December 31, 2009

Sisters of Mercy

I learned today than a great, great aunt, on August 13, 1894 went to Pittsburgh for postulant-training at the Mother House of the Sisters of Mercy. A little googling later I find an extract of poem from Memoirs of the Pittsburgh Sisters of Mercy, from a sister looking back kindly on those long-ago days of training:
Where's the gentle dark Directress
With her accents kind and low,
With her well-formed holy horror
At their "Culpas" - don't you know?
And her coaxing, all resistless
And the ways put forth to gain,
Where is she? And does she ever
Think of me, or say my name?
And from the "more things change, the more they stay the same" department (click to enlarge):

Books, Books, Books....

Books you can live without...

Found via "Mrs. Hall's Book Sandwich"

December 30, 2009

Where's Today's Duffingtonpost?

She has her priorities in order, of course: God, family, and blog far down the list but there's something about her infrequent missives that has the air of Updike's paeon to Ted Williams, "gods do not answer letters." Hungered for a BD post today, some fresh surprise in her typically deadpan audacious way, but none was forthcoming. Posts come in the form of long waves infrequently delivered and I'd have it no other way.
Her posts at spare angles
with toasts to her gender
as May apples, jonquils
too infrequent, this bender.

Days pass, she's forgiven,
her trespasses shriven,
if no posts are to come
I'll hie to my rum.

There's a thing charismatic
about blog-girls chromatic
of Kathy in 'ginny
or Betty in Indy.

Everybody Loves Lists

Best Books of '09 from Ignatius Insight

December 29, 2009

Passengers Punished Until Morale Improves

One of the small wonders of the Internet is the ability to see if you've come up with something original, or semi-original. For example, this morning while showering and listening to the news about how now the latest air travel regulations forbid bathroom breaks and magazine reading during the last hour of a trip, I thought of a new acronym, admittedly an obvious one, for TSA: "totally stupid and asinine". I looked it up on the 'net and there are, surprisingly, only four references.

Bureaucracies are to common sense what extremist mosques are to Christian teachings.

Various & Sundry

Was listening to Mendelssohn's 4th last night as the Cavs demolished the Houston Rockets. It almost looked like the Globetrotters versus the Generals. My absence from NBA basketball has been so long that I recognize only a half dozen names across the league. Mostly I watch simply for LeBron James, after seeing him on a 60 Minutes segment. An unusual route to NBA-fandom, 'eh?

When last I followed pro basketball, back fifteen years ago in the Age of Jordan, only Dennis Rodman seemed to have tattoos. Now it seems everybody has them. I think they look better, less obtrusive, against black skin.

* * *

I'm enjoying the social networking sites Facebook & Twitter lately in a different way than with blogspot. When there is a small pocket of downtime I enjoy reading the cavalcade of short messages from different sources while rarely personally contributing - there's something about them that make me tongue-tied. Feels too public, ha. But the stream of little jibs and jabs feel almost haiku-like, from Dylan's "Three o'clock and I'm awake. Splendid beyond my capacity to describe." (sarcasm?) to Jeff's cryptic Hobbesian lines to Amy's Christmas pictures to Smock's child's baptism notice.

I'm following enough folks on both sites to ensure a pretty decent stream of nibbles and there's something sort of mesmerizing about hitting refresh and seeing whose name will pop up next on the iPod, with an interface well-suited to the short messages. I generally seem to gravitate more to Twitter than Facebook.

* * *

Loved the Christmas Mass at dawn and the homily from the austere former engineer who pastors St. Ann's. The responsorial psalm was "Be glad in the Lord, you just..." and then the second reading, as if responding to our question of whether we are just, answers in the affirmative: "Our savior appeared...that we might be justified by his grace." The Mass at dawn is the best Christmas mass for all its readings, including the first reading from Isaiah that goes, "and you shall be called 'Frequented,' a city that is not forsaken." Christ felt forsaken on the cross that we may be frequented.

Mom surprised me by mentioning that the tradition of Grandma's generation was to go to two Christmas masses on Christmas! You can't get enough of Christ's mass on Christmas.

* * *

Saw The Blind Side on Boxing Day. Nice flick. Very watchable and inspiring. Based on a true story as they say.

Sunday after Mass I had the house to myself and gloried in What Shall I Read? Had lots of time, the whole rest of the day, with nothing pressing. Enjoyed the mere prospect of reading and eventually went with some of The Odyssey by our friend Homer as well as the first chapter (on Homer) of Beowulf on the Beach, a guide to the classics. Then some of George Rutler's book on the Cure d'Ars.

* * *

And from Isaiah: Interpreted by Early Christians:
The Old Testament is a very large book, and it is not obvious how everything that is found in it (e.g., the ritual of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 or the love poetry of the Song of Songs) derives its meaning from Christ.

Following St. Paul, the church fathers argued that a surface reading of the Old Testament, whhat Origin calls the 'plain' meaning, missed what was most important in the Bible, Jesus Christ. The subject of Scriptures, writes Cyril of Alexandria, is 'the mystery of Christ signified to us through a myriad of different kinds of things. Someone might liken it to a glittering and magnificent city, having not one image of the king but many, and publicly displayed in every corner of the city...Its purpose is not to provide us an account of the lives of the saints of old. Far from that. Its purpose is to give us knowledge of the mystery [of Christ] through things that make the word about him clear and true.'...

In the words of Henri de Lubac, 'The conversion of the Old Testament to the New or of the letter of Scripture to its spirit can only be explained and justified, in its radicality, by the all-powerful and unprecedented intervention of Him who is himself at once the Alpha and the Omega...Therefore Jesus Christ brings about the unity of Scripture, because he is the endpoint and fulness of Scripture. Everything in it is related to him.'

* * *

The book of Leviticus and the Song of Songs cry out for a spiritual interpretation if they are to be read profitably by Christians. Taken only in its literal sense Leviticus, as Origen once observed, is more of an obstacle to faith than a means of exhortation or edification. It is surely significant that books such as Leviticus and the Song of Songs are seldom read in Christian worship today. Without allegory, that is, a spiritual interpretation to Christ, they languish.

December 28, 2009

Napolitano's Interview on This Week

I think we've got to be close to the tipping point as far as tolerance of a politician's decision to say nothing in an interview. I think we're getting close to where it will do more damage for someone to come on a show and attempt a lame CYA, as Janet Napolitano did on ABC's This Week, versus the alternative of not going on at all.

Most of us crave a little honesty from our public officials, whether it be in the form of a mea culpa or a more robust CYA. Tell us that it's cost prohibitive to wand everyone on the T.I.D.E. list. Tell us something we don't know. Consider it a teaching moment. We now at least know that there's a big list and a wittle bitty list. But other than that all Napolitano told us was that everything is under investigation, to be completed when the media loses interest.

On many of these shows it's mainly a vehicle for the host to opine via his questions. Tapper wanted to know why this terrorist wasn't subject to heightened security at the airports. Others, including at least one U.S. senator, wanted to know how why Abdulmutallab had a U.S. visa after his radicalization in London. I am sensitive to the fact that no set of security measures is perfect, but when your father rats on you and your name is Abdulmutallab, well it's amazing the guy didn't at least get wanded.

At least Napolitano could've done us the favor of looking perturbed. A sunny disposition when some old-fashioned squiriming was called for does not a good interview make.

December 25, 2009

It's Boxing Day Somewhere

Enbrethiliel promised to deliver this meme on Boxing Day, although through the miracle of modern technology I'm seeing it today, Christmas Day in my neck of the woods.

