July 29, 2009

Nine Tips...

...on alleviating spiritual dry spells. (Via Dylan)

July 28, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

While our thoughts are on the Pope and our prayers are going out to heaven...Do you wonder if anyone gets to sign his cast? - Ellyn of "Oblique House"

[Scott Hahn's] Covenant by Kinship: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises. Well, it was on sale at Amazon. What can I say?...Okay, down to brass tacks. This book starts by summing up covenant theology’s state of the art, by telling you all about all the important positions and articles to read. The archeological/sociological info about other Middle Eastern covenants, and how the important biblical covenants are similar and different, is particularly interesting. The book then follows up on this by making its own contentions about Biblical covenants and arguing for them. You may have already heard about many of these in Hahn presentations for popular audiences, but here they are backed up by all this previous work and research by others. There seems to be some new material also, and this I found very moving and illuminative. So yes, there is tons of useful stuff here, which also seems to provide a clear way out of a lot of knotty theological problems and “how did Christ save us?” stuff. - Suburban Banshee at "Aliens in this World"

Remember when something that goes without saying actually went without saying? - Tom of Disputations

Why do you turn your face away? We think that God has turned his face away from us when we find ourselves suffering, so that shadows overwhelm our feelings and stop our eyes from seeing the brilliance of the truth. All the same, if God touches our intellect and chooses to become present to our minds then we will be certain that nothing can lead us into darkness. A man’s face shines out more than the rest of his body and it is by the face that we perceive strangers and recognise our friends. How much more, then, is the face of God able to bring illumination to whoever he looks at! The apostle Paul has something important to say about this, as about so many other things. He is a true interpreter of Christ for us, bringing him to our understanding through well-chosen words and images. He says: It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ. We have heard where Christ shines in us: he is the eternal brilliant illumination of souls, whom the Father sent into the world so that his face should shine on us and permit us to contemplate eternal and heavenly truths – we who had been plunged in earthly darkness. What shall I say about Christ, when even the apostle Peter said to the man who had been lame from birth Look upon us? The cripple looked at Peter and found light by the grace of faith: unless he had faithfully believed he could not have received healing. When there was so much glory to be seen among the Apostles, Zachaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree because he was small and weak and could not see the Lord through the crowd. He saw Christ and he found light. He saw Christ and instead of robbing others of their goods he began to give away his own.
Why do you turn your face away? Let us read it thus: even if you do turn your face away from us, Lord, its light is still imprinted upon us. We hold it in our hearts and our innermost feelings are transformed by its light.
For if you truly turn your face away, Lord, no-one can survive. - St. Ambrose via Amy Welborn

All I want to do is make reparation to God for what happened, to pray for the soul of the dead youth, to intercede for the other youth who did not mean to kill him. This totally random tragedy throws the misery of the world into sudden stark relief. It seems that all we can do now is pray for each other and hope that it "works." At times like this, I wonder at people who seem to think we can live without prayer. I think that there is only so much that one can bear alone. Prayer acts like a natural conductor--a network of copper wires connecting souls who would otherwise be left to their own pain. When there is nothing we can do to help others, or to help ourselves, we can still pray. - Sancta Sanctis

Much of the world’s supply of oil is under “Arab” lands. It was there for ages. Few knew it was there or what to do with it. Arab governments with western theories of profit and property became rich by selling it. But the market was invented by someone else. Suppose the Arab rulers were modern men who wanted to preserve the earth. They would have then said to the potential purchasers, “No thanks, we are saving the oil for future generations.” No one knows what future generations will need or want or know how to do. The Lord probably created a world in which just enough resources are present for His intentions. With the help of the human brain, the only real resource, human beings might reach the end for which God created them. The end God intended is not in this world. The earth-warmers are really heretical theologizers who somehow think the purpose of the species man is to spin round and round on this planet forever, with the aid of much government control. - James Schall on "Catholic Thing"

Amazon deleted books that were already available in print, but in our paperless future—when all books exist as files on servers—courts would have the power to make works vanish completely. Unthinkable? Perhaps. But now we've been shown that it is technically possible. Manjoo's suggestion? 'Don't buy a Kindle until Amazon updates its terms of service to prohibit remote deletions. Even better, the company ought to remove the technical capability to do so, making such a mass evisceration impossible in the event that a government compels it.' I'm not quite ready to go that far, but I do think we need to keep the pressure on Amazon... It was a reminder that when we abandon physical media for digital we give up a lot of rights. And it was a reminder that the media giants who sell us that digital content wield an ever-increasing amount of power. - Kindleville blog

An honest reading of the encyclical is hard for Right and Left alike. I’m not comfortable with increasing foreign aid, redistributing wealth, or anything having to do with the United Nations. But if you went to National Review Online after the encyclical’s release, you would have seen writers wrestling with the issues, reading and trying to understand the thinking behind this serious moral guide. And while we dealt with the text, the more mainstream headlines latched onto what’s “bad” for conservatives in it and suppressed what is challenging for the Left. Newspapers everywhere ignored the pope’s condemnation of the far-too-many international organizations that contribute to a culture of death, as only one example. - Kathryn Lopez of NRO

You pay God a compliment by asking great things of Him. - St. Teresa of Avila via Exultet

It has occurred to me that "single mother" is probably the greatest oxymoron of our age. No mother EVER does it on her own. For one thing, she needs a man to get the process started at all--even if she just wants him as a sperm donor. For another thing, she needs a form of financial support: most often it's her disenfranchised ex-husband; sometimes it's her parents (which means her own father); quite frequently these days it's the government (which means taxpayers, a great number of whom are male). On the other hand, if she works hard enough to be self-supporting, then she'll need another kind of support: in which case, the child will be raised by a relative, a nanny or a revolving door of daycare workers.- - Sancta Sanctis

July 27, 2009

St. Margaret of Cortona Annual Procession


From here:
Did you know that a family court can order a man to reimburse the government for the welfare money, falsely labeled "child support," that was paid to the mother of a child to whom he is not related? Did you know that, if he doesn't pay, a judge can sentence him to debtor's prison without ever letting him have a jury trial?

Did you know that debtor's prisons (putting men in prison because they can't pay a debt) were abolished in the United States before we abolished slavery, but that they exist today to punish men who are too poor to pay what is falsely called "child support"?

Did you know that when corporations can't pay their debts, they can take bankruptcy, which means they pay off their debts for pennies on the dollar, but a man can never get an alleged "child support" debt forgiven or reduced, even if he is out of a job, penniless and homeless, medically incapacitated, incarcerated (justly or unjustly) or serving in our Armed Forces overseas, can't afford a lawyer, or never owed the money in the first place?

Did you know that when a woman applying for welfare handouts lies about who the father of her child is, she is never prosecuted for perjury? Did you know that judges can refuse to accept DNA evidence showing that the man she accuses is not the father?...

Frank Hatley was in a Georgia jail for more than a year for failure to pay alleged "child support" even though a DNA test nine years ago plus a second one this year proved that he is not the father. The Aug. 21, 2001, court order, signed by Judge Dane Perkins, acknowledged that Hatley is not the father but nevertheless ordered him to continue paying and never told him he could have a court-appointed lawyer if he could not afford one.

July 24, 2009

He Has Wiped Them Out

From a Sophia Institute Press email regarding the book I Believe in Love:
"Think of your past sins to persuade yourself of your weakness; think of them to confirm your resolution not to fall again -- that's necessary -- but think of them mainly to bless Jesus for having pardoned you, for having purified you, for having cast all your sins to the bottom of the sea.

Do not go looking for them at the bottom of the sea! He has wiped them out; He has forgotten them....

I'm not saying that you believe too much in your own wretchedness. I'm telling you that you don't believe enough in merciful love.

Why are you here?

Why were you baptized?

Why have you learned to know Jesus and to love him?

Because God has chosen you, and preferred you from all eternity, to heap these graces upon you. God's greatest pleasure is to pardon us. The good Lord is more eager to pardon a repentant sinner than a mother to rescue her child from the fire."

July 22, 2009


That's it! For awhile I've thought that with abortion if only the baby in danger had access to language then it would be different, ala these from Parody is Therapy:
Baby in Womb Hires Coyote to Get Him to the Border

ORLANDO, FL--A twenty-week old unborn child has contracted the services of a coyote in order to guide him to the "border", that is outside the womb, in order to qualify for the right not to be killed.

It began when baby "Doe", then 18 weeks, overheard his mother discussing a possible abortion. Knowing that geography is destiny and that even if only his head emerges from his mother's body there would be a miraculous increase in rights, the baby figured there was little to lose.
No Relief Expected for Baby "Rookie" Williams

PERORIA, IL--The execution of the unborn child of Sarah Williams, dubbed "Rookie", is scheduled to take place at 12:01PM Tuesday at an abortion clinic outside Peroria. No media is expected to be present, nor protestors. The governor has no power to intervene and clemency can only come from the mother of the child. Public relations expert Thomas Richards suggests that the baby lacks the skills needed in a media age. "The baby needs to be more visible. A strong personality helps, one that has won friends." When told that it's impossible for an unborn baby to go on Oprah or to have "won friends" Richards replied, "well it's really difficult if the client doesn't have a strong cadre of supporters, of those who could mentally put themselves in his place and feel the unjustness of the execution."
But now finally someone has actually published a fine graphic novel with the baby as the protagonist. Darwin Catholic interviews the author, Matthew Lickona. Many, many kudos to Lickona!

