April 28, 2006

St. Louis Marie de Montfort

  It's a POD kind of day, that is, a day memoralizing St. Louis de Montfort, a 17th century saint who influenced Pope John Paul II, specifically in St. Louis' teaching that authentic Marian devotion leads us to Christ.

I checked The Inn at the End o' the World or Katolik Shinja or Sancta Sanctis, but thanks to the Catholic blog search engine, was able to satisfy my POD craving here, here and here.
Statistics & Other Things On My Mind

Dominico explains why gas is cheap today, taking inflation into account.

Meanwhile, Camassia wonders why it is that so many are so intensely interested in the Apocalypse. Indeed. At the very least it seems a bit unpractical. The chance of the Apocalypse occuring on our watch is not great, while the chance that we will experience a particular judgment is 100%. Ten percent of all those who have ever lived are presently alive now, which means that for at least 90% of those who have ever lived the Second Coming did not occur on their watch.

I think I've bought bottled water twice, for which I'll have to make an account.

From the past as foreign country dep't: Across the broad Atlantic and sixteen decades lie a group of whom only names are known, names that now sound like foreign heraldies. They had nothing in common relating to the blood, only their descendents would unite the diversity within their own DNA. They lived mostly in two lands: Germany, then not a country but a collection of independent states, and Ireland, the "off-shore island of an off-shore island" as a Continental once referred to it. Of sixteen great-great-grandparents, only one might've lived in America in 1845, the elusive father of the elusive James. As the 19th century unfolds, the men would come to America and farm or work in the factories. One became a shoemaker. The women would be seamstreses or homemakers.

Six months. That was the period one blogger was forbidden to blog by her Calvinist/anti-Catholic husband. That period of time was extended indefinitely. Later blog-reading was banned, a filter installed to prevent it. Later, emails to bloggers were, at least partially, shut off. And so her cloisterization presumably continues and we see the downside of a strict interpretation of St. Paul's verse about the male being the head of the family. Does that not limit the corrective on the male? How does he grow? If the friction between husband and wife make both better but the wife provides no friction, how does he improve? Or does he improve simply by her slow crucifixion, her sanctification serving eventually as an admonishment the way Christ hung on the cross to show us helplessness was actually power because it is that which makes us more like God?

UPDATE: The former blogger written of above is also being denied the sacraments. Jim of Bethune Catholic writes:
The Diary of Elizabeth Leseur [Note: I found it here] is like your story. Her husband ridiculed the Faith and mentally tortured and restricted her about it. She recorded her sufferings in her private diary. After her death, her husband read her diary and converted (I think he became a monk.)
Of all this I was convinced, yet I was too weak to enjoy thee. I chattered away as if I were an expert; but if I had not sought thy Way in Christ our Saviour, my knowledge would have turned out to be not instruction but destruction.[222] For now full of what was in fact my punishment, I had begun to desire to seem wise. I did not mourn my ignorance, but rather was puffed up with knowledge. For where was that love which builds upon the foundation of humility, which is Jesus Christ?[223] Or, when would these books teach me this? I now believe that it was thy pleasure that I should fall upon these books before I studied thy Scriptures, that it might be impressed on my memory how I was affected by them; and then afterward, when I was subdued by thy Scriptures and when my wounds were touched by thy healing fingers, I might discern and distinguish what a difference there is between presumption and confession -- between those who saw where they were to go even if they did not see the way, and the Way which leads, not only to the observing, but also the inhabiting of the blessed country. For had I first been molded in thy Holy Scriptures, and if thou hadst grown sweet to me through my familiar use of them, and if then I had afterward fallen on those volumes, they might have pushed me off the solid ground of godliness -- or if I had stood firm in that wholesome disposition which I had there acquired, I might have thought that wisdom could be attained by the study of those [Platonist] books alone.

St. Augustine's Confessions
Mark of CowPi emails...

I believe this is a big misconception about undocumented persons and their drain on social services. Many people use this as a reason but do not back it up with numbers and documentation. According to the local priest who works with many Mexican-American families here in central Oklahoma, the undocumented person does not and cannot get a social security number. Without a social security number, they cannot receive *any* government support like public health care. They also cannot pay taxes...The immigration problem is not just with illegal immigrants coming into the country. The whole immigration system itself is unjust and unbalanced in the fact that it makes it difficult and nearly impossible for the people who are trying to do things legally to do so, and it keeps those people as a disadvantage and suppressed sector of the population.
My frugal friend Ham o' Bone, in his pre-marital days, eschewed health insurance by making the "Health Care of Last Resort" - i.e. emergency room care - his health care. It is odd that today's immigrants have to jump through so many hurdles. Can't we greatly expand legal immigration and make it less bureaucratic?

April 27, 2006

Immigration Hermeneutics

I recently saw a post criticizing Ms. Noonan's piece (the latter excerpted on my blog below). I wasn't trying to make a political point in my post, merely the (banal) point that we like those we resemble. (I won't link to the post criticizing Noonan because I'm too fond of her - which is because I'm too much like her - thus proving her point.)

Still, Noonan has said that because Americans have soft hearts we need to have sharp minds; it would be ironic if she were falling victim to that very difficulty in her view on immigration. I'm just glad there are Christians and not Muslims coming over that southern border.

I wonder if today's illegal immigrants counterintuitively have more of a sense of entitlement than legal immigrants of the "golden age" of the 19th century. Using Babelfish, I translated a couple of the Spanish signs in the pro-immigration rallies in California and they were of the flavor that they already own this territory, "it is our country, you stole it from us during the Mexican war". We are entitled. And that attitude never leads to anything good.

I can tell you that the Catholics I know who are against illegal immigration have no rose-colored glasses on. Their disapproval comes down to the simple fact that immigrants make public schooling and health care more expensive since they don't put much, if anything, into the kitty (at least in the short run, which is the view most tend to take in a microwave society). Immigrants, like children, weren't so expensive in the pre-welfare state days and therefore it's not surprising people want less of both now.
Email I received:

Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
Capital Gains Tax
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Court Fines (indirect taxes)
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel permit tax
Gasoline Tax (42 cents per gallon)
Hunting License Tax
Inheritance Tax Interest expense (tax on the money)
Inventory tax IRS Interest Charges (tax on top of tax)
IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Liquor Tax
Local Income Tax
Luxury Taxes
Marriage License Tax
Medicare Tax
Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Septic Permit Tax
Service Charge Taxes
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Taxes (Truckers)
Sales Taxes
Recreational Vehicle Tax
Road Toll Booth Taxes
School Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone federal excise tax
Telephone federal universal service fee tax
Telephone federal, state and
local surcharge taxes
Telephone minimum usage surcharge tax
Telephone recurring and non-recurring charges tax
Telephone state and local tax
Telephone usage charge tax
Toll Bridge Taxes
Toll Tunnel Taxes
Traffic Fines (indirect taxation)
Trailer Registration Tax
Utility Taxes
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago and our nation was the most prosperous in the world, had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world and only one parent had to work to support the family. What happened?!
Cat Whisperer

Whether it's soothing the nerves of a mal-tempered Abyssinian Bobtail or teaching celebrities' cats how to deal with big city life, Cesar Jackson has an uncanny ability to rehabilitate felines and teach owners to be the loving "pack followers" their cats need them to be.

Cesar reveals that the secret of feline psychology is to understand that their needs do not correspond with the owner's. If at any given moment you want your cat to come to you, try saying, "go away Kitty-kitty!". If you want your cat to start scratching the furniture say, "please scratch the furniture, now!".

(Inspired by the dog whisperer.)

April 26, 2006

Posts You Can Use

Alice von Hildebrand's defense of feelings is online. Prompted by Sancta.

Peggy Noonan bravely confesses the modern faux pas:

I love immigrants from all places, of all colors, ages and backgrounds. But my feelings are particularly strong toward Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants, and when I think of why, two things come to mind. One is that most of them are Catholic, which for me means that for all our differences in language and experience I share with them the biggest essential. They love Our Lady of Guadalupe and so do I. They know Jesus. You don't get more basic than one's deepest beliefs, one's understanding of the truest facts of life. So Mexican immigrants are more like me than some of my neighbors are, and in my heart I don't see them as immigrants but cousins. (I am aware it is a faux pas to admit this. In the modern world we're not supposed to like our own. Sorry.)
Reminds me of how my wife's girlfriend, back when they were single and out looking for guys, used to wear men's cologne on the theory that we like what they smell like...I suspect, on a spiritual plane, the more we become like Christ the more we'll love Him.

Eye candy for the bibliophile.

Hitchens writes in Slate about how Hussein was no idle threat. But the sad thing is that the Iraqi people (as well as our soldiers) have had to pay so heavy a price for that evil leadership. It would've been better had the Iraqis rose up against Hussein and we assisted them, but that was unlikely precisely because of Hussein's brutality. A catch-22. The people there are still astonishingly afraid of him which is something we can scarcely imagine, having no experience of a police state. But a soldier in Iraq who went to my high school says that even now if you mention the name "Saddam Hussein" to Iraqis they cringe as if expecting a blow. How could they have risen up given that circumstance?
Sheen Foundation & Our Soldiers Need Help

From here:
We have received many letters from our military chaplains and soldiers thanking us for the opportunity to have such a wonderful little compact source of strength and inspiriation for their daily work in the field...

