November 30, 2005

Inspired by The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Good Life, here's a song to the tune of "Highway to Hell":
Livin' easy, lovin's hard,
Season ticket on a one-way ride,
Askin' graces, spiritual retard,
Livin' still with too much pride,
Have some reason, have some rhyme,
Ain't much I would rather do
Goin' on, this earthly time,
My friends are gonna be there too..
Yeah...

[Chorus]
I'm on the highway to Purgatory!
On the highway to Purgatory!
Highway to Purgatory!
I'm on the highway to Purgatory!
Different Tastes

Movie reviewers are useful when they warn you of stinkers and alert you to gems. And so I try to find reviewers whose tastes I share, even though it's pretty unimportant since I see maybe six or eight movies a year. But I've found my perfect anti-reviewer, my exact opposite: Terry Teachout. He reminds me of Jim Cramer, the stock guy. I bought some e-commerce stocks in '00 on his recommendation. You know what happened.

Our tastes (Teachout's & mine) are perfectly opposite even in books - he writes that he is "one of those unfortunate folk who are allergic to most of the Major American Novelists who came of age in the Fifties. Roth, Bellow, Mailer, Updike - all leave me cold...". I like Updike and some of Bellow and Roth. But the kicker was when he wrote that he liked the film "High Fidelity" much more than the book. I read the book and loved it. I suffered through the film last night for my wife's sake.

I was flipping through the channels last night and came across The Human Stain, a movie of another book I'd read, and Teachout's main problem with the movie was that he couldn't see Anthony Hopkins in the lead role of someone who is half black but passes for white. And I'm thinking "geesh. That's the main problem? Didn't Shakespeare have women play men's roles in his plays? Can't you suspend disbelief a bit easier?" Teachout also was a big fan of Sideways.

I passed on The Human Stain but thought that Teachout should work out great. All I have to do is see movies he doesn't like and don't see the ones he does. Except he just quit reviewing for Crisis. Darn.
Advent the Foundation of the Spiritual Life?

"Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life."

- Simone Weil
Sixty Minutes...

...had a surreal piece Sunday about McMansions. If ever you needed proof that enough is never enough, this is it.

Safer is perfect for a story like this one because he has those large eyebrows he can arch in surprise, and there was plenty to be surprised about. Like the shocking statement of a couple who moved from a 4,000 sq ft house to an 11,000 square foot house and who said it felt big in the beginning but now it feels about right. If they had to do it over though they'd add some space here and there and...
From National Review

Jonah Goldberg wonders if some liberal issues are cover towards the goal of one-world statism:
Marxism’s half-life has been amazing. Outside of our finest universities, pretty much no one believes in the junk, and yet it hangs over the intellectual and political landscape like background radiation...Of course, Republicans increasingly speak the language of values rather than solely in economic terms. And it is a sign of Marxism’s enduring appeal that liberals view this as fundamentally illegitimate. The proper role of government is to reflect the policy ambitions of the Left, they insist: How dare you make this about flags, gays, patriotism, crime, and all that jazz, when what we should really be talking about is expanding social welfare, shrinking inequality, and punishing the wealthy for the amusement of the poor? Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter With Kansas? is a perfect example of the enduring stubbornness of the Marxist stain. This school of thought says, in effect, that middle-class Republicans are idiots for voting on cultural issues at a huge cost to their own bottom line. That analysis has been debunked in these pages more than once. But it is worth noting again that, no matter the bombast, it always boils down to the old Marxist doctrine of “false consciousness”: Those who disagree with the Left about the political implications of their economic interests suffer from a kind of dementia or brainwashing.

Here’s an idea, though. What if all this talk of economic determinism were merely a current advancing the real motivations of the Left, the intellectual tide now having receded far enough for us to see clearly what those motivations are? Liberals like Frank charge that conservatives use gay marriage and abortion to get tax cuts and corporate giveaways. Well, what if the real story is that liberals use the minimum wage and universal health care to get something nearer and dearer to their hearts? [Email me for whole article.]
Irish Song Wednesday

There's a chipper tune I've lately grown attached to: the Australian bush song Road to Gungadai. The tune is a toe-tapper and it doesn't matter that I don't know what it means:
Oh we started out from Roto, when the sheds had all cut out
We'd whips and whips of money as we meant to push about;
So we humped our blueys serenely and made for Sydney town,
With a three-spot check between us as wanted knocking down.
cho: And we camped at Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai,
The road to Gundagai, five miles from Boonabri;
And we camped at Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai.

Well, we struck the Murumbidgee near the Yanco in a week,
And passed through old Narrandera, and crossed the Burnett Creek;
And we never stopped at Wagga, for we'd Sydney in our eye,
And we camped at Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai.

Well, I've seen a lot of girls, my lads, and drunk a lot of beer,
And I've met with some of both as has left me pretty queer.
But for beer to knock you sideways and for girls to make you cry,
You should camp at Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai.

Well, we chucked our flamin' wags off and we walked into the bar
And we called for rum and raspberry and a shilling each cigar;
But the girl that served the poison, she winked at Bill and I,
So we camped at Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai.

In a week the spree was over, and our check was all knocked down,
So we shouldered our Matildas and we turned our backs on town.
And the girls stood us a nobblers as we sadly said goodbye,
And we tramped from Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai.

Yes we tramped from Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai,
The road to Gundagai, five miles from Boonabri;
And we tramped from Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai.
I like the air of mystery songs these type of songs have. All those completely foreign place names. And flamin' wags!? This is a song of mysterious phrases, like Meredith's "frostdire were-light". Like "Hush me buichall" in "Risin' of the Moon".
Behold He Makes All Things New

The title is one of my favorite lines from "The Passion of the Christ" and also seemed an apt one for quotes below from the Pope's "Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith". (Though they are ruthlessly ripped from context and shorn of nuance and explanation.) While not explicitly about the Eucharist, he sees a parallel in 1 Cor 5:6-8:
"The absence of leaven becomes a sign of the new start: being a Christian is portrayed as a continuing celebration on the basis of the new life...The whole passage makes it impressively clear that the Eucharist is much more than liturgy and rite, yet it also makes clear, on the other hand, that Christian life is more than just moral striving..."
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The way of talking of the Church as the body of Christ is more than just some term that might be taken from the social pattern of the ancient world to compare a concrete body with a body consisting of many people...The Eucharist takes us out of ourselves and into him, so that we can say, with Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."
Equal Time

O'er at Trousered Ape, Bob defends blogging, responding to Jonathon Last's rather critical First Things article.
Various & Sundry

Kevin Jones sings a bluesy hymn.
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Johnny Cash wrote a novel about St. Paul!? Whoda thunk it. And here's an excellent Touchstone piece via Eric. And here's a song of his I can't get out of my head...There's a guy who joined our parish not too long ago and he thinks I'm smart and I've not disabused him of that yet. He's surprised to meet a "smart Christian". I think similarly part of the appeal of a Johnny Cash is that he's a "man's man" who was a serious Christian.
Well you can tell there ain't much in the hopper when I post something like this!:

Blogger Strikes Over Poor Pay / Culbreath-Luse Absence  
- Protest goes unnoticed -

LOGAN,Oh - Blogger TS O'Rama withheld all posts yesterday in protest over low pay, unsatisfactory benefits, and declining post production from Jeff "Hallowed but Postless Ground" Culbreath and Bill "No Apologia for Lack of Posts" Luse.

O'Rama cited no pay and no benefits as part of the reason, but said the catalyst was that Culbreath & Luse weren't reading his blog nor posting to theirs.

"See the black armband with the number 3 with the angel wing in the upper right corner of my blog? That's my tribute to Luse & Culbreath. They're like Dale Earnhardts to me. Well, if I was a NASCAR/Earnhardt fan."

When told another difference is they aren't dead he said, "That's thankfully very true. Actually, when I image searched for black arm bands that's the first one that came up. And one bright spot is Steven Riddle is still posting."

There have been no reports of concern over the strike. One fellow St. Blogger had to be told of it, replying: "A one day strike? That's like calling two hours without food a 'fast'. I hadn't noticed to be quite honest."

Other bloggers joining the strike appear to be Thomas P. Kreitzberg of Disputations and Roz N. Bag (she likes baseball) of Exultet / In Dwelling, though their lack of posting could be merely coincidental. There were no black armbands on their templates as of Wednesday morning.
Complementary Flavors

Alicia made an comment on another blog that rings true:
I think that by nature and learning women focus on process and men on outcome/accomplishment - and that is one of the many reasons why God gave us humanity in these two complementary flavors.
My wife and I were recently remodelling the kitchen and she was more attuned to the aesthetics while I was to outcome (i.e. "will this work ergonometrically?").

