October 31, 2006


[St. Thomas Aquinas says] do not spend time on things beyond your grasp.How do you know if it is beyond your grasp until you've tried to grasp it, and by then you've already spent so much time on it that it seems a shame to give it up. - Steven Riddle

If we’re talking about passing the faith on to children, good textbooks and even good Catholic schools are just the tiniest piece in the puzzle. The faith was passed on for centuries - centuries during which most Catholics didn’t go to Catholic schools, heck - didn’t even read. It was passed on because of what happened in communities - the structures and traditions that grew over time, that embodied the faith. So that new generations didn’t know about a saint because they read a story about her - they knew about her because the community celebrated her feast, her image was fashioned into the church buildings, little girls were named after her, pilgrimages were made to her shrine, the priest told the story of her life, and novenas were prayed to her. - Amy Welborn

[Author Frank] McCourt has some problems with the Church-which I gather I would get more detail about if I read his previous books. Yet the Church seems to still be reflected in his thought and lighten his path whether he realizes it or not. - Jim Curley of "Bethune Catholic"

I suggest a prayer or two to the ever-playful Child Jesus, and some reflection on the fact that the greatest of all created human beings is a woman. Be forewarned, though, that when playing with the Child Jesus it is possible to acquire a sudden and mysterious wedgie. - Zippy Catholic

Orwell optimistically thought that the decay is reversible, but “to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.” By definition, however, regeneration is not the desire of the degenerate. The clarity of thought urged, for instance, by Pope Benedict is considered scandalous. The historian Toynbee said that civilizations die, not by invasion, but by suicide. Under the guise of sophistication, the moral lights of culture begin to dim when wordplay is considered an amusing game and not a sinister plot. - George Rutler in "First Things"

I don't find pain to be much of a problem. Maybe it's my education: in mathematics, a lot of effort is spent proving that a solution to a problem exists without going to the trouble of actually finding the solution. Similarly, I know that a solution to the problems of theodicy exist -- in the mercy and justice of God -- so I don't get too worked up over what the actual solution is. - Tom of Disputations

This quote from St. Benedict’s Rule sums up my life and aspirations: “Do not be daunted immediately by fear and run away from the road that leads to salvation. It is bound to be narrow at the outset. But as we progress in the monastic life and in faith, we shall run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love. Never swerving from his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom. Amen.” (Prologue, vv 48-50) - Bro. Aaron Schulte of the monastery at Gethsemane

I don't think many people realize that the Council of Trent discarded half the musical repertory of the Church. And like many other decisions of Trent that I dislike, it was essentially a concession to Protestantism - the sequences are not scripture, so they were removed. And frankly, I think it a truth so universal and self-evident that it could be formulated as a creed of the Church: Worrying about what Protestants will think sucks all the fun out of being Catholic. - commenter on "Open Book"

The Faith is, after all, a matter of faith....[it] is not a multi-step rational argument...Christianity does not equal Christian apologetics, and the sooner Catholics realize this the better. As Daniel Mitsui put it in a comment at Open Book in a different context, "Worrying about what Protestants will think sucks all the fun out of being Catholic." It's pretty silly to understand yourself in contrast to a movement that understands itself in contrast to you. - Tom of Disputations

For many Catholics here, the Church is America is like a ne'er-do-well brother who insists on going to a second-rate junior college and hanging out with his high school buddies when he's been offered a full-ride to the Ivy League and a shot at greatness. We love him all the same, but just wish he'd made better decisions. - Rich of "Ten Reasons"

The question that has bugged me for ages is different from that I hear asked by others. Others try to rebuild, to recreate that old sense of Catholic culture - which is admirable, but is it possible? No, what I wonder about is how do we reconstruct Catholic life in the catacombs? By that I don’t mean the extremes of persecution, but as Christians living in a culture that is really inimical to the Gospel, at every point, to the celebration of materialism, consumerism, economic success, personal appearance, to the rank hostility to life and the commoditization of sex. Christianity was born and flourished in the Roman Empire, in conditions hostile to it. There was no “Catholic culture” as we associate it with Christendom on. I’m thinking it is more useful and to the point to imagine myself, as a Christian, living in the time of Domitian, than thinking that the answer is to try to recreated 13th century Italy. - Amy of "Open Book"

St. Thomas Aquinas tells us ..., we need a lot of images for God. In particular, we need conflicting, incompatible and grotesque ones. The more images we have, says Thomas, the less likely we are to identify them with God and the more likely we are to realize that God is the incomprehensible mystery behind all images. So there is nothing wrong with thinking of God as angry about our sin. Yet it would be wrong to think that this is the end of the matter. We have to set images of God's anger beside images of God as constantly tolerant and compassionate. We have to set them beside images of God as forgetting our offenses and so on. If we work simply with idols and images, we are liable to tell a story like this: first I sin and God is angry; then I repent and beg for forgiveness; and, after a while, God relents and forgives me and is pleased with me again. And this is perfectly in order considered as a story. But it is not the literal truth. The literal truth is that when God forgives us he doesn't change his mind about us. Out of his unconditional, unchanging, eternal love for us he changes our minds about him. It is God's loving gift that we begin to think of repenting for our sin and of asking for his mercy. And that repentance does not earn his forgiveness. It is his forgiveness under another name. The gift, the grace, of contrition just is God's forgiveness. The gift of contrition is, for example, the grace we celebrate in the sacrament of penance. If we go to confession, it is not to plead for forgiveness from God. It is to thank him for it. The gift of contrition is the gift of recognizing God's unswerving love for us. It is the gift of having the confidence to confess our sins, to admit the truth. And if we do that, then, as Jesus told us, the truth will set us free (cf. John 8:32) (God, Christ and Us). - Fr. Herbert McCabe
Testing You Tube

...want to see if I can imbed one of these...link via Don...

October 30, 2006

Spider ID

Halloween come one day early? This guy is bit larger than nickel, with an odd Aztec design on his back:

Fall's fall?

  From here:
Proof of the truncated fall can be found at Blendon Woods Metro Park, where paths are lined with bold yellow leaves. A handful of trees still have green leaves, but the reds and oranges are hard to find.

"We had plenty of rain, and all the conditions leading up to it," said Peg Hanley, a spokeswoman for the Metro Parks, "but that little magic of cool nights and warm, sunny days — we just didn’t get them."

Sunny days are needed to bring out the vivid reds and oranges in maple trees, said Jane Beathard, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Without the sun, the yellows, golds and ambers took over.

"We don’t really have a contrast in the landscape," she said.
Biking in Severely Advanced October

Today I cycled to a rural town about ten miles away, a recapitulation of a summer ride that I’d hoped to repeat and today was fulfilled by virtue of a day off coinciding with the last possible warm day – a 72 degree high. And so I stood athwart Winter hollerin’ “Stop!” past the long vista’d farm fields, past the leveled stubble under a sun that grew increasingly perishable in terms of strength and warmth but beggars can’t be choosers and tomorrow’s Beggar’s Night after all...

For the first half I let the songs come to me and besides the obligatory full-throated “Green Acres” theme there was “Do you know the way to San Jose?” something of a subconscious surprise, and later “Joy to the World”, the version that starts “Jeremiah was a bullfrog…”. Certainly it was a joyous sort of day even though the radio on the way back had the scent of plaintive all over it, full of songs like Eric Clapton's Tears from Heaven and Billy Vera & the Beaters' At This Moment. I think what we have here is a classic case of displacement, with folks mourning the end of summer, but I'm going down fightin'.

Heading into town I spotted a 19th century Presbyterian church and took the opportunity of slipping in and looking around. An old stained glass window depicted a large anchor chained to a rock with listing sailships in the background. The nearby library drew me, and I happened upon an 1850s bible that appeared to have the book of James instead of Genesis at the front. Upon second glance, it was three or four pages of encomium to King James of England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and a few leeward islands.

The library turned out to be something of a surprise. The bulletin board outside was filled with health concerns: “Have you checked your prostate?” (not lately), “Did you know that men can get breast cancer?” (yes, but I don’t dwell on it). There was a flu shot schedule and various & sundry warnings for all the physical ills that men and women are prey to, with the possible exception of venereal disease. Just inside the library was a full-page article from the Columbus Dispatch carefully preserved in amber that was titled: “Anatomy of a Hangover”, which listed all the ill-effects and/or symptoms of, well, a hangover. Killjoys.

I’d pictured the books - based on the handsome shelves and stained glass windows just outside the library - as full of heavy doctrinal assertations of the sort Scott Hahn might’ve made pre-conversion. But it was light as whipped cream. There was some Catherine Marshall stuff, a few Swindell & Billy Graham books, not even a C.S. Lewis book in the whole thing -- although “The South Beach Diet” was available. There was a musty 1940s biography of Tyndale and another of Luther, but other than those there was little goad to kick against. I found one by a Catlicker, “The Life of Christ” by Fulton Sheen, proving yet again his ecumenical appeal.