To give you an update, this month (April 2006), we have officially run out of Wartime Prayer Books to send to our troops. We have had to put many of our chaplains' requests for prayer books on a back-order list which we hope to fulfil once we have enough funds again to do so.
A Real Country Singer

Was listening to the old country station in town and heard "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man", a duet by Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty. There's an amazing freshness and energy in Loretta Lynn's voice and I couldn't decide whether I liked the song merely because of her voice or for the song itself. I suspect the former. They don't sing like Loretta much anymore, though I do like Martina McBride.

April 25, 2006

Love At First Drop

This is the sort of self-indulgent item that I would never post on my blog if I took my blog more seriously: Bone bought a Latin-English dictionary. Fortunately I don't, so here goes.

I've known Ham o' Bone for some 15 years and he still has the capacity to surprise. Case-in-point: he went to a Half-Price Books yesterday because he had a 40% off coupon. (His personal library, by the way, consists of maybe a dozen books since he considers the public library his personal one and far cheaper.) Nothing surprising so far.

But he goes in and spends three or four hours searching the titles, nearly 100% of which he doesn't own, and comes out (drumroll) with a Latin-English dictionary. You have to know Bone to know how deeply illogical this is on so many fronts. His wife, who also presumably knows him well, was similarly dumbstruck.

Bone happens to be an evangelical (not that there's anything wrong with that - am I digging a hole here or what? *grin*) and Latin seems more of a Catholic avocation unless you're a scholar of some sort. (Scholar of beer labels we are.) He will never look at this book again, trust me. It's a most extraordinary non-utilitarian purchase for a utilitarian (at least when it comes to managing his finances) to make.

Ultimately it seems the purchase was made for the purest of Bone-ian motives, a motive so pristinely Bone that I didn't even recognize it: the book was physically well-made. Deeply, to-the-core frugal, Ham likes anything that lasts and won't require expensive maintenance. He accidentally dropped the dictionary from a height of six feet and picked it back up with nary a scratch, thus permanently endearing itself to Ham. As Yogi says, you can look it up.

A poet has no apostolic authority, and his prophecy is by intuition and sensibility to tradition; but when he is true to the truth, aesthetics burnishes his metaphysics and gives him the mantle of an evangelist. - George Rutler, via Scipio of "Credo ut Intelligam"

I watched it very carefully for creeping, excessive Catholicism. - Richard Land, giving the green light for Southern Baptists to watch 'The Passion', now tagline of new blog "Excessive Catholicism"

I’ve increasingly stopped caring what happens on mainstream American campuses...My alma mater, Georgetown University, now has more members of its English department with specialties in film-making than it has members with active specialties in any recognizable field of literature. Unfortunately, the pattern extends beyond academia. I’ve begun to skip over the obligatory articles in the New York Times about the oppression of homosexuals or women or racial minorities somewhere in America. I skip over the obligatory articles in the Washington Times about how a radical anti-American agenda is being sold in the name of oppression of homosexuals and women and racial minorities somewhere in America. I ignore everything in the Nation, and I ignore all the pieces in the conservative press that Midge Decter once said should be titled “The World Is Going to Hell in a Handbasket; Let Me Count the Ways.” Mostly I look at the pictures, and I turn the pages. Maybe I’ve just gotten too old to stoke the fires of outrage anymore. The cost of aging, Matthew Arnold once wrote, is not that we no longer feel, but that our emotions are things so much less intense than they used to be. We are condemned to “feel but half, and feebly, what we feel.” But repetition is also a cause of feeling’s decline. Who cares anymore about all that stuff? The culture wars are over, ended by terminal boringness...No one is left to persuade, one way or the other, and the way things are now is pretty much what we’re going to be stuck with for a long time to come. - Jody Bottum of "First Things"

As I was driving to South Bend yesterday, I listened to a bit of Al Kresta's show.It was sort of Open Mike Monday, I guess, with the two major topics being Gospel of Judas/DVC and immigration. I was struck by the high quality of the discussion on immigration. People calling in seriously concerned that the impact of new legislation might be to create a perpetual indentured servitude class, that there really are issues of justice when people coming to this country are coming from places where they make $350 a year, but at the same time concern for the motives and policies of the Mexican government on this score. Puzzlement as to why the employer end of this issue is not the priority, along with securing borders. No screaming, an attempt to put it all in the framework of morality, law and pragmatism - as opposed to much of what I hear on this - an attempt to search for light, rather than simply generate heat. - Amy Welborn

When I was a Protestant, I noticed that the Catholic world was one of extremes: extreme holiness, and extreme, well, sub-holiness. The best Christians I knew were Catholics, as were the worst. I think traditional Catholicism magnifies this phenomenon by 10X or more. As a convert I still cling to my old protestant mediocrity, but I'm very fortunate to be surrounded by traditional Catholics who really want to be saints - and who, in my opinion, are well on their way. - Jeff of "Hallowed Ground" (obligatory disclaimer: opinions expressed in STG do not always reflect the management's)

The people I've met who support the indult Mass encourage me to think that it is, overall, a very BAD idea to allow a universal indult. They have been harsh, rude, condescending, self-righteous, holier than thou, more Catholic than the pope, and read to take umbrage at any sign of disagreement or cavil. This has been almost to a person. The only people I've found consistently more difficult to communicate with have been the Catholic Apologists in the local area. And when the apologist is a traditionalist, it's like plutonium constantly at the edge of critical mass. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli" (see disclaimer above; I just like controversy)

A man running a booth (pop a balloon with a dart and get prize) tried to get Mrs. Curley to play. I was lagging behind with 4 of the kids, Mrs. Curley had 3. He called her over and said, "3 darts for 2$-but I will give you a deal. How many kids do you have?" She replied, "7". The expression on his face changed. Mrs. Curley followed up with, "That sort of changes your deal right?". He nodded as Mrs. Curley moved on. - Jim of "Bethune Catholic"

Baptism photo from Rock of "Lofted Nest"

My oldest son, dropped a pan from the top of the fridge onto my new glass top oven and smashed it. I hadn't even had it a month. I frequently tell my children that we should just have a "Smash-a-thon" and get it over with. Let's get all of the things I love and hold dear, like my grandmother's china, and the crystal vase I got as a wedding present, and let's just smash them all at once and get it over with instead of breaking one heartbreaking piece at a time...The kids hate it when I mention the "smash-a-thon" and honestly my need to speak of it has diminished some over the years. Of course, so have the breakable items. - Elena of "My Domestic Church"", sounding Erma Bombeck-ish

In the household of God, I’m the one crashing on the couch. - title of Camassia post

We go from holding hands to just shaking hands over the course of a few minutes. Just follow the trend and it's no surprise that by the time we get in our cars, we're all strangers again. - Terrence Berres, on his welcoming parish

As my father lay dying in the hospital earlier this year, the prayers of the chaplain-priests were great comforts to my family and, more importantly, of lasting comfort to him...One priest took my confession in that tiny hospital room, and when I asked him to receive it, he acted as though it were the most natural thing in the world. God bless those good men...The archdiocese had just launched its "Future with Fewer Priests" campaign, and this catechist dutifully reported how we were going to have to learn to live with and in that future. "You may have heard about Catholics wearing medallions saying 'please call a priest' in the event they are taken to the hospital; those days are coming to a close." I volunteered that, no, we need not learn to live with it, and that efforts around the country were bearing vocational fruit. Since I had recently prepared an editorial for the Enquirer on the subject, I was able to share success stories from places like Lincoln, Peoria, Denver, Wichita and Chicago. We must never throw in the towel and "learn to live" without priestly icons of Christ. This Holy Thursday, pray for priests. - Rich of "Ten Reasons"
Various &/or Sundry

I picked up The New World Dictionary Concordance to the New American Bible for something like $5 a few years ago. What a nice little resource. Over 700 pages, the bang-for-the-buck ratio is extraordinary. I can look up little known figures in the bible and get their full biblical and extra-biblical history. I can look up more well known figures, like Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate and learn that both of their "reigns" ended in 36 AD, with Pilate no longer the Roman prefect of Judea and Caiaphas no longer the high priest. I also learned, in a lengthy entry on poetry, that Hebrew poetry does not rhyme:
Assonance, alliteration and rhyme, so common in occidental poetry, only occasionally occur in Hebrew poetry, not being in any way essential.

Tom of Disputations has a post with more comments than words in it. There should be some sort of blog term for when that happens.

George Weigel's books, since his opus Witness to Hope, seem not quite of the same calibar. I can hardly fault him for it, having neither his talent or work ethic, but is this a case where you live off the capital of your great first hit?

The rosary can be a nourishing prayer or it can be somewhat exasperating, with the decades going by with little or no comprehension of the mysteries. I've found a helpful book aid of late, helpful in the sense that it's pocket-sized and includes icons to help focus on particular mysteries. (The art is to my taste, with a Byzantine bent.) I'm speaking of Michael Dubruiel and Amy Welborn's Praying the Rosary. It also helped open up the Joyous mysteries to me. Before they seemed tinged with non-joy (i.e. the loss of Jesus and presumed dismay of Mary, the sword that would pierce her heart, the lack of inn, or hearts, the Holy Family found). But the book emphasizes the positive side of each mystery, which pessimists need, and there was also the helpful reminder on every page: "Ask Our Lady to help you pray this mystery." I've become increasingly mindful of the help I need to do just that.