George Will and Cokie Roberts on ABC's "This Week" seem examples of this male/female difference. Cokie is interested that we get along. Cooperate. It's who is at the table of power that is important rather than the resulting usage of that power. And for George Will the accomplishment is important - it's not whether you cooperated that's important, but whether you reduced the sum of misery in the world (no matter who gets hurt in the process).

Both styles can be deadly. Men are tempted to use a bad means to a good end and that leads to the demonic. (Will is a bad example of this though, since he's extremely principled.) And women can increase the sum of misery in the world since as Flannery O'Connor said "when you govern by tenderness, tenderness leads to the gas chamber." Both outcome and process are obviously important.

November 29, 2005

You've Probably...

...already seen this since he gets a lot more traffic, but Jeff Miller went the extra mile and transcribed an interview with Peggy Noonan on her new book about Pope John Paul II. Thanks Jeff!
         

Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. - G.K. Chesterton, via Eric of "The Daily Eudemon"

Fr. John O'Holohan S.J. reminded us yesterday morning that we are on a pilgrimage. Pilgrims know their destination, prepare for the journey, and embark-and then they can and do enjoy the journey (telling stories and singing songs with their traveling companions). In the same way, we (as Catholics) should know our destination and should be prepared-have our bags packed as it were (even if we know not the day or the hour); then we can enjoy the journey with our companions.... - Bethune Catholic

I think that by nature and learning women focus on process and men on outcome/accomplishment - and that is one of the many reasons why God gave us humanity in these two complementary flavors. - Alicia of Fructus Ventris

I confess that I really have no idea what might be the best and most moral strategy to confront homelessness, or crime, or militant Islam, or any other of a dozen major current issues....I confess that I will probably still argue passionately with anyone who advances strong opinions on one of those subjects.- Patrick of Orthonormal

The dream of blending divinity with humanity, of breaking out of the limitations of a creature - this dream, which persists through all the history of mankind and in hidden ways, in profane versions, is dreamed anew even within the atheistic ideologies of our time, just as it is in the drunken excess of a world without God,--this dream is here fulfilled [in the Eucharist]. Man's Promethean attempts to break out of his limitations himself, to build with his own capacities the tower by which he may mount up to divinity, always necessarily end in collapse and disappointment - indeed, in despair. This blending, this union, has become possible because God came down in Christ, took upon himself the limitations of human existence, suffering them to the end, and in the infinite love of the Crucified One opened up the door to infinity. The real end of creation, its underlying purpose - and conversely that of human existence as willed by the Creator - is this very union, "that God may be all in all." - Pope Benedict on reception of the Eucharist

But I have this dreadful feeling that it is not enough. There will be more to come. This suffering is so mild and my sin so great. My heart is so hardened, I know this will not be enough to change me. I look forward to the pain and feel repulsed by it at the same time. I feel God is far too merciful. I feel like I need chastisement, but I fear it. I am relieved by the lack of trials, but feel unloved because of them all at the same time, like the undisciplined child who feels unloved because his parents let him do whatever he wants. - from a Massachusetts blogger...St. Therese, pray for her and us

YOU HAD ME AT "BOOKS" - ironically titled "Happy Catholic" post which quoted Catholic Ragemonkey calling books superior to their film equivalents

I really love his writing in the way that I love Bill Luse's - honest and not always pretty. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"

"Deferred Success" - That's on something called the Global Language Monitor's top ten list of politically correct phrases. It's pc-speak for "failure". They don't list my very favourite. During the latest outbreak of looting which made the news a couple of months ago, a certain forum for pipers took to referring to the folks engaging in such unauthorized commerce as "undocumented shoppers". Wonderful. - John of "The Inn at the End of the World"

I, for one, have never really understood the angst of "oh, no, I'm blogging too much" OR of "oh, no, I'm blogging too little." Seems to me the answer is to post when you have something to say (even if it's silly, like most of what I have to say), don't post when you don't....I don't get the big old distinction between blogging and real life (a la Mr. Culbreath). It's simply a part of my real life. You are not less real to me simply because I cannot see you. All that hearkening back to "the good old days"--well, what about people who carried on correspondences (never seeing each other) for YEARS and years back in them olden days? Seems to me we've focused too much on the form of technology we're using to do that. - MamaT of Summa Mamas

I don't think Jeff draws a distinction between blogging and real life. My impression is that he thinks that most of the time (not all of it) spent on the computer is time better spent chopping wood, hugging his kids, or kissing the back of wife's neck. You're no less real to me either because I can't see you, but there is a sense of completion to be found in the flesh (don't take that the wrong way). And I would like to see you. Every married woman is a creature some man gave everything up for. - Bill of Apologia, responding to MamaT

...A sea so deep that the light of a raging sun will freeze in the offing and wash up here as this frostdire were-light, shuddering, not really illuminating anything. It made me want to bless the dim scarf of light overhead that now seemed like a mother's arm, holding us back from a still greater darkness. And then again, there is nothing fearful in the stars with their eyebeams of Chartres-blue cathedral light, when you remember that the whole universe lies like a little hazelnut in Christ's hand. - Meredith of "Basia Me, Catholica Sum"
Flannery in Spanish

Even through the fracturing lens of Babelfish, it's interesting to note the cover photo and comments of the Spanish edition of the Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor. See the helpful bracketed comments in red that correct the politically correct published version.
Matthew's Infancy Narrative Historical?

I was surprised that in this MSNBC piece Scott Hahn refers to Matthew's infancy narrative as a parable given that in the Ignatius Study Bible, he and Curtis Mitch argue for it being historical, saying "That Matthew gathers obscure texts to interpret Jesus' infancy suggests that history is controlling his story, not the OT...In summary, Matthew's Infancy Narrative is both theological and historical."

November 28, 2005

Salvation Controversies

Concerning the salvation question, (which became especially onerous since the age of the Occamists when the sovereignty of God became more the focus than the goodness of God), perhaps it can be said we are like Peter walking on the water. If we take our glance off Christ and think of the danger of the crashing waves (i.e. hell) we fail. If we take our glance off Christ and think of how easy this is we fail. We can only succeed if we love him and we can only love him when we are looking at Him.

I really like one of the lines in Psalm 22:
"All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted".
In other words, the reason to stand in awe of God is not his strength or glory or beauty but his ability to "not abhor the affliction of the afflicted". That is us, in our Original Sin-flawed human nature. And in a physical way those of us afflicted by sickness, AIDS, cancer. And that is how we must see others. And boy that's not natural. Who doesn't recoil at another's grievous sin or another's ravaged, physically-destroyed body? And we have to not abhor or despise each other's afflictions, because God does not abhor or despise ours.
Selective Amnesia?

Howard Fineman, Newsweek's paragon of fairness (insert sarcasm), declares on IMUS that the problem was not the war so much as the way Bush sold the war. Fineman said that Bush could've made a more truthful and complex justification for the war by saying that Hussein, sitting on the world's second biggest oil supply, would siphon off more and more "protection money" to the Osama bin Laden's of the world. But he said that would be a clear case of preemptive war and you can't sell a preemptive war. (And going to war because Hussein had WMDs would not be preemptive?!)

But I followed along and nodded my head until it occurred to me: What the heck is he talking about? What about resolutions like 1441 that demanded Saddam Hussein allow weapons instructors in the country? What about the fact that there were conditions to the ending of the Gulf War? It's as if history began in the day the Iraq war began. The long story of Hussein's flouting the UN resolutions and enjoying his palaces while his people starved due to economic sanctions was simply forgotten as though it were dust in the Arabian wind.

It reminds me of how the "conventional wisdom" is now that Bill Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for adultery in the Oval Office. There is absolutely no mention of the fact that Clinton was given numerous opportunities to avoid perjuring himself and he took no avail. There were huge signs held by congressmen all along the parade route that said: "You can tell the truth now and all will be forgiven!". But the Clinton story was just like Hussein in that personal responsiblity was never the issue. It's that awful Kenneth Starr and that awful George Bush who are at fault.

But the maddening thing about Fineman and the like is that they never even throw out an occasional, "well, Hussein did throw the weapons inspectors out. He did violate the ceasefire." Perhaps, to be fair, I simply lack mercy. Prosecutors don't have to prosecute. They choose all the time not to, in fact. You could argue this was a technicality. What do Al Capone, Bill Clinton and Saddam Hussein have in common? They were all gotten on a "technicality": Capone on tax evasion, Clinton on perjury and Hussein on violating a ceasefire.

Thomas of Endlessly Rocking comes out looking good. He argued with me back in '02 or '03 that whether or not we could fight morally-speaking, should we fight is the question. He said that it would only mint new terrorists and that this war is exactly what the terrorists want. I thought that was a possibility at the time but said that evil-doers - like Hussein - have power in this world. We must react to them. But events on the ground have power too, and events on the ground say that we still can't secure the road to the Baghdad aiport.
Dark Side of the 'Net

Every once in awhile I think: "Surely I can see naked breasts and not lust!" but I am proven wrong. I have to flee temptation. I think in my case though there's something about past sins having longterm natural consequences.

