January 31, 2007

NT Wright: The C.S. Lewis of This Generation?

I don't mean that post title in terms of influence or sheer literary brilliance, but how Lewis attested and Wright attests, by virtue of their Anglican membership, to a flawed ecclesiastical view. The Anglican Communion was still relatively intact during C.S. Lewis's time and yet still many wonder why he didn't swim the Tiber given that he accepted just about every Catholic doctrine. (His brother converted.)

I think similar thoughts about scholar/Anglican bishop N.T. Wright given the problems. Perhaps it's far harder for a bishop than a layman to convert, given the obligation and sense of themselves. Or simply that Wright has a different understanding of church. As one former Anglican wrote:
I think many Anglicans (especially of the Evangelical persuasion) have a very congregational understanding of the church. They know the rot is there, but they look to their friends in their own branch of Anglicanism and see real faith and devotion to the historic faith and believe that they are still snug where they are. It's kind of like the group of people on the Titanic who refused to quit playing poker in the bar with their whiskey and cigars.
Some people have more a greater facility to ignore crisis. Adam Gopnik, in Paris to the Moon, attributes this to the French:
...the French attitude toward any crisis is not to soldier through it but just to pretend that it isn't happening. (It was in Paris, after all, that Picasso and Sartre sat in a cafe for four years pretending the Germans weren't there.)
The obligatory disclaimer is that I should probably worry about my own soul and mind my own bidness..
House Episode

...featured the topic of abortion last night. Dr. House delivered the pro-abort party line saying the issue was gray but we have to draw lines, and there's a big, clear dividing line: it's called birth. I've always wonder why that bright clear dividing line is never conception.
Interesting Girard Interview
The following is an excerpt of an interview with René Girard, French historian, philosophical anthropologist and emeritus professor of anthropology at Stanford University.

NPQ: Even Jean Baudrillard once agreed that "the whole world, including China and Japan, is implicated in the postmodern fragmentation and uprootedness that leaves values behind. There is one exception: Islam. It stands as a challenge to the radical indifference sweeping the world. Isn’t it true that Islam remains the only civilization fully based in faith, and thus is in conflict with our secular postmodern culture the same way Ratzinger is? After all, despite Pope John Paul II’s determined efforts, the drafters of the EU Constitution rejected any mention of the Christian heritage of the West. Every state in the Islamic world mentions Islam as its cultural foundation.

Girard: Western civilization is, no doubt, predominantly on the side of secular relativism. That is not true in the Islamic world, where faith dominates. This victory of relativism is precisely why Pope Benedict has made defending the Christian Truth his central mission.

Having said this, I should also say that American secularism—which arose in defense of freedom of religion—and French laicite—which arose from the Jacobin opposition to the Church—are more similar than most people recognize because they are experienced in the same way at the personal level.

January 30, 2007

'Say More Words' Department

Hmmm...I think the dear friar should've expounded further on this thought:
"The virtue is present even when it is not operative or actualized...For example, the chaste person is chaste even when asleep. I would go even further and say that the person is chaste even if sleep brings sexual dreams containing images that would be unchaste if they were welcomed in times of watchful responsibility."

--Fr. Benedict Groeschel in "The Virtue-Driven Life"
Or a Good Test-taker

My tradition has been and will continue to be to post all tests for which I receive 100%. *grin*

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

I like what Studeo said: "(Not bad for a Catholic - heehee)"
Conservatives in the Wilderness

Just as winter must come to the Northern Hemisphere once a year, winter must come to the (allegedly) conservative party, the GOP every other decade or so. These things are cyclical and we've been living on borrowed fumes for quite awhile now. Bear with me while I begin my disassociative phase of '08 politics by focusing on '08 politics. Counter-intuitive, but it helps to write about it so as to forget about it. It looks pretty bleak, but, as that stirring Animal House line goes, was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Surely a bit of gratitude is in order. The last eight years have been pure gift*, although a gift admittedly spoiled by Iraq. We got a couple sane Supreme Court justices. And we don't export abortion as under Clinton. But the truth is America is not a conservative country. She simply does not want smaller government, nor does she accept the premise that the Bush tax cuts were in any way correlative with the low inflation/unemployment environment. Far more shocking is that America is not a very socially conservative country. Terri Schiavo's plight garnered little sympathy. Abortion goes unchecked ad nauseum. Killing embryonic stem cells for Michael Fox seems a good trade. But it begins with abortion. Principles are abstract; mentally-functioning people are "real". And people can see and hear Michael J. Fox. Principle is such a weak and fragile thing in the tsunami of image and emotion, is it not? I feel it every day my own self, how Heaven can feel like a principle while earth seems more real.

But let's take a step back to 2000, the annulus miraculous. Note:
General Rules of Presidential Politics:
  • Sitting governors beat sitting senators.
  • The politician who smiles more, wins. ('68s Nixon-Humphrey exception duly noted.)
  • If your father was president that helps.
  • In 2000, George Bush had the wind at his back. Gore was considered an environmental wacko who wrote about eliminating the combustion engine, though it never seemed to come up during the campaign. Bush was a serious candidate because a few years before he shocked the nation by beating the formidable Ann Richards, a Texas institution. He was, as they say, a comer. He played well with others according to the Democratic Texas pols.

    He also smiled a lot, and often more genuinely than Al.

    And his father had been president. People like legacies because they think they come by their dishonesty honestly. Sure Gore was the son of a senator, but no one outside of Tennessee has ever heard of Al Gore Sr. and Dana Carvey wasn't imitating him.

    So Bush should've won by ten points or more, right? Electoral landslide? No. Gore came within a whisker of winning. This is what we amateur pundits refer to as a "wake up call". Which means that even though we won the battle it had the strong taste of the pyrrhic to it, like the last call for alcohol. Shocked by the narrowness of victory, I thought "well George, fire all of your guns at once and explode into space" because that's where the conservative party is going to be soon. November of 2000 was the point at which we conservatives could say, basking in the afterglow, "it's all gravy now": four years guaranteed. Well the gravy's done run out.

    The not-so-secret secret is that the American electorate is not very conservative. The only conservative president we've had in the last fifty years was Ronald Reagan and he won partially on a lark, a reaction against Carter (the Gray Davis to Reagan's Schwarzneggar) who managed to drive up inflation and unemployment to astronomical levels - a feat many economists had previously thought nearly impossible. But now we've seen prosperity generated by lowered taxes and rejected it. We've seen record lows in the unemployment rate and we're not satisfied. (Tis true that the Clinton Administration, restrained by a firebrand Gingrich-led Congress, maintained a fine economy.)

    Certainly I'm with Limbaugh. Nobody excites me in the '08 Republican field. Brownback, God love him, can't win, so I alternate between McCain and Romney. Ohio polls show Clinton beating everybody head-to-head, which is amazing. Too soon to tell, but it's possible Ohio might've officially switched to blue state status.

    And what of national security? Who can we trust with matters that make managing the economy look like child's play? By default most think it's about exercising strength but we've learned in Iraq it's also about exercising wisdom and dexterity. Looking at the field, it seems a seller's market. Hillary's brazen ambition implies she'll be ambitious in defending the U.S; it actually works to her favor to be seen as ruthless and calculating. It's a perfect storm in her favor. Having read Peggy Noonan's book, I'm amazed Hillary is as poll-bouyant as she apparently is. I always thought that people would prefer the not-yet-corrupt-but-probably-will-be to the already-proven-to-be-corrupt. But she smiles a lot. She knows the secret to victory. Peggy Noonan wrote that book in order to try to influence the New York senatorial race. She failed miserably, and I wonder if she feels disappointed at the wasted effort. And yet I come back again and again to the marvelous line in Mother Teresa's message (said to be inscribed on the wall of her Children's Home in Calcutta) that goes "what you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway":
    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
    ...Be honest and frank anyway.

    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
    ...Build anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
    ...Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
    ...Do good anyway.

    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
    ...Give the world the best you've got anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
    It was never between you and them anyway.
    I don't mean to imply anything by quoting Mother T in relation to politics. That's not worthy of her message. Should things go badly fiscally or militarily, they are as small potatoes to the moral environment. That is what needs to be re-built. And there's little sign that politics can do anything about that anyway. Spiritual renewal isn't brought about by presidents.

    UPDATE: * - By 'pure gift' I meant more in the sense of the narrowness of the 2000 victory rather than what we actually received.

    My political opinions are minutiae - which is why I try not to overload this blog with them - but it's fun playing the contrarian. It's hard not to see Iraq as an abysmal failure, which is why I caveated the giftedness of this Administration with "though spoiled by Iraq". That caveat might well be like saying of a girl "she's pretty but for that rock-sized mole on her face" but...