One of the things that strikes me about the story of "Doubting" Thomas was that his unbelief seemed partially a function of simply not being present -- (i.e. "must be present to win!"). It was only when Thomas was with the others that Christ became present to him and he believed. Perhaps the story of St. Thomas is another way Christ tells us of the necessity of church, of not just going our own way and praying in the woods lest we miss something.
Fr. Raniero

In the latest "Word Among Us", publisher Joe Difato quotes Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa's sermon to Pope Benedict XVI and the Papal Household back last Advent. Fr. Raniero said:
To present oneself to the man of today, often lacking any knowledge of Christ, with the whole range of this doctrine is like putting one of those heavy brocade capes all of a sudden on the back of a child. We are more prepared by our past to be "shepherds" than to be "fishers" of men; that is, better prepared to nourish
people that come to the Church then to bring new people to the Church, or to catch again those who have fallen away and live outside of her.

This is one of the reasons why in some parts of the world many Catholics leave the Catholic Church for other Christian realities; they are attracted by a simple and effective announcement that puts them in direct contact with Christ and makes them experience the power of his Spirit.

If on one hand one must rejoice that these persons have found an experienced faith, on the other it is sad that to do so they have left their Church...In many people, everything continues to turn, from the beginning to the end, around the first conversion, the so-called new birth, whereas for us, Catholics, this is only the beginning of Christian life. After that must come catechesis and spiritual progress, which implies self-denial, the night of faith, the cross, until the resurrection.

April 24, 2006

Green Acres auf Deutsch

And now for something completely different. Thru the fracturing lens of Bablefish:
Grüne Morgen ist der Platz, zum zu sein.
Bauernhofleben ist das Leben für mich.
Landen Sie heraus bis jetzt verbreiten und breiter
Unterhalt Manhattan, gerecht geben mir diese Landschaft.

New York ist wo ich eher bleiben würde.
Ich erhalte allergisches riechendes Heu.
Ich verehre gerade eine Penthouseansicht.
Dah-Dah-ling ich liebe Dich aber geben mir Park Avenue.

Die Chores! Die Speicher! Frischluft! Times Square!
Sie sind meine Frau
Auf Wiedersehen, Stadtleben.

Grüne Morgen sind wir dort!
It appears "morgen" is the German word for both acres and morning. Go figure. Well, green mornings are a nice place to be too. Going from German to French, the French to Greek and then the Greek back to English we get:
The place is green mornings in order to they are.
The life of agricultural exploitation is the life for me is
Landed extends abroad up to now and wide
Maintainance Manhattan, me gives precisely this landscape.

The New York is where i you remain rather.
I receive the hay that feels allergisches.
I admire precisely a Penthouseansicht.
A Dah-Dah-ling me gives s'agapw' nevertheless the park avenue.

Chorus! The memories! Fresh air! Times Arrangement!

She is my Mrs
Auf xanavle'poyn, urban lives.
We are there green mornings!

April 23, 2006

Word Among Us Meditation

Interesting, concerning Aquinas. I guess it shouldn't be surprising, but it was to me:
Doubt is a human reaction. Even the saints had doubts. The great doctor of the church, St. Thomas Aquinas, once sighed to God, “I do not know if you love me, or if I love you. . . . I do not even know if I live by faith!” Or recall the other “doubting Thomas” who wouldn’t believe unless he could put his finger into the wounds of the risen Christ (John 20:25).

Jesus sometimes challenged his disciples to have greater faith. But he never discouraged them from bringing their doubts and fears to him. When they did, he always gave them the help they needed. Consider his response to his disciples in today’s passage: “Touch me and see” (Luke 24:39). He even ate in front of them to dispel their suspicion that he might be a ghost or a figment of their imaginations. He was more than willing to help them put their fears to rest.

April 22, 2006

Florida Trip Log

I’m always interested in excellence in others and the eight-year old boy on the plane was the Derek Jeter of annoyment. Definitely top 2%, but then, as I always think when I see anyone excelling, someone has to be in the top 2%. By definition. He projected with a megaphone voice his displeasure over every event, real or imagined. Odder still was when an a rather eccentric-acting lady in her 50s came up to offer ...what? She and the mother were obviously strangers, and my wife could smell the strong odor of alcohol about her person. Surprisingly, after a conference of great suspense, the mother agreed to move to the stranger’s seat, two back and across the aisle, and for the twenty minutes during the seat switch the child was quiet. We couldn’t be too obvious about trying to look over the seat at how she was doing this, although I think it’s safe to say there was no caning or duct tape involved.

Then it was on to Bill Luse’s straight from the airport because it was the only opportune time for our mutual schedules, which was unfortunate because we didn’t get to meet Bill’s wife, who, like all really, really good Catholics, goes to Easter vigil instead of vacationing. (I later learned she fainted during it, but is fine now.)

Meeting bloggers is a fascinating little exercise since it’s one of the few times in life you learn to like someone before you meet them. I was already familiar with Bill’s voice due to listening in on a streaming audio radio station debate concerning stem cells, and now I got to meet the real McCoy, not something that every Tom, Dick or Harry gets to do. Bill's work schedule and court case (he’d witnessed a crime in his neighborhood) made it perhaps not the best of weeks for a meeting but he was the gracious host, succoring us with delicious barbecue and some of earth’s greatest beers, Guinness and Bass. (Bass is slightly more bitter than Guinness but I’m liking it. A nice complement to Guinness.) Weeks ago he wrote something that had resonated with me long after, concerning how keenly he (me too) feels about interruptions to his schedule but if we were an interruption Bill gave no indication of it. There were wonderful pictures of his lovely daughters on the wall, including Bernadette on her First Communion Day. A very Catholic home. One handed down over the generations and I admit a bit of jealousy over his rootedness. Sure a house is just a thing, but the Crunchy Conifers seem to argue for the importance in rootedness to land, perhaps even land handed down in a city. My wife is drawn to the piano like a blogger to his keypad, so she played a bit, and generally performed the role for which she was destined: my better half. Bill, perhaps knowing we were still without groceries at that point (we’d come straight from the airport) provided beer for the drive home, er, I mean when we got home. (Just a joke, don’t sue.)

Easter Sunday
“I’ve recalled it often, here in my hole. How the grass turned green in the springtime…how the bell in the chapel tower rang out the precious short-lived hours.” – Ralph Ellison, “Invisible Man”
We managed to arrive twenty minutes early, which means just in time to find the last available seats, it being Easter. We’d gone to Our Lady Star of the Sea at New Symrna Beach and the only row left was being saved by just two people, trying to reserve spaces for twelve. The usher was aware of this and appeared increasingly unhappy about it. Finally at six minutes before Mass, we have a scene in the making. He insists the guy move over and let the people standing in the back sit there. And in that moment before fisticuffs ensued (I was ready to play my part in law enforcement since the usher was much older and thinner) the woman holding down the other side of the pew pointed and said, “they’re here!”. So the usher relented and eventually the row was filled, not two minutes before Mass. Needless to say, the distraction level was off the charts and to say it wasn’t a prayerful atmosphere is to put it mildly. This has convinced me I should be going to Easter vigil, where the long service scares away big crowds. Still I would miss that triumphant song, the one that creates goosebumps on goosebumps: “Jesus Christ is Risen Today”. It’s the rarity, sung but once a year, which evinces the rarity of the singular event: the Resurrection.

We are staying at the unusually named “Errol by the Sea”, unusual because few under forty know who Errol was and I’m not sure I do either. Errol Flynn? The name sounds of a different era, sort of a Dean Martin at the Sands feel, or Coney Island or Route 66 with the upended caddies. I’m always fascinated by borders, by where one country really ends and where another begins, where the ‘60s ended and the ‘70s began, etc… Class differences are also interesting. As one who is ruthlessly middle class (if you can juxtapose “ruthless” with “middle”) I find them interesting even though they’re indicative of nothing important. It’s a bit more rednecky than Hilton Head clued by the shuffleboard here as well as a big container labeled “Cigarette Butts Only!” (punctuation matters!) and I ponder what else you’d put in this big sand container. Cigars? I ask my wife. “It means ‘No Loogies’,” my wife explained. That’s just gross. The room has the world’s shortest book and judging from its condition, the most unread: “Shuffleboard Strategy”. There was also a fake camera in the elevator, which I managed to take a picture of before it was …stolen?

We head to the pool where we romantically share Bud Light out of a pitcher and otherwise read and relax. Kitschy ’60 songs come to mind, like “Hey There, Georgi Girl” and some of the hits of Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Later, as I became more “Floridated”, John Anderson’s “Seminole Wind” came unbidden. Fatigue and vacations are those things most likely to thin the membrane that separates the present from the past. I write from a platform about eight foot above the sand and ocean and we are now on sun-dial time. The sun, gilt as a robber baron, lay suspended just a metre or two west of the pool. When we are shaded, we’ll head in and leave the heron-smelt sea. (I don't know what that means.)

I have a hunger for newspapers and magazines. I read the Orlando and New Symrna Beach newspapers, devour the latest National Review and half of the New Yorker. I submit without comment a line from a newspaper article: “Radiation does not exist because you can’t see it.” So said a 71-year old resident of Chernobyl, who continues to live there despite government warnings. I also read an article about the disastrous crystal meth problem on Indian reservations. Two interesting and somewhat insulated communities are the Amish settlements in northeast Ohio and the Indian reservations in the southwest USA. Both are attempts to preserve a culture in the face of the overwhelming assimilative processes of modern media. Based on the book “Crossing Over”, an account of one woman’s escape from the Amish, and now this article in the Orlando paper, it seems the communities are in some sense use opposite approaches. In rural Ohio the Amish use a force called “shunning”, strong societal pressure, in order to limit crime and drugs and ensure at least outward religious devotion. It is also to some extent a self-selected society since teens are given a summer to travel and experience “the English” before making a final commitment.