Q & A w Joseph O'Neill at The Elegant Variation

Interesting 4-part interview with Joseph O'Neill, author of Netherland:

TEV: How important is plot to you?

Joseph O’Neill: Not important at all, really.

TEV: Neither as a reader nor as a writer?

Joseph O’Neill: Certainly not as a reader. I mean, you know, if the plot is good then I am grateful for it. But I am a terrible reader of novels. I only read a few and I re-read what I read. And then I re-read them like books of poems and sort of dip into pages 12-17 and I look at words and sentences. The whole suspenseful element is not really something that particularly interests me. Possibly because I lack concentration. Possibly because my brain has turned into macaroni cheese.

TEV: And one can have the sense of continually re-stating and re-stating and re-stating what has gone before you.

Joseph O’Neill: It’s really hard. You certainly want your writing to be smarter than you are. You want your text to generate ideas and feelings which you, yourself, are not capable of generating.

TEV: It’s quite a paradox.

Joseph O’Neill: Yes, it is a paradox. And you have to unleash it in some way. That’s why people like Wallace Stevens and, more recently, Paul Muldoon are really good poets. Because their poems have this almost impenetrable mystery behind them. And it’s a mystery which arises from how they allow the language, the form, to conduct an exploration which they, themselves, need not conduct on a conscious level.
TEV: Let’s talk about the American sense of possibility, with which Netherland is imbued. It seems to me that it’s more strongly felt by people who come here from somewhere else. Perhaps that Americans, natural born, may tend to take for granted.

Joseph O’Neill: Immigrants naturally feel enriched by new possibilities, since almost by definition these didn’t exist in their country of origin. As for the natives, America is a notoriously rigid society. I mean, my understanding is that your grandfather’s occupation is a much more reliable predictor of your occupation in the US than it would be in England, say, or in Ireland. So, the local sense of possibility is largely a phenomenon of brainwashing. People are indoctrinated.

July 21, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Remember, our Faith is not just ours—when we speak of our Faith, we mean our personal, individual choice of faith, but we also speak of the Faith of the Church. Remember that from the Ritual of Baptism?...We have as our shield not only our personal faith, but the Faith of the Church, the whole Church. But it has to be personal, too; we have to be used to holding it, with a familiar grip—or we’ll fumble and drop it at the first sign of trouble. - Fr. Fox via Mrs. Darwin Catholic

Bad – that is, useless -- days come when I work with less damaged or undamaged kids (in the clinical sense), teenagers in particular. With them I score no victories and try to remember “Primum non nocere”—“First, not to harm” – the doctor’s credo. Diminished needs correspond inversely to their inflated demands. As a group they are sullen, self-centered, petulant and – most of them – marginally literate. - Patrick of "Anecdotal Evidence"

[Electronic] reading will forfeit the tactile dimension where memories insinuate themselves, reminding us of where and when D. H. Lawrence entered our lives that meaningful summer. “Darling, remember when we downloaded Sons and Lovers in Napa Valley?” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. The Barnes & Noble bookstore, with its coffee bar and authors’ readings, could go the way of Blockbuster as an iconic institution, depriving readers of the opportunity to mingle with their own kind and paw through magazines for free. - James Wolcott

Education helps to make a man more aware of the variety of responses open to him, gives him an ear for finer distinctions and for precision in the use of words, a realization of how much he owes to what other people have thought and done in the past, and fills his mind with ideas that can be enjoyed in solitude. - Shirley Robin Letwin

We lit candles. And they wanted to. Every church we went into, they wanted to light candles. It was Michael who taught them and formed them in the practice, in the midst of all of our travels. They always lit candles for someone with Daddy, and he always had them pray - for my mother, for the intentions of some living person. It was never sentimental or overwrought, and if you knew Michael, you would know this. It was matter-of-fact and purposeful and, as a consequence, I think, very expressive of the faith at the heart of it. This is just true: Jesus Christ loves and redeems us, and through him we live, and to him we bring our hearts and souls, pains and joys. We tell him about it, we ask him for help, we ask his friends for help and we do this with words, with sighs, with cries, with music, with art...and with candles. - Amy Welborn

Fox anchor just now: "We don't really know her opinion about abortion. She's Catholic, so we just can't know." Tell me about it. - Karen of "Some Have Hats"

What could I endure for money and privilege and ownership of a portion of lakefront? This place is packed to the gills with every comfort and beauty that nature designs and money can buy. I want to keep it all, forever, and I can't help counting down the days and minutes until all this grace will be taken from me. The terminal nature of our vacation taints every moment of this respite with sadness. Such is life for a greedy pessimist. - Betty Duffy

One of my Indian co-workers said when someone asked her how it was that she'd remained happily married for 20+ years to a man she only met ten minutes before her wedding. "You just tell yourself you don't have any other options," she said. "If you really believe that, it helps you avoid starting problems that will make you want out." At this point in modern America's divorce culture, it's very hard to tell yourself that there are not other options, but I think that rebuilding that mentality -- not just as in "I'd better put up with this, because there's no way out" but rather "I had better make sure that I'm easy to live with, because if I cause problems there is no way out of them" -- is probably the only real path back towards marital stability and sanity in the wider culture. - Darwin Catholic

July 20, 2009

I Report, You Decide

I sent an email to my Senator, Sen. Brown, expressing hope that he would nix any Obamacare inclusion of abortion funding.

I received this reply:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on upcoming health care reform legislation. I can understand your view that tax dollars should not be spent to fund abortion services. Please be assured, your tax dollars do not fund abortion services and it is against the law to use federal funds for this purpose.

After the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, Congress enacted restrictions on the use of federal money for abortions. The so-called "Hyde Amendment" restricted the use of Medicaid funds for abortion services.

In 1970, Congress passed the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act. This act contained a section entitled Title X that provides grants to public and private nonprofit agencies that supply voluntary family planning services. The law stipulates that no clinic may be fully funded by Title X funds, nor may Title X funds be used to perform abortions.

There are no plans in the current Congress to overturn these laws nor to include coverage for abortion procedures in upcoming health care legislation. Thank you again for getting in touch with me.
Meanwhile, here's a transcript from Fox News Sunday, featuring Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget:
CHRIS WALLACE: Are you prepared to say that in a government public-funded, taxpayer-funded public health insurance plan that no taxpayer money will go to pay for abortions?

ORSZAG: I think that that will wind up being part of the debate. I am not prepared to say explicitly that right now. It's obviously a controversial issue, and it's one of the questions that is playing out in this debate.

WALLACE: So you're not prepared to rule out...

ORSZAG: I'm not prepared to rule it out.

L'Osservatore on Oscar Wilde

On Oscar Wilde, via Dylan.
Monda also noted how Dublin-born Wilde had said that 'Catholicism was the only religion to die in' and also recalled his little remembered audience with Pope Pius IX in 1877.

Before the meeting with the Pope, Protestant-born Wilde had said to a friend: 'To go over to Rome would be to sacrifice and give up my two great Gods: Money and Ambition.'

But the audience is believed to have paved the way for his eventual conversion, especially after the Pope told him to 'undertake a journey through life which would take him to the City of God.'

July 17, 2009

On Suffering

From here:

Mostly through no fault of their own, many Catholics are confused when they try to compare the Catholic faith with Eastern religions...For example, a reader of this column named Wallace sent to me the following letter. I think it sums up the struggles of many of our contemporaries in trying to figure out what Catholicism is all about and comparing our faith unfavorably in certain respects with the great religions of the Far East:

"First, I would like to thank you for your very nice explanation of Sister Faustina's usage of the term "misery" in her writings. You were very reassuring. However, I found her spirituality so dismaying not because of her words alone, but because she seems to typify Catholicism in general. The Mass, for instance, is said to be celebrated before the crucifixion, in spirit, if I understand rightly. Stigmatists like St. Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio seem to exhibit very bloody spirituality. Sister Faustina herself talks of receiving some sort of crown of thorns, among other travails, such as diabolical persecutions.

For somebody raised in a secular environment, outside of the faith, it is rather disconcerting. Frankly, I have endured enough in life without organized religion. Reading Sister Faustina's writings, and seeing how Catholic spirituality in general can be so grisly, sometimes honestly makes me wonder if that is just the Way of the Cross. ...

