July 31, 2007


Dispatch interview with architect Michael Cadwell, author of Strange Details:
Q. Should all architects (and architecture students) read poetry?

A: I think we should all read poetry because poetry expands our ability to articulate what was previously inarticulate.

Q: You write in Strange Details, "But enough of associations as if architecture were only a text to be read." What else is architecture besides a text to be read?

A: There are instances when architecture is a kind of text to be read.

When we go into a Catholic church, for example, we know that the Stations of the Cross will be illustrated in some legible fashion. However, if the church is a good one (and the history of architecture abounds with such churches), even someone not acquainted with Catholic iconography may have a spatial experience that suggests a new or heightened awareness of the world.

Architecture, that is, has its own range of powerful effects that may not, finally, be dependent upon other modes of experiencing the world -- even language.

Q: Kahn's work, you say, "triggers, perhaps, wonder." Why "perhaps"? And why do you think we are reluctant to acknowledge that ethereal sensation?

A: Quite understandably, we often resist what we do not know and cannot articulate. Wonder, as I understand Kahn to have used the term late in his life, calls us beyond what we know, and architecture provides us a kind of safe zone to experience wonder.
From an Annie Dillard review:
The Maytrees is about wonder -- in the terms of this novel, life's one truth. It is wonder indeed that is invoked here, vast and elusive and inexhaustible and intimate and timeless.

Something I constantly notice is that unembarrassed joy has become rarer. Joy today is increasingly saddled with moral and ideological burdens, so to speak. When someone rejoices, he is afraid of offending against solidarity with the many people who suffer. I don't have any right to rejoice, people think, in a world where there is so much misery, so much injustice...There is a moral attitude at work here. But this attitude is nonetheless wrong. The loss of joy does not make the world better - and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the impetus and courage to do good. - Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict

I am fascinated by Solanus Casey. And a little disturbed. A Venerable Wisconsinite shifts the onus of personal sanctity back to the rest of us. Oh, saints aren’t only from foreign places in long ago times. Of course, we could also apply the “second bomb on the airplane” rule. You know, what are the chances of two saintly folks from Wisconsin? Tell me it wouldn’t be easier if the spiritual life worked that way. - Ellyn of "Oblique House"

While at dinner on Saturday with everyone who was working on the retreat, [my blog] came up again and a friend asked how much time a day I spend on it...She turned a penetrating gaze on me and said, "Can you make money with it?" I told her that making money wasn't the point... Her attention was claimed by her husband and I turned to Tom. "What is it that makes every other person ask that question ... as if it isn't worth doing otherwise?" "It's the American way," he said. "What's the profit margin?" - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

They are honest people who still admire the effort, seeing the hypocrisy of others who take pride in a landscape they pay somebody else to work on. What they do to make the beer taste good I have no idea. Not much, it looks like...They probably don't drink beer anyway. Too blue collar. Wine and cheese, I imagine. Bottled water. But you wait. They'll need some artery-drano not too far down the road. - William of Apologia on his neighbors

My wife apparently doesn’t have enough to do. Late, late last night, inspired by the EWTN special where Fr. Baker tells a caller not to bring his guitar to the traditional Mass, LeXuan re-wrote the words to Johnny Cash’s immortal “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town”...
A cool young man named Billy Joe
Just loved to play the drums
A boy who thought the liturgy
Was tailor-made just for him
To show off his talent and entertain
He dyed his hair purple
But as he walked out his mother cried
Don’t take your drums to church son.
- Jeff of "Stony Creek Digest" (snagged it anyway, didn't I Jeff?)

I was in a choir, which did ecumenical services, and we opened a song with kazoos rather than the scored trumpets... because "trumpets would have overwhelmed the relatively small space." It was a moment when I recognized there are, indeed, universally recognized liturgical limits. I was very young. But the expressions on those in the congregation were priceless. - Ironic Catholic

If you want a really scary French city, try Toulouse. We had to wait there for several hours coming back from Lourdes, and we decided to go and venerate Thomas Aquinas's relics. The poor guy is buried in a desecrated Gothic church known as the "Convent les Jacobins" (!) which was stolen and gutted during the Revolution and gingerly patched up at a later date. It's pretty much a museum. We crawled under a rope and touched our rosaries to St. Thomas' golden casket, and then prayed for our college. We came back through a boisterous rally for Saddam Husein, which involved a large circle of young Muslim men singing loudly, holding banners, and pumping their fists in the air while all the women in their headscarves stood silently to one side. Oddly enough, I got more crap from boorish males in ten minutes there than I did the whole time I was in Italy. - Meredith of "For Keats' Sake!"

I have fallen quiet of late because I struggle with some facts of faith and life that do not bend to meet my desires. When the arrow of desire is true it pierces the heart of God; but when untrue, it flies like the boomerang to pierce one's own heart--and the rest is silence. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

The rain it raineth every day
Upon the just and the unjust fella
But more upon the just because
The unjust has the just's umbrella. - George Orwell

I told someone struggling with [church] issues once to decrease his internet time, spent reading about and talking about scandal, and go to daily Mass, then hang out with the old guys who'd been in attendance, and were probably going for coffee right before they went to the St. Vincent de Paul center to do some corporal works of mercy. Again, it's not a call to quiescence or ignoring problems. Lord knows, I'm not into that. But in the end, Jesus' call to us to love, spread the Good News, and pour out ourselves in service to the poor. Over and over we see and hear it, and have to answer the question...what did the saints do? - Amy Welborn

The cure is the same for the egotist and the self-loather: stop focusing on the self. It will not help the egotist to stand in front of the mirror saying 1000 times "I am not the center of the world," nor will it help the self-loather to stand in front of the mirror saying 1000 times "I am a person of infinite worth." What they both need is to get out from in front of the mirror! - Alaiyo of "Inscapes"

I was a rebel from the ground up and from the heart out. A loner and still so. It's a good and a bad place to be. I don't take anything on authority from anyone--which can make faith things hard...But God, as good as He is, never relies simply on one method of persuasion, He knows his instruments and plays them as they were made to be played, producing from each the finest music possible and never forcing the music, but coaxing it. - Steven Riddle

But why would grown-up men and women become obsessed by [Harry Potter]? Comfort, I think, is part of the reason. Childhood reading remains potent for most of us. In a recent BBC survey of the top 100 "best reads," more than a quarter were children's books. We like to regress. I know that part of the reason I read Tolkien when I'm ill is that there is an almost total absence of sexuality in his world, which is restful...Ms. Rowling, I think, speaks to an adult generation that hasn't known, and doesn't care about, mystery. They are inhabitants of urban jungles, not of the real wild. They don't have the skills to tell ersatz magic from the real thing, for as children they daily invested the ersatz with what imagination they had...It is the substitution of celebrity for heroism that has fed this phenomenon. And it is the leveling effect of cultural studies, which are as interested in hype and popularity as they are in literary merit, which they don't really believe exists. It's fine to compare the Brontës with bodice-rippers. It's become respectable to read and discuss what Roland Barthes called "consumable" books. There is nothing wrong with this, but it has little to do with the shiver of awe we feel looking through Keats's "magic casements, opening on the foam/Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn." - novelist A S Byatt on "Harry Potter"

I am a great admirer of Rowling’s work, and I’ve always thought that that her skill as a storyteller and world-builder outweighs her literary weaknesses. Reviewing The Half-Blood Prince for NR, I put the pro-Rowling case this way: "… the Potter saga succeeds as few fictions do, and proves, in the process, that there's more to writing than felicitous prose or perfect psychological realism. As with James Fenimore Cooper, or H. P. Lovecraft, or any of the host of novelists whose stories linger long after their stylistic blunderings are forgotten, it's in that mysterious more that Harry Potter's success resides: not in the telling, but in the tale." - Ross Douthat on "Harry Potter"
Old Google Books - Redux

...from 1846 Chronicle of Massachusetts, on the Puritans:
We frankly confess, that, with our present opinions, views, and habits, we much prefer that they should have been our ancestors, to having them for contemporaries. In some respects they were sour and ungenial men. Their taste for an unintermitted and excessive ministration of preaching and prayer was morbid. Life in their households was not relieved by gentle graces, nor by wise relaxations, nor by humane indulgences. They distressed themselves with superstitions. They made a great deal of mischief and unhappiness for each other by intermeddling with consciences and opinions. They doubled by their laws and institutions the number of the sins which may be committed against God and duty. But when the most is made of these just abatements of the high merit of the Puritans, one who has acquainted himself with their memorials and views will readily allow them, and still keep the balance of high esteem and renown upon their side.