With the Indian reservations, the problems with alcohol are well-known but now comes a bigger menace in the form of meth. Polices say of the 300,000 Navajos in Arizona, meth is a bigger problem than alcohol. If the Amish culture is too controlling (the Crossing Over author naturally paints an ugly picture), it seems native Americans have the opposite problem.

People reserve chairs at the pool and it feels vaguely unsavory. They get up at 7 or 8am and hustle down to put towels on chairs and then return hours later, if at all, when the sun is warmer. There are no signs prohibiting this but it seems contrary to the spirit of pool etiquette. Still, if this is the unwritten practice and everyone is aware of it (as they will be almost immediately) then what’s wrong with it? It’s an equal playing field. I suppose the problem is the inefficient use of resources which limits the maximum common good. There are long periods of time when prime real estate goes unused.

From the cave-cove
raised patio shaded from
the heat-sweat showered-off
cigar’d up after the mad dog
Englishman run I overlook
the last gasp of humanity
before the breeze-blue sea.

Shrieks of children’s voices
mingle with bird cries
the gulls hunt food
and refuse to say
if it’s just another day at work for them
or just another day of play.

Monday: Steven Riddle & Ancient of Days

It’s Blog Tour 2006! Lollapalooza has nothing on us as we travel twenty miles to the odd-sounding Titusville, Florida which my wife memorably immediately rechristianed “Tightass Ville” (which seemed fitting when we passed a “Pinch-a-Penny”, a place evidentally tailormade for Ham o’ Bone). We arrived at a popular local restaurant and found Steven and family. Samuel, their seven-year old child, broke the ice marvelously by using the word “excrutiating” in a sentence, a true vocabulary savant. (I was reading “Freakeconomics” later that week and learned that “Samuel” is the second most-popular name chosen by the most highly educated parents - that fits their family!). Things went swimmingly and Samuel is a charmer and a ham and his picture on Steven’s blog does not do his presence justice. He’s a curious sort, the observer observing the observer. Steven’s wife also was very engaging and helped keep the conversation ball rolling which allowed Steven and I to talk about stuff that might be of less interest to the gals. My wife loved the blog tour, bonding with Bill as well as Steven’s family. I have a socialable wife. I’m not sure I’d be quite as thrilled if the situation was reversed.

Steven relayed an anecdote that seemed mythological, about the time he stayed in the country and at night heard ominous crunching sounds outside his room. Turns out corn can grow two to three inches a night and the expansion and stretching makes the noise Steven heard. It sounded a bit surrealistic, like something out of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was also interested in Steven’s patience with “Cafeteria Catholics”. I’m sure I’m not telling tales out of school to say that he used to be more a liberal/progressive Catholic and that his patience is therefore understandable from the standpoint of it being really difficult to be against something you once were, at least without feeling hypocritical. What gets me is a Catholic blogger like Talmilda who used to consider the Pope has having nothing to offer her, nothing to say to her. I can understand that perspective from an atheist or agnostic. I can understand it, though less so, from a non-Catholic Christian perspective. But from a Catholic?

Tuesday: The Ocean is a Ride That is Always Open

An overcast morning presented an opportunity for a shopping run.

“As the military says, let’s go with Plan Baker,” I said at breakfast.

“That’s bravo,” my wife retorts. She gives me no slack.

I drop her off at Walmart while I browse a bookstore next door. A half-hour later she’s still shopping so I walk down what looked to be a promising path through the nearby woods. The dense foliage and narrow, sandy road were a welcome respite from the traffic nearby and the jackhammer workermen working on the condominium improvements. (A rather interesting experiment is taking place here. How much of relaxation is a function of reclining in the sun and how much due to a general absence of noise? Here we have one foot in warm water and the other in an ice bucket, figuratively speaking, because they are fixing hurricane damage via jackhammers next to the pool deck.) I soon came to a rather serious looking “No Trespassing” sign. I stood pondering if it meant only vehicular traffic before turning around. The forest here is packed with dwarf palmettos, fan-shaped plants that give this area’s woodlands their messy, jungly look. The palmettos jut at all angles, like exploded fireworks that have just reached their apex and haven’t yet begun to fall.

So it’s Tuesday and I’ve been remarkably beer-shy so far this trip. What kind of vacation is this? Bill, thoughtful host and loyal beer-drinker that he is provided me with two Bass and one Perch, er, I mean Guinness. The open refrigerator looks like….well, art. I can see it in my mind’s eye as a great oil titled, Two Bass and One Guinness in Condo Refrigerator. The black labels against the white. Better yet I can imagine them as three consumed beverages.

Took a bike ride before the beer. Florida seems to be to kitsch what Minnesota is to lakes. On just one stretch of road I saw pink flamingos, plastic manatees and dolphin mailboxes, rusty anchors with driftwood, and an attractive mermaid statue.

Back at the pool, an old gent of genial smile appears to be on a solo vacation. His belly would be the envy of many a Buddha statue and one leg appears to have been injured as he walks with a pronounced limp. From afar I see he’s reading “An Unlikely Angel”; his white hair sprouts from his shoulders like halos, the sun irridating each filament of follicle.

Everything is allusive here, the wet bathroom stones of Italy’s Ostia Antica ruins, the dry warm condo pavers of our front walk, the deep shoe prints on the sand of the Apollo moon mission, an umbrella planted alone in the sand of the American flag planted by John Glenn. The sea itself is un-allusive, the primordial allusion or great uncaused from which all allusions come. It stretches, like the sky, across a limitless expanse and we take it (the sky) for granted because we see it endlessly. We see the sea only sparingly. The white-topped waves crash unpredictably, or at least predictably in their ubiquitousness. The Spirit moves where it will but not ungenerously. There’s the rub: to marry exclusivity and generosity.

“Old woman, what is this freedom you love so well?” I asked around a corner of my mind.

She looked surprised, then thoughtful, then baffled. “I done forgot, son. It’s all mixed up. First I think it’s one thing, then I think it’s another. It gits my head to spinning.”

– Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”
Reading the book quoted above, I recall C-Span’s In-Depth with author Shelby Steele. Steele loves freedom, perhaps too much I think sometimes. I suppose it is possible to love a version of freedom too much, the version that is simply personal, individual autonomy. Not that my opinion matters or should matter but I feel ambivalent, wishing it on everyone who will use it and not fail, although that fails to recognize that the freedom to fail is inseparable from freedom. If you believe in freedom can you believe that hell is empty? Can you believe that all of mankind, in freedom, chose universally for God?

In Mother Angelica’s biography, Raymond Arroyo paints an unflattering portrait of some of the nuns in Mother’s 1950s monastery. You’d think monastics would, by virtue of their initial obedience to God, be protected somewhat from the foilbles that afflict the rest of mankind. But that’s not the way it works of course. You can’t “store up” obedience behind a plexiglass plate and a sign that says “break in case of emergency”. The nuns labor under the same gut-shot wounds of original sin that we all do. As a kid, it was a comfort to know of the existence of monasteries. I imagined them as natural wildlife refuges for saints. Poor diocesan priests looked like bastard step-children compared to the holy monks. Just knowning there were saint factories seemed to offer hope.

Wednesday: Family & Epcot Center

Wednesday was Epcot Center Day with the family, who are staying in houses southeast of Orlando. Epcot is basically a large campus of buildings designed to part you from your money. (As one employee said, Epcot stands for “every purse comes out lighter”). The cashier at the gate suggested that we try the wine or beer specialty from each country in the world showcase. Doing the math, twelve countries, two people = 24 drinks and at about $6.50 apiece that would be $156. You’d have to be drunk to do that.

My brother-in-law was the only one brave/foolish enough to ride the astronaut simulator machine, after which he humorously simulated vomiting. But this was the ride that precipitated the death of a 49-year old woman last week and the rest of us figured we'd pass, thank you very much.

There are about a dozen nations requested at Epcot’s “World Showcase”. I’m often amused by national pride being what it is. Here Norway is apparently proud of its Viking past, of which there are positive things one can say but not many. Let’s just say it’s no surprise that the Viking museum there was big on swords and not ploughshares.

We made our way from England (“the Beatles” live!) to France to Morocco. Islamic art, unlike Western art, prefers geometric patterns instead of figures of plants or animals or humans. Why? Their lack of belief in the Incarnation? [Update: Steven explained it's due to Islam forbidding graven images of pretty much anything that moves.] We stroll towards Germany. Little Matthew, Holy Terror, was throwing around a French wine cork souvenir with great energy when it nearly caused an international incident by straying into a German glassware shop and causing a glass to break. My brother-in-law rushed over to pay for it but unlike what the Italians might’ve said (“you break-a, you buy-a”) the German fraulein smiled sweetly and refused payment. A $50 glass!

In “Future World” we waited a half-hour before standing a half hour watching a long Kodak commercial. (One could wish that the future lacks these sorts of unpleasantries.) Finally we are allowed to sit down and put on our 3-D glasses in something called, “Honey I Shrunk the Audience”, which was amusing if light entertainment. The fountains and flowers outside the building were quite beautiful. Matthew humorously inched towards the water of one springing fountain by degrees, like our dog does towards forbidden food.

