September 30, 2006

It Don't Get No Better

...than the annual playing of that Schnitzelbank song. Oh the ineffable, ich-hop’d broth of ol' Deutsch orchestra! The eve opened with sunful skies, though with a marked chill.

There is nothing quite like live music. The sound of blasting trombones is something that can’t seem to be recreated on CD.
Daily Lit via Mama Lit (explanation here).

September 29, 2006

Various & Sundry

Astros and Cardinals could go down to the final game. Helluva pennant race. The Astronomicals are streaking, Cardinals hurting.

I've long been interested in what led to the fall of the Democratic party, not in terms of political power but moral capital. I wonder whether the same thing is happening to the Republican party.

As Fox reporter Chris Wallace said later, the real surprise is not that he asked his question but that so few other "mainstream" media types didn't. I agree with arch-conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham who said that no one should give Clinton grief for failing to get bin Laden since OBL was on no one's radar. Neither Cunningham nor Rush Limbaugh nor anybody else was calling for Clinton to respond more forcefully to the attacks that occurred during the '90s. (In fact, he was pilloried for 'wagging the dog'.) Just as I think people beating up George Bush for failing to use psychic powers to discern there was no WMD in Iraq, similarly I have a hard time faulting Clinton for failure to move forcefully against Al Queda.

  Our Lady is the boast of humanity but humanity has another boast as well: we are able to receive the Eucharist. Angels adore what we would receive, another case of God blessing the lowly. The pastor at the Dominican church downtown went so far as to smiling to say that they are "jealous". Imagine the archangel Michael being jealous of us! Only God could make that possible.

What makes me feel older is how much taller girls are these days. Every generation seems to get a bit taller, so it's not that I'm getting shorter so much as older. I'm a bit over 5'10", and it's amazing how many girls in their early 20s are 5'10", 5'11" or taller.

In our on-going study of signs of the collapse of civilization, I'm wondering if we can add lying sports stars to the list. It's almost impressive how big the whoppers! First there was Raphael Palmeiro's denial of the plain results of a steroid test and now T.O.'s denial of a suicide attempt. I find it hard to believe that, say fifty years ago, people would have the chutzpah to deny what there is solid evidence to the contrary, i.e. the 9-1-1 call and the steroid test results.

September 28, 2006

Shoutout to Kim!

   Survived another bingo last night and co-worker Kim asked that I give her this blog's URL, so presumably my Sitemeter will feel another tick. She said, and I concur, that she'll never quite get over the sight of bingo players simultaneously taking oxygen while smoking a cigarette (and while operating a dauber). You don't see that every day. Fortunately there were fewer smokers than normal so our odds of devloping bingo-related lung cancer were at least slightly diminished.

I promised Kim I'd link to a few prior bingoistic posts, so, in no particular order, here's one, here's another, here's another and another and one more.

Update: I think she'll recognize some of these pictures taken around our neighborhood... And Msgr. Lane is her pastor too. Some of the good padre's thoughts are here and here.
Fine Art Friday (a day early)

Was looking for Flannery O'Connor images and came across this fine collection of Savannah, Georgia pics, including two of the "Waving Girl":


Whether legend or based on a true story I don't know, but as I recall the statue depicts a girl waiting for her fiance who was apparently lost at sea. For fifty years she'd wave to the incoming ships, hoping her man was on one. Isn't there something quintessentially Southern about this statue? Something romantic, maudlin, stubborn and Lost Cause-ish? I could be wrong but I'd be surprised to find a statue like that in the harbors of one of the Great Lakes. The German/English culture of the North is very different from the Scotch/Irish culture of the South, or at least used to be.
Irish Family Tradition

I recall one night in Ireland a decade ago when the six of us packed ourselves tightly into a tightly packed bar. Probably fifty people in the joint when an ageless fellow wearing a brown sports jacket introduced himself (in lore he's now simply 'brown coat' since we've forgotten his real name) and he proceeded to banter until asking if we'd like to sing with him. I think it was a question but it was more of a statement because he began singing, at near the top of his lungs, and he became the center of attention. There is something of the ham in the Irish isn't there? How else to explain O'Reilly, Hannity, "Fightin'" Bill Donohue, et al? But blogs have opened up "ham-ness" to the masses - not just Irish tenors - and I think we're all grateful.

So let's sing Hank Williams Jr.'s classic song Family Tradition with slightly altered words:
They get on me wanna know Hank
Why do you blog?
Why do write prose?
Why must you post every thought that occurs?
Stop and think it over
Put yourself in my position
If I write poems and blog all night long
It's a family tradition.

...little Reds fan...that's it...come on and watch us...

Crash! That hoits.

September 27, 2006

Late Summer/Early Fall

When fall is good, it is very good.

The sky is tryptophan blue, the sort of blue written about in books and spoken of in legends and faerie tales. It is gist for clichés, a color only children or the old can appreciate since children are not yet jaded and the old take nothing for granted. Coming on the cusp of winter, fall makes elders of us all.

Leaves churn in a wind accompanied by the rustle of chimes. The reclusive sun hides behind a tiny archipelago of clouds and yet the clouds are not greater than the sun, they are merely nearer to us, or we nearer to them. They are like ships sailing through the blue. The trees have lost none of their green and carry the sheen of recent rains; their leaves are like dapplegängers of white and dark, mini-repositories of sun and shade.

Dramatically if noiselessly the sun roists from the ship-like islands and dancing tree branches sprinkle the exultant into a thousand refracted pieces, changing the grass into a quilt of multi-hue'd greens.

Now a cloud like Ireland appears, Éire with her familiar canine profile, and I spot Cork and Connemara, Dublin and Sligo, Wexford and Donegal as she slides quickly north, higher into that broad Atlantic.

How fast she moves!
Stigmata Commentary

From New [Update: New Advent, not New Avent. HT to TB.]
Dr. Imbert counts 321 stigmatics in whom there is every reason to believe in a Divine action. He believes that others would be found by consulting the libraries of Germany, Spain, and Italy. In this list there are 41 men.
Somehow I'm not surprised that there are more women than men stigmatics. Men make up less than thirteen percent of that list. It's always seemed to me that women have a greater natural capacity for holiness given that they understand receptivity to a greater extent and tend to be more sympathetic. Stereotypes, yes, but at the foot of the Cross men were strangely absent, with the exception of John. No wonder he was the disciple Jesus loved. New Advent continues:
The sufferings may be considered the essential part of visible stigmata; the substance of this grace consists of pity for Christ, participation in His sufferings, sorrows, and for the same end--the expiation of the sins unceasingly committed in the world. If the sufferings were absent, the wounds would be but an empty symbol, theatrical representation, conducing to pride.
Some background from Louis Bouyer's Introduction to Spirituality:
Another step was taken with St. Peter Damien and his whole era (11th century). The religious soul then came to concentrate on the cross, no longer as the instrument of our liberation or as a testimony of love, but as a particularly impressive example of suffering deliberately accepted, even sought out. New mortifications of a directly punitive character, such as scourgings, came to be practiced in this spirit.

Thus the way opened out by the Irish monks led, toward the end of the Middle Ages, to an asceticism of compassion. Certain forms of Franciscanism, centered more on the stigmata of St. Francis than on his own spirituality, led in this direction. The theory was formulated clearly for the first time by the Dominican mystic of the fourteenth century, Henry Suso. The objective the ascetic had in view was no longer so much to fight and overcome the power of sin through Christ and by His power; it was rather to suffer with Him, as if to bring some alleviation to His suffering by taking a part of it on oneself.

The beauty and especially the generosity of this ideal are beyond dispute. But it is also beyond dispute that this ideal tended to be formulated in a sentimental context far removed from the sobriety of primitive Christianity or of monasticism, and not in accordance with the lines of a sane theology.

What we have just said is still more true when we go from the asceticism of compassion to that of reparation. This made its appearance in the modern forms of devotion to the Sacred Heart more or less directly inspired by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Bouyer goes on to describe the greater excellence of an asceticism of compassion to that of reparation.