    I think Bush has been relatively straightforward in the sense that he governed the way he said he would. He said he would appoint strict constructionist judges without the litmus test of abortion, which he did. He said he would govern from a 'compassionate' conservative position, which he did (No Child Left Behind, money for AIDS in Africa, Medicare enlargement, etc...). He said he would lower taxes and he did. He spent money like a drunken sailor, which was somewhat surprising, but he never promised a balanced budget either.

    The bureaucracy that the president today presides over is mind-bendingly large (which he made worse). The federal government is gigantic and somewhat ungovernable. Conservatives believe a large central gov't to be inherently inefficient, so I can't get as exercised as many do for his not evacuating or immediately rebuilding New Orleans (even liberal historian Douglas Brinkley says that Bush's main fault was that he didn't have a New York "bullhorn moment" immediately after Katrina, which seemed less a managerial problem than a stylistic concern), or for Abu Graibh. I also don't blame him or Clinton for 9/11 because 9/11 was so over-the-top that a failure of imagination plagued not only two presidents (of different parties and philosophies) but just about all pundits -- none of whom much cared or talked about the threat of Islamic terrorism before 9/11 despite the '93 bombing of the World Trade Center and numerous other attacks. If the people and pundits don't much care, the politicians rarely will. I don't know to the extent terror was used or exported, but I've heard that prisoners at Guantanamo are treated far better than American prisoners. But it seems wrong to hold them there indefinitely without trials or tribunals or something.

    As for the pro-life issues I wish he'd done more, but he put his neck out reasonably far on the embryonic stem cell issue. He's to the right of the country's opinion on that and made an issue out of what would not even have been an issue in any other Administration (most, Republican or Democrat, would've supported federal funding of embryonic stem cell research in a heartbeat). Sometimes holding the line is the best you can do though you'll never get credit for.

    I wrote The Praise of Folly in times of peace; I should never have written it if I had foreseen this tempest...I see no one becoming better, every one becoming worse, so that I am deeply grieved that in my writings I once preached the liberty of the spirit....What I desired then was that the abatement of external ceremonies might much redound to the increase of true piety. But as it is, the ceremonies have been so destroyed that in place of them we have not the liberty of the spirit but the unbridled license of the flesh....What liberty is that which forbids us to say our prayers, and forbids us the sacrifice of the Mass? - Erasmus, in a letter to St. Thomas More

    "Trust women." Just not women who regret their abortions, right? - commeter on Amy's blog concerning pro-abort sign

    Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are the favored providers of literary “guilty pleasures” to British readers, according to a recent survey. John Grisham and Dan Brown are tied for third place. But columnist Thomas Sutcliffe challenges the whole notion of guilt about reading. “How guilty a pleasure can any book be when the alternative is to power up a PlayStation and run amok through Miami with a chain saw?” he asks. - blogger at "People of the Book"

    - art painted by Erik of "Erik's Rants & Recipes"

    I think most Democrats know me. They understand that my support for the war was always insincere. Of course, knowing what we know now, that you could vote against the war and still be elected president, I would never have pretended to support it. - SNL parody of Hillary Clinton

    For a Western Catholic, the only place to start is Augustine. Every Christian should read the Confessions, of course. If you’ve got time, try City of God, which is long but seems to cover just about everything. De Trinitate is hard for a beginner, but it influences every Western theologian afterwards, and is beautiful and brilliant. One of my favorite Fathers is St Gregory the Great. His Forty Gospel Homilies are some of the best things of their kind I know. The Moralia in Job was perhaps the most widespread and influential expository patristic work throughout the middle ages...Irenaeus! And try the desert Fathers. For the middle ages, look at St Bernard. He’s got sermons on everything, spiritual treatises of various kinds, a mystical homiletical commentary on the Song of Songs. Good stuff. Then I would start with St Bonaventure’s shorter works. There’s a volume out in English called “Mystical Opuscula” which is pretty cheap and full of good stuff, prayers, meditations of various kinds, a systematic exposition of the spiritual life (”The Triple Way”)...Then try something harder, like Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles...Look at St Catherine of Sienna’s Dialogue for some feminine input. In modern times, St Alphonsus Ligouri seems to have written about almost everything. He’s not my cup of tea, but I know a lot of people who like him. I prefer St Francis de Sales, especially Introduction to the Devout Life and The Catholic Controversies. One of the best spiritual writers ever is St John of the Cross, but St Teresa is more approachable. Perhaps best of all for the newbie is St Therese, who is simple but profound. - Michael Sullivan's reading recommendations, on Pontifications

    I recently finished this extraordinary book [Girard's "Things Hidden from the Foundation of the World'] and whole-heartedly recommend it...After Oughourlian comments on the barren landscape of our contemporary intellectual climate ("a whole host of epigonal movements so devoid of real crativity that they seem more pathetic than dangerously misleading"), Girard closes with the following:
    "I began to breathe more freely when I discovered that literary and ethnological critiques are inadequate - even if they are not totally worthless - when confronted with the literary and cultural texts they claim to dominate. This was before I came to the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. I never even imagined that those texts were there for the purpose of passive enjoyment, in the same way as we look at a beautiful landscape. I always cherished the hope that meaning and life were one. Present-day thought is leading us in the direction of the valley of death, and it is cataloguing the dry bones one by one. All of us are in this valley but it is up to us to resuscitate meaning b relating all the texts to one another without exception, rather than stopping at just a few of them. All issues of 'psychological health' seem to me to take second place to a much greater issue- that of meaning which is being lost or threatened on all sides but simply awaits the breath of the Spirit to be reborn. Now all that is needed is this breath to recreate stage by stage Ezekiel's experience in the valley of the dead."
    - Quin Finnegan at "Korrektiv"

    Where a society has a frail sense of itself that need to provide a sacrifical victim is correspondingly greater. I've often thought that this is a possibly explanation for the current problems in Islam - a culture under pressure needs to establish itself with the sacrifice of law breakers. Perhaps also the current crisis in the Novus Ordo, the irrational frothing at the mouth of French bishops, for example, and their desire to see the Lefebvrists cast out and kept out - ritually sacrificed as it were - indicates a insecurity in their underlying worldview. The same is often true of conservative religious groups - the devil within the gates is the one that must be exposed and cast out: the sexual deviant, the heretic, the impure one. - blogger at "Dominicanus"

    Then Mother St. Jude said, "I know nothing of God's intentions. But I can tell you what St. John of the Cross has written. 'I am not made or unmade by the things which happen to me but by my reaction to them. That is all God cares about.' Do you understand, Marie?"...St. John tells us that to do things because you want to do them or because you think they are right are simply human considerations. He tells us that obedience influenced by human considerations is almost worthless in the eyes of God. I obey--always--because God commands me." She smiled. "So I am not a victim, Marie. . . ." - from the novel "Cold Heaven" by Brian Moore, via Steven Riddle
    Tough Love

    Romano Guardini, in his book The Lord, has interesting things to say about the relationship between Jesus and Mary (here, continue here, and then here).

    His commentary reminds me of what Thomas Keating in Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love says about how God uses tough love and distancing with those he is especially close to. It's not intuitive from a human viewpoint - one expects to feel closer and closer to those we love - but it does make a kind of sense given that God is unfathomable and other. A Dominican priest once said that the Divine, being Spirit, will necessarily be encountered over time on a less and less sensual level (where I mean sensual as that which can be perceived through our senses & feelings. Alice von Hildebrand defends feelings here.)

    I was driving west on I-70 yesterday and saw a church called The Church Triumphant of Columbus. Catholics see our time on earth as belonging to the Church Militant and Heaven as the Church Triumphant. We might see ourselves as recapitulating the story of Israelites, on the journey traveling through the Egyptian desert (and trying not to complain), or we can see ourselves as already in the Promised Land, by virtue of our Baptism, the Eucharist, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit -- a reason to feel triumphant. Is this a case of both/and rather than either/or?

    My daughter-in-law's evangelical family includes a brother who, in her words, "hates God". Apparently an atheist. And yet he just enrolled in a masters program (theology) at a Catholic university in Ohio and is in a class full of seminarians. Odd...

    Given the cold & snow, looks like I'll be hitting the indoor track at the fitness center. I might wear my Papist shirt just to shake things up down there.

    Ifs...Ands...& Buts

    If Monica didn't save the dress
    then Hillary's career is in duress.
    If O'Bama doesn't speak in platitudes,
    would not voters feel less gratitude?
    If Edwards had not hair of gold,
    how many voters would still be sold?

    Created here, via MamaT!

