February 28, 2005

Passing the Baton

Saw on IMUS a bit of the Oscars where Jamie Foxx spoke about meeting Sidney Poitier when he was younger...What transpired was something like a secular Holy Orders, or secular sacrament of Confirmation. Sidney said he saw something in Foxx and told him: "I give you responsibility".
Award-winning Hopelessness

Thomas Hibbs in NRO discusses Clint Eastwood's nihilistic Million Dollar Baby.
Interviews

Five for Roz:
1) Why "deepyogrt"?
2) You are a fan of the Detroit Tigers, a team skippered by the great Sparky Anderson for many years. Did the strike of '94 affect your support of major league baseball?
3) As a management consultent who has an MBA & reads Harvard Business Review, can you shed light on how the modern corporation can infuse a sense of mission in their employees when profit appears to be the only thing that matters? Or is that a responsibility of the employee?
4) How did you find your way back to the Catholic faith?
5) Do your children read your blog and if so does it affect what or how you blog?

Bill Luse of Apologia is understandably crestfallen at not having been asked to be interviewed. (Has the Apologia fan club weakened in support?) Fortunately I do have some questions for him:

1) How are kids different today from when you started teaching?
2) You live in Florida, your daughter went to Ole Miss. Are you really Suthern, or a relatively recent transplant?
3) You seem to have had "a past" like many of us. How did you get out of the pattern of lust?
4) What are the three most influential books (other than the bible) that you've read?
5) Is Bernadette more like her mother or more like her father?

Five for Smock:
1) Do you have a favorite bible verse that isn't instantly familiar (like John 3:16)?
2) What would you like your tombstone to say, and will it be all lowercase *grin*?
3) Why "smock", mama?
4) As a fellow Florence King fan, you appreciate her humorous view of Southern womanhood. Is Southern culture now defunct due to urbanization, migration & cable TV?
5) How did you meet your hubby?
Winter & Her Malcontents

If winter has seemed mythically long this year it's probably only a measure of the lack of time I've spent outdoors standing against the inclemency with the attitude Bobby Knight espouses, i.e. to "enjoy it".

Or perhaps the opposite tack is in order, recommended by Meister Eckhardt scholar John O'Donohue in Anam Cara:
“In wintertime, nature withdraws. A tree loses all its leaves and retires inward. When it is wintertime in your life, you are going thru pain, difficulty or turbulence. At such times it is wise to follow the instinct of nature and withdraw into yourself. You have to lie low and shelter until this bleak, emptying time passes on . This is nature’s remedy. It minds istelf in hibernation. “
Last Week in the Rearview

Watched the Bill Murray movie “Rushmore”, which really wasn’t all that funny. It strains credibility that a director decided to cast Murray in a comedy while making him the straight man. Seriously he had no funny lines. The funny guy was a 22-year old playing a 15-year old (who happened to have a 14-year old pal played by a 7-year old).
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I read way too much this week. I got pachydermed by print, waylaid by words, festooned by fustians. Some endless New Yorker fictional piece by a fictional Bosnian poet. It all led to an overwhelming desire to drink Waylon Jennings Beer and listen to St. Pauli Girl’s “Good-hearted Woman”. I was more than ready for weekened.

Steph is sick and the winter feels claustrophobic. Oh for the memory of Thompson’s Water Seal on the wood swing back in the summer. It feels a million years ago already. Or reading Fischer’s history of New England folkways on the front porch. Or running in the Labor Day rainstorm.

The most enjoyable reading was a pleasant couple o' hours yesterday with William F. Buckley's "Getting it Right", a novel about the tensions between the Birchers and Randians in the early conservative movement.

Novels like his are a tonic to deeper stuff (which tends to be depressing), or the lighter stuff (which tends to be overly peppered with forced jovialities).

February 27, 2005

February 26, 2005

Random Observations

1950s...Holiday Inn....1990s...Comfort Inn.
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Of the construction sign "Slow Down, My Daddy Works Here". A subtle suggestion appealing to the notion that not all human life is of equal worth?
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If Moses prefigured Jesus but was greatly overshadowed by Him, then the same can be expected of Christ's Baptism compared to circumcision and Christ's Eucharist compared to the manna the Israelites received.
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Update: Roz of In Dwelling makes an excellent point... I was thinking the construction signs were there reminding us that not all construction workers are young singles (which I was one till the relatively late age of 36), but Roz expains:
I think it's a good thing to break into our "people are interchangable parts" mentality with a reminder that those machines by the side of the road are piloted by genuine people who love, marry, worship, sin, go bowling, and mean something special. I like it a lot better than the "Fines Doubled in Construction Zones" sign, as if all that would appeal to us is preserving our pocketbooks.
Interview of a Blogger

Elena asked me some questions. I'm relieved there were no truth-or-dare type questions. My golf handicap remains a secret.

1. You've been blogging since 2001. That's a long time. How did you get started and why?

That is a long time. I got started this way: I was regularly checking out Amy Welborn's old website, which I had gotten from reading Our Sunday Visitor, when one day she linked to something she called a blog. I emailed her and asked what a blog was and the concept immediately appealed to me since it required no start-up costs or subject discipline. My love of writing combined with an exhibitionist streak makes blogging a good fit.

2. How many books do you think you currently own and what areas of interest do they cover.

Roughly 3,000, which is far less than a serious bibliophile like Steve Riddle. Mainly history, biography, religion, Irish interest, sports and fiction.

3. Do you ever get rid of books and is that hard for you to do?

I just threw out a few books the other day and it was very hard, though I think I can live without Ralph Martin's Charles & Diana . I don't know how I got that one. Many others have been demoted to the basement. In a few years I'll probably have to start throwing away a book for every one I buy.

4. Does your family read a lot too and do you ever read as a family.

My wife rarely reads (opposites attract I guess) but my stepson has caught the bug. He's currently reading The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich. We don't read as a family though.

5. When a movie is coming out based on a book, do you read the book first? See the movie first? or just read the book and skip the movie... and why?

I always prefer to read the book first, although with LOTR I made a concession since it's unlikely I'd read the whole trilogy before 2040. I have low expectations of movies made from books so I'm rarely disappointed. Cold Mountain was a recent example. I liked the book much better than the movie but I liked the movie better than if I hadn't read the book.
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If anyone would like me to interview them let me know!

February 25, 2005

~ Links ~

Byzantine Catholic Daily Prayer and Lectionary
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Easy way to email Judge Greer on Terri's behalf.
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Jonah Goldberg wonders how gays would view abortion if a "gay gene" were discovered.
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Did the Jews reject Jesus? Interesting Richard John Neuhaus review of David Klinghoffer’s "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus":
The very title of the book, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, is highly problematic. Scholars generally agree that in the first century there were approximately six million Jews in the Roman Empire (for some reason, Klinghoffer says five million). That was about one tenth of the entire population. About one million were in Palestine, including today’s State of Israel, while those in the diaspora were very much part of the establishment in cities such as Alexandria and Constantinople. At one point Klinghoffer acknowledges that, during the life of Jesus, only a minuscule minority of Jews either accepted or rejected Jesus, for the simple reason that most Jews had not heard of him. Some scholars have noted that, by the fourth or fifth century, there were only a few hundred thousand, at most a million, people who identified themselves as Jews. What happened to the millions of others? The most likely answer, it is suggested, is that they became Christians. What if the great majority of Jews did not reject Jesus? That throws into question both the title of the book and Klinghoffer’s central thesis. The question can be avoided only by the definitional legerdemain of counting as Jews only those who rejected Jesus and continued to ally themselves with rabbinical Judaism’s account of the history of Israel.
A Different Kind of Conversion Story

here:
Modern theology is profoundly corruptive. The light of Christ must come from outside, through the concrete reality of the Scriptures as embodied in the life of the Church...In order to escape the insanity of my slide into self-guidance, I put myself up for reception into the Catholic Church as one might put oneself up for adoption. A man can no more guide his spiritual life by his own ideas than a child can raise himself on the strength of his native potential.

Stories of conversion to the Catholic Church can be rather tediously joyous. One might wish for some variety in such stories, perhaps something along the lines of Winston Churchill’s observation that “democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” But such variety as there is in conversion stories would seem to rest on the different ways in which converts describe a newly found bounty. For me, the gain was fairly simple.

A Pentecostal friend asked me, “So, what did it feel like to become a Catholic?” I told him, “It felt like being submerged into the ocean.”...The ocean needs no justification. It needs no theory to support the movement of its tides. In the end, as an Episcopalian I needed a theory to stay put, and I came to realize that a theory is a thin thread easily broken. The Catholic Church needs no theories. She is the mother of theologies; she does not need to be propped up by theologies. As Newman put it in one of his Anglican essays, “the Church of Rome preoccupies the ground.” She is a given, a primary substance within the economy of denominationalism. One could rightly say that I became a Catholic by default, and that possibility is the simple gift I received from the Catholic Church.
Pope's Lenten Message:
What would happen if the People of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness? Instead, how different the community would be, if, beginning with the family, it tries always to remain open and welcoming towards them.

Dear brothers and sisters, during Lent, aided by the Word of God, let us reflect upon how important it is that each community accompany with loving understanding those who grow old. Moreover, one must become accustomed to thinking confidently about the mystery of death, so that the definitive encounter with God occur in a climate of interior peace, in the awareness that He "who knit me in my mother's womb” (cf. Psalm 139:13b) and who willed us "in his image and likeness" (cf. Gen. 1:26) will receive us.
Let's play...

Why's My Bookbag So Heavy?

