October 31, 2007

McCain v. Romney

Ramesh Ponnuru gets reactions here and here:
But let's say I'm right: that Mormonism is a general-election liability in a year Republicans can't afford unnecessary liabilities. I would agree with this reader in considering this situation unfair—and I think his suggestion that NR run an editorial on this point is an excellent one.
The worst things said about McCain - his weakness on immigration and campaign finance - I suppose I can live with if the alternative is Hillary Clinton. Romney's chief liabilities - his Mormonism and flip-flopping - I can also live with, but will McCain's liabilities be worse than Romney's in the general election? I think there's unfortunately little doubt that Romney's would be greater in the general election. I say unfortunately because I think Romney would likely be a more competent president.

If there's one thing we Ohioans have learned over the past decade is that one-party rule flat out doesn't work. It killed us in the statehouse and it wasn't all that successful on a national level either. If it's true that as Ohio goes, so goes the nation, then I hope my fellow Ohioans will not allow the Dems to control all branches of government starting in '08.
Woodrow Wilson: Worst 20th Century President?

Riveting What's Your Problem with Jonah Goldberg concerning the nightmare of World War I.







October 30, 2007

         

Masquerade and costume are not horrid pagan things. What do you see in the Bible? The good angels take on whatever form they like, on orders from God; God and His angels visited Abraham (unless that was the Trinity); and Raphael walked in disguise with Tobias to guide him. Jesus Christ walked in unrecognizable guise with His disciples to Emmaus, playing a gentle trick while talking in third person about Himself, and revealing Himself only at the breaking of the bread. So it is no surprise that Paul had no better advice for Christians than that they should “put on Christ”. So much for dressing up as a saint or hero, or something good that you’re not. But why would you wear a costume of a villain? Ask Chesterton’s Father Brown:
"...Yes,” said Father Brown; “that is what I call a religious exercise…I’ve put it badly, but it’s true. No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; …till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”
Most children who dress up as pirates or dragons or other scary things — they do it because they don’t want to grow up to be pirates or dragons. Healthy adults have much the same motivations, and may well need the reminder even more. - Maureen of "Aliens in this World"

Sola Deathly Hallows: Dumbledore is not homosexual, or if he is his homosexuality is not relevant, the theory goes, because his homosexuality is not verifiable (using some unspecified procedure) in the canonical text. Haven't I heard this song before? - Zippy Catholic on Harry Potter brou-ha-ha

All my handbags eventually turn into bookbags. Size does not matter. I once fit a hardbound copy of Uncle Gilbert's St. Francis of Assisi in a reticule. By some universal law that sounds like something out of Aristotle (but isn't), any book in my collection eventually finds the right-sized handbag for itself. Don't think, by the way, that just because a bag is relatively large and roomy, it is the right bag for most books. Larien's copy of Dante's Inferno was mangled in a Louis Vuitton purse which I was using to give myself airs. (Is there some ironic allegory in this?) Right now I'm using a small leather body sack. There is room for nothing but my billfold, my mobile, my house keys, a black gel pen, and one small paperback. That lucky and snugly-packed volume is The Awakening of Europe by Philippe Wolff--a book about books, which makes it a world full of worlds...If we just go by the Rule of St. Benedict, we learn that "some 1,500 hours of reading per year" was proscribed for the monks, "which, at say ten pages an hour, means approximately 15,000 pages. To supply the needs of a single year this represents an average of fifty volumes of 300 pages." ....Starting from scratch was a serious matter in medieval monasteries. Wolff explains that they lacked not only books they could copy, but also the materials for the books. That was never an issue for me when I literally made my own copy of Uncle Gilbert's Orthodoxy: I just went to the uni bookstore and bought a new notebook. - Sancta Sanctis

Truth shorn of goodness...cannot be true. - Tom of Disputations

Licit punishment always proceeds from charity, and never uses a person (not even a guilty person) as nothing but a means to some (however laudible) end. So when we ask a question like "should John Kerry be denied Communion?" the proper formulation of the question is "would it be objectively good for John Kerry himself if he were denied Communion?" - Zippy Catholic

