April 30, 2007

Cincinnati Varia

1894 Scorebook

CD available featuring Reds Hall of Famer Marty Brennaman...

* * *

An ESPN columnist discovers the metropolis and pronounces it puzzling.
Sartorial Economies

I probably should start wearing this to Bingo...
Soteriological Economies  (say five times fast)

Robert Bauer of Tribal Pundit has a good post opining on the transferability of pain and zero sum economies...
From Gopnik's Paris to the Moon
Yet fifty years after the classic period, one cafe is more fashionable than ever and the other is not fashionable at all...The reason that when you place any two things side by side, one becomes chic and the other does not is that it's in the nature of desire to choose, and to choose absolutely. That's the mythological lesson of the great choice among the beauties: They are all beautiful - they are goddesses - and yet a man must choose. And what was the chooser's name? Paris. C'est normal.
Presidential Hatred Mostly Aesthetic?

I'd written in the past about BMMIS (Bush Made Me Insane Syndrome) and how the beginning of the end for Bush was his inability to say "nuclear".

Funny, but Barney-hater Adam Gopnik sees Clinton hatred as primarily aesthetic:
For the first time, I also understood Clinton hating, of the violent irrational kind... [that] had always seemed incomprehensible, directed, as it was, at so anodyne a character. Suddenly I saw the psychology of the Clinton hater was exactly that of the Barney basher; the objections were not moral but peevishly aesthetic...
Children of Mary

"And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." - Luke 1:38
"O LORD, I am your servant, your servant, the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds." - Psalm 116
Incorruptible Saints

Interest in the incorruptibles appeals on several levels. One is that although sanctity is pretty obvious in the sanctified, it's still nice to have a crude objective and hierarchical measure of it even if the disclaimer applies: many saints' bodies did corrupt and that can't be held against them. But I don't think the opposite is true - i.e. that unholy people's bodies were saved from corruption (short of natural conditions that favored it).

There is a line in Scripture about the death of his faithful ones not undergoing corruption and I love that there is a tease of this in the bodies of His saints. It's the closest thing we can see to looking at another's "report card". One saint, an excellent preacher, had his tongue preserved. The rest of his body didn't fare so well, but it's almost as if God's sense of humor is being exhibited: "this fellow spoke of me so well that I preserved his tongue."

Imagine, for a minute, what it would be like if most people's bodies did not corrupt. That holiness was so widespread that you'd be embarrassed if your body DID corrupt? That twould be poor motivation for wanting to be a saint but I remember Camassia saying that embarrassment is the great dread of moderns; in Twomey's book he says that "respectability" became the chief goal of the Irish after they lost their language and started to become assimilated by the English during the 19th century.

Safety in numbers is dubious in light of Christ's words about the narrow way. The fact that 99.99% of our bodies will experience immediate dissolution soon after death is small comfort. Of course all of this begs the point and looks at things from the sinner's point-of-view. Following Christ is for His glory and not ours. The point of incorrupt bodies is to reflect that. It's a sign of intimacy between Him & his beloved, that he recognized that they really did sought Him & knew Him, but the real reason behind it is to give the rest of us a message. Incorruptibility points out what is possible not only in terms of bodily decay or lack thereof but in terms of intimacy with God.

April 27, 2007

Excerpt from Twomey's The End of Irish Catholicism?
"Language is the house of being. In this house man dwells." - Heidegger
D. Vincent Twomey quotes Desmond Fennell in tracing the beginning of Irish quasi-Jansenistic tendencies and, he argues, the beginning of the current decline of Irish Catholicism:
The result of the adoption of the English language (and the decline of Irish) by a largely impoverished nation was to make Irishmen and women in effect culturally rootless, exiles in their own country. In a similar vein, Joseph Lee ponders: 'It may be that there is an Irish emotional reality which is silenced in English. It may be too that many Irish no longer experience that emotional reality, that it has been parched out of them, that a particular stream of Irish consciousness has dried up with the decay of the language.' But it meant more than that.

'Our greatest misfortune', Fennell says, 'was not...that we abandoned Irish. That was a tragedy; but far more grievous was the fact that we adopted a provincial version of nineteenth century English and a clerical language [which he later calls Latinoid] in exchange. Irish gave the Christian man, priest or pauper, a unitary world view, at once natural and supernatural, which had not suffered from the reducing influences of Puritanism, rationalism or cultural insularity a langlaise'. This was because 'the language of Victorian England was, in its predominant form and tendency, that of a people whose character John Stuart Mill saw as "chiefly shaped...since the days of the Stuarts" by two influences: "commercial money-getting business and religious Puritanism". That, he [Mill] believed, was the reason why they were incapable of taking art seriously. But how much more than art is man! How much more again is God-in-man.'*...

The English-speaking spirituality which would leave its mark in Irish Catholicism developed an 'anxious severity' that was not strictly speaking Jansenistic but 'must rather be traced to the devotional reading available in English' such as that written by Richard Challoner (1691-1781). The sadder note in his writings reflecting his experiences as a bishop in penal-day London evidentally appealed to Irish Catholics.

This mentality would have been reinforced by a narrow, legalistic (casuistic), approach to moral theology...However, this was ameliorated somewhat by such popular devotions as that to the Sacred Heart, the pre-eminent symbol of divine mercy.

* - Writing in 1892, 'Tim Healy complained that the result of [the courses in the National Schools] in "English philistinism' was that folk around the fireside, who had once held conversations in Irish about knightly chivalry, were now reduced to talking in English about the price of a cow.'
Emergency Weather

Is it just me or have weather broadcasts become more threatening in recent years?... Parody is Therapy has been updated with a post about wind-gusts-as-weather-crisis which prompted the cancellation of the normally scheduled programming.
Suffering Post-Script

I'd misspoken earlier this week in suggesting that biblically-speaking, suffering is not mentioned as meritorious outside of persecution for His sake, because that ignores the whole notion that we are the Body of Christ. There is not a separateness. From the Word Among Us meditation for today:
"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them." (John 6:56)

Think of it! Jesus lives in us, and we in him. Not only do we belong to Christ; being nourished by his body and blood incorporates us in a mysterious way into his very life. It makes us part of his body here on earth. Whether we receive Jesus in a small country church or an urban cathedral, a nation wealthy and prosperous or suffering and poor, whether the church seems vibrant or struggling, we are all members of his body, and he calls us his own.

Listen to how Jesus addressed Saul: “Why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). That’s how closely Jesus identifies himself with us, his church. We’re not just his followers but also an extension of his own person. Whoever touches us, touches Jesus. Let’s not forget this truth when we suffer for our faith. Our suffering is not unseen. Jesus will be with us and strengthen us whenever we face persecution for our faith.
Godincindentally I came across Peter Kreeft writing of 1st Peter in “You Can Understand the Bible”:
First…if the Head suffers, His body must also suffer, for otherwise it is not His body. Christ never promised us a rose garden without thorns…George MacDonald says, “The Son of God suffered not so that we might not suffer but so that our sufferings might become his.” Second, because of this real incorporation into His Body, suffering can become a joy: “But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (4:13). We must not be bitter or resentful to God for allowing us to suffer, but realize that sufferings are God’s blessings, not His punishments. As St. Philip Neri said, “The cross is the gift God gives to His friends.”
Suffering often leads to grevious sin because we may, in desperation, attempt to relieve it unlawfully, i.e. self-medicate. But it’s precisely in the taking of the Eucharist that I can have confidence because then it is not me who suffers and not even me who is responsible for me. By that incorporation I don’t have to carry the full burden of responsibility. I can say, when something bad happens to me: “hey Lord, look what is happening to You!” (or at least part of Him) -- something that can be said only by virtue of His audacious, almost scandalous promises. And of course He may be all right with it, just as He was with his own suffering.
Rosie's Sad Decline

I'm surprised by those who are surprised by Rosie O'Donnell's collapse. I've been seeing it in co-workers and others for years now. Anger makes you do stupid things and extreme anger makes you do extremely stupid things. Rage drops your IQ even more than checking your email.

As I've written in the past, BMMIS (Bush Made Me Insane Syndrome) does exist and if a certain percentage of non-celeb Americans are afflicted then naturally a certain percentage of celebrities will. Like a plague, it's no respecter of persons.

Given the ratings of "The View", the illness is probably more widespread than suspected. It's hard to separate out how many are a) just watching because they like to be outraged b) watching because train wrecks are often interesting or c) actually believe the stuff she does.