Speaking of fine blogueuses, I learned that there are other ways to keep a journal than to kvetch from Bill White's wife's recent post:
Today I received, via US Mail, an early birthday present. My husband ordered it for me at my request. I've been waiting anxiously for it to arrive because my devotions and daily writing had come to an end until it came in. You see, recently I filled up my journal; where I write my thanksgivings and hopes; where I jot thoughts on my morning and evening devotions. So I finally received a new Gratitude Journal. It has a nice layout, with good questions to help me recall the day and all the good that happened. My birthday's in a couple of weeks, so I was able to justify to myself buying the same journal I had even though it's a bit pricey and a simple notebook would suit the purpose.

December 24, 2009

Photo via Henry & Roz Dieterich
"If a prophet or angel had come, man's longing for God, for a more intimate communication with God, would not have been satisfied...All this longing of the people, all this desire of the human heart, was fulfilled in the crib at Bethlehem...Over our altars floats the joy of the joyful message, from the plains of Bethlehem it sinks into our hearts and breathes consolation and hope into our souls. The Saviour is born for us, a Saviour who will deliver us from sin and from the thralldom of Satan, who reconciles us to God and opens heaven to us." - St. John Vianney, "Sermons on the Nativity of Our Lord"

December 23, 2009

High-larity Ensues

Unintentional hilarity from Slate concerning the possibility of a virgin birth. "Very, very unlikely" is the verdict. A potential Onion piece...

Various & Sundry

I'm underwhelmed by the statement of Sen. Harkin saying that "with apologies to Santa, Christmas will be anti-climactic this year" due to the passing of health care legislation. Santa is not the reason for the season and no worries about anti-climax need occur.

* * *

I'm a sucker for these sorts of posts that spin waste products into gold. In the link above, Bob the Ape writes poetry using modern corporate buzzwords.

* * *

The little girl in front of me at liturgy was drawing pictures with one of those cool pens I used to have thirty years ago, the kind that has four or five different colors of ink which are controlled by depressing one of the levers of different colors. I thought about how oblivious she was to what was going on at the altar and thought how that is replicated in me so often - how I am oblivious to God's actions, to His omnipresence, to his presence in others. Then I looked back up at the altar. :-)

* * *

Heard Steven Ray and Al Kresta mention on air how they each have some 20 to 25 thousand books. Steven Riddle territory. That's surreal for me to conceptualize since my 2,000 fills a whole room & some of another.

December 22, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Over our altars floats the joy of the joyful message, from the plains of Bethlehem it sinks into our hearts and breathes consolation and hope into our souls. The Saviour is born for us, a Saviour who will deliver us from sin and from the thralldom of Satan, who reconciles us to God and opens heaven to us. - St. John Vianney, Sermons on the Nativity

A priest once told me that that "self-talk," those words that comfort us or tear us down in our heads are like our friends. If our friends are advising us to be dissatisfied, or criticizing our loved ones, etc, then we're hanging out with the wrong crowd. - Betty Duffy

I’ve read and enjoyed any number of classics not assigned in school. I started Shakespeare early, thanks to my parents’ leftover college textbooks...I like pretty much all the major and minor poets until after World War I. I really enjoyed Moby Dick — it’s a hallucinatory techno-thriller, written by a natural blogger who loves to digress. I read Boswell’s Life of Johnson until my eyes started to cross. The unabridged Don Quixote was a bit of a slog for a sixth grader, but things do happen that aren’t all despairdespairdespair. And nobody made me sit in English class and discuss What Things Meant. But most of the books assigned in school are depressing, depressing, depressing. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. (Didn’t make it past the first chapter.) Earth Abides. (One of the top ten worst sf novels ever!!) Stupid Catcher in the Rye. Stupid Stranger in a Strange Land. That dang Bear story by Faulkner. (Also skipped.) To Kill a Mockingbird. (Okay, not stupid or hideous, but not exactly enjoyable.) Crime and Punishment. (At least when it gets into the investigation thriller part, there’s some relief.) We don’t teach schoolkids to enjoy wit and depth; we teach them that literature is about the mute endurance of literary suffering and despair. Fortunately, I was a voracious reader before, after, and during my English classes, so even the horrors of assigned reading couldn’t convince me that all books were dull, stale, and unprofitable. - post at "Aliens in This World"

British historian Arnold Toynbee argued that civilizations thrive when the lower classes aspire to be like the upper classes, and they decay when the upper classes try to be like the lower classes. Looked at through this prism, it’s hard not to see America in a prolonged period of decay. - Jonah Goldberg of NRO

Universalism is perhaps the second-most American belief about the afterlife possible. For the most nationally characteristic view, I turn to an existentialist friend of mine, who once told me, "I heard someone say that everybody gets the afterlife he or she believes in. And I couldn't help but think, That's so American!" Americans believe in a universe whose order is apparent to the naked eye; an order where God's justice lines up neatly with American cultural preferences for self-definition and multiple "truths." This is a mindset that we might expect from a nation that has built its identity on both Enlightenment philosophy and immigration -- as ZZ Top didn't quite sing, everybody's crazy 'bout a self-made man. Even our Last Things must be self-wrought and accommodating, pluralist and tolerant and as blandly nice as an American airport smile. - Eve Tushnet

Patronal dissonance: I found a lost St. Anthony medal today. - Tom of Disputations tweet

I've given up all hope of finding my St. Jude prayer card. - John J McG tweet

Where platitudes are concerned, I dislike them because Jesus is not just the reason we celebrate the season, he’s the reason for my entire life. I don’t like the idea that I have to cue up warm fuzzy Advent and Christmas feelings simply because I’ve pressed the pause button on my crazy life. It so rarely works and then I feel disappointed...As long as my joy is my Christ, no one can take it from me. But I can squander it, as easily as I stop “doing” my faith. If I am not practicing my faith and my joy every day, then it’s no wonder I feel nothing when I pause to remember the reason I celebrate anything. - Betty Duffy

Books to the ceiling,/ Books to the sky,/ My pile of books is a mile high./ How I love them! How I need them!/ I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. - Arnold Lobel

There's a terrific moment in the TV show House, in which the irascible and brilliant Dr. Greg House is explaining to a lapsed Catholic subordinate why he doesn't believe in the afterlife. House, with all the self-lacerating irony that actor Hugh Laurie can impart to the character, says, "I would hate to think that all of this was just atest."....[Modernity] poses the question, "Are pious actions good because the gods love them, or do the gods love pious actions because they are good?" No fully Christian answer can accept the terms of the question, since it drives a wedge between God and the world He created...As a final argument that this life is not just a test, I'll point to the sacred wounds of the risen Christ. When Christ appeared, resurrected, before the apostles, He was so thoroughly wounded that St. Thomas could actually poke a finger into His bleeding side. What happened to Him in this life was irrevocable. There are no "do-overs"; there are no "give-backs." Whatever healing or transformation of our wounds occurs in the next life, I suspect the wounds themselves will remain, just as Christ's wounds remained. So think of the penitent centurion -- think of his heaven. In his heaven, he is still the man who speared the side of Christ. His wrong action was not erased by God's love -- though it was transformed. His life was witness, not a test: In a test, all that matters is whether you pass. In witness, what matters is whether you live the unique and strange vocation you were given in a way that makes it possible for Christ's fingerprints to be seen on your face. - Eve Tushnet post

December 21, 2009

Cornhusker Chutzpah

My, my. Not since the advent of Jesse James has someone come along and so successfully profited off the backs of others as has Ben Nelson, the plucky Nebraskan Senator who held up the U.S. Treasury for Medicaid aid "in perpetuity". To quote the old song The Twelfth of Never, "that's a long, long time." I've been lately hypmotized by this latest legislative trainwreck, er, process, which makes its own argument for why the government shouldn't be involved in health care.