The coming-out story is a quintessentially American story. It is self-discovery in opposition to societal regulation. It is personal liberation-as American as “lighting out for the territory.” There are ways to tell the Christian story so that it corresponds very well to this story of self-discovery and liberation: through Christ we are freed from sin and come to know ourselves; in Nietzsche’s phrase, we “become what we are.” But there are other ways of talking about Christian life-ways that focus on sacrifice, martyrdom, dying in Christ to live with him-which are perhaps less quintessentially American, and for that reason all the more necessary for us. There’s a reason all Catholic churches have a crucifix, an image of the tortured God. - Eve Tushnet

I never blamed Bill Buckner for the passed ball-more I blamed Bill Stanley for the wild pitch that let it get that far. - Jim Curley on the famous '86 World Series

Several thousand people report to these buildings every day and spend a good portion of their energies and waking hours here, but no physical product ever leaves this building. All the manufacturing is done elsewhere. And although there are definitely things we accomplish in our groups, they're often rather abstract...Because there are so many layers of specialization, the connection between the work that you do and the production of some specific thing that people need or want (and which provides clear value to the work) is often unclear. As a result, we often perceive the work we do in a rule/contract sense rather than in terms of production. Even for people direction involved in manufacturing, since modern manufacturing is very far from a craftsman model, the experience is of: "I show up and do this set of actions repeatedly, and try to make sure that I do them to these specifications so that I'm not disciplined -- in return for which I'm paid X amount per hour" rather than "I built ten lawnmowers, each of which can be sold for $250." This seems unfortunate, though I know of no particular escape other than, "look for a job where the distance between you and what you produce is as short as possible". When it's not clear to us what we're producing, work too often becomes a matter of, "I show up and follow the rules as much as I have to in order to avoid trouble and in return they pay me X"... - Darwin Catholic

he runs as one who wants to stand in place - Dylan of "More Last than Star"

When I came to the Seminary 20 years ago, there were three class periods on Mary, and of course, her perpetual virginity was so confused that some wondered if it was still a doctrine of the Church. Anyone who was bold enough to pray the Rosary in the Chapel was taken aside and told it was Pre-Vatican II and if he did it again, it would become a formation issue because of his “rigidity.” The only nod to the Blessed Mother was the annual Lessons and Carols concert, which was held the day before our Patronal Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Now, some twenty years later, we have a four credit hour course on Mariology tied in with Eschatology, every Monday in October we gather and publically recite the Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament. We sing the Salve Regina after Evening prayer on Tuesdays. In May, we honor Mary with a May crowning of one of her statues on the grounds. We still have the Lessons and Carols on the evening of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. - Fr. Rob Jack on a Cincinnati seminary, via "Ten Reasons"

I saw a great shirt at Mass today. On the back of the shirt was a picture of St. Terese and next to the picture it says "Start acting like a child." Classic! - Curt Jester

I remember watching, as a child, an episode of The Twilight Zone. It began with doctors and nurses with surgical masks gathered around a hospital bed of a female patient whose face was completely bandaged except for her eyes and nose. From their conversation, it became apparent that this woman suffered from a hideous disfigurement which a series of plastic surgeries had failed to correct. They had attempted one final surgery that the doctors were optimistic would solve the problem, but they would not know for certain until they unbandaged her face several days later. They finally come to the moment of truth—the unwrapping of the bandages—and we see that the woman’s face is stunningly beautiful. The doctors and nurses shake their heads with disappointment and apologize for their failure. For the first time they remove their surgical masks revealing grotesquely hideous features. That is how it is in The Twilight Zone: The beautiful is ugly, and the ugly is beautiful. This is a helpful image for the consequence of relativism that impairs a culture from recognizing what is objectively good, beautiful, and true. - Joseph Naumann of "First Things"
Operation Donnybrook

...in which two white, male heterosexuals attend a diversity class promoting gay marriage.

"The eagle has landed," I whispered in my cellphone to Hambone as I scoped out the conference room where the event would take place in order to ascertain how easy it would be to escape without notice should that become necessary.

"I think if we get here early we'll be able to get the seats in the back corner, next to the door." I mentally congratulated myself on my thoroughness: with such meticulous planning Napoleon would've conquered Russia.