There's an old line that "elections have consequences" and I'd always tended to think of that purely in terms of how governmental power is exercised after an election and the effect of those policies. But what I didn't realize is how politics can affect the mental health of so many. If Bush wasn't president, Rosie and the thousands/millions like her might have gone down that path in one way or another anyway. But I'm beginning to doubt that. For the vulnerable, Bush seems to be their tipping point.

April 26, 2007

Things I Learn at Bingo

--That there's a disturbing new trend of homely women storing their cash in their bras. Deep inside their bras. So deep that it should require fishing license. The new lingo on the bingo street: "she went deep-bra on me". To which the proper reply is "Yeech!". Trying to look on the bright side of the situation I said "well, it could be worse..." to which a coworker said, "that would only be for ones!"

Yes it was that kind of bingo, very un-edifying. I'm still reeling from the very human and dare I say casual relationship Sandy & Sara appear to have with Jesus, as related by an incident I can't repeat it here, but needless to say their scruple gene doesn't always seem to click in. I'm actually not sure if that's good or bad. Kim will know what I mean. Email for the scoop.

--Holy Thursday mass is a meat market. At least for Sandy. Sandy is Kim's mother and is presumably around 60 years old but nature was kind. She could star in an anti-aging commercial and some thought Kim & Sandy were sisters upon first meeting. Before Mass, Sandy was accosted by someone she didn't know but who complimented her on her grand appearance, going so far as to stroke her hair and then come back to kiss her hand. Sandy was shocked, paralyzed as it were. Kim started calling Sandy the serpent in the Garden, a beguiling female temptress. When Sandy started calling out "Rapid!" for one of the instant games, I started calling her "Fast". Best we can surmise, the Holy Thursday guy might've been a jesuitical sort who had given up flirting for Lent and since the Triduum marks the end he was wasting no time. Kim, after all, had chocolate in her pocket for post-Mass purposes.

--Markas needed a replacement for usher because he can't usher in his Knights uni. Pshaw I say. Who wouldn't want to be shown to a seat by someone wearing a KofC uniform? Might not be a bad idea to have ushers wear that sort of thing all the time. I would've volunteered for him but I don't know the first thing about ushering. I think you have to go to an Usher school but, to be honest, I didn't want to ask if there is an Usher school lest I be told there wasn't and then have to usher. Invincible ignorance. Plausible deniability. Sad, I know but I usually go to the Byzantine Catholic church anyway.

--During post-game pizza, I heard more of the history of bingo from our resident bingo historian, the caller. He said the Men's Club began it back in the Pleistocene Era and at that time they always provided free post-bingo beer to the workers. The late nights and camaraderie were ended by the former pastor who cut out the beer and apparently substituted pizza. I think I live in the wrong age.

UPDATE: Names were changed to protect the guilty!
Economies Spiritual & Otherwise

I've been pondering the parallels or lack thereof between the economy of salvation and the monetary economy.

People are in pretty much two camps with regard to our capitalistic economy. One camp believes it is zero-sum, that every dollar Bill Gates has is one less dollar for the poor person - i.e. wealth cannot be created. The pie is of fixed size. (This camp is ignorant of economics.) The other camp believes that the pie is always enlarging and that it's Bill Gates and others who create wealth. It's win-win.

With the spiritual economy, I've long been struck by how C.S. Lewis prayed fervently for his wife Joy's healing from cancer. I read the story awhile ago, but the basic drama is that he experienced great enduring pain at the exact moment hers was being relieved (she was in remission for three years). There was a substition of pain, as if that pain had to go somewhere, as if the pie of pain was zero-sum. (I don't know how long his pain lasted and thus how literally it served as a substition.) The ultimate example of this is, of course, Christ taking upon Himself our sins.

On the other hand, another view of the spiritual economy is the truth that you can't outgive God and that everything given is returned beyond our imagination (i.e. the Resurrection following the Crucifixion). Spiritual wealth is infinite - there is always more. There is also always an imbalance between what we give and what God gives. The five loaves and two fish fed a crowd of five thousand with twelve baskets left over. Whereas in a monetary economy things are traded of relatively equal value, in the spiritual economy there is His uber-generosity.
Modeled after Harper's Index
4... over/under on number of minutes before gun control would be mentioned after Virginia Tech shooting

3....average number of times I have to re-read a given Disputations post in order to comprehend it

542 ....hits on motu proprio from Catholic blog search

2.....hits on motu proprio from americancatholic.org

.003%.....percentage of people outside St. Blog's worried about motu proprio

12,672....average number of words the tireless Amy Welborn writes each week in columns, books, articles & blog

2...average number of times per year Jeff Culbreath will decide to stop blogging.

51....age of Bob of "Trousered Ape", whose birthday is today

? ...age of Bill Luse, whose birthday was last week

1...rank of lawyers on Australia's "most depressed" list

6...number of hits on "Dancing with the Stars" on Catholic blog search engine

67...number of hits on "American Idol" on Catholic blog search engine

1...number of books that make The DaVinci Code look deep ("The Secret")
Paglia & Beckett & Lang

I'm reading Paglia's Sexual Personae, and she sees gender everywhere (or sex for you purists). ("Gender, gender everywhere, even in our underwear!") It's waaaay too early for me to opine on this book, not only because I've read only about ten percent of it but also because I don't have a fraction of her knowledge of art and literature. But Paglia seems a sort of secular equivalent to E. Michael Jones, who also sees sex everywhere and may well be right about it.

She's read seemingly everything and has an encyclopedic knowledge. There is a 'theory of everything' aspect to her book which is always very appealing, even if wrong. "Order is charismatic" said Saul Bellow.

Steven Riddle has read the book numerous times and says she makes a strong case for a female priesthood - though interestingly enough, argues against it as well. That reminds me of how surprised I was when the conservative professor/guru Jeffrey Hart expressed support of female priests during an interview with the sainted Brian Lamb. (Anybody else notice how C-Span has sucked profoundly since he's (more or less) retired?) I used to be surprised by conservative thinkers who were Catholics (like Hart) who nevertheless disagreed with Catholic teaching. Of course it takes faith, not knowledge, to believe: i.e. "I believe that I may understand."

Reading Paglia is a good foil for reading Lang's "Why Matter Matters", which discusses the why behind the matter of the sacraments, including that of ordination. I haven't gotten to that particular chapter yet but in a gnostic, feminist culture Lang certainly has his work cut out for him.

Paglia says some things I've often thought, like how academics and art historians completely miss or politely ignore the erotic aspect of so much of art, as if that has nothing to do with the price of tea in China. Her honesty is oft times refreshing. There certainly is something preversely androgynous about, say, Michelangelo's Dying Slave.

I was especially fascinated by how different Paglia's view of Emily Dickinson is from Lucy Beckett's. I guess it's one of those half-full, half-empty deals. Paglia sees her as a pagan diety (correct me if I'm wrong Steven) while Beckett writes of her attachment to Christian tradition that, "in her loneliness, without sacraments or ancient liturgy, gave her shaky but real support." Beckett says that Dickinson's response to Christianity is more often negative than positive but that "out of the mixed religious atmosphere Emily Dickinson collected a terrifying sense of God, a more terrifying sense of his absence, and an occasional, consoling sense of Christ." (The 'mixed religious atmosphere' was the dire Calvinism on one hand and the liberal Unitarianism on the other.)

Three Stages of the Spiritual Life?

Here's my latest theory on the three stages of spiritual life the typical Gnostic-age person must past through (your mileage may vary):
1) First, God is seen only in the miraculous. Only the spirit & supernatural matters, material is banal. We look for dramatic answers to prayer, for thrilling "Godincidences". The occult and the extraordinary fascinate us. God is not in the boring things that we can get for ourselves. Food is something we grow; our parents gave birth to us. We focus on this degree of "separation" of God, in his not seeming to be directly responsible for our creation or food on the table - he had others as intermediates. Nevermind that God makes all things and that no man has ever produced matter from nothing or that even our own brains are merely recycled earth!

2) Second, God is seen in the miraculous and in the good things of this earth. Here a widened gaze takes in all around us and rightly attributes all good things to God --such as health, good food, sex, trees, oceans, mountains. We might look at the galaxy and see this thin slice of life on earth and consider it like a party. Thank God I'm here and not there! Thank God I exist!

3) Third, God is seen in the miraculous, in good things, and in bad things. Suffering is seen as redemptive. This requires trust in Tradition, in the saints and in the Church because Scripture assigns value to persecution for the Kingdom but "normal" suffering is not explicitly mentioned as meritorious. You can see, from this, how the Tradition-less "health and wealth" gospel has taken hold among many Christians. But in the words of St. Therese: "everything is grace". Here is the recognition that God brings good out of evil and that suffering is not wasted and that God is present in a special way. This requires, not surprisingly, the fullest and most fervent faith.