I recently wrote a parody (and lost it!) concerning how one middle-aged woman considered her Christian ministry was to forward those sugary emails that end with: "You have two choices. 1) You can delete this email or 2) You can forward it to ten friends". In my parody, she sends it to thousands of strangers a day by guessing at email addresses. But I wanted a picture. So I went to Google Images and picked a rather plain, old-fashioned female name and was blown away by the nudity that resulted. Porn is so pervasive. There is no way you can block something like that since you can't scan a jpeg for boobs.
Bookmarkable

The Seditious Catechist provides a fine list Scriptural resources.
The Church and the Market

...is a book from Thomas Woods that came out earlier this year. The first review, by a Steve Jackson, makes an interesting read:
Professor Thomas Woods is an interesting author: a traditionalist Catholic who is also a supporter of the free market economy....The book ends with a strong critique of distributism, which seeks a larger distribution of private property in the hands of workers. Chesterton and Belloc, among others, advocated distributism. Many traditionally minded Catholics see distributism as a "third way" between capitalism and socialism. But as Prof. Woods points out, the only institution which has the power to redistribute property on a massive scale is the state.
Fried Chicken Tender Salad

I've had a lifelong love affair with food.

My first diary, written at the age of nine, mostly recounts what we had for dinner. There are rhapsodies there that sound foreign to my current palate: "Oh cereal night! I love cereal nights!". (But some things haven't changed. Pizza is, was, and presumably always will be one of the four food groups.)

As a freshman in college, my first English composition concerned the joys of McDonald's Quarter Pounders, equating them with filet mignon. Like the rap music fan who believes Beethoven was no better than P. Diddy, I inadvertently argued for the relativization of values, in this case the food values. My English professor turned out to be a gourmand (later he brought in sushi for the class to "enjoy"), so I received a C. It began to dawn on me that I was writing for an audience of one and if you don't please that audience...

So what does all this have to do with the price of gasoline in Ohio? Well today I was at the cafeteria gathering up chicken tenders for my salad. I love fried chicken salad. This is actually the second time I've written about it, which must be some sort of blog record. And this post occurred to me as I observed the tender takers. The rulz are you get three tenders, which tend to vary in size. Here on the types of folks you might see at the make-your-own-salad counter:
The Jesuitical Tender Picker - he picks tenders which appear to the naked eye to be an accidental conglomeration of two tenders. He defines "tender" as one piece, even if it is actually two conjoined like Siamese twins.

The Rich Man Tender Picker - the rich man simply buys his way out of the problem. Extra tenders can be had for 85 cents a piece.

The Sane Tender Picker - the sane one simply takes the three pieces most easily accessible.

The Saintly Tender Picker - picks the smallest ones in order that those behind him might have larger ones.
The Uplift of Being Noticed

My sister-in-law is involved in the production of the annual Alcoholics Anonymous's production of "A Christmas Carol". Many of the actors are recovering alcoholics and most are good at acting - at least to my untrained, naked eye. They spend a lot of time rehearsing and I get the sense that all the energy that once went into drinking and becoming the butt of stories at the local bar now goes into drinking Pepsi and telling other people's stories on a stage. There might be something of the ham in these folks, a desire for attention that is partially satisfied by the existence of this theatre troup.

MSNBC's head ham is Chris Matthews, and he recently said that he quit drinking eleven years ago just "when you started to hear about me." He explained that being noticed lessened his need for the uplift of spirits. Did he trade a drug for a drug? Does blogging serve a similar desire for attention?

November 27, 2005

God & a General

Watched the DVD "Gods And Generals", a film which consists mostly of interminable battle scenes punctuated by Robert Duval as General Lee uttering profundities from behind a fake mane-like beard. Apparently the idea was to do a Civil War movie in real time. After viewing this film I have 50% less desire to see an actual Civil War re-enactment.

The best part of it revolves around the story of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Jackson was a devout Christian and in the special features part of the disc a biographer gives surprising emphasis to his spirituality (though perhaps not so surprising given how religion was the guiding force in his life). The documentary mentions reasons why he became a Presbyterian rather than a Catholic. One was that Jackson was an informal man who had a natural dislike of hierarchy and thus responded to the more "democratic" Presbyterian church. The other reason was the doctrine of predestination. He found this a very comforting doctrine since he was surrounded by death from a very young age and it seemed everyone he grew close to died. Instructed that everyone's death has been preordained from the beginning of the world, he felt fearless on the battlefield.
Pope Benedict's Bible Study

Parts of the Pope's Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith: The Church as Communion read like a bible study! Very rich. On 1 Cor 6:12-19:
According to this text, receiving the Eucharist means blending one's existence, closely analogical, spiritually, to what happens when man and wife become one on the physical-mental-spiritual plane. The dream of blending divinity with humanity, of breaking out of the limitations of a creature - this dream, which persists through all the history of mankind and in hidden ways, in profane versions, is dreamed anew even within the atheistic ideologies of our time, just as it is in the drunken excess of a world without God,--this dream is here fulfilled. Man's Promethean attempts to break out of his limitations himself, to build with his own capacities the tower by which he may mount up to divinity, always necessarily end in collapse and disappointment - indeed, in despair.

This blending, this union, has become possible because God came down in Christ, took upon himself the limitations of human existence, suffering them to the end, and in the infinite love of the Crucified One opened up the door to infinity. The real end of creation, its underlying purpose - and conversely that of human existence as willed by the Creator - is this very union, "that God may be all in all."
To Error Is Human

A small group of us were talking to the Byzantine priest after Liturgy today and the name Thomas Merton came up, who, while obviously a far greater soul than I, seemed to have somewhat lost his way in his later years. The padre agreed but ascribed it to the times and to the fact that pioneers, which Merton was to some extent (which he elaborated on), often are seen as off the path only in hindsight. The nature of pioneering is that you're going to provide good things and less good things but that doesn't invalidate the value of theological pioneering. The Church is like the master of the household in Matthew 13:5 who "brings out of his treasure what is old and what is new." As Fr. George Haydock puts it in his scripture notes:
"It is the perfection of Angels never to err; it is a human imperfection to fall into error, but a diabolical crime to so love our error, as to divide the Church by schism, or to leave it by heresy: this love of self is the most dangerous idolatry."
And that certainly could not be said of Thomas Merton.
Random Thoughts

Today's gospel wake-up call includes these words of our Lord: "So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn." In light of Peter's subsequent denial the inclusion "cockcrow" seems non-concidental. If non-concidental, it gives a greater "ouch".
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"The greatest graces are but subjects of alarm, unless our life correspond with them." - Rev. George Haydock
Journal Excerptables

“Win an argument lose a soul" said Bishop Sheen, but I've never not tried to win an argument and I’m no better at throwing arguments than Homer Simpson is at resisting a Krispy Kreme. I've found myself simply avoiding controversial aspects concerning religion at family gatherings. First, do no harm.

***

I must’ve hit the wrong combination of keys ‘cuz that awful Office Assistant has visited my Word document. He (she?) is in the form of a paper clip and darned if I’m not having a hard time right-clicking him to oblivion. Those hang-dog eyes. Maybe I’ll keep him around like a pet while I’m writing.

Uh-oh, the bastard is starting to wear out his welcome. He just got this distracting yellow light bulb over his head. I click it and it says that "Word can finish words for you". Why doesn't he mind his own bidness? Maybe I like typing! Go back to sleep doggie, I mean clippie.

***

Been reading a pleasant mix of books. “Sin Killer” by Larry McMurtry, Chesterton’s biography of Francis, "1916: A Novel of Irish Rebellion" and “Separated at Birth”, concerning the two Koreas. Want to get back to the Jeff Davis bio and finish that one this decade.

November 26, 2005

From the Monthly EWTN Newsletter...

Deacon Bill Steltemier writes:
The clarity and intensity of Mother Angelica's faith has always boggled my mind. What she believes in faith is as real to her as something that she holds in her own hand. As a matter of fact, it is more real. Anyone who has seen Mother pray understands what I mean...I remember a story Mother once told about King Louis of France. A servant came to tell him of a Eucharistic miracle that had just taken place. The holy King reverently acknowledged this miracle but was not as impressed as the servant had expected. When questioned on the matter, the King explained that he had attended Mass that very morning and he too saw Jesus Christ in the flesh..for he saw the Sacred Host, which faith tells us is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. For King Louis, faith and reality were totally united. He did not need external manifestations of the reality he gazed upon with faith's eye. He knew what he believed was true. How awesome!