    January 29, 2007

    Studying Aquinas

      Book recommendation from Sr. Thomas Mary:
    I like to tell my friends that “St. Thomas has finally caught up with me.” Indeed I am very happy that he has. During my growing up years, St. Thomas Aquinas was an unattainable star on a distant horizon. I knew him as the epitome of Catholic theology but any attempt to enter into his thought left me cold and unenlightened. To my surprise I was given his name in religious life and so, providentially, he became my patron saint. It was the Theological Formation Program for Dominican Nuns that enabled me to ‘get my feet wet’ and now I am happily ‘swimming’ in the clear waters of his burning wisdom. So it is with joy that I received this new book with a title that captured my experience: Discovering Aquinas by Dominican theologian, Aidan Nichols.
    Personally, I didn't find Chesterton's biography of Aquinas all that helpful, at least not relative to the praise one encounters around St. Blog's. Your results may vary of course. Elsewhere, St. Blog's resident medievalist comments:
    One important thing to remember is that "beginner" for St. Thomas meant "beginniner in theology in the 13th century university."

    That's not us - almost none of us have the prerequisites. We have not had a rigorous education in Latin grammar with a mildly classical training in rhetoric (really, rhetoric was losing out by the 12th century).* We have not had years of formal training in philosophy (why do you think he doesn't have to explain most of his citations from philosophers? Because the beginners have already gotten their degrees in that field before they get to his class!) Nor do most of us have the mental habits of formal debate, which are essential for handling the structure.

    *- I'd like to hear from someone who really knows if serious modern students are really capable of doing that much with Aquinas without Latin -- not just a little Latin, but the latinate habit of mind.

    --Michael Tinkler commenting on Against the Grain
    Speaking of a 'latinate habit of mind', the Pope's Latinist has this to say about Augustine:
    You cannot understand St Augustine in English. He thought in Latin. It is like listening to Mozart through a jukebox.
    Another book review:
    ...she cannot legitimately dismiss Thomistic personalism as an anachronistic imposition on Thomas's thought. John Paul II and others who focus on the person's value recognize that they are retrieving ideas that Thomas does not always make explicit. They argue, however, that within his conception of being and the Trinity, we have the resources to defend a rich understanding of the human person. Without such an idea, Thomas's ethic, with its endorsement of the death penalty for heretics, can justify morally reprehensible policies. Confronting dehumanizing technology, the negative effects of globalization, religious intolerance, and terrorism, we can easily succumb to totalistic ethics that undermine the person's dignity and value...Eleonore Stump is a brilliant thinker whose book should inform discussions of Thomas for many years to come. I only wish she would recognize the philosophical riches of the recent past, helping us to better understand Thomas's genius.
    They Don't Make Nigerian Spams Like They Used To

    Alas, I liked the old spams that appealed only to greed. The newest generation of scams try to appeal altruistically. They will stop at nothing.

    The latest I received attempts to touch every possible sympathy button: a Christian convert (name changed from Fatima to Mary), Kurdish from Iraq, 87-year old widow, suffering from cancer with six more months to live.

    She's not poor though. She wants to give me 7.5 MILLION U.S. DOLLARS. To be used only for charitable purposes of course.

    January 28, 2007

    Music With Your Morning Coffee

    Korrektiv brings us this:
    ..and this.

    A friend sent me this 24/7 Polka Music link - music for your nighttime beer.

    ...from then Cardinal Ratzinger on the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures:
    The faith of Israel, translated into Greek, insofar as it was reflected in its sacred books, quickly became an object of fascination for the enlightened minds of the ancient world, whose religion had, since the criticisms leveled by Socrates, suffered an increasing loss of credibility. In Socratic thought, however - in contrast to that of the sophistic movement - it was not scepticism, or evey cynicism or mere pragmatism, that was the decisive element; here the longing for an appropriate form of religion, which would yet go beyond the capacity of reason itself, had come into play...

    There was monotheism - and not deriving from philosophical speculation, in such a way that it would have no real religious force, because one cannot worship one's own intellectual concepts, one's own philosophical hypotheses. This monotheism derived from original religious experience and thus confirmed from above, so to speak, what thought had hesitantly been groping for. For the finest circles in late antiquity, the religion of Israel must have had something of the same fascination as did the Chinese world for Western Europe in the time of the Enlightenment, when people thought (mistakenly, as we now know) that they had at last discovered a society without any revelation of myteries, with a reilgion of pure morality and reason....

    The faith of Israel, as portrayed in the Septuagint, demonstrated the harmony between God and world, between reason and mystery..but there was still something missing: the universal God was still linked to a particular people.

    --Truth and Tolerance, J. Cardinal Ratzinger

    January 27, 2007

    Excerpt from Morgan Llywelyn's 1916:

    What could possibly justify [armed insurrection] to a Christian conscience?

    Something Padraic Pearse had once said came back to him: "The church has always taught that its men and women are soldiers for Christ and should be willing to die for their faith. What is the difference between that, and being ready to die as Robert Emmet did in the cause of freedom?"

    Alone in the dark, Ned struggled to answer the question to his own satisfaction...Questions were the obligation of the intellect.

    January 26, 2007

    Beer as a Contemplative Aid

    No wonder I like reading Eric Scheske so much. I always thought beer was a contemplative aid without having the audacity of saying so. But he does in this column.

       I can also relate to that article because after years of having a smaller-than-average television screen, my wife went and bought me a much bigger screen as a Christmas gift this year.

    Eric's a lawyer, so you can't sing this of him, but Ken Mellon's country song is excellent anyway:
    His daddy sent him to college to get a degree
    but he spent his whole tuition on beer and whiskey
    He never cracked a book but he could pop a top
    He was livin' it up while his grades dropped.

    He'll never be a lawyer 'cuz he can't pass a bar
    But he could make a livin' playing his guitar
    He might be a politician or a movie star
    but he'll never be a lawyer cuz he can't pass a bar. (them's true words!)

    If they turned a honkytonk into a school
    he'd have a masters in darts, a PhD in pool
    If his thirst for education matched his taste for wine
    He'd be a judge in just a matter of time

    REF: He'll never be a lawyer...
    'You have not chosen me, I have chosen you'

    The winter is a contemplative space. More time to read, fewer distractions, less call to go outdoors although I always like the idea (without actually doing it) of bundling up and riding my bike and “pretending” it’s summer. That’s the same impulse that leads famous people to constantly get plastic surgery done in order to pretend they're not aging. The obvious work done only highlights the fact they are getting older.

    I’m currently neutral on aging except inasmuch as it serves as a remonstrance for things undone. That part I don't much like (though I'm also not fond of more easily acquired hangovers). I understand I can't work my way to Heaven but there’s no doubt I’d like to give a better account on Judgment Day, and preferably out of love.

    I recently heard a line from the gospel of John for the thousandth time as if for the first, about how Jesus loves us as His Father loved Him. That is a stunning revelation and can induce tears if truly believed. For many of us, our earthly experience is one of marginal acceptance by marginal groups so it's hard to imagine belonging to a group as elite as the Father and the Son. When Christ walked the earth he and his father were the ultimate clique, as it were, but the secrets they shared were in turned shared with his followers.

    To be allowed to break into the clique, to be part of the love between the Father and the Son through the Spirit, is credible only to the extent it is universally offered. And it is! The gift I have been given has been given to all. In fact, I can be assured of it by virtue of it being extended to all because it is proof of his love. I can love other people more easily by realizing that the very fabric that binds them to God – His universal call - is that which binds me to God. If I had a friend who talks behind the back of everyone we know, I'll figure he's talking behind my back when he’s speaking to others. If I know God extends His love to even the most heinous sinner, I can have confidence he extends his love to me. Confidence is increased by quantity, and it’s been said that’s why He chose water as the earthly material of Baptism – that which is profligate on earth is a symbol of God’s profligate love.
    Tocqueville On Islam

    Ivy Catholic quotes Tocqueville:
    "Muhammad brought down from heaven and put into the Koran not religious doctrines only, but political maxims, criminal and civil laws, and scientific theories. The Gospels, on the other hand, deal only with the general relations between man and God and between man and man. Beyond that, they teach nothing and do not oblige people to believe anything. That alone, among a thousand reasons, is enough to show that Islam will not be able to hold its power long in ages of enlightenment and democracy, while Christianity is destined to reign in such ages, as in all others."- Religion and Democratic Interests
    See whole post here.
    Kim Emails Drinking Song Info

    She writes:
    Here is a link to the song I was telling you about called Tubthumping by Chumbawamba (not Chum-a-ching-a-chung-a-chim-a-ring-dong !!)