An alternative way of looking at the whole thing is to look at God's drawing us to a deeper and more difficult levels of faith.
1) The first level is simply believing that there is a God. This is easy because it's impossible to believe it all occurred by accident. But God is a watch-maker God.

2) The second level is believing in the Bible, in the very personal Judeau-Christian God. He cares and is actively concerned about our behavior.

3) The third level is believing in the Eucharist, that God is love and that he gave us the Catholic Church as a guide and mother.

--Each level is an increasing gift. The first is the gift of things. The second is that we've received a very specific message from a caring God. The third is that He is here, physically present.

April 25, 2007

Interesting Talk on Who's Passionate on Abortion

Peter Beinart-Jonah Goldberg Debate:

Hodge Podge

Rather than begin this post by saying that there will be no great insights or writing proferred within (at least by me), I won't say that and discourage your reading onward. What follows is an example of what we call in blogging a "stream o' conscious" post, as well as a cutting & pasting of stuff that didn't make the cut the first time. (By the way, didn't Andy Rooney make millions with stream of conscious stuff? I mean weren't books like "And More With Andy Rooney" the precursor to some types of blogs, the sort that notice the oddities of everyday things?) Anyway, without further ado:

* * *
Materialism makes crushing bores of us all, so it's not surprising that many sports stars are about as colorful as robots. But golfer Mac O'Grady saves the day. His New Age-ish(?) spirituality is as eccentric as his personality, but the ambidextrous golfer does have more than a few Yogi-isms to offer:
  • "The ball just didn't go in the hole today, there are times when the ball has its own consciousness."

  • “A hole in one is amazing when you think of the different universes this white mass of molecules has to pass through on its way to the hole.”
  • More here.
    * * *

    St. Pio is a saint who lived in our times, having died in 1968, yet I don't think I've ever seen an article or documentary on him in the secular media.

    A year or two ago there was a miracle at our local hospital that was as inspiring as it was believable and verifiable. Again, unreported.

    So riddle me this: why do "miracles" such as seeing Mary in a grilled cheese sandwich played up in the media and others given no attention at all?

    * * *

    I received a sobering email from Steven Riddle, who is feeling the scrupulosity of scribing posts of a spiritual nature. He/we would be interested in your thoughts concerning his thoughts (permission was granted to post this):
    Recently I've become very concerned about blogging on matters spiritual. When I look back at things, it strikes me as the height of arrogance to presume to "explain" or talk at length about matters that really are so much above and beyond the place where I spend most of my life. I was thinking about blogging some thoughts/prayers surrounding "The Imitation of Christ" but when I read them I realized my presumption. Now, I have nothing to say but the occasional book or movie review. You can get those, and far more insightful anywhere on the web. It hardly seems worth keeping the place open for that. Is it hubris for someone in my state to be sharing/commenting on his/her betters? If not, in what ways can it be helpful? How does one avoid the harm that might proceed from one's own incorrect understanding?
    * * *
    Poems composed on Sunday's bike ride:
    Good days spring like stag deer
    from April’s meadow;
    The air is still of talk,
    all are disassociative
    after winter’s nap.

    Men wear their gratitude
    by removing their shirts;
    words aren’t necessary
    under the rays' influence.

    The old water tower
    stands like a veteran at parades,
    with ‘1853’ scribed on a side
    and the rust upticking counter-gravity
    like brownish blood stains
    the rail segregated into
    Xs across each balcony
    like little Confederate flags.
    * * *

    Here's a song parody that wasn't good enough to make the first go around last week but made this hodge podge post (and now seems like minutiae in the wake of Virginia Tech):

    To tune of Juice Newton's "Just Call Me Angel of the Morning"
    Al Sharpton was there to bind your mouth
    Since love won't bind your heart.
    And it's too late to take a stand
    For it was you who chose to start.
    I have no wish to see you fired,
    Though the show was getting tired,
    I'm old enough to face the dawn.

    There's no more Imus in the morning...
    * * *
    Just came across a First Things link that looks very interesting, concerning Philip Rieff, who is someone I've always wanted to read but never got around to it:
    By Rieff’s analysis, the central and defining purpose of culture is to regulate the always-troublesome relation between the No-imposing voice of commandment and the Yes-seeking desires of the individual. According to Rieff, the traditional approach to the felt difficulties of bringing personality into coordination with authority involves internalizing and intensifying cultural norms. Religious at their core, traditional cultures stamp our inner lives with their creeds and, in so doing, deliver the human animal from its slavery to instinct. Charisma, then, describes the gift of what Rieff calls a “high” and “holy terror,” which installs the power of divine command so deeply in the soul that we can bear the thought “of evil in oneself and in the world.” A charismatic gives this gift with special force. He or she is an exemplar and virtuoso of personality fully governed by creedal authority. St. Francis energized and haunted the medieval world, not because he was an original genius, but instead because his inner life was so completely defined by imitation of Christ that even his body was marked by stigmata. As Rieff writes, “There is no charisma without creed,” and the gift of life gains precisely in proportion to the power of the creeds that grip our souls.
    * * *
    From the '85 journal: "When at low tide the rocks like backs of old sheep dogs or spaniels rug'd with seaweed, the cone embays a pave of ocean at times wrinkling like tinfoil at others glass flakes or sun-pounded mica or hanging intact, a curtain wall of just frescoed indigo, so immense a hue, a blue of such majesty it can't be looked at."

    * * *
    A Mormon blogger (blogger who happens to be Mormon?) recently posted the results of an internet quiz declaring her pet heresy to be Pelagianism. Then heard Karl Keating say yesterday that the disturbing thing about Mormonism is that God to them is so small, like a "super" man rather than an unimaginably transcendent being. Given that, it makes sense that Mormons would have a problem with Pelagianism.
    Snippet from "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma" regarding Confession:

    Perfect contrition bestows the grace of justification on the mortal sinner even before the actual reception of the Sacrament of Penance.

    Imperfect contrition (attritio) is true contrition, which however springs from less perfect motives than perfect contrition. The motive of perfect contrition is the perfect love of God, i.e. Charity. It consists in this that God is loved for his Own sake above all...The love of desire, in which one loves God for one's own advantage, is primarily self-love, and therefore only secondarily imperfectly love of God. It is not a sufficient motive of perfect contrition. Perfect love however does not demand that one renounce one's own blessedness in God, but only that one's own interest be subordinated to God's interest.

    In the Old Covenant perfect sorrow was the only means of the forgiveness of sins for adults. Cf. Ez. 18, 21 et seq. ; 33, II et seq. ; Ps. 31, 5. In the New Testament also, the operation of the forgiveness of sins, the act of sorrow of the penitent and the Church's power of the keys are brought into connection with each other...

    As against Luther's assertion that contrition springing from the fear of punishment of hell makes a man a hypocrite and still more a sinner, the Council of Trent declared that this contrition "is a gift of God and a prompting of the Holy Ghost, by Whose help the penitent prepares the way to righteousness", and that it "is a true and profitable sorrow" (D 915). Thus attritio is morally good and supernatural. In many passages Holy Writ warns against sin by pointing to the Divine punishment....The Fathers also very frequently employ the fear motive...St. Augustine recommends fear of the divine punishment as means of preparing the way to the love of righteousness...If perfect contrition were necessary for valid reception the Sacrament of Penance would cease to be a Sacrament of the dead, as justification would always take place before the actual reception of the Sacrament; the power to forgive sins would lose its proper purpose, since grievous sins would never be remitted in the Sacrament of Penance.