We are all called upon to share this marvelous faith. Christmas is a wonderful time to allow God to work on refining our faith. For passers by, the babe that lay in the manger looked like every other newborn child. A poor lad wrapped in swaddling clothes...is that what we see? Yes. Yet we know that poor lad is God indeed, the Word made Flesh, our Savior! To think of Bethlehem is to be animated with wonder, when we look with the eyes of our faith, when we ponder with the heart of a child. Perhaps the question we ought to ask ourselves this Christmas is: "Is my faith strong enough to see the Babe of Bethlehem and say 'Behold the Lamb of God?"
Around the Globe

"She must think what the court tells her to think."
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Diary vs. Blog?
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Joseph Bottum recently asked on C-Span whether the American ideal of land ownership is reflected even in cemeteries where we "claim" a plot of land even after our death. I can see that, but the recent popularity of cremation and mausoleums has struck me as not wanting to be reminded of death. In a youth-worshipping society wouldn't visible markers of a cemetery be unwelcome? Cemeteries also remind us to pray for the dead which presumes a belief in Purgatory.
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I'm relieved that I wasn't the only one bowled over by Walk the Line since I was thinking I must be getting soft in my middle age or something. Via The Daily Eudemon. (Also here's the USCCB review.)

November 25, 2005

St. Catherine of Alexandria Feast Today

I recall reading a book of anti-Catholic polemic from John Adams's library back in September when I was in Boston. And one of the author's main points seemed to be his discomforture, to put it mildly, with saints who were apparently of legendary status. How could you trust the Roman church if they had fake saints on their calendar?

As if answering these seventeenth century critics posthumously, the Second Vatican Council eliminated many of the old saints on the liturgical calendar in order to make room for new ones. According to the Magnificant, "saints Christopher, Valentine, Linus, Maurice, Edward the Confessor and saints like Catherine were eliminated...and yet St. Catherine remains a potent female figure, so much so that she was recently reinstated on the liturgical calendar."

The author of the Magnificat article is not burdened with historicity concerns. He commented on a rich medieval panel painting of St. Catherine from medieval times that too often the "stories and symbols of a rich Catholic heritage drift slowly into obscurity." I guess you might say great art covers a multitude of historical exaggerations.
Traveling Down the Road...

...I encountered a car driven by a strict constructionist with respect to the interpretation of road signs. 35 mph was thirty-five miles per hour.
Hit Me Like a Freight Train...

...the new movie "Walk the Line" that is. I tend to have low expectations of movies but this one, the story of Johnny & June Cash, was superior. If Hollywood can't make anything original it certainly can do biographies.

Joachin Phoenix as Cash portrayed the singer as utterly abject in his love for June. She was country gentry, he was poor country coupled with a weakness for drugs and alcohol and his father's withheld love. And besides raw talent he had a couple other things going for him: one, a lack of pride that made him beg for her, and dogged determination in the face of her refusals. You might say he received the grace of final perserverance because June eventually said 'yes' and married him. They were married 35 years; he died just four months after she did.
That Adam Sandler Beer

My sister-in-law phones my wife. She's bringing drinks to the party and is thoughtfully inquiring as to my taste in beverages. As reported by my wife:
"What kind of beer does Tom like?"

"He likes dark beers."

"Oh, like Adam Sandler beer?"

"Adam Sandler!? Oh [breaks up laughing] you mean John Adams beer."
Now that's comedy! Who knew Adam Sandler is only two degrees of separation from this brewmeister?
Comedic Plumbers in High Demand

My wife wants me to talk to a plumber even though I don't know nuthin' about plumbing other than when you hit a silver lever waste products magically disappear. Maureen Dowd recently said that women like men who are funny since they are more attracted by what comes to them by the ear. Unfortunately it seems like my wife is more interested in my household repair skills than my comedic skills. I take this as a coded message to try to increase my comedic skills.
The Mystery that is Dick Cheney

There's nobody more puzzling, or arguably disappointing, in the Bush Administration than Dick Cheney. And while for a long time he got a ridiculously unfair rap as if he were still on Haliburton's payroll, word on the street is that Cheney has fallen in to the President's disfavor for the obvious reason: Iraq.

Back in 2000 Cheney seemed the adult at the party. He was the cool, fatherly figure who had a black belt in self-control. He didn't seem to let emotions get in the way of decision-making. If anger makes you stupid, it seemed you could count on him to not get angry to the point of stupidity. In the vice-presidential debate there were not a few who thought: "I wish he was the presidential candidate."

Appearances often deceive, but personal virtues can manifest themselves and carry over into policy-making. The crucial thing for public figures at that high a level must do is to not make it personal, not make it about themeselves. And Cheney seemed to have that quality, although he was sorely tested by a mainstream media that thinks irresponsibility is more responsibility than right and more right than privilege. The fact that he didn't strike back, and took all the unfairness was in his favor. But then he told a Senator to go "f--- himself", which suggested there was anger there that could be affecting his decision-making.

Maybe this that would place too much emphasis on the personal virtues. What were/are Cheney's core values? One of the marvelous things about Ronald Reagan was that his core value was his Christianity which was attended by the marvelous self-control and understanding that this wasn't about himself. To paraphrase Archie Bunker - "Mister we could use a man like Ronald Reagan again..."

Even those who know Cheney for years ask about what happened: “The real anomaly in the Administration is Cheney,” Brent Scowcroft said recently in the New Yorker. “I consider Cheney a good friend—I’ve known him for thirty years. But Dick Cheney I don’t know anymore.”

November 24, 2005

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but eveything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

--Unknown Confederate soldier

November 23, 2005

Thankful I Am For Last Weekend Too



Well last weekend in the Appalachian hills was remarkably restorative. I marvel at it myself, heady in my still extant restfulness. An '04 Christmas gift from mom & dad, the just-a-bit over 24 hour excursion was well-spent at least in the earthly sense, which I'll re-live now for re-experiential porpoises.

oh, but we landed on that wind-bitten hill about 4pm, in time for a first hike - just a half-hour or so, to scout around and admire and begin to inculcate the view. It's still ritual at this point.

After, we watched one of the VHS tapes lying around, a movie titled “Fifteen Minutes” starring Robert DeNiro. Cotton candy for the brain. I slept and slept and slept. Ten hours till a new man. And in that morning the sun streamed in like a champion. The window over the bed beheld a wild expanse of woods. (Oh the woods gave up their leaves so soon! It feels a personal betrayal. Let but a few break convention!) The sliding glass doors held a picture book view from ten feet above the ground while the small circular hottub on the deck sat like a future promise.

Our dog Obi was chompin’ at the bit, knowing that hikes were in the offing. We lit out like a couple Huck Finns, but the hike was short-lived. I’d had visions of our ’01 visit to Hocking, my first blog post, this same time of year, this same lucky sun-warmth, when we contemplatively-read while sipping sophisticated coffee in the unrepeatable ten a.m. light. There is nothing more civilized than reading while sipping from a warm mug of coffee on a sylvan November morning. Nothing.

So Obi and I circled back and we ensconsced in the beauty of the little cabin, her pine boards full of dark ciricular knots that looked like areolas. I read with the leisure of a man with time to quaff, like a man with nothing but cold pints ahead. From an array of twenty books I picked up “1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion” and read long, like a wide receiver heading downfield. Slipped into the near recliner and read like the wind, then later slipped into the hottub with a cigar and the view.

My body temperature warmed enough to sit out on the front porch and I thought how much I love country front porches. I sit out on the back porch a lot at home, but there is something about a front porch. The feeling of home ownership (or rental-ship) and of holding down the fort. Or maybe it’s just the better furniture and the different view; the simple creature comfort of a bench and a stool for my feet.



Soon it was noon-thirty and the Buckeye-Michigan game was imminent. If I was to hike it’d have to be now. Tanned, rested and ready, I headed out into the whiskey-still brill sunshine, Obi at the leash. We gaped at the view, the view of a house on the far hill standing as a castle in the mist. There is something in long views that is deeply affective. I gazed at roads that itched to be traveled as we walked down long Berry Road. Obi saw bucks top-heavy with antlers but we couldn't catch them; I made the token effort for his sake.

Back at the cabin, having missed the first quarter, I had a couple St. Pauli Girls during the Great Game. And great it was, one of the best games we'd seen all year. Steph came home from shopping with lunch from the Amish restaurant and food up until now had seemed a nuisance - I had my first real meal at two-something. Broasted chicken and mashed potatoes…yumm! The game went down to the wire but took with it our mini-vacation. We celebrated the Buckeye win with a hike in the dying light along the property, catching views of far houses sitting in their Little-House-On-The-Prairie dignity.

The sun went down, as it daily will, and we packed up and headed back home. But the memories of that big white-curtained window with the view of sun-clad trees resonated and lingered like the words of an Oirish novel.
A Quick Thought

The JCecil/Elena embroglio would seem to be a sort of a text book case on how it's not good for those with opposite viewpoints to tangle. My working theory is that people are influenced not by their opposites but by those who are just a tad to the right or left of themselves, or a tad more religious or less religious. Degrees, by degrees we are bid. I recall the blogger at Sancta Sanctis saying that Andrew Greeley, of all people, softened the ground of her eventual conversion.