* * *

And from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's bloggishly controversial "Table Talk"
SEPTEMBER 28, 1830.
Mental Anarchy.
WHY need we talk of a fiery hell? If the will, which is the law of our nature, were withdrawn from our memory, fancy, understanding, and reason, no other hell could equal, for a spiritual being, what we should then feel, from the anarchy of our powers. It would be conscious madness—a horrid thought!

THERE is the love of the good for the good's sake, and the love of the truth for the truth's sake. I have known many, especially women, love the good for the good's sake ; but very few, indeed, and scarcely one woman, love the truth for the truth's sake. Yet without the latter, the former may become, as it has a thousand times been, the source of persecution of the truth,—the pretext and motive of inquisitorial cruelty and party zealotry. To see clearly that the love of the good and the true is ultimately identical—is given only to those who love both sincerely and without any foreign ends.

Country song hit by Bucky Covington goes:
We were born to mothers who smoked and drank
Our cribs were covered in lead-based paint
No child proof lids no seat belts in cars
Rode bikes with no helmets and still here we are, still here we are
We got daddy's belt when we misbehaved
Had three TV channels you got up to change
No video games and no satellite
All we had were friends and they were outside, playin' outside

* * *

And...What Do Charles Atlas and St. Louis De Monfort Have in Common?


Find out here!

July 30, 2007


Touching tribute to former Xavier University basketball coach Skip Prosser, who dreamed of someday retiring to Ireland and "planting a chair on the green grass above a cliff facing the Atlantic Ocean and reading a good book." And from the "only the good die young" dep't:
A cynic might suggest we shouldn’t be too good in this world, lest we become too needed in the next. Today, he has a point.

Our loss, St. Peter’s gain. Dream well, my friend.
An emailer wrote the author of the piece saying, "You can’t do much about when you die or where you die or how you die. But you can do something about the way people think about you after you are gone." That sentiment always strikes me as odd, this concern for one's legacy. With faith, only God's opinion matters. Without faith, nearly everyone is forgotten in hundred years anyway. (Diderot wrote, "Posterity is to the philosopher what the next world is to the religious man.") As Mother Teresa said in a different context: "You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God."
Overflow from Friday's Google Book Search

Even way back in 1846, there was no golden age:
It is to be feared, that, in the general reverence now paid to intellect, the affections are undervalued, the moral life held in low esteem, the greatness of a pure, true, loving heart depressed far beneath its true place in the regard of society at large. We may trace alarming moral deficiencies in the spirit of our times. Ours is not an age of reverence. Its great men, its strong men, are too often mere Titans, children of the earth, who renew their vigor from their parent soil, and not by converse with a higher sphere of being.

There is too much of self-reliance, too little of faith and trust. Even philanthropy, instead of laying one hand on the eternal throne, and with the other scattering gifts for men, with suicidal madness divorces herself from the altar, and welcomes to her service those that blaspheme as cordially as those that pray. This is an age of skepticism, — not, indeed, of avowed and scoffing infidelity, but of feeble faith in whatever transcends the scope of the individual's own senses and intuitions. Men are too prone, in the pride of intellect, to imagine that they have in their own minds the metes and bounds of eternal truth, and need no teaching from without. There is a prevalent reluctance to receive truth on authority, no matter how venerable, or how distinctly marked by the attestation of Heaven.
* * *
Fiction for a Monday

In August of 1974, just after Nixon resigned, our eldest son Kyle was born. We named him after a local soccer star because we thought the sport would take off in America and wanted to be ahead of the curve. He’d be the first in a huge wave of Kyle’s.

Kyle came out of the womb the independent, methodical sort. We had these vague social engineering plans in hopes that he’d be the next Pele or maybe the next Ken Kesey or Jack Kerouac. Truth is we were generally too stoned to carry them out. We did decorate his crib with peace signs and played Dylan in lieu of lullabies.

I was sort of startled by his independence, having figured kids a blank slate. Three kids later I've come to the conclusion that they have their own minds. Independent cusses. Hard-wired. I thought I was getting an Etcha-Sketch when I was getting a paint-by-number.

Kyle's experience with colic was unfortunate. I’m not sure how long it went on, but it seemed like forever. Screamed his head off. I’m sure it led to his becoming a Republican. The government didn’t come to his aid, so now he’s against the government. I told him that if McGovern had got elected there’d be aid to colic victims but I guess he didn’t believe me. Or maybe he didn’t understand since he was only six months old.

In the playpen he’d entertain himself for hours, playing with each toy for some self-specified length of time before throwing it out. When all toys were out of the playpen, he’d cry. I never gave him any military-complex toys for fear he’d like them, but the way he went through them – slowly and with precision – suggested a Prussian mindset. I predicted a career in the military.

Sure enough, at eighteen he joined the army. Joined! I burned my draft card and he volunteers. Don't that beat all? Kids! They're just naturally rebellious aren't they?

July 29, 2007


Reason like the moon, a consolation in dark times, can guide us with its faint rays through the dusky night. Tis, however, the morning dawn of truth that shows the real world, when the light of the divine sun falls through our twilight.
Weekend in Review

Avoid accidental back-flips off decks onto rock ledges at all costs. It'll hurt. My lower back feels as though half a basketball has been implanted. An intimate familiarity with our own flesh makes any swelling seem like a huge appendage (a typically masculine boast?); perhaps only third trimester pregnant women have protuberances not exaggerated.

Still even seeing is believing since my back makes topographical claims it couldn’t before: where once there were depressions now lay foothills. So my body gets a test of its recuperative abilities while I observe impatiently. On the bright side, I fell near my tail bone and not my head. On the dark side, it wasn’t my buttocks, with their consolation of cushion. Life is like that.

My wife said she wasn't sure whether I’d eventually have to go to the “horse-pital”, her fetching way of defanging the dread word “hospital”. (It's now clear that I won't have to go.) I’m touched by the concern of my in-laws who witnessed the accident. They do know how to family. (It can be a verb you know, like neighbor.)

* * *

Saints on stilts jostle in the humid distance. They lead the way, bigger than life, as the pilgrimage/procession moves in fits in starts so that the saint-bearers can rest or hand off their burden to relievers.

Banners bilge in the breeze while the good Italian folk of the neighborhood appear on lawns posing next to grape vines thick with the generations. (I'm an Irish graft to this Italian parish vine; ever the Gentile and never the Jew!?)

Bingo poobah Jo Marie was there and came over to hug & kiss me. I'm never sure whether these situations call for a lips or a cheek kiss. We played to type: the Irishman goes for the cheek while the warmer-blooded Italian goes for lips. Even a cursory acquaintance with Jo Marie gives lie to the stereotype of women as more given to hysterics; she's ever calm in the midst of storms and in her deep faith differences become muted - Jew & Gentle, man or woman - such as the courageous female saint we honored in the procession who died in the early Roman persecutions.

There's a dynamic to hugs and kisses that I'm not privy to. It seems inappropriate to even hug my 24-year old daughter-in-law though that is the fashion these days. By contrast, kissing my mother-in-law's cheek seems unnecessarily formal. In my cursed reflex to graph, chart and statisticalize what cannot be graphed or charted or stat-ized, I image a chart of affectionate behavior based on age, closeness to that person, sex, relationship, ethnicity (i.e. Irish/Italian), etc.., etc...

* * *

Age makes delinations that youth misses. This is both good and bad; ignorance can be bliss after all. The days shorten now but I saw no difference between July & August as a kid. Length of day means little when you have all day, every day off.

Baseball is married to the sun but has gotten a divorce. Now the great majority of games are the oxymoronic “night games”. My own beloved Cincy Reds were the first team to play under faux lights, to every Reds fans’ everlasting shame. Baseball at night is like sex with a condom – a preversion both in object and aesthetics. Similarly baseball in cold April is an abomination. The baseball season in Ohio is thus shrunk to June and July, since those are the only two months you have consistently warm weather coupled with long sun-filled nights.

Baseball is a handy enough metaphor for the world since both have fallen apart proportionately. Don’t try to tell me the shelving of the Latin Mass isn’t connected, somehow, to the advent of the designated hitter rule.