September 26, 2006

"Fault Pisses"   & Other Random Muses

Hernan Gonzalez is a very smart Argentinian whom I suspect I would have difficulty understanding even if it wasn't through the corrupting lens of Babelfish. (The Kreitzberg of Argentina?) But Babelfish does make things "interesting":
They criticize to me that I mix two words that correspond to different concepts: theism and deism. It is truth. The certain thing is that —damn artifices of the rhetoric, that they try to abrillantar to the speech and they do not do more than to grow dark— if the word "theism" were most suitable for the context, the other was lent better to the analogy (Papa/papista = Dios/deísta). Fault pisses.
And then:
That it cannot or does not have say that "God is over the Good"... it is a thing. To say however that "the religious sphere is over the ethical sphere", is another thing; probably true, or defensible.
It's long been my perception that we Christians have more of an obedience problem than Muslims. I wonder if part of it is that, for Muslims, God can command irrationalities and therefore they are less likely to ask, "but is this a good thing?". For suicide bombers there is obedience without love or goodness, but love and goodness are not the point since God is beyond categories. Obedience uber alles. Christians can go to the other extreme and simply make a judgment that no one goes to Hell because God is good, and Goodness would not populate Hell.

We are more likely to ask why of God since our religion involves reason as well as faith. Of course not everything is accessible by reason. The whys are sometimes not forthcoming, such as Job found out, but there is at least comfort in knowing that He knows and that he is never other than good.

I love St. Padre Pio. He's like this perfect combination of no-nonsense piety and light-hearted accessibility. I'd probably have to be hospitalized in the ICU after an encounter with him, but it would certainly be worth it. One of my favorite stories is when he redirected our bombers from hitting San Giovanni Rotundo. - Rick Lugari

Cold, again. September has turned its back on us all. Indifferent drizzle, interminable parades of low clouds heading somewhere with great self-importance. I turned on the Oak Island Water Feature for that summertime feeling, and it ran dry after ten minutes. Used a plumber’s snake on the overflow pipe, and all was well. Aside from the rust-stained hands and heaps of sodden leaves...When you’re a latecomer to the day you end up making absurd claims on the night; when you rise at an early hour you’re content to let the night do as it wishes. Or so I hear. I still straddle the two, which is why I rise early and hit the hay late. This means I need a restorative nap – 20 minutes carved from the generally useless hour between four and five. - James Lilek

The sky is so clear tonight, and the stars so bright, that I remember again why we moved to the country. The children even spotted a few falling stars while stargazing. A leisurely walk under the stars with a three-year old girl of boundless enthusiasm does wonders for a middle-aged man fighting off a melancholoy spirit. And it is amazing how much the weather can change one's mood out here. The past few days of wind have blown away the summertime blues along with the haze, and what used to look like far distant mountain ranges now appear so close as to be almost touchable. - Jeff of "Hallowed Ground"

A sure sign of a political movement’s maturity is the discretion it shows in picking its leaders. Which is why gay groups could show how grown-up they are by excommunicating James McGreevey. - Jonah Goldberg

I was stunned to read this [John Powers] book [Do Black Patent Shoes Really Reflect Up?] and find that it was full of mean-spirited stories about the Catholic Church. Now, before you even tell me, I know, I know, if you were raised Catholic before a certain time these stories are hilariously true. All I can say is that, to me as a convert of today, if those stories ring true then thank the Lord for Vatican II. Honestly, if one strips the veil of memory off and reads what Powers writes about the Church in these two books there is no way that one would find these stories original or amusing (yes, I actually suffered through a second to make sure that I was being fair to Powers). I am put in mind of Bill Bryson's books about traveling around America. I eagerly picked one up, having thoroughly enjoyed "English, Our Mother Tongue and How It Got That Way" and found that the reason Bryson must live in England is because he hates America ... or just wants to tell mean stories about Americans to make a buck. Powers is in the same category for me. - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

As Uncle gilbert used to say, good prose words mean what they say, good poetic words mean what they do not say. - Sancta Sanctis

The best book for illuminating what's going on in the Muslim 'street' isn't some weighty treatise on Islam; it's a short little tract called White Guilt by Shelby Steele. The book isn't even about Islam. Steele focuses on white liberals and the black radicals who've been gaming them ever since the 1960s. Whites, he argues, have internalized their own demonization. Deep down they fear that maybe they are imperialistic, racist bastards, and they are desperate to prove otherwise. In America, black radicals figured this out a while ago and have been dunning liberal whites ever since...The West is caught in a similarly dysfunctional cycle of extortion and intimidation with Islam, but on a grander and far more violent scale. - Jonah Goldberg

I still hope and pray that Christopher "crush the Islamofacists, just don't bug my phone" Hitchens will pull a Muggeridge and turn Catholic five or ten years from now. That's the usual fate of people like him. I'll be delighted to witness it. We could use him. But for now, Hitchens is a liability. He and his Euston Manifesto friends actually believe we can win World War III with a vague admixture of Voltaire and Howard Stern. Good luck with that. And if you excuse your continued affection for the man with a plea to his incomparable prose style, that's the moral equivalent of admitting you hired your secretary just because she has big boobs. You're shallowness should shame you. - Kathy Shaidle

Anyway, as we witness the tail of the dinosaur twitching as the beast dies in fitful agony (stay away from that tail, it has spikes that curve like scimitars), the lie of "Moderate Islam" will peel away from the truth faster and faster. Now, a year or two ago when I said that, I got a few howls of indignation from typical compassionista liberals as well as from an indignant Mohammedan girl straight from Jihad Central Casting. After all, Imam Bush told us that Mohammedanism is a religion of peace, and isn't he authorized to issue Grand Fatwas? Well, I have said it before, and I will say it again: Moderate Mohammedanism is a fraud. It is either a lie to the outside world, to assuage our justifiable suspicions, or it is an internal lie to make a life of comfort and ease in the West seem compatible with the "evil and inhuman" faith of Mohammed. And you know what? There are decent and honest Mohammedans out there who will admit as much. - Erik of "Erik's Rants and Recipes"

Blessed Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying; but he is not quite so important as he will be in about a hundred years' time. - GK Chesterton, in 1929, via "Sancta Sanctis"
Strangely Addicting...

What is a haiku?
Is it like karaoke?
Thank the Japanese.
Flos Carmeli posts
Invites us to versify
haiku mania!
Turned off Notre Dame
Far behind Michigan State
Luck of the Irish.
Back in the sixties
France gamed the superpowers
One now; it's galling.
Zippy for Congress!
No evil of two lessers
Scrupulous Catholic.
Last haiku or else
I'll be a monkey's uncle
Blame it on Riddle.
Various And/Or Sundry

What are universities for again? So, I think our "takeaway" (did I just say that? ugh.) from the NY Times reaction against the Pope's talk at the University of Regensburg, as well as Larry Summers's comments at an academic conference at Harvard last year, is that for the elite media seeking the truth isn't the proper function of the university. First and foremost it must not offend (with exceptions: evangelicals, Catholics, Mel Gibson, neocons, etc..)

On the wall between faith & reason: "Mr. Islam, tear down this wall!"

From our Unintended Irony Department:  Thomas Fleming's loathing of America alters what could've been a interesting critique into a self-indulgent rant. He treats words and argument the way he claims Americans treat food, i.e. no self-restraint. Evidence? "[Americans] are hardly better than the violence-crazed Muslims..." He and Rosie O'Donnell should get together. They do say that the far left and the far right eventually end up indistinguishable from one another.

Clinton aide Leon Panetta on Bill Clinton (in The New Yorker):
"The method he uses to live with himself is to make a clear and precise argument that this was something that others had done to him and not that he had done to himself,” Leon Panetta said. “Because of his brainpower, he can create a logic for anything. But deep down he would be such a good person if he could just accept the fact that he screwed up and made mistakes, and move on.”

September 25, 2006

Goat Got Your Tongue?

Kids ask tough questions. Funny.
Jonah Goldberg Says Muslims Need a pope, not a Luther

...interesting, especially coming from a non-Catlicker.

It seems the institution of the papacy is accessible not only by faith (Matthew 16:18) but by reason. I'm reading Philbrick's Mayflower, and the folks at Plymouth over time began to take their cues and norms from the Puritan leadership at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. If you don't have a universal pope, you'll find local ones.
That Time of Year

Oktoberfest! I recently heard that it's becoming popular in Europe to mix dark beers with Coca Cola and pilsners with Sprite. I'll have to try that sometime although it seems wrong, like drawing a mustache on the Mona Lisa, since the dark beers are so good on their own.


Heard on the radio today that drinking alcohol lowers testosterone. So men, drink up if you want to keep your hair (though hopefully not develop big 'mits').

Ein Prosit!
A Precedent...

I've long wondered why concern for Iraqi civilians extends primarily only to deaths due to bombings. Most of our friends on the political left, for example, were mostly - not all, but mostly - silent during withering '90s economic sanctions that killed over one million Iraqis, mostly women and children. The sanctions killed far more than the Iraq war has, so I attributed most of their outrage to politics: Clinton=Democrat=OK, Bush=Republican=Bad.