This is an irregular blog feature that serves as a sort of space filler, like Hal Gurney's Network Time Killer (an old David Letterman segment if you're under 30).

Been reading Christopher Hitchen's "Love, Poverty & War". The guy is flat-out interesting and can flat-out write though obviously his religious views are repugnant. The essays on Waugh & Greene especially caught my undivided attention, though like cream filling they serve the palate more than the gullet.

McDermott's "Charles Carrol of Carrollton" is really good. This biography of the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence fills in some areas of U.S. history that for me had been spotty.

Been also dipping into Webb's "Born Fighting : How the Scots-Irish Shaped America" and Kathy Shaidle's "Catholic Alphabet" (as a side note, Kathy remarks how during one period in Church history the Eucharist was so fervently believed to be the Real Presence that priests were bribed to hold the Host up longer after the consecration).

Also been getting back into Paul Elie's "The Life You Save May Be Your Own", a biography of literate types Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Dorothy Day & Thomas Merton. It's one of the books I'm about half-way through but deserves to have been read by now - beautiful prose about four beautiful human beings.

Finally, there's Brian Lamb's "Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites". Brian Lamb must be a soul-brother since I share his sort of morbid interest in last words and tombstones. Richard Norton Smith writes of George Washington's last moments:
As thoughtful as he was organized, several times Washington apologized for the trouble he was causing. Lear, fighting back tears, said he only hoped to allieviate his friend's suffering.

"Well," replied Washington, "it is a debt we must pay to each other, and I hope when you want aid of this kind you will find it."
On a Personal Note...

Dawn Eden of The Dawn Patrol thoughtfully sent a thank you for her inclusion in STG. I was touched because her blog is (deservedly) higher up the food chain; you won't see any bad poetry or navel-gazing there. *grin.* But no thank you's are needed. They are not, or ought not, be why I do STG.
Fasting and its (dis?)contents

It seems to me fasting leads to more prayer because inspiration is required to survive it!

The other good thing about fasting is you don’t have time to ponder your general lack of usefulness. When you’re hungry you’re content just to get thru the day.

February 24, 2005

Most Catholic & Least Catholic Movies:
"The Passion of the Christ" received more votes from readers than the next three films on the list combined: 1965's "The Sound of Music," 1966's "A Man for All Seasons" and 1943's "The Song of Bernadette." Rounding out the 10 most pro-Catholic movies were 1946's "It's a Wonderful Life," 1956's "The Ten Commandments," the 1983 made-for-TV movie "The Scarlet and the Black," the 1977 TV miniseries "Jesus of Nazareth," 1993's "Schindler's List," and 1945's "The Bells of St. Mary's."
TPOTC, Schindler's List, The Song of Bernadette, The Sound of Music, A Man for All Seasons, and Jesus of Nazareth are top notch. I've never seen The Ten Commandments or The Scarlet and the Black. The Bells of St. Mary's, It's a Wonderful Life are okay.
On the anti-Catholic list, with one exception, the worst films were the most recent. Following 2003's "The Order" were 2002's "The Magdalene Sisters" (released last year in the United States); the 2001 cable television production "Sister Mary Explains It All"; 2000's "Chocolat"; 1999's "Stigmata" and "Dogma"; 1998's "Elizabeth"; 1988's "The Last Temptation of Christ"; 1994's "Priest"; and 1985's "Agnes of God."
I was aware of these being anti-Catholic so I didn't waste my time or money on any of them. I already KNOW what the world thinks so I don't think I'm missed much. Meanwhile there's a Corner post on the hateful "Million Dollar Baby" here.
What He Said

WFB said that he'd rather be ruled by the first fifty people in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. And I'm beginning to think I'd rather be ruled by the first fifty people in a phone book than by the courts, since the courts are better at protecting snail darters than human life.

The Terri Schiavo case seems less a "Right to Die" case than a "Right Not to be Inconvenienced" case... Mark of Irish Elk has an excellent post on the subject.

Speaking of courts, I'm reading a biography of Charles Carrol, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Carrol, like Adams, was a big fan of Montesquieu, who died in the Catholic faith. An excerpt:
Montesquieu was the great theorist of mixed government. He called a mixed constitution of checks and balances "a master-peice of legislation"...But who would safeguard the principles of subsidiarity and hiearchy in Montesquieu's mixed government? Evidently not the judiciary, which the Baron called "next to nothing" in his scheme. A judge must rule according to the "exact letter of the law," rather than enforcing his "private opinion."
Legislatures ought to have more spine and quit kneeling before activist judges. An example of this is in Ohio where the Ohio Supreme Court held the school funding system (via property taxes) unconstitutional. Over a decade the legislature simply refused to comply and a couple years ago the Court gave up. I don't think the founders ever conceived of how "legislative" the courts would become, primarily where moral issues are concerned.

Montesquieu saw the Senate as the check on the "mob" instinct of the House of Representatives. He certainly didn't see the judiciary - unelected, unaccountable men and women who are no more wise than you or I - as determining the morality of controversial social issues.
Versioning

Thomas Jefferson famously removed what he didn't like from the New Testament making what is referred to as the "Jefferson bible". I wouldn't want to eliminate anything but I'd sure like to suture togther a favorite version of the Scripture.

My current read is the New Jerusalem version but it let me down royally. I adore the verse Psalm 22:24, which the RSV has - "For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted." That reminds me not to look at my own spiritual disfigurement - or that of others - with hatred. It also teaches not to look away from those who have terrible physical afflictions like AIDS or leprosy.

And what of the NJB? It totally destroys the verse by saying something like (I don't have it with me now) "he will not look with disfavor on the poor". Good grief. Now I'm wondering if my "favorite version" is really so. Guess I'd have to look at each and every verse of the whole bible to determine that.

February 23, 2005

Claire Barshied  on How a Book Taught Her to Reimagine Sex   (via Jeff Miller):
Then I read Being Human, a 600-page anthology of literature released by the President’s Council on Bioethics. What guidance could stories and poems offer on cloning and stem-cell research? In the book’s introduction, the council’s chairman, Leon Kass, explained that bioethics as currently conceived by professional bioethicists is much too narrow. It emphasizes what is technologically feasible, securing patient consent, ensuring access to care regardless of income, and so on, but ignores “the full range of human goods that we should be trying to promote or protect.”

Guarding that fuller range of goods requires a better grasp of what it means to be human and what good things humans prize. Our best sources on these questions are not scientists, but the writers and thinkers of the aptly named humanities. They are not everything, of course—who would entrust national science policy to John Updike and Joyce Carol Oates?—but perhaps they can point the way to deeper understandings of our nature.

Being Human's editors hope that reading great literature can make bioethical arguments accessible.
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

I looked for some to have pity on me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort me. - title of Terri Schiavo post, and verse from the Psalms, at "The Inn at the End of the World"

As far as Madonna's Kabbalah goes, it's a heresy, like other New Age superstitions, and I hope it'll fade from public view as did the Beatles' Maharishi, Pete Townshend's Sai Baba, and Hillary Clinton's Marianne Williamson. - Dawn Eden of "The Dawn Patrol"

By the end of the day I have convinced myself that I am really the next Joan of Arc, only worse, because instead of being burned at the stake, I am being nibbled to death by ducks. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

Sometimes you find inspiration in the oddest of places.....Jeff Foxworthy describes being a redneck as: "A glorious absence of sophistication". Indeed, and while that is really funny, I think it is fitting for me on many levels. I was listening to the radio Saturday and a represenative from Dale Earnhardt Industries was talking to a reporter about the candle light vigil coming up that evening to remember Dale Earnhardt Sr. Now I'm not a Nascar fan in the slightest, but I live near Lowes Motor Speedway, and when Dale Earnhardt Sr. died, everyone here felt it one way or the other...The representative was commenting on how much it meant to have all the fans of "The Intimidator" there with the family, and he said: "When you take the pain & split it down the middle, it dont hurt near as much". Now on a grammatical level that is absolutely atrocious, but on a base level, it's absolutely beautiful. It actually reminds me of the Mass.We stand there, a room full of sinners,heads bowed begging our Lord for forgiveness, and we humbly ask each other to pray for our very salvation. We are united, we are one, and the doubt, the guilt, the anger, the frustration goes away, and "it dont hurt near as much". - Steve of November Song

My life is so trivial sometimes I just disgust myself. - Peony of "Two Sleepy Mommies". I know what you mean Peony

Those who are young, who were born after Roe vs. Wade, after Griswold vs. Connecticut, after Ashcroft vs. Planned Parenthood, may not be aware that the primary motivation in these decisions was a compassion for women (and men) in difficult circumstances. "Hard cases make bad law" is a truism, but one that does apply. Satan does not usually appear to us as the horned devil, but rather as a more appealing and seductive Lucifer. When we bait a trap for pests, we do not use bitter foods, instead we use attractive foods and conceal the poison within. The Father of Lies tells us that we are being compassionate when we commit euthanasia, whether that euthanasia is in the first weeks after conception or decades after birth. Hospice has become a standard of care for dying born persons. Perinatal hospice is an option for the dying unborn. But a misguided compassion often leads those who should know better to offer early termination of the pregnancy - a procedure that goes by the clumsy acronym of EIFWAIL...Our Sunday Visitor was sufficiently concerned about this to research and write an extensive article on the topic, which I encourage all of you to read. But let me quote Dr. Hilgers from the article: "frank words for Catholics who try to protect other Catholics from necessary suffering: "This is Christianity with an epidural block." - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