The enormous physical exertion of a vacation makes sleep delicious, almost in the way a fine meal is. A co-worker tells me rapturously of her sleep and I get it now, only now. Normally one may toss or turn for that slightly more favorable position but now all positions are a delight, all turns reward. Dream life flourishes on the banks of this Nile. In non-vacational life, a math-oriented job induces a sort of nightly mental tundra. Here the nights are too short to resolve all the sights and people experienced during the day.

In a sleep stupor, I answer the cell phone just after 11pm and it’s my brother and sister. They are at an Orlando nightspot thinking of me because there is Irish music there. Cue Jackie Mason: I would they think of me less! They have the energy of ten and my latest theory is that non-readers have more energy because reading is a sedentary activity and sedentariness begets sedentariness just as activity begets more activity. The thought of staying up at a crowded bar is also more appealing without the alternative of a good book.

Thursday: Everybody Into the Pool

We hang by the pool at my bro & sis’s rental house. A little gin (the card game) and a margarita or two (the drink) and the time flies. Pool dodgeball with the kids. (My toddler neice calls her older sister “he, he”, short for “sis, sis”. ) Later, tennis in the sweltering heat, 95 according to one thermometer. My bro now drinks Guinness after his previous favorite Killians, proving that tastes can improve with age.

Nice dinner with mom & dad where Dad feints left and steals the check at the last minute. Said he didn’t want to let me know ahead of time since he figured I'd order the most expensive thing on the menu. So untrue. But it does illustrate the basic problem with the welfare state: if you give people anything for “free” they’ll abuse it.

Friday: You Can’t Store Relaxation

Last day already!? We take a walk on the beach. I’m relaxed but you can’t store relaxation. Coming back late Thursday eve and it was a pang to see the old sea again and hear the wave-swell and imagine the heat on the skin again. On Friday the sun is plaintive. These Florida streets are paved with sand drifts like gold dust, the houses down Van Krecken St. so different - and yet in the glow of the horizon-full road, the little sandy uptick and the unnatural blue behind, the lack of hills and buildings giving way to land’s end, the same vertiguous feeling of a coming canyon and the notion that something’s coming - those houses all seem worthy. Lawns of grass or colored stones, of dark-hued or light frames, of roofs streaked with rust, none seem less attractive on a gold-mint day.
At a beach hotel
A sand driller relocates the shore
The waves become carmelized.
There’s a kind of juvenilization of time, beginning the week serious, a news junkie, problem maker and resolver, would-be scholar, host and family clanner, till by Friday a child again, rubber tires on the bike chase the asphalt lines zig-zagging on the sidewalls to the samba beat in my head. The bike ride creates a thirst for beer and Bill’s good soldiers would’ve gone down like Austrians before the Prussians if they were still around. Along with Guinness I was trying some Heineken Darks, not bad. There’s not enough Saturday in a Saturday and so it is on the last day of vacation where the calculus is ruthless. Bike ride, bike rental back, last surf, last walk on beach, music and beer on deck, pack, airport. Cue old gospel song on Brad Paisley’s latest:
Oh, they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise
Oh, they tell me of an unclouded day.
Oh, the land of cloudless days
Oh, the land of an uncloudy sky...

April 14, 2006

Good Friday’s...

...service at the Cathedral washed & soothed. Seeing the old stones, the sermons in stones, the sky-hurtling chasmatic interior spires, the choir with voices so angelic that I wondered at how close the banal cliché really is - that heaven is composed of choirs of angels singing - it all humbled. A soloist chills to the bone: "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" and I had trouble concentrating on the words, so powerful was the voice and the ominous, world-ending harmonics from the choir.

It's disturbing how routinely I just don't get it. Watching TPOTC, there’s a scene where Jesus is seemingly crushed in disappointment by the bad thief on the cross and my initial reaction was one of why is Jesus being portrayed as so needy of man’s affections? (Well, he is a man too, I think.) Then Dismas, the good thief, speaks of Christ’s innocence and again Jesus is so grateful, and I think: why should he be grateful for a thin a gruel as human praise? Then, - duh - it’s that Our Lord LOVES us and so wants each and every soul to come to him. It has not to do with Christ’s desire for praise or comfort but has to do with his desire to save souls and to see what he was doing on the cross as effective.

The Passion of the Christ also brought home that when Jesus said “do this in memory of me” he wasn't merely referring to the taking of the Eucharist, as important as that is, but also to the shedding of blood in ways real and symbolic. Do this in memory, he says, and John sees him on the cross offering his body and blood and it haunts: “do this in memory of me”. Bleed for others. The martyrs did.

April 13, 2006

Catholic Under Her Skin

A new Eden for Dawn! -- (well, maybe not quite Eden but it's home anyway.) :-)

A conversion is a miraculous thing and thrilling to witness, even "virtually" through the lens of blogland.

April 12, 2006

Been Reading...

...Death on a Friday Afternoon by Richard Neuhaus and the chapter titled "Witnesses" is excellent. Neuhaus grew up wondering how you could reconcile a lack of frenetic panic with the belief that if someone hadn't heard of Christ they'd be going to hell. How could an evangelist ever sleep or rest or do anything other than preach the gospel to hell-bound souls?

Neuhaus speaks of the liberty in Christ, which he perfectly captures with the phrase "holy insouciance":
We each ask of Christ, "What would you have me do?" And then, to please God, we do what we can best discern we have been given to do. We do it in freedom, with a kind of reckless abandon that is holy insouciance, knowing that the final judgment about whether we have done the right thing is not ours to make...It is doing for his glory what God has given us to do. As with the Olympic runner in the film "Chariots of Fire", it is giving God pleasure in what we do well.
The chapter ends with the profoundly moving last words of a Christian martyr in Algeria:
Last Testament of Christian de Cherge

If it should happen one day—and it could be today—that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to encompass all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. I ask them to accept that the One Master of all life was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to be able to associate such a death with the many other deaths that were just as violent, but forgotten through indifference and anonymity.

My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to share in the evil which seems, alas, to prevail in the world, even in that which would strike me blindly. I should like, when the time comes, to have a clear space which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God, and of all my fellow human beings, and at the same time to forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down.

I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this. I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if this people I love were to be accused indiscriminately of my murder. It would be to pay too dearly for what will, perhaps, will be called ‘the grace of martyrdom.’ To owe it to an Algerian, whoever he may be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam. I know the scorn with which Algerians as a whole can be regarded. I know also the caricature of Islam which a certain kind of Islamism encourages. It is too easy to give oneself a good conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideologies of the extremists. For me, Algeria and Islam are something different; they are a body and a soul. I have proclaimed this often enough I believe, in the sure knowledge of what I have received in Algeria, in the respect of believing Muslims—finding there so often that true strand of the gospel I learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church.

My death, clearly, will appear to justify those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic. ‘Let him tell us now what he thinks of it!’ But these people must realize that my most avid curiosity will then be satisfied. This is what I shall be able to do, if God wills, immerse my gaze in that of the Father, to contemplate with him his children of Islam just as he sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of his Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to establish communion, and to refashion the likeness, delighting in the differences.

For this life given up, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God who seems to have wished it entirely for the sake of that joy in everything and in spite of everything. In this ‘thank you,’ which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you my friends of this place, along with my mother and my father, my brothers and sisters and their families—the hundred fold granted as was promised!

And you also, the friend of my final moment, who would not be aware of what you were doing. Yes, for you also I wish ‘thank you’—and this adieu—to commend you to the God whose face I see in yours.

And may we find each other, happy ‘good thieves,’ in Paradise, if this pleases God, the father of us both. Amen.
Gratitude for a Pope

Pope Benedict XVI is a treasure. At first I wondered how much of it was merely his newness, the novelty of seeing only the second pope in my adult life. But I think there are many reasons he so resonates. Personally, we “have a history” - I read his books seven or eight years ago and in his very familiarity it was like the ascension of a family member to the throne of St. Peter. A father became the Holy Father.

He seemed to me the realist to Pope John Paul II’s dreamliness and his frankness allowed me to trust. He wasn’t afraid to be controversial in that Age Before Controversy, the era before blogs and polarization. :-)

But the primary appeal is that he is a Scripture scholar and that is charismatic in and of itself since Scripture = Christ = charisma. Scott Hahn’s ministry prepared the ground for American Catholics to appreciate Pope Benedict, giving us a craving for the experience of scripture and catechesis that Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, is uniquely gifted to satisfy.

In Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI we probably haven't gotten the leaders we deserve, but we have gotten the leaders we need.
Holy Week

I am grateful for the season. I don't look forward to it but I'm grateful for it just the same. Lent is the time of desert in which God, in a sign of contradiction, waters his flock. And it’s only when I get to Ash Wednesday that I realize how much I need Ash Wednesday: “Remember thou art dust and to dust you shall return” puts everything in much needed perspective. The need for penitence sometimes seems a lagging indicator; Lent reminds me that I need to repent for my lack of pentitential spirit.

Perhaps the reason so many line up and get their ashes with such enthusiasm is that in recalling the shortness of life it tends to make the trivial seem, well, trivial. In that clarity there is a palpable sense of the truth of "my yoke is easy, my burden light."