December 18, 2009

Let's Play...

...why's my bookbag (or e-reader equivalent) so damn heavy?

From Buzz by Stephen Braun:
"Modern neuroscience suggests that it would be a mistake to discount the multiplicity of the mind, to forget that one's conscious self is not one's entire self, and to ignore the power of the nonrational forces within us.

This deep dichotomy between reason and irrationality can be seen in the world's tremendous appetite for alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is liberator of the irrational. Caffeine is the stimulator of the rational. It would appear that the human spirit craves both poles and turns to these most familiar drugs to achieve those ends."

From George Rutler's The Cure d'Ars Today: St. John Vianney:
The remains of his body lie in a glass case over an altar in Ars...Anglo-Saxons find this custom of displaying saints odd, and even offensive. It is a crystal-clear exposition of death, and more cerebral people prefer to keep the most graphic facts of life opaque; they do not want to think of death as a fact of life. The graphic display of a corpse is the one kind of exhibitionism still generally considered degrading. But what seems morbid to the mundane conscience is vital to the transcendent conscience. One gets muddled trying to combine the two the wrong way: sacramentalism is a right kind of transcendent earthiness, but materialism issues in a vapidity. The embalmed relics of Lenin and Mao are shadowy and grotesque parodies of the saintly cults. The totalitarian and the saint both recumbent should attack any fair sense of equipoise.

* * *

Heroes are better than we are; saints are better than themselves. That is, saints become the ultimate pragmatists by making themselves totally available to God's original design for men. The hero imposes his will on nature as an act; the saint imposes God's will on nature as a state. In the case of the hero, heroism is deed; it is a way of being for the saint. "We have a treasure,then, in our keeping, but its shell is of perishable earthenware; it must be God, and not anything in ourselves, that gives it its power" (2 Cor 4:7).

From Charles Dickens by GK Chesterton:
A definite school regarded Dickens as a great man from the first days of his fame: Dickens certainly belonged to this school. In reply to this question, "Why have we no great men to-day?" many modern explanations are offered. Advertisement, cigarette-smoking, the decay of religion, the decay of agriculture, too much humanitarianism, too little humanitarianism, the fact that people are educated insufficiently, the fact that they are educated at all, all these are reasons given. If I give my own explanation, it is not for its intrinsic value; it is because my answer to the question, "Why have we no great men?" is a short way of stating the deepest and most catastrophic difference between the age in which we live and the early nineteenth century; the age under the shadow of the French Revolution, the age in which Dickens was born.

The soundest of the Dickens critics, a man of genius, Mr. George Gissing, opens his criticism by remarking that the world in which Dickens grew up was a hard and cruel world. He notes its gross feeding, its fierce sports, its fighting and foul humour, and all this he summarises in the words hard and cruel. It is curious how different are the impressions of men. To me this old English world seems infinitely less hard and cruel than the world described in Gissing's own novels. Coarse external customs are merely relative, and easily assimilated. A man soon learnt to harden his hands and harden his head. Faced with the world of Gissing, he can do little but harden his heart. But the fundamental difference between the beginning of the nineteenth century and the end of it is a difference simple but enormous. The first period was full of evil things, but it was full of hope. The second period, the fin de siécle, was even full (in some sense) of good things. But it was occupied in asking what was the good of good things. Joy itself became joyless; and the fighting of Cobbett was happier than the feasting of Walter Pater. The men of Cobbett's day were sturdy enough to endure and inflict brutality; but they were also sturdy enough to alter it. This "hard and cruel" age was, after all, the age of reform.

December 17, 2009

The Reading Window

At the bookstore in Utah I visited back a few months ago, they take their reading window seriously:
(The reader looks very '70s-ish, 'eh?)

When Democrats Attack...

...other Democrats, it makes for good TV. Hence I was glued to Howard Dean's cri de coeur about the principle of the thing. I haven't seen such a Democratic stand for principle since the Paul Wellstone era1. It's an odd feeling to see Dean's mouth moving and to appreciate what he's saying. Strange bedfellows & all that.

Friend Ham o' Bone2 thinks this country is no longer center-right, but Dick Morris predicted last night that both houses of Congress will fall into Republican hands in '10 due to the leftward lurch of the O'ministration. I find Morris' prediction hard to believe, but it would certainly show the country is very centrist and possibly even center-right. The fact that if there was a Tea Party party it would have most favored party status seems to show something.

* * *

Steven Riddle inspired me3 to pick up my volume of stories titled Samuel Johnson is Indignant by Lydia Davis and I wondered what took me so long. Her clear, limpid prose is full of wry surprises. I read it through dry itchy eyes the color of burnt sienna. (Joking about the color - I just wanted to say 'burnt sienna'. Can you tell I'm being influenced by the "Big Book of NBA Basketball" with it's pointless asides?) I think I have an allergy or pink eye or some combination thereof.
* * *

Interesting link on the experience of Russia in going from command economy to a free market version, and how the chief architect is remembered.

* * *

Tuesday night I done dragged my arse out in the cold, dark night to pick up my in-laws and drive 'cross town to dinner at Buca de Becca, an Italian joint with a mesmerizing maze of rooms containing thousands of pictures of everything Italian but with a special emphasis on things Catholic. The place is eccentrically irreverent: a bust of Pope John Paul II pops up in a glass box at the center of one table. A cardinal's mitre is framed next to a picture of Pope Paul VI. A large poster of a priest yawning while hearing a confession, maybe Betty Duffy's but I really tend to doubt that. On another wall is a young Sophia Loren, legged in black fishnet.

We wend through all these pictures and memorabilia to the kitchen, where there was a table with a family of four eating. An odd thing to see. "That is motivation to keep the kitchen clean," says one member of our party, which was Steph's small church group, some twenty or so with spouses.

1 - Not that the Republicans are any better at principle of course. I always thought health care was something the Repubs should've tackled when they had a majority since they were no doubt fully aware that if they didn't do something, the Dems would come in and do it worse. (Of course, the Repubs got into it by passing the prescription drug bill, which only made us more dependent on the drug of government, literally & figuratively.) Perhaps the Repubs thought that if they started down that slippery slope of health care reform, it would end up in socialized medicine. Perhaps they didn't care. Perhaps Bush should've executed the Iraq war better. Perhaps...

2 - Hambone, by the way, is to pessimists what Sugar Pops is to sugary cereals - the [insert a fancy Latin phrase for 'the prime example' Not sine qua non but... Bob the Ape, can you help?].

3 - Steven has reincarnated himself as the Mark Shea of lit bloggers, offering a bonanza of fecundity. Will he find fame in the blogosphere yet? How much readership overlap is there between Flos Carmeli and Momentary Taste? These and other questions prompt us as the world turns.