I may be no expert on the subject, but I do seem to recall something in the Gospel about spiritual relief being provided to those in need. It is difficult to square such words with what honestly strikes me as intensely painful spirituality. In Eastern religion, for example, namely Buddhism, the alleviation of human suffering is the central mission. Western religion, particularly Catholicism, seems to revel in suffering, almost. Please correct me, if I am wrong."
Well, Wallace, you have certainly pointed to an aspect of Catholicism that is distinctive of our faith: a very vivid and direct approach to human suffering. Even as a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism many years ago, I noticed the graphic and uncompromising way that Catholic religious art approaches the sufferings of Christ: the bleeding crucifixes, the Pieta, the "sacrifice" of the Mass. And the saints seem to walk this Via Dolorosa too: Our Lady of Sorrows, the countless martyrs, the tears of contrition, and works of penance. Of course, the simplest way to answer your letter would be to point out that all this "blood, sweat, and tears" is barely half the story. There is the great joy of the saints to contend with (no one can be canonized a saint in the Church without exhibiting "holy joy," and in fact, who was more joyful than the very saint you mentioned, Francis of Assisi, the Troubador of God, who, even while bearing that very stigmata, recited on his deathbed his marvelous celebration of creation, the "Canticle of the Sun"). There are the miracles of healing and Our Lady of Lourdes, and of course, the radiance of Easter morning! But I think your good question needs a more extensive answer than that, so I will try my best.

First of all, one of the very things that made Catholicism so attractive to me as a convert 15 years ago was that, like you, I had "endured enough in life." I had known sudden and brutal physical suffering, abandonment by loved ones, even a nervous breakdown as an undergraduate — all this in relatively sheltered, middle class North America! And I was well aware of the much worse sufferings endured by others. I wanted a faith that could face the reality of our human brokenness and sorrow "head-on," not one that would run away from it or try to explain it away. I looked at the Eastern religions and found them all lacking in this very respect.

You said that Buddhism seeks the alleviation of suffering. Yes, indeed, but how? In fact, it is the Catholic Church, not Buddhism, that has devoted itself to the relief of human suffering. Think of the countless Catholic hospitals, orphanages, schools for the poor, clinics, shelters for the homeless, and hunger relief projects down through the centuries. I believe it is true that the Catholic Church is still the largest single provider of health care in the entire world.

Did Buddhism inspire anything like that?

I am not saying that Buddhists do not care about human suffering (Buddha taught a way of compassion of sorts), but the central teaching of Buddhism is that human suffering comes from unsatisfied desires, and therefore the primary way to be released from suffering is to let go of all of one's desires. In other words, Buddhism seeks to escape suffering, to run away from it, not to find a way through it.

Escapism is surely not the answer, for much human suffering simply cannot be escaped that way, and I must not turn a blind eye to the sufferings of my neighbors, either. I must passionately desire their good ("blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake," Jesus said). Then there is Hinduism. Hinduism classically did not run away from suffering, but it did try to explain it away as a result of "bad Karma." No relief or equity for the lowest of the low, the "untouchables," in classical Hindi society: They must work off their bad Karma. Of course, this is also not to say that Hindus generally do not care about the poor. Many see this moral duty as an aspect of their "dharma" (their appointed role in life). But again, this is surely secondary to the great Hindu goal of escaping from the terrible wheel of Karmic justice.

So, in Catholicism I found the bloody crucifixes not to be disturbing but just plain honest, because that's precisely where most of us are, most of the time, in one way or another: We are with Jesus, on the Cross. The fact that the Son of God Himself once cried out on the Cross: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mk 15:34) is one of the greatest comforts of the Catholic faith to me. It means that there is no human misery that He has not taken on His own heart. It means that by taking flesh and dwelling among us as a real human being, He has shared with us all the joys, pains, and sorrows of the human journey, and He does not ask us to walk through any darkness or pain that he has not walked through Himself. "Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows. ... and by His stripes we are healed" (Is 53:4-5). It is precisely because He descended into the very depths of total human affliction for us on the Cross, and rose again, that I can believe He can raise us up from those depths to new life — even everlasting life. Nothing is a greater sign of hope to me than the Cross.

Secondly, the Catholic attitude to suffering has been explained so beautifully by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter "Salvifici Dolores," that all I can do is urge you Wallace, and the rest of our readers, to read it for yourselves someday (you can find it on the Vatican website www.vatican.va).

To sum it up briefly: The Pope said that there are two basic attitudes that we should have toward human suffering. We should do what good we can for the suffering, and we should try to do what good we can with our own sufferings.

First, we should try to relieve the sufferings of others (and our own) as much as possible, with compassionate care. The Pope recalls for us the importance of Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan in this regard. But where our own crosses cannot be taken away, we can still offer them up, in union with the Cross of Jesus, for the good of others. United with His Cross, in the Holy Spirit, our sufferings can thereby become a source of blessings and graces for the Church and the world. The chronically ill and suffering are therefore not just to be objects of our pity: they have an important vocation in the Church. Let me finish this column with the Pope's own words, which I have quoted once before in this series, but never tire of repeating them again and again:
"Christ does not explain in the abstract the reason for suffering, but before all else He says: "Follow me!" Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my cross! Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed to him. ... Faith in sharing in the suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty that the suffering person "completes what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24); the certainty that in the spiritual dimension of the work of Redemption he is serving, like Christ the salvation of his brothers and sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an irreplaceable service ("Salvifici Dolores," 26-27)."

Robert Stackpole, STD.

Red Alert

The health care bill that the President is trying to "Rahm" through may be the "greatest expansion of abortion since Roe v. Wade". The National Right-to-Life website has a handy form to fill out in order to ask your Congress people to explicitly preclude abortion as "health" care.

July 15, 2009

More Paintings

Art found at Old Paint blog.

Dancing with Hindsight

...or did a single line in the homily from a graduation Mass in 1972 display the flaws of post-WWII American Catholicism?

I recall a few moments, now gathering the musk of myth, spent around relatives like Uncle Bud who were so different from me as if to be of another planet. Many spent their formative years during the '20s and '30s, danced with flappers and struggled to find jobs during the Great Depression. Or in one case went directly to the seminary while still wet behind the ears. Most of them made their living with their hands, not their heads. They knew not the flourescent light of an office. They smelled of bait and grease and knew their way under the hood of a car.

Whether true or false I always picture them with a standard-issue G.I. tattoo on their bicep. Based on experience at the time, I didn't think you could get a tattoo anywhere else. It's likely a trick of memory, but they seemed like taciturn fellows who by their silence seemed to live lives of the simple metaphysics. They worked, drank, gambled, fished. They had guns and knew how to use them. One of them served in World War II and lived through it, leaving only a one sentence report of his service to his niece and thus to his great-nephew.

(One can see how all mankind is related intimately when even those related to us are so completely different. If our brother or great uncle be as different from us as an apple to an orange, then surely pears and peaches could as easily be as brothers to us.)

To this day I know almost nothing of these uncles of my parents. It is likely because I know so little that they prove so interesting. They are like mysteries, and mysteries beget interest, which is why the Church would perhaps be wise not to attempt to entirely banish hers.

They were figures of profound disinterest to me at the time, of course, because I was young and had quite different interests. I also saw them as imperishable and thus would be around when I found them interesting, since the notion of death was still mostly hypothetical. And -for a child- a year is as ten years, and so if they lived a year longer it was as if they would live forever.

It is not knowledge that makes humans interesting even though I fall into that heresy so often. We are made in the image and likeness of God; C.S. Lewis wrote that "the holiest thing we encounter in our lives beside the Blessed Sacrament is our fellow human beings". And yet...everyone who dies before us is intrinsically interesting for having gained knowledge - the greatest knowledge of all - denied to the rest of us. That is, the secrets of God. They have crossed the river, that greatest adventure, and even though they're not able to tell us what's on the other side that doesn't diminish the fact that the least of them now knows more than the greatest living human.

I'm grateful that one great uncle, a priest, left a tape practicing a homily for a graduation Mass. It is full of hints of another era and yet inspiring in this one for the Gospel message it delivers perdures. The mystery begins with his voice: it is unfamiliar. Despite the closeness we felt to them, my mother's father's side seemed to have its own accent, inflections and pronunciations and pace.

The tape feels of another time even in its very existence. Would a priest practice on tape (or other digital equivalent) now? A priest of the next generation would tell us, "no one remembers the homily a day or two afterwards." And yet the old warrior priest practiced, perhaps partially as a result of finally getting to do what he really wanted to do - parish work - after all those years of academia. The curse of brains.

The content of the tape is interesting too. It's defensive, understandable in light of that era, that time of craziness, 1972, when all the old verities were being thrown out the window like so much trash. He spoke of the fittingness of having a Mass at graduation, "for we Catholics never do anything that really matters without the Mass. For us it is the Mass that matters."

Would someone have said that in 1940? Or 1920? The Mass is so self-evidently the summit of Catholic life that perhaps it wouldn't have been said except in a time in which that was being questioned, when evangelicalism was gaining converts, and in the wake of the New Mass said in the vernacular at which some were balking at. So wouldn't to say "for us, the Mass matters" in 1920 be like saying "water is wet?"

He goes on to say, "
in a way, I envy you. Because your generation will be living in an even more interesting, challenging, exciting and difficult times and then you will be given the chance, the opportunity to do something about the world we messed up, and about which you are so critical. You will have a part, a tremendously important part in straightening out that world, no matter who you are or where you are or what you are."
There is modesty in saying that his generation "messed things up" which in hindsight turned out not to be the case. There was discrimination against blacks and others in his generation but we now generally refer to them, with Tom Brokaw, as "the greatest generation".