I hate to beat a dead horse, but this is where understanding that the church IS a an actual, metaphysical family is key to understanding the Pope's handling of this situation. As a counselor and social worker, I can tell you it is always better to try to do whatever is possible to make the natural family work than it is to break the family up. For good or ill, I believe the Holy Father sees each diocese as a branch of the larger Catholic family tree, and the Bishop is the Patriarch (in the family sense) of the households (parishes) contained in that branch of the family LITERALLY. When a family has problems, even very serious problems, having great-grandfather (the Pope) forcibly move "grandfather" (the bishop) to Siberia is the absolute, dead, last option...That doesn't mean he isn't interested or that he is unaware, or that he won't step in when necessary. It just means he wants to let his children struggle through the messes they made in order to grow in age, wisdom and grace--and for the ultimate, greater good of the entire family. BTW, I am NOT offering this analogy as a defense of the way the Holy Father has or has not handled this. Rather, I am suggesting that this explanation, rooted in his rather extensive writings on family life, is his rationale for handling things the way he has. You of course are free to agree or disagree with the model, but I suggest that it is a more likely explanation than either the "He doesn't care" "He's too out of touch" and/or the "He's too addled to get it" explanations which strike me as rather hamfisted ways to describe the actions of a Pope who even now has a very subtle and reasonable mind. - Greg Popchak

as memory serves, my girlhood pretty much sucked, but the day my third grade teacher, mrs. ewing, presented me with the "most loving" award was pretty cool. i asked her if i could go home with her and she just laughed this beautiful laugh. i wonder to this day if she had any idea that my request was sincere. - smock's response to question "What is the happiest memory of your girlhood?"

Our Sister lived humbly and quietly in her community, combining a prayerful-contemplative life with an intense letter-writing ministry, with which she comforted distressed people, replied to VIPs, encouraged her readers to believe and trust in God, always zealous in her devotion to Mary...The message of Fatima is simple and straightforward: prayer, penance, consecration to the immaculate heart of Mary. - text of Sr Lucia's death notice
A Tale of Two Hats

My wife made me a hat.

She knit it during cold winter nights
while I read or O'Reilly bloviated,
her hands moving over the wool
like a cloistered nun's over rosary beads.

It fit too snug, pinching the vein
that supplies blood to the ears.

She bought me a new one.
It's warm and comfortable
and carries a Walmart tag.

I still wear her hat.
News You Can('t) Use

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That Wacky Christo

WASHINGTON D.C.--While New York basks in the orange glow of "The Gates" in Central Park, artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude announced their next ambitious project: wrapping the moon in green cheese.

The artists were unavailable this week for comment but a Christo employee affirmed that "Swiss Moon" was still in the works.

"They've been petitioning NASA for seven years now and there are some hopeful signs of late," said one employee, who declined to be identified.

NASA confirmed that the artists were trying to arrange a shuttle to the moon for the purpose of draping green fabric over approximately ten million square miles of moon surface.
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Having a little fun at this headline: CHIRAC SPEAKS FRENCH AT BUSH DINNER...

Bush Speaks Texan at Chirac Dinner

CRAWFORD, Tx--President Bush today snubbed French president Jacques Chirac by speaking Texan at a White House dinner.

Discussing the French diplomatic corps, Bush frankly opined they were "greasy as fried lard" and "as full of wind as a corn-eating horse". When Chirac took off his dinner jacket Bush allowed that it was "hotter than a fur coat in Marfa" and asked a White House employee to turn down the thermostat.

After Chirac lectured the President about the U.N., Bush whispered to an aide: "he's got more airs than an Episcopalian". The aide replied, "his butt looks like two hams in a tow sack. There's more wind blowin' here than perfume through a prom."

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Depends What the Meaning of Fit Is

CLEARWATER, Fl--A Florida appeals court today will hear arguments about whether the husband of Terri Schiavo is fit to be her guardian.

Mrs. Schiavo's parents argue that his expressed desire to kill her by withholding food and water suggests he might not have her best interests in mind and thus might not be a fit guardian.

Michael Schiavo counters with briefs saying that if you can't feed yourself than you deserve to die, apparently unaware there was a time he couldn't feed himself.
Books I'm Trying to Fend Off

The following are in my Amazon cart & are nagging at me to buy them. I tell them I have enough books! But they never listen.
Being Human: Core Readings in the Humanities - Leon Kass;
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee;
The Working Poor : Invisible in America - David Shipler;
St. Dale - Sharyn McCrumb; Hardcover
Mr. Blue - Myles Connolly; Paperback
The Proving Ground - G. Bruce Knecht;

February 22, 2005

Two Degrees of Separation

The oddest thing happened to me yesterday. Ham of Bone, at lunch, told me how his old roomie from an obscure college in New England known as the University of New Hampshire recently became the all-time champ of the video game Centipede.

And lo' and behold, on the drive home from work, who do I hear? That same ex-roomie on the 50,000 watt Cincinnati radio station WLW. The ex-roomie sounded very sober, very serious-minded as well someone who sets video game records should be. Sounded modest too - when asked the secret of his success he said hard work and trying to figure out what is going on with the game. I'm guessing lightning fast reflexes don't hurt? When it comes to nature vs. nurture, few say nature.
Praise of Catechism

Ingest awhile the words with me
that fine mid-Latin symphony
the fulsome 'spanse of back and spine
her lovely grace is yours and mine.

Lose yourself in black-ink loam
in pleated tome where learned roam
and cast thyself against thy cares
to there where definitions bare!

For US eight and ninety-nine
that which you seek, no more to pine
to play amid the dolphin'd sea
and grin beside the lettered lea!

Come ye' truthsmiths, truthjones all
come ye to the festive ball
play amid the small agate
where teaching fills but never grates.

Songs there flow from frothing font
the great celestial Feast our lot
the fine bouquet the pages send
the scent where eager hunters wend.

I sing among the pages there
and wont and loss are never where
the fullsome typeset bears its soul
as time be stilled and takes no toll.
Country Song
Baby Girl
        by SUGARLAND

They say in this town, stars stay up all night,
Well, I don’t know, can’t see ‘em for the glow of the neon lights.
An' it's a long way from here to the place where the home fires burn.
Well it's two thousand miles and one left turn.

CHORUS:
Dear Mom and Dad,
Please send money: I’m so broke that it ain’t funny.
Well, I don't need much; just enough to get me through.
Please don’t worry 'cause I'm all right,
I’m playin’ here at the bar tonight.
Well, this time, I’m gonna make our dreams come true.
Well, I love you more than anything in the world,
Love,
Your baby girl.

Black top, blue sky: big town full of little white lies.
Well, everybody’s your friend: you can never be sure.
They'll promise fancy cars an' diamond rings, an' all sorts of shiny things,
But, girl, you’ll remember what your knees are for.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Please send money: I’m so broke that it ain’t funny.
Well, I don't need much; just enough to get me through.
Please don’t worry 'cause I'm all right,
See, I’m playin’ here at the bar tonight.
Well, this time, I’m gonna make our dreams come true.
Well, I love you more than anything in the world,
Love,
Your baby girl.

I know that I’m on my way.
Well, I can tell every time I play.
An' I know it’s worth all the dues I pay,
When I can write to you and say:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I’ll send money. I’m so rich that it ain’t funny.
Well it oughtta be more than enough to get you through.
Please don’t worry 'cause I’m all right,
See, I’m stayin’ here at the Ritz tonight
Whaddya know, we made our dreams come true.
An' there are fancy cars an' diamond rings,
But you know that they don't mean a thing.
Well, they all add up to nothin' compared to you.
Well, remember me in ribbons an' curls.
I still love you more than anything in the world:
Love,
Your baby girl.
Terri Schiavo

I received an email from a Beth Cleaver, as surely many others have, asking for blog support and I'm glad to oblige. That so many care is itself an inspiration. What can we do? Mostly just pray. But more action items here:
The St Petersburg Times has done more damage to Terri than any other paper by what it has said and what it has failed to say - although mostly by someone who is no longer with the paper. We have spoken with the Times and it appears that they would be willing to run the ad subject to their approval.

Between all the blogs, blog readers and sponsors (one medical center has already pledged $300 and we haven't even started asking), we need to raise $10,000. We are in contact with a 501(c)3 that could be willing to accept the funds in a Bank lockbox arrangement so that the donations would be tax deductable. No overhead charges are expected.

BlogsForTerri will conduct large email and telephone campaigns to target Florida residents and at the national level - both directed to Legislative members, the Governor, and President Bush. Our goal is one million emails to the Florida legislature, and the participation of resident of Florida that we can convince that Terri deserves to be evaluated by a multi-disciplinary team of rehabilitaion therapy experts.

February 21, 2005

Various & Sundry

Steve Sailer writes: "Various people, including Orrin Judd, have suggested that the most likely resolution to Christopher Hitchens' intense hatred of Roman Catholicism will be his conversion to that religion, although I suspect Hitchens is more likely to convert to the Judaism of his maternal ancestors. He already has taken to visiting synagogues on his travels."...A reader responded that Richard Dawkins is an unlikely convert but "[Hitchens] is a mess and might look fondly upon redemption."

Last week I read Hitchens' essay about how the Vatican asked him to play devil's advocate in the case for Mother Teresa's canonization. Sporting of the Vatican I thought, especially since my understanding is there's not a formal prosecuting attorney anymore. I was no less convinced of Mother Teresa's sanctity after reading it though Hitchens apparently thought the great sister's defense of unborn human life was too extreme, as if extremism in pursuit of life is a vice.
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Anyone now how to keep your bookshelves organized when you're reading forty at a time? At first I had a "current reading shelf", now it's a "current reading case".
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One liners For Sale...