But that might not be fair since it's just a fact of human nature that deaths caused by explosions are going to be far more conscience-pricking than deaths due to, say, an artificially created food shortage (though I for one would rather die in a bombing than in an torturous famine).

I heard evidence of that over the weekend. According to the professor I'm listening to on tape, in the winter of 1916 the blockade of food to Germany caused perhaps 3 million civilian casualties - more than all of the Allied bombings of WWII combined. And yet who today remembers the 1916 blockade of Germany? We remember Dresden.

September 24, 2006

Other Hulk Fans

"You know, Walker [Percy] had extremely eclectic taste in popular culture. He was very big on The Incredible Hulk tv show. He and Eudora Welty got into a chat about that once; they were both Hulk followers." --Walker Percy Remembered - by David Harwell
1847 Irish Famine Diary

September 23, 2006

Probably Nothing But...

Isn't it odd that a book written about your religious order, praising its contributions to American Catholic history and popular enough to require a reprint, would go unmentioned on your order's website?

September 22, 2006

Week in Review

Tom T. Hall's Old Dogs & Children, Watermelon Wine plays in the background but it’s currently Old Breviaries, Irish Histories, and Guinness Stout in reality. Giddily printed twenty or so pages (mostly at random) among the Dublin Review, a prayer book and various & sundry others as provided by Google’s antique book program via Bill White. Closest thing you can get to time travel I’d say. They say you have to visit another country in order to understand your own, i.e. in order to see its strengths and weaknesses. So you have to travel to another time in order to see our own time in its proper perspective. History does it too, but modern histories are often so soaked in the Zeitgeist that the past feels less like a foreign country than Muncie, Indiana. But reading the sources, the first person accounts, singes with authenticity. Only the must & dust are missing.

I think Fall officially began this week, replete with fogs and clouds and the occasional crystalline day. Time to give the ball to the Southern Hemisphere. My wife and Hambone say this is their favorite time of year but I say it’s an acquired taste – by the time you acquire it, it’s winter. They may think it sweet but it’s bittersweet, stocked as it is with nostalgia. The burnt-sienna memories come flooding back like the cool in the nostrils during high school football games when you get the sensation of running loose on the wet grass without ever actually having done so. Some memories aren’t even memories! But there I am, Tony Farkus, the shiftiest little running back that ever graced a football field. And if he’d shake a tackle he’d get loose like a eight-ball streaking headlong towards the pocket.

Nostalgia, yes. As another blogger recently haiku’d:
I never ate paste.
Kindergarten memories
abound as fall comes.

The paste eater, she
chewed erasers in first grade.
Bad pencil lendee…

Kindergartens too
exist in a fallen world.
In schools and in homes.
A worthy epitaph: "I never ate paste."

Nostalgia yes, but the kind that haunts too. Like the time I was in the hospital for a week, a seven-year old scared and lonely, and how there was great comfort in television commercials, as if everything would be okay if there were still commercials. The dark abyss of night was overcome by the light and ease emanating from the pitchmen. I made a mental note at the time that if I were ever in this predicament again I could rely on commercials. Wrong. So wrong.

The morning lawn is full of dew, soaking through the mesh of my running shoes. I guess mesh is a “feature, not a bug” but it feels otherwise given wet socks. The street is dry and I enjoy the rare morning walk and the odd sensation of sun coming from the opposite direction. The ancients knew their sun. In Ireland we toured Newgrange, an ancient construction that allowed the sun to strike the inside only at the winter equinox, the turning point for longer days. When the cats ascend to the window we call it “Kitty TV” but to the ancients the stars were their television and they knew them like the back of their hands. The natural world was their entertainment in a way we can scarcely comprehend.

Is it just me, or is the Drudge Report is becoming ridiculously kitsch-y? My wife’s pastor loves Drudge and has made it his home page; he must have a wider curiosity than me. I suppose you could see it as a window on breaking news and pop culture. I suppose the natural tendency of aging is that one’s interest narrow and, ideally at least, deepen. I don’t care one iota what Madonna is doing and I’m irritated he’s publicizing her. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it…well if Madonna outrages Christians and no one hears it, did it still happen? Talk about living off the capital of Chrisitanity! I guess she’s doing what Shelby Foote said James Joyce did – reacting against their Christian upbringing for fame and profit. It works apparently. Today’s Drudge featured a photo of Babs Streisand sans bra. Breaking news – famous singer goes out without benefit of a bra! I think Drudge has jumped the proverbial shark. If I wanted to see braless singers I'd subscribe to Maxim.

How sweet it is to think that just as God commends us to love Him with our “whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind” he therefore loves us with his whole heart, whole soul and whole mind. What a good deal for us! Reading St. Paul’s famous passage on love, “Love is patient, love is kind.. “ in 1 Corinthians 13 it becomes clear that Paul is seeing a bigger picture than the Corinthians were. He was seeing the ends and they were concentrated on the means. The end result of speaking in tongues would be...personal satisfaction and personal consolation. The end result of prophesying was far more useful, since it helped the Church, and he spoke well of it. But overarching all was love, that oftimes elusive slippery word.

Sister-in-law’s party was a bit more colorful than normal. I think the unusual timing, a Friday night, was responsible. Everyone's a bit slap-happy from the fatigue you naturally accrue by Friday night. Does “Happy Birthday” span a full octave? I guess what The Star-Spangled Banner is to professional singers, Happy Birthday is to amateurs. It’s tough to get the crowd in tune on that one. It's hard to sing it when someone nearby is out of tune since it feels like you’re singing out of tune. But, as Letterman said, "it's not a competition; please no wagering."

The controversies were many, including a gas leak, and not the kind where you call the power company. Hopefully she’ll “just say no” to baked beans in the future. Other controversies included a case of marital interruptus of the rudest kind; she smiled sheepishly but we were hoping for a bit more blush in her face as this was discussed. Heard bro-in-law was wearing a Superman shirt at the family camping trip we missed a couple weeks back. He’s got the chest for it, much like George Reeves did. C.S. Lewis’s famous line about “men without chests” can’t apply to Chrismon. Given his general fearlessness it almost makes a phrenologist out of me, or the chesty equivalent.
Mama Mio, It's St. Pio!

Tomorrow is the memorial of St. Pio of Pietrelcina, called by some the greatest man of the 20th century.
Frank Rega writes, in Padre Pio and America:

Some might say that Padre Pio is now gone. However, in his old age, when people had expressed their apprehensions about his approaching death, Padre Pio would reply gruffly yet playfully:
"Silly person, I will be here in your midst, more than before. Come visit my tomb. Before, in order to speak to me, you had to wait. Then, it is I who will be waiting there. Come to my tomb and you will receive more than you did before!"
Padre Pio frequently stated, "In the tomb I will be more alive than ever!" And when one of his collaborators ventured the opinion that, with so many persons to pray for, the Padre must simply lump everyone together in one big kettle or cauldron, Padre Pio responded:
"In a cauldron is where I am going to throw you! I remember them and I call them one by one, and count their hairs, and then some."

When I was a kid I thought the stigmata was something really cool. It never dawned on me that there would be any pain involved for the recipient. (This somewhat recalls my view of Christian life, which assumed a shape that denied the cross, obviously a constant temptation to this day.) Yet Padre Pio suffered tremendous pain due to the stigmata for fifty years. One asks why and I've arrived at three ideas, all mostly unsatisfactory. One is for expiation for others' sins, something that still is hard to figure out given that you always ask the question of why a loving God would require expiatory sacrifice. ("It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.") Another is that his time of purification came on earth instead of Purgatory, suggesting that our purgatories will be far worse. And finally, it's possible that the gifts of Pio were so extraordinary that he needed a "thorn in the flesh", ala St. Paul, to keep him humble. Given human nature this would make sense.

From a 9/25/1917 letter to his aunt and niece:
"My daughters, we must resign ourselves to what we have inherited from our ancestors Adam and Eve. Self-love never dies before we do, but it will accompany us to the tomb. Dear God, my daughters, what unhappiness this is for us poor children of Eve! We must always feel the sensitive assaults of the passions, as long as we are in this miserable exile. But what of it? Should we perhaps become discouraged and renounce the life of heaven? No, most beloved daughters, let us take heart. It is sufficient for us not to consent with our deliberate will; deliberate, firm and sustained."