* * *

My overly analytical nature is perhaps shown by my reaction to Steven Riddle’s assertion that he didn’t like the ending to Kostova’s “The Historian”. And I’m thinking – the ending? That’s like, what, 10% of the book? Does it matter that much? But that shows I’m less plot-oriented than he is.

* * *

Summer is a Byzantine liturgy. A high Mass. Laz, our cat, emerges from the shadows to leap high in the air to deflect his nemesis, a Monarch butterfly, from dancing amid the flowers of a hanging basket. At the same time, in the background, a hummingbird alights and un-alights at the feeder, looking for all the world like an Irish faerie, too magical to be real.

July 27, 2007

July Reverberations

The July 4th weekend was special, manured by time. There was ample opportunity to spelunk deep books under the dapple of the maple. I adjusted my chair under the sun’s direction poignantly because time is poignant by definition because it’s scarce. It's terrible with its zero-sumness: everything we do is a choice that precludes something else.

But those five days were rich in memory! Rains like sons of thunder burst as I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and his rich apocalyptic imagery, even if it felt of déjà vu: a combination of “Cold Mountain” & “Love in the Ruins”.

I remember buying the Norway pines and loading them into the truck bed and snaking down Leap Road just shy of 35mph because Main was closed by the parade. I love the PBS special and the hardcore corniness of the Ameri-vangelist host, in this case 56-year old Tony Danza, who did ridiculous things like try to tap dance on national television. He was so out-of-breath after his dance number that he could scarcely speak but this was live, and live television is like a blog – full of risks but also full of the effervescence of the amateur. I loved it all, loved the show down to its traditional 1812 Overture finale flashing over D.C. skies once light but now poignantly dark. And even after Washington's and our local fireworks had concluded, I heard neighbors putting up their cracklin’ rosies in the four-acre field behind our house...What's not to love?
Waylaid by a Banshee

Oh my. Don't get me started on that Google book search again. I think Bill of Summa Minutiae has in the past, and now Aliens in this World has with this post with the popular songs of Ireland. I continued searching; it's enjoyable to wade through the old print not only because "the past is a foreign country", as well as the political incorrectness, but for the favor and honor God still received, even from secular magazines.

One of the Irish songs is preceded by damning praise, specifically the unemployed and vacant minds riff:
Copied from Captain Rock in London, No. 42, a weekly publication of the year 1825, price twopence.

Gamble, in his "Views of Society and Manners in the North of Ireland," philosophically remarks, that "there seems a natural and instinctive fondness in the inhabitants of damp and mountainous places for ardent spirits; and perhaps everywhere,in vacant and unemployed minds, there is similar fondness; for a love of sensation seems the strongest appetite or passion of our nature."

Air—" The Kinnegad Slashers."
Oh ! merry am I, ever jocund and gay,
If for whisky in plenty my pocket can pay;
If we feel melancholy, and cannot tell why,
Whisky lightens the heart, though it deadens the eye.
From another book we have provincial characteristics with a periodical on "Irish time":
From The Milesian Magazine; or, Irish Monthly Gleaner," edited and, it is believed, entirely written by Dr. John Brenan of Dublin, who has been termed " The Hudibras of Medicine." Nine numbers of this periodical were published between 1812 and 1825. "Its very appearance was as eccentric as the articles it contained. It had a lofty contempt for all periodical punctuality; and, although it styled itself ' Monthly,' not only monthly intervals elapsed between its publications, but sometimes even years themselves were disregarded as ' trifles light as air' in its calendar."

A Connaught man
Gets all that he can,
His impudence never has mist-all;
He'll seldom flatter,
But bully and batter ;
And his talk's of his kin and his pistol.
* * *

From the Bad Predictions Dep't, we have this 1922 gem: Which way goes Germany?
Bavaria is overwhelmingly Monarchist in sentiment already. She is going to have her own king back some day; and if Prussia and the national government do not like it, Prussia and the national government will have to lump it...All Bavarians regularly refer to Berlin as a Sanatall, a word which hardly requires translating.
<- In 1906, the storm clouds of war seemed scattered.


In his admirable poem on Reason, Superstition, and Infidelity, the great Haller says, "Reason like the moon, a consolation in dark times, can guide us with its faint rays through the dusky night. Tis, however, the morning dawn of truth that shows the real world, when the light of the divine sun falls through our twilight."

* * *

No more sea time for this ex-diver:
To be devoured by sharks is one of the last deaths that I should choose. At this distance of time, I do not think of the adventure without a shudder. The sea is still as transparent as on that day, — the sea-shells still as bright, — the graceful bass still pants, as he glides doubtingly by,— but these things tempt me not to renew my sport... Who can endure the thought of being sepulchred in the ' maw and gulf of the ravening salt-sea shark' ? Not I!
* * *
The 1913 Flood in Ohio prompted this cartoon:

Spain from Ohio

Did a bit of armchair travel via the Spanish blogger Compostela, appropriate given how the feast of the Apostle was two days ago. The apostle, in Spain, is of course St. James and understandably so.

James was certainly one of the "big three", along with Peter & John. From Word Among Us:
James was a close companion of Jesus. Along with his brother John and Peter, he was chosen to witness the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37-42), Jesus’ transfiguration Matthew 17:1-8), and his agony in the garden (26:37-38). James even had a nickname given him by Jesus—Son of Thunder (Mark 3:17). Evidently, he was impetuous and hot-tempered, but he was also chosen to be a living witness to Jesus’ glory and to his suffering. No doubt about it, James was special among Jesus’ intimate disciples.
It's odd, in a way, that he was so quickly martyred, as if his mission was abruptly ended and unfinished. But that is foolishness since God has a plan and all things go according to it. Perhaps the plan was this "son of thunder", this apostle who seems to be the epitome of courage and strength, would help the other apostles to accept their own martrydoms.

So from the sacred to the secular: the blogger at Compostela went to a Cuban hip-hop concert and I You-Tubed the band and they sound very Latin with a hint of hip-hop. Certainly "Cuban hip-hop" is accurate. As much as I dislike crowds this certainly is a relatively handsome one:

(That's here for Hambone.)

One babelfishian translation has it: "Yotuel assured that 'we have many desire to be here, and to make a great loaded show of hip hop Cuban, sauce and rumba. It is going to be a great celebration, and will last until the public endurance.'" Until the public endurance was been exhausted indeed.

Another Spanish blogger connects Santiago with the very heart of Spain. The meaning can be plainly understood even through the refracturing rays of Babelfish:
"Santiago and closes, Spain": if we are going to finish with this old nation, it will remain the last one to extinguish the light and to close well of portazo.
Another "What Went Wrong" Book

Darwin Catholic reviews F. Sheed's The Church & I:
What [Sheed] found was that all too often even the priests and nuns tasked with teaching the laity were not able to deal well with questions that went beyond the memorized questions and answers in their catechisms. This was not, he said, through any lack of faith (far from it...) but rather through a defensive posture which the Church had taken in much of Europe since the Reformation, emphasizing memorization over argumentation and discipline over education.

One of the examples of the kind of "beyond the catechism" questions that Sheed would pose is as follows:
Sheed: "Does the pope need to go to confession?"
Other: "Yes, of course. The pope must go to confession regularly to receive forgiveness for his sins."
Sheed: "But if the priest's authority comes from the bishop, and the bishop's authority comes from the pope, who has the authority to forgive the pope?"

The answer, of course, is: Christ. And since our sins are forgiven through the power of Christ by the priest who acts in persona Christi, any priest can grant the pope absolution. People knew this, Sheed says, in their hearts. They understood that the pope needed and received absolution. But far too often questions like this would stump not only Catholic school children, but also the nuns and priests who taught them, because they weren't used to thinking about what they believed meant.

July 26, 2007

History Repeats

Reading Bob Novak's book, one gets the sense of how there's nothing new under the sun.

