August 30, 2006

Guinness Tested, Obi Approved

~ Obi, in better form and on a sunnier day ~

Took our dog Obi swimming at the lake, one of those activities that “look better on paper”, which is to say it was a large pain in the butt. First, the weather was downright cold, the wind whipping off the water as if to emphasize the lack of sun. Looks like the whole week is crashing weather-wise, an unfortunate turn of events, but one that can be partially solved by books and beer since they're impervious to the natural deflation a cloudy day brings.

Second, Obi was always looking for trouble, never content to merely sit & enjoy the whipping wind and chill temps. He scoured the landscape not for its natural beauty but for potential targets to chase after. I had a Guinness to warm me up, and it occurred to me that Minnesotans drinking great quantities of alcohol would be better off just moving to Florida. Garrison Keillor boasts of the toughness of stalwart Minnesota-winter tested souls but how much of their heroism is due to the golden lager? Enquiring minds want to know.

Obi's swimming talents leave much to be desired. “Whale on the beach” was a derisive chant boys used to yell at generously fleshed young women during Spring Break, but Obi looked far more the part on this particular beach. His fur was slick and black as an oil spill and he flopped about out in the water in a way that would be humorous if I wasn't worried about him drowning. He's fastidious too. It’s funny that he won’t swim in just any particular body of water. This one is cleaner and clearer than average so I guess it met the Obi test.
Matthew 23:27-32

Back when I was a kid we'd occasionally play the game of trying to decide which family members, if they'd lived at the time of Jesus, would've clung to the Jewish traditions rather than accepting the Messiah who acted in unexpected ways.

The thinking is that the more conservative members would've clung to the Jewish traditions and scoffed at Christ as another miracle-worker in a long line of miracle workers.

But I think this has a few problems. One is that it denies the power of grace. It says that we are first creatures of our predilections and innate tendencies rather than children of God capable of being "surprised by truth". It seems unduly mechanistic, as if we're all robots.

Second, to insist that we would've followed Christ at that time is to show ourselves, ironically, as Pharisees. In today's Gospel reading Jesus says to the scribes & Pharisees:
And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets' blood.' Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets.
In claiming they were different from their fathers, the Pharisees were inadvertently saying that they were there fathers.
Attitude Adjustment for Bad Attitudes

Do you suffer from a huge sense of entitlement? Do minor irritations beset you? Well, fortunately there's a helpful Attitude Adjuster: Simply say the sorrow mysteries of the rosary, meditating on the Passion, and watch your sense of entitlement and irritation disappear! (Rinse & repeat if necessary.)
Visited... old seminary in Western Ohio (aka "God's Country"; along OH-274, every third house had a Marian statue out front). Click to enlarge:

They don't build 'em like this anymore.

Oil painting of St. Joan of Arc in the library. (Pardon the light fixture reflection.)

Land, spreadin' out so far & wide! Keep Columbus just gimme that countryside.

Some fourteen adjoining altars; a necessity in pre-Vatican II days when priests didn't concelebrate.

Two of them.

Assumption window

Vaunted British health care system often forgets about...oh, a little thing like food.

If Britain can't adequately fund their health care system now then I shudder to think what it'll be like in 2015 when there are many more elderly and the West's current economic bliss is over (due to $200-a-barrel oil).

August 28, 2006


As the reluctant monk said on the way to his desert cell, "It's not the heat, it's the humility." - joke via Bill White

Miz MacDonald [is] the sort who looks at a deformed baby and concludes that a just God would not allow the innocent to suffer; ergo there is no God. Such a mind is more impressed by suffering than by existence, and offers thereby an inadvertant insult to the sufferer's very being. Rather than behold the child while exclaiming, "Look at that! He's here! Isn't that amazing?" he wonders instead if he should be here at all.... The person more impressed by suffering than by existence is very much like that other who will not enter a Church because of the preponderance of hypocrites within. Both are reaching a very certain conclusion over a very dubious point: that the presence of evil in the world stakes a larger claim on our attention than the presence of good. The former outweighs the latter. The sinner disproves the saint. The tsunami discredits the previous day's sunset, and both disallow the feeding of the five thousand. The MacDonalds of the world make a similar demand as the doubting Thomas: "mete out punishment and reward according to our just desserts, and then I will believe." And in claiming that God (if He exists) could have stopped the tsunami but chose not to, she is really asking for a world in which there is no evil, a world that would never have required a Christ to walk upon it, in which Christmas and Easter are never celebrated. - Bill Luse of "Apologia"

We've been on a 24 jag lately, catching up on old episodes via DVD. It's just a glorified soap opera like ER, but it's entertaining and (unintentionally?) funny - when Jack Bauer needs to take a nap, he just dies for a while then comes back to life. 'Assuming it's all over' is a recurring motif, and one preached against in 24's comic-book manner. Someone loses hope in an impossible situation and based on the available information, assumes everything's over, death is around the corner, so he'll end the situation - suicide, kill someone else, give up. Inevitably, help is already on the way, or initial information was wrong, or someone proved stronger and braver than anticipated; the initial hopelessness is shown to be unfounded. Repeatedly, decisions for death are shown to be based on an unreasonable loss of hope. There's a worthwhile kernel of truth in 24. - Bill White of "Summa Minutiae"

Look at what I do each day and ask, "How does that give Him honor?" And the truth is, it does not. Day by day I find my ways to avoid being a friend to Him here below and in his heavenly home. But He doesn't care. I come straggling along, and He is leaping with joy to see me. He leaves the party of the Saints to bring me in. Every time. Every single time. I am transformed, I am broken and renewed. Every time. What grace--words fail, so St. Teresa may speak for me. And while I grieve for my sins and for my treatment of Him, I rejoice in knowing how He loves me nevertheless. - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

The history of the Church is one of growth, reform and creativity. Don't let anyone ever tell you anything different. Sometimes it can seem confusing, even in the modern age in which new movements are popping up all the time, old religious orders are dying, struggling and trying to reform. How do we discern the Spirit in all of that? - a frequent question over the past few decades and one used to excuse quite a lot. It seems to me to be fairly simple. If the reform, creativity or newness is focused on losing more of ourselves so that we might serve those most in need - that's a good sign. But if the "reform" is all about us, our personal fulfillment, us finding a satisfying place in the Church - not so great. Perhaps in need of a tweak or a nudge in another, more sacrificial direction in which our own "need" to find ourselves or "live our full potential" is laid at the feet of the poor. - Amy Welborn

The judgement of God is much, much harsher on priests than on lay-people. As a priest myself I am consoled that it must be even worse for bishops. "To those who are given much ...". Saint Theresa of Avila said somewhere, "The road hell is paved with the skulls of priests". One of us must have annoyed her terribly. The thing is, even the ordinarily good amongst us can do so much damage. Fast, pray, do penance, give alms to the poor, keep vigil for priests, their souls are your hands. - commenter Fr. Raymond on "Curt Jester"

It is always so fascinating to me how seemingly esoteric arguments can, indeed, have profound implications. It's what people sometimes don't understand about discussions about Jesus' divine and human nature. Certainly, there is a point at which it all gets too much and we must ultimately admit how limited our knowledge is, but there is quite often a rather profound point at stake. - Amy of "Open Book"

"All the versions of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle being kept up in the early eleventh century record his death, while MS C adds an express acknowledgement of his sanctity: 'Her wæs Olaf cing ofslagen on Norwegon of his agenum folce [ond] wæs syððan halig,' 'In this year [1030] king Óláfr was killed in Norway by his own people, and was afterwards holy.'" A lot of us, I think, sort of plan on being "syððan halig," though I don't know how many of us will be working miracles. - Disputations
Short Takes on Recent News Items

Beware of anyone who is referred to by the media with three names. John Mark Karr is the latest, but see John Wayne Gacy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman, Lyndon Baines Johnson, etc...

Anyone else experiencing media whiplash? Patsy Ramsey did it they said. Patsy is vindicated! Patsy did it they say.

I'm not big into government spending but I could make an exception for a study trying to figure out how New Orleans Mayor Nagin got himself re-elected.

I'd also be in favor of a gov't study into what the guy who brought dynamite on a plane was thinking.
Monday in Review

…or the improbable occasion of a day off. Freedom abhors a vacuum, so I went about my tasks of exercise, laundry, prayer, blogging, reading twenty pages of Philbrick’s Mayflower, tidying the house, picking up some KFC, taking a nap, etc.., all of which added up to an inordinate amount of time. So here it is – quittin’ time, 4:30-ish, and the opening to a punchlineless joke comes to mind: “a Beck, a Spaten and a Guinness walked into a bar…”. It feels odd to drink to gospel songs, in this case Randy Travis’s versions, but man cannot live on Irish music alone.

Watched some of last night’s Emmy’s and it occurred to me how much more favorably disposed to television I am than movies. Conan O’Brien did an opening skit that took us through all of our favorites (24, House, The Office, My Name is Earl & To Catch a Predator) and it seems I must applaud the American people for their good taste in television shows. I doubt I would much like the top ten novels or top ten movies, but the top ten television shows, assuming the aforementioned are among them, are eminently watchable.