    --Ludwig Ott's "Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma"

    April 24, 2007


    [This] indicates that we must make a real distinction between charismatics and liberals. Although both may enjoy informal types of worship, they are not both liberal in their theology. Charismatic Catholics are usually theologically and morally conservative. They are usually very loyal to the pope and to church teaching...One conclusion (which must make the more stuffy traditionalist think twice) is that Charismatics are clearly more open to 'the other side' than the traditionalists are. In other words, (if the report is true) Charismatics seem not only tolerant of the Tridentine Rite, but are happy for it to be more widespread...The Charismatics therefore seem to score the most points on being tolerant, open minded and encouraging towards the Tridentine Rite folks, while most of the afficionados of the Tridentine Rite still throw up their hands in horror at the idea of charismatic styles of worship. Who's more likely to be right? - Fr. Longenecker on news that charismatics cheered the news of the forthcoming widening of the Tridentine mass (tip Darwin Catholic)

    It makes me realize how wise the Church is to make Sundays days of obligation for her children. I have proved to myself, well and truly, that if it weren't for external obligation I would be the laziest, slobbiest Catholic on the planet. Obligation alone made me show up every evening to receive the graces that I received. I think that says something about me--maybe about all of us, but I'm not generalizing here. Even in the face of graces received, I'd still stay at home and watch Wheel of Fortune instead. Maybe one day that won't be true. Maybe one day I can do it because it is pleasing to God. How lucky are we? We get graces even when we perform only grudgingly. Now that's a deal! - MamaT of "Summa Mamas"

    Something struck me in listening to news coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. It was a commentator on National Public Radio [who] said something about how these 'children' don't seem to have the respect for human life. I think that the commentator was talking about violent video games especially the 'first-person shooter' games. But it really struck me that this is the generation that grew up with around 1/4 of its members missing due to abortion. And this is also a generation where many have a belief system that justifies abortion due to the belief that the baby's soul is just recycled, that killing the baby now will give it a chance for a 'better life' somewhere else where it is wanted. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"

    With a recent study showing that today's college students are the most narcissistic and self-centered in decades, a small chorus of professionals is offering a bold response: We have no one to blame but ourselves. "Things went too far," says psychologist Jean Twenge, lead author of the study and a professor at San Diego State University. What she means is that parents overcorrected for the harshness of a previous generation that preferred children to be "seen and not heard." - clip from the "Boston Globe" via Henry Dieterich

    I see a lot of strong people trampling on weak people. Bruised reeds are there for the breaking, it seems, particularly among those who view tensions within the Church in militaristic terms. If you're fighting a war -- of culture, of liturgy, of ideas -- then it only makes sense to strike where the enemy is weak. But what if the enemy isn't the ones with a particular weakness? What if the enemy is the weakness itself? Then, I'd say, two things follow. First, people who are weak should not be treated as enemies. Second, we'd better make sure the people we do treat as enemies aren't people who are weak. My impulse is to assume that anyone I perceive as trampling on a weak person is himself strong, and so I may treat him as a strong person. To a strong person, I can say, "Hey, you! Stop trampling on that weak person!" But my impulsive assumption is, in general, false. Someone trampling on someone else may well be weak -- his very habit of trampling may be his weakness. In that case, for me to treat him as a strong person could be for me to trample on his weakness, to treat this bruised reed as though he were an oak tree. So I'm in a bit of a fix. On the one hand, I firmly support a "No Bellyaching" rule; I think there are too many complainers who can, and therefore ought to, shut their pie hole and suck it up. On the other hand, I have no way of knowing who, in particular, is breaking that rule. - Tom of Disputations

    Many of us in the trenches have suffered the arrogant criticism of "principle" pro-lifers who dismiss our legislative efforts because "they don't outlaw abortion." -Wanda Franz, president of National Right to Life

    As some of you know, I have a mentally ill son, now age 25. He is living in the streets. There are two kinds of social workers, I have found. The first kind tries to force "solutions" on the perceived problems of someone like my son. This does not work. He will do his best to sabotage any efforts made in this direction. The second, and wiser, social worker, lets the client take the lead. If a homeless person shows a persistent interest in living indoors, such a social worker will facilitate that, but only on the condition of the client's continuing initiative. (Not cooperation. Initiative.) Experience has shown that only the latter approach works. So also God. He has gone the extra mile in reaching out to us, but under the rules He Himself has imposed (love must be freely given, not coerced) there is only so far He can go. At some point we must take the initiative if this is to be truly what He desires, that is, love. So to receive, we must truly ask. - commenter Susan on "Ten Reasons"

    I am not really surprised to find that Kathy Shaidle and Our Sunday Visitor were not quite a match, but the benefit for us is that we get to now read the column she wrote for OSV that they wouldn't print on the non-coincidence of Lenin's Birthday and Earth Day an how environmentalism has become a substitute religion. I remember as a young atheist the first Earth Day and see now how ecology was my religion and recycling a major sacrament. I remember watching PBS on that first high holy day for environmentalists and dutifully watching a program that contained a cartoon of the whole earth being covered with cement. - Jeff of "Curt Jester"

    Cho? I know what we need to know: "gun control" means "free citizens need to learn to use guns and keep them handy." - Bill of "Summa Minutiae"

    There is a difference between the Christian concept of loving your enemies and the secular concept of appeasing them. The former says "I believe you to be wrong and I do not trust you in the slightest, but I will seek your good even to the risk of my own hurt"; the latter says, "We're both basically right, you just need to let us know what we can do or how we can change so that we can all get along." Human nature has always seemed to ensure the appeaser's outcome: stone dead or supplicating upon deaf and heartless ears. - Ham of "Social Engineer"

    During my second year at McGill, I plunged into the deepest depression I’ve ever known. I wrestled in prayer, searched the scriptures, examined my conscience, and fell apart. I told my wife about it one night; the next morning, a letter arrived from a Christian psychotherapist who had felt an inexplicable but irresistible urge to write. I still have that letter. Over the next year I learned more about myself and my emotions than I had thought possible. If today I manage to function as a pastor, it is not least because I know something about pain. I know, too, that healing of memory and imagination is not just wishful thinking. Six years later, as I prepared to teach a course on Jesus in his historical context, I realized what else had been happening. I combed through my notebooks for all my old jottings. All the most significant insights about Jesus I had ever had, particularly my deepest reflections on the crucifixion, were dated in that period of depression. - Anglican bishop N.T. Wright

    Let’s get something straight: Lust means desire, not good observational skills. Some women are sexy. To deny it is to lie and look like a fool. There is, however, a great deal of difference between seeing what is plain to everyone and desiring that person. - blogger at "Eating Words"

    I went to a distinguished Evangelical university for a couple of years. In the dorm rooms masturbation by and large wasn’t taken seriously; it was joked about, taken as a given and unavoidable. I only knew a handful of guys that seriously engaged it as sin, that rigorously fought against the temptation. My own (Lutheran) pastor told me not to take it too seriously during a conversation in private confession — an admonition that at the time I loved and was thankful for (for obvious reasons), but in retrospect I see it as a grievous error.) Fight fire with fire, I say. Uphold chastity at all costs, even magnify and extol those who ‘are made eunuchs for the Kingdom’, instead of looking at them as abnormal or somehow deficient. - commenter on "Eating Words"

    Perhaps that it isn't appreciated as it should be is indicative of our need for such mercy, as well as God's willingness to dispense it.- Rick Lugari concerning Divine Mercy Sunday
    Short Story Tuesday
    Oh how I recall the burnished summers at Cambridge! Amid the groomed lawns and gothic architecture we went in search of labrynths of flesh and stone, of book and brook.

    There great halls had sprung from the fertile earth and we felt at once unworthy and assured: the scaffolding that might suffocate us, supported us. We were here after all, and would not be if not among the chosen. Our lives were given meaning by it, the sanctity of them affirmed paradoxically by our feeling of smallness, of our walking where centuries of ghostly giants had tread.

    Sentiment was an ever-present danger; we were terminally and retroactively nostalgic. We wept at small things, like the sound our shoes made while walking down the long, marble floors or the band playing the fight song. We wept over sunlit garden paths and the gloomy, candle-lit corners of our own imagination, over the scholar's domed banker lights (how could we study in such surroundings!), the semper fidelis dining hall and our cast-iron stomaches, the craggy stones and arches - ever we trundled over and under and through arches.

    My roommate and I scoured the catalog for exotic courses and familiar activities and ended up taking familiar courses and picking exotic activities. We walked by the archers daily on the way to the parquet floors of the squash courts before the afternoon math classes.

    Our voices would lift unbidden at Heorot, singing of alma mater. Filled with mead, we sang of the great quirst, a mingling of quest and thirst, trying to describe our brief time. For the air pulsed with cusps, with only the edges of known words, and was certain with possibilities and probabilities for which we could assign no numbers nor labels.

    April 23, 2007

    Why High Consumer Debt?

    Today's question is only slightly less controversial than asking how much of intelligence is nature and how much is nurture: How much of consumer debt is due to personal bad behavior (inability to delay gratification) and how much due to rising costs combined with stagnant raises?

    First, I note that it doesn't matter how much people are in debt. It only matters how much debt they have relative to income. Debt levels will naturally go higher over time as salaries increase. So the next time you see this headline:
    Consumer Debt Reaches All-Time High!
    ...you can yawn.

    The only thing that matters is the relation of debt service payment to income. Household debt as a percentage of disposable income, when too high, affects not only the individual debtor but the whole financial house of cards. Recessions occur and unemployment goes up when payments get too high. Your neighbor gets in debt too much and you lose your job - we're all connected.