    I think it deserves its proper recognition!
    Indeed it does - clicking on the link Kim provided below, I realize I have heard that song before. I like it, though the lyrics are sufficiently cryptic in places that I hadn't realized it was a drinking song. It appears I'm not the only one. A YouTuber comments: "my hockey team likes this song but they dont know its about a guy gettin drunk":

    No Viagra for Buñuel

    Ham o' Bone (aka Richard Beach) shares excerpts from the autobiography of film director Luis Buñuel, a deathbed convert/revert.

    January 25, 2007

    Live-Blogging Bingo ...so you don't have to

    6:30pm It was a dark and stormy night when the bingo players first went without their cigarettes. Call it "The Night the Cigs Went Out" and sing to the tune "The Night Chicago Died". A scary time indeed; much frustration ensued. Perhaps we should start handing out nicotine patches in the future, or at least provide more smoke breaks. Yes the Ohio statewide ban has now taken effect and I for one was saddened. My best chance at martyrdom was giving my lungs for the sake of the Church and tonight there was nothing but clean air.

    Because there is no smoking, there are fewer people, and that gives me time to pen this - which I'm guessing is the first attempt ever to live-blog bingo. My mom would be so proud.

    8:06pm Co-worker Kim told me a funny story about her eldest son, a well-behaved boy who is approaching the time of his First Communion which means also his first Confession. Not having anything to say to Father, he smeared toothpaste all over his little brother's face so that he'd have something to confess...

    Kim gave me grief for missing the greatest drinking song of all time in my drinking song post. I think she called it Chum-a-ching-a-chung-a-chim-a-ring-dong although she couldn't spell it. I really must be getting older that I don't even know a famous recent drinking song.

    8:40pm When bingo-selling slows, time drags infinitely. Bingo-induced boredom made me want to make up a little fiction story. So I imagined this:
    "Where do you hide your stash?"

    "Under the mattress. You?"

    "Under the bed. My wife doesn't clean there."

    Can you relate to these men? Do you also surreptiously read the latest issue of This Rock or Karl Keating's Catholicism and Fundamentalism and then hide them from the other members of your Baptist household?

    If so, you may find the need to joing 'TA': Triumphalists Anonymous. At TA, you can go cold turkey from your feelings of truth overadequacy.
    You get the picture. Boredom does funny things. Or you try to creative selling techniques like calling out every modifier for "Beans", the name of an instant ticket game, that you can think of. (Lima, green, black, kidney, baked...). One co-worker (Kim will recall him) tried to sell his body. He didn't last long.

    9:00pm "Rapid Fire!" says Pat.

    "How rapid was it?" (rimshot!)

    10:05pm We all gather and do a post-mortem over pizza and pop. One volunteer couple mentioned how during their recent trip to Florida friends there were cruel in rubbing in the Buckeye loss. I mentioned Bill Luse's mother, though not in name. We oozed sympathy. But then they mentioned how three years ago they'd given them an OSU shirt with the score of the Miami/OSU game on it in the wake of the Buckeye 2003 victory and our sympathy didst shrivel. Something about paybacks being hell.

    Receipts way down. Where did everyone go? One worker said that there must now be 'bingo speakeasies' where you can play bingo and smoke and drink. Said we should open one up on the sly. Black market bingo: I'd have never imagined those three words together before tonight.

    January 24, 2007


    Words are supposedly cheap, so I just don't get why a pro-life president wouldn't spill a few of them during a State of the Union. From Bob Novak:
    Bush completely ignored the social issues dear to much of his conservative base. He did not mention abortion on the day following the annual "March for Life" on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. He did not mention the embryonic research bill that he vetoed last year and is likely to veto again in the new Congress. He made no mention of same-sex marriage.
    A lot of us are complaining about how the media ignored thousands of marchers in D.C. Monday, but what about politicians (with the exception of Sen. Brownback) doing the same? With GW Bush's 33% popularity rating, he doesn't have anything to lose, does he?
    Small World Dep't

    I was surprised to see a priest at the church I frequent interviewed in this March for Life video:

    Bethune Catholic...

    ...has a good review of The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis.

    January 23, 2007


    Saturday Night Live skit of Hillary interviewed by Matthews:

    ABC's Charlie Gibson suprised me the other day. He interviewed Hillary Clinton on his show and asked the questions we were thinking. Not policy questions, because those are so easily sidestepped. (Getting serious policy positions from candidates is like trying to get a suntan indoors.) Nope, he asked personal ones such as: "Do you think you're in this position only because of your husband?". He got in a journalistic dig by mentioning how "we took you at your word" when she said she hadn't been thinking of running for Prez the last eight years. I'm guessing that's journo-speak for "we were skeptical all along".
    Blogger Beta Version

    They're asking me to try the Beta version. If this is the Alpha version then I 'spect I got what I paid for.
    We Ain't Too Bright

    He ain't too sharp but he gets things done,
    Drinks his beer like it's oxygen.
    - John Prine song
    A liberal co-worker mentioned today how I must like Sen. Brownback and I said I agree with his views on social issues but I think that political devices are largely ineffective and the only way forward is to change hearts and minds. He said I should just worry about hearts; the life issues are anti-rational. He implied you either have to be religious or stupid to be a pro-lifer.

    I disagree, but it's not a bad idea to go after hearts anyway. Minds will follow. The pro-life movement is necessarily subservient to the saving souls movement anyway since souls are more important than bodies, and it seems hearts have more to do with souls than minds, St. Thomas Aquinas notwithstanding. Not because Christianity is anti-rational, but because humans often are, including those who pride themselves on their rationality.

    I don't see how being perceived as being unintelligent or even intolerant is necessarily an impediment to spreading the Faith. Wasn't St. Paul laughed at when he spoke to the followers of the Greek philosophers? Weren't the early Christians perceived as being intolerant for not bowing to the pantheism of Rome? Didn't Paul say that preaching Christ crucified would be perceived as folly? Certainly the Apostles themselves, with the exception of St.Paul, were of average to less-than-average intelligence. So I'm skeptical the intellectual front will bear much fruit. To quote Johnny Cash's song One: "Love is a temple / Love the higher law / Love is a temple / Love the higher law". Doesn't one Mother Teresa trump ten [fill in your favorite Christian intellectual]s?
    HardLeft with Chris Matthews

    CM: Welcome to HardLeft I'm Chris Matthews. Let's get right to it. The President [sneer] is giving the State of the Union tonight. Most Americans don't trust him. Can he win them over? We'll discuss tonight with Representative Denny Hoyer. We'll also ask the question: Does the President beat his wife? Just asking the question folks! I'm Chris Matthews - let's play Hardleft!

    [Commercial break]

    CM: Welcome back to HardLeft and Denny Hoyer. Denny, I've got to tell you, I was watching Al Gore's movie last night - what an excellent movie! - and I gotta tell you, he's like Mr. Wizard! I'm sure you've seen the movie at least once [gushes & blushes, DH nods affirmatively]. Do you think the Bush Administration realizes it must change its environmental policy?

    DH: Yes I think they'll have to because the American people know there is a problem and expect it to be solved. Humankind deserves an unchanging climate, like L.A.'s.

    CM: We've got an election next year. Hillary's running, O'Bama's running. On the Republican side, will the crazy anti-abortion wackos ever let up on the stranglehood over the Republican primaries? I heard there were some pro-choice groups, including NOW, on the Mall yesterday protesting some religious kooks. What say you?-- you don't have to respond to that Denny, I know you've got an election in a couple years [grins, winks].
    In Over My Head

    I'm hypmotized, even strangely obsessed, with the doings of a disgraced televangelist whom I considered unique in his apologizing for his wrongdoing (something so foreign to the culture: eighty-eight Duke professors signed a 'rush to judgment' statement but none had the uncommon decency to apologize, but then looking for humilty among professors is like looking for acid freaks among Star Wars groupies), but who actually was not unique - now that I think about it - given that we did see Swaggertian tears, but the fellow I write of now seemed so sincerely reverted that I've followed his career since in much greater (infinitely greater?) interest than had he not fallen.

    So I was channel-surfing the other day and caught part of what looked to be an hour long infomercial urging us to support his building a "refuge", a flock of buildings with commercial frontage (personally, I see commercialism as the sine qua non of restlessness and the very antithesis of refuge; even on my retreats to the St. Therese's Shrine the least restful times are in the bookshop). Our evangelist speaks of a coming disaster, predicting that bird flu will kill eighty-million of us and, as far as natural disasters go, a plague always seems the most likely to me. He gets points there. No meteor stories or nuclear war scenerios.

