July 31, 2006

All Mixed Up

With the Israeli war, I find myself in the odd position of arguing for Israeli restraint when talking to my "nuke 'em all!" brother-in-law, while not a day later wanting to say something like this and this or harsher after reading some who would seem to deny Israel the right to defend themselves given Hezbollah's sinister use of the civilian population as shields.

I'm either extremely versatile or more likely have no idea what I'm talking about (the latter wouldn't be the first time). Perhaps the really stupid thing is feeling like I have to form an opinion at all.
WAU Meditation  on Pleasure & Pain

The question is: How is a society such as ours to understand the mystery of the cross, when it opposes the cross with pleasure at every level? Many in the world believe that we have finally “rescued” pleasure and freed it from the unjust suspicion and condemnation that used to surround it. Much of the misunderstanding that exists between the church and today’s so-called secular culture originate here. But for all our misunderstandings, there is one point of agreement: In this life, pleasure and pain follow one another just as a trough follows the swell of an ocean wave, pulling a shipwrecked person back into the sea even as he struggles to reach the shore. Pleasure and suffering are inextricably linked to one another.

The world desperately tries to separate these Siamese twins, to isolate pleasure from suffering. Sometimes we delude ourselves that we have succeeded, but not for long. Suffering lies in wait, like an intoxicating drink that turns to poison on contact with the air. Not some different, independent suffering, due to some other cause, but the suffering that comes from the pleasure itself. The disordered pleasure itself is turned into suffering.

The church claims to have an answer to this dilemma: From the beginning, human beings made a free choice to direct their capacity for joy exclusively toward visible things, instead of aspiring to the enjoyment of God.

The good news is that Jesus’ cross has finally broken this chain. “For the sake of the joy that was set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). He did the opposite of what Adam and every human being does. St. Maximus the Confessor once wrote: “The Lord’s death, unlike that of other men, was not a debt paid for pleasure but rather a challenge thrown in the face of pleasure itself” (Chapters on Theology and Economy, IV 39).

Jesus has ushered in a new kind of pleasure. This pleasure does not come before suffering and cause it. Rather, it flows from suffering, as its fruit. It is a pleasure not limited to a purely “spiritual” joy, either. It encompasses every honest pleasure, including the pleasure experienced by a man and a woman in their mutual self-giving, the pleasures of art, creativity, beauty, friendship, and work well done—in short, of every kind of joy.
Tale of Two Intellectuals

It's interesting to read the opinions of Jeffrey Hart in his latest book on the history of National Review. The Dartmouth professor and Catholic convert is very comfortable with the Church on "things unseen" but disregards her pronouncements on "things seen", pointing to past teachings on usury and present teachings on artificial birth control, abortion and stem cell research.

What Mr. Hart giveth, Mr. Hart taketh away. First he writes in favor of the Church:
As regards the question of 'what church?' my short answer would be that the Catholic Church has been successful in guarding its long-perfected metaphysics, or doctrine about God, while Protestant churches have failed through what Dryden called a 'downhill Reformation'. Individuals cannot do the work that has taken centuries to complete.
While later,
It seems clear in considering church ethical teaching that the ethics of the present and past seem "natural", while the new seems "unnatural".
Poor, benighted Church doesn't realize that the new will seem natural eventually and any rules against it are fruitless and intellectually scandalous. What a sorrow it is that our morality is driven by technology rather than the other way around, and yet Hart seems comfortable with that or certainly not fearful of it. He particularly scorns Humane Vitae and yet what is ironic is another intellectual, Malcolm Muggeridge, found that the crown jewel of church doctrine, one of the main proofs for him that the claims of the Catholic Church were true.

Guess you can't please all of the people all of the time, 'eh?

July 30, 2006

Excerptables.

A doctor in Montana, a devotee of classical music and the traditional Roman liturgy, is shocked by a recent experience. "I attended the First Communion of the first-born of a friend whom I had delivered into the world and as the child walked solemnly down the aisle the organ played 'Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.'" Could I, he asked, tell him how to get in touch with the orthodox liturgists in America? This was not difficult to do, there being only three of them left.
*
Thoreau defined freedom as the increased knowledge of what he could do without. I tend to define it as the increased knowledge of what I shan't need to do without.

-William F. Buckley in Atlantic High, 1982
Various & Sundry

“Tell me,” she said quietly. “If that [happiness] machine is like you say, has it got an answer to making babies in it somewhere? Can that machine make seventy-year old people twenty? Also, how does death look when you hide in there with all that happiness?”

“Hide!”

- Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine”
He left four young boys and a wife for another woman. We were all shocked, jaw-drop shocked, as he’d given no indication of anything other than being a great husband & father.

“Mom,” he explained, “I wasn’t happy.”

“Who is happy?” she cried incredulously.

The mother was born in the early 1930s. The son in the early 1960s. One is a member of the greatest generation and the other the Baby Boom generation. Is that the difference in a nutshell?

I’ve been thinking about this in connection with Ronald Dworkin’s “Artificial Intelligence” and how he laments the over the over-prescription of Prozac. He argues that too many people are staying in bad jobs or bad marriages via the artificial prop of Prozac, or through over-exercise. But who doesn’t use props? Can one draw such a clear line between the “evil” of Prozac versus the millions of activities that folks use to make life more pleasant and “offset” work? You’d have to ban crossword puzzles, forest walks, alcohol, reading, sunlight, bingo, cigarettes, cross-stich.. Any or all of these and so many other activities can be used in a way to “cloud our vision”.
___

Upcrops of quaint sea houses, like sea horses in an azure sea-sky, alight and airily rest in the breeze and I cannot hold them, they seem too pretty to be real, like gingerbread houses. The perfect white siding, the red shutters - I think back with sweetness to the lyricisms of suns past, like on New Smryna Beach and this past July 4th.
___

Today we carried statues of our patronal saints in procession after Mass, a mile or two down the road past large yards with grape vines to the finish at a automobile garage. We carried Joseph, two Margarets (Cortona & Antioch), Mary Magedalen I believe and St. Anthony. This was my first year doing it and it felt a bit self-consciously “old school”, with Father decked out P.O.D-ily with a long black coat and red, monsignoric markings while “Holy God We Praise Thy Name” issued from a tape player and a bullhorn. There was much beauty and pageantry in the large upraised statues and banners in the procession.

It’s an Italian parish and they self-identify with this procession, it going back a century and, via their European ancestors, centuries more. I can do so at one remove, not being Italian; every Catholic can identify and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day but I suppose the Irish have a leg up. As the Italian blood thins in this parish it’s incumbent upon those with foreign blood to carry on the tradition.

I thought about heading to the crowd around St. Anthony’s statue, a childhood favorite who did me many favors, but it seemed ungentlemanly and ungallant to let our fair Madchens, our Margarets and Mary, suffer neglect. Mary it was. The statue was surprisingly heavy even with four guys. Everyone but me had brought a towel to absorb the pressure of the wood platform on their shoulder, but I was glad not to have one and glad for the surreal heat. I considered it a mini way of the Cross and delusions of grandeur keep me going, to borrow from Bill Luse. The real test is doing it year after year, after the beauty and paegeantry have worn off.

July 29, 2006

Fr. Ed

If you Google his name you’ll come up empty. A priest who served from his ordination in the late ‘30s till his death in the early '70s, as children we knew him only as a tall, stern-looking authority figure. And yet there’s a picture of him in an album, shirtless and a ringer for Clark Gable, on a fishing trip in the ‘40s. It was said his first love was the outdoors.

His second love was a parish of his own. And the priest who gave up most of his outdoors time was too good an academic and the bishop assigned him to overseeing and studying catholic schools. He disliked it, but did it uncomplainingly, confiding only in his sister. He finally got his wish of being a simple parish priest a couple years before he died. His reward is great in Heaven.

July 28, 2006

Iraq Ain't the Worst Mistake

The Iraq war was imprudent. Cheney read too much Bernard Lewis, who apparently has too generous a view of Islamic societies. We weren't liberators. Big mistake.

But the Native American holocaust was a much bigger mistake. The Spanish-American war and the Mexican war were arguably much bigger blots on our record. And yet the ironic thing is that this war is seen as intolerable sin; a co-worker says some scholars say Bush will go down as the worst president in US history. I think whatever error we incurred with respect to Iraq is pretty mild compared to some of the errors of our past, such as slavery. I'm completely at a loss at how this war for an arguably good principle (overthrow of a despot) is somehow more obscene than taking other people's lives for a baser principle (land, power, money). That doesn't make this mistake right but the lack of perspective is astonishing. I feel far more squeamish about our use of the nuclear bomb in WWII than enforcing the ceasefire conditions Hussein repeatedly broke.

Politically (or "pastorally"), the Administration can't admit it was a mistake because now we are committed and it would increase the pressure to pull out. To pull out now would be unfair to Iraq since "we broke it, we bought it", and it would become a terrorist state.