I recall, in hindsight with some hilarity, offering a Marian piece Greeley had written to a staunch Calvinist friend of my wife's. This friend of hers thought that the Roman church was the Whore of Babylon and that the world would end (backed up with a complex and intricate study of the Book of Revelation and the Book of Daniel) on December 31st, 2002. What was funny was that I had, in complete innocence, thought that Greeley's piece would "speak to her". Instead it only reinforced her anti-Catholicism. I heard back from my wife that there was a lot of "ahh ha'ing!". I presume she probably kept it as exhibit A of the bankruptedness of Roman church.

But what is unintentionally funny is that she, armed with her meticulous thirty pages pointing to the day of the end of the Last Age, and me, armed with my Greeley defense of Marian piety, thought we would influence each other. Perhaps we did, by making each the more extreme.
Today is the feast of Pope St. Clement...

... martryed in 101 A.D.. I didn't realize that his letters to the Corinthians were read in churches and nearly included in the canon of Scripture. "Both St. Paul in 1 Corinthians and St. Clement here in 1 Clement are writing to the same city-church (within 35-40 years of each other); and that both these scriptures were read side-by-side by this church -- both being considered Divinely-inspired by the Corinthians for 300 years!" (from here) And according to this: "The Coptic-Arabic Church include with the canonical Scriptures the Apostolic Constitutions and the Clementine Epistles". Here are St. Clement's own words to the Corinthians:
"Let every one," says the saint, "be subject to another, according to the order in which he is placed by the gift of God. Let not the strong man neglect the care of the weak; let the weak see that he reverence the strong. Let the rich man distribute to the necessity of the poor, and let the poor bless God who give :h him one to supply his want. Let the wise man show forth his wisdom, not in words, but in good works. Let him that is humble, never speak of himself, or make show of his actions. Let him that is pure in the flesh, not grow proud of it, knowing that it was another who gave him the gift of continence. They who are great cannot yet subsist without those that are little; nor the little without the great. In our body, the head without the feet is nothing; neither the feet without the head. And the smallest members of our body are yet both necessary and useful to the whole." Thus the saint teaches that the lowest in the church may be the greatest before God, if they are most faithful in the discharge of their respective duties.
Nail. Hammer. Head.

Amy seems to make the rest of us superfluous on these issues. I'm reduced to a blathering, "what she says". She writes:
The problem is not, in simple terms, the homosexual priest. The problem is priests who don't believe what the Catholic Church teaches on sexuality, who don't preach it, who don't witness to it in the confessional, and who don't live it in their private lives...I have never understood the appeal of the Catholic priesthood for the actively gay man who doesn't give a flip about Church teaching on this score. If you want to serve others, go into social work or psychology or something. But if you don't believe it, and don't live it...why are you here?
...
Oh, and word to the self-identified "gay priests" who are all over NPR today. To right off the bat self-identify as "gay" is to indicate, pretty clearly, that something else other than Christ is at the center of your life. If your priest got up in the pulpit and proclaimed "I am a heterosexual priest," wouldn't you go, uh...okay.
Here's a parody for your non-edification.
Happy Birthday KTC

Where have all the bloggers gone,
long time passing?
Where have all the bloggers gone,
long time away...
Remembering past bloggers: Dylan of Tenebrae, Chris of "Maine Catholic", Mark of "Minute Particulars", Gerard of "Blog for Lovers", Michelle of "And Then?" and Kathy of Gospel Minefield.

Update: In a rare email, KTC says "I am not dead!" Certainly reports of her demise are premature, though this post spoke only of her blogging demise.

November 22, 2005

Confiteor Meme



I'd hoped I was going to skate on this one, but smockmama got me. (Although it feels like Bill Luse already confessed for me. Good to see that semi- prefix. Bill's keypad to God's ear.) Without further ado!:
I confess...to telling telemarketers that my wife's deaf and won't be able to hear them

I confess...to telling telemarketers that I don't take telemarketer calls while in the act of taking a telemarketer's call

I confess...that "The Office" is my favorite TV show

I confess...to not knowing much of the Latin in the "Lamb of God" and fake singing the rest

I confess....that I answer memes sometimes because it gives me a feeling of superiority to those who are too cool to answer memes

I confess...to using the workplace printer to print personal stuff (which I've resolved to do no more)

I confess...to wanting to live out in the country but for some wrong reasons, i.e. peace, lack of neighbors and noise, lack of interruptions, etc...

I confess...that parts of the gospels are scarier than any horror movie

I confess...to being unsure where to draw the line between the "ick" of too much personal information proffered to strangers on the 'Net and too little, i.e. in the form of lacking humanity (i.e. Mr. Spock)

I confess...that although hard work purportedly never killed anyone, I normally don't take any chances

I confess...to dismissive, condescending thoughts towards liberal Catholic bloggers/writers
I hereby meme Andrew Sullivan, Jonah Goldberg and Richard Neuhaus. Yeah, I won't be holding my breath...
Various & Sundry

If'n you're like me, you like book reviews. Even better if they're authored by someone you know, if only virtually. Here are Dom's.

A few other miscellaneous thoughts...first, I was recently chagrined to learn (via Kimball's book) that Erich Fromm, author of The Art of Loving (which my dear wife read as an act of love), turned out to be an old fool when it came to embracing '60s politics. Sigh. Growing older seems an exercise in constantly being surprised at how those you looked up to turned out to be idiots. Exhibit A might well be Bill Moyers, although Lileks points out another. Our best and brightest are darn determined to make those of us holding down the middle of the Bell Curve look smart.

So I was poking around amazon.com, suffering from a rare, near fatal, case of delayed book purchasing ("My name is TSO and I've gone 45 days without buying a book." Okay, not literally true but darn close. I had to buy from Requiem books - I simply can't resist a mom 'n pop organization.) So I came across this, and using that wonderful "Search Inside This Book" feature I found just four references to Christ, one of them as a swear word, one as in "Jesus Christ Superstar", two others as basically punchlines to a jokes. There were similar references to "Catholic", all derogatory. Now you could say, "what did you expect?" since it's not a religion book. And the author is Jewish after all. But still it seemed to show the poverty of a Britannica education.

What else? Oh a couple tidbits: from The Corner and a review from Julie of Happy Catholic fame. I was also amused to see Steven mention himself as my number one fan, not something for which there is a lot of competition but I did enjoy seeing it in faux print like that. He also never nuisance-emails so don't believe a word of that.
         

After the first two Hail Mary’s, my brother joined me, saying the second half of each prayer. The words of his prayers were slurred and hard to decipher. I just began the next prayer when he stopped. We kept going despite several interruptions. After the rosary I said some other prayers and then I sang, "Come Holy Ghost." My brother smiled and he wept a little. I stopped singing and he said, "Don't stop." So I sang again and then he said sweetly, "I can smell incense." Oh! How wonderful the Lord is! "Did you know," I said, " that the fragrance of incense is a sign of the presence of Christ?" This time the Lord was calling my brother –and me – to the kind of faith that surrenders all things. It is a gift to be truly helpless because at that level of helplessness we have no one to turn to except God Almighty and to be in his presence. - Mary Herboth, at the beside of her dying brother

She told me that the monastery had saved her life; that her life fell apart completely eighteen months ago; that she had been a school teacher but was somehow forced to leave her job; that she had spent much of her time since this mysterious catastrophe at the monastery, attending services, staying at the retreat house, trying to find God and to put her life back together again....Her life fell apart. And where do you go when your life falls apart? When your heart is pierced with an impossible grief? You turn to the Cross and make tracks for a monastery...The Christians of the world don't have time for you, or else they are too unforgiving. - Jeff of "Hallowed Ground"

I may longer go where I want to go. I may no longer do what I want to do. I may no longer say what I want to say....Yet ever since the moment of profession I have known a freedom like I have never known before. - Br. James Dominic Brent, OP, on joining the Dominicans. Via Disputations

If you think government is primarily a matter of putting “good people” in leadership, you’re not going to properly limit their powers. - Camassia

While Father McBrien claims the middle-of-the-road, Father Rolheiser takes the label-transcending approach of Jim Wallis - "The importance of what's being said here stuck me recently as I read an interview in Sojourners magazine. A young woman, an Episcopalian priest, was being interviewed. She had just published a book with a very strong message challenging us all to be more respectful of nature and was about to set off on a book-promotion tour." Thus the trees that went into the book, Soujourners, and the Catholic Herald did not die in vain. - Terrence Berres of "The Provincial Emails"