    Near tears, he tells us he's over his head, in tremendous debt, and I just shake my head at the wonder of history repeating itself. But he says, rightly in a way, that we all should feel over our head. A sense of control is generally a sense that we aren't letting God take control since He has ways of upsetting the apple cart. But this all seemed too familiar, too deja vu, and I wondered what God thought of this. Was this not a case of the woman of ill repute returning to the scene of temptation? It also reminded me of how Cardinal Law went not to a monastery, but travels in higher circles these days than in olden times. Everyone, self included, seems to be assuming grace is cheap.

    And here, now, as I judge and weigh, I find myself in over my head in the negative sense, and the reading from James comes to mind: "Do not complain, brothers, about one another, that you may not be judged. Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates."
    I'm Just an Earmark

    [This post is dedicated to the "$1,000,000 for the Waterfree Urinal Conservation Initiative" earmark.]
    This link from Terrence Berres inspires this:
    I'm just an earmark
    Yes I'm only an earmark
    And I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill
    And there's just one lame Congressman here in the city
    Who wants me to pass so he'll have more in his kitty
    Because it's all about him keeping his job
    And so I've got a good chance every day
    Yes I've got a great chance
    To get passed.

    And there are friends in committee who look a lot like me,
    like a new fence for the mayor out west there in Pougkeepsie,
    or a grant to discover how to keep from getting tipsy,
    oh yes you know we'll be added someday,
    with some pork-laden padding today
    to a bill!


    Going to the 20th century for theology is like going to a hospital for the food, or studying the Chemistry of the 13th century. Our age (the last two centuries or so, but mostly the last 50 years) is surely a golden age for technology and medicine- so much so that it is mostly unnecessary to study any of the medicine or technology that came before it. But the genius of theology belongs to The Church Fathers and the 13th century theologians-and we must live in the thought of that era if we want to see theological reasoning at its best. - commenter on Pontifications

    Do not approach the mysterious words in the Scriptures without prayer and without asking help from God, saying: Lord, grant me to perceive the power that is in them. Deem prayer as the key to the insight of truth in Scripture. - St. Isaac of Syria

    Possessing sentiment without being sentimentalist, its forays into emotion include the lamentation, the humorous, the humorous lamentation, and the embarrassingly humorous lamentation. For the Cowboy Poet the West is always lost, or being lost: the kids are moving away from the ranch, the cattle are dying, Geronimo's gone, and those damn city folk are moving in... - Kevin Jones of Philokia on a cowboy poet symposium

    Story of a Soul is, in my opinion, the single most important Catholic Book of the Twentieth century. Despite the problems with the writing and with some of the ways Therese expresses herself, her radical re-visioning of the person of God is foundational to a true spirituality. Without it, you're still talking to the man with the long white beard. - Steven Riddle of "Flos Carmeli"

    Must we not concede–as I think is important to point out (think about the implications of this)–that how grace works in us must be mostly invisible, i.e., unseen or unaccounted for by us? (Consider how often many operate according to the opposite notion: a kind of WYSIWYG approach.) - Fr. Martin Fox of "Bonfire of the Vanties"

    Rahner’s way of using philosophical notions to examine and explain the content of faith is not St Thomas’. I might put it this way: St Bernard of Clarivaux didn’t approve of Abelard, but he might see his way to accepting St Bonaventure or St Thomas. And surely on the other side St Bernard could feel at home with, say, St Isaac the Syrian? There’s a good way to use philosophy in theology and a bad. (St Bonaventure is arm in arm with St Bernard in protesting the improper use of philosophy and pointing out the dangers of exalting reason above its proper sphere: just look at his Collationes In Hexameron! Nevertheless his writings are full of theology which is very philosophical, and it’s often on strictly philosophical grounds that he attacks the heterodox.) To my mind, in the past century or so the ones who have demonstrated the good way are more likely to be philosophers by profession than theologians. I’m thinking of people like Maritain or my teacher Jerome Sokolowski. The ones who exemplify the bad way tend to approach theology using bad philosophy or no (explicit or recognized) philosophy and condemn themselves to failure from the beginning. - commenter on Pontifications

    I would mark the turning point in our understanding of the Lord near the turn of the 20th century, with the still quiet voice of a young French girl hidden away in a cloister of little importance in the small French town of Lisieux. This young girl, raised in the Jansenist, puritanical vein of the Church vouchsafed us all a glimpse of what God is really like, and her revelation, prophet-like received the endorsement of the Church first with her nearly unprecedentedly rapid canonization and then with her elevation to Doctor of the Church. She didn't invent anything new, but she showed in a new light what had been proclaimed since the time of Jesus...We understand Him now as we do largely because of the synchronicity of St. Therese of Lisieux, Blessed Dom Columba Marmion, and St. Pius X. Together the three of these, and probably a host of others, converged upon the vision of God the Merciful and loving Father. The Holy Spirit reawakened this knowledge in a very special way for all of us moderns. And we would do well to recall it frequently - Steven Riddle

    Your character was formed at a very young age and you've been set in your ways ever since...Just remember...that Purgatory's a place of hope, not despair. - William Luse of "Apologia"

    Why choose one when you can have both? I’ll take Schleiermacher AND Barth, Rahner AND von Balthassar, Tracy AND Schillebeeckx and all the rest.” As Allan Bloom says in his great book, The Closing of the American Mind, under today’s dictatorship of relativism “The principle of contradiction has been repealed.” - commenter responding to italicized on Pontifications

    One of Rowan Williams’ finest essays to my mind is his essay on ‘Rahner and Von Balthasar’, tipped in favor, if I remember correctly, of von Balthasar because, in the main, of the way Balthasar’s theology is attentive esp to the tragic. The end of the essay has a terrific line that is applicable to much theological reflection and ecclesial practice...The gist of the remark by Williams is that ‘Von Balthasar’s greatest fear is that Rahner commits the most understandable but blasphemous error (in his account of a self already reconciled to God) namely, he presumes to love the world more than the Creator himself.’ - commenter on Pontifications

    Concerning the von Balthasar-Rahner dichotomy and the difference in their method: I believe it is rather well known the extent to which literature, music, and art influenced von Balthasar’s more “poetic” theologizing; but i once heard that when Rahner was asked “What do you read when you aren’t reading theology or philosophy?” he replied “….Nothing….” Tis why I too find von Balthasar easier to love. - commenter on Pontifications

    Old television commercials like:

    Also, School House rock on YouTube:

    Conjunction Junction


    I'm Just a Bill
    Chris Hitchens Review of Mark Steyn's Book

    January 22, 2007

    Edward T. Oakes, S.J. Post at First Things

    On atheism (are atheists the 'new gays'?):
    St. Anselm thought he had his own knock-down argument for the existence of God, which later went by the name of the Ontological Argument (which Thomas Aquinas held to be invalid). But however much Anselm was convinced of the argument, he never went so far as to place moral blame on those who rejected it, because for him there was a deeper reality behind the phenomenon of atheism. As he said in the Proslogion (the best translation is here):

    Why this, O Lord, why this? Is the eye darkened by its own weakness, or blinded by your light?—Without doubt it is darkened in itself and blinded by you, obscured by its own littleness and overwhelmed by your immensity, contracted by its own narrowness and overcome by your greatness.

    Just think what would happen, de Lubac asks, if rational proofs really did lead to certainty: Then we would mistake the proof for God; and, in the manner of the French “enlightened” philosophes, we would in effect end up building a temple, not to God, but to reason...When we turn to God via our rational faculties, we simultaneously recognize both the underlying rationality of our faith in God and yet also reason’s insufficiency to grant us what we really long for: light itself in a dark world. That light, however, only comes from God, not reason. We are pilgrims, and reason is our viaticum —but it is only viaticum. The nourishment this food for the journey provides is salubrious (when the reasoning is correct), but it is not life itself, only the provisions for life, which only God can provide.
    Bible Map

    Above link via Open Book. I went to the seven churches as mentioned in the book of Revelation. Most of the cities seem to have fallen to the Muslims.
    What chiefly impressed Dr. Tracy was the significance of those "Seven Churches of Asia," of which Sardis held one. "When I think of the myriads of various nationality and advanced civilization for whose evangelization these churches were responsible, the messages to the Christian communities occupying the splendid strategic centers fill me with awe. While established amid the splendors of civilization, they were set as candlesticks in the midst of gross spiritual darkness. Did they fulfill their mission?"

    ..From time immemorial these mountains [surrounding Sardis] have been the haunts of robbers; very likely it was so when Revelation was written, `I will come upon thee as a thief.' In each case the message was addressed to `the angel of the church.' Over every church in the world there is a spirit hovering, as it were--a spirit representing that church and by whose name it can be addressed. The messages are as vital as they were at the first. `He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.'"