Post-9/11 it seems that there was no way this president was going to allow Hussein to set off chemical weapons on his watch. It was too predictable. Presidents aren't usually held accountable for what can't easily have been foreseen, but everyone knew Hussein was capable of anything, including the assassination of a former US President. He was a household name, and that counts a lot. For example, if Hussein had perpetrated 9/11, the fallout would've been much greater than the minor fallout Clinton has received for (mostly) ignoring bin Laden - precisely because most people hadn't heard of bin Laden before. You are responsible to the extent of your knowledge. Given the dismal state of our CIA it's doubtful Bush knew much beforehand. What he knew for sure was that Hussein wouldn't comply with the UN resolutions and threw the inspectors out. Common sense would tell you that Hussein had WMDs. But what common sense didn't tell us was that Hussein didn't fear us. The pampered West constantly warns us that the U.S. is the great danger, while at the same time Saddam sat in his palace thinking we were a paper tiger. Ironic, eh? You just can't make it up...
Gratitude for the Church

When I say the Friday beads and think of that glorious font of sacraments, the explosion of Holy Blood that extends and crosses to this very century, I feel a great solace. It’s precisely the universality of the New Covenant that allows one to be patient in times of spiritual dryness because one knows that God is meant for everyone, not just for those experiencing great signs.

Some think that Protestantism has fewer barriers to entry than Catholicism. Strictly speaking perhaps, but I think of Catholicism as a gigantic spring of grace represented by the sacraments, a lifetime of sure conduits, while outside the Faith there are gushers here and there and even then you mostly know them only subjectively. God calls universally for sure. But if Catholicism has a greater barrier to entry I would respectfully submit that Protestantism has greater barriers to completion.
An Hour in Time

Last Wednesday was the last heartbreakingly beautiful day of the week. Sunday thru Wednesday were, in weather terms, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston. Or is it Anniston? Anyway they were breathtaking days of fragile beauty, broken by the maudlin clouds & showers of Thursday and Friday. If August is like an overextended flower and June is one just beginning to bloom then July is the sweet spot of summer, the month where the bat meets ball and sends it o’er the fence like an Dunn home run (to switch metaphors). Natch, I had to take one lunch hour, one extraordinary lunch hour, at my house in this month of July. Itched I did for the transient thrill of reading out on the back porch...
Tunnellers



One of the details that sticks in my mind concerning Hezbollah is how they tunnelled under the Israeli wall in order to accomplish their goal of murder and kidnapping.

And I thought about the Berlin Wall, pictured above, and how desperate people would tunnel under it in order to leave a country, not to enter one. Hezbollah's tunnel is a symbol of how badly they want it, how badly they want to do ill.

That was the thing that surprised me about 9/11 - how they spent years working on it. It was not the moment of pique, or a momentary flare-up of anger, this was the result of hard work and attention to detail towards the goal of obliterating lives and order.

Critics may well be right when they say that Israel's response has hurt the Lebanese more than the terrorists due to the bombing of infrastructure. I know zip about military strategy but I wonder if, in this age of terrorism, special ops are far more effective than airstrikes and the US & Israeli military haven't really caught up to that yet. I know Col. David Hunt is always preaching special ops.

  Update: Rich Lowry offers the moral way for Israel to win the war.
Mea Culpa Time

My eyes began to glaze over when I started reading this lengthy link, which was found via a Google search. But because the author was attempting to hew to church teaching I thought it might be helpful.

I was apparently wrong.

Recovering Owl/Davey's Mommy first alerted me, saying she didn't want to be the orthodoxy police but...And now Zippy. So consider that link pulled.
Tireless Bloggers

There are a few bloggers who provide so many interesting posts that I hesitate to visit since I can't ever seem to make a quick stop. Ironic that too much material can discourage hits. In this category The Daily Eudemon immediately comes to mind, but Ten Reasons is doing his part.

I found three interesting links on Rich's blog today:

New Catechism for Adults
Hell & the Bible
Free online Latin lessons
Meet the Flintstones
 
Humorous New Yorker column that begins by describing one of the more iconic images of our generation:
A screeching comes across the sky.

Stately, plump Fred Flintstone stood upon the ’saur’s head, bearing a boulder of granite, on which a bird perched, its eyes crossed. An orange dressing gown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild Mesozoic air.

He held his shell aloft and intoned:

Yabba dabba doo!

Afoot and lighthearted, he took to the open road, healthy, free, the world before him, the long brown path before him leading back to Bedrock.

Fred repeating to himself, as he ran, the words of an old song:

Flintstones, meet the Flintstones.
Later:
It was the best of times, it was the first of times, it was the age of ice, it was the age of lava, it was the epoch of large sloping foreheads, it was the epoch of dictabirds and monkey traffic signals and woolly-mammoth shower massages. All the modern inconveniences.
Leave No Spoiled Teenager Behind

From our diocesan newspaper, The Catholic Times, on the minimum wage:
...Jay Ambrose cited Bureau of Labor Statistics studies showing that "something less than 1 percent" of all workers make only minimum wage. "Most are under 25, and many are in households with a number of jobs and an average total income in all the households of $40,000," he added. Ambrose's solution: "Stop the annual flow of hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens to this country, thereby lessening a supply of workers who view $5.15 and even less as a marvelous amount."
Hmm...I don't know. It seems like illegal immigrants need the money more than American teens though Mexican immigrants tend to send the money south, thus softening the need for economic reform in Mexico. Although really, if things aren't bad enough in Mexico now for economic reform it's hard to picture how bad things would have to get.

July 27, 2006

Undercover Man

Like many other Catlick bloggers, I've been watching Stephen Colbert & The Colbert Report since I learned he recited the Nicene Creed, debated an agnostic, and mostly ageed with Bill Donohue of the Catholic League during an interview on recent shows. Heck yes my viewership can be bought by someone pandering to Catholics.

He's an interesting fellow because you never know whether he's being ironic or serious and I suppose that's a convenience that allows him to appeal to both blue staters and red staters. A few of the clips I've seen seem to suggest a seriousness about the Faith and, if so, it's almost like he's a spy inside the entertainment industry. It's a Mel Gibson thing - Gibson flew beneath the radar for years and then you suddenly find him blooming with faith while still having access to the throne of American power: the media and entertainment. Similarly, I don't recall Colbert being any different from a Jon Stewart or a Bill Mahrer in the early days when he was on Stewart's show, but now he's dancing with something hardly any television entertainer dances with: religious conviction. Now there's a rebel.
My Child, My " "

Below is my 'homage to suburbia', which I believe is French for 'a salute to the suburbs'. It's a minimalistic rendering of an asphalt street, so minimalistic the official name of the piece is " " because untitled is actually a title. Think about it*.
  

" " (2006)
What I was trying to do was make a statement about suburban values via light, shadows, street, and clumped three-day old grass cuttings flattened by numerous car tires. The composition and interplay of shadows is intentional; to get the shot took a team of three people six weeks. And the prima donnas we dealt with! The paper carrier laughed and mocked, the neighbors turned their sprinklers on and soaked our digital expert's faux designer shirt while also ruining that day's shot. Tis true that no artist is honored in his own bedroom community.

We experimented with shutter speeds and filters while waiting for the sun to slant at exactly the right angle. We had traffic delays (starving artists can't afford worker's comp for crew accidents). We endured bad food, a lack of beer, and the discomfort of aggressive "special assault" mosquitos.

I think you'll agree that the results were worth the effort**, or rather you'll be impressed enough with the work that went into it to want to pay money for it. After all no one wants to purchase something that took two seconds to create!

A matted copy is $2,199.12, two for $4,398.24. Visa and Paypal accepted. Offer prohibited where prohibited.
__

* - or, for you computer nerds, ""
** - bad art ain't kilt no one yet

Obligatory Disclaimership: This particular post was not a comment on Steven Riddle/Tom Kreitzberg/Zippy's discussion on aesthetics. It was rather a way for me to introduce a photo (which took two seconds to compose & snap) taken on my recent photo journey.