Indeed, the planning had begun last week when I'd sent an email to Ham:
We'll look like plants if we go in there the way we usually look. I'm going to try to find my most "gay" shirt to wear. Something pink or rainbow-y. Otherwise they may try to "hold their fire" and not be as outspoken as they would amid their normal clientele...
Ham fired back a funny reply saying he would draw a line: no flirting, no batting of eyelashes at each other.

In the end I couldn't find a pink or rainbow-y shirt but instead a collarless blue shirt. I would go as the avante garde (sp?) artist type, although I think you have to be able to spell avante garde in order to play one in real life. I briefly debated whether to shave or not. Artsy-fartsy types don't bother with bourgeois activities like shaving do they? But then Brett Favre is the masculine heterosexual ideal. Perhaps I was overthinking it, as if this really mattered, but then I remembered Bill Luse's great confidence-builder: "delusions of grandeur keep me going".

Despite the code name "Operation Donnybrook", we'd decided we'd lay low. This was an information-gathering expedition, a brief foray into foreign territory and not a confrontation. If asked our opinion we would give only our name, rank and serial number and say, "I'm hear to listen...", which, in both our cases, would be a first. (Just ask our wives! (rimshot!).

Though there was the temptation to ask if it was true what Jack Cashill said, that gay marriage was instigated by family law activists who want to break up the family, even though that goal seems so base as to be hard to believe. Perhaps: "Can you tell me of the beginnings of the same sex marriage movement? I've heard that ten years ago it wasn't on the radar of most homosexuals."
To be continued...

Update:

Your cubby reporters were a bit late and thus unable to reserve said seats in the very back, but in hindsight it was extremely predictable that the chairs would've been re-arranged in a circle. There would be no easy escapes no matter what time we'd gotten there, but fortunately escape was not necessary. The main speaker was, alas, incredibly good at her job. The gay community could not have chosen a more effective representative to "calm the irrational fears", as they would put it, of the heterosexual community. Certainly it's no surprise that a lesbian was leading this group since according to her there's a greater "ick factor" concerning gays rather than lesbians. (I almost piped up with: "doesn't the ick factor relate to the sex of the one experiencing the ick? That is, women feeling it more concerning lesbians and men more concerning gays?" I suppose the answer is that straight male ick exceeds the female straight's ick.) So for this reason they changed the name of their organization from "Gays, Lesbians, Bi's and Transgendereds" to "Lesbians, Gays, Bi's and Transgenders".

Articulate and very attractive, she looked about as unlike a stereotypical lesbian as you could imagine, perhaps intentionally so. She was dressed professionally in a conservative blue suit and said that she is a Republican. To her credit, she doesn't want to obtain "gay marriage" the way liberals attained the right to kill babies - she wants to change hearts and minds instead of going through the courts and having continued rule by elites. As Hambone said afterwards, "I don't mind living where I am voted down by a majority but I do where a court arrogantly decides." Amen.

I was not surprised to see only one other white male in the room besides Ham & me, and given his slight lisp and lack of wedding ring it seemed we were likely the only heterosexual white males. He was a forceful proponent for gay marriage and said that "the intolerant folks have a tremendous amount of energy" in their drive to thwart the homosexual agenda. It's funny but I've always thought it the opposite. Certainly any energy against gay marriage was merely a reaction to a very aggressive gay agenda. We probably see ourselves on opposite sides of Yeats' poem about the "best lacking all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity." It seems illogical that gays lack the energy, since who has more of a dog in the fight concerning gay issues than gays themselves? I'm one Christian conservative who has done nothing for the marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman movement and not nearly what I should for the pro-life movement.

The speaker asserted that gay marriage could be defended in the Bible without actually defending that proposition. Far more honest was the exchange linked by First Things between Timothy Johnson & Eve Tushnet concerning experience versus Scripture. Johnson, to his credit, doesn't insult our intelligence:
And accepting covenanted love between persons of the same sex represents the same downward spiral with regard to Scripture, since the Bible nowhere speaks positively or even neutrally about same-sex love.
Eve Tushnet has a lot of credibility on the issue since she has same-sex attraction and yet clings to church doctrine. She writes:
If we seek to overcome any aspects of our culture that conflict with the gospel, I’m not sure why we would expect the gay liberation movement-slightly over a hundred years old, and largely Western in character-to be less culture-bound, and therefore a better guide to the countercultural aspects of the gospel, than the Catholic Church. The church is bigger and older than you, me, or the very concept of the homosexual person.
Not long into the meeting a girl in her late '20s induced M.I.C. (massive inward cringing) with her Rodney King imitation: "Why can't we all get along?", saying that it's just common sense that gays marry. Yeah, let's just make it up as we go along. Who needs to weigh thousands of years of civilizational experience against the injustice of someone who doesn't get her domestic partner benefits pre-tax as married people do? (Okay, an overdramatization but...) She was the pluperfect heart-only voter and afterwards Ham groaned about women's suffrage.