I do feel nonplussed that I couldn’t fast more effectively, with more discipline, especially on Monday and Tuesday of the past week which was for worthy cause of peace in Iraq. I felt great relief on Wednesday more because my guilt was over rather than my hunger. Skipping a fourth meal of the day – cereal – seemed trial enough, sadly. There is rarely a clean feeling of victory in Lent which, I suppose, is part of the cross of Lent.
Fictional Wednesday

~~(Note: not for the easily offended.)~~

There were no shades of gray in the world of Alan Sharpley, aged 20. Blaguards, they were, soulless collegians who bragged of their weekend conquests at Tuesday's fraternity meetings. It shocked him when one "raised the bloody flag", bragging of having had a menustrating woman leave evidence on his bedsheets, the ultimate affront for which she would pay, he said, and the crowd screeched and whistled its approval. From between his legs he lifted a section of the sheet, still red with the blood of a woman who'd given the gift of her body only to be mocked by a jeering crowd, her dried fluid held up for the contempt of the brethern. Cretins, Sharpley thought, and he knew to avoid them, cocooning himself in the warm spa of self-congratulation and thanking God that he was not like them.

After graduation he took a job as a dental hygenist several states away, in Tempe, Arizona. He soon met an alumni of the same college and they became friends, both having fond memories of alma mater if experiencing her in utterly different ways. Brett Sanford was wild but not unfeeling, immoral but kind. It was an odd experience for Alan, who'd grown up in the atmosphere of traditional morality where white hats and black hats were consistent in their coloring. For the first time he'd met someone apparently kind, considerate, even generous but who had sex with strangers and drank till he dawn. There was a cognitive dissonance.

Brett introduced Alan to buddies considerably coarser than himself and they went to bars nightly in a kind of mutually assured descent. Once, after buckets of beer and IVs of 151, they headed out to the 7/11. Alan had a bad feeling, an intuition. It was pride, he decided in retrospect, that made him ignore the feeling. To go home now, tired and drunk, would be a weakness. But the whispering... Myers, a bad seed for sure, was carrying and was saying something to Brett. Brett was shaking his head, like he was crazy but...what was it? They were going to rob the liquor store. Myers said he'd been in there, he knew the guy, he'd give them the liquor because he was just working there for the summer and wouldn't care.

For years Alan cursed that decision, wishing he'd listened to that inner voice, wishing he hadn't gone along with it and paid the consequence of a year in prison for accessory to armed robbery. It was his personal history's conventional wisdom that pride had led him to ignore his guardian angel's voice. It served him well until...until he wondered what might have been. What he would've become without getting caught, without the sentence that caused him to clean up his life, without finding God anew and losing his pride and stopping the decline of descent with his faithless but not unlovable companions. Was it not the gospel's message, that good comes of evil? Did not God continue to love him even as he punished him? Could it have been the devil who'd whispered, "go home now"? For it was Alan himself who'd busted them, Alan who'd accidentally tripped the silent alarm.
Free Stuff in the Mail...

A lot of charities send nickels or dimes in the mail. Religious organizations send rosarys, medals and pictures. It's amazing all the free Catholic kitsch that comes in the mail. Now hopefully when my godchildren come to visit I'll remember to let them have at it.
Random Generated Thoughts

Hey, you got politics in my religion! You got religion in my politics! Corner post.

I think I said before how reading Cobra II has been a joy simply for its seeming lack of bias. While newspaper articles are irritating for their transparent bent, the novelty of Cobra II is how the authors deal in facts and look at things from both sides. I'm about 150 pages in and George Bush comes off, by my lights, as doing the right thing given what he knew. It's rare that one can read a one-column newspaper article and come away with the same conclusion. (Disclaimer: I'm sure progressives who read Cobra II will still think Bush the devil.)

John at the Inn at the End of the World, as is his tradition, posts some wondrous old pictures.

When I was a kid, I liked Masterpiece Theatre for the bibliophilic pornography. You know, the opening scene with the fine bindings and good music after which I would switch the channel. But watched "He Knew He Was Right" last night and it was damn good. PBS is publically financed, so I say if we're going to suck at the government teat we may as well enjoy it - so I'll be taping future Masterpiece Theatre's.

I've been thinking a bit lately about how your role determines your approach to issues. Many think that Cardinal Ratzinger has "changed" as pope even though it was not he who changed but his job description. If I'm the cantor and then I become a catechist, will those who are being taught the Catechism cry that I am not being true to myself because I'm not singing what I'm teaching? Singing and teaching aren't oppositional; it's a question of emphasis. Some said that Pope John Paul II was concerned about how the Iraq war would impact Christian/Muslim relations and rightly so. His charge was not the protection of the American people but his flock, which to some extent he saw as including all people. The protection of America is Bush's concern and he must seek to do that without imperiling his own soul. You'd think more folks would sympathize with the difficulty of his position.

I made these images for a friend but thought I'd share with the crowd. Here and here.

Staff meetings are welcome opportunities for sharpening comedic skills. There is really some good off-the-cuff material. A guy named Bud calls in from another location and participates via speaker phone. He takes his share of abuse such that it seems illustrative of a group's need for a scapegoating, ala René Girard’s mimetic model. But he's very good-natured about it.

Posts will be scarce as hounds' teeth next week as I'll be heading to Florida. The highlights will be, should it work out, long-awaited meetings with William "Night Sentry" Luse and Steven "Appetency" Riddle.

The end of Lent is like the end of life - we look back and think: "I could've done more." In the riches of Lenten liturgies, spiritual readings, Way of the Crosses, don't forget to spend private time with God.

Stop me before I spend again! I'm trying to fend off, using only a poor scabbard & shield, the tantalyzing temptations of the following books. If you recommend one in particular and think I should succumb to buying it, please let me know. If you think I should pass on one, that is good information also:
  • The Triumph of the Therapeutic : Uses of Faith after Freud - Philip Rieff
  • En Route - Huysmans
  • Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
  • The Byzantine Rite: A Short History - Robert F. Taft (don't call me Bob!)
  • Earthly Powers - Michael Burleigh
  • Theory of Everything

    What do Hollywood, Enron, and The Da Vinci Code have in common? The collapse of the American work ethic, a topic not personally foreign though Bone does say I do the work of ten men. (I wonder if he's being facetious?)

    Let me 'splain. The trend in Hollywood is sequels. They're doing a remake of Baywatch if'n you can believe that. (Californians do believe in recycling.) Surely a sequel to Baywatch is a sign of the Apocalpse though. And why recycle plots and characters? Because it requires less work.

    The Da Vinci Code. Brown's book is alluring because if Jesus was married then the canonical gospels can't be trusted. If the canonical gospels can't be trusted then the gospel's demands on us can't be trusted. If the gospel's demands can't be trusted then we can slough off those demands and seek our ease.

    Enron. Enron found a way to make money (on paper) without making anything of value. They were able to perform arbitrage-ic feats of monetary gymnastics in order to please - for a fiscal quarter or two - Wall Street. The reason Wall Street must be pleased quarterly is because investors aren't patient. The reason investors aren't patient is they want to make the quick buck. The reason they want to make the quick buck is they don't want to work.

    Here insert that Latin phrase that means that the point has been proven. I'm too lazy to look it up.

    April 11, 2006


    I drifted away from the faith in college, became an example of how a little learning can make you quite a dumb guy. I read a lot of Nietzsche and Marx, bought all the “opium of the masses” and “god is dead and Christians killed him” rhetoric that one tended to pick up on campuses in the late 70s and early 80s. When I graduated, I was working in Washington, D.C., as a business reporter. I worked hard, played harder, was living a far from resolute life. One day I found a copy of John Paul II’s Redemptoris Hominis in a used book store, bought it for a quarter, and took it home. What I read changed my life. I had never felt the church had anything to say about my life or the world I live in. Here’s the pope talking about Jesus as the answer to the arms race and Jesus being the only one who could show me who I really am. I read everything I could find by the pope. A little later, while on business trip, I started reading a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel room. Again, only because John Paul was always talking about Scripture. It was the first time I ever opened a Bible. I took it home and kept reading it over and over. And I just kind of kept reading my way back into the church. Eventually I went back to graduate school to study Scripture and religion. After that I landed a series of jobs writing about the church. I’ve been doing that for the last 16 years. So I guess I owe the man my life. It’s still rare that a day goes by when I don’t consult his writings on something. JP2, pray for us. - David Scott, substituting on "The Daily Eudemon"

    Christians, the papal preacher said, tend to place restrictions on what they think God can require of them. He outlined a typical Christian's commitment: Prayer, yes; but not to the point of losing sleep or rest… Obedience, yes; but not to the detriment of our own convenience. Chastity, yes; but not to the point of depriving ourselves of some entertaining spectacle…Such a collection of "half-measures," Father Cantalamessa said, is evidence of a superficial faith. A deeper faith, he said, acknowledges the reality of Christ's suffering and one's own role in causing it. "I am Judas who betrayed Him, Peter who renounced Him, the crowd that cried out against Him," the preacher said. "Each time I have preferred my satisfaction, my comfort, my honor to that of Christ, that is what has happened." Superficiality Christianity, the preacher continued, reflects the "hardness of heart" that the Gospels mention: "the refusal to submit to God, to love Him with all one's heart, to obey his law." - Father Raniero Cantalamessa via Curt Jester