Just as the current feckless crop of Democrat presidential candidates are pandering to the hateniks at the Daily Kos convention, back before the '72 election Ed Muskie was sanguine about associating with self-described Trotskites. Novak wrote,
In their rising antiwar sentiment, Muskie and other prominent Democrats are determined to back any non-violent peace demonstration.
A couple weeks ago Peggy Noonan wrote of how George W. Bush seemed a bit too jocular considering the dire state of the war and his presidency. Novak wrote in 1969:
We continue to note a strange contrast between the President's apparent state of euphoria and specific difficult problems - Vietnam, the economy, the tax bill - that are piling up.
On Vietnam, the great patriot John Paul Vann (who once said, "This is a political war and it calls for discrimination in killing. The best weapon for killing would be a knife, but I'm afraid we can't do it that way. The worst is an airplane. The next worst is artillery. Barring a knife, the best is a rifle -- you know who you're killing.") also sounds a note of deja vu:
The South Vietnamese troops must take over from the Americans not when they are ready, but ready or not. Otherwise the South Vietnamese will never be ready.
NY Observer Piece on Bob Novak
It’s difficult to tell whether or how Mr. Novak’s "Prince of Darkness” image will be affected by his tendency to point to the “inner peace” that has followed his late-life conversion from non-practicing Jew to Catholic. But even Mr. Novak’s spiritual quests have been controversial in some quarters.

“I think Deb Solomon (his interviewer for today's Times Magazine) was really bothered by this – it was how she asked me about it, and kept coming back to it," he said. "I’m used to that kind of reaction. A lot of people resent my confession, especially Jews and fallen-away Catholics. It really makes them crazy … even though, yes, I still consider myself Jewish. Socially, ethnically, culturally. That will never change.”

According to a throwaway line late in his book, Jews displeased with his religious evolution include many members of his own family.

That minor personal controversy is a pale echo of the raging professional drama that has accompanied Mr. Novak for decades.

“... I have been a stirrer up of strife – for half a century,” he writes in Prince of Darkness. “But I was not merely causing trouble for trouble’s sake.

"I’d like to think I emulated Bertrans de Born in stirring up strife but not in wreaking havoc," he writes a little later, referring to a medieval monk and schismatic, "so that I will avoid an eternity in purgatory with my head in my hand.

"At least I hope so.”
A Public Service Announcement on Binge Reading

Each year, millions of Americans fall prey to the scourge of "binge reading". It happens to people of every race, color, creed, nationality, ethnicity, and political persuasion. The scene is repeated from the rocky coast of Maine to San Francisco Bay: bibliophiles slumped over, pathetically pooled in their own spittle, drunk on words with eyes glazed as donuts after reading for seven straight hours.

Binge reading is a self-destructive and unrestrained reading bout during which time the heavily intoxicated reader "drops out" by not working, ignoring responsibilities, and engaging in other harmful behaviors. Many define binge reading as five continuous hours of reading over the course of an evening.

According to the editor of the Journal of Studies on Reading, binge reading describes an extended period during which a person repeatedly reads and gives up his or her usual activities and obligations in order to read. It is the combination of prolonged use and the giving up of usual activities that forms the core of the clinical definition of binge reading.

A dearth of reading can result in BO ('book overdose') when sufficient reading time has been found. If not fed and fertilized by a daily 40 to 60 minutes of reading, the subject will begin to act out in socially pathological ways such as reading advertising billboards on the drive to work, reading the fine print of legal documents that the sane do not read before signing or, for those in the final stages, RDS ("reading during sex").

Don't let this happen to you. Stay current with your reading habit. Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.

(This message brought to you by the Miami Valley Reading Council.)
Pope: Creation versus Evolution an 'Absurdity'

I'm not an expert on evolution, macro or micro or in between, but I would not be surprised nor disappointed to learn that man was descended from apes. Both have the same Creator and Father. The human soul is the critical difference between humans and animals, not DNA. The evolution debate seemed more important to me a half dozen or more years ago.

One problem is understanding how death and disease could've existed before Adam's sin. I'm guessing this was caused by the angels' fall rather than man's. To be honest, nothing much makes sense to me except Christ. He really is the answer.

July 25, 2007

Billy Graham's 1949 Re-Preaching of Jonathon Edwards' "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God"

Dr. Ken Minkema compares Graham's sermon to Edwards' original

Minkema says Graham's interpolations made it more Arministic, not Calvinistic. Backed away from notions of God's arbitrariness and emphasized mercy. Christ not mentioned until page 9 or 10 in Edwards' sermon, while Graham mentions Jesus almost immediately.

Could it be preached today?

......found here, via Deep Furrows

July 24, 2007

Live-Blogging Bill's Blog Post

In particular, this Bill Luse post, (all times that follow approximate):

11:31:55 am: Pizza. Yum. Nectar of the gods. The perfect blend of carbs & protein, of bread, meat and dairy. In Heaven there is no beer but I hope there's pizza.

11:32:03 am: I've heard of the "headless horsemen"; now we have the "headless mowerman"!

11:32:48 am: My take on beer is that it's taste is not especially dependent on a great amount of set-up effort.

11:32:55 am: Artery-drano! Inspired. Another for STG.

11:33:01 am: Light in August is one of many I'd wished they'd made us read in high school since there is no chance of ever reading it post-high school. I knew a local country singer, mainly just weddings, who said proudly that country music was getting respectable these days (this was back in the early '90s) and as proof quoted lines from Pam Tillis's hit "Maybe it was Memphis":
Read about you in a Faulkner novel
Met you once in a Williams play
Heard about you in a country love song
Summer nights beauty took my breath away...
11:33:08 am: This is very artistic. The framing juxtaposition of Bern's legs match the dog's similarly color'd coat. I propose selling it to the art museum for not less than $20,000.

11:33:50 am: Cedar has the ears of ten dogs. If I was a female chihuahua I'd be impressed.

11:34:15 am: Would the previous sentence of the previous sentence please stand up?

11:34:28 am: It certainly is a visual world. Just ask those female lizards.

11:35:12 am: Wow. Glad the van driver was ok.

11:35:22 am: Michael Vick has a sorta Dickensian name. Not the Michael part, but Vick. Like ick.

11:36:49 am: This all began so disarmingly, with a busted mower. Lest we forget this is a vale of tears.

The day before the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops voted to confirm the church’s first openly gay bishop in the late summer of 2003, conservative humor website ScrappleFace satirized the move with a piece entitled "Episcopal Church Appoints First Openly-Muslim Bishop". It was a fine example of reductio ad absurdum humor: If the Episcopal Church sacrificed a long-held moral doctrine, would it next have a bishop of another faith? The point worked as humor, but would not work as argument precisely because the possibility seemed absurd. Yet less than four years later, the Episcopal Church has been faced (albeit briefly) with its first openly Muslim priest. - from "First Things" via Terrence Berres; parody ain't easy

From the little I've read of [Jane] Austen, she seems to have an acute eye, not deceived by genteel appearances anymore than O'Connor was by the rustic. - Deep Furrows

It was an incredible day today in DC, not too hot, and the evening was almost more than my soul could handle. It was simply beautiful. The Nats game yesterday kind of set me on a train of thought that I haven't been able to shake, as it was over around 7pm, and you could already tell the daylight was spent. Now, growing up in Southwest Ohio, you could always count on daylight until well into the ninth hour of an evening - ten during the sun-drenched days of late June - but here, on July 21, the evening was already night by 8pm. Sure there was some daylight left, but it wasn't the same, it wasn't a summer day's light. - blogger at "The Church of Baseball"

Even the noted Johannine scholar Raymond E. Brown said he'd be happy if sixty percent of his reconstruction were ultimately found to be correct. - J. A. T. Robinson

It is a commonplace spiritual error: to invest one's ego in one's opinions, with the result that disagreement is always experienced as disrespect. - commenter at Disputations

We’ve got tomatoes and zucchini piling up everywhere. We’ve had zucchini bread for breakfast every morning for the last three weeks. LeXuan has made tons of salsa from our tomatoes. We had a good crop of peas and beans this season, but the vines are now withering. Our watermelon crop is about a month away. Dinner tonight included zucchini and goat cheese (zucchini casserole), wild blackberries from the pasture (blackberry pie), and fresh goat milk. - Jeff of "Stony Creek"; blackberry pie...yum...(say like Homer)

My cup runneth over
With debts and big bills.
My cup runneth over…
Insurmountable hills.
My cup runneth over
With worries and fear –
Dear Lord, no more cups -
Just a cold mug of beer! - Longskirts, via Jim Curley

As more and more of us give away our freedom and very ability to make decisions-based on our self-imposed ignorance, there must be pockets of people who can do things on their own and make decisions on their own...it is not about individualism-it is more about community and guaranteeing the preservation of true Christian community. I.e.: you can go to a movie or you and your friends can put on a play yourselves. You can go to a concert, watch music videos etc.-or groups of friends and families can gather and sing together, and certainly pray together. - Jim of "Bethune Catholic"