Another legacy of the saint, from Rega's Padre Pio and America (review):
Some may feel an affinity with his humble beginnings, or be drawn by the wondrous miracle stories, or be fascinated by the stigmata. And how can a 'practical' American not be astounded at the cloistered monk who build one of the greatest hospitals in Europe, in what was then a backward area of southern Italy?
Thought Triggered By Flos Carmeli

Steven Riddle writes,
Of recent date, I've been typing in older poetry--poetry from 1980, at present. And I have to admit to being occasionally astounded by a line or two the gleams out from the mass of rubbish that surrounds it. There is some good poetry hidden under the pretension of youth, just waiting to be dug out.
That's how I feel about many books, although with the difference that what surrounds the gleams is not rubbish (and it's likely Steven was being hyperbolic anyway). But, for me at least, Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear it Away was worth reading for the ending. There's one chapter in Meehan's Two Towers that resonated in a life-changing way. There are a few paragraphs in Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home that had a profound impact back in the '90s when I was finding my way back. A single line or two in a biography of Pope St. Pius X impacted. Those books all contained nuggets that lingered way past the normal "expiration date" of biblio memory.

My point? You often have to read a lot to get to the part you wanted to read.

Reminds me of what a bishop (I think it was a bishop) once said. He said he usually prays for three minutes. But it takes thirty minutes of prayer to get there.
Arrested Development

"That's what we would say," she replied. "But that's not what they think. The Muslims haven't evolved as far as we have. They're 600 years behind us."

"And we have to point out that what those Muslims think is wrong and is unworthy of God," I said. "It's not OK that they're '600 years behind us.' The civilized world has a right to criticize Islam."
Cue Fr. Rob's interlocutor's song:
Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!

September 20, 2006

St. Pio Rosary Aid (click pics to enlarge)

For best results, print & use.
Foreign Blogs

It's fun, occasionally, to experience a bit of the universality of the Church by checking out blogs outside North America, such as this blog in Spanish and this one in German. Almost everyone's talking about Benedict's Regensburg lecture, of course.

I'd never heard this O'Connor quote before which Compostela quotes:
Flannery ÓConnor said it takes to certain kind of stupidity to be to good fiction writer- the kind of stupidity that requires you to stare AT something before you begin to understand it.

Imagining Don Imus Interviewing President of Iran

Imus: "The President of Iran is on the phone. Welcome to the program Mr. President."
POI: "Thank you for having me."
Imus: "So what's the deal? Are you crazy? Are you just plain nuts?"
POI: "What do you mean sir?"
Chuck: "Don--"
Imus: "First, I have to tell you that I see everything in terms of how it'll affect me, and the show...Do you know how hard it is to get comedy material out of a war, if you in fact start one with Israel or America?"
Chuck: "I-man please, you're treating the President of Iran with dis-"
POI: "I will not take such insults from an American pig!"
Imus: "Pig? If America is the Great Satan then don't I at least rate a demon? Or is a pig worse than a demon for you people?"
Bernie: [makes pig noise in background]
POI: "You are lower than cow dung. You are the son of a motherless goat."
Imus: "George Bush and the criminals in his Administration did you the biggest favor any country has ever done for another country by getting rid of your worst enemy, Saddam Hussein, and this is how you want to thank us? By funding that terrorist nightmare Hezbollah and making a-bombs and sending long letters to a man who can't read, and in general making a constant nuisance of yourself? You should be ashamed of yourself you ungrateful bastard! I oughta send David Gregory over there and have him start hounding you at your press conferences instead of Bush at his. Maybe if Gregory stops dancing on The Today Show he'll find the time to open a can of whupass on your ass."
A Divine Irony

They unsheave swords of softness
They slay with rousing suppleness
Their hips and thighs and subtle lifts
are darts that quarry men's eyes
their ceaseless blows of beauty be
a designed irony.

If soft be your weapon
then curves be your straightaway
to the male attention--
his curiosity like an open field
a vulnerable, undefended plain,
while your breasts like Little Round Tops
issue a deadly fire.

Men fancy themselves
initiators and penetrators,
though it's they who woo a woman,
themselves already marked.
Boston, Philly

The Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia book I mentioned in an earlier post is fascinating, all the more so because in his chapter on Catholics he attempts to show how religious subcultures take on the coloring of the host culture so thoroughly. On the one hand it's depressing given how we, as social animals, are so easily and predictably influenced.

The author says it's no coincidence that the Catholic Church in Boston produced so many leaders during the 1800s and 1900s while the Philadephia church produced so few. Puritans who founded Boston favored hierarchy and transcendence rather than egalitarianism and immanence and the Catholics in Boston took on that flavor. His argument is the Church in Boston produced visible earthly fruits in the form of more excellent colleges, far superior financial management, great leaders. Philadelphia did not, and it was because the Church was influenced by the prevailing culture. If his criteria as to how a city (or country) should be judged is too earthly, it is true that founders of institutions (i.e. leaders), for good or ill, cast shadows long after they're gone.

The Quakers who founded Philly favored immanence over transcendence and that spiritual egalitarianism tends to produce poorer leaders, partially because leadership is not valued in very democratic societies. After all, if the people vote on every issue how important are leaders? If God is in everybody, then what practical need is there for the Transcendent?

Adam Smith said that whatever the government subsidizes there'll be more of it and it seems that whatever people assign status to, there will be more of it. So when Catholic priests were held in awe back in the 1940s, it's no surprise that there were lots of Catholic priests. During the '60s and '70s, when excesses of clericalism were trimmed back so much that even teaching on the sacraments became watered down, priests fled. You can call it a weakness of human nature that we require status in order to do the right thing, but that's where we're at. And certainly Jesus promised "status" to followers. He motivated us by saying that if you want to be first, become the least, become the servant of all. He appealed to competitive instincts by calling those who would lead children astray "least in the Kingdom".

Puritan Boston, Quaker Philadelphia was written in 1970, before the 24/7 'gotcha' media, before gigantic fund-raising requirements, before candidates were submitted to a strip-search of their private lives. And yet he makes a point of how so many quality people were deciding not to run for office, leaving only the mediocre. Does that sound familiar? It's ironic that many of those who most hate George W. Bush are those most in favor of a "purer" democracy - and thus worst leaders. They complain of the symptom while being part of the problem.

The dramatic influence of culture above all makes one realize how crucial Catholic schools or homeschooling is, at least schools that have managed to retain some of their Catholic identity.

Oft times I miss the pre-Internet days when insanity was more localized & privatized. The poor fellow probably imagines this:
Kristol, Wolfowitz Welcome Neo Neocon

ROME, ITALY-- In an elaborate but secret ceremony, members of an American delegation that included Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz showed Pope Benedict the "neocon handshake" and formally accepted him as one of their own...
The pop singer Madonna and her antics are pathetic and don't shock me, but I am still surprised by those with decent language skills who are capable of such cluelessness.
Mau-Mauing the West

Jonah Goldberg on jihad enablers.
Our Excellent Public School Education

Just heard that a local school district not only had the kids read The DaVinci Code, but also took them to the (r-rated) movie.

Isn't that like a 3-fer? You get them reading low-brow literature. You get them reading conspiracist/anti-Scriptural material. You get them seeing an R-rated movie. (The Bexley district has the policy of allowing high school kids to see r-rated movies and middle school to see PG movies).

Times they are a changin'.
A Hump Day Quiz

Through the lens of Babelfish, can you name these '80s tunes? (Answers tomorrow.)

Ich trage meine Sonnenbrille nachts,
also können ich Dose also ich Sie aufpassen,
dann zu spinnen atmen Ihre Geschichtelinien
und ich trage meine Sonnenbrille nachts,
also können ich Dose also ich die Anblicke
in meinen Augen verfolgen Während sie mich betrügt,
den es meine Sicherheit hat sie erhielt Steuerung von mir schneidet,
ich zu ihr mich drehe und sagen Sie...
Song 2, perhaps a bit easier:
OH- Mickey, sind Sie so fein
Sie sind, also fein, brennen Sie meinen Verstand, he Mickey, he Mickey durch
OH- Mickey, sind Sie so fein
Sie sind, also fein, brennen Sie meinen Verstand, he Mickey, he Mickey durch
OH- Mickey, sind Sie so fein
Sie sind, also fein, brennen Sie meinen Verstand, he Mickey... durch
And finally, this last song isn't an '80s song but is an old standard and this time isn't in German but Russian!

September 19, 2006

Guest Blogger

This week I've decided to guest host my own blog! Always breaking new ground here at Video Meliora. It's likely there won't be any difference in your blog-reading experience. Can you tell that innovation is getting a wee bit difficult during these days of the Late Blog Epoch?