I was kind of saddened at the apparent lack of depth in the library of a denomination that produced so stalwart a soul as Thomas J. Jackson for heaven’s sake. The bible says we are to worship God with not only our whole heart but our whole mind. You can’t judge a church by its library, but it did seem that if it was indicative of the preaching then I’m somehow not surprised that so many Christians have found their way into the megachurches, some of which have pastors of deep piety and erudition.
A Eulogy
Are monks and hippies and poets relevant? No, we are deliberately irrelevant. We live with an ingrained irrelevance which is proper to every human being. The marginal man accepts the basic irrelevance of the human condition, an irrelevance which is manifested above all by the fact of death...The monk or the marginal person, the meditative person or the poet is to go beyond death even in this life, to go beyond the dichotomy of life and death and to be, therefore, a witness to life.

-Thomas Merton
She was an interesting person and always something a figure of wonderment to me, maybe a tinge of jealousy for her extreme lack of utilitarianism. She had a strong sense of self-respect married with a sweetness and benevolence, and others respected and liked her despite the fact that, in society’s eyes, she might be considered a failure. She weighed well over 300 lbs and was unable to get a job for the last decade or more. She lived for years by running up a huge credit card debt, unbeknownst to her father who made her house payments for her. She watched every soap opera and every popular television show. Her knowledge of television and actors was sweeping and encyclopedic. In her there was a “gentle waste” similar to that of baseball players. Neither ostensibly contributes much useful to society, and yet one is applauded and the other often derided. Obviously a society could not run if everyone were like the recently deceased, and yet could society run if no one was like her? If no one, purely as an example, rested fearlessly in their awareness of the dignity of every man and woman? She was, in a way, a wildlife refuge area that you may have never seen or heard about, but merely knowing that such an untouched, unspoiled area exists in this madding world was a comfort. And better, we learned after she died of her volunteer activities and her knitting of clothes for nieces and nephews.
Random Thoughts on Romeo & Juliet

Spent some time re-reading Shakespeare's play and one passage reminded me of the familiar mindset that unless you've experienced something you can't comment on it. In political debate it's a show stopper, often used by liberals as a way to end the argument with emotion rather than logic. For example we are reminded of the angst of a young woman being with a child out of wedlock and we are asked to put ourselves in her shoes and to recall scattered accounts of "back alley abortions". All this as a way to presumably avoid thinking about the illogic of sacrificing a baby's right to live.

And yet there is much to be said for the general principle. It is said that it is the poor who are most generous with other poor because they understand. It is undoubtedly true that experience generates greater sympathy. Many saints spend their Heaven helping those who are beset with similar sins to the ones that once beset them. No doubt a big part of the reason Christ came to earth was that we might no longer be able to say, "you don't understand because you're in Heaven and you don't know what it's like to live in this vale of tears."

But the part of the play that prompted this post is where Romeo chastizes his wiser confessor:
Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel. Wert thou as young as I, Juliet thy love, An hour but married, Tybalt murdered, Doting like me, and like me banished, Then mightst thou speak, then mightst thou tear thy hair, And fall upon the ground, as I do now, Taking the measure of an unmade grave.
Note how many conditions Romeo piles up; the padre cannot advise him unless he, the priest, is young and in love with Juliet specifically (love is idiosyncratic) and has been an hour married, and Tybalt murdered, and...

The Friar will have none of those conditions but calls Romeo womanish, exclaiming his amazement at this "ill-beseeming beast" that combines the form of a man but the inwardness of a woman. Romeo sees banishment as the worst of all evils but Juliet immediately chides herself for her tears when she recalls to herself that Tybalt's death was as nothing compared to Romeo's: "My husband lives, that Tybalt would have slain...All this is comfort; wherefore weep I then?" My first thought was that Shakespeare meant for Juliet to ironically uphold the Friar's view of masculinity, but Juliet's momentary succor was banished when she recalls Romeo's banishment.

The borderline between love and tough love, sympathy and too much sympathy, is an interesting and often elusive one. The Church has certainly moved strongly in the direction of greater sympathy, which you can see in her attitude towards Limbo, towards those who commit suicide, towards our separated brethern in Christ, etc. You can see it in subtler ways such as how the parable of the wheat and tares was seen by the Roman Catechism of Trent as simply that Church membership is no guarantee of Heaven: that many in the Church are dead men walking, that you are either pure as the driven snow or black as hell. The latest Catechism reads that parable as meaning we are neither all wheat nor all tare, that we contain an admixture and the tares must be purified.
I'm hyp-mo-tized/mesmerized...

...by this webcam of an African watering hole. I saw a group of warthogs and a group of impalas. The impalas looked like deer but have a cooler name.

a warthogian

October 29, 2006


My wife is an evangelical Christian who goes to the non-denominational Vineyard church, and she passed on some interesting comments from today's service that I thought I'd share.

Her pastor's message concerned voting, and he said Christians have an obligation to be well-informed. He recommended three indispensable publications: First Things, National Review, and Sojourners. He said you should "pick out the meat and throw away the bones" and singled out First Things especially for praise, saying it was written by Catholics but "they love Jesus and are smarter than anyone he knows."
Comparing Today's Catechism with the Roman Catechism of the 16th Century

From then Cardinal Ratzinger:
A short look at the Roman Catechism's* proportions is interesting: 22 percent for the Creed, 37 percent (nearly twice as much) for the sacraments, 21 percent and 20 percent for the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer respectively - a manifest disequilibrium in favor of the sacraments, probably in part because of the sacramental controversy of the Reformation. Let us see now the proportions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: 39 percent for Creed, 23 percent for the sacraments, 27 percent for the Commandments and 11 percent for prayer. Historical and circumstantial reasons have played their role in those repartionings. Nevertheless they convey a theological and catechetical message. We can apply to the CCC what Pedro Rodriguez said about the plan of the Roman Catechism:
The option is evident. The CR, before presenting to the Christian what he has to do, wants to express to him who and how he is; we find this quote of St. Leo the Great: "Christian, remember your dignity." Only when he recognizes the supernatural power that flows from his 'being in Christ through the Holy Spirit' can the faithful disciple of Christ make the effort, with confident heart, without servile fear, to practice and to increase the Christian life according to the Decalogue...Without the preceding doctrine of the sacraments - which implies also the teaching about the mystery of the Church and of justification - the precepts of the Decalogue seem to exceed our human capacity. But, basing ourselves on faith and the sacraments, we look at them with confidence and vigor. This is a specific property of that catholic spirituality which attains a summit in the CR.
This strong emphasis on the primacy of grace in both catechisms is underlined by the statistics I have just given: in both documents the first two parts form by themselves nearly two-thirds of the volume....

Whatever method is used in catechesis - the CR and the CCC do not impose any specific method - the primacy in catechesis is to be given to God and to his works. Whatever man has to do will always be in response to God and to his works.

--Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

* - 16th century catechism produced out of the Council of Trent
Mass Media Choices As Warning Indicators?

A young person I know was just fifteen when she told me her favorite movie was "Road Trip", an R-rated romp that received the rare "O" (for morally offensive) rating from the USCCB movie rating service. I was taken aback since I naively under the impression that R-rated movies were prohibited for those under 18 and she was considered a "good kid". I hadn't seen the movie but thought from its reputation that this seemed a warning sign. Sure enough, at least one abortion later it appears that warning sign was extremely large.

Yesterday we celebrated the sixteenth birthday of another girl who'd tried to commit suicide a few months ago. One of the things that came out was that she wrote dark, depressing poetry and that her musical taste was nihilistic, goth music. I wondered aloud if she should be listening, post-suicide attempt, to that type of music. Her twenty-one year old sister agreed with me and thought those CDs should be thrown out. Yet on her birthday she received (from a "friend") something called "Breaking Benjamins" which a cursory glance revealed titles like "Dancing with the Devil" & "Evil Angel". I know little about modern goth music, but there's something ironic about seeing her express joy and happiness over receiving a music CD that apparently trumpets anger and despair.

Update: Steven Riddle comments:
In both cases you site there is a serious question, which isn't your point and didn't really need to be addressed because it was extraneous, of cause and effect.

In some sense the post suggests perhaps both and I would agree in a vicious cycle. Something happens to make someone embrace "Road Trip" or Goth music and the music in turn creates the need for more of the same, just as the film encourages repetition and reenactment...

Part of the problem of ignorance of modern culture is that we can't separate the truly harmful from the harmless. And the really bad point is that the truly harmful may be seemingly more innocent than the harmless or helpful. Take the brouhaha over the Harry Potter series which is pointedly Christian in its moral lessons; we get exorcists frothing at the mouth over the magic in it. And yet, this same age group is being pelted with CSI novels--novels that encourage young people to look at a human as just another object, and interesting anatomical study that will help you solve a mystery. Talk about desensitization to death and mayhem! And yet, almost nothing is said of these, which I view as pernicious and potentially damaging far in excess of what the covers might indicate.