But Ham was silent throughout, which was disappointing because he's normally a live-wire and entertainingly so. I threw in comments here and there, such as when our speaker mentioned an anecdote about a guy who was not "stereotypically gay" and yet was "extremely good-looking" I said "there's your stereotype" and she laughed out loud. She mentioned he was walking down the street on OSU campus with his partner when someone yelled out "faggots". But I used to hang around OSU campus. It's a tough crowd. Full of barbarians not yet civilized by marriage or job. So hardly evidence of a great prejudice against gays, though of course I'm not saying that such prejudice does not exist.

All-in-all a very quick hour or so. And did I mention there was free food? I was amused that the note that went out inviting us to this shin-dig said that they will honor vegetarian requests, naturally, in the interest of diversity. I thought it'd be fun to test this diversity stuff by saying that I was not a vegetarian nor a meat-eater per se. I was against the killing of innocent vegetables and plants but I did indulge only in shellfish found off the coast of Scotland and I would appreciate it if he could make some available. Pronto.
Various & Sundry: (Mostly) Minutiae Edition

Things to be Grateful for as Winter Approacheth: It's ez to be grateful for summer.

We acquire a nice room addition (our back porch), a warm sun, a garden, a bball hoop & a hammock. All are unusable by November. We can bike, canoe, picnic, hike until then. There are birds and full-foilage'd trees.

But the slightly more painful months are five: Nov. through March. November & December are ameliorated by college football, the Buckeyes especially - thanks to an overly favorable rating system concerning the Big Ten and the excellence of Coach Tressel. There is also a new season of The Office, the best show on tv.

With January comes a new season of 24, complete with one or two hearty two-hour specials. 24 declined last season, but here's hoping for a resurgence to its 2005-era glory. February...well, I'm grateful it's normally only 28 days. March brings the spectacular event of St. Patrick's day, the day Hambone & I become members of the Ancient Order of Hiberians (for that day) and hear the greatest Irish-American band in history, the Hooligans.

___________


Caught a snippet of the 1960 movie-biography of composer Franz Liszt "Song Without End". In one scene Liszt's lover (say five times fast) says she wants to meet his mother, wants to experience all of him, his past as well as his future. And I thought wow, here's an analogy with our relationship with Christ. Can I say to Him: "I want to experience your past, that is your suffering and crucifixion, as well as your future coming in glory?" Love wants to.

___________


Searching for something else came across this against Calvinism -- it is interesting that the writer fingers the Black Death as responsible for the harsher view of God. Did Jansenism gain inroads amid the Irish after the famine? How can we maintain a sense of God's goodness in the coming apocalyptic times? Concerning the fall-out from the Irish famine:
The author describes how the “immense depths of pain” experienced by the Irish led them to a religious faith influenced by melancholy...Do we in present-day America come to faith and religion from a life of suffering and pain? If we are materially comfortable, do we express our faith differently from others who suffer daily?
___________

Tribal Pundit Hurts My Wallet: I'd never heard of Enter the Haggis until now, but now I may have to get their CD. Two great versions of the Irish tune The Minstrel Boy, one soulfully mournful and one rocking, found here.

___________

Freeware to clean up trojan horse here (to the extent you can ever really clean up a trojan horse).

October 28, 2007

Jim Jones, Waco & Gay Marriage

Why should lefty conspiracists have all the fun? There are some rightist conspiracists and whether he's right or wrong Jack Cashill, whom I caught on C-Span recently, is interesting. And Cashill, unlike the "9/11 was an inside job" loony left, is sane. See, for example, his links on TWA 800.