We went to the local Borders on [Harry Potter] release night to get some snapshots of my costumed stepdaughter doing face-painting. Such a festival. Dress robes, shirts with "Property of Muggle University", a spelling bee ("no, I'm sorry, A-s-h-c-a-b-a-n is not correct"), and my favorite, a gray-haired grandmotherly woman carrying a large flowerpot with a plush Mandrake peeking out of the top. I felt sorry for anyone who had said to himself, "Hmm, I'm in the mood for a quiet cappuchino down at Borders' coffeeshop this evening." - Roz of "In Dwelling"

Flannery O'Connor didn't reject the world she lived in for any utopia. She was no activist and didn't write to propagandize for social change. She wasn't neutral either, but viewed issues within the big picture of sin, knowing herself to be a part of this sinful world and incapable of moral or any other sort of self-sufficiency. As she wrote on 25 April 1959, to Maryat Lee, "I observe the traditions of the society I feed on - it's only fair" (Habit of Being, p 329). - Deep Furrows
Cures 'R Here

Fr. Corbett, one of my favorite Dominican priests, recently talked about the Scripture passage where Jesus said that we should not worry about what we are to say to the pagans, that the Spirit will tell us what to say. But he confessed that when he's confronted at a party or on the street by an atheist or agnostic he doesn't suddenly say something brilliant under the inspiration of the Spirit. He said that it's more subtle than that, that we are bringing them Christ even if we're unaware of it. (I'm paraphrasing from memory; he said more. Obviously I'd like to be able to remember it more accurately.)

At my wife's local non-denominational church, by contrast, the pastor is getting quite specific messages from God, such as that someone's shoulder is aching. It's quite a difference isn't it? One can't argue with the (empirical) results. She told me that a geologist, an unbeliever who heretofore had seen religion as fanciful and trusted only in the empirical, sheepishly came up and said that it must be him - and then he was cured (he said: "the pastor's hand felt like a hot iron"). Since then he has become a dedicated Christian. (I felt a bit melancholy, despite the happy ending, as these stories obviously give my wife no reason to come home to the Catholic Church. But I must remind myself that what unites us - our common life in Christ - is far greater than what divides us.)

The daily miracle is the changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. It's something that that not only can't be proven, but can't even been seen or felt, as a shoulder no longer hurting is felt. In this way I think it's perfectly in tune with how I experience God - that he wants me closer to Him than I am to ourselves, and yet he wants to build faith. Because he wants to build faith and not merely empirical knowledge of him, he wants us to exercise faith and that requires not wonderous signs but reliance on the simple testimony of his word. When I receive Communion, I see so clearly why Jesus said, "Unless ye become as little children..." because you have to be childlike to accept that this bit of bread as the Creator of the World.

It's never been my custom to go to Mass on Mondays. And yet yesterday I felt the need to go. (The Spirit?). And lo & behold the sermon happened to be about the desire for a sign. Jesus said they would not be given a sign. This was a sermon I was hungry for.

Miracles performed here daily....

The preacher (a different Dominican) said that we cannot base our faith on any miracle other than the Resurrection. That's not to deny that miracles happen in our age. But he mentioned another church in Columbus with a digital ticker-tape-like marquee ("like a Times Square sign") that mentioned all the miracles that had been accomplished there over the past month or two. A way of advertising. He said if the Catholic Church had such a sign the only thing that should scroll over and over is: "Christ is risen!....Christ is risen!...".

Stunning images from the 1962 Missal here at Catholic Tradition. Beautiful. Sometimes I think I'd like to have a blog like that, or like Recta Ratio.

Curious about what St. Padre Pio thought of the Tridentine Mass v. the Novus Ordo, I found this passage from Ruffin's biography:
Padre Pio accepted humbly the changes that came as a result of the Council. Like many elderly priests, he requested and received a dispensation to continue to celebrate the Tridentine Latin Mass. He did occasionally attend a Mass in the vernacular but made no comment whatsoever about it. What saddened him immeasurably was the attitude of dissent and unbelief that seemed rife within the Church.
I'd not known that he was consulted so heavily during the Second Vatican Council: In 1964 Mary Pyle wrote her friend Coletta Kehoe, "So many Bishops from the ecumenical council come up to see Padre Pio that sometimes it seems that the Council is at San Giovanni Rotondo."

* * *

Pray for Steven: Silence is usually golden, but I suspected in Steven Riddle's case it was not a good thing. And it's not. As a fellow over-reactor to crises, I can sympathize with his situation. And I certainly don't know that he's overreacting; that's the word he used.

* * *

Reds win in 11

Bases torched
with three live wicks
bottom of eleven
pitcher's in a fix.

Ball in the glove,
he sets his sights,
no chance for escape
by anybody's lights.

That lonely mound
'mid the mess he'd made
how from the trap
must the debt be paid?

"Don't throw the ball!"
I want to say
bad things will happen
for your walks you'll pay!

Why this feeling,
for the opposing squad
when it's my Reds runners
more worthy of laud?

July 23, 2007

This book...

Perfect Spy, looks interesting:
Pham Xuan An was a Vietnamese nationalist and member of Ho Chi Minh's army in the 1950s. Knowing that war with the United States was inevitable, the Party sent An to America to study journalism (for his cover) and observe its people and culture. He attended community college in California, worked for the Sacramento Bee and traveled across the country making friends.

Back in Saigon he worked as a reporter for Reuters and Time in the early 60s. He befriended numerous British and American journalists, including David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan and Stanley Karnow who came to regard him as a friend and trusted source. Meanwhile, he was providing intelligence to Hanoi; his early reports were so accurate that a general joked "we are now in the US war room." For twenty years An lived a lie and no one knew because he was so good at his day job, which was interwoven with his assignment in espionage.

Several years after the war, the new Vietnamese Communist government revealed that An had been one of its most effective spies. He was publicly awarded six medals and named a "Hero of the People's Army" – one of only two intelligence officers during the war ever promoted to the rank of General and Hero. But An's disaffection with the new government's treatment of their southern countrymen and his close friendships with Americans made him suspicious in the eyes of the Communist government. He was soon placed under housed arrest and to this day he is banned from leaving the country.
Various & Sundry

Been reading more of Designed to Fail. Kellmeyer disses Germans - especially the Prussians - for our education woes (both secular and catechistic). Isn't that like O'Malley criticizing the drink?

I’m generally allergic to blaming others for one’s problems because, as a conservative, I believe in personal responsibility. But I’m thinking that approach can be a bit too individualistic and gives short shrift to the corporate nature of this thing we call life. But puh-lease, don't try that at home. Anyway, here's an excerpt:
Religious orders have their own regulations and formation processes, their own discipline systems...It is useful at this point to remember that the only order in the two-thousand-year history of the Church that has not required reform at some point is the Carthusians...Monastic orders have historically had their share of problems, but they tend to eliminate many of these problems by intentionally limiting contact wit the secular world. These orders do not seek out secular formation. Religious teaching orders have not this luxury.

In effect, with the formation of the compulsory parochial school system, the bishops had created a double-edged sword. The system would not only allow doctrine to be efficiently disseminated, it would also allow heresy to sweep unchecked through their flocks if, or more likely when, the religious teaching orders became heterodox. Furthermore, these religious taught children, that segment of the population that is least able to resist the blandishments of error and heresy. (For it is true, as Leo XIII has wisely pointed out, that without proper religious and moral instruction 'every form of intellectual culture will be injurious; for young people not accustomed to respect God, will be unable to bear the restraint of a virtuous life, and never having learned to deny themselves anything, they will easily be incited to disturb the public order.")
* * *

Church Hold Release Party for...Harry Potter or The Maytrees?

And you have to laugh at this parody title: "Journalists Confuse Latino Mass for Latin Mass: English-Speakers Utterly Confused" here.

* * *

I cringed a bit when I saw Don gave me one of these think awards, since I see my genre in the blogworld, my strength as it were, to be bingo noir posts. (Example here.) But as for my nominations, I'll go with Disputations, Zippy, Mr. Luse, Compostela, Deep Furrows, Plumbline in the Wind.

* * *

Aliens in this World shoots & scores with a couple of nostalgic posts, including this one to assuage the Brennamaniacs among us.

She also mentions the return of ISIS on DVD. Isis was the classier version of Wonder Woman, who was always falling out of her uniform. She's the Dana Delaney (girl next door) of the woman superhero world: more Mary Ann, less Ginger.