Update: Steven Riddle emails:
I don't know if it rises to art, but I really like shadows and ordinary topics, and this one, with the stain that looked like dried vomit makes an ironic statement about suburbia that really would be worthy of a Frida Kahlo or a Ralph Vanderzeizen.
My price is now $5,182.99 for a matted version...
"The body's a downer"
The High Cost of Arrogance

Publishers Weekly has an interesting review of The Seduction of Culture in German History by Wolf Lepenies:
The German obsession with high culture has no parallel elsewhere: Berlin alone has three opera houses, and Hitler was more distraught by the Allied bombing of Nazi-approved cultural monuments than the destruction of his cities. Lepenies, a leading German intellectual and journalist, examines this pride, a phenomenon he says is at odds with the status of culture in France, Britain and America. In the latter countries, the concept of "culture" includes everything from politics to sports, morality to social issues. Only in Germany does Kultur solely represent the exalted life of the mind; it opposes, "with mandarin-like scorn," everyday politics and economics, and carries a concomitant belief in the superiority of the German nation over other nations concerned with such matters. Lepenies brilliantly argues that this notion of Kultur has profoundly influenced Germany's domestic and foreign policy for centuries. According to Lepenies, the German indifference to politics partly caused the downfall of the Weimar Republic (too few could be bothered to defend it from its enemies), contributed to the rise of Nazi ideology and continues to shape Germany's sometimes troubled relations with its European neighbors and America.
Did high culture help spur the First World War? Don't laugh. A thoughtful reader sent me the following review of a new book:
As a consequence of the long intermarriage of the British and German royal families, upper-class Germans knew upper-class Britain quite intimately during the decades before the First World War. Families and businesses were intermingled and it was common for young Germans to attend school or university in Britain. In turn, the British were in awe of German high culture, its literature, music and science. British universities were even persuaded to import that strange German innovation, the research degree or PhD. As a result, many German army officers spoke perfect English and had a deep working knowledge of British society - or thought they had. They were not impressed by what they saw. Upper-class Germans thought the English had become debased by Celtic and Jewish influences, and by a selfish concentration on commerce as opposed to heroic Wagnerian values and a love of science and the arts for their own sake.

So the Germans entered the First World War with contempt for the decadence of British culture. When the first British troops taken prisoner in 1914 sportingly tried to shake hands with their captors, they were beaten up for their pains. The Germans disdainfully characterised this British national characteristic as "sportsidiotsmus" - meaning they were unserious and ignorant.

The Prussian military believed the French and Russians were brave and worthy enemies, while the Brits were only in it for the money. Ordinary rank-and-file Germans were taught to believe the British started the war out of jealousy and were paying the French and Russians to encircle the Fatherland. The German high command and ordinary German footsoldiers were impatient to come to grips with the new British conscript armies that were expected to arrive in France in 1916. They would teach the ignorant, stupid Tommies a lesson they would never forget.
Artificial Birth Control & Mortal Sin

Had a long discussion over the weekend with a family member, a practicing Catholic, who doesn't believe in any sort of eccelestical infallibility. She said in order to do so that would require her to believe that she is going to Hell, along with most of her children, for the use of contraceptives. Definitely an impediment, I would have to say, a powerful incentive to believe the Church errored. I explained the conditions of what was required for a sin to be mortal though I recall explaining the same thing before. For her, the Church's credibility was shot during the '50s when what she considered non-grave matters (i.e. eating meat on Friday or missing Mass) were mortal sins.

I asked her why it was there were no "bad Catholics" anymore, how we now simply change the standard if we can't meet it, but admittedly it's one thing to call oneself a bad Catholic, it's another to feel that should we suddenly die, without contrition or Confession, we would go to hell. Perhaps previous generations lived constantly on that precipice, with portions of their lives lived in alternating states of mortal sin and post-Confessional grace. I suppose that would appeal to risktakers and daredevils.

But this looks at the question wrongly of course. Here's a paraphrase of a Scott Hahn talk:
This image of law as limiting our freedom is in the water now, it’s in the air. The concept of mortal sin leads to the “via moderna”, the modern way, in that it makes us more slave than child, making us aim to avoid punishment rather than love. Pope John Paul II said, “Sin affects our intellect by exchanging a vision of God as Father to one as master.” That God's laws are for our personal fulfillment is mostly foreign to us because the last seven centuries have made law the opposite of freedom and personal fulfillment.
Critic Says Rating Drinking Water Requires Omniscience to Fully Appreciate

BOSTON, MA-- Drinking water expert Jerry Leskowski said today that anyone not involved in the production of tap water should "keep their opinions to themselves" and not comment on it.

Leskowski said that given his extensive background in water drinking, other people should respect and honor his expertise by not blogging about the worth or taste of a given city's drinking water.

"Yes I'm an elitist," he said, "and it's difficult to be an elitist in a democratic society. All the little people have their little opinions of the tap water of major American cities, and that inevitably makes it tough for my opinions - the correct ones - to get through. Too many people are crowding out my expertise and I don't like it. Tap water would be like wine if if only my judgment mattered."

July 25, 2006

Central Ohio Photoblog

Stunned by the beauty of this photoblog of a city in Zaire, Africa, I went out and visited the suburbs of Columbus to bring you, yes, a photoblog of Central Ohio suburbia!

Why should Europeans and Africans have all the fun? (Click on photos for enlargement purposes.)


Because bad art is government's job one.



Cwazy, wacky looking restaurant! We're so Soho.


You can have your Louvre, we have the Early Television Museum!


I think this is a Masonic temple. Give you the creeps too?


Nothing says class quite like artificial yard deer


Our local bookstore lady. Can you tell she's a Brit?


Because nothing says ignorance like a Che Guevara flag.


And nothing quite says "church" like a sign warning trespassers that they'll be prosecuted to within an inch of their lives.


Wicked witch hat or outdoor art? I depict, you decide.


The Alamo: It ain't just in Texas


One stop shopping & bill paying.


Here I'm trying to figure out where Sancta Sanctis lives.


Good advice
Obligatory heavy blogging warning

Expect blogging to be heavy the next few weeks...
Bill Luse Will Like This One



From here.
Remembering St. Cucuphas - July 25
  
 
Reliquary of St. Cucuphas  
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
"Under the Roman domination Spain received Christianity. There is a venerable tradition that the Apostles Paul and James came to the country."
And while July 25th is primarily remembered as feast of St. James, a more obscure saint who also traveled to Spain is St. Cucuphas.

It is perhaps appropriate that Cucuphas is sometimes referred to as an "African saint" and sometimes as a "Spanish saint". The sites of his natural and heavenly births make his identification now of two places, a bi-locator if you will. The receiver of the gift of his martyrdom - Spain - remembers him far more than his native Africa perhaps understandably so. While we might be briefly proud of a "local boy done good" that's a far different sort of pride than when someone comes to us, in our waywardness and estrangement. It is a pride mixed heavily with gratitude. In a similar and even more pronounced way, St. Patrick was not born in Ireland but became the quintessential Irish saint.

A short history: He was a nobel who dared to leave North Africa for pagan Spain. This saint of many names (including Cucufate, Cugat, Guinefort, or Qaqophas) was beheaded in Barcelona in 304. Prudentius composed verse in his honor and an abbey rests on the site of his martyrdom.

 
Untitled

My boss's boss is lonely
on a cloudless, flourescent day,
For my boss is out the office
And my boss's boss must stay.

"If you miss your boss, come see me!"
For I guess he feels adrift,
He has no one to talk to
I s'pose he's feeling gypped.

He pops his head in later:
"I feel useless!" I hear him say,
And I don't know what to tell him
That he might earn his pay.
Nature Men

Every newspaper ought to have an outdoors columnist, and the paper of my hometown lost a good one (he died yesterday) in “Will” Harbaum:
“Will was passionate about the wildlife, and about the woods and wetlands that he knew as well as the back of his hand,” said JournalNews sports writer Pete Conrad, who edited many of Harbaum’s columns. “That’s what set him apart. That, and his mythical backwoods friend, Woody Curlew.”

Many of Harbaum’s columns featured Curlew, a woodsman with an unpolished way of talking and a man of mysterious origin who was more at home under the stars than under a roof.

In one of his more recent columns, about turkey hunting, Harbaum — who often wrote with a gentle sense of humor — included a typical Curlew quote: “That ol’ gobbler is in a big white oak t’other side o’ th’ crick. We put him t’ bed las’ night, an’ he’s probably still thur.”
The Columbus Dispatch also has a good one in John Switzer, who is still with us. He wrote on Sunday:
The cicadas are singing, and Queen Anne’s lace and chicory are blooming along the roadside. Some folks have told me they heard their first cicada around July 8. Tradition says that the first frost will follow 90 days after they begin to sing.

I love Kay Winters’ little poem Sing a Song of Summer. It kind of sets the tone for this time of year.

When crickets sing
Their evening song
And Fireflies turn
Their lanterns on
And Spiders spin
At early dawn
And Weave their cobwebs
On my lawn
It’s summer.
         