Saw a sign "Brown Eggs - $1.50". If you're going to dye eggs, why would you dye them brown?

If St. Thomas's works were "as straw" then what is this blog? Ugh, don't answer that.
Desperate Non-Housewives

Just read the email exchange between Michael Kinsley & Susan Estrich and wowsa! Can you say "below the belt"? Using someone's Parkinson's disease against them? And here I thought Charlotte Allen's taking Estrich to task for grammatical errors was beside the point if not beyond the pale.

It's sort of hypmotizing to watch the left attack left. In an internal memo last year the L.A. Times confessed to having a left-leaning bias, hence it's odd to see Estrich trying to wheedle ur-lefty Kinsley. Editors of major newspapers certainly have a tough job these days - flak from both sides.

I re-wrote Estrich's piece replacing the word "women" with the word "Irish" or phrase "of Irish descent":
I am sending over my letter this morning. It is very, very temperate. It is signed by approximately 50 people of Irish descent, among them some of the most powerful movers and shakers, from Bill O'Shaugnessey to Sean McDonald to Katherine O'Hallahan...etc. etc. etc. ... Everyone is assuming it will be published on Sunday. I honestly think it will be a bigger deal if you don't publish it, and Drudge and Newsmax and the rest do, than if you simply publish it, and start adding more Irish from Southern California to your mix (today's tally, 3 Germans, 1 of British descent, but no Irish from Southern California...)

My friend Barbara McGowan told me she got a call yesterday from Martin McCourt about writing for the Sunday section and I was delighted. How easy can it be ... That's all. You want thoughtful Germans ... I have a great Irish former Harvard student who tells me she's been desperate to get a piece published and she gets consistently turned away. She lives in Pasadena ... I've got so many names for you of good Irish descent who live right here, care about this community; Carla O'Reilly, who created LA's CRAICK, tells me she can't get a piece in; I have Irishmen writing to me who have submitted four pieces and not gotten the courtesy of a call - and they teach Gaelic studies at UCLA!

I would like nothing better than to work with you to declare victory. Otherwise we'll have a new website, www.latimeshatestheirish.org up by tomorrow...

February 20, 2005

Among the Gentiles

My stepson is a serious Christian of three years, before which he hung out with a group of three or four friends who might be gently described as unsavory. Sexually promiscuous, contemptuous of religion, and heavy drinkers, the last which I can't hold against them.

He finds himself increasingly wanting nothing to do with them but knows that we needs to be out in the world, as salt. And so he went to play poker with them tonight, God bless him, and asked that I pray for him. He simply wants to still be present to them, although he recognizes that he becomes like them when he's with them. I do think his presence in some way manifests Christ even if it is not outwardly apparent. I have mixed emotions; part of me tells him to flee bad companions and the other part says otherwise.
I Like Fountains

The play of water around sculpture is beautiful.
The poem below is an attempt to illustrate the mixed emotions of feeling like an exile in your native land (a universal problem since earth is both our native land and our place of exile...)

~



Robert Bishop, Presbyterian minister & first president of Miami University (1824-1841)


~

Mixed Loyalties

High on a hill in Oxford town
lies Old Miami antiquated
'neath ghosts & legends & well-trod paths
and students new emancipated.

Alma Mater loyalty
her seals her secrets safe with me
her breath of poignant brevity
like the kiss of a summer camp girl.

Fall the leaves of history
from oaken limbs of memory
your founder was a Calvinist
my loyalty bound to resist--
how harsh their God would seem to be
who would Elect a lottery?
Profile in Courage

Most people resist change fiercely, even if it be to their benefit, so I found this Dispatch article by Joseph Hallet cheering:
When Walter R. Cates tells people what he's become, incredulously they respond, "You're a what!''

From the moment he took his first breath 63 years ago, Cates has been three things: "I've always told people I was born black, Baptist and Democrat.''

Now he's a Republican.

He recently switched parties, officially announcing it Thursday during a Buckeye Republican Club luncheon.

Cates is one of the most recognizable and influential leaders in Columbus. As former president of the local NAACP chapter in 1973, he sued the Columbus school district, police and fire divisions for discrimination and forced them to change.

Cates, known in the black community as "The Mayor of Main Street,'' founded and heads the Main Street Business Association. He often is credited, as much as anyone, for the streetlights and sidewalks, the bus stops and clinics, the stores and businesses that breathe life into the city's urban core.

Cates has been a member of the Franklin County Democratic Party Central Committee, he's served on the party's candidate screening committees and he even ran for the Ohio Senate as a Democrat in 1992.

Now he's a Republican.

There was no philosophical transformation. Issues such as gay marriage, abortion, guns, school prayer -- all the stuff that moves the Republican base -- had nothing to do with Cates' move.

"This is all about delivering the goods,'' he said. "The Republicans are listening more.''

From the late U.S. Rep. Chalmers Wylie to Rep. Pat Tiberi, from U.S. Sens. George V. Voinovich, Mike DeWine and former Ohio Senate President Stanley Aronoff to a raft of politicians in between, the Republicans are delivering the money to improve his community, Cates contended.

He looks around and sees Condoleezza Rice and, formerly, Colin Powell, at the right hand of President Bush. He notices that two of the five highest-ranking officials in state government -- Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Treasurer Jennette Bradley -- are black Republicans, and he wonders just what is it that he's getting from the Democrats.

Cates' answer: "All the talk in the world.''

February 18, 2005

Fictional Friday

There was a hint of rain that late March day in nineteen hundred and seventy-three. I was fishing with my grandfather and the orange bobber that hung over glass water hardly moved. If this was a game they’d have called it on account of nothing happening. I was hoping for rain so we’d call it a day.

But Grandma was waiting at home to skin a few bluegills for dinner and she had corn on the cob waiting too, fresh from Kolstead’s market. We had to hold up our end of the bargain even though I told Papa that all she had to do was buy it from the market but we had to have the skill or luck to catch something. But he warn’t worried.

I stared at the orange blob and my mind would play tricks. I’d thought it moved when it hadn’t. I was trigger-happy, ready to reel something in, not patient at all and wanting to be too early rather than too late. Fishing was nerve-racking because you had to be alert every second.

Papa, who was drinking Budweiser beers, didn’t seem tense at all though.

“They ain’t bitin’” he said and I told him they sure warn’t. I didn’t know what made them bite one day and not the next. I told him that it maybe we wasn’t in the right spot but he said maybe we weren’t out early enough. I didn’t know what to make of that because it seemed like we got up at the crack of dawn.

“Maybe if we had those boots like real fishermen we’d catch something,” I said, pointing to the fellows who wore hip waders and weren’t limited to the bank like we landlubbers. I was jealous of fisherman who went in the water.

“Don’t yell, you’ll scare the fish,” he said, although I think he just said that to shut me up. I was always “scaring the fish”. Anything you’d do would scare the fish. Splash water or spit in it or yell or run up and down the bank, everything scared the fish. I thought the fish were scaredy-cats.
It can't be that difficult, can it?

From Irish Abroad
The annual St. Patrick’s Day speech welcoming the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) to the White House is one of the most tedious jobs a presidential speechwriter has to endure, President Bush’s former speechwriter and special advisor has said....

In an opinion article in the New York Times, Scully wrote, “Almost as dreaded as drafting a State of the Union, for example, are those yearly chores like writing remarks for the St. Patrick’s Day visit by the prime minister of Ireland. How many different ways can you accept a bowl of shamrocks, or celebrate the sterling qualities of the noble Irish people?”
Bestseller Lists

Happened across a link that has bestseller lists from every decade of the previous century and it makes for fascinating reading. You can see the Zeitgeist change before your very eyes just by examining the bestsellers of the years of the '60s. It's fun to look for that elusive turning point, even if there be "outliers" on any given pre-'65 list. '64 was a year of Bellow, Le Carré, Uris on the fiction list and lots of Kennedy retrospectives on non-fiction. The '60s of our memory haven't begun yet.

In '65 we have a whiff of the self-help/self-psychology books that would become so popular during the next ten years (although some of it had roots that went back further) in Eric Berne's "Games People Play" which popularized transactional analysis, later made even more famous in the book "I'm Ok-You're Ok". That year we also have "A Gift of Prophecy" by Ruth Montgomery about the clairvoyant Jeane Dixon, who was a "devout Catholic and an astrologer". Was this a sign of a culture that had one foot in traditional Christianity and the other elsewhere? (More about Dixon here.)

If in '65 psychology and the mystic were discovered, 1966 we turn from the mind/spirit to the body. The top two fiction bestsellers are "Valley of the Dolls" by Jacqueline Susann and "The Adventurers" by Harold Robbins. In non-fiction, sex also found the list with number 2's "Human Sexual Response" by Masters & Johnston.

In 1967 religion becomes a target: "A Modern Priest Looks at His Outdated Church" by Fr. James Kavanaugh hits number 5 on the non-fiction list. But replace this outdated church with what? Well, "Edgar Cayce--The Sleeping Prophet" by Jess Stearn hit number 8 that same year...
St. Padre Pio

St. Pio combines a sort of St. Jerome quality with a gentle side. My suspicion is that those who need harshness will flock to his softer side while those who need gentleness will seek his severity. Life is like that, and certainly that is the constant temptation with Christ. We emphasize the words which confirm Him in our image rather than vice-versa.

A few St. Pio quotes I like:
Be tranquil as far as your soul is concerned. Make every effort to unite yourself always and in everything to God's divine will, and don't worry about the future.