Anyway, you make some interesting points. Not everyone who listens to Goth music will be tempted to suicide (you didn't imply that, but I just want to state it) and not everyone who watches "Road Trip" is on the road to multiple abortions--but to expose young people and allow the exposure of young people to such questionable materials certainly gives them the wrong idea.

I spend an enormous amount of effort trying to ferret out what will be okay for Samuel to read and view and what is likely to be harmful. It is an exceedingly difficult task, but one that is so, so important, as you have so aptly pointed out. However, more important is the necessity of making certain that he never "needs" these things to fill in a void we have created through inattention or lack of formative love.

October 27, 2006

Marriage & Hope

The latest NR mentions a problem we're familiar with but casts it in a different light:
Married couples have been falling as a proportion of all American households for years, and have now dipped below 50 percent. More people are shacking up, and singles are waiting longer to get married. The decline of marriage as a lived reality is in part the result of its strengthening as an ideal: People exalt marriage so much that they don’t feel up to it.
It's not that people think less of marriage, but rather more of it. It reminds me of a conversation I had with a couple twenty-something single young men who, with an intensity that surprised me, said they would never get divorced. The reason? They felt the wounds of divorce and would not inflict those wounds on their children.

This fear of the young not being up to marriage might ring true to youth minister Matthew J. Pinto, author of the book Did Adam & Eve Have Bellybuttons...And 199 other questions from Catholic Teenagers. Pinto says that what teenagers lack most is hope, and that adults and catechists should emphasize it since it speaks directly to their need.
Bush & Torture

Be curious to see how much of the Bush Administration's desire not to say categorically that interrogations will be stress-free for terrorists is due to Bush wanting our enemies to fear us. That reputation is a good one to have, much as batters won't crowd the plate against a pitcher they think is wild even if he's not. On the other hand, his mocking of Karla Faye Tucker's appeal for clemency when he was governor of Texas suggests a hardness that isn't completely imaginary.
If It's Thursday It Must Be Bingo

For whatever reason the crowd was sparse yesterday. It’s interesting to me how with something as addictive as bingo that there can be such a downward spike in attendance. It was rainy and cold and that would depress attendance I suppose but still... you see the same contestants every Thursday and that was originally a big surprise for me. I thought the crowd would differ just like you’d expect a different crowd at the grocery mart any given night.

Fewer customers called for more conversation with co-workers, and Kim mentioned something on my blog which suprised me since it suggests she’s still reading, God bless her. This here blog seems a bit nerdish and of limited interest but I think it shows that if you know someone you’re more curious than you otherwise would be. (On the other hand, my own wife doesn’t read the blog so there is something like too much familiarity, *grin*).

Kim's mother Pat wondered aloud how we get out of this gig (is it like the 'roach motel'?) and apparently Joe asked her if she could volunteer on Sunday nights also. That was a non-starter for her, but we are tight on numbers and I feel the pain of Kim and Pat. We couldn't afford to lose one of them let alone both. I also wonder if one of them would stay if the other decided to quit...

October 26, 2006

From Catholic Men's Quarterly

Charles A. Coulombe comments on demon rum:
It must be supposed that our complete collapse in sexual mores forces the Puritanical element of our culture to repress innocent pleasures. Thus we are moralistic and amoral all at the same time.

What is the Catholic view on these matters? Well, the love of such as Chesterton and Belloc of both smoking and drinking are very well known; it was even said by their contemporaries that the Chesterbelloc had misheard the Creed, and thought it demanded belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Alcoholic Church.” But in reality, the views of the Church go back to the Book of Proverbs’ injunction to give strong drink to the poor and suffering, and St. Thomas Aquinas’ dictum that one could drink ad usque hilaritatem—“to the point of hilarity.” St. Benedict in his rule ordered that each monk be given a measure of wine a day; in Medieval England, that measure was considered to be a gallon, so English monks must have been quite merry, indeed. It is no wonder that the Benedictine Dom Perignon invented champagne.

But does that mean that a Catholic must guzzle and puff to be a good Catholic? By no means. Strict religious orders give it up save on feast days, or even all together. Many a pious Catholic has “taken the pledge,” of perpetual abstinence. But their attitude toward the stuff is totally different from that of the Puritan or the Killjoy.
Flags of Our Fathers

This film harrowingly depicts the fanaticism of Japanese soldiers and how hellish war in general is. 21,000 Japanese elected to die rather than surrender that tiny island, and in the process made the Germans look almost like pacifists by comparison. Fellow blogger Bill Cork read the book on which the movie is based and speaks frankly:
I never really understood the War in the Pacific before I read this book. Oh, I understood the basic facts, and the strategic goals--but this is a story about knife fights in the dark, of atrocities committed by a fanatical enemy, of unrequited grief...

I only have one relative, a great-uncle, who fought in World War 2. He was a Seabee. I think some of my naive conversations with him about the war, about the Bomb, about Japan, must have struck him as the younger Bradley's arguments struck his dad. Both men chose not to argue. There was no way they could explain their own perspectives, rooted in their experiences, to someone who read only books. I have a new appreciation for these men, for the war they fought, for the attitudes they kept for decades about the enemy they fought, for their arguments about the necessity of the Bomb.
To watch this movie is to make you long for a "3rd way", one that involved neither an invasion of Japan nor use of the atomic weapon. A Cincinnati newspaper considers Iwo Jima "a battle of choice waged on the basis of faulty intelligence and inadequate plans" but that "Americans back then had a greater appreciation for the ugly, unpredictable nature of combat." Others have said that an Iwo Jima wouldn't have happened under Gen. MacArthur, who tended to be more parsimonious with his soldiers' lives. Many say that Patton, operating in the other theatre, probably would've ended that side of the war sooner with less loss of life on both sides.
Olde Commentary...

...of the Psalms is online. (And the hat tip goes to Bill White).
I Wish to Revise & Extend My Remarks...

...please add to the Blogessional Record that I do appreciate the virtues of all the candidates mentioned here for sainthood and for what it's worth (infinitely close but not quite reaching zero), think that all should be canonized. Call me a suck up but not (may it please God) late to the Eucharistic Feast.
Economies Spiritual and Temporal

One of the things about living in a market economy is that it is designed as "win/win", which of course is why it is mostly works in a fallen world. If I invest in a company and the company does well both the owner of that company and myself do well. Similarly, in a bartering economy if I have too many sheep and you have too many chickens, we can trade and we'll both end up with more temporal wealth. This is in contrast to a bet where someone must lose in order that someone else might win.

But the spiritual economy seems different. Christ became poor that we might become rich seems a zero sum game since he had nothing to gain. Most Christians are uncomfortable with the atonement being seen in the harsh terms of the Father sending his Son to die so that the Father might "gain satisfaction", as if God is a stern Judge who requires restitution for all offenses. But even if we don't look at it in that light we are left with the fact that the world is a spiritual combat zone where, as Christ said, gain is achieved by loss; even in our own earthly experience war is never win/win. Michael Freze, in They Bore the Wounds of Christ, writes of a polarity:
For every reality in the universe, there has always been an opposing reality that seeks to disrupt the beauty and order of nature. In the beginning, we see how God created out of disorder and chaos a goodness and perfection in the universe He had made: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep..." (Gen 1:1-2).
Central to this of course is the mystery of evil, about which St. Augustine said "I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution". Pope Paul VI spoke in 1972 about its reality: "Evil is not merely a lack of something, but an effective agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and preverting, a terrible reality, mysterious and frightening..." That there is an Adversary who is bent not merely on selfishness (the agent behind capitalism) but actively willing the destruction of him and us. It's hard to see how you can have other than a zero-sum game in that situation. Freze writes of even all-night physical beatings Padre Pio received by the devil and asks:
Why are the holiest of souls tempted so severely? Is there any reason why they would not be relieved of their opposition at some point in their spiritual journey? One reason is that the devil is most furious toward those who work against this world of sin, oppression and deception; another reason is that the pious soul needs these trials in order to purify his soul, to humble himself, and to abandon himself unconditionally in the arms of the divine Savior. With the stigmatist in particular, nothing provokes the fury of Satan more than this victim soul who sacrifices himself unconditionally in the arms of the divine Savior.
You can't help both notice the difference between a stigmatist and one of the television preachers of the health/wealth variety. The latter seem healthy - physically and emotionally. The stigmatist seems a wreck, physically and emotionally, though his refuge is God, and God never allows more than he can take. The contrast between the two seems almost irreconcilable and yet, as Tom of Disputations wrote the other day, "God wants to give us ridiculous quantities of really good things. Some of these really good things are common or garden natural goods, the sorts of things we might want as individual human persons." And some of those good things are presumably physical and emotional health. Perhaps the televangelists are comfortable in temporal terms but bothered by evil; Freze goes so far as to say: "Indeed, when one senses that the forces of evil are quiet and do not bother him, then he must be suspicious of his own level of spirituality and faith."