[The Angels] lost to Kansas City, fercryinoutloud. Twice in a row. Kansas City. Kansas City, who usually couldn't get a number in the win column if it came free in a box of corn flakes. How do people with no faith and no hope of an after-life get the courage to follow baseball, anyway? [Lector: "They move to Detroit and follow the Tigers, who're playing .677 ball at the end of July."] Oh. Right. - John at "The Inn at the End of the World"

Strait is the gate and narrow is the way.... makes no sense whatsoever viewed in the context of the Saints of God. How many ways, how many paths, how many different means of being did they find all within this supposedly straight gate and narrow way. But the gate IS strait and the way IS narrow for each person. For the gate is knowing and loving Jesus Christ and the way is the particular path designed by God for the individual. There is no deviation from this path which is the Way of Jesus Christ. There are an infinite number of decisions to make as one walks it. However, these decisions are guided by the strict laws of the Decalogue and the words of Jesus Himself. Because the entry is tight and the way is narrow, it is hard to get lost on it...We are not cramped by this narrow way because compared to the way of the world, the avenues along which the trees of life grow are as broad as the sea itself. - Steven of "Flos Carmeli"

It is to recognize our nothingness, to expect everything from God as a little child expects everything from its father; it is to be disquieted about nothing, having no other occupation but to gather the flowers of love and sacrifice, and of offering them to God in order to please Him. To be little is not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, believing oneself capable of anything, but to recognize that God places his treasure in the hands of His little child to be used when necessary; but it remains always God’s treasure. Finally, it is not to become discouraged over one’s faults, for children fall often, but they are too little to hurt themselves very much. - St. Therese Lisieux’s deathbed explanation of remaining a little child before God, via The Daily Eudemon

Think about All in the Family. Did they go to church? If they were a real family in Queens, N.Y., they would have, and they would have probably been Catholic. - Julie Ingersoll, a professor who wonders why television has remained decidedly secular for so long (via Relapsed Catholic)

I have not yet read it, but The Wind Done Gone might be an amusing or interesting play on Gone with the Wind. And in younger days, I remember howling over Bored of the Rings--I don't know if I would do so now, one is eventually released from the follies of youth because one enters the follies of middle age--but at least they differ in kind if not in number. - Steven Riddle

Project Rachel being the exception, Catholic talk about abortion is tinged with an air of distance, of a sense that this is a "social problem" that lies outside of us sitting in the pews, except for how we vote. It's not. It's about saving lives, and the fatal (literally) flaw in institutional Catholic pro-life rhetoric is the discomfort with admitting that dark reality. - Amy Welborn

Culture-tyrants will take away parents' line-item veto when they pull it from our cold, dead hands. The public square isn't big enough for the both of us, and the public square you want is one that isn't suitable for children. That means that in the long run, you lose. Do yourself a favor and get used to the idea now. The artistic and cultural elite seems to have made the assumption that Christians will (or should be) be willing to accept existence in a ghetto. As Samuel L. Jackson said in The Long Kiss Goodnight, everyone knows what happens when you make an assumption: you make an ass out of you and umption. - Zippy Catholic

It seems like the New York Times is revealing all our national security secrets, but relax: they have their limits. If the Times learned that US troops were force-feeding Gitmo detainees with Coca-cola, they wouldn’t publish Coke’s secret formula. They might get sued. If there’s a CIA program that uses offensive cartoons of Mohammed to communicate with agents, they’ll keep mum, lest they have to publish the images. They might get stabbed. But secret law-enforcement-type programs as classified as the access code to the Times top-floor elevator? Fair game. You’ve the right to know. - James Lileks

The irony is that Linker is right about one thing: the "Catholic neoconservative" project can be a dangerous one, if taken too far. But it's potentially dangerous to Catholicism, not to America - because in attempting to smooth away contradictions between the American order and the Church, it risks losing too much that is distinctively Christian. The Catholic neocons aren't anywhere near as compromised with the wider culture as their "abortions-for-everyone!" brethren in the religious left, but some of Michael Novak's writings about the free market, or George Weigel's arguments about American foreign policy, partake a little too much, for my taste at least, of our country's quasi-Christian civil religion. - Ross Douthat of "The American Scene"

If we think in general terms of what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about, what do we think of? Forgiveness ...confessing sins...reconciling with God...changing our lives. These are all true and good. But, I need something concrete that I can point to that will motivate me each time to swallow my pride, get over my embarrassment, and go before the priest to confess my sins. Is there one thing that will do that for me? The Cross....Whenever we go to Confession (once a month is recommended), we say, 'thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice'. We humble ourselves in front of Him because "he humbled himself for our humanity". He hung on the Cross for at least three hours so that, among other things, we would go to Confession. - Fr. Greg of "St. Andrew Q & A"

July 24, 2006

Interesting NR Review...

...of James Bowman's Honor: A History:
Honor isn’t like statutory law; it belongs more to the realm of the felt and assumed than to that of the thought and legislated. At its most elemental, Bowman writes, honor is simply “the good opinion of the people who matter to us,” and without it the society of others, from neighborhoods to nation-states, isn’t possible. Whatever action earns that regard sows the seeds of honor; whatever offends that regard calls down scorn. Honor embraces the idea of saving face; it’s not just about what we are but about what we show the world. A hermit may be able to achieve sanctity, but that he might wish to gain honor is, to say the least, absurd. He hasn’t a need for it. Honor requires approval. It needs an audience.
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A few points will surprise some readers, particularly Bowman’s nicely accurate account of the historical bias of Christianity against secular notions of honor in the West. Talk about clashing codes: Turning the other cheek or loving others as oneself has little to do with slyly saving face or violently getting back at an enemy for the sake of one’s honor. But as the centuries passed, the rough edges of those sensibilities were worn down until the 18th and 19th centuries, when both were fused so beautifully that the cultural ideal of the honorable Christian gentleman — the Victorian accommodation — emerged and has not been surpassed for sweetness and strength to this day.

Perhaps it couldn’t last. Too many forces have conspired against it and one morning the sun had to rise on us and our contemporary moment. The new enemies of honor are, predictably, manifold. The spirit of democracy is one; if all people are to be considered the same in worth, the premium placed on distinction of any kind becomes less attractive and more expensive. Another is the multicultural attitude, which posits conflicting ideas about what constitutes honor; codes of honor within a community are strained without consensus. The therapeutic elevation of victimhood corrodes external standards and excuses dereliction. Then we have those odorous, overlapping forms of idealism and pacifism — abetted relentlessly by the media and miseducation in the schools — that usually assume vastly different views of human nature itself. These enemies Bowman profiles with subtlety and acuity while also suggesting a few ways to combat them.
Various & Sundry

A Byzantine friend of mine always mentions the Sack of Constantinople as the understandable reason that the Orthodox are not much interested in the ecumenical gestures of Rome. He speaks of it as if it happened yesterday and calls the wound "deep". I think I must have a case of compassion fatigue because I just can't get too exercised over it. I probably offended him when I asked if maybe five thousand years would be enough time to heal that wound since apparently one millennium wasn't enough (of course by saying that I was probably doing my part in lengthening the time it would take to heal). I conveniently trotted out my Irish heritage, saying I've managed to get over what the British did to the Irish. It seems like if you or your parents were involved in some sort of atrocity it is understandable that grudges be held. But where is the line at which it becomes ridiculous? Should not we all be furious at Adam and Eve for starting the mess?

There were, of course, bad things perpetrated by both the Orthodox and the RCC through history. My Byzantine friend reminds me a bit of Karen Hall, very passionate. Sometimes I wonder if you can get the passion without the enmity part of it, the holding grudges part. To borrow a Star Trek analogy, it seems there are Scottys and there are Spocks, and if you're in need you go to Scotty, because he is generous and warm and sympathetic. If you want forgiveness you go to Spock, who would not hold grudges simply because they are "illlogical", since, as in the case with grievances held against people long dead, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe this would also apply to Aquinas/Augustine too, the passionate Augustine versus the cool Aquinas.
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I was reading something by N.T. Wright over the weekend and he mentioned how the symbol for the Messiah for the Hebrews was the lion, and the symbol for sacrifice was the lamb. And suddenly I thought of that verse from Isaiah where the "lion lies down with the lamb" was Christ embodied: the meeting of the annointed one and he who would be sacrificed.
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OSU football legend Woody Hayes used to say that of the three things that happened when you passed the ball. Two of them bad. With blogging, at least three things can happen and two of them bad: i.e. uncharitableness & error.
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Read a bit of Maranis's Vince Lombardi bio over the weekend. It was a different time, a different world. The coach was a daily communicant his whole adult life, and when he went to D.C. he introduced himself to the priest, asking him what time morning Mass was. He said "7:30am" and Lombardi had the chutzpah to say that 7am would work better for him. The priest was amused. The problem for those in authority is to feel a sense of entitlement. I did a little re-reading of All Quiet on the Western Front over the weekend and it's maddening to see the waste. I don't have a problem with authority figures making mistakes. What is a nightmare is when they don't correct the mistake.
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Distant lands are not so far away
I don't know why we don't go
Take my hands
I'll show you the way
Pack your bags and sail away...