Walk cheerfully, and with a sincere and open heart as much as you can, and when you cannot always maintain this holy joy, at least do not lose heart or your trust in God.

Pray, hope and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer. Prayer is the best weapon we have; it is the key to God's heart.
You must speak to Jesus not only with your lips but with your heart; in fact on certain occasions you should speak to Him only with your heart.
Self-Esteem

... study says:
People with high self-esteem claim they are more likable, attractive and have better relationships than others, but these advantages exist mainly in their own minds, the researchers found.

February 17, 2005

THE BALLAD OF LARRY BOWA

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Played for the Phillies in the Land of the Free
Couldn't hit his weight it seems to me
Lost to the Reds in '73...

Larry, Larry Bowa, King of the Philly infield!

ln nineteen seventy donned Phillies clothes
Scooped up grounders hit at his toes
Caused the league some major woes
but they didn't win till they got Rose!

Larry, Larry Bowa, King of the Philly infield!

Now I'm not dissin' this king at all
He played shortstop with scarce a fall
But if I had to pick one after all
Well Dave Concepcion could sure play ball!

Larry, Larry Bowa, King of the Philly infield!
I Stand Corrected

Man, can Larry Bowa really have hit .267 lifetime?

So a v.i.p. just informed me, forcing me to take back what I said about him. Davey Concepcion was the better shortstop though. haha!

Update: My informer informed wrongly - he hit .260 lifetime. Still higher than I would've thought; I would've guessed around .245-.252ish.
Totus Tuus

No pope has ever resigned due to illness. Call me a romantic but I think that's a beautiful thing. And I thought this was an interesting account from Cornwell's "The Pontiff in Winter":

Giving a rare interview to Lucio Brunelli, from the Rome daily Il Tempo, [Cardinal Deskur] said: "The motto totus tuus is not an empty expression for John Paul. He took the vow to the Madonna and it is part of his vow to entrust to the Madonna the hour and circumstance of his own death." He went on to say that when Paul VI was tormented by the decision of whether to resign or not, he got a "very clear admonition of heaven." The French mystic Marthe Robin, he continued, had a visiton: "Our Lady told her that the pope was tempted to resign and that this would be a very serious mistake."...Now, he went on, several years back when John Paul was returning from a trip to India, there was a fierce snowstorm around Rome and the papal airplane had to land from Naples, from where the Pope had to take a train to Rome. "During the train ride, the Pope had in his hands a book by Jean Guitton. Can you guess which one?" To which the interviewer, Brunelli, promptly responded: "A book that recounts the life of that French mystic?" "Exactly," said Deskur.
 
Mystic Saint

NRO editor John O'Sullivan writes:
Padre Pio, of course, was the saintly Italian priest whose hands bore the stigmata. These are wounds in the palms of the hands like those of Christ where the nails pierced Him. In addition to this, Padre Pio was rumored to be able to see directly into the souls of those who sought confession or his counsel. More than one pious Catholic of my acquaintance remembered a previous engagement when invited to an audience with him.
St. Pio is certainly an intimidating figure. He wasn't shy about "tough love". He also offered perhaps the most beautiful advice ever given: "pray, hope and don't worry".
Derbyshire on Nature vs Nurture on Homosexuality

I've suspected that most homosexual tendency is inborn but made the mistake of confusing the term "inborn" with "genetics", the latter not making any sense from an evolutionarily perspective. John Derbyshire seems to have studied the pheonomena and believes it is inborn.

He also offers this dazzing line:

"The opposite of science is not religion; the opposite of science is wishful thinking."

NB: His theology is weak in places and is corrected beautifully here.
O'Rama, Vegetarian

I was in line at the Cafe today ordering up some tacos. The gal behind me wants no meat. Just beans and rice. She said "I know, we vegetarians cause extra work!" to the cafeteria worker, said apologetically and surprisingly energetically given that she doesn't eat meat.

But I got to thinking: I could be a vegetarian too. Already my diet is mostly composed of donuts, cinnamon rolls and Cap'n Crunch....Hmm....
My thoughts turn to Steven Riddle, my polar opposite. He spends time with the Blessed Sacrament five a.m.-ish, just about the time I'm hitting R.E.M. sleep. He works 16 hours a day while I work...far less. He fasts like a Mickey Mantle while I fast like Larry Bowa (sorry KTC, he's the weakest hitter I could think of). If he's not detached then I don't know who is. This is all said not to embarrass him but to recognize that the worst thing about blogs is their tendency to overvalue words as compared to actions. Steven has earned the right to post on spiritual things.

February 16, 2005

The Daily Kos-tic

I can't share Jonah's glee at the Democratic Party's leftward ho:
Meanwhile, the Daily Kos and its lesser imitators are moving what we call liberalism to the left. They're doing this mostly by pulling the Democratic party to the left. Michael Barone points out that this is good news for Bush. I think it may be a sign of even better news for conservatives.
The fly in the ointment is that at some point my party will have to meet fiscal discipline, at which point we'll promptly get our ass handed to us. Americans don't like fiscal discipline at home or in their government, thank you very much.

This means that we'll get a Democratic president and he or she will be more leftish than would otherwise be necessary. Hillary will probably be grandmothered in, having already proven her liberal credentials. But for a moderate like Joe Biden? He'll have to quote Marx approvingly while hopping on one leg.

What's bad for the Democratic party is also bad for pro-lifers. Although it is hard to imagine the Dem's moving to the left on abortion, for the sake of argument let's say the party wants to allow a mother to kill her child for up to one year after birth (using the Trojan horse "the health of the mother", which would presumably include having to shop at Costco). The Republicans would then counter with "we don't believe in killing children older than four months!" and come out smelling like the proverbial rose. Not good.

We need two healthy parties.
From Godspy on the MacFarlane divorce:
Q: You and your husband are well known in faithful Catholic circles for your books, talks, and ministry to lay Catholics...I'm sure there are more than a few Catholic couples who wonder that if the two of you can't make it, who can?

Just because Bud and I knew how to get out books and tapes in a really efficient way, and he had a lot of marketing experience, and knew how to do mailings, had nothing to do with what our personal life was like.

I've had a lot more time to read now with my kids away most of the time, and I've been reading Fire Within, about Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross... and it emphasizes what real prayer is, and what spirituality is. Basically, if you pray your rosary and you brag about it, you're really at the bottom of the totem pole. And if you pray privately and you get a revelation that tells you what to do and you think it's from God and you go act on it, well that's pretty dangerous...

In the same way I think people could have misunderstandings about marriage on all sorts of issues—women who think they're supposed to have romance and fireworks all the time; men who think they're supposed to have obedience. People could read the Pope's encyclical on family, Familiaris Consortio, which is one of the things I read when things were getting bad, and it was very discouraging, because what he describes is so beautiful. What are you supposed to do if you don't have that—does it mean you're not married? Does it mean you go get a divorce, and try to look for the "real thing" somewhere else? So there's got to be more realism.

I see a lot of prominent literature quoting the Pope and Vatican II statements about marriage that conclude that if one doesn't have a "strong satisfying interpersonal relationship that is a communion of life and love," then you don't have the stuff of marriage and that you should get an annulment because you were incapable of having a valid marriage with your current partner for reasons that could even be subconscious. That's the irony of the current scandal. It's almost satanic, that the Father of Lies would take what's good and twist it to lead people to break up their families.

The scary thing is I read the stuff that comes from the Pope about marriage, and it's so wonderful and beautiful and I think: How many people really have that? Maybe it's one in a thousand. It's kind of like reading about a saint. It can be very discouraging, because I'm not like that! Lucky for them—they have all these wonderful things—but I'm not like that. The beautiful stuff is the goal, but maybe we need a little more realism about what average people are experiencing. It's going to have ugliness in it. Let's not be so secretive about it; let's go fix it.
Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

A decade ago I had about of year of overwhelming self-doubt to overcome. Sometimes you trick yourself into thinking that quitting will be better for your partner; this has to be resisted. By the grace of God [our marriage] endured, and at the height of being self-absorbed in doubt, it occurred to me that I could step out of myself and start each day absorbed in what my partner was going through and what I could do to bring harmony to her day (because I wasn't bringing harmony to mine). That was the defining moment for me; once I chose to be as fully compassionate and understanding of my partner's day as possible, my personal confusions lost their hold on me. I know this isn't rocket science, but emphasizing other-centeredness at the height of one's own emptiness isn't the obvious choice in the moment. I sometimes wonder if women embrace this choice much more readily -- particularly mothers. Carrying a child is obviously 9 months of other-centeredness 24/7, and that's just the beginning. I'm probably being way too serious, but I consider Marriage to be a mysterious and miraculous sacrament of transformation. It reveals qualities of living and loving one may not come to know any other way. - blogger at "Yes, Sister"

If you really want something in life you have to work for it. Now quiet, they're about to announce the lottery numbers.- Homer Simpson, via Julie of Happy Catholic

Humility is the new beige..It goes with everything. -Therese Z of Exultet

Christ responds neither directly nor abstractly to human questioning about the meaning of suffering. Human beings come to know His saving response in so far as they share in the sufferings of Christ. - Pope John Paul II

In one of his lectures, Peter Kreeft recommended several books for saving civilization as we know it: Lost in the Cosmos, Walker Percy, Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, Everlasting man, G. K. Chesterton Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton, Brave New World, Aldous Huxley - Vincent of "What a Mystery"

And these words, from the English poet John Dryden, are etched on a wall next to the choir loft:

"But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways,
To mend the choirs above." - commenter on Amy's blog