Speaking of novels, I’m relieved I was able to forego the temptation to buy Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl at the bookstore Friday. It’s the kind of frothy novel replete with obscure references that are pleasingly foreign, in the sense of this Hernan Gonzalez-inspired post. But I suspect a shallowness in the end.

It rained all morning and most of the afternoon as if in a pent-up penance for the continuously dry weather we’ve had this August. The cloudiness lingers as if observing a proper amount of grief after a death. It is amazing how the sun makes the landscape shimmer. I'm looking forward to a photojournalistic jaunt to an obscure side street of an obscure street, one I visited two weeks ago. But alas the weather prohibits that as the sun is a chief player in that production.

Tantalizingly they lay at the edge of my cerebellum, at least that’s where I imagine they lay given that’s the only part of the brain my brain can recall. I’m speaking of childhood memories, and they seem necessary to retrieve now since otherwise they’ll be irretrievable until the Second Coming. They lay on the cusp of memory and are of greater import for their scarcity. The mundane family gathering of 1978 would seem thrilling to me now, if I could go as an adult, and so I imagine that the family gathering at which I am constantly attending now, in 2006, could possibly be of interest to the teens attending future ones in, say, 2036.

The thing I've noticed about pre-marital family gatherings is that distinctions between blood relations and non-blood relations were obscured at best. In other words, I saw no difference between family members who married into the family and "regular" family members. To my eyes, the in-laws perfectly melded into the gatherings and in fact some of my favorites were in-laws (or out-laws, depending on terminology). As a child there was no recognition that my Aunt Betty might be "taking one for the team" more so than Aunt Sally, who was a family member by blood.

After marriage I’ve become more aware of the differences for reasons I’m unsure of. I suppose it’s like if you’re an American in Europe you develop a more keen eye for differences between Americans and Europeans; similarly if you spend much time with in-laws you develop a keener than normal eye for differences between your family and it’s traditions and subliminalities and other families. It’s a truism that you no one remembers their childhood as anything other than normal because it’s all you know. That said, it should be said that I have been blessed with wonderful in-laws. But with your own brothers and sisters there's a synchronicity, the same beat or timing, the same wavelength, the same ease of communication.

Yet that's now. Then, back in the '70s, I recall talking rapturously of baseball cards with an in-law at a family gathering and it occurs to me now that he, as an outsider, was more (naturally) willing to spend time with a mere kid since we were both, in a sense, outsiders. I, by nature of being a kid, and he by nature of his out-law status. So too should I be open to the kids of my wife's family members.
Does Size Matter?

It seems elites are entering the blogging (anti-)profession, which I'm in favor of as long as they're "good" elites like Richard Neuhaus or Jody Bottum or Edward Oakes. I'm definitely elitist about my elitists.

But I must take exception to the utilitarianism and unseemly attention paid to numbers as expressed by Oakes here:
Mechanisms that tell the bloggers how many souls visit their sites each day must be, I would imagine, rather mortifying for most of these cyber-opinionators.
Au contaire, my shock at having twenty or thirty consistent readers three months or so into the blogging game shocked me and left me giddy. I suppose everyone has a different number of visitors that would make blogging 'worth it', probably ranging from 1 to 10000. Why should numbers matter? I used to send Ham o' Bone a weekly "journal du jour" and if he were the only reader of this blog then I suppose this would continue in that capacity.
Middle of Detroit

From Detroitblog, shades of WP's Love in the Ruins:

"Today, the neighborhood is post-apocalyptic, having passed through the worst standard stages of neighborhood decline: falling housing values, longtime residents moving to the suburbs, crumbling properties converted to rentals, a growth of criminal activity, abandonment by anyone who can afford to leave, and finally the disappearance of the houses themselves.

Now it’s the realm of crickets and meadows, where besides the dope dealers, the hookers, and the walking dead ambling past empty fields, are regular but poor people who have to live surrounded by decay and misery, in a neighborhood most others are too scared to drive through, surrounded by grinding poverty and the dregs of society, the only world they know, utterly unaware that a normal, safe neighborhood once stood here but was wiped off the face of the earth."

John Leonard never left. He's "watched his block thin out, one house at a time, leaving his house surrounded by grassy fields that bear the loud song of crickets. And he prefers that it stay that way, opting for the empty fields over potentially rowdy neighbors.

'I kind of like this spot,' he said as he sat in the shade of his front porch on a sunny day. “If they ever started building down there I would be upset, ‘cause this is peaceful here now, this little area here. Nobody to bother you, no noise, quiet. But if somebody moves in down there, people’s out of control now, did you know that? No respect, no nothing, it’s just wide open. In my day, people had respect for one another. People don’t respect you no more. It’s dog eat dog.”

August 27, 2006

Fine Homily..

..from Fr. L today. He said that many churches dismiss today's reading where St. Paul says that wives should be submissive to their husbands, but that refusal to wrestle with controversial Scriptural passages is the way that leads to the likes of a Anglican Bishop Spong and those who in their pride and arrogance make Scripture mean whatever they want it to mean. Besides which, to ascribe this passage as some kind of patriarchical oppression in 1st century culture is to miss the point.

Father said that Paul, in quoting Genesis, recognized two become one flesh in marriage. That means that instead of seeing marriage as two separate individuals in a power struggle, marriage is to be seen as what the bible says. He said it's unfortunate that Revelation has come to mean, for so many, as an imposition of something alien to human experience. God has spoken both in the Old and New Testament that our relationship with God is a marriage covenant and that whether we are in a joyful marriage or divorced or never been married we can understand this because even when frustrated, we know that our deepest desire is for intimacy and to be loved.

He said in reference to a recent gospel reading from John 6 that it would've been helpful if instead of having spent a couple centuries trying to determine what the Eucharist is, it would've been better to emphasize how it relates to something within human experience - marriage. Paul is not calling the flesh bad, as if we can all do whatever we want with our bodies since it's only the spirit that matters. Rather, he said, one could look at flesh as meaning the culture, and how the culture tells us things that are completely opposed to God's revelation.
The Israeli Conscience

Best Islamic Terrorist Recruiting Tools:
  • Israeli aggressiveness
  • Israeli peacefulness
  • Critics of Israel's use of power ought to read this MSNBC article. Based on biased media coverage elsewhere one would think Israel was heartless with respect to civilian casualties. Quite the contrary:
    On Sept. 6, a year later, when Israel had the chance to destroy the Hamas leadership, security officials clashed profoundly over the algebra of assassination. Two officials who have been called Israel's leaders in combating terrorism took opposite sides. Avi Dichter, then the head of Shin Bet, Israel's internal security agency, pushed for an all-out assault against the Hamas gathering. "They're the terrorist dream team," Dichter argued.

    But for Yaalon, military chief of staff from 2002 to 2005, the Talmudic precept, "If he comes to kill you, kill him first," conflicted with a Biblical commandment, "Thou shall not kill."

    Barak also secretly asked Daniel Reisner, a legal adviser to Arab-Israeli peace talks, to determine whether targeted killings were legal. Reisner agonized for six weeks. "It was a feeling of -- what on Earth has happened?" Reisner recalled. "Instead of two states living amicably side by side, I have to write opinions on how and when we kill each other."

    Reisner concluded it was legal, with six conditions: that arrest is impossible; that targets are combatants; that senior cabinet members approve each attack; that civilian casualties are minimized; that operations are limited to areas not under Israeli control; and that targets are identified as a future threat. Unlike prison sentences, targeted killing cannot be meted out as punishment for past behavior, Reisner said. In 2002, a military panel established that targeting cannot be for revenge, but only for deterrence. A panelist said it took six months and 20 meetings to reach that conclusion.

    "It's not an eye for an eye," Dichter said.
    Impressive. They're not living by the old law of an eye for an eye but it would seem that some in the Israeli cabinent are more Christian than most Christians as far as that goes. But it makes sense. A civilian population once nearly wiped from the face of the earth would naturally be more concerned about civilian casualties, much the way the poor often have the most sympathy for other poor.

    The calculus of it is predictable: Israel exercises retraint or makes overtures of peace, her enemies are emboldened, attribute Israel's weakness to Allah and strike, and in return more hardliners come into power in Israel. The last decade has shown that one-sided Israeli efforts to achieve peace are more likely to lead to a worse war than to peace. But war also only leads to more war. So perhaps the best one can hope for is a low-level 'steady-state' war there, at least until the Islamic schools and mosques that sow and grow hatred stop doing so.
    From Word Among Us meditation:
    Looking at the world with the eyes of faith, we will see power in the sunrise. We will see faithfulness as flowers bloom and crops ripen. Pets and wild animals will hold our rapt attention. We will notice, as if for the first time, the beauty of children playing as well as the awesome lines of wisdom in an older person’s face. The commonplace will give way to the wondrous, all because our hearts are made new by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    How ordinary life can seem at times! How quickly we can fall into a world-weary mindset! We may think that our faith just can’t get enlivened any more. But that is altogether contrary to God’s plan for us. Just as his love is never ending and always new, so does God want to reveal himself anew in each moment.