- Holiday by "The Other Ones"
Sunday sun on the porch, poems bled at the edge of a lead pencil. The weekend evaporated quickly if pleasantly but I run with the intensity of the feverish, away from the sulphurous neighbor dogs causing traffic to stand still in the street. I run down undulating asphalt roads melting in abeyance before the sun. I run down cul-de-sacs and thoroughfares, past the Good Burghers cooking burgers, past the small variances in architecture that press uncalled for poignancies upon me as if each cornice or arch or bay window were snowflakes, individual as each of those within the houses.

July 21, 2006

1914?

Lowry writes:
These columns by David Igantius and Harold Meyerson yesterday endorsed the theory of an inexorable, unintended slide toward war in 1914. I'm no expert, but it seems to me that this significantly underestimates Germany's drive to war. Here is Michael Lind on the topic from his forthcoming book, The American Way of Strategy:
For half a century after 1914, most historians agreed that the great powers of Europe tragically had stumbled into an avoidable war. However, research in Imperial German archives in the 1960s revealed the truth: the Kaiserreich had deliberately launched a preventative war against Russia and its ally France, out of fear that growing Russian military power would soon make German dreams of European domination impossible to realize.
We Tease the U.N...

Parody blog updated.
Keeping Body & Soul Together

It's funny how creatures composed of body and spirit have such a tendency to emphasize either body or spirit. In other words, we tend to become either materialists or gnostics. And perhaps in response to modernity, sometimes it seems even the Church tends to de-emphasize some of neat parallels of body & spirit that she once proudly proclaimed.

For example, while all Christians are comfortable with Mary being the fleshy mother of Jesus - the conduit from which Christ's body flowed - most are squeamish about any suggestion that she is a conduit of Christ's grace. She is allowed to be a mediator in the flesh but not the Spirit.

I was reading the Catechism of Trent recently and came across a term I'd never heard before in terms of the sacrament of Baptism: "spiritual affinity", a relationship* generated between the baptized and his or her sponsor, as well as between the baptized and the baptizer. I find this especially appealing because I was baptized by my great uncle and I welcomed this closer connection. Aquinas wrote,
Just as in carnal generation a person is born of a father and mother, so in spiritual generation a person is born again a son of God as Father, and of the Church as Mother. Now while he who confers the sacrament stands in the place of God, whose instrument and minister he is, he who raises a baptized person from the sacred font, or holds the candidate for Confirmation, stands in the place of the Church. Therefore spiritual relationship is contracted with both.
And they used to take it seriously enough that you couldn't marry your sponsor or your baptizer. The spiritual was that visible for them, flesh and spirit so undivided.

I think part of the reason we're so much more suspicious of the spiritual is our great fear is to be wrong and there is obviously less visible evidence for spiritual matters than temporal. Richard Neuhaus writes of the risk on a much grander scale - of his conversion to Catholicism:
The apostle John tells us that "perfect love casts out fear." One finally makes a decision based either on fear and suspicion or on love and trust. It is true that by taking the first way one may avoid great error; but, if the decision is wrong, one has suffered the loss of an immeasurably greater good. With respect to the big decisions in life, we each choose our own form of risk. Modern agnosticism assumes that our desires are an obstacle to finding the truth. But our desires may also be a guide to truth: They may lead us to discovery that what we desire is the truth.
It's interesting that the desire for a relationship with a great uncle I so admire might be more a guide rather than a hindrance to truth.

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* - An interesting aside:
The earliest citation of the word gossip is as a noun and is dated 1040: "One who has contracted spiritual affinity with another by acting as a sponsor at a baptism. In relation to a person baptized: a godfather or godmother; a sponsor" ("gossip" n.1) (via Jennifer Hellwarth).

[from the OED] "godsibb masc. (f. god GOD + sib(b adj., akin, related: see SIB a.) One who has contracted spiritual affinity with another by acting as a sponsor at a baptism."

...which morphed into "A familiar acquaintance, friend, chum." then into "A person, mostly a woman, of light and trifling character, esp. one who delights in idle talk; a newsmonger, a tattler."

July 20, 2006

St. Margaret - July 20

The church I belong to is named for St. Margaret of Cortona, but a stained glass depicting St. Margaret of Antioch inside reminds me how the church's early history confused the two Margarets. The official history makes no mention of this, merely saying, "The church was dedicated to Saint Margaret, who was the Patron Saint of Pettorano sul Gizio, Abruzzi, Italy, from where a number of families living in the area had emigrated. The area was then called and it is still called the VILLAGE OF SAN MARGHERITA, which is the Italian name of Saint Margaret." It was assumed the St. Margaret was Cortona when it was actually the other Margaret. Or vice-versa. Maybe we could just be called "St. Margarets".

  "This same day brings before us a rival of the warrior-martyr, St. George: Margaret, like him victorious over the dragon, and like him called in the Menaea of the Greeks, the Great Martyr. The cross was her weapon; and, like the soldier, the virgin, too, consummated her trial in her blood. They were equally renowned in those chivalrous times when valor and faith fought hand in hand for Christ beneath the standard of the saints. So early as the seventh century our Western island rivaled the East in honoring the pearl drawn from the abyss of infidelity. Before the disastrous schism brought about by Henry VIII, the Island of Saints celebrated this feast as a double of the second class; women alone were obliged to rest from servile work, in gratitude for the protection afforded them by St. Margaret at the moment of childbirth—a favor which ranked her among the saints called in the Middle Ages auxiliaries or helpers. But it was not in England alone that Margaret was invoked, as history proves by the many and illustrious persons of all countries who have borne her blessed name." - from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.

Update:It looks like the date of our parish festival is in some part due to the error in Margarets. The full story:
"When the parishioners first requested consideration from Bishop Hartley for a new church (back in 1921). The request was granted. Most of the Italians living along Trabue Rd. were from the area of Italy where St. Margaret of Cortona was from. When they requested the name of San Marguarita, or St. Margaret, there are 5 different Saints with the name of Margaret. Bishop Hartley was unsure of which St. Margaret but knew that St. Margaret of Antioch was Italian. He granted permission for the of St. Margaret. It was not learned of the error in names until the dedication of the church when the Bishop said "St. Margaret of Antioch", whose Feast day is in July."
Absurdities

This is exactly what Hezbollah wanted. You hear that. And you heard Osama bin Laden was delighted when we reacted by going into Afghanistan after 9/11. It's what they want. That's true, and it's hard to get your head around it. They want destruction, even to their own country and friends. And a few "martyrs" don't even mind it happening to themselves.

Bill White asks how you make a truce with evil. Good question. They want destruction. Saddam Hussein believed he won the Gulf War because he was still in power afterwards. He, like many terrorist types, defines success or failure in strictly personal terms. If the country is ruined, well at least I'm still enjoying life. Hussein never thought the U.S. was a serious risk because he never thought we'd be willing to go to Baghdad. In other words, we'd never get him. The calculus goes on. They hide in mosques, willing to put innocents at risk because it increases their own chances of success. I don't know what the answer is but I'm suddenly understanding better why Israel wanted a land "buffer" against her enemies. Hezbollah sets up camp just over the border and sends rockets, so now Israel tries to push 'em back fifty or sixty miles...Talk about the need for constant vigilance!
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For our Games Politicians Play file: Sam Donaldson was on the radio this morning saying that Condi Rice was going over to the Middle East when the war was over. If she went now and the war continued, there would be egg on our face. This seems a bit odd. If you send a peacemaker over after peace has been established, how does the peacemaker get any credit for it? Not that credit is the purpose of peacemaking but why go over there at all if you're doing what you can at home?

The bigger oddity is no one has ever been able to bring peace to the Middle East in like forever, so how could it possibly be seen as a failure in the world's eyes? It's like saying a scientist has egg on his face because he can't figure out how to time travel. It's good to try, and with respect to peace you have to try, but it's certainly no onus on you if you fail.
Medjugorje: More Point-Counterpoint

For those interested, you might check this excellent review of Foley's Understanding Medjugorje:
In the case of this reviewer, it took only one sentence from an online preview of a chapter in Donal Foley’s new book Understanding Medjugorje: Heavenly Visions or Religious Illusion? The sentence reads: "Similarly, the loss of a sense of the sacred which followed the changes in the liturgy has left many Catholics looking for spiritual solace elsewhere" (p. 257). Medjugorje had been an opportune outlet for expressing a Marian devotion that, especially in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, had been almost completely abandoned by the Church. A de-emphasis on piety, personal prayer, confession, Eucharistic devotion, and basically the lack of a sense of the sacred, created a spiritual hunger that looked for fulfillment. It was Medjugorje: the place, the messages, the visionaries, the apparitions – the entire movement that it had become – which seemed to satisfy a deep spiritual hunger that the late twentieth-century Catholic Church seemed unable to nourish.
I also received this email in the acceptance camp:
Another recently published book you may wish to consider reading is: Encounters with Fr Jozo, by Sabina Covic.

Below is an extract which I feel addresses very well the question of accepting or not accepting the claims of Medjugorje. Having been there 19 times since September 2006, intially kicking and screaming, you will understand that my feet are firmly planted in the acceptance camp.