He was promoting a book ("What Happened to California?") and was full of little factoids, like the fact that the media liked to portray the Waco tragedy as a right-wing Christian redneck cult. Certainly that was my impression. But 39 of 74 were minorities including 27 blacks. If Jesse Jackson had known that he might've been down there protesting Janet Reno's decision.

I also didn't know that cultist Jim Jones killed 250 children. (3-year olds, for example, can't commit suicide.) Who among us knew that Jones, just a year before the mass suicide, was awarded humanitarian of the year by the L.A. Times? That's even more embarrassing than awarding Gore the Nobel Peace Prize. (And then some.) Jones was a Communist who said that he told reporters he was a Communist and couldn't understand why they never reported it. He said the only way for America to become a Communist nation was to bring it to the churches.

Cashill also said that gay marriage isn't about homosexuality, and no one need be accused of being homophobic if they are against it. He said that ten years ago gays couldn't care less about gay marriage - it wasn't even on their radar. He said the issue was the brainchild of family law activists who wanted to break down the family since that is the last bastion against socialism (the family being the institution that gives one the opportunity of independence).
Le Difference?

There's a Columbus Dispatch columnist (Joe Hallet) who describes himself as independent and a moderate. So I occasionally reverse his statements and see if I can imagine them coming from a moderate.

Thus:
"Latta and Buehrer don't like big government, unions or abortion. They like God in government, tax cuts and guns."
Becomes:
"Latta and Buehrer don't like small government, business or the right to life. They like godlessness in government, tax hikes and gun control."
I suggest that he feels free to paint right-leaning positions as stark - in order to portray conservatives as radicals and thus offensive to center-leaning Ohioans - while never painting liberal positions that way.
Why the delay in canonizing Bishop Fisher & Thomas More?

...a question I'd wondered about.
Hope via the Ave Maria

I think the "Hail Mary" is one prayer that sounds better in Latin. Ave Maria, gratia plena! is more inspiring than "Hail Mary, full of grace...". Compared to "Mary", the tri-syllabic "Maria" sounds paradoxically more regal and more intimate; Mary imitates God, He who is more regal and more intimate than we can imagine.

If some Protestant denominations see Mary as merely a Jewish peasant girl who became an instrument of God, Catholics and Orthodox see her as that and also Queen of Heaven, the Theotokos, and higher than the angels. It is precisely this both that gives us hope that God will do with us a tiny fraction of what He did with Mary. Capax Dei! If Mary can rise to those heights, a mere human, then it gives us hope of our salvation and those around us.

Mary - conceived without the ancestral curse of original sin - is more an exemplar of unmerited grace than even St. Paul. It's impossible to imagine Mary "earned" her position. It is said the Irish don't like people to rise above their station, taking that an indicator of pride. This can lead to a comfortable acceptance of mediocrity. But Mary is proof that one can rise above one's station and it be completely the work of God and not that of pride or personal ambition.

Gratia plena suggests grace in plentitude, grace a plenty, grace even for you and me, as St. Thomas writes:

October 27, 2007

Reading Translations

Interesting Newsweek piece about recent translations of Tolstoy's War and Peace:
The miracle is that somehow "War and Peace" has survived all cultural climate changes and continues to find readers—there are at least four different translations currently in print. The irony is that it does this almost in spite of its translators. The best-known was done by Constance Garnett in 1904. Garnett was a woman in a hurry—she translated some 70 Russian books into English—but what she gained in speed, she lost in subtlety. Her version of "War and Peace" isn't bad, but it's not exactly Tolstoy either. It has a sort of one–size-fits-all quality. (Joseph Brodsky, the Nobel Prize-winning Russian poet, said that English-speaking readers couldn't tell the difference between Tolstoy and Dostoevsky because they'd hadn't been reading their prose, they'd been reading Garnett's.) Only two years ago, a new translation appeared by an Englishman, Anthony Briggs. This version is brisk and efficient—two words no one ever applied to Tolstoy—but the characters, particularly the servants and soldiers from the ranks, talk as if they'd just wandered in from a Dickens novel.