    August 26, 2006

    Russian Missionary

    Complaints about seasonal change pale beside the trials of missionaries in Siberia. Mary of the old "Ever New" blog writes:
    I'm writing to you today to share a simple story of a missionary priest in Russia and to ask for your help. I need the help of fellow Catholics that may be willing to help out a friend in need. I have a friend, Fr. John Gibbons, who is a Franciscan missionary priest in Russia who needs our generosity.

    Fr. John is living east of Siberia and is the only priest within a hundred miles. In fact, He is one of only a few Catholic priests in Russia at all. His work is not glamorous. He does not work with orphans or any other group that would invoke our deepest sympathies. He is a humble parish priest doing what parish priests are doing all around the world every day: he says Mass, hears confession, and shares in the life of those he pastors. The only difference is that he is doing it in place where priests were forbidden for so long that the Catholic faith was almost destroyed. Now he is starting again to answer the call of the Lord to preach and to baptize to the ends of the earth.

    He arrived in Russia three years ago but has been in his parish for one year. His rectory is very small and very poor - so poor, in fact, that I feel that it is a shame to see our priests - or any human being - living in such conditions. He has no indoor plumbing, he uses an outhouse, gets water a block away, and he chops wood for heat. This is especially a sacrifice in a place where the temperature is below zero six months of the year...Fr. John is in the United States right now to renew his visa and to raise awareness of the mission Church in Russia. He is here "to beg", as he says, "like a good Franciscan." When I heard the story of my long-time friend and saw the photos of his life I was moved to help. I made a decision to do two things 1) to share his story and 2) to simple ask every Catholic that I know to offer $10 for this mission.
    Fr. John's site is here.
    What a Difference a Hyphen Makes

    Secret-Agent blogspot

    SecretAgent blogspot
    An Elegy for Summer & Various Happenings

     It’s getting tough to deny the obvious, that summer is waning. Time to suck it up and buck up. We’re as far now from the summer equinox as we were in mid-April and we’re working backwards. Soon twill be March.

    The beauty of the landscape tugs; it still “hurts so good” given its fleetingness. Yet I fly into this time of year with confidence. Yes it's late in the season. Yes my wife's bound for Europe, exacerbating the problem. But we’re going to make the best of it and she gave me the best send-off any husband could ask for: excellent pizza at Bellacino’s and a trip to Nirvana (the nearby bookstore), among other things. I never really experienced homesickness at home until two weeks ago when she left for her first week, and so expectations are not high for this one, but then the purpose of life is not to collect pleasurable experiences.

    “No child left behind” goes the President’s slogan but upon entering a bookstore it seems my motto is leave no book behind. This visit was more expensive than planned: Adam Nichols’ “The Thought of Benedict XVI” for one. The no-brainer was “Thank You For Not Smoking” by Christopher Buckley since I so loved his “No Way to Treat a First Lady” and the former was his big hit. Also picked up a bio of Lou Gehrig, “Luckiest Man” by Jonathon Eig, on the theory that anyone with a disease named after him who calls himself lucky is deserving of study.

    We breakfasted this morning on the verandah, not really but I just liked the sound of that. Back patio. We got Anne’d just as we’d begun to pray. One can scarcely not be neighborly on the cusp of prayer which is probably why the bible says we should pray always. Anne had anecdotes to share and there was no harm done – no O'Rama's were hurt during this Anne-ing. We consumed our McDonald's takeout as she talked about the other neighbors and as we provided grist for news for other neighbors.

    I’m struck by the ingenuity of of one Deedleschnitzel, our cat who never misses an opportunity. I’m watering the garden and ‘schnitzel appears out of nowhere only to strike a statuesque pose beside the shed wall. He looks up the wall as if eyein' a locust he'd like to torture. I look back later and he’s still there. What is it? I look more closely and his tongue is out, capturing each slow drop from a leak off the hose that is mounted high against the shed wall. Schnitzel has a nose for water and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Later he lies against the asphalt pavement, paws beneath his ears, his tail dovetailing left. Occasionally he’ll lift his head from the ground in sudden alertness. An opportunist he is.

    I’m in the midst of a delicious read, Philbrick’s story of the Mayflower. As a child the story couldn’t have bored me more thoroughly (which, incidentally, is why one should never throw away a book – you never know what may interest or re-interest you in the future). What I recalled from grade school went thusly: Puritans land, have tough time, brrrr! it’s cold here!, Indians help, maize, Thanksgiving dinner sans Lions game.

    But since then I’ve visited Boston & Plymouth Rock and have grown in knowledge and respect for the Puritan's Christianity. Indirectly my near-obssesion with Founding Father John Adams also led me to a greater interest in the subject. Historical interests often lead backwards – my interest in WWII naturally led to WWI since that war was the starter fluid for the Second. Interest in the Revolutionary War period leads inexorably to interest in the pre-Revolutionary period which leads to England which leads to… It’s almost like a genealogy study.

    Got home earlier than normal Friday and so I slept/read in the hammock. Is not the hammock the most ingenious invention known to man? The blood flows down away from abused limbs, effecting a kind of weightlessness. And our location is dear, a command center far enough away from the patio to afford a different view and “quality of day” shade-wise, while easily accessible from the driveway. It’s a hidey-hole. Poplars act as hammock-bearers, gentle, leafy slaves are they. Norway pines lend privacy and in the distance the grand maples spread their fecundity across the sky. The beauty is breathtaking and it’s mysterious why I don’t more often attribute it to God in gratitude rather than let the gift obscure the giver.

    No doubt this is Last Hurrah time. The smell of Fall is in the air, the dryness and premature leaf litter but, paradoxically, also the faint scent of the sea. Yes I can smell the ocean from landlocked Ohio, perhaps a phantom limb’d memory of our visit in April, but every gust of wind brings the scent of the coast line, the boundary between not land and water but summer & fall. If I squint hard enough, the trees look like masts and the the leaves like sails...

    August 25, 2006

    Good God

    The startling thing about Heather MacDonald's worldview, as relayed by Bill Luse here, is the assumption that the end point in discerning God's justice is human death. God shows His hand then. But isn't that like judging a judge in mid-trial, before he's even made a judgment? Or like complaining that a book's ending doesn't make sense even though you're half-way through it? Her degree of surety that there is no afterlife is surprising given that even within nature things are constantly perishing only to experience rebirth in form of plant or butterfly or flower... And yet she can't believe in an afterlife because that would impede her ability to sentence Him. You can't, after all, judge someone until all the facts are in. She seems quite comfortable all the facts are in, like a man who thinks a dog sniffing the sidewalk is acting silly just because he can't smell anything. It doesnt seem to occur to him the dog might have a better sense of smell.

    Christ said that those who give up houses, wives, or children for the Kingdom would receive a hundredfold in the age to come. That speaks directly to the concerns of justice, recouped in the next life.

    But her argument appears to rest solely on WYSIWYG: "What you see is what you get". And yet even that has profound implications if we consider the galaxies and galaxies and the wonder of it all. Is it really a stretch to attribute all of this to a benevolent God? Would a malicious or capricious one logically have the patience, aptitude and integrity to produce the tremendous order and beauty of natural life, the predictability of the planets' orbits? It would seem to at least give the Heathers of the world pause.
    Updated ...

    ...the parody blog with a spoof about Nigerian scammers forming a union.
    419 Scammers

    I just received one of those Nigerian scammer emails & it contained the typical line "with nobody to claim it". (Only the amount changes; this time there is $15,000,000.00. Funny how they always write it all out often with the cents showing. I suppose all those zeroes are meant to catch the eye.)

    So I was trying to think of lyrics to a Nigerian scammer song, one with the refrain "with nobody there to claim it". The tune would be based on Barnicle Bill the Sailor since the oft-repeated line, "said Barnicle the Sailor", syllabically matches "with nobody there to claim it".

    Who's that sending me an email?
    Who's that sending me an email?
    Who's that sending me an email?
    said the fair young maiden!

    A widowed queen with lots of money,
    with nobody there to claim it!

    "Pertains to wit, next of kin I seek
    for the queen well she died this week
    with nobody there to claim it!"

    "$15,000,000.00, not a penny less,
    please send phone and your address,
    for nobody's there to claim it!"

    "Yours for a mere processing fee
    the queen was rich you plainly see
    and nobody's there to claim it!"
    Next week: On tap is "What Do You Do With an Email Scammer?" to the tune "What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor?"

    August 24, 2006

    Brush With Greatness

    J. Potter at Korretiv explains in a meme:
    In college, I reread The Moviegoer and Love in the Ruins for classes with the great Percy scholar, John Desmond, wrote one college paper comparing The Moviegoer with Eudora Welty's Optimist's Daughter and another one comparing The Moviegoer with Dostoevsky's Brother's Karamazov.

    Without consulting me, my dad sent the latter essay to Percy and got a letter back which read, in part: "Jonathan's piece is quite superior. I enjoyed it. Needless to say, any writer enjoys getting classed with Dostoevsky -- but apart from this, it still is a very sharp paper." Holy shit! That was a great birthday present; thanks, Dad!
    The whole post is well worth reading, including a snippet of cummings:
    Paris; this April sunset completely utters
    utters serenely silently a cathedral
    before whose upward lean magnificent face
    the streets turn young with rain ...
    Anglican Common Prayer No More?