Man can never be sure or objective, because his thinking, his opinion, never leaves him. If one doesn’t allow oneself to be convinced, if one clings to one’s naturally limited judgement, events will continue to occur without us. This is what happened at Medjugorje. Whether one is convinced or skeptical, for or against, the years pass by at Medjugorje; the signs remain, the fruits remain. And Our Lady’s invitation to peace is still valid. I do everything I can for people to hear this message, so that they may begin to renew their spiritual lives, their family lives.

The position of the Church or the position of individuals is not the point. The point is that this is a mystery in which signs are given. Jesus had forseen our weakness. He told us: “Either make the tree goood, and its fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by its fruit.”

...When persons describe a witness, such as myself, for example, they try to show me in the worst possible light so as to provoke a scandal so that the public will say. “Medjugorje is bad.” But I am not Medjugorje! Thank God, I never for one instance thought I was Medjugorje! Slander, lies provocations, I can easily overcome all that. Medjugorje cannot suffer on my account, because God is in it Himself who has wanted it and who protects it from human egoism, pride and disobedience...
• Fr Jozo Zovko OFM, from the book Encounters with Fr Jozo, by Sabina Covic

July 19, 2006

Happiness is...

From Stanley Kurtz's review of "Artificial Happiness":
First, Dworkin takes a whack at the related issues of “New Age” medicine and the exercise craze. No, Dworkin is not against exercise, but he does have some striking things to say about obsessive exercise in search of a supposed “endorphin high.” Dworkin also takes on the theory of “psychoneuroimmunology” that lies behind much alternative medicine. In general, Dworkin casts doubt on the medical theories that link brain biology to a whole series of human problems (you’ve seen the ads on unhappiness and “neurotransmitters”).
...
Dworkin is very smart on the limits of happiness as a value, but he may set up too sharp a dichotomy between the quest for personal happiness and religion. Dworkin is ambivalent about religion, doubting much, yet also valuing a certain style of religion as a counterweight to a too-simple or too-exclusive emphasis on personal happiness. Yet happiness has long been a guiding theme in Christian theology, and its centrality in some strains of American theology is far less novel than Dworkin sometimes makes it seem. (See, for example, the index entries for “happiness” in E. Brooks Holifield’s Theology in America.)

At any rate, you can take Dworkin’s historical account and cultural critique in a number of different directions, not all of which agree with Dworkin himself. The point is that this extraordinary book introduces a whole new angle on our current cultural debates, and on that ultimate debate over the nature and meaning of human life.
St. Macrina the Younger - July 19th

Sister of St. Gregory of Nyssa

  
 
 
Her brother, St. Gregory, writes:

"As I told my own trouble and all that I had been through, first my exile at the hands of the Emperor Valens on account of the faith, and then the confusion in the Church that summoned me to conflicts and trials, my great sister said-

'Will you not cease to be insensible to the divine blessings? Will you not remedy the ingratitude of your soul? Will you not compare your position with that of your parents? And yet, as regards worldly things, we make our boast of being well born and thinking we come of a noble family. Our father was greatly esteemed as a young man for his learning ; in fact his fame was established throughout the law courts of the province. subsequently, though he excelled all others in rhetoric, his reputation did not extend beyond Pontus. But he was satisfied with fame in his own land.

'But you,', she said, 'are renowned in cities and peoples and nations. Churches summon you as an ally and director, and do you not see the grace of God in it all ? Do you fail to recognise the cause of such great blessings, that it is your parents, prayers that are lifting you up on high, you that have little or no equipment within yourself for such success?'

Thus she spoke, and I longed for the length of the day to be further extended, that she might never cease delighting our ears with sweetness. But the voice of the choir was summoning us to the evening service, and sending me to church, the great one retired once more to God in prayer."
  "One of St. John Bosco's most famous prophetic dreams apparently casts light on the triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart...He saw the Catholic Church as a great ship, with a future Pope as its captain in the midst of storms, being increasingly attacked by irreligious forces, as other boats, representing persecutions of all sorts, seemed about to destroy it. But at the last moment, the Pope managed to steer his ship towards the two great columns, one representing the Eucharist and the other the Blessed Virgin, and a great period of peace then descended on the Church and the world." - Donal Foley
Post-Medjugorje Post Thoughts

A good line to recall along with "treat every day as if your last" is "treat every post as if it'll get picked up by a popular blogger". Dom was nice enough to have linked to my Medjugorje post and now I wish I'd been more careful, grammatically and otherwise. I don't think this post will get picked up by the AP (the "AP" meaning someone like Amy Welborn or Dom or Mark Shea) so I can relaxx (intentional sic).

I finished Foley's Understanding Medjugorje last night under a self-imposed deadline. (My mom is coming to visit from Cincy this weekend, so I'd planned on giving her the book since she's keenly interested in Medjugorje.) I added a long update to the review here.

July 18, 2006

Excerpts of a Dick Davis Poem (from A Trick of Sunlight)
Shun Chardonnay — the bottle might be pretty
But its bouquet’s distinctly eau-de-kitty...

Don’t risk the riesling — not, that is, unless you
Know alcoholic Kool-Aid won’t distress you
Choose nothing then, put all your icky picks back,
And cross the aisle to buy a Miller six-pack.
         

Of course, Uncle Gilbert [Chesterton], for his rousing defence of penny dreadfuls and the "low" literary tradition from which Alex Rider springs, is also a great advocate for good literature. It is reading literature which saves a man from being merely modern (just as it is the Catholic Church which saves a man from the even more degrading slavery of being just a child of his times)...Books which have been read over hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years are what save us from being trapped in the glass case of our age. Perhaps there is no practical reason to read something that does not seem to directly concern one's generation. Yet even in this sphere the heart will have reasons beyond the understanding of reason. -- Sancta Sanctis

At this point, I'd say the data is inconclusive about future trends, but it doesn't leave me feeling altogether sanguine about things a decade or two out. Not that I see widescale martrydom in the offing, but I wouldn't be astonished at legal prosecution of various now-legal, faith-based actions. - Tom of Disputations on the future of Christianity in America

Go to Holy Communion even when you feel luke-warm, leaving everything in God's hands. The more my sickness debilitates me, the more urgently do I need a doctor. - St. Bonaventure

I began to say, “Lord, show me your Will…I will do it”. It led me to enter the seminary at 23. Now, the seminary was a good time, and I enjoyed my years there. But, it was also a great struggle for me. The whole celibacy thing was huge! It was all so new, after the life I had led. For about 10 years, I ran from it, leaving the seminary twice. It wasn’t until two years ago that I finally realized that celibacy is a gift that God is offering me, and I embraced it. Now, the joy of living this gift as a priest is indescribable! ....[F]or so many years I was begging God to show me His Will. If God doesn’t make His Will very clear to us, trying to discern It can be the hardest thing in life! I prayed, “Lord, show me my bride. Whether it’s a woman and family in marriage or a parish family as a priest, just show me the one to whom I’m supposed to give my life”. - Fr. Greg of "St Andrew Q&A"

I love everything about the Highland Games, but what I love most -- and forget when I'm not there -- is how much they make me understand who I am.  There really is something to DNA.  Or blood, in more romantic terms.  As I wrote in an episode of Judging Amy, you can take a Boston Terrier to France, but it will still be a Boston Terrier.  Or as my mother used to say, "You can put your shoes in the overn, but that don't make them biscuits." - Karen of "Some Have Hats"

Dialogues of the Carmelites is based on an actual series of events from the last days of the French Revolution. Like another increasingly popular twentieth century opera, it is a compelling drama in which each scene is another turn of the screw. But here, as the terror mounts, a theological argument is argued ever more clearly and cogently. Bernanos [the librettist] took a diary by Mother Marie, the only survivor among the sisters, and a German novella by Gertrud von le Fort (who projected herself on the events as Blanche de la Force), and turned them into a statement about the centuries-old Christian doctrine of the Communion of Saints: all believers, living and dead, are bound together in a community, in which one member can win grace for another. Bernanos heightened this to say in effect that one believer could die another's death for him (or her). So in the opera the old Prioress dies Blanche's fearful death for her, while Blanche receives the calm death the old Prioress might have had. Similarly the new prioress, who did not take the vow of martyrdom, dies the death of Mother Marie, who imposed the vow but was not called to fulfill it. The young novice Constance all but predicts this will happen: "We die not for ourselves alone, but for one another. Sometimes even in the place of another." These exchanges of grace are the real "dialogues" of the Carmelites. - from Fr. M. Owen Lee's Operagoer's Guide via "Ten Reasons"