Another image I carry around is not that of Padre Pio being buffeted by the devil but that of a peaceful Juan Diego, the devout man who received the holy vision of Our Lady of Guadalupe. In my imagination at least, he lived a peaceful, quiet, devout life. He went to Mass every day. He went about his duties. He kept a low profile after a high profile assignment. Is that just my naivety? Or is it that the church is catholic and there are Juan Deigos and there are Padre Pios and everyone is called to a different mission?

October 25, 2006

Paul VI's Death

The recent mention of the possible canonization of Paul VI reminds me of something I read in Pontiff, by Gordon Thomas, concerning his last hours. In his final moments the pope asked those surrounded by him to pray for him, then a bit later began saying the Our Father:
Fontana bends over Paul, listening for an unusually long time to his chest. He feels for the pope's pulse. The doctor straightens and looks at the others. Then he glances at Paul's alarm clock to verify the time. It is 9:40 P.M. There is a distinct tremor in his voice as he pronounces: "It is over."

At that precise moment the ancient alarm clock, which had rung at six-thirty that morning and which had not been rewound or reset, begins to shrill, filling the bedroom with its tinny sound.
It would...

...really be funny if the Dems end up not taking the House. Unlikely, but certainly Dick Morris has me pegged:
The GOP base, alienated by the Foley scandal and the generally dismal record of this Congress, may have fast forwarded to the prospect of a Democratic victory and recoiled.
I've certainly been recoilin' lately. Columnist Robert Novak says if the election were held today it would be a 21-seat pickup for the Dems in the House and a narrow holding of the Republican-led Senate. Democrats, take the House (please! my obligatory Henny Youngmen joke) but don't take the Senate. (Actually I'd rather they not take either but I don't want to stand in the way of a good joke.)
Today's Funny

Terrence Berres offers a plan in response to my point that we never learn that it is only with great difficulty we can retire a tax or withdraw our troops:
Might be an opportunity for the Libertarian Party to propose sending the IRS to Iraq.
Voting for Theologians & Potential Saints

Fun vote here for most popular theologians: Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar or John Henry Newman? Beyond my level of competence, but I like Evangelical Catholics's lucid handicapping. Maybe, like my grandpa Gunner, I'll "vote for the mudder".

They also pose the question:
Who would you like to see beatified first?

John Henry Newman
Dorothy Day
Fulton Sheen
Pope Paul VI
Sister LĂșcia of Jesus
Which for me wasn't much of a close call -- it would be Fulton Sheen (cause for canonization update here). Pope John Paul II twice urged the Sheen Foundation to hurry up with the sainthood bid.
Of Swallows Returning

Amy Welborn has a must-read post, responding to Bottum's post about the direness of the post-Vatican II landscape. The only thing I would add is not to underestimate the effect of the mass media (and seminaries) promoting modern biblical criticism. Undermining the bible undermines the Church (though of course the Church preceded the bible) and by explaining away the miraculous (i.e. loaves & fishes was about "sharing") you give rise to a kind of Pelagianism where Christ isn't the focus because we don't really need him. If what was handed down to us in the form of Scripture is not respected, then how much more will the liturgy, also handed down to us, not be respected?

A couple interesting comments in the ensuing tsunami (up to 100 comments at last check):
I know more Catholics who have completely abandoned their faith in every way except for abstaining from meat on Fridays than practicing Catholics who observe meatless Fridays. What's up with that?
Non-Catholic Mike Poterma of National Review fame weighs in:
Vatican II was a brave act on the part of the Catholic branch of Christianity to bring itself more closely in line with the will of the Holy Spirit. It was brave because the result of such wide-ranging change was quite foreseeable: A certain "mystique"--the aura of perfect changelessness, of divine stasis--would be lost. Within a decade George Carlin would be joking that "Hey, there are still people doing time in Hell on a meat-on-Fridays rap." In other words: You don't need to take the Catholic Church seriously, folks; they've already admitted they were wrong on some things, and if you disagree with them on anything else, well, just wait till they see the error of their ways on that too. You could see, finally, the little man behind the curtain.

Vatican II was a great gamble, and conservatives find it easy to recite the statistics about all the harm that has ensued from it (declining Mass attendence, low vocations, etc. etc.). But I think that, fundamentally, the Vatican II leaders--Montini, Suenens, Lercaro, Leger, Ratzinger, Wojtyla, et al--had a touch of the Spirit in what they were doing. The Catholic Church made herself vulnerable, in trying to be faithful to the truth (as opposed to its own institutional power and importance)--and I can't help seeing, in that very vulnerability that has been the cause of anguish to so many Catholics, the face of Christ.

I predict that after this dark transition, there will be (25 years from now? 50? 75?) one of the brightest chapters in Catholicism's history.
An Observation

Did you ever notice how the gospels tend to emphasize what man must do, while St. Paul in his letters and epistles emphasizes what God does?

An interesting way to look at it is that God (Jesus) emphasizes man's role while man (Paul) emphasizes God's role. Not that there aren't overlaps; Jesus says that with man this is impossible but with God all things are possible and Paul gives a long list of behaviors that will preclude entrance into the Kingdom. But that doesn't negate the general tone.

It sort of reminds me of the old cliche that we should work as if everything depended on us and pray as if everything depended on God.

October 24, 2006


If you can find a moment, pray for my dad's soul. I am morally certain that he was not in a state of grace, and I can only hope that at the very last he came to an acknowledgment and repentance. I take hope in the private revelations given to St. Faustina about the Divine Mercy. Pray, too, for one of my sisters. She and my dad were estranged, and now she is just torn up inside and out. Pray that she will find the peace that I know God wants her to have. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"; also if you might offer a prayer for my friend Amy who died yesterday

Rod Dreher, in the course of a post about GOP recriminations, remarks that "it'll be easy after the November slaughter to blame the Evangelicals, because the media despises them." Is he right? I'm afraid the signs point to yes. A while back, I argued that religious conservatives were going to come out of the Bush years in better repute than other factions on the right, because they hadn't sold out (or seemed to sell out) their principles the way the small-government types did with pork-barrel spending and the Abramoff affair, and their ideas hadn't been discredited the way, say, neoconservatism looks to be at least temporarily discredited by Iraq. But I think that I reckoned without the eagerness of pundits left and right to use the religious right as a whipping boy for GOP failures. Thus Ryan Sager's claims about the Southern captivity of the GOP; thus Dick Armey's attacks on James Dobson; thus Andrew Sullivan's argument that everything from the prescription-drugs entitlement to the botched post-war plans are the fruits of "fundamentalism," which dovetails nicely with the oft-heard canard that we really invaded Iraq because of nutty religious millenialism. - Ross Douthat of "American Scene"

As for the subject of translations (rather than commentaries or editions), my first advice is always to pick a book that you like the look of, read some of it, and if you like the sound of it, then buy it. The New American Bible is somewhat more banal than the Catholic edition of the RSV; but both are "accurate" and readable. If you can read Latin, the Nova Vulgata is better than anything in English, but, well, that's not a recommendation for everybody.- William Porter on "Evangelical Catholic"

I remind the readers that [unbelievers] do the exact same thing with Bible texts: assert that there are "errors and contradictions" in the text. Again, talk is cheap and anyone can do it. This person would probably not be so critical of those who sought to demonstrate that there were not contradictions and errors in the biblical text. So I for one wish that they would kindly stop being inconsistent and acting as if those who do this with magisterial texts are somehow disingenuous while those who do this with the Bible are not. The underlying methodology to this approach is either commendable or it is not: they cannot have it both ways. - "Rerum Novarum" on magisterial texts

I will agree that the two ex-marines were most irritating, perhaps some extra discipline is due, such as mild therapeutic beatings. - Fr. John, on "Open Book", regarding two monks on TLC's "The Monastery"

One monk waxed poetic about the virtues of focusing one's attention on one thing at a time. He said our many distractions caused our exhaustion at the end of a day. Then there was a break for commercials a minute later. - Kevin Jones on "Open Book"

Ijust heard Cardinal Arinze's latest podcast on modesty. One point that the rather irritating interviewer kept going back to was on the morality of artists drawing from the nude. The cardinal was taking the position that it is at the very least dangerous to the soul for an artist to draw nude models. The objections that the interviewer kept throwing up were primarily straw men: arguments of art for the sake of art, that there is so much of this in culture that it can't possibly be wrong, etc. Insofar as the ordinary person's understanding of looking at the nude goes, the Cardinal quite properly pointed out that morality trumps art and that morality trumps culture. Fine. What both the interviewer and the Cardinal miss, however, is that a serious artist drawing from life tends to distance himself from the prurience that is assumed in spending hours with a nude model. I have spent many hours drawing and painting nude models, and based on my own experience and from talking to many other artists on the matter, one tends to take a fairly clinical and anatomical view of the body...Now, certainly there are artists who will find the sort of detached view difficult, and simply cannot get beyond the fact that a purty nekkid girl is in front of them. There are probably med students with similar problems, and it behooves them, as it behooves the aforementioned theoretical artist, to avoid this sort of thing, even if it means abandoning the profession. - Erik of Erik's Rants & Recipes