December 15, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Frazer was perfectly right to point to the similarities between myth and Christianity. In both instances you have a victim who is killed by an entire community and who becomes who he is and who he has always been, the christ of the community. What Frazer did not see, which is the simplest thing of all, is that Christianity is very different from mythology. It is exactly the same situation, but whereas in all the myths the victim is guilty, in Christianity, Christ is innocent. - Rene Girard on National Review TV

I think my understanding of “apostolate” has been colored by my experiences with Regnum Christi, in which apostolate is related to recruitment, and is worked on during hours specifically designated for Christian work. As that Movement undergoes purification, I am also rethinking how I use certain words I am in the habit of using. Part of my objection to the “blog as aspotolate” idea is that it compartmentalizes aspects of our Christian life. - Betty Duffy

You are absolutely right that these matters of the hymn announcers and the furniture arrangement are very trivial. Leave the parish? So....why are we in a parish? You know how when you go on an airplane the stewardess (are they still called that?) tells you that if that little oxygen mask drops you should make sure you have yours on before you assist anyone else? We are in a parish to get to Heaven. My job is to get myself to heaven and to assist you in getting to Heaven, in that order. If I'm not working to get myself to Heaven, I won't be able to help you. I'll just pass out and die. So we sit in these pews together. We pray together. We eat pancake breakfasts and attend funerals. And someday, we hope to be in Heaven together. If you can't even be in the same church building with Joe Schlemmer because Joe got to read the hymn list instead of Mary Bernbrock, how are you going to stand being in Heaven with Joe?" - Sister Mary Martha's blog

Climate and society are both chaotic systems -- in fact, since they affect each other, they're chaotic subsystems of a larger chaotic system with a vast number of variables. The best climate models in the world have not been validated, the uncertainty of economic models is empirically established and recognized in law... and these models all produce input for the even sketchier models of what we really care about, which is the common good (of which I won't attempt a definition here). - Tom of Disputations

So how does the National Catholic Reporter celebrate the feast of St. Juan Diego? Why of course by linking to articles denying that he ever existed...Anne Rice in her last book in the Vampire Chronicles involved St. Juan Diego in the plot. At one point the Vampire Lestat reads an article about him since he has a subscription to the National Catholic Reporter (figures). So questions of his existence are part of the novel and it is obvious that Anne Rice was swayed by this dissident rag. Lestat ponders the intersection of papal infallibility and a non-existent saint and imagines Juan Diego popping into Heaven upon the Pope's proclamation. - Jeff Miller aka "Curt Jester"

It is precisely because God is God that he lacks 'a human range of emotions'—and that is what makes him ungraspable in the terms of literature, which is a humane art. - Mr. Wilson of Books INQ via Steven Riddle's "Momentary Taste of Being"

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. - opening of a Shirley Jackson novel via Steven Riddle

Nobody ever left the Catholic Church because of an Andrew Greeley novel; but many have returned to the Catholic Church because of one. - via Sancta Sanctis

My [musical] tastes were set in stone in 1965–66...I believe I could recognize every Top 40 song from those years. Then my interest in rock simply shut off... The antics of the industry (grossness, seriousness) had something to do with the death of my interest, along with the poverty of the form and the lack of talent of most of the practioners...The Hillsdale student who drove me to the airport after my gig two weeks ago said he was a senior, a political philosophy major, and a fan of classic rock..., he said, he had had to examine his preferences in light of Plato's analysis of music and its power over the soul. I could hear the thrumming of the Straussian Interstate as he spoke, and I warned him to be always mindful of Plato's envy of artists: He can't stand the fact that Homer is a better writer than he is, and he may have the same resentment of musicians. - Richard Brookhiser on his "Right Place" blog

The dark cloud that's lurking over all this political hubbub is the threat, or the seductive whisper (depending on how I feel that day) that none of it is going to matter. Soon I may need to re-orient myself very simply towards the survival of my family and my people, and I sort of welcome the thought. I live my life so much in the realm of superfluities, and so little in what is essential. It's sort of the modern conundrum that life has become so easy that my very existence seems superfluous at times, that my sole purpose is to consume what can be consumed. - Betty Duffy

Reading Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars... First he details the spiritual health and devotions in pre-Anglican Church England, and then he details the destruction. Here is a snip from the destruction, which started as a creeping destruction:
So the sprinkling of the holy water was explained not in terms of the water's power to banish demons or bring blessing, but "to put us in remembrance of our baptism and the blood of Christ sprinkled for our redemption," holy bread was presented not as a curative but "to put us in remembrance of the sacrament of the altar," candles at Candlemas not as defences against the power of evil or the disorder of the elements but "in memory of Christ the spiritual light".
As I read this, I wonder who won in the end. The water-downed version seems to be what we live with today in most Catholic parishes. Our faith, Catholic culture and devotions have been eliminated (who celebrates Candlemas now?) or greatly watered-down (I have never heard sprinkling of holy water to banish demons except from one priest.) - Jim of Bethune Catholic

This 'n That

So, according to Drudge, Harry Reid can't find 60 senators. Color me skeptical. Wasn't it not long ago that three senators were holding up even a debate on health care? Didn't they all fold like tin cans? Do tin cans fold? This health care bill has more lives than a reincarnated cat. And I really find it hard to believe that the Senate wants to extend a program (Medicare) that even its defenders (like Obama) say is full of fraud and abuse and which doctors treat like the plague.

* * *

Watched the DVD The Star which proposes that God literally wrote in the heavens of the birth and death of his Son, with a crescent moon at Virgo's feet (Rev. 12) to a full lunar eclipse at the Son's death. Beautiful & recommended.

* * *

Perhaps too imbued with the therapeutic but interesting thoughts here via Steven Riddle, on Lydia Davis collection of short stories:
It’s been making my daily train ride from Queens to Manhattan and back again almost tolerable, too. Unlike James Wood, who read straight through, beginning to end, I just sort of reach into my bag, grab the book, and let it fall open where it may. I hadn’t intended on reading it this way, but something about the stories encourages it. It occurred to me yesterday that there are only two other categories of books I (and probably many people) read like this: poetry collections and religious texts (in my case, the Bible).

What do the Davis, poetry, and religious tomes have in common? I think it’s that they all operate as devotional texts, defined, in my mind, as speaking to an emotional need; as employing aphorism (they offer concise wisdom or instruction); and, perhaps most significantly, as possessing many chambers. These are books you walk into: although their various components—individual poems, stories, verses—come together to form a whole, they are distinct. One doesn’t follow linearly from another. You don’t necessarily know what you will find when you flip the book open, but you are sure to find something that suits your current mood. And this is why they become companions; the books you take everywhere, objects of devotion.
* * *

As a child my favorite Christmas specials were A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I soaked up the messages contained therein as if they were Scripture. What were the messages? In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, his conversion was so complete and neat and fast and, more or less, painless. In TV examples, the misery is all in the pre-conversion stage. You are miserable, you find Love, and are happy. But is that the way it works? Conversion is an on-going process that involves self-denial. With the Grinch, it seems there isn't an outside force (God) who intervenes; instead simply the thought occurs to him that "maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store; maybe Christmas means a little bit more." And his heart was touched by it. But God can, of course, give us promptings and thoughts we otherwise wouldn't have had. And it's hardly a Pelagian tale for the Grinch tries to save the sleigh full of toys from sliding down the mountain and he (and the little dog) are using every ounce of strength they have and it's obviously inadequate.

Suddenly his heart is said to have grown 3 times its size through no effort of his own and he is given prodigious strength such that makes the sleigh as light as a feather. The end result is a civilized, socialable Grinch with good table manners. :-) At the moment of conversion his eye color changed from a blood-red/brown to a light blue but at the end of his struggle with the sleigh it reverted briefly to red with his face reflecting fear; then there seemed a second wind of a conversion, this time conferring strength.

Did the Grinch make me think back then that conversion happens without personal effort and that it is always accompanied by sheer joy? Of course the Grinch did exert personal effort in attempting to save the gifts on the sled.

Did I think that only those visited by three ghosts or whose hearts bust - i.e. have supernatural experiences like Scrooge & the Grinch - have need of improvement? I found A Christmas Carol motivating in the sense that I wanted to be good so as not to become like Scrooge. Back then it wasn't about God so much - it would've never occurred to me as a teen to pray that I not be like Scrooge or that I be given the graces Scrooge was given. I thought with my own effort I could avoid his friend Marley's fate.