Good translation is something like what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about obscenity: he couldn't define it, but he knew it when he saw it. When you read T. E. Lawrence's translation of the Odyssey or even the fragment of the Aeneid that Seamus Heaney has produced, you see, as if for the first time, the potency of these works. But if agreeing on the criteria for a great translation has proved impossible, that has never stopped people from debating what constitutes a good one, or about whether it is an art or a craft, or about the possibility—or impossibility—of ever truly rendering one language's reality into another tongue. In any case, it is hard not to feel sympathy for Tolstoy's translators, even the bad ones. They have their work cut out for them.
____


Pevear points out that Tolstoy constantly uses words and phrases in odd combinations, such as when he describes the "transparent" sound of horses' hooves on a wooden bridge or when he writes that "drops dripped" from the leaves of trees. The temptation is always, when translating, to make things make sense, to smooth things out. But then it isn't Tolstoy. There were as well all the "hunting terms, terms for the specific colors of horses' coats, for the shapes of dogs' paws, for the gait of a wolf being pursued. Russian has its own rich and inventive vocabulary for these things, for which there are often no equivalents in English," Pevear says.

October 26, 2007

History at the Local Level

Nothing quite says “get a life” like driving 4+ hours round-trip in order to see your great-grandfather’s sister’s grave. Like most ideas it seemed like a good one at the time, but I always underestimate the return trip. Not to mention that I indirectly supported a madrassa in the Middle East via the gas purchase. Still it was nice to say a prayer there, to pay homage, and to remember the difficulty encountered in finding her which even to the last represented itself by having to climb a tall fence in a pouring rain. She was as difficult to find on paper as in three dimensions. But her inacessibility seemed appropriate given she lived in a convent in the first decade of 1900 and shared not my sex or geographic location or vocation or drinking ability. Even the DNA fragment shared would be small. Her faith was likely much stronger, having grown up in an age so much more friendly to it and perhaps the dead are more charismatic than the living for that reason alone.

She was a gradual revelation indeed. Assumptions are not our friends and I made plenty along the way. At first I assumed she did not exist. But having discovered evidence of her birth in obscure baptismal records in the bowels of a public library, her disappearance after 1880 from census and death records surely meant that she had died as an infant. Many did back then, and in her mother’s obituary she wasn’t listed. But I ignored the fact that her mother lived till 82 years of age. The average Irish male immigrant lived only 14 years after emigrating to the States, presumably due to back-breaking labor on canals and such, but the average Irish woman emigrant, such as my great-great grandmother, fared better. My great-great-grandfather died at 38 and his wife forty years later. Their daughter lived till the age of 40, sixteen as a nun.

She'd lived awhile in my imagination as a dead infant girl even though that was a blatant falsehood. We can maintain untruths with a comfortable certitude. I’m not sure now how the truth was discovered other than it involved a “eureka” moment, a hunch bordering on certainty, and I wrote the historian of that order of sisters and asked if I were correct. A letter came back confirming this nun’s parentage along with news that her work at the convent was “housework”, which if at first was a letdown later pleased me as if she might’ve been one of the little ones to whom the secrets had been given. It was, at least, another reminder of the intellect’s utter inability to save. She was authentic in her connection to the old sod, in being one hundred percent Irish, before the German intellectual leavening came to the line via her brother William’s marriage.

While there’s the book “Daily Life in Ancient Rome” there are no books titled “Daily Life of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur” and that is neatly illustrated by the fact that the one history I was able to locate turned out to be about a different group of Sisters of Notre Dame, ones centered in Cleveland. I imagine the convent then was like a very, very extended retreat but with teaching and what-not tacked on. But can I really even imagine what it would be like for someone to pledge their lives to a religious order in 1901? I think it’s the most foreign thing, in our time, we can imagine. Modernity’s heavy footprint hasn’t been left so much on, say, baseball or politics. Don't we know, almost instinctively, that it has most imprinted itself on the faith? The designated hitter rule would be less shocking to them than the fact that gay marriage is now openly discussed or that "Eagle's Wings" is now sung at Mass or that a priest, celebrating the 1990 Reds series victory, once processed up the aisle with a broom as a prop while chanting not Gregorian verses but: "Sweep...Sweep...Sweep!"

It’s a minor thrill to come to some knowledge that no one living knows, at least no one living who would care. No one in on earth, including my mother, knew of the existence of my mom’s great aunt. It’s a way of creating a tiny bit of order out of the chaos of death, overcoming a tiny fragment of the obliteration of memory even though in the next life all memory will be restored anyway. Genealogy research is a puzzle, a challenge, and a way of stiff-arming the anonymity that death confers in the temporal realm.