    An Episcopalian lesbian priest suggests the reason the southern hemisphere folks are hard for her to understand might be because of prayer books:
    The point is that the guiding principal of our Anglican liturgy has done its work. "Lex orendi, lex credendi." "We pray what we believe." And, we have come to know what we believe by what we pray.
    What did YOU do with all your 1928 prayer books when we made the switch way back in 1979? I'm willing to bet that some of you sent yours to places in the southern hemisphere.
    A History of Christians & Government in Thirty Minutes or Less

    King Clovis

    Historians who are generalists, rather than specialists, possess a certain charisma because understanding the grand sweep of the past correctly is so helpful to understanding the present.

    I listened to one such generalist, Msgr. Lane, via the miracle of modern technology: a CD offered here.(Note: errors that follow in the paraphrase are mine, not Msgr. Lane's.)

    The topic was secularism in the Church, and how it's been a long, constant struggle. I can't begin to do justice to the thirty minute talk and the nuances contained therein, but I'll try. He said the Reformation is commonly blamed for secularism in the Church but that was not what the Reformers intended. Government was intended to be of, by and for Christians for it was a Christian society. What the Reformers could never have imagined was a "failure of Christianity". They wouldn't imagine, for example, a Christian leader like Jesse Jackson. (Jackson called abortion "a genocide" but later began supporting a woman's right to choose after the state weighed in - instead of the state taking its cues from Christian society, Christians take their cues from the state.) It was assumed in a thoroughly Christian society there would be no cleavage between the government and religion, and that layman could lead better than clergy. But eventually civil governments were saying things like "we don't care what you believe as long as you give deference to us". And groups began splitting off, such as the spiritual forebears of today's Amish. Many other groups split, such as the Lutheran pietists.

    Monsignor began with the 5th century and the Frankish King Clovis. The men who would fight for Clovis did so on the assumption that he was a more than a man, a "superman", part god. It was said his grandfather was conceived via "a sea monster which could change shapes while swimming". Men would not die for the merely human.

    Well Clovis married Clotilda, a devout Christian, and she begged him to convert. From Catholic Encyclopedia:
    Clotilda, who was a Catholic, and very pious, won the consent of Clovis to the baptism of their son, and then urged that he himself embrace the Catholic Faith. He deliberated for a long time. Finally, during a battle against the Alemanni--which without apparent reason has been called the battle of Tolbiac (Zulpich)--seeing his troops on the point of yielding, he invoked the aid of Clotilda's God, promised to become a Christian if only victory should be granted him. He conquered and, true to his word was baptized at Reims by St. Remigius, bishop of that city.
    Msgr. Lane mentions that this rejection of paganism and his semi-god status made Clovis merely a man in the eyes of his men. He was not "superhuman". Under what grounds would he have the right to rule? He explained to his soldiers about Saul in the Hebrew scriptures. Saul was annointed by God and that annointing made him different, something that changed him and made him more. So Clovis would be annointed King and the majority of his soldiers became Christians.

    Monsignor goes on to describe the centuries ahead and the abuses in the Church. He said that to this day the problem is unresolved and that we should beg God for insight. He said that almost every reform in the Church has come from the bottom up rather than top down. He said it was very unfortunate that the word 'beseech' and synonyms were removed from the liturgy, because however you want to say it we must beg God for His help and renewal.
    Within our own land, at the same time, sometimes in great poverty, in second-class citizenship and in the midst of other limitations, we Catholics were universally accredited with being lighthearted Christians. Now we appear to have become the grim ones, marked by an air of deadly earnestness and an appalling absence of the light touch. We seem almost overcome by the problems that face the world, the Church, and any Catholic alive and at work today.

    - John Cardinal Wright, foreward to Illustrissimi
    Suburban Banshee visits popular devotions.

    August 23, 2006

    I Regret That I Have But One Liver to Give to My City

    Heard on MSNBC today that the results of the "Most Drunken Cities" are in:

    First was Milwaukee, second Minneapolis, third Columbus and fourth was Boston.

    I have a hunch that Ohio State greatly increased our score.
    Home is...

    Steven Riddle makes a plaintive cry:
    Our homes are important--but I have discovered during the extended absence of this summer that home is not a place or a building, it is the gathering of the people you love deeply. My home is wherever Linda and Samuel are.
    I can recently relate. If you'll permit the maudlinity, here's an journal exerpt:
    S. is gone for the week and the barometric pressure of the household fell immediately and precipitiously. Her absence felt like a hole to be filled but the weather made it worse – it is too good not to be shared. I felt better during Monday night’s rainstorm than Sunday’s mint day. She's one of the pillars of the household and our dog knows it too; I like to think he thinks he’s helping keep the ceiling in place. German shepherds like "having jobs" after all.
    All Hail the Court!

    Blogging often means not knowing what the heck you're talking about but talking about it anyway, and as a blogger I hereby exercise my right to do so (if it pleases the court). With that caveat, and with the caveat that I am not a lawyer but have watched at least five episodes of Law & Order, I will proceed with reckless abandonment.

    I was reading this post from Elena concerning the MacFarlane legal proceedings and my question is: Why didn't Bai's lawyer have a counter-expert refute the findings of the court-appointed psychologist? You can easily find an expert who will testify as to the benefits of homeschooling and breastfeeding.

    Ok, perhaps that counselor wasn't allowed to, given the phrase "court-appointed". But re: The trial court noted that it was well aware that Husband “is autocratic, egotistical, narcissistic and manipulative.” The irony is killing: you want to know the truly "autocratic, egotistical, and manipulating" force in America? It's the Court itself! The justice system makes Bud look like a piker. 1.5 million dead babies a year testify.

    Her case reminds me how there's a huge difference (in terms of punishment meted out) between a crime committed against a police office and a crime committed against a civilian. You do the latter, you're in SERIOUS trouble, much bigger trouble. They take care of their own.* Similarly, if you offend the Court (which Bai apparently did) then you're really in trouble. And Bai paid a heavy, heavy price.

    Our parish priest mentioned that back in the crazy, hazy mid-'70s, his bishop instructed him that he had a "moral obligation to support the decisions of the Supreme Court". As the saying goes, you can't make it up...

    * - as did the bishops when they shuttled molesting priests around? Is the downside of a close-knit community greater corruption? Louisiana, a predominantly Catholic state, has had more than its fair share of political corruption during America's history. Is cronyism the especial Catholic sin because it thrives in a society more other-reliant than self-reliance? Does the "cult of individualism" of Protestant America at least have the salutary effect of less corruption since people are less likely to engage in quid-pro-quo if they're staunch individualists?
    Another Way to Look At It

    On Matthew 5:28:
    The Pope [John Paul II] acknowledges that Christ's words about lust are severe. But he asks, are we to fear the severity of these words, or rather have confidence in their power to save us? These words have power to save us because the one who speaks them is the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (Jn 1:29). Most people see in Christ's words only a condemnation. Do we forget that Christ came into the world not to condemn but to save (see John 3:17)?

    Christ's words about lust call us to "enter our full image". As part of the heritage of original sin, lust obscures in each of us God's original, beautiful plan for sexual love - but it hasn't snuffed it out. The Pope insists that the heritage of our hearts is deeper than lust, and if we're honest with ourselves, we still desire what is deeper. If the human heart is a deep well, it's true that murky waters abound. But if we press through the mud and the mire, at the bottom of the well we don't find grime and sludge. We find a spring that, when activated, gradually fills the well to overflowing with pure, living water. This spring is the "deeper heritage" of our hearts. John Paul II proclaims that the words of Christ reactivate that deeper heritage, giving it real power in our lives.

    - Christopher West, "Theology of the Body for Beginners"
    Matthews's New Pal
    Chris & Alan
    Sitting in a tree,
    What's it take to have liberal stalwart MSNBC's Chris Matthews love a Republican? Have that Republican run in a three-candidate race in Connecticut where he might just siphon off enough votes to bring down Joe Lieberman.

    So yes, any time there is a Republican with no chance of winning and a competitive independent in a three-person senatorial race, you can count on the ardor and affection of Chris Matthews. That combination of events happen about as frequently as Haley's Comet but...

    By all accounts Republican Alan Schlesinger is an abysmal candidate and has polling numbers in the teens, but he somehow was deemed worthy of nearly a half-hour of MSNBC airtime (admittedly, watched by tens, but still).

    Meanwhile there's great concern and consternation on the part of the media that Schlesinger has been spurned by his own party. Somehow it's shocking (I'm shocked! say like in Casablanca) that Bush isn't racing down to endorse and prop up a candidate polling 16%. And yet, by definition, the president is a political animal. And yet the media's not supposed to be a political animal. Something stinketh at 30 Rock.

    Bill O'Reilly admits he's the equivalent of an op ed writer and also that he's a "Traditionalist". Has Matthews ever admitted being an editorialist and not an "impartial news analyst" (oxymoron alert!)?