    Though Paul was probably not the first to bring Christianity to Ephesus, for Jews had long lived there (2:9; 6:9), he was the first to make progress against the worship of Diana. As the fame of his teachings was carried by the pilgrims to their distant homes, his influence extended to every part of Asia Minor. In time the pilgrims, with decreasing faith in Diana, came in fewer numbers; the sales of the shrines of the goddess fell off; Diana of the Ephesians was no longer great; a Christian church was rounded there and flourished, and one of its first leaders was the apostle John. Finally in 262 AD, when the temple of Diana was again burned, its influence had so far departed that it was never again rebuilt. Diana was dead. Ephesus became a Christian city, and in 341 AD a council of the Christian church was held there. The city itself soon lost its importance and decreased in population. The sculptured stones of its great buildings, which were no longer in use and were falling to ruins, were carried away to Italy, and especially to Constantinople for the great church of Saint Sophia. In 1308 the Turks took possession of the little that remained of the city, and deported or murdered its inhabitants.
    Today's issue (click on link to vote)

    I'm amused at commenters who tell pro-lifers to "stop trying to control others". If you believe that life is determined not by an arbitrary geographic location but by viability or conception, then you have no choice but to support measures to save children. "Stop trying to control others" is actually a pro-life argument, since killing someone is the ultimate expression of trying to control them.

    ...fine picture drawn by Jim Curley's six-year old son:

    ...reminds me of a painting that hangs in St. Patrick's Church in Columbus. The painting at St. Pat's differs in that the blood streaming down is labeled 'grace and mercy' and Mary is shown at the foot of the Cross, at Christ's right. The blood stops in mid-air before it reaches Mary, as she is already 'full of grace' and that implies that grace and mercy, like water, seeks the lowest ground.
    Good Counsel Charity

    "Just as a century ago it was the working classes which were oppressed in their fundamental rights, and the Church very courageously came to their defence by proclaiming the sacrosanct rights of the worker as a person, so now, when another category of persons is being oppressed in the fundamental right to life, the Church feels in duty bound to speak out with the same courage on behalf of those who have no voice. Hers is always the evangelical cry in defence of the world's poor, those who are threatened and despised and whose human rights are violated."
    - Pope John Paul II.

    Update: I read this, and then immediately afterwards this. Message received.

    January 21, 2007

    Thoughts During a Parallel Read

    When I listened, a couple years back, to a professor's tapes on Shakespeare's Hamlet, I was disappointed his exegesis centered so rankly on the political, i.e. When to Kill a Monarch 101, such that the play almost seemed prosaic. So naturally it's been thrilling to re-read it with Clare Asquith's daring exposition in mind since the religious is given primacy (though tis true the political and religious were married in Shakespeare's day). Her book makes sense in the sense that otherwise Shakespeare (given his recusant father) would be oddly numb and oblivious to the religious turmoil of 1600s England. He'd seem superficial, something no one would accuse him of. Asquith writes:
    Here again, embodied in Gertrude, is fickle England, irresponsibly embracing the new order, forgetful of the virtues of the old...The dark usurper, Claudius, is given the marks of the new Protestant regime...[Hamlet's father's] ghastly account of his own death is a prime instance of the way Shakespeare repeatedly blends the imagery of the Reformation with a rape or a murder.
    The play can be universally applied of course but secrets are thrilling (ask your local Gnostic or conspiracy theorist) and are even sometimes true.

    I was parallel-reading Flannery O'Connor's The Artificial Nigger and of Mr. Head's repentance. One person saw this repentance as unrealistic (something our gimlet-eyed Bill Luse might well agree with):
    Mr. Head does experience a revelation, which I think was more of O'Connor than a typical Mr. Head....Realizing wrongdoings are common, amending them is the concept that people tend to ignore.
    True, but I'm not sure we have proof that Mr. Head has really changed his ways. He had an epiphany at the end of the story without a follow-up of Mr. Head's history after his epiphany.

    Funny, I had similar thoughts about Claudius, thinking that a cold-blooded murderer would not feel the sweat and guilt he apparently felt upon seeing the play Hamlet arranged for him to see. And there's a Confession scene no less. I suppose it's all relative. One can be surprised by Claudius's repentance no less than one could be surprised by Mr. Head's. To even be aware of your need for repentance is a small "victory".

    The winter exists. There was actually snow today to prove it.

    While shoveling it, I reminded myself that it’s just like cutting grass. A row at a time. The pleasure of seeing your progress.

    I like grass cutting much better.

    I’m reading the magisterial Gulag Archipelago for perspective. Siberia = cold, Ohio = warm.

    It’s a wonder there’s as many taking from the Eucharistic cup as they do, as I in fact did today on impulse (I normally don’t). Religious folks are often somewhat obsessive-compulsive, more into hand-washing and thus less likely to take from the cup. I think that’s part of the reason the more orthodox folks so loathe the shaking of hands after the Our Father. It’s unromantic to think of it as spreading germs rather than peace, but there you go.
    Today's Fiction

    Most of Richard Price's early years were predicated on the idea that you could store most anything you needed. Not money, since money was of no interest to the average 9-year old except to the extent it could be converted to real currency: baseball cards. But the storage principle proved a potent and long-lived idea.

    Like a farmer filling his grain bins against future famines, he collected rocks, stamps, sports cards, juvenility, plants, letters from far-flung penpals. His rock collection, like all the others, was intended as a safe place to go when life got rocky.

    Price's nine-year old joy of getting to stay over night at his best friend’s house was equalled only by the misery of it being over so soon. But experience showed it could be amelieorated by the new sports cards he got (via trades that night), and he'd savor those when you got back home. Souvenirs are this – ways of getting over the pain of loss. The loss of Paris or New York or London or a visit to your best friend’s house.

    Baseball cards indirectly led to baser things because the principle was the same if morally different: good feelings via photographic images could be had when times were difficult. If baseball cards comforted during Richard's long visits to Aunt Melba's in Minnesota, then unclad females could provide refuge during lean collegiate times. It seemed the very definition of prudence –storing up against times of loss. Loss always seemed unfair to him despite the rather prominent example of the Savior, as constantly related to him by Aunt M. Toast.

    He fancied himself a survivor without questioning the means of survior, like the cheater who crows about the good grade.
    Catlick Culture Meme

    Memes: love 'em or hate 'em you can't blog without 'em. Via Julie Davis:
    Name a Catholic book that you want to share so much that you keep giving away copies:
    Besides Scott Hahn's Rome Sweet Home, I'd say Meehan's "The Two Towers". (See how I cheated and got two answers in there?)
    Name a work of religious art you'd like to live with:
    Michelangelo's Pieta. But that's obvious. Less well-known, I like Ted DeGrazia's series of Way of the Cross paintings which are unfortunately nowhere online.

    Here was his chapel:

    Name your favorite Catholic artist:
    Giacomo della Porta, architect of St. Peter's.
    Name a work of Catholic fiction which has penetrated your real life:
    The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy
    Name your favorite Catholic Musicians - male & female:
    I'd have to think about that. For male, I'd say some Irish drinking song scribe.
    Name your favorite musical:
    My Fair Lady.
    Name a punch line that always makes you laugh:
    That's gotta hurt! (from Hambone's screenplay)
    I hereby, by the power invested in me, tag The Girl with the Broken Pen, Kathryn Lively, Steven Riddle, Ellyn of Oblique House, Bill Luse and a blogger to be named later.
    Castle in the Forest

    I'm no fan of the egotist Mailer either, but the Dispatch has an article on his latest novel that is interesting. Color me surprised that Mitch Albom (whom I've not read but figured was harmless) was singled out for Mailer's dislike. (Probably because he sells more books than Mailer.)

    But this is a good line:
    "Humans," Dieter insists, "have become so vain (through technology) that more than a number expect by now to become independent of God and the Devil."

    January 20, 2007

    American Jihadist

    Interesting New Yorker article about the making of jihadist. Faith and reason we say, but it's interesting how often fellowship-seeking trumps truth-seeking:
    Sageman discovered that most Al Qaeda operatives had been radicalized in the West and were from caring, intact families that had solidly middle- or upper-class economic backgrounds. Their families were religious but generally mainstream...

    Perhaps his most unexpected conclusion was that ideology and political grievances played a minimal role during the initial stages of enlistment. “The only significant finding was that the future terrorists felt isolated, lonely, and emotionally alienated,” Sageman told the September 11th Commission in 2003, during a debriefing about his research. These lost men would congregate at mosques and find others like them. Eventually, they would move into apartments near their mosques and build friendships around their faith and its obligations. He has called his model the “halal theory of terrorism”—since bonds were often formed while sharing halal meals—or the “bunch of guys” theory. The bunch of guys constituted a closed society that provided a sense of meaning that did not exist in the larger world.