I was downstairs putting the finishing touches on dinner (meat loaf, winter squash, vege pasta with artichoke pesto, and home made refried beans). John was upstairs finishing reading something on the computer. He called out to me, "Hey, have you been over to Video Meliora today?" me: "not yet - why?" him: "You're mentioned in the same sentence as Amy Welborn. And it comes from an article in First Things." Since I was downstairs, I grabbed the print edition of First Things out of todays mail pile and proceeded to read God on the Internet by Jonathan V. Last. It's an interesting article, and I was somewhat bemused to have been the first blog actually mentioned by name. Blogging midwives are somewhat of an anomaly anyhow (last time I googled it I only found 4 of us) and a Catholic midwife blog is probably hen's teeth. - Alicia of "Fructus Ventris"

A good debater is not necessarily an effective vote-getter: you can find a hole in your opponent's argument through which you could drive a coach and four ringing jingle bells all the way, and thrill at the crystallization of a truth wrung out from a bloody dialogue--which, however, may warm only you and your muse, while the smiling paralogist has in the meantime made votes by the tens of thousands. - William F. Buckley

"One of his contemporaries recalls that John would frequently scrape his knuckles against the wall while he was conversing with others so that he could keep his attention on the matter at hand and not allow himself to become rapt in prayer." Oh what a gift--to have to distract myself to keep me OUT of prayer. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli" concerning St. John of the Cross

A Dominican priest of our common aquiantance has a theory that the doctrinal and theological sophistication of a Christian sect is inversely proportional to the strictness of its moral codes on drinking. It does seem to be a pretty accurate predictor. In vino veritas and all that. - commenter Marc on Disputations

I confess...to holding back on this blog because I just don't feel like dealing with the comments. - Amy Welborn

Outside the Earth There is No Life... and Outside the Church There is No Salvation? The answer, of course, is simple: [Astronauts] didn't leave the earth; they just brought it with them. While they slept and walked on the moon, they were eating earth's food and breathing earth's air. Everything they had came from back home. So when we say 'outside the earth there is no life,' we are saying that all of the means for survival are found on this planet. And when we say 'outside the Church there is no salvation,' we mean that all of the means of salvation -- doctrines, sacraments, and so on -- are found here, uncorrupted by error. Some of these means can exist outside the visible bounds of the Church. For example, Protestants have most of the Bible, along with two of the seven sacraments. Nevertheless, these things are like the food and water on the Space Shuttle: they're life-giving, but they came from a place where they're far richer, more abundant and complete. - Kevin Knight via Rich Leonardi

I'm #1700 in the ecosystem with 129 unique links ... look out Flos Carmeli, with 130! Drat! I just gave you an extra link! - Speculative Catholic

Let me share with you a moment a list of my own discontents: I didn't beat Mary Shelley to the publishing punch, I haven't published my first novel or first book of poetry, I'm not as wildly popular as Stephen King and Michael Crichton, I'm not as cool and as obscure as James Joyce, I don't have the voice of William Faulkner, I can't express the joy of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I am not living on St. John, or better yet my own Carribean island, I didn't achieve sanctity and sainthood at the age of 24, I didn't write the new Summa, I haven't discovered a new form of prayer, I haven't uncovered a new Catholic Doctrine, heck, I haven't even been able to come up with a new sin. If I were of a mind to, I could wander around and recite Ecclesiastes all day long, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." "There is nothing new under the sun." And boy is the latter true--particularly when it come to discontents--none of them are new--only new to us. - Steven Riddle
Various

Well I have a lot of blog ideas, the only problem being they aren't all that edifying. But as John Denver sang: "Some days are diamonds, some days are stones". (Can you believe he he had the cahoonies to release that lyric as a single? I'm in awe of the man.)

Anyway, I'll lump all of these in one post for reasons that are obvious. First off, many men have the problem of lust. Well, instead of imagining women with their clothes off, go one step further. That should take away lust. (I did warn you about this post didn't I?)

Driving around the city I saw "I'm a proud parent of an honor roll student" bumper sticker and I thought of a few less likely stickers:
"I'm the proud parent of an honor roll student at a declining public school!"

"I'm the proud parent of a Pig Latinist!"

"I'm the proud parent of a honor roll student taking advantage of grade inflation."

"My son always dresses for gym class"
Where's that rimshot? Oh yeah.
Heaven

I recall the scent of slow-down
unlogged, unblogged time,
time for which no account would be held
though not to be confused with no-account time
...and the golden crowns fell like leaves.

It was a whiskey river sun
zenith’d, Atlas shrugging
'lucky you' casting joy
minting glints as Adam's
youth and graceful arc
returned at last.
He jests at scars that ne'er felt a meme

Alicia has meme'd me...

1. Write three things for which we are grateful to God for in this past liturgical year.
* for the glimpses of Love
* the solace of the community of saints
* our new pope

2. Write three ways in which we hope to improve our relationship with God in this coming liturgical year.
* less distracted prayer
* attitude of service
* openness to Transcendence

3. I pass this on to St. Blog's at large

November 21, 2005

Fictional Monday
Hank Keller grew up in a Roman Catholic home where devotion to the Blessed Mother was in the very air they breathed. He felt especially close to her because he was especially close to his own mother. A mama's boy he was, so the inclination was natural.

He said the rosary through fierce distractions, some so annoying that he would clench the beads in self-disgust and tears would form: "I will not be lukewarm!" he muttered, "anything but lukewarm!"

Years passed and he went away to school and his relationship with the Virgin seemed to alter. She seemed less his mother than his chaste girlfriend and he purchased a small picture of a fresh-faced Mary, looking not unlike the girl next door. They would go together through this relentless storm of adolescence, this constant struggle for acceptance.

Time passed and the gap between his experiences and that of his friends widened. He remembers asking, with some bitterness, why she did so little to help him. "Do you even appreciate what I'm doing? A virgin when everyone else is having sex?" The silence seemed deafening, impervious as he was to the irony, or perhaps he couldn't listen for the blood that beat at his temples. Battles were won but mostly lost.

He came back to her, but this time his perception was not one of girlfriend or mother but of wonderment at the great esteem all the great figures of Christendom paid her. "Who are you Mary?" he asked instead of "Who are you for me?". He took down his old picture of Mary's sweet, Western, girl-next-door face and hung the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This seemed of more historical value, more of who Mary is, a way to get closer to who she is if not in body then in spirit.
Roger Kimball's The Long March

..is a systematic take-down of the '60s radicalism and its longterm effects. His style and argumentation remind me of Dr. Blosser's. Towards the end of the book he mentions NY Times columnist David Brooks, red state ambassador to the blue states. But as a defender of the reds Brooks certainly leaves a lot to be desired. Kimball writes that Brooks praises faintly:
According to him, the bourgeois doesn't want to bother with "grand abstractions," he is "never heroic" and "has no gradeur," he "never seem[s] to look up from the quotidian concerns to grapple with great truths or profound moral issues."...

What Brooks neglects is the fact that what conservatives have traditionally championed are bourgeois values not bourgeois vices. And those values are rooted deeply in God-fearing Protestant ethic that emphasizes church, community, country, family and moral honor. The bourgeois ethic is not a form of Romanticism, true enough; its ideal is moderation, not excess. There is a deep sense in which Schumpeter was right that "capitalist civilization is rationalistic and 'anti-heroic'." But that does not mean that bourgeois capitalism need embrace the vacuous, feel-good, "I've-got-mine" philosophy that Brooks apparently wants us to embrace. "Anti-heroism" need not exclude passionate commitments or steadfast loyalty to transcendent values. Irving Kristol once wrote that "if you believe that a comfortable life is not necessarily the same thing as a good life, or even a meaningful life, then it will occur to you that efficiency is a means, not an end in itself."
Another interesting passage:
One sign of [conservative defeat in the culture wars] is that one hears considerably less about those battles today than in the early and mid-1990s. That is partly because, as Robert Novak notes in his book Completing the Revolution, "moral issues tend to exhaust people over time." Controversies that only yesterday sparked urgent debate today seem, for many strangely beside the point.
He also culled a marvelous quip:
"The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity...is often untruthful." - GK Chesterton
Cashier Roulette

One of the more challenging daily activities is deciding which cafeteria line to choose. Oh, the mental calculations required! With just one sweeping glance I must choose between four or five cashiers, each having two queues. I need instantly calculate the number of people in each line (adjusting for the line the cashier is currently serving), the number of men in the line (men are quicker because we don't have purses), and the speed of cashier - all in a fraction of a second! Then you have to be alert for another cashier line opening.

Of course you say I could just pick a line and wait. And there is some truth in that. For even if we all had personal cashiers, the problem with instant gratification is that it just isn't quick enough...

November 20, 2005

Food for the Race

  The well-balanced spiritual diet includes many essential vitamins and minerals...

The Rosary... for strong teeth and bones. Stiffens spines and improves cartilage tissue by sinking the Mysteries into your marrow.