The transition from tenseness, self-responsibility, and worry, to equanimity, receptivity, and peace, is the most wonderful of all those shiftings of inner equilibrium, those changes of personal centre of energy, which I have analyzed so often; and the chief wonder of it is that it so often comes about, not by doing, but by simply relaxing and throwing the burden down.” -William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (via Terry Teachout)

Work is the curse of the blogging class. -commenter on Amy's blog

Perhaps I'm biased, being both a Catholic and a Southerner, but it's always seemed to me that the traditional Southern approach to life and humanity is particularly congenial to Roman Catholicism, and that congregational Protestantism holds sway here only because (a) that's the type of religion that historically spread here first and (b) anti-Catholicism is instilled in people while they're young. The Southern character, though, is eminently suited to Catholicism. I'm thinking especially of the South's sectional mythology, our old notions of aristocracy and kinship, our comfortable tolerance for what is strange and eccentric, our respect for tradition, our general freedom from the Protestant work ethic, and the darker recognition (confirmed by the loss of the War) that man is fallen and that he is not promised victory in this life. All of which has long made me think that the Southland is the closest thing in the world to Spain. - Fr. Jim of Dappled Things

For some reason, the end of the world somehow seems 10% more likely.
-Andrew of Holy Whapping on news of Sr. Lucia's death

The blogger quotes someone to the effect that the blogosphere has been crowing of late about bringing Eason Jordan down - can the blogosphere save a life?- Amy Welborn, on this
Folio'd Again

For years I've been fighting off the Folio Society, the Mercedes Benz of the book world. Beautiful books but all with sticker-shock prices. One time I went so far as to go with the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire set before sending them back when the hangover came.

The wheels are turning again because my stepson's birthday is a three months away and this past weekend he said he wants to read Churchill's account of the war. But buying four more books within four weeks at $40-80 a book is rude and/or crude. Plus parting with the Churchillian volumes might not be as easy as I think.
Do you keep your poetry in
a Mason jar behind
the closet door of a guest
bedroom?

Or do you keep it next to your bed
like the canary
who warns the miners?

February 15, 2005

FYI Talmida

The Douay-Rheims version of the Our Father might sound unusual; I'd never heard that before nor did I know that St. Jerome fought for it. From St. Anthony Messenger:
A familiar text like the Lord’s Prayer illustrates Jerome’s problems. The Greek word that is rendered as daily in the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread” is not the usual Greek word for daily. In fact, outside the two occurrences in the Matthean and Lucan versions of the Lord’s Prayer, that word occurs only once in all of classical Greek literature. The older Latin versions translated the Greek word as quotidianum (“daily”) in Latin.

Jerome believed this to be inaccurate so he attempted another rendering, which he may have coined himself: supersubstantialem (Matthew 6:11). Not hesitating to change the wording of a text as familiar as the Lord’s Prayer showed Jerome’s courage. At the same time, Jerome was flexible. In his translation of Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, Jerome kept quotidianum (Luke 11:3). In its liturgy, the Church uses the Matthean version of the Lord’s Prayer though it kept quotidianum, which is the basis of all English translations of the prayer. Otherwise, we might be saying, “Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.”
It seems appropriate that the OT manna, which means literally "what is it?" should have a NT equivalent in the form of a word no one knows the meaning of as the modifier of the NT bread.
The Situation Is Hopeless But Not Serious

You've probably already seen this at Steven's Flos Carmeli (which is where I found it) but in case you haven't see this by Ben Stein, containing the deliciously oxymoronic line: "The Problem in Our Lives Is Powerlessness--the Solution Is Also Powerlessness".
More Chesterton

Was St. Thomas a Poet Who Didn't Know it?

"It is often said that St. Thomas, unlike St. Francis, did not permit in his work the indescribable element of poetry. As, for instance, that there is little reference to any pleasure in the actual flowers and fruit of natural things, though any amount of concern with the buried roots of nature. And yet I confess that, in reading his philosophy, I have a very peculiar and powerful impression analogous to poetry...There is no thinker who is so unmistakably thinking about things and not being misled by the indirect influence of words, as St. Thomas Aquinas. It is true in that sense that he has not the advantage of words, any more than the disadvantage of words. Here he differs sharply, for instance, from St. Augustine who was, among other things a wit. He was also a sort of prose poet, with a power over words in their atmospheric and emotional aspect; so that his books abound with beautiful passages that rise in the memory like strains of music; the illi in vos saeviant; or the unforgettable cry, "Late I have loved thee, O Ancient Beauty!" It is true that there is little or nothing of this kind in St. Thomas; but if he was without the higher uses of the mere magic of words, he was also free from that abuse of it, by mere sentimentalists or self-centred artists, which can become merely morbid and a very black magic indeed. And truly it is by some such comparison with the purely introspective intellectual that we may find a hint about the real nature of the thing I describe, or rather fail to describe; I mean the elemental and primitive poetry...that strangeness of things, which is the light in all poetry, and indeed in all art, is really connected with their otherness; or what is called their objectivity."

Why Did Scholasticism Decline?

"There is undoubtedly a hopeful and creative Thomism in our time. But we are none the less puzzled by the fact that this did not immediately follow on St. Thomas's time.... [The later scholastics] were a sort of rabid rationalists, who would have left no mysteries in the Faith at all. In the earliest Scholasticism there is something that strikes a modern as fanciful and pedantic; but, properly understood, it has a fine spirit in its fancy. It is the spirit of freedom; and especially the spirit of free will. Nothing seems more quaint, for instance, than the speculations about what would have happened to every vegetable or animal or angel, if Eve had chosen not to eat the fruit of the tree. But this was originally full of the thrill of choice; and the feeling that she might have chosen otherwise. It was this detailed detective method that was followed, without the thrill of the original detective story. The world was cumbered with countless tomes, proving by logic a thousand things that can be known only to God. They developed all that was really sterile in Scholasticism, and left for us all that is really fruitful in Thomism."
Chesterton's "St. Thomas Aquinas"

Full work is here

Aquinas & Augustine

"We have seen how the great name of Augustine, a name never mentioned by Aquinas without respect but often mentioned without agreement covered an Augustinian school of thought naturally lingering longest in the Augustinian Order. The difference, like every difference between Catholics, was only a difference of emphasis. The Augustinians stressed the idea of the impotence of man before God, the omniscience of God about the destiny of man, the need for holy fear and the humiliation of intellectual pride, more than the opposite and corresponding truths of free will or human dignity or good works. In this they did in a sense continue the distinctive note of St. Augustine, who is even now regarded as relatively the determinist doctor of the Church. But there is emphasis and emphasis; and a time was coming when emphasising the one side was to mean flatly contradicting the other....For there was one particular monk in that Augustinian monastery in the German forests, who may be said to have had a single and special talent for emphasis; for emphasis and nothing except emphasis; for emphasis with the quality of earthquake. He was the son of a slatecutter; a man with a great voice and a certain volume of personality; brooding, sincere, decidedly morbid; and his name was Martin Luther. Neither Augustine nor the Augustinians would have desired to see the day of that vindication of the Augustinian tradition; but in one sense, perhaps, the Augustinian tradition was avenged after all."

Aquinas & Martin Luther

"It came out of its cell again, in the day of storm and ruin, and cried out with a new and mighty voice for an elemental and emotional religion, and for the destruction of all philosophies. It had a peculiar horror and loathing of the great Greek philosophies, and of the scholasticism that had been founded on those philosophies. It had one theory that was the destruction of all theories; in fact it had its own theology which was itself the death of theology. Man could say nothing to God, nothing from God, nothing about God, except an almost inarticulate cry for mercy and for the supernatural help of Christ, in a world where all natural things were useless. Reason was useless. Will was useless. Man could not move himself an inch any more than a stone. Man could not trust what was in his head any more than a turnip. Nothing remained in earth or heaven, but the name of Christ lifted in that lonely imprecation; awful as the cry of a beast in pain.

So it is with that great Augustinian monk, who avenged all the ascetic Augustinians of the Middle Ages; and whose broad and burly figure has been big enough to block out for four centuries the distant human mountain of Aquinas. It is not, as the moderns delight to say, a question of theology. The Protestant theology of Martin Luther was a thing that no modern Protestant would be seen dead in a field with; or if the phrase be too flippant, would be specially anxious to touch with a barge-pole. That Protestantism was pessimism; it was nothing but bare insistence on the hopelessness of all human virtue, as an attempt to escape hell. That Lutheranism is now quite unreal; more modern phases of Lutheranism are rather more unreal; but Luther was not unreal. He was one of those great elemental barbarians, to whom it is indeed given to change the world. To compare those two figures hulking so big in history, in any philosophical sense, would of course be futile and even unfair. On a great map like the mind of Aquinas, the mind of Luther would be almost invisible. But it is not altogether untrue to say, as so many journalists have said without caring whether it was true or untrue, that Luther opened an epoch; and began the modern world."

Appealing to the Personal

"[Luther] was the first man who ever consciously used his consciousness or what was later called his Personality. He had as a fact a rather strong personality. Aquinas had an even stronger personality; he had a massive and magnetic presence; he had an intellect that could act like a huge system of artillery spread over the whole world; he had that instantaneous presence of mind in debate, which alone really deserves the name of wit. But it never occurred to him to use anything except his wits, in defence of a truth distinct from himself. It never occurred to Aquinas to use Aquinas as a weapon. There is not a trace of his ever using his personal advantages, of birth or body or brain or breeding, in debate with anybody. In short, he belonged to an age of intellectual unconsciousness, to an age of intellectual innocence, which was very intellectual. Now Luther did begin the modern mood of depending on things not merely intellectual. It is not a question of praise or blame; it matters little whether we say that he was a strong personality, or that he was a bit of a big bully. When he quoted a Scripture text, inserting a word that is not in Scripture, he was content to shout back at all hecklers: "Tell them that Dr. Martin Luther will have it so!" That is what we now call Personality. A little later it was called Psychology. After that it was called Advertisement or Salesmanship. But we are not arguing about advantages or disadvantages. It is due to this great Augustinian pessimist to say, not only that he did triumph at last over the Angel of the Schools, but that he did in a very real sense make the modern world."
Gimme That Old Time Biography

I love a good "ah-ha!" moment. And I find them increasingly rare in modern biographies, which require a devotion to the subject that borders on fanatical: why should I care what LBJ had for dinner on Aug 12, 1967?