The other note that strikes the ear is how he said that the male graduate of this Catholic high school is "a man manly in every sense of the word" and how the female grad is "queenly in every way," and how they are "still respected and admired and wields power."

Note the defensiveness in the word "still": "[graduates of this Catholic high school] are still respected and admired". Why should they not be now? "Still" seems a suprisingly defensive word.

The other words are potent signs that this is from another age. Women would not be referred to as "queenly" today, nor men "manly". Both expressions have altered in meaning: "queen" sounds too monarchical in a democracy (when it doesn't mean gay men) and "manly" seems mostly equated with aggressiveness or being able to drink a lot of liquor. But what's telling is that in both instances there is the connotation of power. A manly man is powerful, a queen is powerful. Note that he doesn't use the adjectives "devout" or "holy". Did the students want to hear they were closer to Heaven or did they want to hear they were closer to changing the world? The clause "wield power" is especially interesting given that Christ promises that the meek, not the powerful, will eventually rule.

I wonder if that single phrase is indicative of how the Catholic Church went off track during the '60s and beyond. Is it that we became more concerned about being powerful, respected and admired, in being worldly? It's been said many times that the election of JFK ruined American Catholicism because at that point we'd been co-opted into the culture. We no longer considered ourselves separate but part of it. We could then begin to "bless" what was intrinsically wrong such that Teddy Kennedy could vote for abortion-on-demand.

But power was in the air back then and everything Catholic and Christian was under attack. In the '60s everything was about the naked exercise of power: the battle between the sexes, between the races, between young and old, between anti-war protestors and the National Guard... It's not surprising that we would speak to the world using what the world understands. The culture always sways us, which is why it is helpful to study the past that we might at least learn from it.

On the Meltdown

Caught a bit of David Smick, author of "The World is Curved", on C-Span this weekend.

When asked why the financial system crashed he said, "because the Berlin Wall fell."

He said that countries in Eastern Europe and China and India started to embrace capitalism and become export-oriented economies (with the U.S. as the main consumer). They began accumulating large savings and injecting a gigantic amount of free-flowing capital in the general direction of the dollar and dollar-denominated instruments.

This allowed the whole financial industry to "deny the laws of gravity". A lot of room for error in which mischief could, and did, occur. With that much cash flowing around seeking any sort of return, the usual rules of risk and reward didn't appear to apply. In addition to crucial mistakes*, bankers greedily escaped the regulation of having "rainy day money" by setting up little holding companies off-book, which ended up being tied to them anyway through reputation.

Smick said that finally we've given the world a reason to hate America - our bankers wrecked the financial system, causing financial misery where none was deserved. Indeed it's been a humbling decade to be either an American or Catholic. First the scandal in the Church (which was not the tiny percentage of weak priests but their shepherds who should've known better), and now our bankers out of greed and deception trigger the financial crisis. It tain't pretty.

And speaking of humbling, will the National League ever win another All-Star game again? Ay-yi-yi!

* - the formula that sunk Wall Street:

It was a brilliant simplification of an intractable problem. And Li didn't just radically dumb down the difficulty of working out correlations; he decided not to even bother trying to map and calculate all the nearly infinite relationships between the various loans that made up a pool. What happens when the number of pool members increases or when you mix negative correlations with positive ones? Never mind all that, he said. The only thing that matters is the final correlation number—one clean, simple, all-sufficient figure that sums up everything.

The effect on the securitization market was electric. Armed with Li's formula, Wall Street's quants saw a new world of possibilities. And the first thing they did was start creating a huge number of brand-new triple-A securities. Using Li's copula approach meant that ratings agencies like Moody's—or anybody wanting to model the risk of a tranche—no longer needed to puzzle over the underlying securities. All they needed was that correlation number, and out would come a rating telling them how safe or risky the tranche was.

As a result, just about anything could be bundled and turned into a triple-A bond—corporate bonds, bank loans, mortgage-backed securities, whatever you liked. The consequent pools were often known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. You could tranche that pool and create a triple-A security even if none of the components were themselves triple-A. You could even take lower-rated tranches of other CDOs, put them in a pool, and tranche them—an instrument known as a CDO-squared, which at that point was so far removed from any actual underlying bond or loan or mortgage that no one really had a clue what it included. But it didn't matter. All you needed was Li's copula function.

July 14, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

It is quite likely that a person reading the encyclical will find himself challenged at various points, no matter what his native political instincts are. This is part of the pope's intention. He wants to challenge everybody and shake them out of the uncritical political orbits that people find themselves sliding into. One should therefore avoid two mistakes in reading the document: (a) One should not casually dismiss things that seem to conflict with one's previous views; this is the Vicar of Christ talking, and we need to take what he says seriously. (b) One should not simply seize on things that seem to confirm one's prior views and absolutize them...there are points in the encyclical where, at least in general terms, the pope seems to go beyond his stated intention not to offer technical solutions and to make proposals that at least point in the direction of particular solutions. There is a blurry line here between theory and application, and pastoral concern for human well-being will always present churchmen with a temptation to cross that blurry line and at least recommend particular applications that seem right to them... When that happens we need to take seriously what they say, particularly in the case of the pope, the Vicar of Christ. At the same time, we must not put greater weight on what they say than what they themselves do, and thus we must remember that they are not teaching infallibly. In releasing the new encyclical, Benedict XVI does not even remotely come close to using the kind of language that popes use when signalling that they are speaking infallibly. - Jimmy Akin

"Counter Reformation" would be a great name for a kitchen remodeling business.- Tom of Disputations tweet

The trouble with the Catholic Left is that it often presents as morally binding certain political proposals which, from Rome's standpoint, are really matters of opinion, and presents as matters of opinion certain political proposals which, again from Rome's standpoint, are morally binding. So not only is the Catholic Right's general sense about Church social teaching theologically sounder than the Left's; said teaching is more easily reconciled with American "conservatism," or at least with some strains thereof, then with American "liberalism." - Micheal of "What's Wrong With the World"

[William F. Buckley] once remarked to me, in reference to the second-term plunge in popularity of the George W. Bush administration, that it is not enough for conservatives simply to be intelligent or sophisticated. They have to project these qualities, conspicuously and convincingly, in order to get past the visceral prejudices of elite opinion-makers, who generally regard conservative ideas as some combination of boobish, evil, backward, boring, dangerous, and simplistic. Overcoming these prejudices is, if not a prerequisite, at least a very helpful vehicle for receiving a fair hearing on the merits. - Anthony Dick on "the Corner" (applicable to Christians as well?)

One good thing about being an autodidact is that you sometimes discover something really good only after you're old enough to appreciate it. For example, Bach's chorales! - Bill of Summa Minutiae

He's everywhere. No, not Michael Jackson. Padre Pio. Yes, I knew he was popular. Yes, I knew Italians loved him. But I had no idea almost every church I would enter would hold an image of Padre Pio. I have to say, I do believe every one, without exception, has. And the little paneneria down the road where I've been buying dinner for us - yes, they have a pretty large picture of Padre Pio behind the counter...[Son Michael] was bouncing around in the waves, he started chanting, "Pa-Padre Pio! Pa-Padre Pio!" Then he added names to it "Mommy Padre Pio!" "Daddy Padre Pio!" "Joseph Padre Pio!" and so on. We asked him why. "Why do you keep singing his name?" "Because it's a funny name!" he shouted. So sorry about that. No charming precocious spiritual insight here. But maybe, in some way, as he tosses all of our names up into heavens from God's beautiful bright blue sea - a prayer, nonetheless - through Padre Pio to God, who truly is everywhere. - Amy Welborn

There are only four outdoor phone booths left in Manhattan...If you happen to pass by, I seriously advise you to stop in one of these booths while they’re still around. Note that someone still cares enough to keep the overhead light in proper working order. Close the door (be amazed that they even have doors), and you’ll find yourself in a veritable fishbowl plunked down in the center of Manhattan. The walls actually keep out a good amount of sound, and it’s surreal to look out at the world around you with something you don’t usually get on a busy Manhattan avenue: personal space. It’s funny to think how the idea of an enclosed space to have a phone conversation now seems like an incredible luxury. - Scouting New York blog

Some of my Protestant friends at work have the tendency to say about nearly any topic, "I just prayed about it, and God told me that I should do X." I'm never sure whether this basically comes down to saying, "I prayed about it for a while and I thought that X might be a good idea," or if they've got a direct line to the Almighty that I'm missing. God and I, I often feel, are not on quite such confidential terms as some others seem to be. There's a bit in Terry Gilliam's movie Time Bandits where the time traveling dwarves tell Kevin that they work for the Supreme Being.
Kevin: You mean God?
Fidgit: Well, we don't know Him that well. We only work for Him.
I often feel rather the same way. God knows me much better than I know Him. And if our struggles through life are, from that perspective, rather more like the bumblings of the time bandits than Dante's sedate wanderings in the gloomy wood -- well, I wouldn't be surprised. Which leaves one to wade through decision-making as best one can. - Darwin Catholic