    Some blame it on higher fixed expensives. This appears to be the Elizabeth Warren tack. She blames high home and car payments as well as education costs. This sounds good but then one sees that higher home costs are due to rising McMansions. It's sort of hard to feel sorry about higher home costs when part of what is driving that cost is a spa in every bathroom, huge kitchens and 2500+ square foot houses.

    In fairness, Warren says that families buy homes they cannot afford in order to live where the schools are good. That helps make the anti-materialistic argument: daggone it, I have to live in luxury so that my children can go to good schools. But there's no question that schools vary greatly, in part because of bad parenting and powerful teacher's unions.

    But is the real evil fixed debt or credit card debt? Adam J. Goldstein wrote a University of Illinois Law Review article, quoted here:
    The rapid increase in consumer indebtedness in the U.S. has been largely confined to credit cards and has not characterized other types of consumer credit. "This indicates that there is something singular about the design of credit cards that uniquely causes people to accumulate too much debt," Goldstein wrote.

    Several features of credit cards make them different from traditional forms of lending and encourage high levels of consumer debt by taking advantage of "consumers' cognitive and behavioral vulnerabilities," Adam J. Goldstein wrote.

    When issuing loans for cars, home mortgages and other forms of debt, banks conduct a thorough credit screening of applicants. But when the same banks issue loans in the form of credit cards, "people with bad credit histories, as well as those who have declared bankruptcy or who have an income level that is too low to justify the credit lines that they are given, all receive high-interest credit," Goldstein wrote.
    One Amazon commenter went so far as to deny free will with respect to credit cards.

    It's hard to get hard data on this subject since I can't seem to find any U.S. Census data on "debt load versus personal responsibility" or "how many bankruptcy victims own 50-inch screen televisions?".

    Yahoo Answers tackles the subject, saying it's not either/or but and/both:
    With the deregulation of the banking industry...once traditional credit card companies saw the money to be made in the sub-prime market, they started offering "prepaid" credit cards and offering regular credit to people they never would have extended credit to before....

    Now, how did consumer behavior change? The change in behavior is linked to a change in generations. The generation that remembered the Great Depression had a tendency to save, simply because of the experiences they had with a severe, and prolonged economic downturn. They knew that a rainy day would come sooner or later, and you needed to save for that eventuality.

    That generation has been replaced by a generation that remembers the 1970s stagflation where savings evaporated in the double digit inflation. Also, the younger generation has experienced nothing but steady, growth unimpaired by inflation in the 1990s. These two generations don't save for what they want and keep a nest egg for emergencies. Why would they? They believe, from experience, that jobs will always be available if you have skills and there is no such thing as a rainy day.
    That makes a kind of sense. In an ahistorical society we tend to judge everything by our own experience.

    Before NBC's Fear Factor there was... Prince Charles's "Operation Raleigh":
    Saw Barbara Walters interview Prince Charles...He talked about a project he was working on - Operation Raleigh. He said it was a camp where kids "conquer nature" nature and release their aggressive instincts in a natural setting. He said all adolescents should go through the equivalent of war - without its dangers. To get in the camp the adolescent must pass tests such as: putting their hands into a bowl of maggots and weighing a python - all for the building of character. The prince also said that many times you go through a period of great distress and then look back upon it and consider it good for you. Reminds me of G. Gordon Liddy and his book Will. (--journal entry from 1984)
    * * *

    Poetry Monday
    Drunk-With-Sunshine -
    the weather sensitive Indian -
    spent the sun day outdoors
    riding pale face’s steel horse
    into the blue west while
    drinking cheap whiskey
    and smoking tin’d cigars.

    Six o’clock comes
    and the yolk is spent,
    split by the Western tree.
    The elder Wise-Men-Fish-Here speaks,
    says to Drunk-With-Sunshine:
    “The salmon is the king of fish
    because he swims upstream.”
    * * *

    Parody is Therapy site updated...

    ...with the report that "gotcha" journalism has jumped the shark.

    * * *

    From a Peggy Noonan column: "One watches all of this and wonders: Where are the grown-ups?" (concerning politicians response to Virginia Tech)

    "The issue now is not left versus right or democrat/Republican but adult/child." - George Weigel (overheard on Catholic radio, presumably concerning war in Iraq)

    * * *

    Turns out that Katie Couric committed blogging's unforgivable sin: "Couric took another P.R. hit recently when it was revealed that her CBS blog, Katie Couric's Notebook, was written by a producer. The ghostwriting became public only when CBS fired the producer for plagiarism." I can assure the reader that this blog is 100% authentic, hence the planted spelling and grammatical errors. :-)

    * * *

    Was it Eric Scheske who joked that he now distrusts the wisdom of the American people because of someone who was recently voted off American Idol? I feel the same way when I heard that 37% of Americans approve of Bush's handling of the economy.

    4.4% unemployment - lowest in ages... Dow near 13,000...

    It probably shows either the power of the media (to make the good economy a non-story) or a sign that if you do something wrong (say in foreign policy) it'll "leak" over and taint everything else.

    By the way, the strong Dow reminds me of a Bottum-Novak debate I heard on Catlick radio a month or two ago. Bottum pionted to the weak stock market while Novak called it a a blip, a mere buying opportunity. Point Novak.

    * * *

    Ham o' Bone had the same idea as Sheryl Crow, albeit with a different "end" in mind.

    April 20, 2007

    How I Became Catholic Despite Ten Years of Catholic Schooling

    It's been a tortured and winding path to bliss and the desire for a scapegoat is inborn and parents are the de rigeur candidates. They supply both nature and nurture and so are certainly the natural targets.

    But I resist despite the fact that it's fashionable to blame them for everything short of the Alien & Sedition Acts. Mine spent good money to send us to Catholic schools and I’m just now wondering how firm a foundation that really was in the late Disco era, i.e. the late ‘70s.

    How well could I have been spiritually formed given that we’re dealing primarily with the years 1977-1981? This is sort of like being eighteen years old in 1941 isn’t it? You’re pretty much doomed. By 1977 I think even Ohio (where everything other than puberty is delayed ten years) was infected by the whole “spirit of Vatican II” thing, where "spirit" is defined by "whatever the hell I want the document to say".

    We had some old school sisters in grade school but how important is 4th grade in the large scheme of things? Aren't the crucial years the high school ones? Certainly there was the careful teaching of Humane Vitae and a firm rejection of abortion and contraception but both seemed like distant concerns at the time. When "third base" is a distant target you're not much worried about what happens in the event of a home run.

    I could be forgiven for being confused in thinking that the religion of our high school was actually football. Friday Night Lights is about Texas high school football, but for someone from the football belt of southern Ohio it’s old home week. I’m probably not surprised by half the things I’m supposed to be surprised about in that show.

    Anyway, I’d really like to look at the books we used - I know the infamous “Christ Among Us” was among them which is enough to taint the curriculum. Our senior year seemed dominated by our teacher’s predilection for Carl Jung. Whatever he saw in Jung was not passed on to me and perhaps it’s unfair but I got the impression that Christ was important in the long run but Jung could really help you now. Whether or not I can claim, with Mark Gauvreau Judge, that I’m Catholic despite going to Catholic schools I’m not yet sure. High school still feels like a different century (oh yeah, it was).

    What I didn’t know then but know now is that every teacher or layman who has lived an examined life has an intellectual pedigree. Each has a fatherly influence intellectually-speaking, and that father had a father influence, and that one had a main influence and so on into antiquity. I think truth in advertising demands teachers put their intellectual family tree on the first page of their syllabus.

    You can get “Christ Among Us” for one cent on the internet (plus $3 shipping) which probably says something about the book. I’m half-tempted to read it in order to judge for myself the extent of its inquity. Certainly the other books that we had to read seem far more innocuous. I recall Erich Fromm’s dense “The Art of Loving” which I asked my future wife to read (I had touching trust in books – this instruction would insure her lasting love). That she actually read it might well be her greatest act of loving me. I treasure it to this day. No matter what happens I can think back: my wife read that damn “The Art of Loving” -- for me! If you knew my wife and that book you’d know what a sacrifice it was. I didn’t read the book myself by the way; I’m not sure how I passed the exam. Honestly, the book was unreadable.

    Other books I did read were Fr. John Powell’s series, including “A Reason to Live! A Reason to Die!”. It’s hard to find fault with these books. They seem really solid and most hold up well to this day. Powell recognized modern man’s alienation and the problems attendant. I don’t think there’s anything heretical in them but I could be wrong.