December 14, 2009


The downside of Kindle and other electronic readers is well-documented in the link above - including the further dependency on the electrical grid, though at this point I'm so already on the grid that I figure I have to dance with the grid that brung me. Anyway, I had to laugh at the rogue commenter who said the following:
I’d go out and get a Kindle but I’m too busy rubbing sticks together to make a fire and the wood is wet dammit. When I caint no longer get my free assortment of arcane books from the Concept who traffics in used books on the internets, maybe I’ll go get one of these fancy gadgets but I’ll likely go to the library first.

Do they have an aerosol scent can to spray mouldering scents upon the Kindle, can one hang a Mildew imbued Paper Pine Tree Scent from one’s reading glasses? Can one make notations amid the text in a Kindle? Can one be used to prop a short table leg up? Do they hit with the same resounding thud upon the skull whence firing missiles at the Missus? Can they be easily avoided whence the fired missile is returning?Inquiring minds need to know.

Various & Sundry

I'm getting scads of emails from folks wanting a 2010 edition of Babes of the Blogosphere: Catlick Edition. (Okay, only one person, but she's an avid reader of this blog which ought count for something.) It's a tempting offer, given how much fun last year's was, but I loathe the idea of leaving anyone off. Good writing is sexy and so there are a lot of sexy blogosphere babes. You know who you are.

* * *

Announcement: Effective Janurary 1st, this blog will limit Tiger Woods' role in its marketing.

* * *

There was an interesting article in the paper Sunday about how Charles Dickens life has become something of a fascination:
Of the making of books by or about Charles Dickens, there apparently is no end. He wrote constantly, published promiscuously, lived intensely, dreamed extravagantly.

Dickens influenced, inspired and challenged others to produce amazing things, too. The thriving field of what we might call Contingent Dickens — works based on Dickens’ works, or on his life or on the Victorian era that his vivid word portraits made famous — is a significant literary genre in its own right.

Consider A Christmas Carol, one of his best-known tales, being performed on stages nationwide. Consider the new film version of the same tale, with Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean old miser who gets his holiday comeuppance. Consider Drood (2009), the brooding, brilliant Dan Simmons novel that features a distastefully conniving Dickens. Consider The Last Dickens (2009), Matthew Pearl’s fictional picture of Dickens’ American lecture tour. Consider Mr. Timothy (2003), Louis Bayard’s strikingly atmospheric novel that imagines the adult Tiny Tim, the cheerful sickly lad in Carol.

Wrapping one’s arms around Dickens is no easy task. He was too big, too restless, too productive, too accomplished, too complicated, too mysterious.
That mysterious streak is part of the reason for the fascination. The article prompted me to read some of Chesterton's remarkable biography of Charles Dickens and it feels as timely as if it could be written yesterday. On the lack of heroes:
[Thomas] Carlyle killed the heroes; there have been none since his time. He killed the heroic (which he sincerely loved) by forcing upon each man this question: "Am I strong or weak?" To which the answer from any honest man whatever (yes, from Cæsar or Bismarck) would "weak." He asked for candidates for a definite aristocracy, for men who should hold themselves consciously above their fellows. He advertised for them, so to speak; he promised them glory; he promised them omnipotence. They have not appeared yet. They never will. For the real heroes of whom he wrote had appeared out of an ecstacy of the ordinary. [Carlyle] was disappointed with Equality; but Equality was not disappointed with him. Equality is justified of all her children. But we, in the post-Carlylean period, have be come fastidious about great men. Every man examines himself, every man examines his neighbours, to see whether they or he quite come up to the exact line of greatness. The answer is, naturally, "No." And many a man calls himself contentedly "a minor poet" who would then have been inspired to be a major prophet.

* * *

"The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it." - St. John of the Cross
Also o'er the weekend read a lot about my new favorite book of the Bible - “the book of Consolation” as it is sometimes called - that of Isaiah, specifically chapters 54 & 55. Sure it feels like cherry-picking, as if attempting to procure promises without conspicuous effort on my part. Sure it was written to those in deep exile, pre-Christ. But hey it's part of the Bible too!

December 11, 2009

Michael Dubruiel on Thursday's Gospel

Good stuff - I find his thoughts almost always compelling (found here):
When I hear the Gospel reading for today, I'm stopped in my tracks by the phrase "the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm" and necessarily I've had to spend some time canvassing the great minds of the church to figure out just exactly what Jesus meant by this. Well, it turns out that the Greek word that is translated "violence" above is probably best rendered "forceful" but that doesn't change the overall passage that much, yet it does give us some indication of what is meant by violence. The early Fathers of the Church felt that the passage was best understood by thinking about who was entering the kingdom of heaven--sinners, namely people who did not belong there. They were intruders, outsiders who had been let in through the violence of the cross. Taking this a step further, if our sins are really what nailed Jesus to a cross then we see that the violence we have done to the Son of God in some way has been our ticket to the kingdom of heaven. It is only those however, who are desperate to enter who get in. One imagines the crowds that surrounded Jesus and John the Baptist (a modern example might be Pope John Paul and the crowds that surround his visits). Only a desperate person would get close enough to touch Our Lord. So it is today. Are we desperate in our desire to enter the kingdom of heaven or is it somewhere way down the list of things to do today?

On the Palin Haters

I believe there are diminishing returns in the demonization of conservative figures since the Left can yell "so-and-so is Satan!" for only so long before people detect a pattern. So I'm not sure the way Palin enrages the Left isn't a good thing. Call it the rope-a-dope strategy: let them punch themselves out.

They hated Reagan, they hated Gingrich. Some will remember that Karl Rove had his own star turn, earning opprobium for helping get Bush elected in '00. Bush himself became the devil until it seemed that Cheney was wielding power. Post-Cheney it's now Palin.

Palin brings especial terror because she's a new political animal: the populist pro-lifer. Scares the heck out of the establishment. She's Ross Perot with breasts -- and convictions about something beyond the deficit.

Various & Sundry

Been meaning to read all of Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris since it's haunting how she mentions that eating your food quickly is a sign of impatience and sloth. She also mentions same with respect to the consuming of books. Yet the prime conditions for reading Acedia & Me are rare: can't be down (because it would be too depressing), can't be too up (since then I don't think I need to read it), must be slothful (because then I know I need to read it) but not slothful to the point of being too slothful to read it. Small window of opportunity there. :-)

* * *

Funny line on Obama from Peg Noonan: "If he's going to bow to something, it might as well be reality."

December 10, 2009

From Roy Blount Jr.'s Alphabet Soup

Kvetch: In Born to Kvetch, Michael Wex tells us:
Not only do Judaism in general and Yiddish in particular place an unusual emphasis on complaint, but Yiddish also allows considerable scope for complaining about the complaining of others, more often than not to the others who are doing the complaining...The best response to a complaint is another complaint, an antiseptic counter-kvetch that makes further whining impossible for anybody but you.
Kvetching, then, is not just chronic but also intense, projective complaining. Standard dictionaries trace kvetch back to the Yiddish kvetshn, to squeeze or strain...Not just strain, but to 'strain at stool'; to make an effort to move the bowels...As Wex puts it, kvetch connects with its alimentary roots, "A really good kvetch has a visceral quality, a sense that the kvetcher won't be completely comfortable, completely satisfied, until it's all come out."
On the etymology of etymology:
From the Greek for 'the true sense of a word.' That goes back to when roots showed through a lot more than they do today. But just as you appreciate a vegetable more if you know how it grows, you have a better hold on a word if you use it in acknowledgement of its roots, its background, some of the soil still attached.