During his homily at a Mass for vocation directors in Rome, the French prelate underscored how one’s vocation is always particular and personalized. In being called to the priesthood, men who have this vocation are called by the Lord “to be ourselves, as the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves. God’s plan cannot be fulfilled except through sacrifice,” the archbishop said. “Thus sacrifice becomes an intersection between the human and the divine,” he added. “Sacrifice is the particular means by which we offer to the Lord our personal freedom and we receive in turn all of God’s strength. It was not by chance that the Pope chose to begin the Year for Priests on the most sacrificial feast of all: that of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. For this reason, we hope that this year the People of God can recover the joy of the priesthood.” - Catholic News Agency article

Doesn't Aristotle's requirement for a tragedy--that the protagonist come face to face with his true self--seem like an odd idea? In our own age, people devote a lot of money, time and energy to discovering and nurturing what they call their "true selves." Why should recognition of what one really is be a defining point of tragedy? What did the Ancients know about psychology that we don't? (Answer: A lot, actually.) One thing I was able to teach my girls was the idea that the protagonist finds himself to be at fault. The tragedy can't be something that just happened to him; some "fatal flaw" in his character had to have contributed greatly to his own demise. There is great pathos in seeing one's life in utter shambles and knowing that one is actually to blame. No wonder Oedipus blinded himself. I'm trying to think of a poetic punishment for myself, and what I envision is me setting fire to my library in a fit of madness and dying in the blaze. In other words, I am in a rut of my own making--which I'm morbidly imagining is a grave I have dug for myself--and now all I need is an appropriate way for my character to bow out of the drama. The only thing I have that the wiser Greeks didn't have is the hope of eucatastrophe--and I'm holding on to it with all I've got. - Sancta Sanctis

By definition, intercessors are sojourners in enemy territory...The enemy is powerless; he's hustling for time and leverage. He wants us to believe him enough so he can get away with a certain number of things during our lifetime. -Martha Balmer, in a talk on intercessory prayer via Exultet

It's about the indissolubility, about the cleaving . . . The love of married couples is the only thing that shows to the world the love of Christ for his Church. - Fr. Eric Weber, delivering a couples' meditation on the Feast of the Sacred Heart via Exultet

We tend to define what's possible based on our present experience. That doesn't apply where the Holy Spirit is involved. -Fr. Ed Fride via Exultet

I've Got Those Post-Pentecostal Pre-Parousia Blues. - Exultet, recalling an old song

I have a wonderful image of the Blessed Virgin that I turn to in times of great trial. A very pre-Raphaelite, Blessed Damozel kind of image that engages the heart, the mine, and the eyes and sort of wards off other images because of its transcendent beauty and purity. I carry it with me on my iPod and on my PDA lest I find myself without it. I almost never look at it, but it is a comfort knowing that it is available. Tell me Icons serve no good purpose! - Steven of Flos Carmeli

Reading Girls

The artist Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot seemed to paint a lot of women reading, which strikes me as a doubly beautiful subject of art:

One more from Pierre Bonnard:

It Would Seem...

...that the word ponc is taking on a very different definition these days.

See right side-panel for a different defintion.


Bill Luse asked for pictures of our new dog and since this blog is so customer-centric*...



* - speaking of buzzwords like "customer-centric", received the following egregious example of corp-speak yesterday, the first paragraph of which had the receiver stumped:
Believed to bring quality to the process, a common practice in deploying new enterprise systems utilises procurement from Request for Information, to Request for Proposal, and to Business Case Development. The matchmaking stage in the exploration phase embodies opportunities for the customer-organisation to establish the right relationship with the right vendors. The radical innovation dictates fostering of relationships among the stakeholders. This single-case study utilised archival documents, observation, and in-depth interviews. Conducted while the exploration phase was ongoing, the study shows amidst the opportunities, the opportunity missed led to distrusts, disputes, and disagreements with vendors led and unexpected consequences. Is the structured RFI-RFP-BCD process appropriate to fostering relationships with the vendors? Findings reveal barriers to the innovation process.
I have only a vague idea of what he/she is trying to say but I'll guess.
Many peeps believe that y'all can improve your work quality by using procurement via "Request for Information, to Request.......blah/blah...Development" or "RFI-RFP-B-Crap".It helps vendors get matched up to the right customer organizations and vice-versa. This innovation is said to help foster better relationships among all the involved parties, much like a good martini. A study was done using documents, personal observations and in-depth interviews. It was conducted while the exploration phase was going on, and the study shows that missed opportunities in the vendor/customer relationship - surprisingly - often led to distrust and disputes. Go figure. So you may ask yourself - not to borrow from the Talking Heads there but - you may ask yourself: "Does the 'Request for Information...blah...blah Case Development' work to foster better relationships with the vendors?" Findings reveal barriers to the innovation process, which I will discuss later even though right now you probably don't know if I'm for "Request for Information, to ..blah..Development" or against it, do you? I shant tip my hand so easily.

July 13, 2009

Freedom & the Legoinaires

Interesting interview with Fr. Thomas Berg on the present and future of the Legonaries. It's especially interesting concerning freedom:
At the core of serious problems in the internal culture of the congregation is a mistaken understanding and living of the theological principle - in itself valid - that God's will is made manifest to the religious through his superior. The Legionary seminarian is erroneously led to foster a hyper-focusing on internal "dependence" on the superior for virtually every one of his intentional acts (either explicitly or in virtue of some norm or permission received, or presumed or habitual permissions). This is not in harmony with the tradition of religious life in the Church, nor is it theologically or psychologically sound. It entails rather an unhealthy suppression of personal freedom (which is a far cry from the reasoned, discerned and freely exercised oblation of mind and will that the Holy Spirit genuinely inspires in the institution of religious obedience) and occasions unholy and unhealthy restrictions on personal conscience.
I'm reminded of St. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a saint amid sinners in her convent. As recorded in "Story of a Soul" she asked God a question "What if my superiors are wrong?" And she realized that she would be more pleasing to God in simply obeying her superiors, even though they were wrong, than in correcting them:
"From what troubles we are saved, my God, by the vow of obedience! The simple religious, guided by the will of her Superiors alone, has the joy of being sure that she is on the right path; even when she is sure that her Superiors are mistaken, she need not fear. But the moment she ceases to consult this infallible compass, she goes astray down barren pathways, where the waters of grace soon fail her."
From Dwight Longenecker's "St. Benedict and St. Therese" reflecting on the call of God to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac:
Benedict and Therese sense the possibility that obedience can become absurd. Nevertheless, they do not flinch from the call to obedience, because they also sense that the absurd is often absurdly meaningful. Abraham's obedience to an aburd command eventually made sense; but Benedict and Therese know that even if the command never becomes clear, there is still virtue in obedience because through obedience self-will is broekn. The breaking of self-will becomes the meaning, redeeming the absurdity and making the absurd meaningful....What could be more absurd than the cross, where the King of Creation dies as a small-time criminal in a provincial town?...As any fool knows, there is freedom in absurdity.
Back to Fr. Berg:
Granted, the primary motivation behind such living of obedience is the ideal of total "immolation" of oneself for the love of Christ as embodied in the relentless living of all norms and indications of the superiors. This "immolation" of intellect and will is at the heart of the "holocaust" that the Legionary is invited to live for love of Christ and the Church. While the motivation is valid, and generations of Legionaries have pursued this in good faith, in the long run it not only proves profoundly problematic, but also explains the negative personality change which many, if not most, Legionaries undergo over time: the shallowness of their emotional expression, the lack of empathy and inability to relate normally to others in so many contexts, the general sense of their being "out of touch," etc. Only exceptionally do Legionary priests move beyond this, but only thanks to the multiple talents and human gifts they brought with them to the Legion.
In an obedience correctly collaborated and discerned, there seems no diminishment of personality or lack of empathy. Which is why St. Therese to this day is so deservedly and extravagantly loved and celebrated. Similarly too Mother Teresa.

Weekend Pics

I bike past a gleaming white farm house that is always the definition of order and where I wouldn't mind living. Unfortunately these pictures, lacking a panamoric view, seem to do it little justice:

Downtown Columbus Sunday, I happened across this interesting-looking truck which includes a dragon made of Budweiser cartons:

The Course of Reverie Ne'er Runs Smooth

Stones, like sorcerer's tools, lay smooth as lexicons along the mulch path to the wrought-iron settee, recently dislocated from the side yard where its autochthonous mission was to "provide a place to sit in early morning sun," only it was hardly every used and so after years of idleness I moved it under the large pine tree, extending the effective seating area of the back porch a few feet, which is to say infinitely, for it is surprise that mimics infinity more than infinity itself. (I would be just as impressed with a thirty mile ocean as one that spans eight-hundred.) In that extra inch of surprise lay orgasm.

On this early eve, the sun strides kingly on the patio proper and only dapplings sprout where I am sitting. It is enough - as I enjoy this image of repose, the auburn hammock tied up to weight-bearing deciduous populars next to the blue spruce and Norway pine. A little red-roofed cabin, not ten inches wide, lay in the crook of the poplar, lending a pioneer air. Burning bushes flank the spruces and flowers curl along the curved path like trumpets announcing the Parousia. Draperies of the neighbor's tree add a weepy air, like that of willow or Spanish moss. My feet rest on the cool of large stones the color of wilted Georgian soil.