I'm sure the show wouldn't hold up now well, and nostalgia alone isn't enough for me to fork over $26. (Speaking of nostalgia, what happened to all those Bugs Bunny classics? There's a hundred channels but not much in the way of Warner Bros cartoons. Of course, the scarcity principle being what it is, I'd probably not be wanting to see ol' Bugsy if he was on as often, as say, the Flintstones.)
Lost Memories

Sign of Clann na nGael
she had hair of fiery red,
but flavorless be the taste
of entries American bred.

I read the Olde Sod blog
for evidences seeming gone
for traces of Eire wan
for oisin in place of fawn.

She posted much about Lost
Like all the modern-somethings do
I read for a glimmer or grasp
That word seemed an excellent clue.

July 21, 2007

Simply the Best

More Hall o’ Fame weather today, freakishly good weather. We’re not worthy. Technically we’re in what’s called a “moderate drought”, weatherese for “you’ve had a freakishly good weather lately haven't you?”. Sure I’ll be willing to pay a few extra pennies for vegetables at the market – in the unlikely event I should start eating vegetables.

Saul Bellow wrote in Ravelstein,
“The gloss the sun puts on the surroundings – the triumph of life, so to speak, the flourishing of everything makes me despair. I’ll never be able to keep up with all the massed hours of life triumphant.”
Best answer I have for Saul, who is hopefully now in the Church Triumphant, is from yesterday's responsorial Psalm:
“How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the LORD.”
Cup, even with its dualistic meanings.

July, she passes so quickly. I keep her heirlooms on the wall, souvenirs called ‘calendars’, posted at various places at home and office so as to remember her by, to cherish her even in her fleetingness.

She volleys with fair maiden June for most beautiful of the twelve and though opinions vary widely, July, being the latter month, is honored for holding the forces of cruel Autumn at bay. June has nothing to fear in July but July does August with its back-to-schoolness, and under July’s veil the fireflies still light, leaves do not fall, and goldfinches glitter. The sun holds fort over us, camped at long intervals like McClellan’s army in the early years of the war. There is the consolation of stability, of safety.

Even on work days her long fingers extend into the night, making strong the eight pm light. She crystals through trees, past bushes, and finds her way even into the soil, which mirrors her softness and warmness when touched.

July holds no quarter to June in length of days or fulsomeness of sun. She is full of picnics and ice cream and fireworks and canoe rides and Shakespearian plays in the park. July is the home of the All-Star game, the fat part of the plate, of tomato plants so voluminous and green that they burst their cages just before delivering newly ripened fruit. She promises bike rides festooned with old songs, sunsets heroic with color, lunches made special by the setting. July has only four letters so as to prevent us from taking up time to pronounce her name: she would rather we be outside enjoying her.

July 20, 2007

New Yorker Short Story

...about faith and Ireland from William Trevor.
Requiem for a Stranger

Lost in the sudden death of a floret classical, still-born in the bloom of youth. A feminist yes, full of burnt-over bitterness at the unfairness of being the fairer sex, but the second-hand smoke of her intellectual voracity was affecting. Could she not make even the mediocre aspire? And cause this one to re-examine his prejudices?

Her Berkeley eyes were preternaturally alive as if suspecting an untimely demise - they were the eyes of cousin Tricia, though she be Irish to her Scottish. She left a blog, something at once too mundane and too intimate to be read by strangers after her death. Writings from a soul-in-progress are somehow easier to take than writings post-mortem.

It would be honest that her death would be through no fault of her own; she was far too competent for that, too Cary Grant for such a Larry-Curly-Moe end. Nay, she was a spectator when a car threw its track, a victim, in a twist of fate, of an aged white male, one of those whom she both studied and fought, loved and hated. But that is to suggest the story has ended when it has just begun. May she rest in peace.
A Post for Ale Friday

This post from Irish Elk cracked me up:

"The poster at YouTube writes: 'A drunkard redeems himself by making a great sacrifice for the woman he loves...It's probably one of the saddest movies I've ever seen.' Indeed."


The Quarterly Catholic Blog Search Face Off: Sin Edition

(This is a quarterly feature in which we compare the popularity of various topics in the Catholic blogosphere via this search engine):

Topic / # of hits

Sex = 1,502
Alcohol = 224
Rock 'n Roll (and variants) = 29
News You Might Be Able to Use

It's rare that I get an email requesting a plug of a website and then two days later get a resend of it, requesting a reply. That's what is known colloquially as cojones. I thought the etiquette of the 'Net was that non-personalized emails, such that have obviously been sent out in form-letter fashion, need not be replied to individually. Heck, not even individually sent emails can all be responded to by someone like Jonah Goldberg of "The Corner". But, there is this...
And he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,' and he says in reply from within, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.' I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence. - Luke 11:5-8
...so I'll reward his persistence (to the extent 'reward' is descriptive given my modest readership).

Personally I get way more Catholic news than I need due to surfing Catlick blogs and I'm rarely improved, amused, or edified by it. I need less news and more lits: liturgy and literature. Most readers of this blog no doubt get a surfeit of news too.

But for those who don't, there's an online page of all the Catholic-related news stories at Pewsitter.com. (Was that a good plug?)

On their little internet TV show, Jonah Goldberg says the following to liberal Peter Beinart concerning libertarianism, and it strikes me as very true:
Everyone is libertarian about something. You're libertarian about homosexuality and about free speech. I'm libertarian about economics, and about smoking. But neither you nor I are libertarians. People are libertarian about those things that they don't want the government involved in and are statists about those things they do want the government involved in. The reality is that there is no libertarian center - there are very, very, very few consistent libertarians in the world.
* * *

Many liberals tend to lack a sense of humor because when you depend on gov't to solve yours and other people's problems you're going to be disappointed a lot. But I have to say that I actually saw a pro-Democrat bumper-sticker that wasn't banal or hateful but actually amusing. It said: "Democrats are sexy...ever heard of a nice piece of elephant?"

* * *

My uncle was cleaning out his attic when he made a discovery - a picture of his uncle taken around 1908. It's the sort of find that a family historian like myself longs for (years ago, in a mix of altruism and narcissism, I hid my self-published book in our attic) and my uncle gave me the large, ornately framed picture. It feels a bit odd to have the photo of a family member I never met (he died in 1950) hanging in the bookroom. Don't know if I'll keep it, but here's the pic:

They really took boy hairdos seriously back then.

* * *

For you more evolved types, is this a crude stepladder of growth?: 1) Immaturity 2) Mature, but impatience with others' immaturity 3) Mature, but with patience towards others' immaturity.

* * *

Blame this whine on Jim Curley's post yesterday in which he said:
...We have a society and government which is very utilitarian with respect to its citizenry. And it will get even more so as we help it along by our living, spending, and voting habits. And then it we won't be much different from the quote above. Already corporations view their employees (no matter how educated or talented) as tools-which are replaceable.
There's a notoriously arrogant manager where I work. My boss is his peer in practice if not theory. So when I recently had to deal with Mr. Arrogant I mentioned something to my boss along the lines of, "he looks at us like interchangeable monkeys". And my boss said something like, "well, we are all replaceable."

"Interchangeable monkeys" was a catch phrase for us plebes back in the late '90s. We thought of it as a joke. For some reason I thought my boss would be taken aback by the term, thinking it a bit strong. But I guess interchangeable is now a synonym for replaceable. At least we ain't monkeys!

* * *

On the cusp of being a Gen-X'r, I've wanted to error on that side since the baby boomer generation is so obnoxious. But now I learn of a generation between the two that I'm actually a part of: Generation Jones. Late Generation Jones that is. As this UK dude writes:
But I’ve always belonged to that group of people who seem to miss the boat when it comes to a new generational wave...I was too young/ too old/ too middle-class/ too heterosexual/ too poor or too rich to join in the fun.

Such a wide age band strikes me as a little suspect. Peter York, the man who helped identify the Sloane Rangers and runs the market research company RSU, agrees. “The idea that you can define a whole group within such a wide age band is ludicrous.”

Someone like me who was born in 1954 would have been 13 in 1967 — the year the Beatles released Sgt Pepper. On the television was Alf Garnett in Till Death Us Do Part and on the news was the war in Vietnam. The big event that year was the Woburn music festival, featuring Jimi Hendrix. I had hair down to my shoulders and more drugs in my head than the local branch of Boots.