December 09, 2009

Timing Schiming

I'd be more inclined to vote for Newt Gingrich than for any other Republican possibility in 2012 (even though I think Gingrich isn't telegenic enough to win the job in this TV age), but a recent mass email of his seems lame. The subject header was "Democrats Commit Political Suicide." How you ask? Because of timing.
He and his political party, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), are committing political suicide in three stunningly inexplicable steps.

Step One: Raising Taxes the Day of the "Jobs Summit"
No sane voter takes seriously any goverment dog & pony show with the word "summit" in it. Summits are the last refuge of the hopeless and are in that akin to their brotherlly phrase "War on [fill in the blank]". Since no one takes jobs summits seriously, no one is going to remember in 2010 that Dems raised taxes on the day of the jobs summit. Love ya, but I don't get it Newt.

The raising of taxes refers to the House vote to keep the death tax, which was scheduled to expire in 2010, which is sort of like news that it's windy in Kansas. The reason for the Democrat party's existence is to raise taxes in order to pay for more programs, just as the reason for the Republican party's existence is to allow people to keep more of their own money. Elections have consequences. We voted the turkeys in.
Step Two: Forcing Through Democratic Health Reform By Christmas
On the contrary, the longer they keep fattening this turkey of a bill - this oxymoronic pro-abort "health" care bill - the more public outrage will result. "If it twere done, best be done quickly." A dirty deed indeed. People will eat a lot of hotdogs as long as they don't have to sit through months of watching pork producers do their thing.
Step Three: Off To Copenhagen While Climategate Raises Temperatures at Home
Only 2.5% of us know that Copenhagen is something other than a brand of chaw. No one will care whether Obama went to Copenhagen during the Climategate a year from now, will they?

My Half-Assed Opinion

...take it for what it's worth. I'm no economist but it seems as though Obama is doing to the recession what the FDR did to the depression - lengthening it. Obama wants another spendulous package and I'm thinking there is a pattern here: delay bad stuff until his second term. (This is where I open myself to you saying, "ya think?")

For example - the troop surge in Afghanistan. He seems to be sending more troops because McCrystal painted him in a box, making the president either eat his campaign promise to take the war seriously or breaking it, the latter which might hurt him in '10 & '12 elections. The surge buys him time.

Similarly this spendulous crapola seems designed to try to create a few "make work" guvmint jobs in order to save his butt in '10 & '12...of course as soon as the make work jobs end, unemployment will go up. It all seems like gimickry to me, smoke & mirrors. Reagan went thru a job recession in '82 and we got it over with quickly - the pain that is. Now we're hoovering at 10% unemployment indefinitely instead of spiking to 12% for a shorter period of time. I'd rather have 12% unemployment for a year than 10% for 3-10 yrs, which will happen as soon as any "make work" jobs disappear.

It also reminds me of the lame cash for clunkers program which merely re-arranged the sales of cars to a bit earlier than they otherwise would've happened. Lame.

December 08, 2009

From Artist Timothy Jones

...found here via Bill Luse.

Note to Self...

Rene Girard on National Review TV

This Just In...the Weather Outside is....Cold

It's silly, I suppose, to mark meterological borders let alone write about them, but this December 6th we crossed into real winter. The kind of weather that chills to the bone (twenty-something degrees with a decent wind). The kind of weather that feels like you're walking into a big refrigerator and noticing, after a few minutes, that your ears and fingers are freezing. The extended adolescence of summer and fall is now experientially over and so we head into the uplands of adventurous winter. Let us now praise famous meterological events. Let us now move about the cabin of winter knowing that each day brings us closer to spring.

Weather is the ultimate in temporal reality - here today, gone tomorrow. And so to write about it would necessarily bore anyone who reads it two days later, just as it's boring to read the jottings of temperature and wind from someone living during the 1700s except inasmuch as it shows their awareness of the earth and gives some feeling into how their mood is shaped by it. Of course the ancients were very keenly attuned to the seasons, going to elaborate extremes in marking the solstices.

Musings About My Blog Apostolate

You know, it's harder than I thought to combine in a single blog post my recipe for a good lay homily without expressing the chip on my shoulder and my faulty sense of humor. :-) Link (sans back story).

Update: more from Betty.

The Book-Lover's Library.

The frontispiece of this book looks cool ("arise / pray / work" goes the crest):

Found via Bill of Summa.

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

If time is not filled by a present gifted with meaning, the waiting runs the risk of becoming unbearable; if something is expected, but at this moment there is nothing, namely, if the present is empty, every instant that passes seems exaggeratedly long, and the waiting is transformed into a weight that is too heavy because the future is totally uncertain. When, instead, time is gifted with meaning and we perceive in every instant something specific and valuable, then the joy of waiting makes the present more precious.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us live the present intensely, when we already have the gifts of the Lord, let us live it projected to the future, a future full of hope. The Christian Advent thus becomes an occasion to reawaken in ourselves the true meaning of waiting, returning to the heart of our faith which is the mystery of Christ, the Messiah awaited for long centuries and born in the poverty of Bethlehem. Coming among us, he has brought us and continues to offer us the gift of his love and of his salvation. Present among us, he speaks to us in many ways: in sacred Scripture, in the liturgical year, in the saints, in the events of daily life, in the whole of creation, which changes in aspect if he is behind it or if it is obfuscated by the mist of an uncertain origin and an uncertain future. In turn, we can speak to him, present to him the sufferings that afflict us, impatience, the questions that spring from the heart. We are certain that he always hears us! And if Jesus is present, there is no time deprived of meaning and void. If he is present, we can continue to wait also when others can no longer give us their support, even when the present is exhausting.

Dear friends, Advent is the time of the presence and the expectation of the eternal. Precisely for this reason it is, in a particular way, the time of joy, of an internalized joy, that no suffering can erase. Joy because of the fact that God became a child. This joy, invisibly present in us, encourages us to walk with confidence. Model and support of this profound joy is the Virgin Mary, through whom the Child Jesus has been given to us. May she, faithful disciple of her Son, obtain for us the grace to live this liturgical time vigilant and diligent in waiting. Amen. - Pope Benedict via Amy Welborn's blog

It is interesting that a technological society must constantly be reminded of its need to feel and experience what is happening to it in the present moment. It is not likely that you would need to remind a farmer in China that he must “become conscious of his sensations,” because his daily life is one very much in contact with the world around him. But, perhaps, we must remind ourselves because so much of our livelihood – our use of the computer and television, our processed food – is devoid of a sensation that satisfies. This also relates back to a common thread of yours, Amy: the Kindle, Nook, and eReader! These electronic versions of book fail to give us the sensory stimulation we require in order to be healthy persons. Although there is nothing categorically wrong with them, it must be noted that we do need to touch things in order to be mentally healthy. - commenter ndawg on "Charlotte was Both"

Now I thought the blogosphere saved all the big flamewars for Lent, because fasting makes us cranky and because that way we could repent right away. But folks are flaming now... so I guess people are taking Advent more seriously as a penitential season these days. ;) - Maureen commenting on Sancta Sanctis

We must allow for the disappearance of palpable joy. Hence even Christ on the cross did not recite out loud the joyful parts of the psalm that he quoted as to its dire phrase (“my God, my God… why hast thou abandoned me”) so as to show us that joy in its palpable form can be very out of place. Otherwise He would have included joyful comments from the same psalm on the cross and He did not. - Bill Bannon on Amy's blog

Some people think liturgy is our gift to God. If we go to church on Sunday, we're doing God a real big favor. But our liturgy is God's gift to us, not ours to him. St. Paul is quite clear that the purpose of the liturgy is not what we do at the celebration itself. That is simply the expression and nourishment of what is supposed to be the "liturgy of life," the way we live in the world. That's why St. Paul never uses words such as sacrifice, priesthood, or worship except to describe the life we live after the model of Christ. "It is not I who live," he writes, "but Christ who lives in me." That's the mystery the liturgy is all about. - Fr. Robert Taft S.J. via Tom of Disputations

[Scott Hahn is nothing short of a phenomenon, a sort of one man counter-assault on the faux Biblical studies hoisted upon us by a liberal zeitgeist in the ugly fallout from Vatican II. This guy also honestly believes in Inerrancy. The kind confirmed by "Providentissimus Deus" … Yes, way! Hahn is so congenially and over-the-top orthodox -- and so beyond what many have hoped or prayed for -- that his sales prove readers ready to forgive even his unending stream of painful puns. - Joe Martin via "The Pertinacious Papist"

The secular view of Christmas which I held to most of my life is nice and cozy, filled with plenty of traditions, and strong on family...Though this answer is also missing something. G.K. Chesterton once quipped about his friend George Bernard Shaw that he was like Venus de Milo in that "all there is of him is admirable." - Jeff Miller

Chabon's Memoir

"Hey, you got poetry in my prose."