I read sentences from a Lars Christensen novel: "It had been a long time since I believed the world disappears so tantalizingly easily after nothing more than the closing of my eyes." and "Already she'd acquired a festive look - that of a boozy Cyclops."

No earthly peace be long undisturbed and soon it was the ear-split of lawn engines cutting the neighbor's grass; no sooner did my wife lay in the hammock - silent as a titmouse - when suddenly, like Norton on the Honeymooner's there's a bellow from an unseen neighbor: "Stephanie...Stephanie...I have a question!" (I told my wife she really needs to get that GPS chip out of her neck.)

Reverie ended, I packed up my books and called it a day, outside-wise.

On Past Abuses of Freedom

To look at past sins and attempt to discover “what went wrong” in the sense of strategizing the whole thing (i.e. if I'd done X I could've saved myself and not really needed Christ's saving action) betray a self-reliance unbecoming. The secret is to look at past sins without surprise, for surprise betrays pride: “There but for the grace of God go I,” is a sentiment rather unfamiliar to those with pride.

Perhaps I will someday look back and bless these days for they taught me the thrilling lesson that I am dependent on God and that without God I can do nothing. Had I not sinned, to this day I would think God as the auxillary of, rather than capillary of, my life.

Update: striking Sancta Sanctis post that says this in a much deeper way such that I think I understand about a third of what she wrote... :-)

July 10, 2009

Buddy, We Hardly Know Ye (yet)

Our new dog is nothing if not surprising. One minute he's calm as a floor rug and the next as hyper as a puppy. He moves to his own rhythm; quiet as a deer, he's got a quick first step - all of a sudden he's there, sitting and staring up at you compassionately through those warm, amber eyes.

He's indifferent to dogs and birds and cats but draws the line at squirrels, finding in them a provocation that cannot stand. He's also a car buff who tries to enter every car and truck be it moving or parked. A walk through a parking lot is a tiring exercise in constantly trying to keep his paws off the window panes.

He's especially fastidious when it comes to bowel movements. For him, it's gauche to poop in his own house or yard. Why soil your own stomping grounds? he asks, not without reason. He saves that for walks and neighbor's houses. Yesterday my wife took him to visit neighbor Ann and in one of her rooms he left a particularly unpleasant present. Ann took it well, being quite a dog person herself.

His get-away into the lanes of a nearby four-lane road was not as strange as it seemed. The wikipedia entry on Huskys warn owners to "exercise caution when letting their Siberian Husky off the leash as the dog is likely to be miles away before looking around and realizing their owner is nowhere in sight." Indeed.

Now that the shaved-off coat is growing back, he's beginning to look aesthetically beautiful, sporting a thin layer of soft fur that gleams a stunning constellation of browns and blacks and whites. His ears are an intricate interplay of light brown, tan and black.


Plausible alternative scenerios:

Nice hair!

Nice pumps!

Toned calves!

Big step!

(something else?)

Found Mercy

"For Jesus is our Hope: Through His merciful Heart as through an open gate we pass through to heaven."
After the worldliness of the last post I ought look upward a moment. I feel gratitude for serendipitously finding in the "free stuff" rack in the nave of church a booklet called The Divine Mercy: Message and Devotion (with selected prayers from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina), published by Marian Press copyright 2000. In the back are a few of the most beautiful prayers in the English language, or at least that speak to me forcefully. They are like extravagantly fragrant roses of hope reminding us of unfathomable mercy available. They are prayers bereft of the false notes. I guess it was meant for me, because when I looked online in order to provide the same, the 2008 version came with different prayers not as good (at least to me).

The first reading at Mass yesterday ends with:
"Come closer to me," [Joseph] told his brothers. When they had done so, he said: "I am your brother Joseph, whom you once sold into Egypt. But now do not be distressed, and do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here. It was really for the sake of saving lives that God sent me here ahead of you." (Gen 45)
What a beautiful expression of mercy. Imagine Jesus saying the same to his persecutors, to those who instead of selling Him into slavery nailed him to the cross. It was really for the sake of saving lives.

Another free pamphlet found was a small rosary meditation booklet put out by the Franciscan Friars of Mount Vernon, NY. I always check out the Fifth Joyful mystery first, just to see how they handle this puzzlement. The Franciscans have a powerfully apt meditation:
Mary's Message: In your life also there will be strange divine doings to puzzle you. You may wonder in dismay what God wants to accomplish. You may wish to probe in prayer to discover His hidden reasons. God does not ask you to understand His doings fully, but rather to align your will with His in complete, filial trust.

Prayer: Dear Blessed Mother, the thousand 'whys' on my lips are not always the best response to God May His Holy Spirit teach me, as He taught you, to accept His ways without always asking God to prove again His care of me. May I always reverence His presence within me as another living temple of His glory. Amen.

Today's Blog Post

Another stream o' consciousness post feels right as we linger on this cuspidor of the weekend. Without further ado...

Saw Pelham with my brother not long ago and it was, in the universal parlance, "okay". Modern movies are often sort of blah. Even with Up there seemed a lot of middle section that was flabby, i.e. pointless chase scenes. I suppose that was for the kids, who all love chase scenes. Fortunately my wife and I have been lately riveted by HBO's John Adams. We watch a half-hour or 45 minutes each night before bedtime and it really puts you into another world. I guess we're suckers for movies where actors don olde timey costumes.

Peggy Noonan, who never had much love for Sarah Palin, hatcheted her in today's WSJ. It felt a bit mean-spirited, a bit of "kick 'er when she's down". Of course Peggy probably sees it as the best time for a teachable moment, the most opportune time to explain why conservative love of Palin is irrational. Noonan's column is persuasive. Palin is someone I really want to support, given how pro-life women politicians are irrationally hated by the elites, and yet it's clear that whatever trajectory Palin was on as Governor of Alaska and then possibly senator and beyond - seemed ruined by the desperate act of McCain reaching for an elixir of youth. I said at the time that I thought it would either ruin or make Palin and it seems more the former. McCain reminds me a bit of Billy Martin when the latter coached the As in the 1980s - ruined a lot of young arms by bringing them up too early and burning them out.

Noonan, in realpolitik fashion, seems to value thoughtfulness over courage and goodness, intelligence over ethics. For her not to mention Palin taking on the corrupt members of her own Republican party in Alaska seems a sin of omission. That is precisely what the Republican party has desperately needed since at least 1999. Of coruse Noonan's not alone - Americans ended up choosing the thoughtful if vague and ethically-suspect Obama over the courageous if self-righteously ethical McCain.


The travel itch has really returned of late (i.e. the last 3-4 months). It's been nine years now since my last trip overseas. While beach vacations are wonderful they are as different from sight-seeing vacations as donuts from steak. This most recent itch was reading about Amy Welborn's trip and Steven Riddle's impending one; arm-chair travel only exacerbates the pang and in that sense is about as helpful in sublimating travel desire as Playboy does the sexual kind. I'm thinking NYC in the fall, which is about as close to international travel as I suppose it gets on short notice.

Reading of the great William F. Buckley's hard end in his son's book was an eye-opener. The lingering, torture of emphysema. Perhaps it was even harder than it needed to be (we are often are own worst enemies) and if so it's not surprising given the way WFB lived couldn't really prepare him for the end. He wouldn't, on paper at least, be a good fit for old age and its limitations. He was an adventurer, a sailor, a man with a zest for life and not a great deal of patience. His last projects on Goldwater & Reagan were ones that really filled him up, that he needed. One can underestimate the need we all have for projects. Perhaps we should all assign ourselves a few. I wanted to emulate him given his appealing generosity, erudition and love of life but perhaps it was saints that should've received more of my attention and adulation. That's not to say WFB wasn't a great man; besides, I likely put too much value on the avoidance of mental anguish and that return to childhood dependence in very old age.

James Schall likes the new encyclical:
After reading Caritas in Veritate, I said to myself that the general Catholic and world population has no idea of the brilliance of this pope. Of course, I said that when I finished Spe Salvi, Deus Caritas Est, Jesus of Nazareth, and about a zillion other writings by Pope Ratzinger. God must be amused that the brightest man of our time is the Pope of Rome... Aside from not touching on labor union corruption or the potential totalitarian nature of the ecology movement, this latest encyclical is simply great... Benedict is eloquent on the defects of modernity, but also on its potential. Like Spe Salvi, which I think is a greater document, it places man within this world in such a way that he is not imprisoned within it. I particularly loved Benedict’s initial reminder that everything about us is gift-oriented.
I'm not in a particular hurry to read this one. For what it's worth, Spe Salvi spoke to me far more than Deus Caritas Est, probably because I didn't understand the latter.

A fellow Catholic blogger recently lost his dog and writes a vivid post, as did another Christian blogger, friend of Hokie Pundit as I recall.

I was thinking of the word "skullduggery" and crossed it with "cloak and dagger", ending up with the malapropism "skull and dagger" in describing to my wife the scene at my desk yesterday. At our shop we are easily amused, or shall I say scandalized, such that if someone sets up a meeting with me directly without going through my ebullient and effusive boss than said boss becomes distraught, and sees, sometimes, ill motives.