    Even more so than John Paul who grew up in Catholic Poland, Benedict focuses his attention on the person grown up without faith. Because men do not find faith through rules, this Pope foregoes even more than his predecessor stern admonitions - sexual morals were no topic in Cologne - and instead explains the basic contents of the Faith first. There seems to be a misunderstanding that Ratzinger has become milder as Pope. He made it clear that he insists on proclaiming, without compromises and with discipline, the Faith and morals of the Church. It would seem irresponsible to him to give people who are searching an erroneous or incomplete 'manual' for their peace of mind/soul, therefore there is no compatibility issue with a theology of love. - via Gerald of "The Cafeteria is Closed", translating an Austrian newspaper column

    "Interminabilitatem." Sometimes Latin sounds like fake Latin, doesn't it? - Tom of Disputations

    The end of Lent approaches...I am not saddened by the sense of failure that often comes to me toward the end of Lent, where I wonder where the initial enthusiasm went, and where all my determination to grow closer to the Lord. The Lord has blessed me with a quiet and profound growth that I feel can survive the end of Lent... I would suggest that you spend a little time yourselves and see what fruit you can gather from this season and carry on into your lives. Each lenten season should lead us a little closer to the Lord. And as with approaching a whirlpool, the current that lead to Him grow stronger as we near, there will come a Lent in which you are caught up in the torrent of His love and drawn inexorably to Him for the joy and the benefit of all of humankind. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

    [W]e blue-state Americans are all heir to that Enlightenment attitude...it’s not really that we lack tradition, but that that anti-tradition is our tradition. I and others who grew up with me also unconsciously absorbed certain “eternal” truths that framed the way we look at things, such as that teenagers always rebel against their parents, that childbearing is something of a side issue when it comes to sex, that group happiness is achieved through the aggregate happiness of individuals, along with a great deference toward science (everyone knew that Darwin was right, though few could tell you why), and a generally schizophrenic attitude toward the past — a mixture of nostalgia and terror at “turning back the clock.” I’ve been questioning a lot of those assumptions in the last few years, but in doing so I’ve been faithfully upholding one of my tradition’s great bumper-sticker slogans: “Question authority.” Following the anti-tradition tradition has somehow led me back to plain old tradition, yet I can’t really join it because I’ve already broken with tradition... Maurice Frontz left a comment basically arguing for the “election” idea: God chose me, and grace is irresistible. I understand the theory, but my subjective experience is more ambiguous. To some extent I have felt drawn in, but these days it’s less a feeling of something pulling me than that I can’t leave. Last weekend when John asked me about my reasons for thinking of baptism now, I said that it feels like an acknowledgement of what I’m already doing. After three and a half years and a lot of whinging and doubting, I’m still going to church. I blog like a Christian. I talk like a Christian. I even think like a Christian, a lot of the time. But I have to admit, it feels more like habit than love. I think that’s why the idea of testimony makes me nervous: “Well, I guess I’m not leaving” isn’t exactly witness on par with “Amazing Grace.” And I also know that fixation is kind of a pattern with me — there have also been men I couldn’t seem to leave, much as it would have been a good idea. So the “irresistible” nature of it might be the Spirit, or it might not. Of course, I realize not everyone has a rapturous “born again” experience. But I’ve spent an awfully long time in limbo, and the baptism may be more an attempt to get out of limbo than a signal that it has already ended. Whether that’s a good reason to do it, I’m not sure. - Camassia

    You can’t really join the tradition you’ve been led to because you’ve already broken with tradition: that makes sense to me, more or less; it’s not coming to you as tradition, but as what I modeled as “imported personal patterns.” (When in doubt, invent a term, and its meaning might become clear later.) I wouldn’t be surprised if part of your confusion is due to others expecting you to treat these ways of thinking as traditions, which you don’t find easy to do both because for you they aren’t traditions, exactly, and because what for you is a tradition would ordinarily make you reject it...If I may give a Catholic spin to Maurice’s “God chose me, and grace is irresistible,” I’d say yes, but in general God’s choice is experienced through human experience. “It was only when I looked back on my life that I saw how God was leading me,” is a common sort of Christian testimony (even among testimony-averse Catholics!). But that’s only possible if the experiences themselves, as they occur, are not entirely different from other experiences. - Tom of INTP, responding to Camassia

    April 10, 2006

    Number 1 Rule of Action Shows...

    ...is that you never shoot the tires.

    "Shoot the tires!" we shout if it's Jack doing the shooting. The bad guys labor under the same handicap. (Must be some sort of union thing. But then that makes sense since you couldn't have the obligatory chase/escape scene if you had cars getting grounded all the time.)

    So Jack steals a policecar since the two policemen are, shall we say, indisposed. But fortunately the bad guys honor the Marquis of Queensberry "Never Shoot the Tires" rules.

    The other imponderable is how when Jack received the recording implicating President Logan, he didn't immediately called Chloe and have her record it. That way if he gets killed the message lives on. Go figure.

    ...of latest book from leading British historian Michael Burleigh, via Amy Welborn:
    Describing his own perspective, Burleigh says he has been as influenced by literature as anything else; and thinks the arts have a great deal to teach us, but are often overlooked. " I am writing about the history of Europe, but one that has been shaped, molded and defined by literary giants. These men understood the world and human psychology better than most of their contemporaries, and so it is to them we must go if we want to gather an accurate picture of the times they lived in. Personally, I’ve been very influenced by British poets--Shakespeare, Dryden, Pope, Byron, Tennyson and T.S. Eliot; the great Russian novelists like Dostoyevsky, but also the liberal and conservative philosophers Berdayev and Semyon Frank, down to Solzhenitsyn. These luminaries, together with contemporary artists, like the novelists Michel Houellebecq and V.S. Naipaul, have more to say about our current predicament than most sociology departments ever could." Various conservative thinkers, notably Edmund Burke, the great foe of the French Revolution, and the (recently deceased) pundit Maurice Cowling, have also had an impact upon Burleigh’s formation. The seminal books of historian Norman Cohn, the political scientist Eric Voegelin and the eminent Catholic historian Christopher Dawson, have registered deeply, too.
    Christ & Judas

    At first glance it might seem something of a pious sentiment when some theologize that the worst part of the Passion for Jesus was the betrayal by Judas. But it does emphasize how seriously Christ took his friendships (i.e. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends") and that Jesus desired no one lost (...the parable of the Good Shepherd). We tend to think of the Passion in terms of its collective impact, the burden of guilt of all mankind laid upon on his shoulders, but in that tension between the general and particular, the individual and the collective, there is an otherworldly whiff of Isaiah 55:8-9.
    Where Are The Moderate Muslims?
    More poemage:
    Old Man at the Byzantine Church

    Trim, well-dressed, an icon of dignity,
    the old widower frequents the second-to-last pew.

    Wrinkles cut like gorges through
    his deeply tanned face as he turns and says
    "A jokester!" of the new priest who
    makes stray comments at the end of liturgy
    that rarely strike me as funny.

    "A jokester!" a Sunday later,
    whether as compliment or rebuke I cannot tell,
    his voice heavily accented and expression unreadable
    in a man who came from the Old Country in 1945.

    He listens to Mozart before Liturgy and
    sings the Slavonic verses during
    perhaps because there are enough to sing the English.
    Joking around:
    Request To My Boss

    Don't need more pay
    Don't need a shorter day
    Don't need more training
    Don't need less straining.

    Don't need more direction,
    Don't need less inspection,
    Don't need more vacation,
    Don't need more sensation.

    Don't need more computing
    Don't need more recruitin',
    Don't need less guff,
    Don't need more huff.

    Don't need less meetings
    Don't need more greetings
    Don't need less work
    Don't need less jerks.

    I just want a phone that rings
    like Jack Bauer's.
    Common Census

    Self-identified regional borders. Probably roughly coincides with media markets?

    April 09, 2006

    Symbolism in "The Passion of the Christ"
    Zee Problem With Scrooge's Conversion...

    Byzantine Catholic Bishop John compares the tale of Dickens' Scrooge's conversion with biblical ones.
    What is similar in the biblical conversions and what is different from them to that of Dickens' miser?

    Scrooge's attitude toward life is converted to a different ideal. The others' very lives are converted to a person, the person of Jesus Christ.

    The conversions of St. Matthew and Zaccheus come after just an invitation from Jesus. There was no consideration or justification. St. Paul's conversion, following the death of Jesus, required the assistance of the church in realizing the Lord's personal invitation. (He hears Jesus' voice telling him to "Get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do" (Acts 9:6). Paul is flabbergasted; he goes to the city but does nothing, even eat or drink, until Ananias, sent by God, comes to him and helps him open to the power of the Holy Spirit.)

    In all cases, their response to the encounter allowed them to become part of Jesus' very body.

    April 08, 2006

    Fr. Benedict Groeschel...

    ...speaks the truth, at a talk at Ave Maria:
    The Protestant ethic in this country was very fertile, a favorable environment for the growth and establishment of Catholicism. But it's gone. And we are moving now into a studied, organized, purposeful secularist state, a state that refuses to have any relationship to the divine law or to God. And you see this in the decisions of the Supreme Court in recent decades. Please God, it may change. But the Supreme Court is the wild card in American democracy. I personally think it's the crack in the foundation of our country that will eventually bring the country down. The Supreme Court gave us the Civil War. The Supreme Court gave us racial segregation after the Civil War. And the Supreme Court gave us abortion. And it may yet do worse things. We are happy to see it moving the right direction. But it's a wild card...