And while I'm here, thanks go out to Bill Luse for including me in his Notable Quotables column. John Adams wrote that the worst thing about poverty is invisibility and I'm more visible there and elsewhere than deserved (though I'm unsure if my invisibility to authors giving away review copies is entirely deserved--but don't get me started, 'eh? The wound is still raw.) Regardless, a major STG weakness is the lack of new blood in there.

Elsewhere, Eric Scheske is skeptical about Marriage Encounter weekends and based on the number of children he has there would seem to be no infrequency of marital encounters. (rimshot!) Hey, where's my rimshot? Oh yeah there. Terrence Berres sent me one a year or so ago and I'd misplaced it.

Posts during the guest-host stint will include an exploration of why saints received stigmatas on their hands rather than the (historically accurate) wrist. Is it because God condescends to speak to us in a way we'll understand, and that in St. Francis' time no one presumably would've understood why he had marks on his wrists? Is this in any way comparable to God's condescension in speaking to us through the Scriptures?

We'll also ask, regarding the volcanic Islamic reaction to the Pope's statements, whether it would be gauche for me to make a We're All Catholics Now graphic? Yes it would. But one of the more shocking things I've read lately was from Mike Poterma, one of our separated brethern, who reports that at a Reformation Sunday service at a Presbyterian church the pastor in his sermon "called on us all to continue our efforts at reformation--and said wistfully, 'I sometimes think the Catholics did a better job of Reformation at Vatican II than we Protestants have done over the past 400 years.'" Take that RadTrads!? Though that pastor should quit hitting the wacky weed. It's bad for your health.

On the biblio front, I picked up T.C. Boyle's latest, Talk Talk. I loved Drop City but resisted, correctly I believe, The Inner Circle, which was produced in the interim. And after that darn Korretiv (say like 'that darn cat!') started posting Remembering Walker Percy excerpts I picked that up too and it's already a fascinating read. And now Bill White leads us to Catlick books here.

To end on a serious note, how painful it must be to get fired and then, unrelatedly, have your landlady kick you out? Must. pray.
Couch Potato Meme

Because too much seriousity spoils the broth, and because the Islamic stuff is exploding my head, I offer you this meme: [Note: I'm going to have to add "The Incredible Hulk" and Isis to the list. Incredible omissions.]

Bold (or change the color) of all of the following TV shows which you’ve seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime. Bold and Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it. If you want, add up to 3 additional shows (keep the list in alphabetical order).

3rd Rock from the Sun
7th Heaven
Aeon Flux
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Allo Allo
American Idol/Pop Idol/Canadian Idol/Australian Idol
America’s Next Top Model/Germany’s Next Top Model
Arrested Development
Babylon 5
Babylon 5: CrusadeBattlestar
Galactica (the old one)
Battlestar Galactica (the new one)
Beavis & Butthead
The Ben Stiller Show
Beverly Hills 90210
Bosom Buddies
Boston Legal
Boy Meets World
Brady Bunch
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Bug Juice
Chappelle’s Show
Charlie’s Angels
China Beach
Commander in Chief
Courtship of Eddie's Father
Cowboy Bebop
Crossing Jordan
CSI: Miami
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dancing with the Stars
Danny Phantom
Dark Angel
Dark Skies
Davinci’s Inquest
Dawson’s Creek
Dead Like Me
Deadliest Catch
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Dharma & Greg
Different Strokes
Doctor Who (new Who)
Doctor Who (series 1-26)
Due South
Dungeons and Dragons (old cartoon)
Earth 2
Everybody Loves Raymond
Facts of Life
Falcon Crest
Family Guy
Family Ties
Fantasy Island
Fawlty Towers
Flamingo Road
Full House
Get Smart
Gilligan’s Island
Gilmore Girls
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
Green Wing
Grey’s Anatomy
Growing Pains
Happy Days
Head of the Class
Hill Street Blues
Hogan’s Heroes
Home Improvement
Homicide: Life on the Street
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy
Invader Zim
Iron Chef (Japan)
Iron Chef (USA)
John Doe
Kath and Kim
Knight Rider
Knots Landing
La Femme Nikita
LA Law
Laverne and Shirley
Law & Order
Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Law & Order: SVU
Little House on the Prairie
Lizzie McGuire
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost in Space
Love, American Style
Magnum P.I.
Malcolm in the Middle
Married…With Children
Melrose Place
Miami Vice
Mission Impossible
Mork & Mindy
Murphy Brown
My Family
My Favorite Martian
My Life as a Dog
My Mother the Car
My So-Called Life
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
Mysterious Cities of Gold
Night Court
Northern Exposure
One Tree Hill
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose
Perfect Strangers
Perry Mason
Picket Fences
Pirates of Darkwater
Power Rangers
Prison Break
Project Runway
Quantum Leap
Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (British)
Queer Eye For The Straight Guy
Remington Steele
Rescue Me
Road Rules
Samurai Jack
Saved by the Bell
Scarecrow and Mrs. King
Scooby-Doo Where Are You?
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
Small Wonder
So Weird
South Park
Spongebob Squarepants
Sports Night
Square Pegs
St. Elsewhere
Star Trek
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise
Stargate Atlantis
Stargate SG-1
Teen Titans
That Girl
That 70’s Show
That’s So Raven
The 4400
The Addams Family
The Andy Griffith Show
The A-Team
The Avengers
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Bionic Woman
The Colbert Report
The Cosby Show
The Daily Show
The Days And Nights Of Molly Dodd
The Dead Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Flintstones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls
The Incredible Hulk
The Jetsons
The L Word
The Love Boat
The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mighty Boosh
The Monkees
The Munsters
The Mythbusters
The O.C.
The Office (UK)
The Office (US)
The Pretender
The Prisoner
The Rockford Files
The Real World
The Shield
The Simpsons
The Six Million Dollar Man
The Sopranos
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone
The Waltons
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
The X-Files
Third Watch
Three’s Company
Top Gear
Twin Peaks
Twitch City
Upstairs, Downstairs
Veronica Mars
What Not To Wear (US)
What Not To Wear (UK)
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)
Will and Grace
Wonder Woman
Xena: Warrior Princess
Young Hercules

The Christian suspicion is not that we must first be just and then we can be loving and charitable, but that we will, in all likelihood, only be just if we first find caritas. And this realization often means the Cross and suffering, just as Christ taught. - Fr. James Schall

What [the Pope] says about the loss of trust in reason was true of many popular authors and movements in the Catholic church in the century or so before the Reformation (Thomas a Kempis; The Brethren of the Common Life; Richard Rolle; The Cloud of Unknowing).  That's why he names Duns Scotus (ca. 1300) as a saintly culprit, ushering in to the west the idea of a voluntarist God, whose will takes precedence even over the divine reason.  Since the divine reason is the Logos, Benedict concludes that voluntarism ultimately severs God from Himself, or the Father from the Son, which is impossible...That Islam rejects the deep coherence of faith and reason is not to be doubted.  The devout Avicenna was the last Muslim to try to harmonize the Koran with the truths of philosophy; the heretic Averroes scoffed at him for supplanting philosophy with religion; and the theologian Al-Ghazzali denounced them both, and the whole enterprise.  That was a long, long time ago.  Now at last secularism and Islam meet.  - Anthony Esolen at "Mere Comments"

There is no Grace in Islam, no miracle, no expiatory sacrifice, no expression of love for mankind such that each Muslim need not be a sacrifice. On the contrary, the concept of jihad, in which the congregation of Islam is also the army, states that every single Muslim must sacrifice himself personally. Jihad is the precise equivalent of the Lord's Supper in Christianity and the Jewish Sabbath, the defining expression of sacrifice that opens the prospect of eternity to the mortal believer. To ask Islam to become moderate, to reform, to become a peaceful religion of personal conscience is the precise equivalent of asking Catholics to abolish Mass. - Spengler at "Asian Times"