We have an insufficient understanding of the term "sufficient." Because the common usage has come to mean "just barely enough to cover it," we tend to look at "His grace is sufficient" as a kind of wary half-promise. But the real meaning of "His grace is sufficient," says nothing about the amount of it nor its efficacy. What it says is that it is His grace alone--entirely and only. His grace is sufficient in that nothing need be added to it and we only need a kind of meta-desire for it to be effective. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

The functional-utilitarian-self-fulfillment way of doing Church has failed because it is not true. It is a mixed-up confused consequence of the perceived need to make faith more understandable to the modern person, and the slow acceptance of the total privatization of personal faith - that it is all about my personal spritiuality and no longer about the story of the world. It has resulted in a mode of doing and speaking that is profoundly misleading, leaving many Catholics adrift in the culture, not quite sure why they should go to church on Sunday apart from habit, guilt and the vague hope that they might be "inspired" a bit and their kids might absorb some moral constraints here and there. It is not their fault. When this is what they are taught, this is the fruit. - Amy Welborn

If you aren’t fully conversant with the scholarship, I’d tread very lightly in those areas, and focus on the text itself...Ignatius Press is coming out with some study guides, put together by Scott Hahn. Now Hahn has a lot of advantages, and a lot of people get a lot out of what he offers. That doesn’t make him an oracle or anything. Keep in mind, there isn’t necessarily "one" proper interpretation of most passages: Scripture is God’s word, and it is endlessly fruitful. So, Scott Hahn gets this from it; the early Father of the Church got other things; the editors of CSB and NJBC got what they got; I offered you my thoughts, for what they’re worth…The goal of our use of Scripture is, after all, to lead people to faith in Christ! It isn’t Scripture for its own sake. - Fr. Martin Fox of "Bonfire of the Vanities"
Emails from God

I was recently required to take a thirty-minute online class on writing business emails, which seemed mostly comprised of when not to write them. Our company is encouraging anything of even a slightly sensitive, controversial, important or confusing nature be handled by phone - or far more preferable - face-to-face.

There is a recognition in this that no matter how well-written the email, if you miss the facial expressions, the way something is said, the emphasis and the body language, you are potentially missing a good part of the message.

And I got to thinking if that was true with something like the words used in emails, how much more true of the words used in Scripture -- important, sensitive and sometimes controversial and confusing. Fortunately we have a context with the Church, for she is the one who gives emphasis, who gives us the "body language", who answers (sometimes) questions about things unclear. She speaks to us in a way we can understand, with warmth and assurance and under the guidance of the same Holy Spirit who originally inspired the words of the sacred authors. By listening to the Church, we are hearing the "email" explained in person. It can happen in many ways: we can draw upon the compassionate words of our confessor, learn as we watch the suffering of our late Holy Father, see the healing gaze of Mary in religious art, or taste the Host that is Christ.

October 23, 2006

Lead Us Not to the Test

My grandmother turns 95 today. She's suffering a lot these days and is showing signs of dementia. Those close to her constantly ask me, "why is God making her live so long?"

What to say? (Your prayers appreciated, btw.) The Catechism of Trent frankly states that "baptism does not free us from the miseries of life". "Christ, although clothed from His birth with the plentitude of grace and truth" was not spared human infirmity and pain. Second, the catechism continues, it is God's plan that we practice perserverance. God delivered Israel from bondage, yet did not lead them immediately to the Promised Land but "tried them that His people might always have occasion to exercise fortitude and courage". Finally,
"If the heavenly gifts with which the soul is adorned in Baptism were joined temporal advantages, there would be good reason to doubt whether many might not approach Baptism with a view to obtain advantages in this life, rather than the glory to be hoped for in the next; whereas the Christian should always propose to himself, not these delusive and uncertain goods which are seen, but the solid and eternal ones which are not seen."
Of course no one likes to be tested. Yet it seems built-in to the human condition. The garden of Eden was not heaven but a place of probation: Adam and Eve were tested in the form of fasting from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Jesus himself was tempted by the devil. The angels were tested. It's just a fact of life, and the challenge is to accept with humility a lack of entitlement; to know that we are unfinished and will be probably be tried even though we can and should pray "lead us not to the test". The only salve is Jesus, of course, who was tested and tried even though he was God Himself and who, crucially, will help us through it.
Lost Heritage...

...writes Rich Leonardi, and I get a glimmer of that when my father speaks of the intensity of Holy Name Society marches through town back in the '40s & '50s.

I've Learned...

...not to turn off the Notre Dame game until it's o'er:

Exciting finish and glad I witnessed this one.
Two Ways to Be Cleansed

Jesus told His disciples in John 15:3 that they were cleansed by His Word. And in the gospel of Luke he says:
"Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.”
One could say we are cleansed by his Word because to know Him is to love him, which forms one half of the great command to love God and love others. And to give alms means to love others, forming the second half.

It's always interesting to observe the line where optimism begins to turn into a denial of reality, although of course in public the President can't afford to be anything other than confident since that can effect the outcome. I share Bush Sr's view of things while Ham o' Bone is optimistic concerning the mid-terms. If Ham is right, I'll decorate the blog in Dolphin colors & iconography for a week. (He's a Miami fan.)

One thing that has surprised me is just how crucial leadership is for a party. It seems less an important element than the important element. Arguably, the only periods during which the Republicans have been any good have been under Reagan and George W. Bush (and the latter only in spots, i.e. tax cuts and judges) and the only time the Congress has been any good was under Gingrich. Good leadership is a lagging indicator; you don't know someone isn't doing the job until they're already in the job.
Autumn in Ohio

October 22, 2006

From Today's [Byzantine Rite] Gospel Reading...

It seems indicative of the greatness of the gospel over law that Abraham says to the rich man in torment who wants Lazarus to go back to warn his brothers: "If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead." (Luke 16:25-30)

Abraham seems to be saying, in effect, that the Old Covenant is enough to be saved, that Moses and prophets ought be sufficient. "Though someone should rise from the dead" is an allusion to Jesus, but fortunately Christ did not see his mission as hopeless or useless or unpersuasive. The Incarnation and Resurrection are illustrations of God going beyond what we, who often act like the rich man, deserve. If Jesus took Abraham's approach, he could've said to us that we have Moses and the prophets and we have no need for Him to die and rise.

Some might read that parable in a Pharisiac way: that if you don't do x,y,z then it's your own fault and you deserve whatever punishment you might receive. But thank God for the hope of mercy. Jesus came to earth even for the deaf and hard of heart, for me and Chris Hitchens, for the rich man and his brothers.
The Search for the "Experienced Innocent"

Adam and Eve were created innocent but longed for the knowledge of good and evil. They wanted it both ways, to be knowledgeable and innocent, and thus it ever has been. There is a great charisma in those who combine the two, such as many a saint, because it's so characteristic of God. It's interesting to see atheist Christopher Hitchens associate that with Marcel Proust: "To be so perceptive and yet so innocent — that, in a phrase, is the achievement of Proust." Hitchens ascribed that same ability to Shakespeare and George Eliot.

A bestseller a few years back was titled How Proust Can Save Your Life. Shelby Foote, another non-believer, treated Proust's Remembrance of Things Past as his scripture, having read the whole thing nine times during his lifetime. Is Proustphilia a subliminal search for God?

Update: That sounded a tad unfair to Marcel, so the obligatory disclaimers apply: what I know about Proust's work can be contained in a small handbag, and the number of things that can be used as subliminal substitutes for God are myriad.
Iraqaphobia   - or only taxes & troops are forever

On This Week today, George Will made the remark that it's cold comfort, but conservatives like and appreciate market forces, and market forces are in play in the upcoming election. He says that supply and demand suggests that there is a great demand for fresh thinking on Iraq and it's hard to see Will's comment as inaccurate.

I had the opportunity to hear pollster/pundit Charles Cook speak the other day about how the upcoming Republican debacle in the mid-terms appears to be of historic dimensions. He compared it to a force of nature, a tornado, and that seems an apt analogy since there is an element of irrationality about it: good people are being thrown overboard just because they are, in his words, "wearing the red jersey".