But someone born in 1965 would be 13 in 1978. By then the Beatles were just a memory and the Sex Pistols were on the verge of breaking up. The Bee Gees were top of the charts and the typical teenager was watching the Muppets and The Sweeney.

July 19, 2007

Parody is Therapy updated...

July 18, 2007

More Candor, Less Pun

Could the most underrated American writer on Catholicism be Steve Kellmeyer? Certainly his book sales aren't close to what they should be. I'd hardly heard of him before a couple months ago and yet Peter Kreeft called his book Sex and the Sacred City, an explanation of Pope John Paul's theology of the body, "one of the best books of 2005". Fr. John McCloskey blurbs Kellmeyer's current book concerning American Catholic education Designed to Fail: "Rarely have I seen such indisputable truths packed in so few pages..."

Being a sucker for "what went wrong" books, I haven't read a book in that category this good since Meehan's Two Towers, and Kellmeyer is a much clearer writer.

Remember the story about the Jewish boy who was inadvertently baptized and subsequently raised by Pope Pius IX? There is something very refreshing about the premium put on spritual matters in radical 19th century Catholicism, and how a Pope might sacrifice his temporal kingdom for the spiritual well-being of one child. At that time, Christians in Italy could not live with non-Christians, partly for fear that something like what happened might take place:
On the evening of June 24, 1858, Momolo and Marianna Mortara opened their door to find the police chief and several deputies waiting outside. The chief announced he had been ordered to take their son, Edgardo, away.

A few years before, the Mortara family had violated state law by employing a teenaged Catholic girl, Anna Morisi, as a maid. When, at the age of sixteen months, Edgardo fell ill with neuritis and exhibited a high fever, the parents became gravely concerned and asked their rabbi and their friends to pray for his recovery. The young Catholic girl, seeing the boy's illness, afraid that the boy would die unbaptized and go to hell, secretly baptized him, but told no one. When he recovered, she realized the terrible situation she had created.

Every baptized person has a right to be taught the Catholic Faith, but the boy's Jewish parents, who knew nothing of the baptism, were certainly not going to do this...A priest was told of Edgardo's situation and the priest notified the bishop. State law forbad a Christian child to be raised by non-Christian parents. The bishop passed the problem onto the Curia, and Pius IX ordered the child to be taken to Rome for a Christian upbringing.

As a result, Edgardo was removed from his family by the police and sent to live in Rome. Pope Pius IX, realizing that he bore responsibility for the child's situation, became the adoptive father...Despite the resulting storm of international protest demanding that he send Edgardo back to his parents, the Pope stood firm.

International outcry over the event continued to build. By 1870, in part as a result of Edgardo's transfer to Rome, the Papal States were, in fact, invaded and papal holdings on the Italian peninsula were reduced to Vatican City.

Reports on Edgardo's disposition varied tremendously according to who told the tale. Catholic sources insisted he was happy in Rome. The family, who had regular supervised visits with Edgardo, insisted he hated it there. Edgardo's own testimony as an adult agrees with the Catholic version of events. As the first witness in Pope Pius IX's beatification process, Edgardo explicitly stated that he clearly recalls the events and he felt no desire to return to his family - a reaction he himself explained as a result of supernatural grace. When given the opportunity as an adolescent to stay with his family, he did so for only a month, then returned to Rome and Pius IX...He had a vocation to the priesthood and pursued it. Upon ordination, he took the name Pio, after his adoptive father, and his parents became reconciled to the situation.

This episode may seem offensive to modern sensibilities. That's simply because we aren't used to granting spiritual issues any value. Consider, for instance, a young boy whose parents are Christian Scientists. If the boy grew seriously ill and the parents refused medical treatment, most would agree that government authorities have the right to intervene, the right to hold and treat the child apart from the parents until he had been restored to health.

The Pope, though not personally responsible for the child's baptism, recognized the responsibility the baptism imposed on him and unflinchingly accepted every consequence, up to and including the loss of a secular kingdom.

- from Steve Kellmeyer's "Designed to Fail"
A Full Half-Day

<-- Sights of Oregonia include these waterwheel-thingies

Took a half-day off for the annual marathon bike ride. After a long car ride to get to our starting point - the wee townlet of Oregonia, Ohio - I corralled the black pony in the parking lot of a quaint white church, a parking lot so small as to make my vehicle look unnecessarily suspicious. I stopped at the local gen'l store and saw a thick "history of Oregonia" which otherwise I might've thought an oxymoron.

Across the street under the cover of trees lay the inviting bike path, a long ribbon of asphalt that winds through a forest almost primeval (if you squint your eyes you can't tell the diff) interspersed with the occasional soybean field. There was the threat of a storm - "scattered" they called it, and it was scattered enough for us to dodge it. The early coolness was a false start as soon the humidity picked up.

We rode (till we couldn't rode no mo'!) until we came to the small town of Spring Valley, which looks a bit worse for the wear these days. Just as many people stratch up wood furniture in order to give it the panache of authenticity known as the "distressed" look, so too did this town sprinkle about itself old buildings with peeling white paint and missing shutters. It gave it a sort of Savannah-feel without the creepy, draping Spanish moss.

We had a guilt-free snack at the ice cream parlor and then, revived, we headed back the way we came and it's funny how the trip back seems shorter than the trip there. The sterling green leaves left their mark on our subconsciousness, if not our consciousness, because we spent most of it talking and/or listening.

After the ride, I called my brother to scout the situation for the night. I was following my fellow bikers to Cincy in the car: "Why didn't Mark take Bypass 4?" Doug asked, incredulous. I said "I guess that's why they call it 'bypass four' - you bypass it." Doug said it was going to take a while to get home. Presumably because we took no highways or bypasses. Call it the scenic route and also call us late for dinner. My unfamiliarity with the area was our downfall.

With the minutes fatally ticking away, I called Doug again as we reached the point of a final go/no-go decision regarding the 7:05 showing of "Die Hard #23". (I think it's number 23.) Even building in the wasted ten to fifteen minutes for commercials of other films, we were looking at a new all-time stretch for movie risk-taking. For that reason alone I thought we should go for it. It was like an action flick: armed only with a cell phone, lead foot, and a bad sense of direction, could I actually arrive at the theatre close to on time? The answer was yes, although fish and a leisurely dinner with Mom & Dad were sacrificed.

"Die Hard" is not ill-named and I have to give them credit for accuracy in titling. Bruce Willis coulda/shoulda/woulda been dead about as often as the Reds pitching staff has failed us this season. On paper (or on blog) the movie won't seem nearly as interesting or exciting as it did in person. Some of the cartoon-like moments included Bruce taking out a helicopter with his car because he didn't have any bullets. (He sent that bad boy up a ramp out of a tunnel and into the air like a bottle rocket (after bailing out of course)). Even more impressively, he fended off a F-16 fighter jet with only a tractor trailer. At the end (spoiler alert!) he shot himself in the shoulder so that the bullet would go through him and kill the bad guy who was holding him. Nice if it works, but don't try that at home.

If you go

Oregonia, Ohio:

A ride around central Oregonia offers the visitor a variety of activities.

• The Oregonia Maritime Museum, 243 Washington St., offers cruises of the Little Miami River through Oct. 8. Call 513-555-1316 for reservations.

• Buckeye Alley State Park is perfect for flying a kite. Call 513-555-9125 for up-to-the-minute wind velocities.

• Oregonia City Park is a great place to study water mills in their natural habitat. Call 513-555-2303 or visit www.oregoniarules.com.
Lazarus Come Forth: Are You the Beloved?
As I left, the poet [Ezra Pound] asked me: "Young man, do you intend to spend your entire life in journalism?" I replied that I did. "Well, then," Pound told me, "in that case, I have a piece of advice for you. Above all, avoid too much accuracy."

As I related that advice to colleagues, they said it validated Pound's insanity. He could have meant the truth would get me in the kind of trouble he had faced. But I thought he was saying I should not let a plethora of little facts get in the way of the greater truth.

- Robert D. Novak, The Prince of Darkness
Tis easy, at times to be irritated by the appearance of yet another alternative biblical theory prompted by the historical-critical method, the latest (for me at least) is that the beloved disciple was Lazarus and not John. But after reading this link, I'm more sanguine about it since the biblical text itself leaves the identity vague.

The knee-jerk tendency is to see Jesus Seminar-ish motivations in picking at Scriptures, motivations that might include less a desire for facts than a desire to disprove Scripture in one specific case so as to count it as suspect in its entirety. In this (irrational) rationalist age, Scripture is expected to bear the signs of its Divinity incontestably, thus obviating the need for faith.