[The writer Joseph] Conrad tells us that one of the sources of terrorism is laziness, or at least impatience, which is to say ambition unmatched by perseverance and tolerance of routine. Mr. Verloc, the secret agent, has a “dislike of all kinds of recognized labour,” which, says Conrad, is “a temperamental defect which he shared with a large proportion of revolutionary reformers of a given social state. For”—Conrad continues—“obviously one does not revolt against the advantages and opportunities of that state, but against the price which must be paid in the same coin of accepted morality, self-restraint, and toil. The majority of revolutionists are the enemies of discipline and fatigue mostly.” Ahmad’s refusal to go to college might be interpreted in this light: for the path to constructive achievement is long, hard, and unsure, strewn with tedium and the chance of failure, while the life of destruction is exciting, even in its most tedious moments, because of the providential role that the destructive revolutionist has awarded himself. Once the magic wand of revolutionary destructiveness has been waved, even dull routine becomes infused with significance and excitement. The mental laziness of Islamism, its desire that there should be to hand a ready-made solution to all the problems that mankind faces, one that is already known, and its unacknowledged fear that such a solution does not really exist, Updike captures well. - Theodore Dalrymple in "City Journal", reviewing Updike's Terrorist

The Historic Jesus is manufactured for the comfort of speculators and ersatz historians; the Apocalyptic Jesus will be seen when He is present in the linear flow of time. But for us, now, here, at this moment, Jesus is present. He is present when the torrent of sound and event that is used to block him out is dimmed for a moment, when minds are released from the flood of cares to look clearly for a single moment--the eternal benediction of the Present in His Presence. - Steven at "Flos Carmeli"

One of the worst problems for me, right after I became Catholic, was to find books about the saints that weren't so treacly and hopelessly "so holy you'll certainly never get there, MamaT". I despaired. Wasn't I supposed to love the saints? Read about them? Be inspired by them? I kept throwing down the books in disgust. One time Smock's husband asked a very pertinent (to me) question: "Do you find the saints a comfort or do they make you nervous?" At the time of my conversion, they made me nervous, because their lives seemed so out of reach for someone as weak and stupid as I am. As I found a few more biographies that showed me the saints weren't necessarily paragons of virtue 100% of the time, they became a comfort to me. But now? I think they're making me nervous again. Why? Because I'm learning that it's a goal we might attain. And that puts the focus back on what I"m not doing. And how I'm far too lukewarm. Oh, dear. It seems like I have that classic love/hate relationship with the saints! - MamaT of "Summa Mamas" on Steven's blog

The suffering we experience in this life and offer to God, in reparation or expiation or obedience or charity, will in some way be transformed into a spiritual beauty...[it is an] opportunity for us to bring glory to God. (And it's because it all redounds to God's glory that it's a false modesty that would say, "Oh, I don't care about my own spiritual beauty." Would I say, "Oh, I'm not vain about my appearance, so I'm not going to shave before going to a party at my wife's friend's home"?) . - Tom of Disputations

Of recent date, I have been in a sort of spiritual and personal doldrums, casting about this way and that to find something worthwhile to read, some way to access the prayer life I seemed to know at one time. This book was a real spirit-lifter and spiritual life-saver for me in ways that most lives of saints are not. In fact, I find most lives of saints depressingly Calvinistic, with one pious anecdote after another telling me about God's precious chosen few who from conception are preserved from any serious error. Saints who emerge from the womb preaching to all and sundry and after fourteen days die in the odor of Sanctity. I read of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Therese of Lisieux and reach the conclusion that sanctity is for the precious few. And then along comes this breath of fresh air. Craughwell's intent is not to "downgrade" the saints, but to present less than perfect models after whom we might pattern ourselves. - Steven at Flos Carmeli

Who, having seen Jesus convince people to "share" the loaves and fishes they had secretly concealed in their robes, would not desire to rush off and make him a KING! - commenter on Disputations regarding the tendency of modern biblical critics to explain away miracles

Why can't that stoopid Pope get with the program, and realize that his primary task is media management, i.e., reassuring people like This Journalist & His Friends that he, the Pope, is just a harmless old coot they have to write boring stories about until he dies. Can't he just smile and wave and stuff, instead of making speeches they don't understand? - Kathy of "Relapsed Catholic", sarcastically responding to papal critics

I second [Whitaker Chambers'] Witness with the greatest possible enthusiasm. Anyone who fancies himself a Conservative and still has failed to read it, ought to read it --right now. - Paul Cella

I distrust the government but as a realistic conservative I think government is staffed with mostly well-intentioned but incompetent people — not because they're dumb, but because bureaucracies are dumb. These conspiracy theorists reverse this entirely. They think government is evil-intentioned but supremely, even divinely, competent. That's crazy-talk, Count Chocula. - Jonah Goldberg at "The Corner"; Count Chocula references merit automatic STG inclusion

So let us not refuse to say: I, supposed Christian, hypocrite! And may I never flee the grace of God that answers, Welcome home! - Karen at "From the Anchor Hold", also quoting St. Gregory saying, "I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching"
Oy Vey

George Stephanopoulos to Don Imus this morning, on the Pope's regret of the Islamic reaction:
But I think this is a tough one because how can the Pope apologize when he's, not in every statement but in most statements, infallible?
So we got from:
"When the Roman pontiff speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole church..."
"he can't apologize because he's infallible in most statements"
in one easy jump. But to be misunderstood is to be human. Turnips are never misunderstood. Chesterton wrote:
Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.
A refresher link:
Notice that the boundaries of papal infallibility are carefully delineated. And on reflection the limitations make perfect sense. Infallibility does not adhere to the man, else he would be infallible in everything he says. Nor does infallibility adhere to the office, for the same reason. Rather, the gift of infallibility must adhere to the exercise of the office. Note, for example, that a king may write letters to his various officials discussing possible legislation and even give public statements concerning his intentions, but it is only his official promulgations that actually become the law of the land. Similarly, the pope may carry on private correspondence, speak or write as a private teacher, or even make certain public pronouncements without invoking the authority of his office. No one, for example, looks to a book like Crossing the Threshold of Hope by Pope John Paul II as an infallible dogmatic pronouncement. It is a product of the pope in his capacity as a private Catholic theologian, not as the Vicar of Christ. And infallibility is not impeccability.
Likewise, George (I assume he's a Greek Orthodox Christian) ought have no problem in principle to infallibility:
We should note at the outset that infallibility per se should present no problem to non-Catholic Christians. All Christians who seek to remain faithful to the earliest historical expressions of the Christian faith—such as the Nicene and Athanasian creeds—believe in the principle of infallibility. All believe that God uses fallible and sinful men to communicate His truth infallibly. Evangelical Protestants staunchly defend the notion that God used fallible men to speak His truth in the written Word. So the all-too-common jibes about the impossibility of mere men speaking infallibly or objections that sinful popes cannot possibly be the bearers of God’s infallible truth show a lack of reflection and fairness.
"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing."- Fulton J. Sheen

September 18, 2006

Quakers to the Left of Us, Puritans to the Right

Here we are...

from E. Digby Baltzell's Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia:

In contrast to their predecessors and their contemporaries, who believed in the immanence of many gods, the ancient Hebrews gave to the world the idea of one transcendent God for all men. On the whole, the Catholic answers as to whether God is transcendent or immanent, whether man should be guided by law or gospel, the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, the particular or the general calling, and all the other dichotomies that divided the right from the left wing of the Reformation, the Puritans from the Quakers, would have been both, of course - but each in its proper place and proportion. Whereas the Catholic God was transcendent in the tradition of the Old Testament, He was also immanent, according to the doctrine of the real presence at the Mass, as well as at other holy times and places, which were carefully controlled and ritualized by the church.

Thus, the Catholic doctrine of limited transcendence and immanence lies between the Calvinist and Quaker alternatives, between Puritan anxiety, on the one hand, and Quaker peace of mind, on the other. The Catholic avoided both the extreme transcendental position of the Calvinists and Puritans (and the danger of emotionally sterile Deism) and the ubiquitous immanence (close to pantheism) of the Quaker position.

The average medieval layman took his imperfection and essential sinfulness for granted and led a more or less satisfying, sacramental religious life, confident of salvation in the hereafter. Sin was no real problem when the sacraments provided a regular cycle of mystical relationships with God. The medieval tendency toward mysticism and emotionalism, then, was closer to the religious values of the Quakers than to those of the Calvinists and Puritans.
John Adams Talks to His Books

Exercising Our Capacity for Surprise

Surely, surely the AP is taking this out of context somehow:
Coptic Pope Shenouda III said in published remarks that he didn't hear Benedict's exact words but that "any remarks which offend Islam and Muslims are against the teachings of Christ."
Wow. You can't make that up. Surprising also that the Coptic Pope won't even read it in context. Man, if you can't get a fellow Christian leader to read your stuff, who can you? Certainly not the NY Times...