    Sageman examined scholarship on other revivalist movements and found important parallels. He learned that doctrine played a negligible role for new converts to the Reverend Moon’s Unification Church, for example. “Many moved into the Moonie commune because of their attachment to group members while still openly expressing rejection of the Moon ideology,” Sageman wrote in his book, “Understanding Terror Networks,” which was published in 2004. But, once the converts experienced the social benefits of their new community, accepting their friends’ beliefs was much easier. Later, when asked by researchers about their conversion, most Moonies spoke of the irresistible appeal of the church’s religious outlook, and had forgotten their initial skepticism about the faith.
    Will the Last Person to Fall for a Nigerian Scam Please Turn Off the Computer?

    56-year old man falls hard for it.

    I have to believe that over time these scams will have to become more sophisticated since it's hard to believe Internet-savvy future generations will fall for them.

    January 19, 2007

    Dog, Tired



    Booktoxication, 2006

    A light in the forest, 2006

    Reader dog, 2005.12875

    Underdog, 2009
    Where Were You...

    Bill White has a nice post idea, though it requires a high b-s ability. Here's my stab:


    June 6th, 1966 was a day full of potential but I spent it mostly whining for a binky and attempting to grow teeth. I was heading towards my third birthday, a mere two weeks away. In other news, James Meredith, the first black man at the University of Mississippi, was shot.


    Ah yes, July 7th, 1977. A very good day as all summer days in 1977 must surely have been. I delivered approximately 42 newspapers that afternoon. Unless I'd already given up the paper route by then. I was heading toward Sophomore-dom after all.


    I was busy at work on a Monday morning, part of which was spent calculating the number of days I had left before I could retire. The rough guestimate was 10,200, but that was based on the assumption of the stock market returning an average of 14.2% a year, an average that would prove too ambitious.


    I was feeling abysmal this day, owing to the stink of cat urine in the spare bedroom. They vomit, cur, spittle, shed, urinate and defecate, don't they? It was a Thursday and by that late in the week I am like the old Brown’s outfielder Pete Gray, snagging flys and swinging the bat one-handed. Just trying to make contact.


    Lil' Jimmy Dickens in 1957
    More Drinkin' Songs

    I hope it doesn't ruin her reputation, but it turns out that the Venerable's best friend Donna Marie Lewis has forgotten more drinking songs than I can recall. She sent a list of ten or so but the one I couldn't believe I forgot was one fun merely to say aloud let alone sing: Don't Come Home a' Drinkin' (With Loving on Your Mind) by the inestimable Loretta Lynn.

    Also conspicuous by its omission was that song about lost shakers of salt - Buffet's Margaritaville. Straight Tequilia Night by John Anderson was another good one. Also Friends in Low Places and Sunday Morning Coming Down.

    This link is particularly helpful. Oh my, Keith's Beer for my Horses. And Set 'Em Up Joe by Vern Gosdin...
    Macabrely Hilarious

    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Responding to the demands of local reporters and a handful of Buckeye fans, Coach Jim Tressel addressed the Ohio State football team’s 41-14 loss to Florida in a macabre press conference yesterday...

    “At first, I didn’t know what else there was to talk about once I admitted we had a lousy game and that fourth-and-one call turned out to be a bad idea,” Tressel said as he took his seat at the Woody Hayes Center. “But I’ve come to realize we have great fans and friends in the media who can’t move on—can’t do their jobs, can’t feed their pets, can’t love their children—until they’re assured, again, that our coaching staff doesn’t like getting beat by 27 points.”

    Tressel then placed a small box on the table in front of him.

    “I could sit here and talk to you all day about how much this loss hurts,” he said. “But instead, I thought I’d just show you.”

    Tressel opened the box and tilted it toward the reporters, several of whom passed out at the sight of severed human body parts.

    “In here is a finger from each of our assistant coaches,” he said, adding that while every coach had a finger cut off to atone for the upset loss, not everyone had to part with the same finger.

    Reaching into the box and pulling out a discolored thumb, he said, “This belonged to (defensive coordinator) Jim Heacock. Jimmy called three solid hours of prevent defense, and so for the rest of his life, he’ll be holding his toothbrush with a different hand. I think you’ll see us make better defensive adjustments next season.”

    -- Danny Russell

    'Lord, won't you bring me some brain dead work'...(sing to tune 'Lord Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes Benz').
    Every blue moon (once a financial quarter) I have to do repetitive "brain dead" work on the 'puter. In the pre-Internet days, this would drive you certifiable. But now I can listen to podcasts like this one, and this one, and this one. Embarrassment of riches.

    * * *

    Unrelated, I was perusing a book on the Apocalypse by a fellow named Feret, and he quoted Pope Pius XI in 1938 saying that very young children would see, in their lifetimes, the world's glorious return to Christianity. Or words to that effect. I tried to find the full context on the 'net but haven't found it. Seems he was really going out on a limb given that he'd just written an encyclical condemning the Nazis and the threat of war loomed on the horizon. He certainly seemed the optimistic sort. I kind of like his prediction if only because it is/was so refreshingly contrarian. Every tom, dick and harry says the world is ending tomorrow; that sort of pessimism is easy. It seems like you need that sort of optimism in order to be a doer, and Pius was a doer. From Catholic Culture:
    Pius XI was before everything else a reformer. Nothing in the Church remained quite the same after he had touched it and it is a paradox that the historian, the lover of things dead and gone, felt no compulsion on him to leave things unchanged merely because they "had always been that way." It was the late Cardinal Cerretti who said that his Pontificate was one of the most personal and individualistic on record. To those about him he seemed possessed of a perfect fury to correct all that was wrong or relaxed in the Church, and to get it all done in a hurry before the shadows fell. There is not a single one of us whose life is the same as it was before he came. He literally shook the Church up.

    * * *

    Time Warner guy came over to try to sell me some premium channels. HBO, Showtime, etc. He looked to be in his mid-to-late '60s, lots of energy; incongruous was his aged face and white hair with the new-fangled bluetooth that matched the color of his eyes. A kindly old gent it seemed. And yet he bragged on Sex in the City, a show which induces vomiting in me despite having seen only half of one episode. Certain pop culture markers become more than the sum of their parts, and that show has become symbolically for me at least a great evil. There was also the fact that HBO was having, on a Thursday evening at 7pm, some pornography sex show. Time Warner guy was amazed I didn't want the channels. How could I explain that Hollywood is synonymous with "crappy movies"? He said he couldn't just give me a price break, but he could give me the channels for free and then I could cancel and receive the price break. Games companies play.
    From an Email...

    Spirit & Flesh

    Recently came across Cantalamessa's The Mystery of Pentecost. Too often we might think of St. Paul's message of "flesh" versus "spirit" as literally carnality vesus reason. But Cantalamessa points out that sexual intimacy can be spiritual (within the bonds of marriage) and deep philosophical thoughts can be of the flesh (if they lead us away from God).

    Too often I tend to merely think of the difference between the two as anything pleasant versus anything unpleasant, but that assumes that God's will and ours are always naturally opposed. Very helpful to me is to simply recognize the difference as one between instinct and reason. My instinct is to sin, but reason tells me that the bible says not to.

    Cantalamessa writes that the biblical opposition between flesh & Spirit is not only between instinct and reason or between body and soul but also the "more radical opposition between nature and grace, the human and the divine, egoism and love":

    Click to enlarge:

    January 17, 2007

    Times they are a Changin'

    The Byzantine Catholic church I frequent is going to be changing their liturgy. (By the way, I just learned Catholic author Carl Olsen also belongs to a Byzantine parish.) Liturgical changes always seem a bit of a grab-your-ankles moment; they are trying to make it as painless as possible by not telling us the changes. Let us imagine the worst, 'eh?

    A phrase from the announcement letter that sends shivers is "[to assure the Liturgy is] welcoming to persons of 21st century America". "Welcoming" usually means "let's water this thing down so every tom, dick and harry can understand everything without even trying". Of course I'm grateful that the liturgy is no longer in church Slavonic so I shan't complain. They switched to English years ago and there was presumably howls.

    But I hearken back to what Amy Welborn said about mystery and the liturgy, quoted lastly in this post.
    Deja Vu

    Just after having heard P.J. O'Rourke say much the same thing, I see it expounded on a site linked by Karen Hall:
    Genuine, and global, increases in wealth -- not a mere redistribution of it -- have been a feature of the last two hundred years, something truly new in Man's economic life...Although misery has not vanished from the face of the earth, in many ways, for billions of people, it is not nearly as constant a companion, and billions more are now wealthy, not only in material goods, but in simple physical well-being, beyond the dreams of their great-grandparents.