    April 07, 2006

    An Englishman's Keening

    Joseph Pearce has a yearning for home, which in his case is England. Who could not share his preference for Naples, Italy over Naples, Florida? Europe has star power and resonates even in name. England, in my mind, conjures two radically disparate entities. One is the land of Shakespeare and Dickens, Robin Hood and "Merrie Olde England". The other is the perennial persecutor of poor Ireland, the empire-builder who looked down on all her supposed inferiors.

    I thought for a moment how waxing eloquently about England reads as poetry, while waxing eloquently about Little Rock, Ark reads as...parody?
    O to be in Arkansas
    Now that April’s there,
    And whoever wakes in Arkansas
    Sees, some morning, unaware,
    That the cement is fresh-poured.
    -Robert "Call Me Bob" Crowning

    Doesn't have quite the same panache. I'm sure Arkansas is a fine place but the language and resonance of associations leaves much to be desired.

    Update: Steven Riddle defends Florida on more practical grounds:
    "Given the political, intellectual, and emotional climate of Naples, Italy, I'll take Naples FL any time. At your west door the Gulf of Mexico--to the East the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee, to the North Corkscrew Swamp, Myakka River, and other like place, to the south the everglades and eventually the keys. From the boat dock you can catch a Ferry to Key West. Europe has longevity, but with it comes a certain ennui. We may not have the cultural force, but still, I don't envy Europe. I used to. But I've come to the conclusion that the unique experiment of America distills the very best of what we are envious of and adds to it a patina of true faith that is hard to find alive in Europe (or so I'm told)."
    Week in Review

    Into the glade for the weekly sing and I’m distracted by little things…like the disturbing fact that one of my favorite Ratzinger books is unfindable. Salt of the Earth is irreplaceable in the sense that the key passages are highlighted, but all the highlighting is useless if you lose the book. I’d searched for it in vain in search of a response to something Camassia, who eerily asks some of the same questions concerning discernment I do, posted.

    The velvet fist. Wouldn’t that be a good description of St. Thomas Aquinas? He could speak with apparent ease of the damned and be unemotional about the permissive will of God and yet in the next heartbeat express the gentlest of sentiments. His prayers have no sense of distance but embrace a weakness he doesn’t in the least portray. The Eucharistic benediction prayer Tantum Ergo Sacramentum is affecting: “Lo! o'er ancient forms departing, Newer rites of Grace prevail: Faith for all defects supplying, Where the feeble senses fail.”. Reading the Summa, you get little sense of any personal defect in faith or any feebleness in sense. Perhaps it is more that he is a man of his age. We live in an age of emotion and demand it in heaping qualities. Barbara Walters wants to see tears and so do we else we wouldn’t watch her. Strength and seeming coldness are combined with a gentleness in Aquinas, and you see it also in Jesus who was as gentle as a lamb and strong as a lion. He said some of the harshest words imaginable calling the Pharisees “white tombs” and saying to Judas: “It would be better if you’d never been born!”. But also the gentlest: “Oh Jerusalem…How often I've longed to gather your children, gather your children like a hen, Her brood safe under her wings.”. We would say today those statements are inconsistent but it is we who have so polarized ourselves that we have no category for the holy?

    A thousand old memories come, like searching for the right pair of running shoes in K-Mart circa the early 90s. I recall the new shoe smell, like the new car smell only cheaper to acquire. How tight money seemed back then! I cringed if it cost $5 over what I wanted to pay. And then I wanted something called “Docksiders”, an exotic name for a shoe that appeared of a certain cast of the color brown and with the consistency of leather. I had no one to tell me, no apostles who reached me with greater detail. I knew little of them other than they looked shiny and cool and it is somehow ironic that then I would refuse to buy on account of price, and now I would refuse to buy on account of desire. Marrriage makes a man less willing to dress sharply even though he would not want his wife to do likewise. One tends to see clothing oneself handsomely as mere vanity but must fight that.
    On The Corner...

    ...a professor explains why health care has outpaced inflation:
    A significant difference is that we do not have the expectation that auto insurance will pay for every tune-up and oil change. Auto insurance remains true insurance, a risk pool to indemnify the pool members against a loss. Health insurance, on the other hand, has become largely a program of prepayment for routine care, coupled with pooling against the risk of a large loss. One reason for the high inflation rates in healthcare is the moral hazard induced by having insurance (premiums paid indirectly through a third party) cover routine care - think of all the parents that run a child to the doctor at the first sign of a runny nose. It's analagous to the expectation that your auto insurer will pay if you need your tires rotated.

    Evidence can be clearly seen in the Medicaid and Medicre programs - which were VERY successful at doing exactly what they were intended to do, which was to increase the level of care received by the elderly and poor by reducing financial barriers. LBJ and Wilbur Mills forgot that these folks tend to be in poorer health, they pretty much created incentives for costly hospitalization rather than cheaper outpatient and pharmaceutical therapy, and overlooked the fact that by significantly increasing demand while restraining the supply of health care (through things like the Hill-Burton Act's Certificate of need laws), prices HAD to increase. The rate of medical inflation nearly doubled.

    The next federal response? Price controls on Medicare reimbursement through fee schedules and DRGs, which was the population receiving the plurality of services. That created an incentive to shift costs to private insurers, which caused insurance and health care costs to spiral in the 1980s to the private sector, creating the problems we have today.

    It's an old story to anyone who remembers neoclassical microeconomics or thinks like an old-school neocon. Daniel Moyhnihan "got it." Unfortuantely, almost no one else does.
    Random Generated Thoughts

    You go to a comedian, you expect a laugh. It's their job after all and expectations are high. But when you find humor in unexpected places it's sort of a bank error in your favor. For example Steven Riddle is a generally sober-minded, devout Carmelite and so I was taken off-guard by his response to my email saying that my office move was no promotion but merely a way to replace phone calls with visits: "Oh Alas! Nothing can be worse than having the baleful eye of Sauron constantly at your door." That struck me as LOL funny, exaggeration as humor. Another example is President Bush, famous for his malapropisms but it was still unexpected to hear that at the Prayer Breakfast this morning he referred to the pope as "Benedictine". God love him, he's hopeless.

    There are two goliaths on the national stage: Big Business and Big Government. They appear to have at least one thing in common: their toilets seem to flush more consistently and with more power than your average home toilet. You don't see clogged toilets too often at the State House or at the modern corporation. I think this might well be proof that big government and big business are in fact conspiring to persecute the middle class in requiring reduced water-flow toilets.

    While we're (ok, I'm) on the subject of bodily functions, I wonder if one can over-psychologicalize bad dreams. I mean I recall a vaguely unsavory one which I’m not sure was unsettling for any reason other than to force me to get up and relieve a full bladder. Mind says: “he appears too lazy to get up from bed and relieve his full bladder. I know, I will create a dream which will alarm him to the point of full awakefulness!” The mind is a crafty, devious thing.

    Today's joke: If Cynthia McKinney wasn't Irish, none of this would be happening to her.

    I'm saddened by the demise of the Cruncy Con blog. Somebody should drape it in black curtain and have a proper wake. It's like we won't have Richard Nixon to kick around any more, with Rod playing the character of Dick Nixon. (Of course the obligatory disclaimer applies, he's got a lot of good things to offer. But as I mentioned to my wife yesterday Dreher comes off as a know-it-all, but if you are truly a know-it-all you'll know how not to sound like one.)

    One of the things that some Crunchy Cons say is that we should be more aware of what it takes to get meat to the table. In other words, we now eat a steak without experiencing the effort and shedding of blood that raising and killing a cow would take. Now I'm all for being appreciative of the fact that someone had to painstakingly raise and feed that cow and then had to do the unpleasant chore of taking a knife to it in some fashion. But I'm not sure I follow how it is a good thing for me to personally kill a cow. I consider it progress that we can specialize and avoid that particular task. Perhaps the Crunchy Cons see the raising and killing of livestock a way to toughen us up rather than for appreciation purposes. But to use an imperfect analogy, we all experience the benefits of freedom as compared to the misery in totalitarian regimes. But we had to fight for freedom. Is it necessary that I kill Nazi soldiers in order to appreciate my freedom? We all experience the benefits of the things farmers give us. But is it necessary I farm in order to appreciate that? Spiritually-speaking, we all experience the benefits of grace that Christ gave us by dying for us on the cross. Is it necessary I experience the cross in order to appreciate that? Maybe, maybe not, but regardless the Scriptures are clear that I have to take up my cross and experience a taste of that in order to rise with Christ.

    Scott McDermott writes in the biography "Charles Carroll of Carrollton": "It should come as no surprise that the next generation of Carrolls lacked discipline and emotional balance. They were not alone in this. The children of the war displayed a romantic narcissism in contrast to, and reaction against, their fathers' self-sacrifice." This we see replayed time and time again. The "Greatest Generation" gave us the Baby Boomer generation. Moral flaccitude follows virtuous living as night follows day. Pondering this, it's easy to despair since everything seems so pre-determined. Our virtues or lack thereof seem mere chronological accidents. We may see it in on a micro level when after our Lent we are tempted to let ourselves go in the easier days that follow. The only way I can see around it is to recognize that these rhythms are of the natural realm and that there are ebbs and flows of self-sacrifice and the ebbs can only be overcome by something more than natural. Call it grace. Another reason to focus on Christ and not ourselves.

    Update: Received humorously titled email: "Don't halve a cow, man"!