It was certainly not considered necessary that all the books of the New Testament should have been written by members of the Twelve Apostles. How would Paul have crept in? More attractive is the suggestion of Karl Rahner that the books of the New Testament are the foundation documents of the Church, expressing in writing the Church's own self-definition. They are normative in the Church's existence in the exactly same way as the Twelve themselves were orginally normative, representing the authentic oral tradition of Jesus.
--The Story of the Bible, Henry Wansbrough
The Press, Islam, & George Bush

For all the whining by the press at how "dangerous" George Bush is, you can see in the NY Times's radically different approach to Islam & Bush that they consider the true threat to be Islam. The more vociferously they criticize the West, and most recently the Pope, the more clearly they reveal their fear.

September 17, 2006

From Haydock's Douay-Rheims Commentary:

On why we celebrate feast days and holydays...
"We dedicate and consecrate the memory of God's benefits with solemnities on solemn appointed days, lest in process of time they might creep into ungrateful and unkind oblivion...Christian people celebrate the memories of martyrs with religious solemnity, both to move themselves to an imitation of their virtues, and that they may be partakers of their merits, helped by their prayers."
Random Thoughts

I have some unresolved feelings which I aim to resolve in twenty minutes or less, whichever comes first. First, my wife has got the itch to move (partially due to the illusory effect of having our cars finally paid off and having no college expenses anymore), an itch I should be sympatico with as the Irish are famous for their restlessness, hence their settling on the Western-most island in Europe, hence St. Brendan, hence the Gold Rush to California. But that internal restlessness is tempered by the German in me, that part that desires order, stability and rootedness, not necessarily in that order (pun intended). A move would seem to have more downside than up given the increase in price and my general rule that beauty becomes invisible with repeated viewings. Hence don't move for aesthetics. (Christie Brinkley has been married multiple times.) Besides, I like a house with the problems I know rather than a house with problems I don’t know but will find out, the hard way.

Went to dinner at my sister-in-law's house. She and her fiance are planning a wedding next year. It seems odd that his kids keep referring to her as “Mom”, which seems a bit of a jumping of the gun, but that is a small thing. His daughters are both suicidal; one cuts herself on her wrists and they say this is good because you can see what she’s doing. She’s intending it more as a cry for help. The other cuts herself where you can’t see, and this is bad, as shown by her taking 148 pills at 11pm and being saved at 3am by a sleepless one.

They found her poetry. Not surprisingly, it was dark and gothic and sad and violent. Lyrics of today’s “songs”, murderous nihilistic songs of hate, were among her writings such that it was sometimes hard to tell where the lyrics ended and her own began. And so it goes. Walker Percy’s father and grandfather both committed suicide. Percy, in an act of self-preservation, fled to Christianity. Living without faith is hardly an option.

I was handed me the suicide note. It was as banal as could be imagined though I eventually understood the intention. She was planning a wedding. She was dictating her funeral. She wrote a full page. The gravestone would be big (‘big’ was underlined), as if it were the wedding cake. She mentioned the clothes and shoes she would be laid out in, as a bride would decide on a wedding dress. Which jewelry she would wear in the grave was explicated. It all was so much worse than if she’d wrote something in a panic. It was utterly emotionless and matter-of-fact.

Awakening in the hospital she was no more grateful for the gift of life than she’d been hours before. It was business as usual and she was eager to get back home into the routine. She was annoyed at revoked phone privileges: “You mean I can’t call my friends (long distance)?”. She, who’d just tried to make it so she’d never be able to call her friends ever again, was upset she wouldn’t be able to call them now.

While suicide is objectively sinful, there can be a loss of culpability due to despair and thus the hope of Heaven. But that obviously doesn't mean it's never sinful and I kept wanting to say to my sister-in-law: but suicide is a sin, a mortal sin no less – doesn’t she know that? And I stopped myself, recognizing the ridiculousness of that - as if categories of mortal and venial have any sway with her, as if sin itself has any sway. Christ said that if ye but had the faith the size of a mustard seed and I thought how if she but had faith that size she might've avoided an attempt at suicide that was as businesslike and panic-free as a stock transaction. It seems she’d simply decided to check out, as one would a hotel.

Lately I’ve become more exasperated by others’ exasperation, or more accurately discouraged by how so much of our misery is self-generated, self included. Manishevitz but it’s hard to watch a friend lose a job, to which he would say it’s much harder to live it. Touche’. But don’t the Greeks talk of tragic flaw? Of how, unavoidedly, your greatest strength becomes your greatest weakness? His whole salesman personality is one not of timidity but of bold outgoingness. And so he doesn't play the game. And even where one could see Divine Providence, in the form of our pastor giving a couple sermons mentioning that God will take care of us even in job loss, R. says: “what does he know of job loss! If you haven’t experienced it you can’t comment on it.” And thus goes the way of all flesh: the notion that wisdom adheres only to the experienced, not to the innocent.

September 16, 2006

Times Aren't a Changin'

Someone should notify the NY Times that an anti-Catholic bigot hacked their site and posted this. Fortunately someone has.

If this wasn't an error, I hope there will an editorial calling on Muslim leaders to offer "deep and persuasive" apologies for the violence and anti-Semitic speech constantly practices in the Islamic world.

I find it humorous that the Times, in its self-appointed role as the World School Marm, now insists not just on an apology but that it be "deep and persuasive".

In other words, the grievance culture has naturally produced a lot of apologies for this that and the other thing. So many apologies, so little time! Apologies as a form of cultural currency have been greatly diminished in value. Hence now apologies must be deep (how does one measure depth in an apology?) and persuasive, the latter an ambiguous enough term such that the NY Times conveniently reserves the right to determine its satisfaction.

Just as now the Left demands qualifiers for crime (i.e. 'hate' crime), now there are qualifiers for apologies.

Personally, I found this comment from a David Quinn on Open Book "deep and persuasive":
I think it's fair to say we now know how elite opinion in the 1930s would have reacted had the Pope condemned Nazism in the terms the world of 2006 requires. He would have been condemned in turn for being dangerously provocative.

We appease radical Islam today in much the same way we once appeased Nazism. We think now, as we thought then, that it is better not to bait the beast.

The NYT is one of the chief prosecutors in the case against 'Hitler's Pope'. But today, when we have a Pope willing to give a quote, 600 years old, that is sharply critical of those who use violence to spread religion, the NYT goes on the warpath again demanding apologies.

Perhaps we can expect the NYT of 2056, when it has learned that Appeasment 2006 is no more fruitful than Appeasement 1936, to condemn the current Popes for their mealy-mouthedness and for hiding behind criticisms of six centuries vintage.
Another commenter had a good point:
Three questions for the Times:

1. Has the editorialist actually read the whole speech?

2. If a party believes itself to have been insulted, have they in fact been insulted?

3. Is it now the rule that any discussion of Islam must abjure intellectually provocative statements?

September 15, 2006

Neuhaus discusses Dworkin's Artificial Happiness
Sept. 15 - Our Lady of Sorrows
From here:
This feast dates back to the 12th century. It was especially promoted by the Cistercians and the Servites, so much so that in the 14th and 15th centuries it was widely celebrated throughout the Catholic Church. In 1482 the feast was added to the Missal under the title of "Our Lady of Compassion." Pope Benedict XIII added it to the Roman Calendar in 1727 on the Friday before Palm Sunday. In 1913, Pope Pius X fixed the date on September 15. The title "Our Lady of Sorrows" focuses on Mary's intense suffering during the passion and death of Christ.
It was installed in the liturgical calendar by the local [Cologne, Germany] bishops as an expiatory act, to make reparation to God and to Our Lady for the heresy of iconoclasts who adhered to the errors of Jan Hus.
"In the West, the second feast, which arose as a particular feast of the Servites, was extended, slightly less than a century after Benedict’s decree, to the whole of the Western Church by Pius VII. The Holy Father was likely motivated by temporal events of the time, wishing to honor Our Lady in gratitude for the preservation of the Church and the papacy from the yoke of Napoleon and the “enlightened” revolutionaries."

From a St. Bernard sermon:
Perhaps someone will say: “Had she not known before that he would not die?” Undoubtedly. “Did she not expect him to rise again at once?” Surely. “And still she grieved over her crucified Son?” Intensely. Who are you and what is the source of your wisdom that you are more surprised at the compassion of Mary than at the passion of Mary’s Son? For if he could die in body, could she not die with him in spirit? He died in body through a love greater than anyone had known. She died in spirit through a love unlike any other since his.
Thoughts as the Fat Lady Sings

I'm pleased to see that the Reds have spared their fans the anxiety which a post-season, no matter how brief, would've produced. Now we can watch the rest of the games without concern when Manager Narron brings in a "reliever", i.e. those folks who consistently relieve the Reds of their lead. Now that the Reds are below .500, every off day in the schedule is theoretically better for the Reds than any day they do play. Unfortunately though, when you're behind you can't gain ground by not playing.