    For example, for the average worker, the cost of a simple but valuable thing, light, has probably fallen a thousand-fold since his great-grandmother's day, and light today is about 30,000 times cheaper(in constant dollars) for the average worker than it was only two hundred years ago. By contrast, the cost of light for an English worker in 1800 AD was probably only about ten times less than it had been for his Babylonian counterpart in 1800 BC. The cost of light for the average worker today is about 300,000 times less than it was for the average worker in 1800 BC. Between 1800 BC and 1800 AD, 3600 years of human history, for the average worker, the cost of light probably dropped only about ten-fold. In the last two hundred years, it has dropped a further 30,000-fold.

    Catholic -- as well as biblical -- moral thought regarding wealth was historically -- and realistically -- framed in terms of the distribution of and access to an amount of wealth that was, within one human lifespan, or even several, essentially fixed. For most of human history, wealth was a zero-sum game. If the cost of light dropped only ten-fold in 3600 years, that probably means that human beings have essentially always lived in a world that as a whole was not getting any richer over any realistic time frame. If you -- or your people -- were getting richer, it was realistic to assume that someone else -- or someone else's people -- were getting poorer. Moreover, it is very likely that the idea of becoming 30,000 times richer simply doesn't register with any human being. We're probably set up to react -- and vigorously -- to a fairly small range of economic wealth or scarcity, since that range was our lot, from time immemorial.

    Thus, both our common sense 'natural' economic rules of thumb, and Catholic moral theory, are simply not set up to handle a situation in which new wealth is being produced because new knowledge is being produced. Both our common sense, and Catholic moral theory, has simply ceded that whole territory to the New Class, to figure out as best it can.

    --John Kelleher in "The Knucklehead's Guide to Covenantal Theology"
    You can take the liturgist out of the dancer, but you can't take the dancer out of the liturgist.
    Things That Make You Say 'Hmmmmm'

    I'm reading Mike Aquilina's The Fathers of the Church, and Origen is fascinating to me for the obvious reason that he castrated himself. I was curious about what the author had to say about this and so skipped ahead to the appropriate chapter. Aquilina says Origen was among the first in speculative theology and the scientific study of Scripture. Extremely bright and holy guy, and yet even he had trouble discerning the difference between an allegorical reading and literal readings of Scripture apparently, for he took literally Matthew 9:12 ("There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven"). Aquilina comments:
    (He would surely have been better served by an allegorical reading.) In any event, some priests rightly charged that such mutilation was a grave offense against the body; they even argued that the action invalidated Origen's ordination.
    Oh to be defrocked and deballed all in the same year. The inhumanity of it. As my friend Ham would say "that's gotta hurt!"
    Polysyllabic Me

    My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
    Very Sir Lord Thomas the Erudite of Piddletrenthide Under Booth
    Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

    Via the Reverend Lord Charles the Fiendish of Much Bottom
    Let He...

    ...who has never used a beer bottle as a microphone cast the first stone.
    René Girard Prediction

    ...René Girard in a newly published book in which the French Academy member predicts a new Christian cultural revolution that will make the Renaissance "seem like nothing".

    In a book published recently in Italian, Verite o fede debole. Dialogo su cristianesimo e relativismo ("Truth or Weak Faith: Dialogue on Christianity and Relativism"), Professor Girard writes that "we will live in a world that will seem and be as Christian as today it seems scientific", Zenit reports.
    I'm chagrined to admit that immediate reaction was to say: "Barkeep, I'll have what he's having." But with God all things are possible.

    January 16, 2007

    I Must've Been Drinking...

    ...to have missed more than a few other all-time all-star drinking songs. But actually I wasn't. I was driving to Cincy at the time of compilation.

    First and foremost?

    Merle Haggard's Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down.

    But also Hank Jr's masterful Family Tradition & Cal Smith's catchy The Lord Knows I'm Drinkin'.

    Color me sheepish at these flagrant omissions.

    By the way, Jeff Culbreath popped out of self-imposed blog-scurity in order to feed me those (and a few others I'm not as familiar with). Good to know he's using his time well ain't it? (I tease Jeff.) :-)

    Heck now that I'm thinking of it I could add: I'm Going To Hire A Wino (To Decorate Our Home) by David Frizzell. There's A Tear In My Beer by Hank Williams Sr..AC/DC's Have a Drink on Me...

    We shall not see Christ's radiance in our lives yet; it is still hidden in our darkness; nevertheless, we must believe that he is growing in our lives; we must believe it so firmly that we cannot help relating everything, literally everything, to this most incredible reality. - Caryll Houselander

    Several years back, when my friends and I first discovered Calvin Trillin, we all had the same thought: NO ONE WILL EVER LOVE US AS MUCH AS CALVIN LOVES ALICE. (We were young and full of self pity.) It turns out that this is a pretty standard response. The book About Alice, however, flips that on its head. Now it's more like WE ARE NOT AS DESERVING OF LOVE AS ALICE WAS. - Jessica of "Bookslut"

    But what about that "oppressed by the devil"? Well, if we manage not to smile at the backward superstition of the inspired authors, it's still hard to avoid the impression that people in First Century Judea were disproportionately oppressed by the devil. Nowadays, the devil might be thought to have a hard time getting a tempting word in edgewise between the world and the flesh. - Tom of Disputations

    I think the actual trend is more interesting: things are undoubtedly moving in a good direction within the Church (and more so in America than in Britain, and more so in Britain than in mainland Europe). But meanwhile the trend in western society is increasingly against the Church. It is precisely the clash - between a re-invigorated (albeit numerically smallish) Catholicism, and a general opposition to Christianity in a rich and godless west - that is the reality before us in the next decades. The crunching noise that is made when these two clash - which not be one big crunch but a lot of grating and discomfort spread over a period of time and involving different people and events and experiences.......that noise will be the noise of the first part of the 21st century for many of us. - Joanna Bogle of "Auntie Joanna Writes" on David Hartline's "The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism"

    When God wants to accomplish something, He gets two things:  the wrong person and a really bad idea. - saying on Karen Hall's friend's computer magnet

    It is curious how alienated one can feel in a modern public library, or indeed other official public facility such as a doctor's waiting room, simply because of the material that is presented all around one...It's a fine library and the computer section is superb: beautiful machines, a businesslike silence and sense of order. But......in the Religion section, row after row of rubbish-books on witchcraft and the occult.....a reasonable range of books on Christianity but the ONLY one about Pope Benedict is a gross, silly and (thank God) largely unknown one which takes the form of an attack by Edward Stourton of the BBC who opposes central Church moral teachings...why not some of the books by Peter Sewald, or Ratzinger's own memoirs. And, heck, at least a couple of the 40-odd books written by this world-famous theologian who has ended up at Pope......Oh, meanwhile of course there were two copies of John Cornwell's book attacking Pius X11 (no other book about him). - Joanna Bogle of "Auntie Joanna Writes"

    One of the real difficulties with Biblical language is that we continually refer to Lord and King without any real sense of Lord and King because we lack the tradition. - Steven Riddle commenting on Disputations

    I truly believe that the best way to benefit humanity is to make faces in the bus - slightly mad faces, or puttings out of the tongue suddenly at the person opposite. Think of the thrill that gives to countless uneventful lives to whom nothing ever happens. (...) This form of charity can be practiced on the way to work. - Caryll Houselander via "Relapsed Catholic"

    The people of Munich take their beer seriously and I think it's because they take enjoying life seriously. I really found Munich to be a celebratory and social place where they live life to the fullest. - Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel

    After we attended the Byzantine liturgy at Christmas down in Knoxville, Michael observed that one of the fruits of a liturgy like that (and remember, it was in English), with its chant, movement, constant back-and-forth between congregation and priest/deacon, incense, iconostasis, etc., was that it rouses curiosity. It prompts you to ask questions, it inspires you to think and to seek because it is not all laid out like a pancake on your plate. Face it. God is Mystery. Who is God? How can God be, what is the power of this Love and Mercy? Is it possible that in this mess of world, redemption awaits me, you, all of us, invites us, entices us? It is not about willful obtuseness. It is about, at some level, imaging the reality of God's Presence, even as we acknoweldge the reality of that Presence. That is what sign and symbol is all about. By flattening the symbols, by making all very ordinary, we communicate that God is ordinary, that there's nothing much to this religious business, nothing much at all. - Amy Welborn