Prayer in general...provides oxygen, vital to life and pulmonary function; without prayer/02 death occurs.

The Eucharist... for strengthened immune system, packs His white blood cells that our spiritual wounds may heal. The taste of the Other offers bliss and provides energy for doing good works.

Confession...for fiber. Don't let those poisons accumulate in your colon! Purge them with Confession. And in the case of serious sin, Confession is the stomach pump that saves lives.

Scripture reading...builds capillaries, softens hard hearts, improves truth function.

Picture graphic via www.seton.net
Sermon Notes

The sermon from Luke at the Byzantine liturgy was about a man who was given many blessings but was called a "fool" by our Lord for his life was required of him that very day:
"Some gospel readings scare me. Today's scares me.

The farmer in this reading wanted an early retirement. That's all.

All of us in here our blessed. If we want to be like God, theosis, then we have to act like God. And God gives his blessings away.

We are meant to give away our blessings. We cannot keep them. As soon as we receive them we must get rid of them.

Did God keep his blessing to himself? No he gave us his greatest blessing, his Son.
Does God give us only part of his Holy Spirit? No he gives us the full Spirit.

Jesus taught us this out of love, not to threaten. He is warning us of danger."
Thoreau & Today's Homily

The story told at the homily was of two priests who went to a restaurant for breakfast. The owner stopped by several times. The younger priest read the newspaper, and barely listened to the owner, while the older priest listened intently and spoke with him. After the meal, the owner said it was "on the house" even though the younger priest tried to offer him money. Afterwards, the older priest said the younger stole a meal from the restauranteur. "How so?" asked the younger, "I tried to pay but he would not let me."

"He did not want money. He wanted to be listened to and for you to talk to him." It was not what he did that was sinful, but what he failed to do.

When I was a young adult I had the unfortunate habit (in effect, if not knowingly doing so) of treating literature as canonical if it "spoke to me". In other words, instead of trying to become what Scripture said I should become, I treasured works that explained me to me as I already was. (I'm sure that was clear). One example is Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in Walden that "we meet at too frequent intervals" and give each other only the "stale bread that is ourselves". He went to the woods perhaps in order to ensure he'd meet others at less frequent intervals or, more charitably, to gather wisdom that he might have more to give. That passage resonated, as did his recommendation that we have a "large margin to life" (though it would seem that most saints live off slim margins of free time).

So, to answer Thoreau's first point, there's no reason to think that God can't make something of what seems to promise to be a mundane encounter. We've all experienced times when we think we have nothing to offer someone - and yet we do - or they have nothing to offer us - and yet they do. But that utilitarian view is beside the point. Even if nothing meaningful seems to occur, our conscience, unlike the young priest's, is clear and our openness is itself an act of obedience.

November 19, 2005

“.. and I will raise you up on the last day”   - By Mary Herboth
Two and a half months ago, my brother was brought to the hospital near death. His daughter had come up from California to visit him in his rustic Mt. Hood cabin when she found him in a frightening state. He was ashen and lethargic. She urged him to go with her to the hospital and he agreed. The doctors discovered that his blood sugar level was over 600. A few more points, they warned, and he would have been in a coma. He went home thinking that he had become a diabetic like our Dad. The days that followed were dreadful. Not because of sugar-restrictions and needles in the finger but because of violent stomach cramps and vomiting that would not stop. We soon found out that this was more than diabetes or a terrible stomach flu. My brother was diagnosed with incurable and aggressive pancreatic cancer. The doctor simply said, “We don’t cure this” and let him know that most people in this condition live for less than three months. He went back to Mom and Dad's with a new bed and an arm full of medical supplies. We all began to pray for wisdom and strength.

Recently, my brother was moved from my parent’s house to a hospice care facility because his condition was getting worse. Two weeks ago they told us that he had 2-3 days to live. At the time that was good news. It meant that the suffering was about to come to an end. But, God had other plans. My brother continues to live and we keep holding on to the knowledge that life is good. However, I must admit that it’s not easy to understand the meaning of suffering when it is happening to someone you love. His body has been reduced to skin and bones, his face is caved in, his tongue and lips are cracked from dehydration, his belly and lower back are swollen from the cancer and he is often in tears from the heartache of dying in front of people he loves. Every day the medical staff increases his medication in an effort to keep up with the pain but most of the time the pain is ahead of the race.

Despite this grim picture there is always hope - there is always grace. For example, God granted me the grace to be with my brother on the day the doctor told him he had only 2-3 days to live. After the doctor left, I told my brother, "I'm going to miss you" and he said, "I'm going to miss you too." I replied, "No you won’t! You're not going to miss me because you will be with Christ and the Blessed Mother." I smiled but he started to cry. He said, "I'm not ready to meet her. I love her so much and I don't want to offend her." He told me that he didn't feel worthy to meet Christ because of some things he had done in his life. I told him that we could take care of that. That he could prepare his soul to meet Christ and the saints by confessing his sins and receiving the Eucharist. On hearing this he cried out "I want that." I held his hand and we talked a little while about God's love and mercy and how wonderful it will be in heaven. The next day a priest came to visit and to administer the sacraments. My heart was light and I kept thinking about Christ’s promise, “If you eat my body and drink my blood you will have life within you and I will raise you up on the last day.” That's what I wanted for my brother and I thanked God for drawing near and for bringing him into a deeper more pure relationship with Him.

Another incredible moment was the day that they moved him to hospice. That first day was very difficult. With a new staff of doctors and nurses it took a while to get everything squared away. He suffered quite a bit that first night because his meds were not adequate and the machine that delivered the meds was not working properly. All night he was in pain, moaning and crying in agony. I cried too - as you can imagine. I thought of Mary during the passion. I wondered how she coped with the suffering. I turned to her for consolation.

Everyone was doing all they could to keep him comfortable but nothing worked for very long. At one point I felt so completely helpless. I didn't know what to do so I started to pray the rosary. It was Wednesday so we meditated on the Glorious Mysteries. After the first two Hail Mary’s, my brother joined me, saying the second half of each prayer. The words of his prayers were slurred and hard to decipher. I just began the next prayer when he stopped. We kept going despite several interruptions. After the rosary I said some other prayers and then I sang, "Come Holy Ghost." My brother smiled and he wept a little. I stopped singing and he said, "Don't stop." So I sang again and then he said sweetly, "I can smell incense." Oh! How wonderful the Lord is! "Did you know," I said, " that the fragrance of incense is a sign of the presence of Christ?" This time the Lord was calling my brother –and me – to the kind of faith that surrenders all things. It is a gift to be truly helpless because at that level of helplessness we have no one to turn to except God Almighty and to be in his presence.

The next morning the doctors were able to find a way to get him comfortable. He actually made some progress and did things that they said he'd never do again - like eat some peach pie! Instead of dying, he had 3-4 "good days" where he was able to have visitors and stroll around the pleasant grounds. He even made it to Mass with the other patients. To receive communion in the context of the Liturgy was another wonderful gift because before this illness my brother had been out of full communion with the Church. He had, however, been growing in his love for God for some time. He often prayed, read spiritual works and taught his friends to say “I love you, God” 100 times a day.

There have been many times during this trial that I have thought that this illness was my brother’s reward for his sincere search for God and the meaning of love. When he became ill, he started the steps toward complete reconciliation. Early on he was annointed with oil and within the first few weeks he recieved general absolution and communion. Then he had the conviciton to confess particular sins and now God provided a whole liturgy - a whole Easter!

Although it breaks my heart to witness the ravages of cancer I can't help but thank God for his goodness and mercy. I'm thankful for the opportunity to share in his passion. Even my brother recognizes that. One time he told me that when he is having the most pain he doesn't ask God to take it away but he tells God "Thank you. I love you." You wouldn't believe all the things he tells the doctors and nurses. When they ask him how he's doing he always tells them about God's love and mercy. He tells them again and again how much he believes in God and everlasting life. They often look at him with amazement. When they see his pain and suffering they can't imagine why he has faith and I can’t imagine him not having it.
Update: Sunday morning, on the feast of Christ the King, Mary's brother passed away. May he rest in God's peace.

November 17, 2005

From Percy MacKaye, the poet-in-residence at my alma mater during the 1920s:
The Automobile
    By Percy MacKaye  (1875-1956)

Fluid the world flowed under us: the hills
        Billow on billow of umbrageous green
        Heaved us, aghast, to fresh horizons, seen
One rapturous instant, blind with flash of rills
And silver-rising storms and dewy stills
       Of dripping boulders, till the dim ravine
       Drowned us again in leafage, whose serene
Coverts grew loud with our tumultuous wills.