    August 22, 2006

    Becoming Competent at Spotting Cultural Competency & Incompetency

    The latest buzzwordian phrase seems to be "cultural competency", which supposedly means "sharpening skills to build relationships across differences". Concerning this, a friend writes:
    The latest buzz - "cultural competency" - has insinuated itself into my mind. If there is cultural competency, that implies the existence of cultural incompetency. How do you know if you are culturally competent ? Do such things as an extensive familiarity with Seinfeld episodes count ? Do I have to like pizza and hot dogs ? Is there a test I can take ?
    Good questions all. Tis a beautifully buzzword-ish phrase, isn't it? I'll check the ol' checklist:

    1) Is it alliterative? Yes
    2) Is it richly multisyllabic? Does it sound impressive said aloud? - Yes, yes
    3) Does it make little sense on its own? Yes
    4) Does the phrase include the word "competency"? Yes!

    Bingo! I see a very bright future for this phrase. Another friend responded with his typical incandescent brilliance:
    I can better understand examples of cultural competency if I had an example, such as:

  • Winning at Trivial Pursuit by knowing that The Skipper's real full name was Jonas Grumby, or that a giraffe has the highest blood pressure of any animal, or that an octopus has two hearts, or that the two Spanish words uttered by Roberto Duran when Sugar Ray kicked his ass were "no mas"
  • Singing the "Oy-vey Maria" at a Jewish-Catholic wedding.
  • If some agar scored high on the apgar.

    Examples of cultural incompetency would include:

  • A Sherpa guide with really good hiking boots and a map.
  • Vanilla Ice
  • An Amish dude who leaves his high paying high pressure Silicon Valley tech job while talking on his cellphone on a con call with the venture capital guys and the new product developers, and texting on his Blackberry with his admin to deliver flowers to his mistress and order an anniversary gift for his wife, takes care not to ruffle his full Armani ensemble as he gets into his BMW, takes a call on his personal cell to arrange for a suitable temp to replace his nanny who is really on a leave of absence to prepare a harrassment lawsuit against him, and thinks to himself "ah, thou hast a simple life, dostn't thou?"

    I've been reading Andrew Bostom's compendium on Muslim jihad through the millennia....For a break, I picked up the memoirs of Confederate Colonel John Mosby, the "Gray Ghost", perhaps America's most successful guerilla fighter...[W]hat I considered on reading the first chapters of Col. Mosby's memoirs is that I've always respected the good men on the "other side", but have somehow conceived a disdain for them because of the side for which they fought. But after reading Dr. Bostom's accounts of truly inhuman warfare, I rather like these men, Col Mosby, Gen'ls Lee & Longstreet, all those who fought honorably and well. They may have chosen the wrong side (I carefully refrain from saying they did choose the wrong side) but once they chose it, they fought for their homes and people in the best way men can fight, and I'll honor them for that. Perhaps we can learn from these good Americans in our thousand-year struggle against Islam. - Bill of "Summa Minutiae"

    In the unlikely event that I become a saint, I promise to intercede on behalf of anyone who buries a statue of me upside-down and then retrieves it after success. I believe I would find it quite touching. I appreciate interesting, personal devotions like the one in question. I expect the Saints find them every bit as touching as I find my daughter's drawings. This sort of devotion emphasizes that the Saints are real living people, not intercession machines with specific access protocols...An act is superstitious if it is thought to be efficacious in itself, as opposed to being a particular devotion to ask for the intercession of a particular saint. But that is true of any ordinary devotional act, such as praying before an icon: it can be superstitious depending upon disposition, but with the right disposition it has merit. Praying before an icon with the proper disposition is efficacious (in the same way that buying me a beer is efficacious in getting my favors). It seems to me that condemning this practice as superstitious in itself, independent of the disposition of the practitioner, is a mild form of iconoclasm. - Zippy Catholic on the practice of burying a St. Joseph statue upside down in hopes of selling your house

    Beauty is essential in spiritual formation. Beauty is not beauty without truth and goodness--it is "as an Angel of Light" whose heart is complete darkness. The most beautiful image in the world that denies God only seems beautiful--it is a seed of darkness. This is probably similar to what Savonarola taught the people of his day, only he made the mistake of assuming that anything suggestive of the beauty of the human form was somehow tainted and evil. There are the Venus de Milo La Primavera and La Trionofo di Aphrodite, all of which portray the female body in its splendor without necessarily provoking the prurient. When one approaches works like The Naked Maja and such like, the question becomes more nebulous, and for some of us none of these images in any amount is licit. That is the individual way and path. Nevertheless, it is part of spiritual formation to dwell upon the beautiful because it bypasses the eternal censor and tells us something that mere intellect cannot tell us about God. God cannot be apprehended, much less embraced by intellect alone but only through the union of intellect and emotion that make up the mind of the person. Certainly our sense feed the mind, but it is ultimately the mind that is the primary gatekeeper and the spirit within us that says, "Let it be done unto me," to God. And these things may only happen when we have surrendered all to God. - Steven Riddle, setting off scores of Google image searches for "The Naked Maja"

    At that age, I might have been interested in exploring the Eight Beeratitudes. - Terrence Berres on the "Theology on Tap" series aimed a college students

    Before I read [The Brothers Karamazov]... I didn't even believe that fiction had anything to say that couldn't be said better in nonfiction; I thought of novels as mere entertainment. The Brothers K transformed me from the kid who already knew everything to the young man who wanted to understand everything for the first time. - Patrick of "Orthonormal Basis"

    True freedom is not found by seeking to develop the powers of the self without limit, for the human person is not made for autonomy but for true relatedness in love and obedience; and this also entails the acceptance of limits as a necessary part of what it means to be human. . . Apart from this, the quest for justice becomes self-destructive since it is of the very essence of fallen human nature that each of us overestimates what is due to the self and underestimates what is due to the other. - Lesslie Newbigin via blogger at "Historical Catholic"

    I am not exactly a fascist. I am not exactly not a fascist either, but I am not a member of any fascist party, and I differ from fascism on the role of the church and on the treatment of archaeological sites. So I see eye-to-eye with bonafide fascists quite a bit. So, naturally, the offense I take to the "islamo-fascist" term is that it presumes that one is talking about Mohammedans when one is talking about those who practice "islam." As I have argued before, true Islam is the Catholic Church and true Muslims are Catholics. Those who follow Mohammed are Mohammedans, not Muslims. Now, since my own differences with fascism tend to be about the role of the Church (my own authoritarianism is really Franquismo), when it comes down to it "Islamo-fascist" is me. Except, why mix Arabic into it?... Why not Romano-fascists? Except that is quite redundant, as there is no fascism without fasces, and they didn't come from Dublin. So we could go with Catholo-fascists. Or Franquistas. Or Keilholtzisti.... - Erik of "Erik's Rants & Recipes", because it's not every day you hear the phrase "I am not exactly a fascist."

    I'll take his critique of sending checks seriously if one is ever returned uncashed. - Terrence Berres, on German Diaz's comment that "Sometimes people send a check and think that's helping; we want them to get involved here, that's what changes minds and hearts." (Mr. Berres spends a week or two every year in South America on mission, lest ye think he only writes checks.)

    Yesterday, during a viewing of [The Empire Strikes Back], I found about three different heresies glinting menacingly in Yoda's instructions to Luke. If I had more time, I'd tackle each one for at least a paragraph . . . but I'm afraid that I'll just have to refer to St. Augustine of Hippo's writings on Manichaeism and Pelagianism for now. Suffice it to say that there are eons of difference between a truism and a truth. A truism goes with the flow of the universe and as such may be a very good thing to know, if one wants to get on properly. On the other hand, a truth defies the universe, so much so that one who believes the truth may find himself at war with the whole cosmos...While there are some true things which seem a very part of the fabric of the universe, there are also other true things which, to borrow an expression of Pope Paul VI, are in the universe, but not of the universe. The Incarnation was not something natural; it came from somewhere beyond all we can fathom of space and time, daring us to believe in it, but almost unconcerned in the event that we would not. Anyone can take two tablets of Yoda's bland instruction a day and be perfectly well, even perfectly civil, for the rest of his days--just as we see those with a daily intake of Buddha's, Confucius' and even Krishna's instructions getting on. Yet there is no such peace for those who would follow the commandments of the One Whose Kingdom is not of this world; for He came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword. How much more glorious would have been the Jedi light sabre, if its lone wielder--not just any lone wielder, but the inimitable Luke Skywalker--had defied not merely an Empire, but an entire universe. - Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis

    Yet you came and were not turned away. You, too, found room before the manger. Your gifts were not needed but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life, there was room for you, too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or ass. "You are my especial patrons," said Helena, "and patrons of all latecomers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents." - concerning the Magi, in Evelyn Waugh's "Helena"

    August 21, 2006

    Pius and Pious Aren't That Far Away

    St. Pius X brings out the Trad in all of us, as well as making us more P.O.D. (an acronym I believe means "pious and overly devotional").

    Among the slew of excellent posts today, Karen Knapp gets credit for referring to nose-picking during a post on a saint. That certainly kept me alert and awake.

    Elsewhere I also thought this and this and this were all very good. It was certainly an embarrassment of riches.
    Very Quirky Links...

    Armor of God PJ's

    Celebrities against Terrorists

    Whoda thunk it?

    ...via Aliens in this World.
    The Word Among Us...