"Hey, you've prose in my poetry."
Two great tastes in one book: Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs. Not since the invention of the Reese Cup have I been as impressed. (Said merely for hyperbolic effect.)

Chabon paradoxically desires to be a hero while at the same time tending towards inertia, fear of change, and desirous of a strong woman as partner. Of his desire to rescue without being able to, he writes pithily: "In all that time, though there have been many other leapers, I have never managed to catch a single one, or learned how to stand back and just watch them fall."

Elsewhere there's lyricism:
There was a childish note of shame in her voice, and as I came into the sweltering bedroom of her lover and caught her smell of lily of the valley, I felt my heart, like a muscular reflex or spasm, forgive her.
He writes of that fork in the road in many a relationship, that epochal moment when the Clash "should I stay or should I go?" has life-altering consequences, even eternal consequences. In my case I can remember it so clearly - a grand, knock-down, drag-out verbal fight with my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I was walking out and I knew in an instant that if I walked out I would never see her again - but then I didn't. Here's Chabon writing of the drama of someone wanting to be his friend when he was a child:
I stood there at the front door with nothing in particular to do - I think I was reading a book when he knocked, likely some book I had already read - no good friend my age to speak of, no plausible excuse to send him away, though every strand and dendrite of instinct crying out to be left alone to my friendless but well-planned solitude...
Later his friend tried to set him up with a blind date and he resisted initially:
I could feel the familiar sensation as I said goodbye to him, the train pulling away from the platform, the call to adventure fading on the air, the tumult in the blood as the moon tries to fight its way out from behind a cloud and turn a man to a wolfman. Longing for change and fearing it, caught in a tissue woven of dread and regret shot through with purest gold threads of a yearning to get out of my book, my room, my house, my body, my skull, my life.

'All right," I said, as I had said to him when he bicycled over with his backgammon board. 'Just give me her number.'

Not very long afterward, in an ongoing act of surrender to the world beyond my window, with no possibility of knowing what joy or disaster might result, I married her.
He writes of a comic strip heroine, "Big Barda" as "reconfiguring the erotic topography of my brain." A perfect way to describe that phenomenon.

Other lines:
At the art of restrospection I was a young grandmaster. (If only there were a game of missed opportunities and of things lost and irrecoverable, a knack for the belated recognition of truths, for the exploitation of chances in imagination after it is too late!)

December 07, 2009

Pope Clement XI & St. Bernard (one for quality)

The eleventh Clement to ascend to the throne of Peter wrote a moving prayer in 1721, part of which is excerpted below:
"My God, I believe in You; strengthen my faith. All my hopes are in You; secure them.

I love you; teach me to love You daily more and more. I am sorry that I have offended You; increase my sorrow.

I adore you as the author of my first beginning. I aspire after you as my last end. I give you thanks as my constant benefactor. I call upon you as my sovereign protector.

My God, be pleased to conduct me by Your wisdom; to restrain me by the thought of your justice; to comfort me by your mercy; to defend me by your power."

It prompted me to read more about him, and I found that he's the pope who made tomorrow's feast of the Conception of the B.V.M. a Holy Day of obligation.

More from the Catholic Encyclopedia entry:

Clement's pastoral vigilance was felt in every corner of the earth. He organized the Church in the Philippine Islands and sent missionaries to every distant spot. He erected Lisbon into a patriarchate, 7 December, 1716. He enriched the Vatican Library with the manuscript treasures gathered at the expense of the pope by Joseph Simeon Assemani in his researches throughout Egypt and Syria... When the Jansenists provoked a new collision with the Church under the leadership of Quesnel, Pope Clement issued his two memorable Constitutions..Clement XI made the feast of the Conception of the B.V.M. a Holy Day of obligation, and canonized Pius V, Andrew of Avellino, Felix of Cantalice, and Catherine of Bologna.

This great and saintly pontiff died appropriately on the feast of St. Joseph, for whom he entertained a particular devotion, and in whose honour he composed the special Office found in the Breviary. His remains rest in St. Peter's.
* * *

And words of wisdom from St. Bernard:

"I must insist that we can only dare to undertake these things by grace, not by nature, nor even by effort. It is wisdom which overcomes malice, not effort or nature. There is no difficulty in finding grounds for hope: the soul must turn to the Word."

Ralph Martin writes, "Bernard also warns of the continual danger of turning the greatest good we have received -- the gratuitous grace of God -- into the greatest evil, the deluded pride that thinks God's gifts are our own doing or are deserved: 'do not treat his gifts as though they were ours by right, and thus not give glory to God...What is more wicked than for a servant to usurp the glory due his master?'"

* * *

Thought about the brother of the Prodigal son. If the story interested me originally in the prodigal, the wild more openly rebellious one being "more interesting" in the way evil is supposedly more interesting than good, now it interests me primarily in the elder brother. He had it all and didn't know it! How like us, who I think will look back in Heaven or Purgatory (hopefully) and see how much richness we had at our disposal. "All that is mine is yours," said the father to the brother. Oh if we believed that now.

Prayer line found: "God our father, glorious in giving life and even more glorious in restoring it." Amen!

DWP (or 'going for quantity')

A new Olympic sport - drunken programming! Yes there's nothing quite like the new extreme sport of DWP: drinking while programming. Friday due to an electricity outage I wasn't able to complete a full day working from home, I decided to run some low-watt (brain-watts that is) jobs on my 'puter late at night. Things went well - in fact I think I program better with a slight buzz. My attention to detail increases because even boring tasks are made more interesting through the prism of a fine stout. Of course I'd be hard-pressed to report any activity that isn't improved by drinking.

* * *
Now reading: Hansel's Christian classic: "When I Relax I Feel Guilty". Subtitled "Is Fatigue Next to Godliness?"

December 06, 2009

Week in Review

I share a private blog with another blogger (thus making it not really private) and since I've been without any deep and meaningful thoughts I'll cut & paste from there (since nature and blogs abhor a vacuum). I'll also add a survey question in the right panel to determine whether you want quality or quantity in this blog. In other words, should I post what I had to eat this morning and what tricks my dog can do? That would be quantity... Yes I know this sort of metabloggic inquiry is a symptom of shark jumpage but...

* * *

The week felt long almost immediately, if that's not oxymornic. That's not unusual coming after a vacation week - the sudden shock of work is like having gotten used to a warm shower and then entering a cold one. Got a lot done, but then I define "a lot done" rather loosely, like overcoming the inertia to call and delay a dental appointment.