    The liturgies were certainly “creative” as the late ’70 liturgies often were. There was a lot of James Brown music, er, I mean James Taylor. But I’m not sure how formational school liturgies are. I think the intellectual content of the books and classes are the main things, and they are mostly elusive from this 2007 vantage point. But the fact that two clerical faculty members turned out to be pedophiles is not cause for optimism. Still, there were teachers to this day I look up to and deeply respect. My teachers seemed a curious mixture of saints and sinners. In other words a lot like any other area of life.

    The funny thing about high school is how oblivious you are to how important your formation is. You don't know you're vulnerable, which is both a blessing and a curse. You don’t know what you don’t know, so there's no way to protect yourself. My attitude was the same as the culture’s: anything new is obviously better. We saw it every day in science and advertising. Newer and more effective drugs. New and improved “Tide!” laundry detergent. Every advertising label I saw said “new and improved” such that I began to think “new” and “improved” were synonyms. There was no way I could, in my vulnerability, discern that I was being sold an old bill of goods under the guise of the new.

    Bible-wise, we knew the Gospels reasonably well. And some parts of the OT were clear. There was nothing even close to Catholic apologetics then, which had the positive side effect of a refreshing lack of Triumphalism (other than our awareness of the tremendous gift of the Eucharist). But that lack of apologetics also left us vulnerable to Protestant pitches. “Call no man Father” rattled some people's faith.

    I remember going to Campus Crusade for Christ in college with my New American Bible and being instantly recognized as a Catholic for that reason. At that time, I think Catholics divided people by denomination while Protestants divided people by preferred bible version. I remember thinking that minutiae - I don't even think I knew that the King James was really different than the NAB, that there were fewer books in the former. I was shocked that I was identified by a Catholic by something like the version of the bible I was carrying.
    April 20th - Agnes of Montepulciano, OP

    Born in Gracchiano-Vecchio, Tuscany, Italy, in 1268, by the age of six, she was already begging her parents to enter the convent. By nine she was allowed to enter and at fifteen "to the distress of young Agnes, she was elected abbess. Since she was only 15, a special dispensation was needed--and provided by Pope Nicholas IV." From here:
    During this time Agnes reached a high degree of contemplative prayer and was favored with many visions. One of the loveliest is the one for which her legend is best known: the occasion of a visit from the Blessed Virgin. Our Lady came with the Holy Infant in her arms, and allowed Agnes to hold Him and caress Him. Unwilling to let Him go, Agnes hung on when Our Lady reached to take Him back. When she awakened from the ecstasy, Our Lady and her Holy Child were gone, but Agnes was still clutching tightly the little gold cross He had worn on a chain about His neck. She kept it as a precious treasure.
    Agnes returned to Montepulciano to die in the night. When she knew she was dying after a long and painful illness, Agnes told her grieving nuns that they should rejoice, for, she said, "You will discover that I have not abandoned you. You will possess me for ever." The children of the city wakened and cried out, "Holy Sister Agnes is dead!" She was buried in Montepulciano, where her tomb soon became a place of pilgrimage.

    One of the most famous pilgrims to visit her tomb was Saint Catherine of Siena, who went to venerate the saint and also, probably, to visit her niece, Eugenia, who was a nun in the convent there. As she bent over the body of Saint Agnes to kiss the foot, she was amazed to see Agnes raise her foot so that Catherine did not have to stoop so far!
    That 'Sky is Falling' Mentality

    For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them. - Acts 5:38-39
    I happened across a post on the 'net that describes the current earthly situation in desperately dark terms, and with good reason. God is not mocked, and so the apocalyptic tone is reasonable.

    But it seems desperation isn't becoming in a Christian. A sense of urgency, sure. It's instructive that nowhere did the author, who was full of practical suggestions, mention prayer. Prayer can be seen as a given, and I'm guilty of that too, but I'm trying to amend that.

    Prayer is not practical and often isn't fulfilling to the activist. It's a passive activity, it's allowing God to work, and most of us don't like that God works slowly. The "results" can't be measured and weighed and often doesn't visibly seem to be working (which, for the activist, is why it's not fulfilling).

    Fifty years ago the whole "sky is falling" mentality could've been only minorly tweaked to apply to the evils of Soviet Communism. Again, rightly so. And yet God brought us out of that, via prayer (including prayer requested of us by Our Lady at Fatima - it's interesting that the requests at Fatima were devotional rather than activist in nature) and due to His giving us John Paul II.

    With radTrads there often seems to be little recognition that no matter how dark things are, with God all things are possible. There seems to be a sense in which all is judged only by that which can be seen. (I'm the first person to say that I thought Soviet Communism would last forever and probably defeat the West, so I guess it takes someone who has a taste of the disease to recognize it elsewhere.)

    I think also, in certain individuals there is a strain of hysteria that is ever seeking a target. Mark Steyn wrote a book about the death of Broadway before he took up the anti-jihadist cause. He is/was a natural Jeremiah. Death and decline invigorate him. That's not to say he's wrong. Or that he or others aren't doing "God's work". Someone has to sound the alarm and rally the troops and call for reform. But I do think there is a sort of inherent danger. Martin Luther was one who saw the darkness and decided he would do something about it. Pronto. Yet Luther himself would later admit that "the German people are seven times worse since the Reformation." (See this post comparing reform Luther-style versus St. Francis of Assisi-style.)

    I was watching Jenna Fischer aka Pam Beasley on "The Office" last night and it occurred to me that she looked like someone I knew. And then it hit me - St. Thérèse of Lisieux!

    While googling for pictures of St. Therese I found the arresting image at right, which was taken just hours after her death. (Click to enlarge.) It's very providential that at the start of the Industrial Revolution God would send someone like St. Therese and the "little way". As John Gardner, former Sec. of HEW, once said: "...the sense of helplessness is intensified by the huge, glistening machinery of our society. It hums with intimidating smoothness. How could any individual be needed much?” St. Therese helped answered that.

    * * *

    Converting my old journals to digital is giving me greater empathy for what the young go through (i.e. 'broken pen'). The romantic haze is taken off the past when you re-read contemporary accounts - even that of your own past.

    * * *

    I just found another context for saying the pre-Communion prayer "Lord I am not worthy to receive you....", and that is to say it before praying for someone. It helps lessen the consciousness of the scandal of being used as a vessel for any blessings God might grant. As N.T. Wright once wrote, "The more I appreciate my own laughable inadequacy, the more I celebrate the fact of the Trinity." Amen.
    * * *

    As a bibliophile, sola scriptura lines up well with my natural disposition and I can see why many non-Catholics are loathe to give it up. It also appeals to my native skepticism. But the fact that Christ appointed apostles (i.e. people) and didn't commission writers was so wise! In my distrust I would've thought: "what faith can there be in man"? But that ignores that man is given supernatural help, and that Peter and those in his chair are prevented from teaching error. Not surprisingly Jesus knew what he was doing, for we see that sola scriptura has divided us into so many denominations while Peter's church remains one. (This from the perspective of faith. To paraphrase St. Augustine, I've believed that I might understand.)

    April 19, 2007

    Excerpt from Why Matter Matters:

    If we could read the Bible again as if for the first time I think we would be deeply shocked and scandalized; and the reason has much to do with the point of the book you are now reading. Clearly, mattter matters infinitely more to God than it does to us if that Book is true...

    And during His public ministry, He not only used matter to heal and save us ("the flesh is the hinge of redemption," said Tertullian) but also used specific chunks of concretely real matter, not "matter as such" (whatever that might mean). Touch the hem of another's garment and you are not healed, no matter what your state of soul; touch the hem of His garment and you are. No matter how much that may puzzle and even scandalize us, it is a fact. It is data. It is true.

    And He left us Himself, most perfectly and completely and really, not in a book, or in ideas or values, or religious experiences, but in the Eucharist.

    I still remember vividly how, forty years ago when I became Catholic, I halted, shocked, at the last hurdle, the scandal of sacramentality...When the priest moves that little round consecrated wafer from the left side of the altar to the right, God is moved from the left side of the altar to the right.

    When we obey His will regarding material things, when we do the deeds He commands with our bodies as well as our souls (they always work as one; we are not ghosts in machines), then we transform or translate or transmute our spiritual intentions, our care and love and faith, into a material thing, an instrument or medium or means or mediator of our salvation (somewhat as Christ is a mediator).

    God invented matter because God is love, and love loves the other, and matter is other. Ultimately, matter matters because love matters.

       - Peter Kreeft, from preface to Why Matter Matters by David Lang
    Parody Song Thursday

    To tune of Eddie Murphy's "My Girl Wants to Party All the Time"
    I can't understand it why you want to hurt me
    After all the things I've done for you.
    I buy you champagne and roses and diamonds on your finger -
    Diamonds on your finger -
    You're still on your laptop
    what am I to do?