    ...takes a different view of the young man sad at Christ's words to him:
    But when Jesus told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow him, the man went away sad. We might conclude that he was sad because he simply couldn’t give it all up and follow Jesus. But perhaps we are jumping to conclusions. Maybe he was sad because he knew how hard it would be to take this final step. Maybe he foresaw the struggle that lay ahead, and the thought of another struggle was sobering. But that doesn’t mean he walked away from it. For all we know, he drew another deep breath, set his mind and will to the task, and came through victorious.

    Why this speculation? Because a little sadness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Don’t worry if the call seems hard at times. And by all means, don’t discount yourself if you find that you don’t want to give up everything for Jesus. For one thing, you are in very good company. So take heart and persevere. Trust that when Jesus does win out, you’ll be far happier than you ever were before.
    Aug. 21 - St. Pope Pius X - One of My Favorite Saints

      The Modernist Fighter

    I really, really like this saintly shepherd, or shepherdly saint.

    He was "pastoral" before pastoral became a dirty word. He was a saint for the underdog, the little guy, for the struggling sinner, for the unsophisticated, and for the young. He echoed his Master's saying, "Let the little children come to Me" by moving up the age at which children could first go to Holy Communion.

    He also encouraged more frequent reception of the Eucharist, teaching that instead of thinking you have to be perfect in order to receive the Perfect, you receive the Perfect in order to eventually become perfect.
    "St. Earnhardt"

    Recently I saw a window decal of Dale Earnhardt with a halo, and below it the script: "Because God Needed a Driver".

    That sentiment sounds so banal although I try to put the best spin on it and consider it the piety of those with a simple, trusting faith. God doesn't need anything, let alone a driver, and I've always had trouble with the idea that God micro-manages events like deaths, as if he's up there constantly changing the natural course of existence. And yet of course I'm a hypocrite because I secretly hope that my own death will be micro-managed (at least in the sense of being in the state of grace at that time).

    It rubs me the wrong way I guess because it seems like such a banal representation of things: 1) that there will be driving in Heaven 2) that God "needs" 3) that Earnhardt is a saint 4) that Earnhardt's death was the direct result of God's action.

    I've always had a hard time picturing Heaven as merely a new earth with glorified bodies. There's a tension in this because if one sees Heaven as completely otherworldly then it becomes a rejection of God's good and desirable creation. If it's mostly just earth - coupled with the ability to bi-locate and meet fascinating people like Albert Einstein and St. Francis in between choir practice - then it becomes a glorified cocktail party. The best I can picture it, when I can at all, is it's the feeling of gratitude and love that wells up occasionally during prayer. Only in Heaven that'll be continuous.
    A Post to be Named Later

    I'd developed a nice little post, in need only of a little seasoning and editing, but our GM traded it to the Los Angeles Bloggers for $32,000 and a post to be named later.



    This post will be updated at an unspecified date in the future with a post to be named later. Thanks for your patience.

    Update: Terrence Berres speaks the truth: "Just watch, it'll lead them to a pennant."

    August 18, 2006


    Distances seemed much greater when I was a kid. A trip from Ohio to Kentucky was to us what a trip to Florida is to today’s kids since we took a car and they take a plane. And I recall a long-ago Easter - or was it just spring? - when we traveled to our uncle and aunt's house.

    They'd shocked the family by moving, and not just outside the city limits but to another state. They were practically pioneers in the '70s since people then didn't move much then. They lived in Louisville and of the trip - the only one I recall we made there to see them - I recall two things (subject to memory's imperfections):

    1) Learning from a cousin how to perform a proper baseball wind-up. I practiced it constantly thereafter, which I suppose is the baseball fan’s equivalent of the rock afficiando's “air guitar”. I practiced it even in my 4th grade class during those times we were wandering aimlessly around the classroom for reasons not immediately apparent. There was a fine pleasure in it and I felt that my motions (both the runner's-on and the bases-empty version) exactly mimicked a major leaguer's. In my mind's eye the imaginary ball traveled at speeds up to 90 miles per hour.

    2) Trips to far away destinations like Louisville slowed you down and in that slowness came a kind of frozenness of time helpful to memory. There was a blinding morning sun on the way there and Tanya Tucker's “Delta Dawn” played on the radio. Was it really dawn or was I just imagining that in hindsight due to the name of the song? I suppose it’s the very irretrievability of memories that makes them more compelling than they really are.
    Fine Art Friday

    Inspired by MamaT's fine offering today I poked around a bit:

    Roger Muhl

    I like hers better but like this well enough. The phantom-like mountains in the background remind me of those seen while driving on the interstates near the Tennessee/North Carolina border.
    Various & Sundry

    Worthwhile thoughts of Ross Douthat on utilitarianism.

    I did not know that the cause for the canonization of Pope Paul VI has been underway for awhile:
    Few have perceived the intensity of Paul VI's relation with the Lord. Suffice it to read the collection of prayers entitled: "Paul VI: Prayers to Christ," to realize their intensity. Pope Montini, who many regard as a sophisticated and distant intellectual, lived with an intense and enthusiastic love for Christ. One must begin from here in order to understand the fabric of his life.

    Beautiful first reading from today's Mass. Scripture has charms that soothe the savage beast.
    Aug 18 - St. Daig Maccairaill, d. 586 A.D.

    St. Daig's monastery at Iniskeen, Ireland
    Monastic founder and bishop, also called Dagaeus and Daganus. He was the son of Cayrill and a disciple of St. Finian. Daig Maccairaill founded a monastery at Iniskeen, Ireland. He is called “one of the Three Master Craftsman of Ireland.”

    ...snippet from a courtroom scene in Christopher Buckley's No Way to Treat a First Lady helps explain why some believe Bush was behind 9/11:

    She knew there was no merit to Boyce's stunning allegation, and that was why it scared her. It was so outrageous, so unbelievable, that one-third of the jury would believe it. People believe unbelievable things because it's self-flattering to think that you are intellectually daring enough to accept what others find preposterous.
    Though the 2002 book then dates itself with a reference to the Sox:
    It's why people believe in UFOs, assassination conspiracies, certain religions, and the possibility that the Boston Red Sox will someday win the World Series.
    With War: Timing is Everything?

    Like many around the stblogisphere, I've been thinking about wars just and unjust and have the obligatory mixed emotions which change hourly. World War II is generally considered a "good war" but it's hard to imagine it happening without the "bad war" of WWI, an unimaginably outrageous, unnecessary and brutal war. Times have changed; we've gotten softer and more self-indulgent and that seems to have its benefits - at least when the timing is right*. For example, one could wish for a lot more softness and spinelessness out of Europe in, oh say, 1914. In one of his novels Christopher Buckley humorously outlines the accomplishments of the Baby Boom generation:
    "Disco, junk bonds, silicone implants, colorized movies, the whole concept of stress as a philosophical justification for self-indulgence."
    But in 1939 or 1941 to have been soft would've insured that the German language would be the world language of 2006, along with all the concommitant horrors that would've attended that and I'm not just talking about the sound of phlegm moving while making guttural Germanic consonant sounds. Yet sometimes I think things are getting better since at least the world condemns civilian deaths (at least when caused by Israeli or American soliders), where it didn't seem to back in the mid-decades of the 20th century. That is progress.

    Meanwhile Christianity Today reviews a couple interesting books on the theological differences that helped incite the Civil War. But that war seemed to be fought over a greater principle (be it states' rights or slavery) than the First World War. More interesting to me would be a study of how despite the lack of theological disagreements Christian Europe managed to find herself engaged in carnage on that scale, although some say use of the Christian adjective, at least among the educated elites, is questionable.

    * - Which, of course, is the problem. It gives pacifists ample ammunition (ha) since so many wars (i.e. Civil & First WW) weren't expected to last long or have a fraction of the casualties they did.
    Sometimes It's Hard to be a Voter

    It's tough being a voter these days. The semi-adult party, the GOP, is having a mid-life crisis and is out driving a lobbyist's car while chugging taxpayer-supplied whiskey. And yet you take a sniff of the other party only to catch the awful scent of offal, making our current system awfully close to a no-party system, or at least one with no good choices. The Democrats seem congenitally unable to grow up, as shown by rumblings to impeach George Bush if they win the House. Like schoolchildren the Democrats say, "you impeached ours, so we'll impeach yours!" Nothing quite says "juvenile" like worrying about impeaching a president over non-existent crimes while there's a war going on.

    Some Dems recognize this and at least have the good sense to keep a low profile. But it's obvious that an impeachment scenerio makes it harder for his Republican to vote for a Democrat, should it come to that. It's very hard to bench your college running backs or receivers when all the replacements are whiney, overweight intramural players. The best way for Democrats to get elected is to have plans and ideas, as unlikely as that may be. The second best way is to simply do nothing. The worst way is to put their time and energy into a possible impeachment. From NR:
    Will Democrats attempt to impeach George W. Bush if they win control of the House of Representatives? They don’t want you to think so. In May, when many people speculated that impeachment was at the heart of the Democratic agenda, a concerned Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent out word that it was “off the table.” But now, we have in our hands a 350-page “investigative report” on the Bush administration’s alleged “wrongdoing” entitled “The Constitution in Crisis: The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Cover-ups in the Iraq War, and Illegal Domestic Surveillance.” Written under the supervision of Democratic representative John Conyers, the report is, in effect, a road map for impeachment. To back up his claim that the Bush administration may have violated “26 laws and regulations,” Conyers relies on such authorities as the left-wing conspiracy website, the left-wing anti-war sites and, the left-wing magazines The Nation and Mother Jones, and New York Times columnists Paul Krugman, Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, and Frank Rich. Conyers’s case is, to put it charitably, somewhat fanciful. Of course, none of this would be terribly noteworthy were not Conyers the man who would become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee — the panel that would initiate any impeachment action — should Democrats win in November. Nancy Pelosi may claim that impeachment is off the table. “The Constitution in Crisis” proves otherwise.