A lesson politicians (we the people?) never learn and it is that it is only with great difficulty that you can ever retire a tax or withdraw your troops. Just can't do it. Thus Bill Clinton promised a withdraw of troops from Bosnia within six months. We're still there. And we're still in Korea. And Afghanistan. The difference is we're not incurring as many casualties in those places, but the lesson remains: it is far easier to go to war or enact a tax then to end a war or halt a tax. It would be far more surprising if we didn't have troops in Iraq now than otherwise.
Zeit Journal

From the Atlantic:
Nabokov wrote in America, as he touches a stone on a bridge on the night his wife has died:
I had never touched this particular knob before and shall never find it again. This moment of conscious contact holds a drop of solace. The emergency brake of time. Whatever the present moment is, I have stopped it. Too late. In the course of our, let me see, twelve, twelve and three months, years of life together, I ought to have immobilized by this simple method millions of moments; paying perhaps terrific fines, but stopping the train. Say, why did you do it? the popeyed conductor might ask. Because I liked the view. Because I wanted to stop those speeding trees and the path twisting between them. By stepping on its receding tail. What happened to her would perhaps not have happened, had I been in the habit of stopping this or that bit of our common life, prophylactically, prophetically, letting this or that moment rest and breathe in peace. Taming time. Giving her pulse respite. Pampering life, life—our patient.
Of the summer past a memory lingers: my wife floating in a thirty-dollar blow-up pool under the gilt sun. She, normally active as a perpetual motion machine, made the whole day somnolent by her somnolence. The present moment was halted.

Flash forward to an aging October. A weakened but unbowed sun visited one afternoon and we all went on a hike, including darling Lilliputians with wits more sure than promissory notes. Oh but the joys of friendship are disproportionate! And like a salve was the back-and-forth, to-and-fro, the easyness of it, the finishings of each other sentences, the inside jokes. The lilliputians spoke of fantastical pippsiehorses, an evolution of the term "pixie horse" in a children film. "Now," she said, "I can at last understand your hillybilly talk," after he read from a park sign explaining the derivation of a forest obscurity. “Talk slowly” being the knee-jerk reaction to hearing a sudden reference of an erotic nature, I was glad he gave me the opening after he drawled ‘nymph’ in his recital.

October 21, 2006

NRO's Jonah Goldberg says...

Iraq Was a Worthy Mistake

October 20, 2006

Balm of the Psalms

Happened across Psalm 73 the other day:
“Though I tried to understand all this, it was too difficult for me, Till I entered the sanctuary of God and came to understand their end.”
…and how true that so often the things that are completely un-understandable become understandable during Eucharistic Adoration or Mass.
“Since my heart was embittered and my soul deeply wounded, I was stupid and could not understand; I was like a brute beast in your presence. Yet I am always with you; you take hold of my right hand.”
Oh the Psalmist is a gift to us because he is not so holy that we cannot relate to him! How wonderful that God set down before us someone likewise confused and groping. A great comfort indeed.

The air has the wistful quality
of foreshortened time
variable as a kite
and prone to morning sickness;
Quisp’d of quickened draft,
pregnant with Old Man Winter.

For S.A.D's, the light alley narrows
to the size of European streets;
For OCDs the leaf clutter
mars clean-shaven forest floors.

Meantime every seventy-degree day
holds the promise of being the last,
prompting impromptu celebrations
of the narrowing of winter’s girth.

Whereupon I Torture Myself By Reading the Dispatch

Here's a great way to have it both ways if you're a newspaper that wants to appeal to liberal and conservative readers.

You endorse the Republican candidate but support him for all the wrong reasons. You support him by saying he brings a ton of pork to the district. In other words, if you bring home more benefits than your constituents give to Washington then you're a hero.

And that's precisely the problem with politics today. Everyone wants something for nothing. Fifty U.S. senators trying to rob from the treasury or at least get a better deal than their neighboring state. No wonder we run deficits.

One of the paper's columnists mentions that Ohio has an unemployment rate a full point above the national average. We're supposed to be horrified. But southeast Ohio is part of Appalachia and has chronically sky-high unemployment rates. After adjusting for southeast Ohio we might even be lower than the national average which is pretty darn good considering we're in the "rust belt".

That's not to minimize the pain felt in southeastern Ohio but I've yet to see anyone find a way to do anything about it. LBJ tried in the '60s. Lord knows Sen. Byrd has brought home more pork to West Virgina than twenty senators. And it's had little effect. The tools politicians can bring don't work. Linking a politician's effectiveness with the unemployment rate in southeast Ohio is like linking Jeb Bush's performance in office to the orange yield in central Florida. You can measure a politician by how much aid they give to southeast Ohio, but not the unemployment rate there.

Best you can do is provide a climate favorable to business because jobs are a very, very good thing and jobs come from businesses. So let's see where Ohio was, unemployment-wise, before Republican governors took over in '92 compared to now (both in relation to the national average). I'd be willing to bet it's better now. In fact, if it isn't I'll vote for the Democratic candidate.
Walker Percy, the Cards, the Tigers

Someone once said that they always checked the sports pages first because there you can read of success, at least for some. Everywhere else is failure and bad news. It's a habit I should get back into.

 An interesting thing about the Cardinals and Tigers is that during the regular season both had gotten off to tremendous division leads and then seemingly relaxed in their prosperity. They were in a sense victims of the Percy doldrums -- their games became one ordinary "Wednesday afternoon" after another. Percy said that bad news takes us out of the ordinariness of a Wednesday afternoon and the Tigers and Cardinals both managed to manufacture their own bad news by losing a slew of games in August and September. Both played under .500 ball in September and nearly died in terms of making the playoffs.

Percy says that near-death experiences are galvanizing; afterwards you not only appreciate life but in an odd way can throw it away. Everything afterwards is, in a sense, gravy.
So it seems not so surprising after all that the two worst playoff-bound teams in September, two teams who almost lost their (mid-season) playoff birthrights, ended up triumphing.
Fr. Anthony Cogan (1826-1872)

From Faith, Famine and Fatherland - Perceptions of a Priest and Historian - Anthony Cogan 1826-1872
In his political views on the evolution of Irish society, Cogan's thinking reflected the spiritual concept of the Communion of Saints, where living believers share in a Christian fellowship with those who have already died in Christ. In Cogan's Diocese of Meath the reader is struck by the fact that there is scarcely no accommodation made for the division between the living and the dead. Cogan reminded his readers in 1862, that 'the old grave-yards where their fathers sleep, and where many of themselves expect to repose' also contain the remains of heroic priests whose records must 'be rescued from oblivion and neglect'. And in all this, the writing of history played a key role in shaping the consciousness of the local community and the nation.

Little of Cogan's achievement or of his short life was remembered within his own diocese or by his clerical successors. His friend and fellow historian of Dublin, Fr. John O'Hanlon, believed that because of his labours and his personal sanctity 'in aftertime his grave shall be sought by many a pilgrim and from many of distant land.' But twentieth-century Ireland, languishing in the petty politics of the post Civil War era, and blinkered by an exclusive sense of remembrance of the heroes of 1916, allowed the memory of men such as Anthony Cogan to fade and die. A housing estate in Navan was named after him but few could explain the significance of the name By 1990, in spite of the presence of the monument on the wall of Slane church, all memory even of Cogan's grave had vanished...The very thing which Anthony Cogan had laboured so hard to prevent had now happened. Ireland was losing its collective memory--ironically not under a foreign oppressor, but under its own complacent independent regime.

October 19, 2006

On bible translations

I don't like the Catholic Study Bible recommendation, but the comment thread is interesting. I didn't realize you could get a Jerusalem bible with study notes for $8 (plus shipping).

The fort over against the oak-wood,
Once it was Bruidge’s, it was Cathal’s,
It was Aed’s, it was Ailill’s,
It was Conaing’s, it was Cuiline’s
And it was Maelduin’s;
The fort remains after each in his turn-
And the kings asleep in the ground.

– Kuno Meyer, The Fort of Rathangan
Thomas of ER...

Provides interesting inside look as an employee of a car dealership, the inner workings of which are as shrouded in mystery to me as the local undertaker's:
Next time you're at the local corner car stop-n-go, ask if the Dr Feelgood selling you that well-seasoned cherry cream puff has a current certificate. If not, flee to the hills. Now, any salesman in the business for longer than a couple of years will most likely have at least one complaint on file. Someone will get mad at himself for buying the Hummer Comanchero Model 15x with stowable turret and 15mm canon with Powerglide Recoil (R), and run to the BMV to complain. Still, a consistent history of complaints is a problem. Then there's me - it's as though I fell from the sky and landed across from you, proposal in hand, urging you to 'sign on the line that is dotted'.
Call Me Motivated    ...but not Ishmael

Call me a motivated voter now.

With recent polls suggesting the Democrats are poised to take over the House and Senate, it don't get no more motivating than that.

My complaints about the Republicans suddenly seems an absurd luxury; nothing galvanizes one's attention quite as effectively the cold water of a worse option.