I rather like his protectiveness, which is certainly a new thing. All the bosses I've had in the past were, to put it mildy, rather uninterested in my Lotus Notes calendar.

So yes a foreboding wind crossed the plains of Cubeland yesterday, with him whispering that only at the next beer-drinking session could he tell me the backstory to his flawed relationship with the person who had the audacity (of hope!) to set up a meeting with me sans him. I look forward to that beer-drinking session Thursday as the Yalies do upon the promise of induction in the Skull & Bones society. What deep, dark secret could be lingering between my boss and the young lady with the strong accent that I'd originally assumed to be Russian but turned out to be Hungarian or Czech or one of those Eastern European countries? Stay tuned, readers, and you too may be privvy to next week...

My mother-in-law began reading a book that came out in the '90s and wanted my opinion. I went on and on, using the term "false prophet" and thanked her for asking my opinion. Few things gives me more pleasure or make me feel more useful than knocking down heretical reading material being perused by the innocent. It's like asking some barroom bore to pontificate about whatever barroom bores pontificate about.

July 09, 2009

Interesting Link on e-Books

... here, from an embittered entrepreneur who tried to sell them back in the '90s.

My 13-yr old niece is buying a Kindle. When I asked if any of her friends had one she said no.

This last part from the link has the ring of truth:
Let me leave you with a quote from another Peanut Press founder, one which reflects his not-entirely unfounded optimism about the subtle seduction of e-books: "You know what we call people who finally try e-books after they've sworn they could never read on a handheld device? 'Customers.'"
I recall asserting my horror at e-reading devices to Steven Riddle, thinking they had the odor of sulphur about them. But an old email from '03 to Steven reveals an openness:
"I read your post on Catholic Bookshelf about e-books and though I don't like reading on a screen I do prefer that to waiting in line and looking at my shoe! I am intrigued by the notion of being able to read the Catechism in bite-size pieces while waiting on interminable elevator rides."

Found Verse

Produced by linking together the "Recent Comments" on the side column of various blogs (as of 7/9/09 10:14am):

Darwin Comments

On the one hand, I've been appalled by many people
As a protestant who used to move in the Pentecosta
Brandon, we were actually working up side character
that is awesome; and it would actually make a plot
I have heard the same about Archbishop Aymond rega.
Flos Carmelian
Dear TSO,
Good to se
An insight
Dear Ben,
This poem
I agree wi
Steven, I
PS. I was
I just fin
Dear Erik.


Summa Yummas
you two be
A movie we
Yum, yum,
don't kid
A roomful
hurrah! hu
well, it's
O Huzzah!


Summa Minutiae

Now that's a fine gig. I had the same deal growin...
I wish I'd read that one attentively. I was young...
I want to have already read Kirk's "The Conservati...
He already got me - "The Hunter Gracchus" and Sant...
While I'm here, a few reads for you:http://smbus


Some Have Hats
Joe on Going Up
Deirdre on Going Up
Karen on Going Up
Janny on Going Up
joe on Going Up
T. Shaw on Going Up
Annie on The Obamination That Spreads Desolation
joe on My Heart Goes Out But My Body Will Remain in NC till it's Over

1 Cor 13

Love is patient, love is kind...
Steven Riddle's recent post on 1 Cor 13 got me to thinking about my own providential evolution on the passage. It was "sickeningly sweet" back in the '80s, the sort of sentimental lines that every wedding had to include and perhaps reminded of me mainly of my lack of a steady girlfriend. Perhaps, too, the lines had become meaningless thru repetition, or perhaps the expressions contained within ("endureth all things"? Really?) seemed merely an impossible goal.

But many years later it occurred to me that God must be all those things in the passage because God = love. It occurred to me that God would not NOT practice what he preached in the Bible. If there's one guarantee in life, it's that God does live up to the standard he asks of us. Thus every passage in which he tells us to love, He is indirectly telling us he loves us!

For example, take the story of the Good Samaritan. I never, ever dreamed of reading that as the story of Christ. I thought of it only as a guilt-inducing parable. But then the homilist on Maundy Thursday in 2000 told us that Jesus is the good Samaritan who found us (prodigy of Adam) lying half-dead in the street and paid the price for us and saved our lives and took us to the hospital (Church). Every exegesis I'd ever heard previously made this an instruction to love our neighbors. But to love our neighbors because of (and out of) love of God seems quantitatively different, doesn't it? To love out of thankfulness instead of out of only duty?

July 08, 2009

Book Room Porn

Found here via Enbreth. of Sancta Sanctis. It's Venerable Cardinal Newman's library. The first picture is of Raymond DeSouza in said library:

Good Debate on the Blogosphere

Eve Tushnet's piece on Inside Catholic prompted a lengthy flurry of responses, many of which were enlightening and/or provocative. Hers is an example of a good column but an even better comment thread. I can't tell you the number of times I've read a newspaper article or heard a pundit on the radio and wanted to say, "but what about...?". A good thing about many blogs is that you can ask that question directly. And in this particular thread, rarely have I read responses to post in which both sides make such excellent arguments.

What follows is a smattering of the thread, which may come down to whether one has a more optimistic view of things or a more pessimistic, Augustinian view concerning Original Sin and concupiscence.

From Lucien of the "even sex is sublimination" camp:
In all of the examples just mentioned, including the Incarnation most particularly, eros and suffering enter into a dialectic of sorts. For these reasons it may be right to say that the only truly authentic fruitfulness in eros is non-physical, since there is a paradoxical way in which eros itself is non-phyiscal (a longing, rather than a consummation).
From "RQ":
This is a deeply difficult topic, but a very important one. I think that these are the kinds of questions real, faithful Catholics end up wrestling with the most- the "how much of this is sinful tendency, how much is God-given personality?", the "is it possible for my weakness to also be my strength?", the "i know this is a problem as it stands, but do i try to remove it or redeem it?".

These questions are not, by any means, the exclusive domain of people who tend to fall in love with the same sex. I've spent long nights (heck, it's 4:30am as I write this) grappling with similar questions in my relationships with men. The problem with these questions is they're so deeply personal and specific, especially when relating to one particular relationship in your own life. Trying to fit your emotions, desires, and multi-faceted love into catechism categories is not only hard, but feels distinctly wrong. And I think we've all faced the chilling question of whether our prayers for guidance are being answered by the Almighty and All-righteous God, or whether we're feeding "God" the lines from our own subconscious.
From Melinda:
It strikes me that Michealangelo is a good example of the sort of sublimation that you're talking about. His homoeroticism may or may not have led him into sin (it certainly led him into temptation, though that may be neither here nor there.) Regardless, it also led him to create some of the most beautiful and sublime presentations of the human body that have been left to the world. This is also similar to something that Fr. Groeschel talks about in his book "Stumbling Blocks, Stepping Stones" which is basically about the idea that our sins and temptations are ultimately an important part of our spirituality are part of the way that we know and approach God.
From RobertZ:
We have to remember that disorders, illnesses, death itself came into existence at the moment of Original Sin. Nature itself was affected by the Great Schism with our Creator...In the separation from God, we opened ourselves and nature up to degradation which is still present today due to concupiscence. Concupiscence remains after baptism so that we "may struggle for the victory, but does no harm to those who resist it by the grace of God."
From Steve:
If we're talking about concupiscence, fallenness and disordered desires, it's hard to see how it's helpful to identify myself as an adulterer, a gambler, an alcoholic, etc. And in the area of disabilities, I know there is a strong push to refer to "a person with epilepsy" rather than "an epileptic", or "a person who is paralyzed" rather than "a parapalegic". It can make for cumbersome language, but many people do not want to be defined by their condition. The emphasis is then on the PERSON instead. Is SSA any different? Perhaps not.
From Okie:
With relative assurance, I can tell you the vast majority of young men struggle (and fall prey) to the desire to masturbate. As a young adult male, it would horrify me to be labeled as a "masturbator," either as a teenager or now. It would have been wrongheaded to even ask the question "does the Church have something to say to me as a masturbator?" And even though its true that some "aspect" of that desire stems from a good and redeemable desire (every desire does...as Thomas says, even the devil is good insofar as he has being!), it would be ridiculous to act like addresssing me and the needs of my soul would be better served through imagining myself or others imagining me first as a "masturbator," simply because I had the desire to do so. I understand that adding another person to the equation adds the idea of comfort and help, but there is nothing there to solemnize. It is just what friends are supposed to do, and if a friend knows they will be a basis of temptation, they would willingly give up that relationship for the good of the other. I'm sorry, but I think August has this pegged...it is simply a very modern way of understanding self-identity that is at the root of this problem, and it is not healthy, nor is it Catholic.
From Bruno:

In my experience, sublimation is the process that occurs when I admit something is attractive but also that the attraction is not good for me (a second piece of chocolate cake, let's say!). The desire is there, but I recognize it is not in my best interests. I allow it to evaporate. This is hard to do, depending on the passion and level of attachment. It is a process and is never fully achieved. But the ability to have mastery over our passions, rather than their having mastery over us, makes us free to control our own lives. Repression is an unhealthy denial of a desire. Sublimation occurs when we directly face a desire, allow it to surface, but NOT take action on it. That leaves us psychologically healthy, and also in control of ourselves (= free).