It's a mark of how much I've changed, whether for good or ill, that a decade ago I could purchase, and assume I'd actually read, Strouse's thick biography of J.P. Morgan. But such is the savor of youth, that wistful period when time seems endless.

I had a fine "ah-ha" moment last night while finishing GK Chesterton's slim treatise on St. Thomas Aquinas. Chesterton told us not what Aquinas had for lunch, but in a sweeping salvo gives a thrilling overview of the past 800 years. He sees all of Christian theology through an Augustine vs. Aquinas lens, something I've only recently been awakened to and something that is of keen interest to me. Aquinas is the logician, and the optimistic in the sense of being the fruitition of the statement "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". Augustine tends towards pessimism and poetry. I can think of two bloggers who are the Platonic ideals of their respective teachers! I don't need to mention their names, but one is a Lutheran and one Catholic and they fit so well into Chesterton's scheme that I'm led to wonder: did the student pick the teacher or did the teacher mold the student? To some extent I'm sure the student felt an affinity for the teacher since their personalities are presumably naturally inclined toward logic or poetry, at the risk of oversimplifying.

I'll quote some of Chesterton's book in the next few posts. He was pretty rough on ol' Martin Luther as well as the later Scholastics. I would like to read more of his take on Augustine but the next Chesterton on deck is the St. Francis of Assisi bio.

February 14, 2005

Blog Posts

Interesting posts here, here, and here.
Cub Fans & Jokers

One of the things I enjoy trying to do is amuse people. My philosophy is “if you throw enough schtick out there something’s bound to stick.” So when I recently received from an overseas charity a “five kwacha” note from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (equivalent to a U.S. nickel), I giddily put it in my wallet thinking “let the fun begin!”.

I trotted it out first at the local McDonald’s and the sixteen-year old was mildly amused, emphasis on mildly. Then I tried it today at the cafeteria and the 50-something cashier was annoyed (again to put it mildly). So this particular “joke” seems to have worn out its welcome. I shan't try it again. My wife calls these “joke trees”, etymology unknown.

She can be a tough audience, having had to put up with lame jokes so many years. But when she smiles it is the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. I saw it yesterday at a family gathering at my sister-in-law's house for a birthday of a niece. Her brother asked his dad to sing Happy Birthday "solo" – i.e. "so low" that we couldn’t hear it! Now there’s a funny line, and my wife broke out in a laughter for which the world is better.

* * *

I’m chagrined I like reading Andrew Greeley. A personal flaw? Can I like Ratzinger and Greeley? For a conservative Republican to read him seems an unbearable tension. I’m embarrassed and I ought get a brown wrapper. But his Christology is undeniably spot on. So what can I do? Appeal to my betters? To which he replied, "we all experience ambivalences. Despite knowing better I'm still a Cub fan!"

February 13, 2005

Florence King Quotes
"We lighten up in the wrong ways, in the wrong places, with the wrong people and call it inclusion, when in fact it is a faux pas most grievous. Having a Tomb of the Unknowns insults the Unknown Soldier because more than one destroys the whole concept. Fiddling with holidays to create three-day weekends institutionalizes disrespect."
_

"When they came for the smokers I kept silent because I don't smoke. When they came for the meat eaters I kept silent because I'm a vegetarian. When they came for the gun owners I kept silent because I'm a pacifist...They never did come for me. I'm still here because there's nobody left in the secret police..."
_

"Real humanitarians tend to be curmudgeons because they must deal with bureaucratic blockheads. One of the shortest fuses in history belonged to its foremost angel of mercy, Florence Nightingale, who was also a foremost female mysogynist. Admonished by a do-gooder about the dangers of exposing patients to night air, she exploded: 'It's the only kind of air there is at night!'"
UPDATE: Smock makes an excellent point.

February 11, 2005

Was I Drinking? ...I defended Tim LaHaye at dinner

Family Member 1: "The Left Behind books are terrible. Bad theology. They're crap."
Family Member 2: "But many have come to Christ through them."
Me: "God can work good from bad."

I'll leave it to the reader whether I was temporarily insane.

Secret Agent Man defends kitschy, though orthodox, art:
We could say all this is trite. But I don't think anyone's holding up medieval passion and devotional plays as the equal of Shakespeare. Catholic art, like anything else Catholic, has one goal and one goal only -- to get a soul into heaven by any means necessary. (That's not relativism, because the goal dictates the range of acceptable means). God used some science fiction, a boy's novel, an undergraduate-level knowledge of classical history, and a comic book about the life of John Paul II as part of His plan to get me into the Church. We can get all snooty about the quality of Catholic art, but most of us would be amazed at the condescending things God does just to get us to pay attention to Him.
Ten Things Bloggers Do Wrong

   --(And here I thought blogging was like sex; you couldn't do it wrong)

1. Only link to what we've already read and only say what we've already heard.
I try to avoid this though that post about Ward Churchill was like giving ice to Eskimos.

2. False modesty.
Sometimes guilty, although SiteMeter is always a cause for modesty.

3. Clearing the archives.
I've got the archives of ten bloggers. No false modesty there, 'eh?

4. Become overly concern[ed] with blogging "rules."
I don't think so though that is a concern. Conformance in blogging is always a mistake; I can't be a Tom Kreitzberg or Steven Riddle. And certainly the rule that you have to have comments is something I've resisted.

5. Fail to follow basic punctuation rules.
I hate commas. Never know quite where to put them, or whether I'm too free with them or not free enough.

6. Substitute slang for ideas.
Not that I'm aware of.

7. Fail to take advantage of 95% of the blogosphere.
Probably so; there are surely many great blogs I'm unaware of. I rarely read any of the heavy hitters except NRO's "The Corner".

8. Become a one-note charlie.
Don't think that's a problemo.

9. Decline to put up an "about the author" link.
I have a Blogger Profile up, even if it's not all that helpful. As John Denver once wrote me (paraphrasing) don't let me get in the way of the value the post has for you. Although if I had a more interesting background I'd probably have an "about the author" section. And it has a downside: I recently received an email that ended "God Bless whoever the heck you are!".

10. Decline to participate in their own comments section.
N/A
Today's Quote

From Kathy Shaidle's latest book:
If book sales are any indication, Catholics are far more partial to prayer than fasting. Perhaps because prayer seems easier; we can pretend to pray, but not to fast, not with our stomachs doing their impressions of Munch's painting "The Scream" after just a few hours.
That '70s Show

I like time-traveling back to the late '60s, back when I was five or six years old, by watching old TV shows like Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. There, again, is Gary Owens and his slicked-back hair and oversized microphone. The studio backdrop is so faintly familiar as to border on eerie - a sort of ungraspable ghost-ishness. It lives in that odd border town between the familiar and unfamiliar, an image orginally imprinted on a brain that like a river was then near its source. One can forget that it records everything.

I watched a few minutes of a 1968 show before seeing the opening of a 1970 episode. And it was fun to spot the differences. The hair & sideburns on Rowan & Martin looked a bit longer. The easy animal energy and charisma of Martin seemed to have waned just a tad. The set had undergone a makeover too, the glitz of the disco '70s replacing the more laid-back '60s.

The show was much more juvenile than I remembered it. It seemed so adult, so hip then. But the hipness was, as it often is, simply boringly anti-authoritarian. Artie Johnson is a priest, sipping tea and above it all, making a joke about church teaching on the birth control pill. Later Dick Martin describes the pure joy of hitting a cop and a banged-up cop is shown doing spit takes with loose teeth. Many times. Cruelty to a policeman as theatre.

The lack of subtly in using sex to sell was almost humorous. You could see the producer's mind working when Rowan & Martin give their monologue in front of a dangling bare legs. It's as if the producer said, 'okay, in case the jokes don't work, let's distract them. Let's have a two-tiered coffee shop setting with Dick & Dan on the lower tier so viewers can look at a model's legs.' Reminds me of how a priest once said that once we get a sense of being manipulated by ads it's easier to resist their pull. We see the puppet-master behind the curtain and we no longer want to be puppets.

I extended the blast from the past by re-listening to a 1972 cassette tape made by my mom's uncle, a priest, who was practicing a sermon for a Baccalaureate mass. He talks about his generation having messed up the world, mentioning poverty, war and racism, and how he hoped they, with God's help, would fix the problems. The attitude is telling: there is humility - an "establishment" figure understanding the need to say we messed up (and at least with respect to racism that might be so). It also speaks to the idealism of the class of '72. They wanted to change the world.
Just an observation...