    My girl wants to blog all the time
    blog all the time
    blog all the time...
    My girl wants to blog all the time
    blog all the time.

    I've seen you in cafes just hanging out and bloggin'.
    You give your prose to every man you see.
    You never come home at night because you're out there opinin'.
    I wish you bring some of that home to me.
    To Beastie Boys' tune "You Gotta Fight..."
    You wake up late for mass and you don't wanna go
    You ask your papa please but he still says no.
    Time to give the kids some meat to chew,
    'cuz it all went to hell after '62!

    chorus: You gotta fight...
    For the rite...
    Of Pius

    Your uncle caught ya prayin' and he said no way
    That hypocrite says three rosaries a day
    Novus ordo is such a drag
    my mom threw away my Latin Mass mag (busted)

    You gotta fight...
    For the rite...
    of Pius

    Teachin' my kids the Gregorian chant,
    'cuz it beats that Haugen Haas watered-down cant,
    papa don't preach, give us the old trad rite
    so we'll finally see an end to this long sad night.

    --(Inspired by this)

    April 18, 2007


    Richard John Neuhaus ponders the question of whether America is a Christian nation (in the latest National Review):
    To which one might respond that a “sort of” Christian nation is all that might be expected in view of human sinfulness and the limitations of history...Like others, Heclo cites the prevalence of divorce and pornography, the trash of popular entertainment, and other factors as evidence that Americans are not seriously Christian, or not Christian at all. But morality is a dubious measure. In his classic 1970 work, The Unheavenly City, Edward Banfield notes that in early-18th-century Boston there were more brothels per capita than there probably are today, but nobody suggests that 18th-century Boston was not a Christian city. The pertinent fact is that Christianity majors in sin and forgiveness. A persistent problem in discussions of Christian America, both scholarly and popular, is the tendency to use “Christian” as both an honorific and a descriptive term. Except for those who make an idol of the nation and confuse America with the Church — and there are some who are prone to doing that — nobody contends that America deserves to be called a Christian nation.

    There is truth in G. K. Chesterton’s observation that America is a nation with the soul of a church, and further truth in the observation that, in the “almost” of almost-chosen peoplehood, Americans are aware of failing the covenant by which the nation is constituted. Conservative critics frequently fail to appreciate that expressions of “anti-Americanism” can sometimes be better understood as Americans’ continuing the long tradition of the mourners’ bench of American revivalism. The late Jeane Kirkpatrick was right about the “blame-America-first crowd.” But it will not disappear; not only because some really do hate America, but because so many more believe America is called to be better. There is much to be said in favor of America’s accepting the fact that it is a normal nation, simply a nation among nations — but that is a very un-American idea.
    * * *

    Regarding my post from yesterday, an emailer writes:
    ... but this analysis seems like a bunch of bologna:
    "One of them surely relates to the primitive
    part of the human psyche that, in order to
    cope with our deepest fears, wants to believe
    that everything in the world is governed by
    a conscious and unitary force."
    So, he's saying Europeans don't like us because of God? What's up with
    I took that to mean that since the desire for God is built-in (by God) then if you don't believe in Him you'll believe other entities (like the U.S. government) are controlling every aspect of your life and destiny. Maybe that's why there are so many atheist-leftists conspiracists?

    * * *

    With the Imus controversy, all the actors played out the script so perfectly that this news is a fine denouement. The play's never o'er until the book deal is announced.
    Hide 'n Seek

    When I was a kid, I found the Resurrection accounts where Jesus prevented Himself from being recognized as off-putting.

    Call me a budding "compassionate conservative", but I didn't understand why Jesus delayed reassuring them of his triumph over death - I longed for each encounter to be immediately reassuring to the person who was missing Him just as I would seek out family members immediately if I'd escaped a kidnapping or something. (By the way, the unfortunate tendency to judge God by our standards was addressed in Pope Benedict's encyclical: "An authentically religious attitude prevents man from presuming to judge God, accusing him of allowing poverty and failing to have compassion for his creatures. When people claim to build a case against God in defence of man, on whom can they depend when human activity proves powerless?")

    Now I see a bit more clearly how He did it in order that we, the thousand generations that have followed, might not be surprised to find Him in unexpected places. How he did it for us, we who would come and be blessed by virtue of not having seen Him and still believe. (The pastor of our Byzantine church said that he feels sorry for Thomas the Apostle and that our faith is our blessedness; the day God provides proof of himself is the day he (Fr. T) becomes an atheist.) Christ's whole life was to some extent that story of disguise. From not finding room at the inn at Bethlehem to being passed over unnoticed by many on the hill of Calvary, the story is that of a hidden God, hidden in the unlikeliest places. Chesterton writes in Irish Impressions:

    When I was on the wild coast of Donegal, an old unhappy woman who had starved through the famines and the evictions, was telling a lady the tales of those times; and she mentioned quite naturally one that might have come straight out of times so mystical that we should call them mythical; that some travellers had met a poor wandering woman with a baby in those great gray rocky wastes, and asked her who she was. And she answered, "I am the Mother of God, and this is Himself; and He is the boy you will all be wanting at the last."

    There is more in that story than can be put into any book, even on a matter in which its meaning plays so deep a part; and it seems almost profane to analyse it however sympathetically. But if any one wishes to know what I mean by the untranslatable truth which makes a language national, it will be worth while to look at the mere diction of that speech, and note how its whole effect turns on certain phrases and customs which happen to be peculiar to the nation.

    It is well known that in Ireland the husband or head of the house is always called "himself"; nor is it peculiar to the peasantry, but adopted, if partly in jest, by the gentry.... Take away, "This is Himself" and simply substitute "This is He"; and it is a piece of pedantry ten thousand miles from the original.

    Their historical experience, alas, has made it seem to them not unnatural that the Holy Family should be a homeless family. They also have found that there was no room for them at the inn, or anywhere but in the jail; they also have dragged their new-born babes out of their cradles, and trailed in despair along the road to Egypt, or at least along the road to exile. They also have heard in the dark and the distance behind them, the noise of the horsemen of Herod.

    April 17, 2007

    Why Anti-Americanism?

    Excerpt from James W. Ceaser, professor of politics at the University of Virginia in NR:
    The plain fact is that the structure of thought known as anti-Americanism was forged long ago and has sunk its roots deeply into both popular and elite European opinion. This ideology has become vital to the functioning of European politics, and involves the passions, interests, and reputations of many people. To paraphrase the late Jean-François Revel, if you remove anti-Americanism, nothing remains of European thought today on either the left or the right...

    The greatest source of anti-Americanism, however, arose at the turn of the 20th century, when the terms “Americanism” and “Americanization” were coined to designate industrialization, modernization, and the assault of modernity on all traditional social arrangements and values...The success of anti-Americanism in identifying the United States with modernity is not surprising. America blazed the trail for many modern developments, and the size of its economy has allowed it to have an enormous impact on much of the world. And who would deny that many aspects of modernity are, just as Heidegger said, monstrous? Yet modernization was originally spawned in Europe, and would have occurred even without America. Linking all of its negative aspects to a single nation is uninformed, and has had the consequence of dividing the West against itself and rendering it less able to cope with common challenges.

    Besides, Europe is hardly innocent of efforts to commodify and universalize, even in our own age. European firms launched the first attempt to establish a common idea of fashion for women and fragrances for men. Is it more destructive to the cultural diversity of mankind to influence what people eat than to dictate how they look and smell? And there can be no doubt that by far the most successful effort at homogenization belongs to Europe: In developing and exporting anti-Americanism, European intellectuals have created the world’s first universal ideology. Next to this achievement, the efforts of McDonald’s and Google look like the crude work of amateurs.

    Another factor that has contributed to anti-Americanism is the enormous transformation of military and political power over the last century. On the eve of the First World War, the major European nations were the world’s greatest military powers. But the effect of the two great wars was not only to exhaust these nations but also to show that the greatest military power now lay in America and the Soviet Union. Yet an accident of history worked to put Europe at the center of the world’s interest as it became the strategic battleground between East and West. This kept American soldiers in Western Europe throughout the Cold War and allowed diplomats and journalists to make cities such as Paris and Vienna their delightful bases of operations. With the collapse of the Soviet empire and the emergence of Europe as a zone of peace, all of this has changed. Europe retains its charm but has lost some of its strategic importance...