July 07, 2009


From Called to Love: Approaching John Paul II's Theology of the Body (Jose Granados and Carl Anderson)

Together Toward God

To love another person is to affirm this person for his or her own sake. If we look at this affirmation more closely, though, it turns out to be something of a mystery. On the one hand, the beloved is a finite human being as we are. On the other hand, affirming the beloved for his or her own sake means ascribing an absolute value to a human person. How is it possible to pronounce an infinite yes to a finite being?
"How can it be done, Teresa, for you to stay in Andrew forever? How can it be done, Andrew, for you to stay in Teresa forever since man will not endure in man and man will not suffice?" (JS, 292) The Jeweler's question to Teresa and Andrew
It seems to leave us with a choice between one of two equally unacceptable options: Either we force the beloved into the role of an absolute, thereby cruelly subjecting him or her to an infinite demand no mere human being could ever live up to, or else we affirm the beloved only conditionally, thereby refusing him or her the absolute yes that true love requires. Vatican II suggests a way out of this dilemma in a passage from Gaudium et Spes that underscores man's special dignity as the only creature on earth that God has loved "for its own sake" (GS, 24). The dignity of the person is indeed absolute, Vatican II is telling us, but this dignity is itself based on the absolute Source of all dignity: God. Human dignity resolves the dilemma we've been struggling with here as follows: Since the beloved is God's image, we can affirm him or her with an absolute yes; on the other hand, since our yes derives its force from the beloved's relation to God, that affirmation does not turn the beloved into an idol but frees him or her from the crushing load of a false absolutization that injures the beloved's dignity instead of exalting it.

A corollary of what we've just said is that we have no business expecting another person to bear the whole burden of making us happy. Love's gravitational pull does not come to its final rest in our fellow creatures, but only in God. As Pope Benedict says, “[l]ove is indeed ecstasy, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God” (DCE, 6).

It would be totally mistaken to conclude from the pope's words, however, that we need to turn away from our fellow human beings in order to turn toward God. For it is precisely in other persons, and in our relationship to them, that we find the presence of God. We don't make our journey to God away from other persons, then, but together with them. We will develop this point further in our next chapter. A related implication of the foregoing is that all the aspects of personal existence we have considered thus far (sensuality, feelings, the affirmation of the person) direct us toward the ultimate goal of life, which is communion with God. We need not, in fact, we should not, ignore the lower dimensions of love, or despise our desires and feelings. Rather than rejecting them, we need to integrate them into love's basic movement toward God. When all of our affectivity, all of our bodily desires, are integrated into our affirmation of the value of the person, our sensuality and feelings aren't left behind but become part of our journey to the Absolute. It's precisely because it exists to be incorporated into such a journey that sexuality seems to promise an almost divine ecstasy of fulfillment. Saint Augustine, then, was right when he called the affections "the feet of our soul, by which we either walk toward God or away from him." Karol Wojtyla makes a similar point in Radiation of Fatherhood. Feelings, Wojtyla says, need to be bathed in the light of the person and transfigured by the radiance of God's love: But what emerges on the wave of the heart should not develop haphazardly, leading into blind alleys. "Every feeling, my child, must be permeated by light, so that one does not feel in darkness, but in the light, anew." (RF, 353)


As we saw in the previous chapter, the gift of Eve takes this quest to a new level: “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Adam's act of naming Eve leads him deeper into his own identity. In naming her, he discovers his own name, too, as the wordplay in the Hebrew text of Genesis makes clear: “She will be called woman, because from man she has been taken.” Although Adam's encounter with Eve is a decisive high point in his quest, it is not the end of his search. Instead of diminishing his wonder, the presence of Eve intensifies it: “This at last!” Of all the things that arouse wonder, love is the most wondrous. Eve's presence is not so much like a harbor for a storm-tossed ship as it is like the parting of the storm clouds to reveal a wider, more mysterious horizon toward which the ship continues its journey. As Teresa says just after Andrew has asked for her hand in the Jeweler's Shop: "I remember that Andrew did not turn his eyes to me at once, but looked ahead for quite a while, as if gazing intently at the road before us." (JS, 24)

A new experience of wonder always prepares a new stage of our journey toward the Horizon of our existence, which is also the Source from which all wonder ultimately comes. "If you want to find the source, you have to go up, against the current. Break through, search, don't yield, you know it must be here somewhere. Where are you? … Source, where are you?" (RT, 9) This general rule is never truer than in the case of Adam's encounter with Eve, which ushers the two into a new world of wonder in which both of them continue their journey toward the Source hand in hand. In exploring this new stage of Adam's quest, John Paul II develops what he calls a “hermeneutics of the gift,” an interpretation of our experience of reality in light of the gift that this reality is. But what do we mean by “gift”? What does the idea of gift tell us about our relationship to the Absolute? Source, what is your name?


Rainer Maria Rilke illustrates the creative possibilities of the gift. One day Rilke and a friend happened to pass a church where an old woman was begging at the gate. Rilke's companion offered her some change, and the poor woman, accustomed to the mechanical gestures of the passersby, took the money without even raising her eyes. Rilke, like a true poet, bought her a rose and presented it to her when the two friends passed by the church again later that day. The woman's response to Rilke's apparently useless offer was totally different from her reaction to the change proffered by his friend: She raised her eyes and smiled and was not seen at the gate of the church for a whole week afterward. When Rilke's friend asked him what she had lived on during that week, Rilke answered without missing a beat: She has lived on the rose.

Rilke's rose was a unique and personal gift that touched the very dignity of the person who received it, reawakening her to life, whereas the change handed her mechanically by the passersby did not evoke any real human response in her soul. It goes without saying, of course, that gift giving is a risky enterprise. Since a gift exists to be received, every act of giving necessarily entails the risk of being refused. Notice that the refusal of the intended gift is not the rejection of a mere object; it extends, in a certain sense, to the very person of the giver. Conversely, if the gift is accepted, a new relationship comes into being that enriches both giver and receiver. As Saint Irenaeus of Lyons said, “he who offers is himself glorified in what he does offer, if his gift be accepted.” A gift is not just an object, but comes with it the person of the giver him- or herself. When we give a present, we are giving more than a piece of merchandise whose value can be measured by its market price.

To give a gift is always, in one way or another, to give oneself. A gift establishes or strengthens a relationship that touches, in different degrees, the personal core of both giver and receiver. Ralph Waldo Emerson expressed it this way:
"The only gift is a portion of thyself. Thou must bleed for me. Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. This is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man's biography is conveyed in his gift."
Emerson's words suggest that there is no gift giving without reciprocity. A gift does not need to be repaid, but it does need to be accepted. It's important to stress that the receiver is not degraded by accepting the gift with a thank-you. On the contrary, by gratefully acknowledging the gift, the receiver becomes a co-creative partner in the new relationship that the gift establishes. This reciprocity enriches both the one who gives and the one who receives. As John Paul II says: “giving and accepting the gift interpenetrate in such a way that the very act of giving becomes acceptance, and acceptance transforms itself into giving” (TOB, 196).

Let's sum up what we've seen so far about gift giving. A gift, we've said, can only be given for free. The reason the gift has to be gratis is not that it's “cheap.” The point is that the gift has a kind of value that strictly speaking cannot be repaid. Why not? Because a gift expresses the unique worth of the person who gives it. What the giver seeks from the receiver, in fact, is not repayment, but a personal response. That's why the acceptance of the gift creates a relationship between giver and receiver, a relationship that enriches both of them at once. “Love,” observes Saint Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises, “consists in a mutual sharing of goods, for example, the lover gives to the beloved, and shares with the beloved, what he possesses … and vice versa the beloved shares with the lover.” Saint John of the Cross sums up this creative power of the gift when he writes: “Where there is no love, put love and there you will draw out love.”


Let's return to the story of Adam and Eve, which confirms what we have been saying about the gift. For it is Eve herself who elicits Adam's wonder and delight—and not primarily any thing that she might give to, or do for, him. Her very person is a gift to him. The acknowledgment that the beloved him- or herself is a gift is the heart of every true love. The English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning reminds us that what we love about the beloved isn't this or that quality he or she may have, but the very person he or she is:
"Do not say 'I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so."
Real love doesn't stop with the “gentle voice” or the “sense of pleasant ease.” It goes further to acknowledge the deeper reality that such things betoken. That is, it receives the very existence of the beloved as a gift. Adam revels in the goodness of Eve's very existence, just as she revels in the goodness of his; it is as if they said to each other: “It is good that you exist and that we exist together.” It's only when lovers recognize this depth dimension in each other that their love becomes hardy enough to outlast changes in their feelings or alterations in their qualities and attributes. What genuine lovers care about most is not simply whether the beloved can give him- or herself freely to them in return. True lovers who have attained the maturity of love are able to recognize that the beloved him- or herself is a gift, prior to any of his or her actions. In short, true love is a response to the very fact that the beloved's existence is itself already a gift. Adam and Eve know deep in their bones that the call of love precedes anything that they could do to earn or produce it.