    August 17, 2006

    Ahnold Not So Tough

    It was interesting to see what would happen when an irresistable force (Arnold Schwarzenegger) met an immovable object (the voters of California - who like their cake and Edith too, meaning gov't spending minus the consequences). And it seems, predictably in hindsight, the immovable object has won (after all, the object never has to be re-elected). So just as the Gingrich Congress crashed and burned when it was blamed for the gov't shutdown of '98, so too have his constituents whipped ol' Arnold into shape. From the latest NR:
    Behold the new Arnold, a man bearing little resemblance to the revolutionary who toppled Gov. Gray Davis just three years ago. He’s politically compliant, eager to please, and anxious to avoid a fight. One might say . . . a girlie man. Schwarzenegger has, in the parlance of the Left, “grown.” So has California’s government. In June, the governor signed a $131 billion budget, up 8.4 percent from the year before. Schwarzenegger’s spending plan is 30 percent larger than the one Davis approved in 2003, just before being ousted as a reckless spender.
    Say What?

    Via here:
    Castlerea derives its name from a castle which stood on the banks of the river Suck, at the point where it joins the river Cloonard.
    (Left) - the river Suck does not suck; (Right) - Non-sucky ancient Irish warriors cross the river Suck
    Mr. Luse's Book

    (Note: Jeff C., I hope I don't inadvertently post a spoiler. Don't read this post. Or anyone else reading Luse's book.)

    Just finished Bill's The Last Good Woman last night and it's still reasonating. I got the odd sense, while reading it that it was good I was reading fiction instead of writing it even though given a block of time the default always seems to be the latter. There was an essential rightness in reading given the virtuosity of Luse's luminous prose. I hope fiction never goes the way of poetry, whereby everyone writes it but no one reads it.

    There is a sudden relaxation of duty in reading things that you feel need to be said - even if you didn't know or had forgotten they needed to be said - and Luse hits all the sore spots, our need for clarity, a "good death", what we choose to fixate on, entering into the suffering of others, and love.

    I found the irresolution of the narrator concerning his love interest particularly believable. The sort of on-again/off-again torture of one who cannot commit is something most of us have experienced both in our spiritual and temporal lives. There are those huge hinge moments on which large decisions are made, and I can recall with utter clarity a few of those. The way it is resolved was particularly pleasing to me, both in its helplessness and its physicality, a simple hug, as the way the Eucharist can tug us back when we feel estranged from Christ and words seem ineffective. Luse was able to bring it all off deftly, without a hint of cloyness or triteness.
    Saint o' the Day

    Today we remember St. Hiero, an Irish martyr and missionary to Holland, where he was killed in 885:
    The Irish monk and evangelist Hiero was martyred in the Netherlands (Benedictines, Encyclopaedia). In art, Saint Hiero is portrayed as a monk with a hawk and sword (Roeder). He is invoked to find lost articles (Roeder).

    Amsterdam today

    Precious little seems to be internet-available concerning this obscure saint, but it was good to learn what I could about him given my newfound interest in this country of "dams" - Amsterdam and Rotterdam - since my wife happens to be there right now. She says the people are very friendly and accommodating. Found this also:
    The fleet, the sea-faring capability of the Dutch is sometimes referred to as "Holland's Glory." But there is a hidden Holland's Glory—the people who contributed by their holy lives to the spiritual welfare of the Dutch people—those whose lives I have written about in this booklet. I was particularly moved by the deep faith of the Martyrs of Gorkum who met their eternal reward by steadfastly holding on to their belief, their faith, in the Real Presence.
    The Mother of All Christians

    As you probably can tell, my enthusiasm for Our Lady has lately been rekindled, for a variety of reasons though all emanating from God's grace.

    One is that it's slowly dawned on me that to whom much has been given, from them many others will receive. In other words there's no such thing as a "grace hoarder" - God gives to those who in turn will give. And as Mary was the supreme recipient of God's grace she is also the supreme giver of that grace. (What should be patently obvious is that she is not the generator of grace. A cursory reading of the gospels makes that obvious.)

    Second, Donal Foley's book "Understanding Medjugorje" was impactful.(Did I really just use that word?) What he tears down with one hand (by discouraging Medjugorje) he builds with the other (Fatima). And with Fatima, if it was good enough for Pope John Paul II and Ricardo Montalban then it's good enough for me. (Well, JPII anyway.)

    Third, it all makes perfect sense. Why should I be subject only to the first Eve's disobedience and not also be heir to the new Eve's obedience? I did nothing to deserve the taint of Original Sin and nor did I do anything to deserve God's grace. And while all Christians are comfortable with Mary being the fleshy mother of Jesus - the conduit from which Christ's body flowed - there is squeamishness about she being a conduit of Christ's grace. Part of that might be due to a lingering Gnosticism that doesn't fully accept God as creator of both flesh and spirit. Or maybe some, deep down, consider Mary relatively unimportant because if she'd have refused her role, God would've found another way to get Jesus born. Presumably He'd have found someone else - though that's hardly biblical since the scary part of the biblical message is that actions have consequences. Did we not learn that with the first Eve and the tragic ensuing history of death and sin? So if we thus devalue Mary's initial fiat we may devalue her subsequent role. Yet, as the saying goes, "no Mary, no Jesus; know Mary, know Jesus."

    UPDATE: "Fatima, the shrine with rich corinthian leather?" - Terrence Berres comments.

    August 16, 2006

    More About Mary...

    Suburban Banshee is hopeful. This Rock also has a cover story on overcoming undue fear of Mary's role in salvation history. And Joshua of Western Confucian reports that he was handed a rosary by a nun on his first Korean RCIA class and has been saying it ever since: "I am firmly convinced that it was Our Lady who led me to and helped me grow in the Faith her Son established...During the past eighteen months, I have seen Our Lady's intercessary work in our daughter's medical treatment, most notably under her title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal."
    Parody Blog Updated...

    ...after reading the UN is upset with the US:
    Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy on Aids, said President George Bush's $15 billion Emergency Plan for HIV/Aids was too focused on promoting abstinence...

    The Bush administration backs an "ABC" plan to fight Aids: Abstinence until marriage; Being faithful to one sexual partner; and if those conditions are not practised, the use of Condoms.

    August 15, 2006


    Jonah Goldberg says envy is behind more angst than we realize. Also here.
    Various & Sundry

    Lingers that fresh July, the days spent frisking the tail of the kite-sun while ‘80s songs burned off an iPod cuff as I attended gardenly duties. The songs, stolen between plantings, spurted with the shock of nostalgic surprise.

    Lingers too the bike ride to Mexico, or the local Mexican grocery whichever came first. On the same ride I later didst gape at the local historic district, like it was Colonial Williamsburg or the Smithsonian, for that church, that school really existed and were once filled with the now dead, in a culture long dead, filled with odd music and books and general foreignness -- all in a place so near.

    Sea Monkeys!

    Via the brilliant Camassia, a New Yorker piece on writer's block.
    ...many of the writers of that [19th] century, or at least the novelists, were monsters of productivity. Scott, Balzac, Hugo, Dickens, Trollope: these men published as if they couldn’t stop, and they were proud of it...In former times, too, art forthrightly answered the audience’s emotional needs: tell me a story, sing me a song. Modernism, in refusing to do that duty, may have a lot to answer for in the development of artistic neurosis. If art wasn’t going to address the audience’s basic needs, then presumably it was doing something finer, more mysterious...

    "Catholic guilt" is something of a cliche but we come by it honesty I suppose, via our mother religion. My roommate post-college was Jewish and he said "Jewish guilt" was redundant. Recently I felt it keenly while soaking in 1 Corinthians 4 whereby Paul explains how he was thought of as scum and had not a creature comfort to save his life, so persecuted and poor was he. Of course, guilt is probably more universal than I give credit. An Episocopalian minister writes: “My children have always maintained that I need a minimum of two weeks – preferably four – as a vacation. They say that it takes the first 5 days of my vacation before I’m absolutely convinced that it’s okay with God that I’m not working. It takes the next five days for me to finally relax. I have discovered that they are absolutely correct. And, very, very wise.”

    As Mark Shea would say, new blog!.