Then all of Nature's old amazement seemed
        Sudden to ask us: "Is this also Man?
        This plunging, volant, land-amphibian
What Plato mused and Paracelsus dreamed?
        Reply!" And piercing us with ancient scan,
The shrill, primeval hawk gazed down -- and screamed.
Thoughts While Watching O'Reilly's Show

O'Reilly mentions to Sen. Schumer that "when the Iraqi democracy is flourishing and they have large oil revenues maybe they'll give back some of the money we spent".

Uh bartender, I'll have what he's having. O'Reilly's not usually this naive. There are so many ifs in there, not to mention the fact that the average lifespan of a nation's gratitude is shorter than that of the fruitfly. (Exhibit A: Kuwait). In the immortal words of a '70s song" "dream on, dream on, dream until your dreams come true...". Speaking of Iraq, NPRs Diana Rehm asked why can't we honor Iraq's unbearable urge to split (i.e. into three countries Shiite, Sunni & Kurdish)? Indeed why not? After all, Iraq was a originally an arbitrary construction anyway, cobbled together after the first World War. All of this angst over the pre-war intelligence regarding WMDs seems misplaced; the true intelligence nightmare was not knowing how difficult nation-building is. Now that we should've known.

But back to the Factor.

Sen. Schumer says "80 million? That's nothing. We spend that before breakfast in Washington"

And that's something to brag about?

Sex on TV segment

One of the things that is so hilariously blatant about FOX is that sexual content on TV is shown over and over, often in slow motion, while discussing the evils of sexual content on tv. Nothing like soft core porn to accompany your outrage over soft core porn right Bill?
First Things Article on Godbloggers

Alicia & Amy got a mention as did others (via Spec Catholic):
Godbloggers hail from all walks of life, from professional writers such as Domenico Bettinelli, Eve Tushnet, and Dawn Eden to laymen with day jobs: Emily Peterson and Annie Banno, for instance, at the blog After Abortion, or Marc, a UNIX administrator, who runs the blog Thickness.
...
Another concern is how the Internet is demystifying religion. One of Joseph de Maistre’s pet theories was that the authority of the Church depended in large part on mystery. Blogger Mickey Kaus recently wondered if the notion of mysterious silence on the part of religious institutions has become outmoded: “If you were a respected authority you used to be able to get away with maintaining a meaningful silence. Now you’ve got to be blogging in your own ‘unique voice’ about every little thing that comes up, or else some ambitious lesser authority who posts more frequently will steal your flock.”
Happy 80th to Bill Buckley (er, one week early)


Link:
We were all chuckling about something bone-headed the Soviet spokesman had pronounced earlier in the day, I don’t remember the exact reference. But I do recall Bill saying “You know I’ll almost miss them when we win.” Being of the lugubrious Whittaker Chambers sensibility (Chambers thought he had left the winning for the losing side), I was startled. Only later did I recognize this confidence as a form of faith. In Reagan, it was called optimism. But it was more than that. It was a spiritual strength and it was one important though perhaps underappreciated reason Bill Buckley was and is a great leader.

— Mona Charen
For You Narnia Fans...

Ross Douthat defends C.S. Lewis's use of allegory:
I think that Noah has to be right, almost definitionally, to prefer non-allegorical stories to allegories. So how to escape the contradiction?

Well, here's one theory - that for the most part Narnia actually isn't an allegory, but rather an explicitly Christian fairy tale (like The Snow Queen) that happens to include, as one of its characters, the second person of the Trinity.
And an arresting/interesting comment found in the ensuing comment thread:
Very few people claim to understand quantum mechanics or how their furnaces work who don't actually understand quantum mechanics or how their furnaces work. Christianity is very different. No body of thought about anything has such a enormous gap between what people think they know about it and what they actually do know about it as Christianity. It's not just secular intellectuals either, even if he has read lots of papal encyclicals, the religion on display at AndrewSullivan.com is pretty much unique to Andrew Sullivan, and Mr. Sullivan seems blissfully unaware of it.

November 16, 2005

Notes on Msgr. Lane's Talk on the Passion of the Lord:

Christians have struggled with the Crucifixion since the very beginning, going back to the account of the men on the road to Emmaus. "What does this mean?". Some early Christian thinkers came up with a legalistic view, that humans errored and it makes sense that only God can appease God. But that's horrible. What kind of God sends His Son to die in order to appease Himself?

Another way to look at it is to recall that we are made in the image and likeness of God which is reflected in human freedom. Freedom is what makes us human and able to relate to God in a one-to-one in a friendship relationship rather than a dependent, destructive way. Look at families where a parent watches every thing the child does and forces obedience - that child is not free and ultimately bears a hatred towards his parents.

God intended Jesus as a gift. He said as it were, "go down and give yourself to them, put yourself in their hands." Gift, not appeasement. It is human nature to be threatened by holiness since we have constructed a world and are comfortable with it as it is. Look at the simple matter of going to Mass on Sunday and how many do not avail themselves?

Read the language describing moment of Christ's death. It is the triumph of chaos. It is the only way the Hebrew writers, who could not use an abstraction, could describe nihilism, nothingness. The darkness descending over the abyss, the wind over it, recalls Genesis before the creation of the world. The world was ending. God was dying in a very real sense, not just the more trivial sense in which Jesus was just giving up a body that was a lot of trouble anyway. But Mary and John at the foot of the Cross held the world together, kept the chaos from completely abolishing existence for the three days before the Resurrection. In some mysterious way. Mary, a symbol of the Church, and John a symbol of the priesthood, saved the world. Did they know it? No. They were at the cross out of love for the son and their friend. The giving of the Holy Spirit created a new world, re-enacting the story in Genesis. And now the Church and the sacraments through the ministry of the priesthood keep the world in existence before the Second Coming. We are in a sense re-enacting the interval between the death of Christ and his Resurrection, awaiting his Second Coming as Mary and John awaited His Resurrection. Christians are keeping the world in existence.

And so why can't it be over now? Because of human freedom. He asks us to come, little by little, inviting us to come closer. It is fraught with failure and we experience it in our human relations. Love is existential, experiential, you can't learn it from a definition of a book, even Scripture. It has to be made concrete, in the harshness of saying 'yes' amid the chaos, as Mary and John did at the foot of the Cross. A relationship with God is not behavioral, moral in the sense of "I'm a good person". It is relational, an invitation and beckoning to come nearer.
Poetry Wednesday

I like Heidi Lynn Staples's quirky poetry and wordplay. She'll title a blog post "maid public" when speaking of getting a mention or creatively scribe a post like "O my bloggerissimo, each sentence writ a cage in which to hide or a draft on which to glide?".

Here's an interview and a poem, the latter being the sort I'd write if I could write poetry:
Reddening Devout of the House

o let's go for our sun say drive,
land wet a honking foil'll gleamingly geese.
you'll thrive on the thrive
wilding an ode. i'll sway to your pleased,
roil down the window to let din the air hive,
the wind singing kin the sheaves.

o hours unsay we're alive;
yet, flare now we're trill flung, full of be leaves –
you sway thru me, derive
mulch perfect there hums. yes, let's conceive
a bay of be. o throes mortis and heat,
true lush here and roaring, we'll cleave

sun to beech copper, arrive
as dei parts, swilling wills of weave.
Written after noting that every poet's website is accompanied by leftwing ideology...

A Conservative Poet
   (- and other oxymorons)

"A bloggin' poet I shall be!"
I said to all who wouldst read me
I called up Local 53
and asked what they would need to see.

They said I wasn't qualified,
They said George Bush I deified,
For Politics they reified
I was a con they neo-fied.

I felt as lonely as a cloud
a rightwing poet yet unbowed
chastened, yes, but still not cowed
I could not be a Maureen Dowd.

So to eyries I did repair
to ply the trade without a care
my porridge seemed a meagre fare,
did Politics myself ensare?
Interesting...

...link via Tom of Disputations:
Very often when people are thinking or speaking about the spirituality of the Dominican Order there is a tendency, with respect to a phrase such as "sober intoxication," for example, to give more weight to the adjective "sober" than to the noun "intoxication." It is an understandable tendency and, in respect of the work of many Dominican authors, often a wise one. The adjective "sober" sits particularly well with the work of someone like St Thomas Aquinas, or with that of his contemporary, Humbert of Romans, or with the work of the later scholastics. But if one is considering the life and work of other Dominicans, such as the exuberant and generous preacher, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, or the irrepressible Italian mystic, St Catherine of Siena, or the colourful and intensely devout German friar, Blessed Henry Suso, or the great and daring thinker and visionary, Meister Eckhart, then clearly the word "sober," for all its sane, and sharply qualifying wisdom, will need to have placed – and close beside it – the noun "intoxication."
...
Towards the end of his remarkable study, Enthusiasm, Ronald Knox writes : "Men [and women] will not live without vision; that moral we do well to carry away with us from contemplating, in so many strange forms, the record of the visionaries. If we are content with the humdrum, the second-best, the hand-over-hand, it will not be forgiven us."