Isn't it odd how Mary seemed to impact the timing of Jesus' ministry, at least upon a superficial reading of Scripture? At the age of 12 he was found in the Temple and was apparently content to remain there and go about his Father's business. But out of obedience he went back home. Much later Mary wants him to perform a miracle at the wedding of Cana, and so begins his public ministry despite his initial disavowal that His time had not yet come.
Stream o' Consciousness Post

I amused by the whole concept of St. Blog Awards since I think it's a reflection of our innate thirst for hierarchy, competition and recognition. (Recognition abhors a vacuum.) As Jeff of the Revealer says "if it helps them feel good about themselves" then he's for it. Most of us blog at least partially for the "they love me, they really love" me aspect as well as the thrill of athletic competition as ABC's Wide World of Sports theme goes.

The blogging thing for me has been primarily a George Plimpton exercise. What's it feel like to be a writer? And so I'm sympathetic to the awards concept since you can't play writer without having a Nobel equivalent. (I'd be even more sympathetic, of course, had I been nominated.) And where would awards be without controversy and corruption?

I paint with far too broad a brush here. Some do blog for higher purposes. Some blog as part of the New Evangelism. And there is a great service to be performed by a professionals blogging about their perspective. A lawyer is going to write about the law differently than a print journalist and so provide something the newspaper usually can't. My style of blog is less ostensibly useful, so I get to take it less seriously and can wear it as a Halloween costume.

It might be that I'm too affected by the Zeitgeist. The Zeitgeist doesn't take things seriously enough. The NY Times recently had a long article about college fraternities and how the brothers today see the ritual as a joke; they don't take the part about being "brothers for life" seriously at all, which, if you think about it, is a shame. We could all stand a few more brothers for life in our lives. But how different today is from the 19th century, when far more elaborate rituals were undertaken with immense seriousness and solemnity. We lack commitment and cover it with frivolity. Ritual, oaths, and commitment are serious business and modern man loathes all three because they impinge upon his "freedom".

Wait, how did I get from awards to fraternities again? Nevermind.

February 10, 2005

Art & Symbol

Went to a lecture given by Fr. Shawn McKnight on the roots of the liturgy and how powerful symbol is because it can express many things while being one thing. For example the crucifix. He asked a group of schoolchildren what it means to them and got scores of answers: "love", "suffering", "fidelity", "faith", "devotion" and all are true.

Former Columbus pastor Msgr. Joseph Fete once wrote:
Devotional prayer and meditation as well as the sacred liturgy have relied on the efficacy of "visual theology" since the time of the catacombs. In an increasingly pictorial age, the science of theology may now be tuning in to this visual channel... art is more than pretty pictures - it is a way of doing theology. It is our Christian tradition.
Msgr. Hartman's Comments

One of my favorite "TV priests" is the gentle Msgr. Tom Hartman, who regularly appears on my favorite morning talk show Imus in the Morning.

(There is a worthwhile article here, by the way, concerning his reaction upon hearing the sad news that he had Parkinson's disease.)

He said on Imus yesterday that he thinks the Pope is dying. Soon. Given how reports of the Holy Father's demise have been greatly exaggerated for the past ten years I've traditionally put little stock in bad reports - until now. Pray for the Pope.
Interesting post from Jonah Goldberg regarding Intelligent Design here:
I believe in God, but I have a hard time believing he buried those clues in the few areas where science remains ignorant. Those clues are hiding in plain sight for those who want to see them. Saying that science will ultimately prove the existence of God almost seems blasphemous to me because it suggests that God was hiding from human investigators for all this time but humans finally got smart enough to see his fingerprints. It's all fingerprints!

February 09, 2005

Good Posts on Ash Wednesday

I promised myself never to use the phrase "bloggy goodness", but that's what came to mind while reading this and this.

February 08, 2005

Times Have Changed, Vol. 14
I call on all members of the faculty, as members of a thinking body, freely to recognize the tremendous validity and power of the teachings of Christ in our life-and-death struggle against the force of selfish materialism.
- the president of Yale, inaugural address 55 years ago
Evening Primrose
by John Clare

When once the sun sinks in the west,
And dewdrops pearl the evening's breast;
Almost as pale as moonbeams are,
Or its companionable star,
The evening primrose opes anew
Its delicate blossoms to the dew;
And, hermit-like, shunning the light,
Wastes its fair bloom upon the night,
Who, blindfold to its fond caresses,
Knows not the beauty it possesses;
Thus it blooms on while night is by;
When day looks out with open eye,
Bashed at the gaze it cannot shun,
It faints and withers and is gone.
Ward Churchill & the Demise of the Elites

What interests me about Ward Churchill, the professor at Colorado who said that the U.S. needs a few more 9/11s and that those who died in the WTC were "little Eichmann's", was less his rhetoric (I take him for insane and therefore less culpable) than what it shows: that universities aren't capable of self-policing, at least without unprecendented media exposure.

This, we know, is not uncommon. What do Ken Lay, some Catholic bishops and Ward Churchill have in common? Highly respected elites - CEOs, bishops and professors - who, sadly, have caused by their actions the need for costly and elaborate regulatory oversight.

Of the three Churchill has done the least damage and if he were at a private college it wouldn't be much of an issue. But for taxpayers to finance a warping anti-Americanism? Well that sounds downright un-American.
The Pope on pentential fasting for the soul. Words that speak well to a culture devoted to therapy.
    Spanning the Proverbial Globe to Bring You the Constant Variety of Posts

The first thing marc said was, “i think we need a bigger bed.” it was said with more enthusiasm than roy schieder's “i think we need a bigger boat,” nonetheless it conjured the same image in my mind....when asked about how large we'll grow our family, marc and i have often said we'll take as many as the good Lord will give us, "but, we refuse to drive a prison van." - smockmama reacting to news that she's pregnant with children number five & six

So please vote your conscience and make sure your conscience is correctly formed as to what constitutes humor and creativity. - the humorous Jeff Miller, on 2005 Catholic blog award voting

'When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.' This is the story of my life. I [even] read while brushing my teeth. - Julie of Happy Catholic. (Wow, that's one I've never tried. When I was younger & dumber I'd read while driving, but I've never taken the chance of reading while brushing for fear of damaging the book.:-)

Since the Reformation, the Church has been treating Mariology as a matter of apologetics at the expense of teaching Mariology as a matter of the living Catholic faith. To focus on the question, "When does Marian devotion make us bad Christians?" is to walk from the public square into court and sit down at the defendant's table... The first question is not, "What is bad about Marian devotion?," but, "What is good about it?" And we won't convince many people of what is good about it if we start from a defensive posture by denying that it's bad. - Tom of Disputations

Rev. Hock writes of Melancholic saints who conquered their tendency to pessimism and brooding, like the Cure d'Ars; Choleric saints who channelled their natural aggression into passionate, untiring work like St. Ignatius de Loyola and St. Francis de Xavier; and Sanguine saints who transmuted their gift for gab and carefree chatter into brilliant writings and sermons, like St. Francis de Sales. Yet the Phlegmatics, who are already allotted the shortest space in the book, don't seem to have their own patron saint...I refuse to publish this post without putting in a good word for them...My favourite Phlegmatic is one of my aunts, Ruby Baggins, who is as lovely and hobbity as her lovely hobbit name suggests. Heck, with all due respect to my beloved confirmation patron, I've learned more about Spiritual Childhood from Tita Ruby than from St. Therese of the Child Jesus. I'm sure St. Therese doesn't mind, though. She must be very fond of Tita Ruby. - Christina of Sancta Sanctis

What surprised me this year, however, was one local parish's Ash Wednesday all-you-can-eat fish dinner...I wonder sometimes if [my surprise] is the result of living most of my conscious Catholic life in the South, where Catholicism is more than a thread in the social fabric, something much different than cultural background noise, where you're constantly - not just as individuals, but as a church as a whole, on call, as 5% of the population in an often hostile religious culture, to demonstrate your true Christian cred. Because, I'm telling you, surrounded by an ocean of sentiment highly suspicious of the purpose of such "works" as fasting and abstinence, and "man-made traditions" like a season of Lent, an "all-you-can-eat Ash Wednesday fish fry," is just not going to support your argument for the spiritual value of these practices. - Amy Welborn

NRO reprints Whittaker Chambers' 1957 takedown of Ayn Rand with its noted line: "From almost any page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding: 'To a gas chamber -- go!'" - Mark of Irish Elk

And somebody tell me how I actually give Him my heart. It's like rubbing your stomach and patting your head and jumping up and down on one foot and reciting poetry, all at once. How do we give Him our heart and talk on the phone at work? How do we give our heart and watch TV on the couch? How do we give and deal with our annoying relative? In a dark room, in peace, I can find my heart and try and hand it over. But in the world? Eeeeeshh...... - Therese Z of Exultet

We start out intending to use the blog, but too often the blog ends up using us. -Amy Welborn

Let me suggest that very few Christians adequately value the Sacrament of Baptism. It's such an awesome mystery, how could we? But even relative to other things, I suspect many Christians severely underestimate what Baptism means. There is a misplaced impulse in interfaith relations to downplay union with the Body of Christ, and a certain embarrassment regarding the Gospel has bleached nearly all meaning out of the dogma of the absolute necessity of Baptism for salvation. There are those who seem to regard Baptism as the way you keep score, and when another game is being played, Baptism doesn't count.- Tom of Disputations

I have gone through the Ignatian Exercises, and while they were wonderful because the guide was so wonderful, they convinced me once and for all that I was not cut out to be a Jesuit. The way I explain it is that the Ignatian Exercises are like Job wrestling the angel, whereas Teresian Spirituality is like a tango...[Our guide] asked that we spend no time with television, movies, music, or ANY reading other than the Exercises themselves, the Bible, and The Imitation of Christ. This was for about 9 months...Boy was THAT tough. - Steven Riddle (fyi: not all versions of the Exercises are so rigorous)