    The good neighbor across the street, steady as the day is long, meticulously cleans his car. I clean my car every other year and he does every weekend. I’m impressed by his work ethic, which I have trouble putting together with his penchant for marijuana. I thought that stuff was supposed to make you mellow and lazy? (I’ve never tried it, and thank God, because I’m mellow and lazy enough.) He spends 95% of the summer in his driveway and front yard, not a bad place to spend 95% of your summer. I generally spend 95% in the backyard except when I’m shooting baskets. We are most scrupulous in waving; I’ve never not caught his eye as I drive off in a car or on bike and he’ll wave even if he almost wrecks his riding mower. Same here of course--not breaking the streak of waving to the neighbor takes priority over double-checking for coming traffic. I like his flower boxes under his windows. Very European.
    Fictional Tuesday

    I lost my self-absorption yesterday at 3pm. Or was it 2pm? It might've been 4 if I count that 3:58ish thought when I passed a mirror and wondered if I was losing hair. Not that I'm losing hair, mind you, it's just that it looks a little thinner than I remember it. Although I could be losing my memory too.

    Wait a second - let me ask Jerry.

    "Jerry, when did I lose my self-absorption?"

    "Uh, I dunno, this morning?"


    He's obviously too self-absorbed to have noticed my sudden lack of self-absorption.

    Where was I? Oh yeah. Did I mention that I'm thrilled that I no longer focus on me, myself and I? In fact, I'm quite absorbed with how non-self-absorbed I am. In the past I constantly monitored my actions and reactions but now I only monitor whether I'm monitoring my actions and reactions. This is far more helpful, don't you think?
    Mary's a Uniter, Not a Divider

    When I was younger & dumber I thought that the way to Christian unity was to de-emphasize the Blessed Mother, to hide her in the back of the closet so as not to offend, much as the apostles tried to avoid scandalizing potential Jewish converts who thought some things were unlawful when they really weren't.

    Arrogantly, I thought that this "was the way Mary would want it," nevermind that Our Lady was never much interested in the way she would want things but the way God would. And nevermind that the Orthodox and other Eastern Christians have a strong devotion to Our Lady. Nevermind Lourdes and Fatima. Nevermind the Marian piety so evident in nearly every modern saint or near-saint I admire, including St. Pio, Fulton Sheen, Pope John Paul II. It's like God was trying to tell me something.

    I'm sympathetic to the "scandal of mediation" but I've become convinced that's the way God desires it. When I was younger I was upset with God for not simply appearing to everyone individually, ala St. Paul on the road to Damascus. Yet he wants to use human instruments, including His mother. Which means that He will use Mary not to divide Christendom (which she never did in the first place of course; reformers such as Martin Luther were very devoted to her) but a way to bring Christendom together again. The big mistake is to assume our strategies will bring about unity. That will have to come from God and will likely come about in an unpredictable fashion.

    When you get to be my age you start worrying about Heaven, and you hope like Hell you get there. - George H.W. Bush, to Jon Meacham

    [Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict] once observed that "in a certain way the priest has become too important. Those attending Mass must always be looking at him. In reality, he is not nearly that important." He then went on to link this over-importance to the feminist conviction that women need to be priests. When our parish priest ended the practice of First Communicants standing around the altar during the consecration, he told the assembled parents, "They are not on display." He might have added, "And neither am I." - Rich Leonardi of "Ten Reasons"

    This is a blog, so I feel oblogated to write something.- Bill of Apologia

    I'm not a man who constantly thinks up jokes. But I think it's very important to be able to see the funny side of life and its joyful dimension and not to take everything too tragically...I'd also say it's necessary for my ministry. - Pope Benedict XVI

    One book that changed your life: The Screwtape Letters (C. S. Lewis). I had read it once when I was a boy, without apparent effect. As I grew older, I became a sort of outward Catholic - never missed Mass, always received Communion, but never prayed or went to Confession, or let my belief (what was left of it - thanks be to God, there was always at least a trace there) affect my actions. When I was 18 and home from college for Christmas break, I idly picked up a copy at the library. By the time I finished it, I knew where I was, where I was headed, and what I had to do about it. I had been given back my faith....One book that made you cry: I don't cry easily, but what does set me off is what J. R. R. Tolkien called the "eucatastrophe", the sudden breaking of the clouds or lifting of oppression. The moment in The Return of the King, as Faramir and Eowyn are together in the Houses of Healing, when the Shadow rises up enormously, and then dissolves, and the Eagle comes proclaiming the final defeat of Sauron, is one such. - Bob of "Trousered Ape"

    Three lights flashing, an airplane lumbers across the field of pinpoint white stars. The warmth of the summer night fills my lungs with each breath. If only I smoked or drank or took interest in women other than my wife I could be standing here in my boxers in my screened porch cradling a world weary scotch, or stirring my Sangria with a finger, or puffing away on my little black filterless Belgians, or lightly rolling my Ybor City mock Cuban between thumb and forefinger, or stroking the taut but silky smooth stomach and lower breasts of this week's love while waiting for my dog to do his business. But I'm not. - Steven Riddle

    Memes that penalize the prolix. - Peony of "Pansy & Peony" on the word-limiting "You're On Notice" Colbert meme

    Christianity, considered as a moral system, is made up of two elements, beauty and severity; whenever either is indulged to the loss or disparagement of the other, evil ensues. - commenter on Disputations

    The truth is that songs where you sing the blues are in some ways subverting your true sorrow, simply by setting it apart from you and putting it into some kind of order. - Suburban Banshee

    Bl. Jordan of Saxony records the death of St. Dominic..."Behold," [St. Dominic] said, "up to this hour the grace of God has kept my flesh unsullied; yet I confess to not escaping the fault that talks with young women affected my heart more than conversations with those who were older." (A Spaniard to the end. And a true Christian, appreciative of the physical order yet striving for perfect charity toward all.) - Tom of Disputations

    In terms of auguring the future, both referents are ominous: A pope unable to halt mass slaughter, and a saint who found a route for the church to survive the fall of the Roman Empire. - commenter on article mentioning how Benedict XVI chose his name based on both St. Benedict and Benedict XV

    Peace prevails at the Our Lady Of Consolation shrine In Carey, Ohio even as the Street Preachers Fellowship again shows up to protest the Assumption Eve procession...I attended the English Mass but it must have been more than a bit ironic to hear the din of the street preacher’s comments during the Chaldean Mass. The Chaledans say their Mass in Aramaic, the ancient language of Jesus. Can you imagine a group of fundamentalists, whose primary doctrine concerning such topics as the rapture and salvation that comes from the 19th or 20th century, lecturing a group whose traditions and language go back to the Apostolic era? The Assumption of Mary was one of the earliest traditions of the Middle Eastern Church. - David Hartline of "Catholic Report"

    "During the election cycle in 2004, our Catholic values were whittled down to four or five issues that were nonnegotiable," said Eric McFadden, Ohio field director for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. "We want to bring other issues into the discussion." I 'ain't buying it...Success isn't likely to be as simple as adding a handful of "other issues" to the four or five nonnegotiables -- much less replacing them, which is probably the real aim. The appeal to the nonnegotiables worked because, well, they are nonnegotiable relatively speaking. Most educated Catholics know there's a profound difference between a law that permits a child to be butchered in his mother's womb and one that permits an employer to pay someone $5.85 an hour versus $7.15. There are also the related issues of identity and authenticity...They've lectured conservatives about a mile-high wall of separation between Church and State and spoken of politically-minded Christians in conspiratorial terms. Learning that they now take religion seriously, on its own terms, is a bit like learning that Britney Spears next record is "The Greatest Hits of Chant and Polyphony." - Rich Leonardi of "Ten Reasons"

    There was something strange about the movie [World Trade Center], and I couldn't put my finger on it.  Then I realized:  As far as I can remember, it never mentions the cause of the 9/11 attacks: Islam. Specifically, those forms of Islam most closely aligned to the teachings of Mohammed.  It's like a Holocaust movie without the Nazis.  It's not just this movie.  With notable exceptions, the silence about the true nature of Mohammed and Islam is deafening...Bad solutions will be proposed -- "the spread of democracy" will continue to replace "the spread of the Gospel" as our evangelical mandate.  And we'll continue to be surprised when this democratic movement strengthens the fists of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian Shiites at the expense of Maronite and Chaldean Christians and other good people. Jesus Christ is the answer.  In the coming years, the task of Christians will be to talk more often and intimately with Him, so the world can hear His voice in ours more clearly. - Kevin Knight of "New Advent" blog

    McGowan asks: "Why do we regret losing what we don't really want? Why do we long for a way of life we wouldn't return to: an austerity that was sustained by penury, not by anyone's wish for it to be so?" Perhaps, he suggests, "we miss the intimacy of a society where neighbors depended upon one another, needed one another." - Rick Grant review of book by Joe McGowan

    The Fathers made me a Catholic, and I am not going to kick down the ladder by which I ascended into the Church. It is a ladder quite as serviceable for that purpose now, as it was twenty years ago. Though I hold, as you know, a process of development in Apostolic truth as time goes on, such development does not supersede the Fathers, but explains and completes them. And, in particular, as regards our teaching concerning the Blessed Virgin, with the Fathers I am content; --- and to the subject of that teaching I mean to address myself at once. I do so, because you say, as I myself have said in former years, that "That vast system as to the Blessed Virgin ... to all of us has been the special crux of the Roman system." - Venerable Cardinal Newman, via Bill White