I caught a few innings of a non-Reds game the other night and I thought: " this is what it's like to watch a game without a knot in my stomach!" Sort of refreshing. I'll have to try it more often.

For Patrick of "Orthonormal Basis" and Erik of "Erik's Rants & Recipes" and Roz of "Exultet", baseball lives on. Good luck guys.
Jesus Meek & Mild?

Was re-reading Everlasting Man last night, and in it Chesterton points out how the Jesus of the gospels was hardly the meek and mild modern caricature of popular piety - but that the Church's emphasis is necessary:
The figure in the Gospels does indeed utter in words of almost heart-breaking beauty his pity for our broken hearts. But they are very far from being the only sort of words he utters. Nevertheless they are almost the only kind of words that the Church in its popular imagery ever represents him as uttering. That popular imagery is inspired by a perfectly sound popular instinct. The mass of the poor are broken, and the mass of the people are poor, and for the mass of mankind the main thing is to carry the conviction of the incredible compassion of God.
"Poor" is a key word above, and by poor I assume he means not just financially poor but spiritually poor. If so, this well connects with what our retreat master recently said in emphasizing the need to really believe God loves us. "All I ask of you is forever to remember Me as loving you," said Father quoting a song. We expect much more of ourselves - after all, that is basic Catechism 101 stuff - and yet how many of us do that well?

The world's suffering can lead us to question God's love, but to look at manifestations of Christ in his saints is to see the stark difference between the mankind and God when it comes to gentleness and compassion. St. Peter Clavier is one such person. It's incredible to believe that people could, in apparently good conscience, stack slaves like cordwood on ships. Living quarters made for twenty would carry two hundred and almost half would die. St. Peter Clavier would, year after year, wait at the dock and tend to those who survived the journey. One can see in him the contrast between the benevolence of God and the treachery of men.

September 14, 2006

A Shocking Record

Paul Johnson, also in NR, gives a refresher course on secularism's governance record:
The three big killer regimes of the 20th century — Hitler’s Reich, Stalin’s Soviet Union, and Mao’s Red China, which slaughtered (at least) 120 million between them — were all stridently secular and anti-religious. So were most of the minor killer-regimes, like Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

It is also significant that the origins of modern genocide are secular. Holy Russia had always permitted a degree of violent anti-Semitism but it was the increasingly secularized czarist state of the 1880s that systematized the pogroms. This was echoed, from about 1909, by the secular Young Turks regime in Turkey, which introduced genocide against the Armenians then and, on a much larger scale, in 1915; this was followed by similar genocide against the Greek minority under the secular dictator Kamal Ataturk. There was a re-echo in Soviet Russia, where Stalin employed race-removal and genocidal policies from the late 1920s...Even the kind of anti-Semitic and anti-white genocide advocated by the present Iranian regime is only superficially Islamic: Its fundamental drive is secular power-politics.

The lesson of the 20th century, in my view, is that humanity, even with religious restraints, is a force for horror as well as progress. Without them, its turpitude knows no bounds. I recall the somber words of the Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner: “If ever belief in God disappears, and the image of God is eradicated from human minds, we will become nothing more than incredibly clever apes — and the ultimate fate of humanity will be too horrible to contemplate.”
Three Things Lists

Heard a terrorist expert on the radio say that terrorists want three things: Number one, and primarily, revenge, due to America's role in Beirut during the '80s and with respect to U.S. aid of Israel. Second is recognition, the kind of recognition "this program [WLW radio] is giving them". I didn't hear the third reason as I'd arrived home by then.

And in the latest National Review , Richard Brookhiser opines: "Men want three things. They want to live, they want not to be oppressed themselves, and they want, most subtly, to be recognized. (John Adams, following Adam Smith, wrote that the worst thing about poverty is invisibility: The poor man 'is not disapproved, censured, or reproached; he is only not seen.')"
The Downside of Amateurism
"That's gotta hurt!" - line from Ham of Bone screenplay
"Just shake it off." - my dad
  <--not me, but an actor simulating my reaction to being left out. A much, much older actor I might add. Not that there's anything wrong with old age, as many of my best friends are older.
One of the bad things about the amatuerism of this blog, its lack of branding, its flights into controversial politics, preachiness, bad poetry, and sentimentality, as well as - I suspect - the lack of interactivity, is that professionals will generally eschew it. This normally doesn't bother me since I can live without the attention of, say, a Shea or a Chris Blosser. But what is harder to live without is free books, and it does pain me that so many (such as Julie Davis, Steven Riddle, & Tom of Disputations) are receiving this one, as it looks interesting.

I suppose I would be behaving badly if I didn't buy it just because I didn't get a freebie. I'll "offer it up", as the pre-Vatican II phrase goes, though I know you don't really get credit for offering it up if you're telling your readers that you're offering it up. To Curt Jester's blog humility litany, I suppose it must be added: "From the desire for free books, Deliver us O Lord".
Elegy for Pluto

Pluto, sweet Pluto,
we hardly knew ye
when ye were reclassified
to prove that science corrects;
for tis a ‘umble Uriah Heep
most scientists project.

Pluto, sweet Pluto,
in that hemi-powered glaze
you now cause Riddle more toil
(his blog has no boil)
proving even distant planets
have their orbits.

Pluto, sweet Pluto,
you were small but had panache
a dash of hossenpepper like Bluto
without the hate of Hirohito.

Pluto, sweet Pluto,
how could we get to know you?
You were cold, climactically-challenged
visible only in the far reaches of classrooms
to those who sat on the far right side.

Pluto, sweet Pluto,
you lacked others' celestial glories
the heat of Mercury, allure of Venus
so often ignored
yet you never demeaned us.

Pluto, sweet Pluto,
they called you a planet
but now they cry null
they've cast you aside
like cheap doggerel.
(Where's Waldo: did you spot the Springsteen lyric above?)

Other elegies here, here and here.

September 13, 2006

Reviews from the (egalitarian)

Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia by Digby Baltzell looks interesting based on this review by Christopher Atwood:
Digby Baltzell uses the history of Philadelphia and Boston as very real examples of two types of leadership. In Boston, the "Boston Brahmin" elites formed a strong upper class that was not tolerant, certainly, but took responsibility for community life and exercised a tremendous influence on American culture, politics, arts, and science. In Philadelphia, the "Proper Philadelphians" were charming, tolerant--and deeply irresponsible, abandoning any role in governing the city and making it by common agreement the worst run city in the United States. When Philadelphia needed a mover and shaker, it imported some one from outside, like Ben Franklin...

Baltzell's final point is that in the wake of the sixties, which he compares to the English civil war (1640-1660) environment that spawned the Quakers and released "a host of self-righteous seekers" on the land," American leadership has moved much closer to the nakedly plutocratic and irresponsible leadership model found in Philadelphia. And along with this change in the upper class has grown egalitarianism, openness to immigrants, cynicism, leadership gridlock, and social tolerance. The irony of communal utopianism producing results exactly opposite of what was intended would not have surprised de Tocqueville, Baltzell's great mentor in sociology.
I checked out Atwood's other reviews and discovered Harriet Beecher Stowe's The Minister's Wooing. It looks likewise interesting:
Mrs. Stowe contrasts the culturally spare and logocentric world of early New England with the visual opulence which she inhabited in genteel America of the mid-nineteenth century. How to relate the insular New England Christianity of her childhood to the Christianity of Raphael, and the great cathedrals of Europe she visited as an adult? This theme is introduced both in her narrative voice (St. Augustine's Enchiridion of Faith, Love, and Hope is cited without name at the novel's turning point) and in the character of Mme de Frontignac, a French aristocratic woman in an unhappy marriage. She introduces the New England matrons to the feminine beauty of France yet finds balm for her wounds in the severe virtues of Protestant New England. Clothe the chaste Protestant New England spirit in a elegant French Catholic gentility, Mrs. Stowe seems to be saying.

The theological groundwork is made more explicit in Oldtown Folks, but briefly, Mrs. Stowe believed that Jonathan Edwards, with his impossibly high standards for Christian life and his revivalist focus on a dramatic conversion experience, knocked the motherly old Puritan consensus exemplified by Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana off kilter and created almost unbearable tensions in many New Englanders.