* * *

What else? Boring meetings at work. There's nothing more enervating than someone else's patently absurd enthusiasm though I'm likely just envious of the business piety. I cradled my Kindle and read "Game Six", a book about the sixth game of the 1975 World Series. It saved me from FBS (fatal boredom syndrome) although I only made it through 60 minutes of the 90 min optional meeting. A meeting so optional even my boss didn't even go.

It's too easy to be cynical, especially concerning the "engagement surveys" that are the latest corporate fad. Ever since the really high-ups have had as part of their evaluation employee engagement, it's been a hot topic. The hour-long meeting was a hoot since I used it as an opportunity to perfect my stand-up (or sit-down) comedy. After a long monologue crafted by our moderator, concerning the absence of data on what went into a "employee satisfaction" number, I offered that I would be "far more satisfied if I knew how employee satisfaction was derived." Guffaws broke out, though I wondered if I delivered the line a tad too slow. I'd been preparing it for at least three minutes and didn't want to say it too fast. Perhaps it was the perfect tempo because then people could anticipate what I was going to say and thus find contentment in its actualization.

Our moderator made it a point that he would find out how it was derived, thereby missing that I was funning him. Did I mention he was of German heritage?

* * *

Loving this NBA basketball book I'm reading in part because it explores why Bill Russell was better than Wilt Chamberlain. You couldn’t have two more opposite individuals - one the consummate team player, the other a statistics maven. I, alas, have always been a stats man. I can tell how individualistic my mentality is by just I grade everything by the “impartiality” of statistics when I’m, ironically, falling into the trap of bias. For with a team game - like basketball, like life, like salvation - you need to look at the big picture, the team picture. The secret of basketball, said Isaiah Thomas, is that it’s not about basketball. It’s not about skills or statistics but about unselfishness. It's not how you perform, it's how your team performs.

December 03, 2009

Book Sale

... over at Requiem Press!

Personally I think the best books at Requiem are: The Story of Our Lady of Victory and Two Towers. My niece really enjoyed the former and myself the latter.

I have Russell Shaw's book Catholic Laity in the Mission of the Church but have thus far neglected to read it. So many books, so little time...

Draft Autosaved at 11:19 am

Title idea stolen from Dylan, who also offers this:
Maybe Tiger Woods should have a fling with the gal who crashed the state dinner at the White House with her husband, so as to combine the two most annoying stories of the current news cycle.
* * *

A happy birth anniversary to Steven Riddle today!

* * *

TAN Books has a handsome new Douay-Rheims version for sale and advertises: "Give the Gift of Holy Scripture - The words of guidance, comfort and love!" Not a bad summary of the Bible - guidance, in terms of the commandments and law, comfort, in the form of reassurance that God triumphs, and love in the descriptions of what God has done for us.

* * *

I would write an ode to the morning commute! While still experiencing the fast-perishing post-vacation euphoria, heard the 1812 Overture on the radio and in one of those pleasing and rare synchroniticies the fabulous ending coincided with my pulling into my parking place. I had the music blaring within and it seemed almost impossible not to roll down my window and share it with passerbys.

Speaking of real reasons for joy, 1 John 4:4 says "He that is within is greater than the world." Josh Hamilton said that any temptation that lingers longer than eight seconds is apt to be acted on, therefore it's crucial to drive out negative thoughts within those first eight sentences. For him the driver-outer was: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." That was the little piece of Scripture he carried with him like a viaticum during the process of his conversion.

* * *

Also what pleasure last night to read part of Bill Simmons' book on NBA basketball history. It has it all: weight, humor, nostalgia. He talked about why we forget history so easily, why we want our new superstars to eclipse the old.

December 01, 2009

Spanning the Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

Oh, to be he, with snakes in the jakes!
Cistercian Merton, in his hermitage of icons,
in his dream-den where Proverb sings a secret ageless wisdom,
yes, the monk of hopeful phone-calls to hospitals of love.
Cistercian Merton, left of center, marginal in the rusted trailer,
patron of my fringe existence, pray for me
with your edifying cables, your sensational times,
your blind-lion tears between loblolly pines,
your vanishing trails to the stone Buddhas of unforeseen heaven,
your vow of silent conversation, prosing haiku pictures
of the cloistered farm, of nature’s wreckage,
of the ramshackle glory of things as they are,
your coffee on cold mornings, your dexterous calligraphies,
your ephemeral Zen monuments of anguish and joy,
your sinful-saintly standing watch as the world does its work,
your searing psalmody, your soaring liturgies, your telling beads of heartbreak,
your sighs to the hills and frosted nightstars
of a distant immortal Kentucky. - - Thomas DeFreitas in "The Christendom Review"

Your drudgery is divine.

"A servant with this clause
Makes drudgery divine,
Who sweeps a room as for Thy laws
Makes that, and the action, fine."

- commenter on Betty Duffy's blog

"Mrs. Darwin?" I called. "Did you drink the left-over margaritas today?"


"Because someone did."


"Did any of the kids seem odd today?"

"Oh my gosh, the neighbor kids!"...

Sad to say, interviews this morning revealed a rather less exciting story. Our own three-year-old had poured herself a cup of "lemonaid" from the fridge, but on tasting it concluded that "it tasted like wine" and so for the general welfare she had poured the cup and indeed all the rest of the pitcher down the sink.

I must admit that, while I'm glad no one was made sick, I am a little disappointed at the true story. - Darwin Catholic

Q: What did the Calvinist say after he fell down the stairs?

A: Well! I'm glad that's over with! - Mark Shea

[Writing] is an impulse, a way of making sense of the world and of relationships. When someone is born with this impulse, not writing, to some extent means not growing. And publishing is a natural end to this process. There will always be a struggle then to write honestly and still protect the people and experiences that inform the writing process...David Matthews, author of “Ace of Spades,”says, “When it comes to writing about family or friends, you can be liked, or you can tell the truth. If you want both, you should become an accountant.” - Betty Duffy

I've been learning about Young Earth Creationism and Uniformitarianism vs. Catastrophism alongside my Evangelical student. This is the first time I've ever come across a serious defense of either theory, and I must say I'm quite fascinated, even as I vaguely think I'm supposed to be appalled. As far as I can tell, the theory that the layers and rock formations in the earth's crust (at least those above the Great Unconformity) were suddenly laid down by a flood that devastated the whole world, is as sound as the consensus that the same layers and rock formations developed over millions of years due to the natural processes of weathering and sedimentation. I have no quarrel with the author of Fire Storm's Science textbook, who seems to lack only the Catholic understanding of the proper relationship between faith and reason. - Sancta Sanctis

There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology - the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good. - Robert Pirsig

To those in the crowd who would be His disciples, the message was clear: You, too, have to seek and save what was lost. You have to go to the descendants of Abraham I won't get to, and tell them that salvation has come to their house today. Don't keep Me in your houses for us to admire each other. Bring My word out to the people who haven't already heard it. The grumbling of Zacchaeus's neighbors is similar to the grumbling of the Prodigal Son's brother. All that God has is theirs, if they but knew it, and that includes His joy in Zacchaeus's return to life. - Tom of Disputations

Le poteau non fini


I spend a lot of time thinking about how to pioneer new forms of blogger comedy1, such as this one exibited by Hambone2. "Hambone" - ironically or not - happens to also be the nickname of slugger Josh Hamilton3.

(The picture of Tiger Woods & his wife at right has nothing to do with this post other than to make this blog more topical and relevant.)
1 Not strictly true.
2 aka "Ham of Bone", "Bone", "Ham".
3 a recent three million dollar government study shows that the nickname Hambone is associated 92% of the time with someone whose last name contains the letters "HAM".
Main Body of Post

So this morning I was listening to Franz Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and got to thinking about how the Summa Theologia was also unfini