California is about to introduce an animal tethering law, making it illegal to chain or tether a dog for more than three hours - a law that that would instantly criminalize 2/3 of the population of Orland. What is it about this need to regulate everything and everybody? Why can't the park just hire a patrol force to evict troublemakers and leave the rest of us alone? If we must have park regulations (and I concede that we must), let's start at the basic level of "no bikinis" and work up from there. Catholic societies, being inherently patriarchal, rely more on authority invested in persons: popes, bishops, kings, princes, and magistrates. Protestant societies, being in a state of perpetual rebellion against the very idea of authority invested in persons, rely instead upon laws, policies, procedures, rules and regulations...Laws will inevitably multiply absent any personal authority capable of discerning troublemakers from ordinary people just living normal lives. - Jeff of Hallowed Ground

How can you believe that your President killed 2,000 people and in between bitching about this, just carry on buying your vente latte and so forth? I would have to be literally locked up, as a danger to myself and others. That's why I think a lot of this is just adolescent style posturing on the part of conspirazoids. They want to bitch about their dad but still want to use the pool and borrow the car. - Kathy Shaidle of "Relapsed Catholic" on those who think Bush was behind 9/11

WWJAMMD: What would Jesus and Mary Magdalene Do? - Korretiv

We awoke in the up-sprung morning-
Outside air of after-rain filled our heads
Flooded under the oaks and pines
Slow paced nodding breathing in
The smell: memory condensed
Of mornings beyond count past
Under new rain-washed skies
Soil singing in its fresh-found embrace-
And all the things only the smelling of can contain
(How much deeper than words some things work
Unlocked inside of us unspoiled yet)
Rain-loosened lauds this, seeping from the soil
Gathering to God and speaking clear, distinct
Memory of Him, too, soft sudden immediacy.
___

And I wonder: are my roots well-set
Unrattled by storm and displacement?
Is there some strong cup yet for me to drink
Sorrow and joy mingled, equal measure?

- Jonathan Allen of "Manalive!"

Like glasses that magnify objects, the Holy Spirit shows us good and evil on a large scale. With the Holy Spirit we see everything in its true proportions; we see the greatness of the least actions done for God, and the greatness of the least faults. As a watchmaker with his glasses distinguishes the most minute wheels of a watch, so we, with the light of the Holy Ghost, distinguish all the details of our poor life. Then the smallest imperfections appear very great, the least sins inspire us with horror. - St. John Vianney
July 18th - St. Camillus of Lellis (1550-1614)

   "The figure on this crucifix, which is venerated in the Church of Mary Magdalene in Rome, is the one which in 1582 detached it's arm and comforted St.Camillus de Lellis with these words 'Take Courage, faint-hearted one. Continue the work you have begun. I will be with you because it is my work.' --from here.
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"In the sick he saw the person of Christ. His reverence in their presence was as a great as if he were really and truly in the presence of his Lord."

July 17, 2006

Various &/or Sundry

Risk, like pornography, would seem to be in the eye of the beholder. While I often risk riding my (unmotorized) bicycle without helmet, I cringe when I see motorcyclists do the same. The Roethlisberger Effect might well be muted since about 10 of the last 12 cyclists I've seen weren't wearing helmets.
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I am transfixed by this post, a sort of hyp-mo-tizing call & response that is especially entertaining if you're not among the participants. I especially liked the "You DO NOT deserve the movies" part, which I mentally translate as "You DO NOT deserve this blog". The comments are excellent too. Tom writes, "It's a bit sad to see Zippy descend to "guns of the police"-level cant, but at least he does so on a point he's mistaken on anyway." Devastating. Kathy zooms in with "I never would have pegged you for such a philistine." Can scotch drinkers ever be philistines? Or is it only those who read Aquinas?
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On a serious note, I pray ol' KTC is doing well. Her virtual imprisonment continues.
PP Exercises My Surprise Muscle

Over the weekend we looked after my sister-in-law's dog, an animal I refer to as "terrorist" given her propensity to drop little turd land mines all over the house.

Today I see that I'm not the only one contributing to the watering down of the word "terrorist": this is truly ridiculous. And just when I thought I couldn't be surprised...
A Good Mystery

Even if you aren't that much interested in the subject, Foley's Understanding Medjugorje is turning out to be a page-turner simply because of the inherent desire for an explanation of a mystery.

And Foley's book (contra Medjugorje) is especially interesting because he makes the case that this is not your father's Virgin Mary; this apparition portrays a kindler/gentler almost indecisive Mary. Even something as seemingly innocuous as the Gospa's "Thank you for responding to my call" is something Foley sees as not Mary's character because it turns the tables by suggesting we're doing her a favor. She is more eager to please, it seems, than the Mary of previous apparitions. Certainly the consistency of appearances would show a desire to please, an almost automaton desire. (Foley suggests the very number of appearances limits the chance it is real but as Catholics we believe that the grace of the sacraments occurs in an almost automation-like fashion so I don't see how the frequency matters.) Foley makes an excellent point when he mentions how the relation between the visionaries and the Gospa is one in which the former seem to be taking much of the initiative. At Fatima and Lourdes the Virgin seemed more in control and that seems more in keeping with the reality of the dignity of her station.

Back in the early '90s I considered Medjuorje definitely true and a great gift. There was something very consoling about an on-going apparition, and the constant attention of our Mother seemed like what we needed. If it was not in character with other Marian apparitions I thought this an example of God "talking to us where we're at"; in other words, condescending so that more souls might be saved (i.e. more flies are caught with honey than with vinegar). This was in line with Vatican II's "kindler/gentler" approach (i.e. no anathemnas). Medjugorje seemed a similar attempt to reach out to the world. But Foley is pretty persuasive, and we've seen that spirit of Vatican II's excesses were a bit, shall we say, excessive.

I've only read the first third of the book but it is going to be interesting how he marries the diabolic element with the apparent good fruits of Medjugorje. My theory is that even if the apparition began as demonic, false apparition, when the Charismatics came they brought with them the good fruit.

Ultimately I'm still not sure what to make of Medjugorje. Mark Shea is agnostic on it, and the great Benedict Groeschel is similarly not sure, at least according to Randall Sullivan's book. And Groeschel especially is obviously far more qualified than me to make the call.

Update: Finished this clear and well-written book. At first I was skeptical of Foley's motives, since he's a Fatima patron and the book could be motivated by jealousy over the attention Medjugorje was getting compared to Fatima. (But almost by definition no one is going to wade through five billion messages unless they are to some extent passionately for or against the apparition.) But Foley does something refreshingly rare: he addresses the over side's concerns. He doesn't ignore the "good fruits" as he presents a lawyerly, objective case.

The devastingly effective paragraph is when he shows that Christ asks us to judge the truthfulness of a prophet not by the good that may come out of what they do, but by the fruits of the prophet himself - the seers in this case. Foley alters the focus from whether the apparition has been a force for good to the seers themselves, since when people come to Medjuogorje with open hearts God will not deny them conversional graces. It had been apparent to me for awhile that the seers were not St. Bernadettes or the Sr. Lucias or Juan Diegos, but I wondered whether that was simply the case that they are simply a product of our mediocre age. Of course it's not as though God can't find any Sr. Lucias or St. Bernadettes today; it's not as if there are no saints in our age. But I wondered if God was showing us, through them, that you don't have to be a saint in order to be "capax Dei" or have a vision.

Foley makes another good point when he sees Medjugorje as a warm porch on freezing day. People walking in from the cold appreciate the warmth momentarily but eventually become cold again since it is warm only by comparison. Ultimately they need to come in the house, i.e the Church with the sacramental conduits of grace. Back when I first heard of the apparition, back in the early '90s, I was touched by it. God still cares, I thought. Looking back, perhaps Medjuorje had a role in helping me be more open and attentive to God. His mother was appearing at Medjugorje helped spike my interest in religion, including picking up a certain book the pope wrote...("Crossing the Threshold of Hope")...and the rest was history.

It's interesting how pastoral situations work. I was a beneficiary of a "pastoral solution" in this case. Most bloggers operate completely anti-pastorally; we tell the truth (as we see it!) without much regard for who is listening. If you "can't handle the truth" then...well... The Vatican seems a bit more sympathetic to how harsh truths will be received. But now I'm strongly skeptical of Medjuorje. And I plan on doing a Fatima-inspired First Saturday devotion.

July 16, 2006

Beerology

This will be of limited interest, but I'm always attempting to discern the correct (if idiosyncratic) ratio of beers between the three major "beer food groups": dark beers, pilsners and Guinness.

Regarding pilsners, I drank Busch Light when I 'wore a younger man's clothes' (and had a younger man's salary) and it's fine as far as pilsners go. To tell the truth, I can't tell much of a difference between them, although Miller has a distinctive taste. I see pilsners as good thirst quenchers, good "after-beer" beers, and good for variety. As we shall see, the need for thirst-quenching, after-beer beers and variety is very limited.