I think the "traditions" (small 't') handed down - such as Mary Magdalene being a prostitute and that John was the beloved disciple - to the extent they are later seen as false - weaken the reputation of the Catholic Church since the Church and tradition are entwined in the public mind. It's a very small step to pooh-pooh the Immaculate Conception after pooh-poohing something else commonly held. It's no wonder we're facing a headwind.

On the other hand, it's also to our advantage. The gnostic gospels create doubt in people's minds as to what belongs in the bible, but that can also foster faith in the Church given her role in shaping the canon. They may eventually quote St. Peter: "Oh Lord, to whom shall we go?"

July 17, 2007

We're Not Our Own Worst Enemy

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:10-12).

From Pope Benedict's Jesus of Nazareth:
This portrayal of the Christian struggle, which we today find surprising, or even disturbing, Heinrich Schlier has explained as follows: "The enemies are not this or that person, not even myself. They are not flesh and blood...The conflict goes deeper. It is a fight against a host of opponents that never stop coming; they cannot really be pinned down and have no proper name, only collective denominations. They also start out with a superior advantage over man, and that is because of their superior position, their position 'in the heavens' of existence. They are also superior because their position is impenetrable and unassailable- their position, after all, is the 'atmosphere' of existence, which they themselves tilt in their favor and propagate around themselves. These enemies are, finally, all full of essential, deadly malice" (Brief an die Epheser, pg. 291).

Who could fail to see here a description of our world as well, in which the Christian is threatened by an anonymous atmosphere, by "something in the air" that wants to make the faith seem ludicrous and absurd to him? And who could fail to see the poisoning of the spiritual climate all over the world that threatens the dignity of man, indeed his very existence?

The easiest way to commit controversy in the Church is to restate something she has always believed. --Jeff Miller of "Curt Jester" on controversy concerning a recent Vatican document

While immersed lately in Colin Thubron's travel book, Shadow of the Silk Road, I was able to indulge in one of my favorite pasttimes (compulsions?): collecting words. Shakespeare had a phrase for my affliction (and a word or phrase for everything else, too): he called us "new tuners of accent." -Eichenberger of the Columbus Dispatch

I think most writers live at some strange adjacency to experience, that they feel life most intensely in their recreation of it...I was brought up with the poisonous notion that you had to renounce love of the earth in order to receive the love of God. My experience has been just the opposite: a love of the earth and existence so overflowing that it implied, or included, or even absolutely demanded, God...“It is necessary to have had a revelation of reality through joy,” [Simone] Weil writes, “in order to find reality through suffering.” This is certainly true to my own experience. I was not wrong all those years to believe that suffering is at the very center of our existence, and that there can be no untranquilized life that does not fully confront this fact. The mistake lay in thinking grief the means of confrontation, rather than love. - Christian Wiman here, via Meredith at "For Keats' Sake"

If I didn't think being Catholic was "the only path" for everyone else, I couldn't possibly think of it as "the only path" for me. In which case, I'd sure try and find an easier one. - commenter on "Ten Reasons" concerning woman who said: "While Catholicism has enriched my life and nurtured my relationship with God, I don't for one moment believe that this path is right for everyone."

Isn't it true that all of the people in the first pew also have their backs to the rest of the people? Second row, etc. Nobody who sits in the back of the Church complains that almost everyone has their backs to them. -commenter on "Ten Reasons" concerning caption of picture of Tridentine Mass that said, "With his back to the faithful, Carmelite Father Casimir Borcz celebrates a Tridentine Mass..."

If love was a plane, nobody'd get on. - lyric of new Brad Paisley song

I’ve always been intrigued by the Mormons. Some people logically tend to believe that bad theology produces bad people, but the empirical evidence offered by the Mormon population would refute such a belief decisively (almost as decisively as the flip-side empirical evidence offered by America’s mass of lukewarm and renegade Catholics). The fantastic claims of Mormonism make me shake my head (especially their historical claims), and then I meet Mormons in real life and am consistently impressed...You can’t argue with them. If you prove them wrong on one point, they can claim that the point isn’t integral to Mormonism. If you refute one claim, they can say that the claim shouldn’t be taken literally...Catholics and Christians of every stripe ought to take notice: The best apologetics are personal: the example offered by the believers themselves. The great Catholic apologist Scott Hahn mentions this a couple of times in his new book, Reasons to Believe. Mormons are living proof. - Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

- "Catholics Against Rudy" sticker via Christopher of "Against the Grain"

But yesterday's [Vatican] document also includes a knock against the Catholic Church! A gentle knock, to be sure, but a knock nonetheless...Sure, the Orthodox are hosed up by not being in communion with the Successor of Peter. And sure, the other Christian communities are even more hosed up by lacking apostolic succession and all that implies. But Catholics are also hosed up! We lack the fullness of universality, the "plenitudo catholicitatis"! The Catholic Church may possess the mark of catholicity, but she isn't fully catholic in history as long as there are Christian communities outside her...And it's looking at herself in this way -- not merely as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church calling to those Christians outside her fold, as the one who has lecturing those who have not, but as a Body herself genuinely wounded and lacking -- that informs the Church's post-conciliar efforts in ecumenism and Christian unity...The Church is mother to all Christians, and it is as a mother, not as a headmaster, that She feels the wounds of disunity. - Tom of Disputations

My father remains very ill with no diagnosis. He has been suffering for five months...I continue to ask for your prayers for them and their doctor if it happens to cross your mind. - Julie of Happy Catholic; (Kevin Jones of 'Philokalia Republic' is also ill)

Constant was the love He gave her / though He went forth from her side. - lyric of church hymn; the He is Christ, the she is Mary

If each person who believed in God, who worshipped and paid homage to Jesus Christ as Lord and God would spend one moment each day in public acclamation of his glorious name, what might be the effect on the world around us? Not a moment of diatribe, condemnation, doctrinal ranting, triumphalist crowing, or any number of other things that we confuse with praising God, but just a moment spent looking at a flower and saying, "What hath God wrought?" - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

July 16, 2007


It's officially ubiquitous. More:
My Christ-loving, Catholic-haunted, non-Catholic sister-in-law, phoned me up on Tuesday and said, "So what's this I hear about the pope saying all us non-Catholics are going to hell?"
* * *
From here via Daily Eudemon:
The Guinness Toucan

After relying on word of mouth for 170 years, Guinness rolled out its first advertising campaign in 1929. The memorable tag lines “Guinness is good for you,” “My goodness, my Guinness,” and “Guinness for strength,” quickly embedded in the public consciousness. (The even more striking, though now less publicized, “Drink Guinness for a healthy baby and painless birth” was also an early motto.) These slogans were paired up with whimsical paintings by artist John Gilroy, including iconic posters featuring Guinness-strengthened chaps effortlessly hefting steel girders and pulling horse carts.

A fortuitous 1934 visit to a local zoo inspired Gilroy to populate his art with a menagerie of animals, including a pelican, a kangaroo, a sea lion, a turtle, an ostrich and a toucan. The pelican was originally intended to be the star of the group. Gilroy had an idea about encouraging Brits to drink “a Guinness a day,” so the pelican was pictured with its beak loaded with seven pints, accompanied by the verse:
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
Its bill can hold more than its belly can.
It can hold in its beak
Enough for a week
I simply don’t know how the hell he can.
Which didn’t go over so well, making one wonder if it was the word “hell” or the suspicion that the pelican might swallow all seven pints at once that stuck in the public’s craw. Popular mystery writer and poet Dorothy L. Sayers, working on behalf of the advertising firm S.H. Bensons, was tapped to pen a less offensive rhyme. No stranger to homonyms, Sayers came up with this winning ditty:
If he can say as you can
‘Guinness is good for you’
How grand to be a Toucan!
Just think what Toucan do.
Toucan did quite well, thank you very much. Muscling aside the foul-mouthed seabird, the exotic understudy soon became the star of the show. It eventually went solo and in time became synonymous with the Irish stout.

Why It Worked: The toucan’s bright colors and the faraway locale it referenced were a welcome escape from the gray days of the economic depression of the 1930s and the wartime horrors of the 1940s. And its incongruity certainly hooked the imagination: what in high hell was a bizarre-looking tropical bird doing in Britain with a pint balanced on its beak?