among us who have not song are those calm, sweet-tempered people, “the Friends,” and they are fast melting; soon will vanish entirely, when the “thees” and “thous” will be heard no more in the land. A single verse drops in here as a matter of history. It is from one of the songs that was sung at the East at the end of some game where kissing - never to be a lost art - was going on between young people, who later largely became fathers and mothers out here in the Ohio-land:
    “Arise, my true love, and present me your
    And we’ll march in procession for a far distant
    Where the girls will card and spin,
    And the boys will plough and sow,
    And we’ll settle on the banks of the pleasant
    Suppose an unsavory name had been given to the great river, and then applied to the State. It might have retarded its settlement for years. Say the name of a certain river now in Vermont—“Onion.” Who would have sung its praises? What kind of emigrants would have been attracted, and by what name after they got here would they have been called? As it was, the pioneers were the brightest, bravest, most cheery young people of the East, and their children inheriting their exuberance and pluck, fill the land with hope and song.

    My high-school educated grandparents not only had these [KJV] bibles, but they read them--every day of their lives. I had occasion to go and stay with my grandmother to help her around the house and get her to appointments while my grandfather was in the hospital recovering from surgery. During times in the hospital waiting room, when she wasn't lifting the spirits of other visitors, she was rapt in her Bible. One time my Grandpa S was saying something about the Blessed Virgin (this upon learning that I had wholeheartedly joined the Catholic Church) and my grandmother quoted chapter and verse. Grandpa, "There's nothing so great about Mary." Grandma, "Now, Oscar (her pet name for him) you know it says right there in the Good Book itself, 'Hail thou that art highly favored, Blessed art thou among women. . .'Cain't see any way around that making her special. The good book says so." For any occasion their first recourse was the rich treasury of scripture that they had read, memorized, internalized, and to some degree lived. Both of my grandfathers could give long, and I pleased to say that subsequent research revealed, largely correct talks about the historical background of the books of the Bible, and understood clearly what is often unclear to me in Paul's letters. - Steven Riddle of Flos Carmeli

    When folks from my local church gather for an evening meal or adult education class, we usually close with Compline...This service is helping me to understand sleep as part of faithfulness. For it is sheer hypocrisy to pray with my community for a peaceful night and a perfect end if I know I am going home to put in three or four more hours answering email. Sleep more: this may seem a curious answer to the question of what Christians can do for the common good. - Lauren F. Winner, via Terrence Berres

    As is so often the case these days, there seems to be a great divide in discourse on this issue [on the cartoons & Muslim violence]. And the divide is not between various opinions, but between the realities that people take into account as they're forming their opinions and responses. A parallel situation might be the situation down on the US-Mexico border. In the debate, some seem to persist in the paradigm that all we are talking about here is huddled masses yearning to be free, but the deeper reality is that we're dealing with drug and people-smuggling cartels, increasingly heavily armed. That calls for more than statements about the human right to support one's family.... I can't begin to really sort out this issue, but I can hope for more honesty. Religious leaders who comment on this need to take more into account than their concerns about blasphemy in general. They need to admit that the destructive, hateful forces at work in some elements of Islam, and that those forces are no friend of Christianity or Judaism.  The old, safe paradigm is collapsing...which is another way of saying - it's not safe any more. - Amy Welborn

    There is the awful necessity of playing teacher when I'd rather be here, unordained preacher of unvarnished truth; add to that many student papers in need of grading by the light of melting, midnight tapers, not to mention the book in urgent need of revising, and an article, too, against my protests the editor advising that, on our pilgrims' way to the land of milk and honey, the ignoble but pressing need yet remains: to make money. - William Luse of Apologia

    We really need another Eucharistic Miracle just like the ones which occured in Lanciano (I think there is a video by the Church on this) etc... The world needs another Miracle to come to Christ and Catholics need the miracle to strenghten their faith which is constantly being attacked... God willing, may a Eucharistic Miracle come soon. - commenter on "Curt Jester"

    Calling for Eucharistic miracles is an easy way out. Taking as certain what my Savior said in John chapter 6 should preclude any need for extraordinary signs, He can neither deceive nor be deceived. This generation gets only one sign-the sign of Jonah. I hold my Eucharistic Lord in my hands every day when I preside at Eucharist. His guarantee is enough for me. - Fr. Dave on "Curt Jester", responding to previous commenter

    Two books stand out in my mind from that time of my life [as a child] - one was a Louisa May Alcott book in which a rosary is mentioned (prompting me to ask my mom "what's a rosary?") and the other was a biography of Saint Dominic (I read my way through the whole row of Vision Books lives of the saints!) in which I learned the words 'heretic' and 'heresy' - and once again, that mysterious thing, a rosary. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris", who grew up Anglican

    There is an elegance to nature that all can recognize, even those who do not recognize the intelligence that created it. When materialistic scientists say there is "no need for God" in whatever mechanism they're studying, we should consider that a compliment. After all, there's no need for a watchmaker inside a well-made watch; the fact that it works without the watchmaker constantly tinkering with it is what we mean when we say it's "well-made." As created by God, you might say, Nature comes well stocked with natural causes. - Tom of Disputations

    The things I thought were so important -- because of the effort I put into them -- have turned out to be of small value. And the things I never thought about, the things I was never able to either to measure or to expect, were the things that mattered. - Thomas Merton

    The weirdest, and perhaps most frightening part comes when you encounter what strikes you as some rather good passages...and you have no memory of writing them! You think...well, perhaps the editor really cleaned this up. You look back at your original manuscript - no, it was your work. Why is that frightening? Because you recognize that your best work comes from some place within that is beyond your control, that somehow, in the mysterious mix of skill, memory, intuition and the muse...this evocative little passage emerged. And you have no idea how it happened. And no assurance that it can ever happen again. - Amy Welborn on writing

    It took me a long time to get into the rhythm of meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary while praying the decades. I didn't know them all by heart and for a while it seemed like an ancient form of stressful Windows multitasking. But it comes more easily now, and frequently the Lord bestows little insights about his nature out of nowhere while I'm praying. - Roz of Exultet

    I have also learned that God wants not only our minds (because this is what I tend to give Him), but also our hearts. Song helps us to give our hearts. This also why the restoration of singing together-whether hymns or folk songs-is important to the restoration of a Christian culture. People need to know how to give their whole being. Music helps us do this. People resist. Singing makes them self-conscious. But this is exactly why it needs to be done-to thrust aside the self in order to give your entire self in song... - J Curley of "Bethune Catholic"