Right now for me the correct ratio of the three beer groups is approximately 6-4-1, dark beers-Guinness-pilsner. I know this is heresy given my Irish heritage, but I do have some German in me. (In fact, only a German would categorize beers and then tally them into ratios. The true Irishman would drink up all the Guinness and Jameson and then write weepy poems commemorating their demise.) My favorite darks are: St. Pauli Girl Dark, Heineken Dark and Beck's Dark. The correct ratio of these dark beers is approximately 4-1-3 respectively. If I have on hand a six of Beck's Dark or St. Pauli Girl and a 4 of Guinness, I'm happy.

Guinness, of course, is a mainstay and actually a good complement to the darks. It's lighter in flavor and easier going down. The pilsners are mostly "break in case of emergency" beers, and necessary to have around when non-dark beer drinkers visit. They taste good after you've had too much dark beer the day or two before. And sometimes I'll have one just for variety's sake, though a little variety goes a long way. (Gosh I sound like a beer snob.)
Pope G. Will I

ABC's This Week shows its exquisite fairness by the whole panel piling on against Bush's stem cell research veto.

Sam Donaldson expresses incredulity. "This is a way to save lives!", by gosh! Has he heard the phrase the end doesn't justify the means? Are we at the point in history where you have to faith in God in order to assent to that phrase? The ends always justify the means in a secular society. "Get 'er done!" as they say, it doesn't matter how you get 'er done. But that means ultimately the only arguments we will be left with in the public square are religious ones. By the year 2050 we'll be saying something like, "being against the killing of infants is a religious argument."

Cokie Roberts, on the other hand, is ever the practical one. No support from this Catholic: "It's already happening so let's regulate it."

George Will warns that the Republican party will be seen as incompatible with science. But not religion, he's quick to add. Religion isn't incompatible with science it's true. But in Will's view it seems the fact that Catholic bishops have come out strongly against embryonic stem cell research implies that the Catholic bishops are not acting religiously (since being against embryonic stem cell research is anti-science and religion is not anti-science and so anyone in the name of religion who is against embryonic stem cell research is thus not espousing true religion).

July 14, 2006

Now You Tell Me: "Touch Not, Taste Not, Handle Not"

From here:

HAWES, Joel, D.D. Lectures to Young Men, on the Formation of Character, &c. Originally Addressed to the Young Men of Hartford and New Haven, and Published at Their United Request. With an Additional Lecture on Reading. Hartford: Wm. Jas. Hamersley, 1851.

Later printing, first published in 1829. 12mo, contemporary blind- and gilt-stamped blue cloth, a.e.g. 128 pp. Spine ends slightly worn, some soiling to the binding, contemporary and later ownership notes on the flyleaf, but overall about very good.

A fairly dour volume of admonition and advice. In the chapter on reading the author cautions us to watch what we read, especially during the "spring season of life" (for him that was age fourteen to twenty-one), because, as he says, "A person may be ruined by reading a single volume." His advice about novels is "touch not, taste not, handle not." [5510] $40
Flannery O'Connor Blog...

...updated.
Summer Lush

Summer is like whiskey to me. Was it Gen'l Lee or Jackson who said that he didn't drink spirits because he "liked it too much"? Surely the same could be said of me in this season of sun when I'm driven with a high fever to collect experiences for experience's sake (oh vanity of vanities), beginning in May when I wandered amid the Savannah-like streets of German Village after seeing an outdoor performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

That was the beginning of my ruin. "Ruined by reading" goes the phrase but who isn't ruined by summer? It's hardwired in us to seek that which is given and then held back - the body, for example, puts on more fat after long fasts than it otherwise would, actually treating generic calories differently afterwards. So too, I suppose, the God-seeker who hungry in this life finds her reward in the next that much more to her appetite, given the keenness of her earthly appetite.

Running helps. It helps slake this gelatinous summer upon which I so gluttonously gorge! (Bulwer-Lytton here I come!) I run by the soul-deadening architecture of the Convention Center, the cement block so denigrated by the UK Times columnist covering the Episcopalian convention. It's so drab and dreary that it feels intentional, as if it its plainness was done purposely. I run later into the bliss of Victorian Village with its pleasing hidden-nook-and-cranny houses fastidiously enclosed by ornate black iron fences. I think: do I like this better simply because it's less familiar? Because it provokes nostalgia or sentiment? Would someone in the Victorian Era would pass by them as I do the Convention Center?

I want to disentangle it and find the line between what is intrisically beautiful and what is merely novel and evocative of something else. A fool's errand, of course. The futility of that exercise reminds me of Neuhaus's attempt to disentangle his experiences from his theological reading in pinning down how his conversion to Catholicism came about:
These were nontheological, even psychological, factors in the story of how I became the Catholic I was. That does not mean they were unimportant. I have long since given up all hope of definitive success in disentangling the factors that formed me from the intellectual and theological reasons I gave, and give, for the decisions I have made. Early on I came across and took to heart William Butler Yeats's caution against rummaging through the rag-and-bone shop of the human heart.
It seems the danger of seeking after experiences of physical and intellectual stimulation is to begin to apply the same standard to prayer, to our spiritual lives, where God is not interested in supplying spiritual ecstasies like a glorified tour director. Neuhaus had a week like that once and said, "in the years that followed I would, from time to time, try to re-create them, to experience again what I experienced then. It never worked."
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"Gather the flowers while ye may," and I do, gather the sun's largess even though sometimes it feels a bit...frivolous. Perhaps the frivolous can lead to depth though. Jody Bottum writes poetry, so you know he has a frivolous streak (I joke), and today he began what looked to be the Most Banal Post Ever Written, something about ukuleles. By the end he was quoting TS Eliot and Edward Gibbon, tussling with the signs of our decline and fall...
Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha - Feast 7/14

Father Pierre Cholenec, a witness at her deathbed, states that at the time of her death Kateri's face "... so disfigured and so swarthy in life, suddenly changed about fifteen minutes after her death, and in an instant became so beautiful and so fair that just as soon as I saw it (I was praying by her side) I let out a yell, I was so astonished, and I sent for the priest who was working at the repository for the Holy Thursday service. At the news of this prodigy, he came running along with some people who were with him. We then had the time to contemplate this marvel right up to the time of her burial.
[ From a translation by Fr. William Lonc, S.J., of Father Pierre Cholenec, S.J., Catherine Tekakwitha, Summer 2002, p. 50.]
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Kateri, orphaned, half blind, scarred by illness and of little worth in her own world, was destined for a greatness of the spirit that spans the centuries and reflects the landscapes - North American wilderness, world of the Iroquois, the Europeans, the mystical realm - in which she existed for so brief a time.
[Kateri Tekakwitha - Mystic of the Wilderness, Margaret R. Bunson, Our Sunday Visitor Publ., 1992, p. 31 ]
Vatican Statement on the Middle East Situation

Amy quotes it and her readers have, not surprisingly, wildly disparate opinions.

A sampling:
"Lebanon" is a fiction, not a sovereign state. It is a playpen for Hezbollah. Israel is not "attacking" a sovereign state, it is defending itself from terrorists, who hide behind the cover of "Lebanon." Sodano has played this game for years and Truth is always the victim. I hope Benedict has not written the script for this.

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Even defending itself Israel must use the principle of 'proportion' in Lebanon and Gaza. This is simply the Just War Teachings of the Church.

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The only problem I have with the sentiments expressed is that they show an unfortunate lack of understanding of what an asymmetric war really is. They're grounded, for the most part, in things such as the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which were written when warfare was symmetric. It is a difficult question when civilians cease to be civilians when they willingly and knowingly house, shelter and support combatants. That is an issue I could only wish we had more theological study on that issue - I'm not sure the classic Just War doctrine anticipated it.

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The Israeli response IS out of proportion to the offense. Let's step back and see how this started: The kidnapping of one (1) Israeli soldier. For this, Israel seems perfectly willing to send the entire Mideast up in flames and kill Lord knows how many civilians (not to mention losing who knows how many more soldiers). Hezbollah are "lucky" terrorists, because they can always count on Israel over-reacting to anything they do, which of course further inflames the Arabs and is great for recruiting.

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If a terrorist group used Niagara Falls, Canada, as a staging area to launch dozens of missiles to Buffalo and Rochester (and had done such things for years without the Canadian government lifting a finger to stop them), how much of the "civilian infrastructure" of Ottawa and perhaps Toronto would be left standing?...Lebanon has been complicit in Hezbollah's terrorism for decades, hosting its headquarters in Beirut and permitting it to use its southern territory as a base of operations.

And people ask "why do they hate us"?

It's largely due to the invertebrate fecklessness that runs through this kind of thinking.

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I heard Bill Bennent this morning agree with an emailer asking basically "Why should Israel be concerned about responding in proportion to the attacks, who cares?" he said. I'm no expert on Catholic Just War Doctrine but I kind of took that "Catholic" Bill Bennett could care less about the church's teachings on Just War. Again I'm not expert, just my 2 cents.