Most of the Democrat candidates remind me of the way we used to act at bars just before closing time. The girls were drunk and wounded and we were venal opportunists. Principled Democrats would've ran for office when Republicans were strong and sober, not now while they're weak. The almost pluperfect lack of ideas generated by the progressive party only adds to the perception that they want power merely because they like power, i.e. for its own sake. By contrast, in '94 when the Republicans took office they were full of ideas. The Contract with America wasn't just lip service either. They soon enacted most of the ideas contained therein.

Sometimes I wonder if democracy, like Christianity, has ever been tried. At least democracy in the form of a meritocracy rather than simply an elaborate name identification test. Because the two Democratic candidates for office in PA & OH are awful, just truly awful. Profoundly bad. I'm speaking of Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey. They are so inferior to Mike Dewine and Rick Santorum that it beggars the imagination. They are running on their names. The Browns have a history in Ohio politics and the Caseys in PA politics. George W. Bush won because of his father. Hillary is a front-runner because her husband was a president who had an affair and made her a martyr. What's in a name? Nothing. If anything it's a contrary indicator given how different George W. Bush is from his father.

Except in the case of St. Thomas More, it takes an uncynical person to use the word "virtuous" in the same sentence as "politician" but the pastor at a Dominican parish downtown shows his great faith by praying for such. Here are his thoughts in the most recent bulletin:
I remind all of you to register to vote, to be properly informed as to the issues and candidates running for office, and finally to vote on Election Day. The Catholic Church's strong stand against abortion and for Pro-Life issues and candidates should be paramount on your mind when you step into the voting booth. Please join me in praying for good virtuous politicians who will defend the life of our precious unborn children.
FYI: the "News you can hardly use" blog has been updated with a solution to the North Korea crisis.
Pros & Cons of Foreknowledge

Tis better to know or not know? Who couldn't enjoy rafting down the beautiful Niagra river if you didn't know there were some falls were ahead?

All humans know they will die, which is a sort of harshness. But we know not the hour which is a sort of blessedness. By comparison with animals - who do not anticipate pain they way we do - we have a less advantageous situation. But in comparison with saints, who sometimes have foreknowledge, we have a more advantageous situation. For example, Jesus told his apostles they too would drink the martyr's cup he would drink. Jesus himself knew for the bulk of his ministry how it would all turn out, of his crucifixion. Mary was told that a "sword would pierce her heart" by Simeon, which perhaps was a way of preparing Mary but which, in a lesser person, might've seemed to be "too much information". It might be that knowing in advance makes the offering sweeter to God since He rewards saints more than sinners and sinners more than animals.

Update: On rewarding sinners more than animals: that's assuming two things: if there are animals in heaven, they won't share the Beatific vision, and that the sinners spoken of are repentant.

October 18, 2006

Book Pictures From New Orleans in '04

Turn head to side.
Guess Who?

We were on vacation in South Carolina almost ten years ago and I recall thinking it odd that the priest invited someone wearing a dark suit to say a few words before the final blessing. From my journal in June 1997:
Heard nice chat at Mass today from a former Episcopalian minister who converted to Catholicism. He admitted in his former life he had tried to subtly convert catholics to protestantism, but finally couldn’t square John 6 - “those who eat of my flesh and drink my blood shall have eternal life”, since the original words pre-translation meant this literally & not symbolically. You could tell he’d struggled with it, taking a leave of absence and probably losing a some friends. Jesus said, ‘they know not what they do’, and cradle catholics could say ‘we know not what we have’ with respect to the Eucharist. His family huddled in group prayer after Mass, combining the best aspects of the Prot’s outgoingness with the Catholic’s Mass. Too bad this guy had to take a demotion; he obviously can’t become a priest.
Guess I thought he was Episcopalian rather than Presybterian. But, if despite that, you answered "Scott Hahn" then pass go and collect $200.
Latin Cheers

With baseball coming to its annual apex (“the extreme end of a thing, the point, summit, top”), a friend recently asked the meaning of a Latin phrase, Eamus Catuli, visible in large letters in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago. This is, of course, “Let’s Go Cubs!” Eamus is the first person plural jussive subjunctive of the verb eo and catulus means “the young of animals, a whelp”.
Would it be Eamus Rubrums for "Let's Go Reds"?
Augustine's Advice

St. Augustine references this passage from Ecclesiasticus 30:22-24:
Give not up thy soul to sadness, and afflict not thyself in thy own counsel. The joyfulness of the heart, is the life of a man, and a never failing treasure of holiness: and the joy of a man is legnth of life. Have pity on thy own soul, pleasing God, and contain thyself; gather up thy heart in his holiness: and drive away sadness far from there.
...in his commentary on Luke 11:37-41, the gospel reading from yesterday and whose human author we celebrate today:
After he had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.
St. Augustine says of the last verse:
To give alms is to show mercy. If thou art wise, begin with thyself: for how art thou merciful to another, if cruel to thyself? Hear the Scripture, which says unto thee, Have mercy on thy own soul, and please God. (Ecclus 30:23) Return unto thy conscience, thou that livest in evil or unbelief, and then thou findest thy soul begging, or perhaps struck dumb with want. In judgment and love give alms to thy soul. What is judgment? Do what is displeasing to thyself. What is charity? Love God, love thy neighbor.

October 17, 2006

Bonaventure & Thomas

From The Thought of Benedict XVI:
With his roots in the ground of Franciscanism, Bonaventure sees the entire phenomenon of Scholasticism and of scientific thought in a new and different way. He does not cease to recognize its great value for the present time; he himself does not cease pursuing it and loving it; he does not give up his concern for its correctness. But at the same time, he sees that it is not final in itself.
This is the sapientia omniformis, the omnibus wisdom, whereby created things become meaningful for us and speak to us of the glory of their Maker. In his Commentary on the Sentences Bonaventure had early developed the view that, in the contemporary period, man's contemplative power is so reduced that only the healing and helping grace of God can revive his understanding of the 'book' of creation. Divine grace so acts upon us as to set up a ladder leading from the creation to the Creator...

In the Church of the final age, Francis' own manner of life will triumph, impracticable though it is if lived sine glossa here and now. The Poor Man of Assisi, the simplex, the idiota, will turn out to have more penetration than all the learned men of his time, because he loved God more.
Ohio Right to Life Guide to Candidates
The Smile

The modern corporation often seems a tundra of homogeneity but occasionally there are moments.

Like today as I was waiting for an elevator. Beside me stood a couple. She was speaking a foreign language which I assumed to be Russian because they both looked exquisitely Russian. His face was craggy as the Ural mountains, gargoyled with boils and dominated by a large and fleshy nose. Her dark eyes had a baggy, sunken look, like she hasn't slept in awhile, or perhaps it was natural in the way sunken eyes are for some Russian women. They may not have been conventionally handsome or pretty but the very lack was a mark of authenticity.

The elevator comes and we all board and I decide I'm going to try the only Russian phrase I know, learned a decade ago from a co-worker who'd escaped the USSR. They were getting off six and the rest of us had more to go. Since this seemed perfectly juvenile, I didn't want to say it so loud that the others would hear. But I counted on the fact that the familiarity of the language would allow one of them to pick up my quiet das vadanya -- if in fact they were Russian.

It worked to perfection. I don't think anyone else on the elevator heard but him. His partner had gotten off first and he was just exiting. The broadest smile crossed his face as he looked back at me. He replied in Russian in response as the door closed. Of course I don't know what he said.

The popes of our era have earnestly exhorted the recitation of the rosary. They have taught authoritatively that the Rosary always leads us to the Lord, through Mary. Pope Pius XII called the Rosary a, "compendium of the Gospels," and urged the faithful to turn in confidence to the Virgin Mother of God. John XXIII said that the rosary is a wonderful meditation and that in saying it we: "Weave a garland of Ave Maria's, Pater Noster's, and Gloria Patri's." Paul VI called the Rosary a Gospel Prayer, and as such, it is an unceasing praise of Jesus Christ. Pope John Paul I, in his charming way, said that the recitation of the Hail Mary's of the rosary: "sweetens the soul like a song". All know of the devotion that Pope John Paul II had for the Rosary. When I studied in Rome, I was one of a small group of priests one day that concelebrated Mass with Pope John Paul in his private chapel. After Mass, he pressed into the hand of each priest a rosary. When he came to me he said: "Father, pray this rosary every day!" And I do! - Fr. Rego

The Scandal revealed a deep rotting disease within American Catholicism that has only begun to be recognized, let alone treated. [Dreher] saw it up close and personal as a journalist covering the story for years. As much as I am loathe to quote him, Nietzsche's insight cannot be denied: "And when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you." - Dale of "Dyspeptic Mutterings"

Mr. Dreher says he was afraid that he would not be able to give his children faith if they were in the Catholic church. But I submit that unless he gives his children logical, intellectual reasoning for what they are to believe as Christians and backs that up in the home living an authentic faith, they'll leave anyway whether they are Catholic, Orthodox or apparently Amish. For those reasons, although I understand his reasoning, I find his argumentation to be less than compelling. - Elena of "My Domestic Church"