    No one likes the kind of loss of power and status that Europeans have had to endure. It is a hard reckoning for peoples that commanded the summits of world influence for some 500 years. Even European intellectuals, who like to think of themselves as cosmopolitan, have chafed at their reduced status. Like the Greek philosophers after the Roman conquests, they look with disdain at the new power from the west. Americans, for their part, feel a bit abused. Thinking that they saved Europe at least three times in the last century, they ask: Where is the gratitude? They should be more realistic and understand that, where gratitude is felt, resentment can never be very far behind.
    Fr. Greg: "We Always Have to be Ready"

    ...written in light of the senseless killings in Virginia. Robert of Hokie Pundit was an acquaintance of the RA who was killed and asks for our continued prayers for the victims. Not surprisingly, a member of the 'greatest generation' was one of the heroes -- he who escaped a premature death allowed others to escape premature deaths.

    Soon in the trip to Vitória it rained what wanted: the outward journey under the sign of the misfortune ended therefore (I can advance - that in literature is called prolepsis- that the return was very much better, in car until towns as in the train until Santiago). In Vitória we went to house of my uncles. There it is Chema, a dog of which they give desire you to have you one, although until then you have passed your life without them. My aunt told things of him while we alternated ourselves to make him mimos: its predilection by torrijas, its confrontations with another dog that is called Néstor (whose owner is stupid, explained my aunt). Well, I did what had to do in Vitória, I left contentment and of return, and ate a tremendous bocata of jamón prepared by my mother, and watched the made snow-white Obarenes Mounts, by which as much he walked my father. - Spanish blogger at Compostela, evocatively translated by Babelfish and rife with accidental fringes of metaphor*
    * - For example: "outward journey under the sign of misfortune" is the journey under the sign of the cross. "Rained what wanted" hints of the wanted waters of baptism. Chema is the goodness which God gives us the desire for even though in the past we've lived without it. Néstor's owner is stupid, i.e. "knows not what he does" in allowing confrontation with Chema. The "bocata of jamón prepared by my mother" is the Eucharist from the table of mother Church, the "made snow-white" is God's gift of justification and forgiveness of sins, and the Obareness Mounts is where the father walks, i.e. Heaven.
    In Rome, Holy Thursday is the night for church-hopping. Every church, it seems, from Trastevere to Termini, is open until midnight for watching and adoration. The Romans like to see as many as they can in one night, although the traditional number is seven. One of my friends thought this sounded hurried, maybe even a little irreverent. But I leapt to their defense. How could I not? When I was little, one of the best days of the year was Holy Thursday, when the churches in our little corner of Silicon Valley stood open and shining in the dark, and we played truant on a school night visiting them all. Some churches made paths of lumenarias to guide you to their little Gethsemanes. - Meredith of "Hesperia"

    I can remember reading [Graham] Greene as an Anglican student and asking my Catholic friend, June Reynolds what she thought of him. She chuckled and said, "I'm afraid he's too complicated for me. Catholicism's simpler than that." Now as a Catholic of ten years, and as a priest, I see what she means....Greene's story (like most of his stories) is flawed because it doesn't account for the simplicity and clarity that the sacrament of confession brings to the complexities of the human heart. Was this because Greene himself laboured so long in sins that he knew were wrong? Dunno. What I do know is that a truly penitent soul is simple. He sees clearly, not only his own sins, but also the everlasting mercy of God. - Fr. Dwight Longenecker of "Standing on My Head"

    The point of her talk was the moral and, to get down to it, intellectual dissonance that the abortion debate has planted in our psyches. When babies are babies when we want them and something else when we don't, when things stop being simply what they are...you break, not only the baby, but the moral compass, shattering our ability to think rationally about anything. - Amy Welborn on Jean Garton talk

    As Christians watching all of this unfold, we see it in relation to Christ. When there is a dispute that is bringing a rising amount of tension, Christ calls for peacemakers. As we watch all of the players in this game, how many peacemakers do we see? Are there any? Are there men and women who have stepped forward to work toward reconciliation between the two sides? Working toward peace? Toward forgiveness? We would expect this, especially if the person has “Rev.” in front of his name. - Fr. Greg of "St. Andrew's Parish" blog, on the Imus flap

    Charge it to my head ... not to my heart. - Jesse Jackson, after calling Jews "hymies" in the '80s

    There's no excusing Imus' recent ridiculous remark, but there's something not kosher in America when one guy gets a Grammy and one gets fired for the same line...Political correctness, a term first used by Joseph Stalin, has trivialized, sanitized and homogenized America, transforming us into a nation of chain establishments and chain people. - Kinky Friedman

    Every morning I rise and peruse
    Mr. Drudge's site, checking the news;
    Where I find that, pell-mell,
    We are rushing to Hell -
    Which, for some reason, fails to amuse.

    - Bob of "Trousered Ape"
    Do you think times are so bad that you have received nothing of value? Look around and think again. There is much tradition falling right into your lap: it will die with your generation unless you pick up the baton. The time may be short, but at the moment there is still a residual Christianity clinging to our rapidly decaying culture. Let’s make the most of it. - Jeff of "Stony Creek"

    Some people are just naturally better at something than other people. This is an utterly unremarkable remark when it comes to things like athletic and musical talent. But there are also such things as "religious talents." Aren't some people just naturally better believers, hopers, and lovers than other people?...Clumsy people generally get used to the fact that they will never be professional dancers, but when you lack a talent that seems necessary to love God, you may well conclude that you aren't supposed to love God -- which can only mean that God doesn't love you...Since they aren't salvific, those with natural religious talents must not be presumptuous -- of either their own perfection or of the imperfections of others -- and those without them must not be despairing. - Tom of Disputations

    I used to believe that people got more religious when they got older because they were getting closer to death and they felt they needed to hedge their bets. And I felt that people got more conservative as they got older because they got richer and wanted to keep more of their money. Then, when I got older, and became both of the above, I came to realize that while that’s true with a great many people, there was an alternate explanation that I would like to believe is true in my case and those of many others. You become more spiritual and more religious, because you realize nothing else works. And if you live a life like I have, you tried everything else. - political pundit Dick Morris
    Liturgical Ruminations

    The Byzantine Catholic church I frequent is going through the labor pains of liturgical change. Rumors of inclusive language linger on the horizon, and while some of the changes are undeniably good (i.e. "substance" of God in the creed changed to "essence") it seems likely the Byzantines are hungry to make some of the same questionable liturgical choices we've made, although, to be fair, the scale seems extremely small relative to the changes in our Mass in the '60s.

    The beef I have so far is that a line from the Eucharistic prayer has been altered from "holy things to the holy" to "holy things to holy people". (I wasn't sure if I was still allowed to receive Communion.)

    I spoke to our deacon after the liturgy and he said there were numerous interpretations of "holy things to the holy" and this was one way to clarify it. I, playing liturgo-cop without a uniform, dogmatically declared it the worst interpretation. The way I'd interpreted it was that we were re-presenting Abel's gift to the Lord. We were offering Christ on the altar to the Holy One (the Father).

    The chasm between the sinless (God) and the sinful (us) is a chasm so large that only God Himself could breach it. That is the gist of what I get from the sacrificial aspect. I don't especially like the imagery of Christ holding back the Father's wrath, as if Jesus was the "good cop" and the Father the "bad cop". Their wills are ever in unity, after all. Given that, it's hardly that the Son is changing the Father's mind (again, impossible since God doesn't change). It reminds me of how some appeal to Mary as a backdoor to Heaven, as if Mary would let you in while Jesus wouldn't despite the fact that Mary's & Jesus' wills are again pretty much exactly in sync. (Mother Teresa once said that she "wished the Lord wouldn't trust her so much". If God trusted her, think how much more he trusts his sinless mother! A teaching, by the way, that exalts Christ and his deity and his power to save.)
    Meme Tuesday
    "He jests as one who's never felt a meme."

    -- from Romeo & Juliet, where 'meme' was originally 'wound'
    Jeff Miller passed on this latest meme to me which I agree is surprisingly difficult to answer.
    Name up to three characters . . .

    1) . . . you wish were real so you could meet them.

    1. Binx Bolling (Percy's "Moviegoer")
    2. Scarlett O'Hara (Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind")
    3. Edward Casaubon (Elliot's "Middlemarch")

    2) . . . you would like to be.

    1. Don Quixote de la Mancha
    2. Coach on NBC's Friday Night Lights
    3. Pretty much any of the Who's in Whoville in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"

    3) . . . who scare you.

    1. most of the characters in Flannery O'Connor's fiction
    2. Uriah Heep (David Copperfield)
    3. Maurice Bendrix (Greene's "End of the Affair")
    By the power invested in me by the state of blogspot and Jeff Miller, I hereby inflict this meme on Half-baked Taters, Soc Engineer, Literary Compass, People of the Book, Darwin Catholic, and the Iconic Catholic.