It would be fair to say that I can empathize with Dreher more than most committed, orthodox Catholics: as a college student I once found myself in a position pretty close to his, and almost did what he has done. I had been sexually abused by a priest as a high school student and was quite generally fed up with the "progressive" Catholic theology and liturgy which was then the norm in New York, at least for students. Since I've told the story of my flirtation with Orthodoxy elsewhere, however, I shall leave out the details here. Suffice it to say that I remained Catholic because, unlike Dreher, I could not get around the pope. - Mike of "Sacramentum Vitae"

I have thought at times about what would have happened if the Tridentine rite had never been replaced in the first place? I have a feeling that we would still have been treated to Clown and Polka Masses, only Ad Orientum and in Latin. - Jeff Miller

Tridentine. That's the sugarless Mass? - Terrence Berres

Humor stems from a sense of displacement, it is, in a sense, an ultimately Christian virtue. Humor often results from the juxtaposition of impossible events, from the use of a word in two or more ways, from the sudden and unexpected. These are the deep seams of humor, the understanding that things are not as they seem, that we are not what we seem, and that ultimately we are not really where we belong. Humor then, a Christian virtue stemming from the recognition of the anomalies resulting from our pilgrim status, is one essential for readable fiction. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

This fellow was telling me that his friend, the pastor [of a Protestant megachurch], was about to collapse under the pressure of running the megachurch, the specific pressure of The New - of having to constantly create programs to attract folks, to keep them coming, to keep them "on fire," and the pressure of the necessity of him being onstage all the time, of being the central figure on whom all this rested. I believe in his own conversion story, Jeff Cavins speaks along the same line - how exhausting it was as a person engaged in ministry in the Protestant evangelical churches to always be having to think of the Next Big Thing lest people drive down the street to the next Church of the New. - Amy of "Open Book"

The classic text here is St. Augustine’s The City of God, and book XIX should be regularly reread by any Christian pondering ultimates and preultimates in relation to any political order. The larger truths engaged are not limited to Christians. In the forthcoming November issue of First Things, I explain why a writer in Time is quite wrong to be worried by the fact that so many Christians in America say they are Christians first and Americans second. The right ordering of their loves and loyalties is what makes them, contra the proponents of the naked public square, better Americans. - Richard Neuhaus

When liberals like Jon Stewart or Bill Maher criticize a political party, the abstract level of their critique depends on what party they are criticizing. So that, when they speak out against Republicans, they speak out against GOP policy - what the party stands for. When they speak out against Democrats, they tend to denounce Democrats for going along with Republicans or, as they see it, acting like Republicans. Either way, the net result is a slam on Republicans. This is not an "independent" view. - Ham o' Bone of soceng.blogspot.com

You can read biographies of all those to be canonized on Sunday here - and it's worth doing. The lives of these men and women show so clearly that the life of holiness - of a saint - is anything but quiet, conformist passivity - the stereotype of one deeply committed to God. We know the stereotype is a lie, but sometimes even we need reminding, don't we? We forget that the goal of spiritual growth, as our culture defines it that even creeps into our churches - that it's all about finding a space where I'm feeling comfortable and accepted and okay and am basically getting along with the world - is just a lie. At least for Christians. - Amy Welborn
Silly Season

Is there a greater waste on earth than political ads? They have all the subtley of a drunk guy at the opera. They also play into what we already know of Republicans and Democrats. I mean, are there really that many swing voters who are swayed by these things? Why not target the opposition party's base instead?

For example, the Ohio Republican Party put out a little piece against Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy for raising taxes and for granting a plea bargain that allowed an illegal immigrant and suspected member of a terrorist group to stay in the United States. Big deal. That's what Democrats do - they raise taxes and they're kinder & gentler on crime. That's why God put them on the earth. I mean who doesn't know that? If they cut taxes and were hard on crime they'd be Republican.

And Kilroy put out some stuff on her opponent, saying that Pryce cut veterans benefits, raised her own pay, and voted with President Bush 88% of the time. Uh, duh! Of course Republicans are the "mean" party and of course incumbents will vote with their own president 88% of the time and of course they're going to take care of their own pocketbook. I mean this is stuff everyone and their brother knows. I could write both scripts while not even knowing the candidates.

Why not be daring and try to hurt each other's base? Why doesn't Kilroy put out ads saying that Pryce is weak on the life issues? And why doesn't Pryce say that Kilroy...uh, maybe once said that George Bush wasn't quite as bad as Hitler?

October 16, 2006

My Tributary to "The Synonymous Bengal"

Gary Burbank of WLW radio in Cincinnati has a funny skit he does regularly. It's of a Bengal talking the usual sports cliches, only something is just a bit off. It might go something like this:
Q: "Coach, what do you have to do to win Sunday?"

A: "Well I think the key to victory is to estimate our running game early. We have to play ball-patrol offense and stop the big play. We need to dominatrix the line of cribbage and play good old-fashioned smath-moush football. Another important element in our overall stratomatic is to go out and exonerate our plays, and to keep the gassing lanes open. Most of all, we have to prevent turnabouts such as imperceptions and fumbles. Hopefully our quarterback can scrabble and avoid getting caught in the sack."
Saints Gone Wild

Kind of surprised to see the secular media, in this case the Columbus Dispatch, review Thomas J. Craughwell's Saints Behaving Badly. Reviews in the Dispatch of books about religion, at least books about religion that do not involve politics, are about as rare as buffalos in New York City.

Review is here:
St. Callixtus (an embezzler) was forgiven his sins and, in his turn as pope, forgave those of others.

He was challenged by Hippolytus, who "taught that any Christian who committed even a single mortal sin ought to be driven out of the Church and never permitted to return."

Craughwell estimates the number of saints at 40,000. If Hippolytus had his way, that number would be dramatically pared — and this entertaining book would not exist.
Songs & Art

It’s hard not to feel autumn's nostalgia in light of the ‘80s song (the Cars “Magic”) playing on the radio now. I’m even nostalgic for Hambone's nostalga, nostalgic for his early '90s-era contemplative Floyd-ian white guitar chords and Alice ‘n Chains predilection. I recall the reverie produced by a 1975 Pizza Hut, the Osmond song “Deep Purple” playing in the background while drinking rootbeer from one of those ‘70s coolmoe purple glasses. Even back then I think the drinks were refillable. And the pizza was delectable.

If there’s a country song that has stood the test of time it’s John Conlee’s “Rose-colored Glasses”. Brings me immediately to our one visit to the Grand Ole Opry. It tears a gut to hear it to this day, brings to the lips the taste of mint julep, both because of the song itself and its context. The Oak Ridge Boys’ “Gonna Take a Lot of River” is another classic. “Gonna take the Mississippi, the Monongahela and the Ohio / Gonna take a lot of river / To wash these blues away.” The song sounds like a river, with rumbling bass and warbling tenor.

 The Word Among Us has a winsome image of Pompeo Batoni's "Holy Family" on the cover for October. How beautiful. Jesus grabs his mother’s wide, swan-like neck. How sweet her gaze! (The picture at left doesn't do it justice.) How wrong for men to think they've outgrown the need for womanly breasts (figuratively speaking), or to see the sweet succulence of God as other than a necessity. And the child Jesus is greedy, hungry for love, and it's a incomprehensibility that God thirsts for our love but there you have it...
He That Scattereth Even the Blue Jay

Had a rather large visitor to the feeder yesterday. I'm guessing a Cooper's Hawk.

Hey Wally, I'm my own Representative!

They say that all bad ideas originate in California and slowly move east. That may not be completely accurate but it's close enough for guvmint work.

The latest scam moving eastward from the Golden State is the notion that even though we send representatives to the statehouse to vote on and make laws, let's outsource controversial issues back to us in the form of ballot initiatives. Sort of like an elaborate game of hot potato. To be fair, the representatives themselves aren't the ones doing the outsourcing and initiating. That comes from guys like George Soros or trial lawyers or the tobacco institute, often spending as much as $11 per signature in order to get the hundred thousand (or whatever) signatures required to receive life on the ballot.

This time we have five new initiatives, some of which amend the Ohio Constitution over such matters as whether you can smoke in a bowling alley. I kid you not. At this rate, by 2020 we'll be deciding whether to amend the constitution concerning the right of motorists to pick their nose at intersections.

Issue 1 requires that I bone up on Worker's Compensation law. I don't mind telling you that what I know about WC law could fit in a Tokyo phone booth. I've decided to purchase a handsome barrister library case - complete with glass window - to hold the law books I'm going to be buying over the next few years.

Issue two proves that writing up an issue means never having to say you're sorry for overreaching. If you're spending so much dough per signature you're not going to do something even a friendly legislature would do. So let's not just raise the minimum wage thirty percent, let's destroy the confidentiality of employer work-related records while we're at it!

Update: Ohio Catholic Conference Voter's Guide of questions to ask.