The historian, amateur or professional, is naturally inclined to an interest in dead people, sometimes at the expense of the living and, sans prayers, is in reality doing nothing for the dead. The cameraman for PBS traveler Rick Steves said that Steves’ encyclopedic knowledge of history is due to the fact that he “loves dead people.” The trick is to not take for granted the living while sympathizing with the dead. The dead have certain advantages in their inaccessibility and comely muteness, and in our being able to imagine them with sterling characteristics they may not have had such as we commonly attribute to our mates during courtship’s infatuation phase. The downside of genealogical research is that it can seem a compelling distraction - for no matter how big the find feels at the time, it is, in the big picture, a small find indeed. Finite beings that we are, we can pray for them tis true, but even as we multiply their names we divide our prayers.
From the Jacques Barzun article:

During one exchange, I suggested that the importance of what he was saying warranted heightened language. His reply came so fast that I thought he'd bounded across Central Park and put the letter in my mailbox himself. "You are a sky-high highbrow," he wrote. "Me, I suspect highbrows (and low- and middle-) as I do all specialists, suspect them of making things too easy for themselves; and like women with a good figure who can afford to go bra-less, I go brow-less."
Blogfast Notice

It’s that time again - time for a blogfast.





Okay it's over.
______


HEALTH ALERT -- DANGEROUS NEW VIRUS

There is a dangerous virus being passed around electronically, orally, and by hand. This virus is called Weary-Overload-Recreational-Killer (WORK). If you receive WORK from any of your colleagues, your boss, or anyone else via any means DO NOT TOUCH IT. This virus will wipe out your private life completely.

If you should come into contact with WORK, put your jacket on and take two good friends to the nearest grocery store. Purchase the antidote known as Work-Isolating-Neutralizer-Extract (WINE) or Bothersome-Employer-Elimination-Rebooter (BEER). Take the antidote repeatedly until WORK has been completely eliminated from your system.
Defending Hayek

Edward T. Oakes S.J. is one of those folks I most wish would write a book. He has this to say on the First Things blog:
I dispute this reading of Hayek at several points. After all, there are perfectly harmless applications of the term “natural selection” that do not entail anything nefarious, as when we say that bloated corporations become “less fit” and thus inevitably lose out in the “struggle” to win investors. No literal slaughter of corporate managers takes place, nor did Hayek recommend killing off the unemployed. I do not deny that classical neo-liberal economics stands in tension with Catholic social doctrine, but that hardly renders the “European social model” unproblematic either.

I am reminded of a remark Arnold Schwarzenegger made when he was running for governor of California: he emigrated from Austria to the United States in his youth, he said, because as soon as Austrians turn eighteen they start talking about their pensions. (The fact that he is now recommending universal health care in California is irrelevant to the observation and only shows he is being a true politician, pandering to an electorate that is perfectly willing to make use of “free” services as long as they don’t notice they have to pay for them.)

Plus, I think a good argument can be made that the cradle-to-grave social services provided to most European citizens have contributed to the demographic lethargy and cultural ennui that worries so many Christian commentators, on both sides of the ocean. And let us not forget that other variants of political economy, socialism certainly (and , even more perversely, National Socialism), took the trope of natural selection leagues more literally than anything dreamed by Hayek. For that reason, they are those Darwinian systems of political economy that truly merit the condemnation of the Church (as the current case of Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela proves, whose program of state-sponsored socialism is meeting fierce opposition from the Catholic bishops there).

As I say, the cardinal’s criticism of the Darwinian genealogy of neo-liberal economics is but an aside to an otherwise fine book; but it does show yet again how difficult it will be to follow the mandate of Vatican II when it calls on Catholics to attend sufficiently to the rightful independence of science, economics very much included. That said, his main point will always remain valid: There is no need for believers to worry about the false claims of the science-hijackers: “Everything that is, is created,” says Schönborn. “That is the first, fundamental statement the Bible makes about reality.” Which means that everything we encounter, rightly interpreted, is a gift. “What do you have that you have not received?” Paul asks rhetorically (1 Cor. 4:7).

October 25, 2007

Tonight We're Gonna Bingo Like It's 1959...

Does this look like a purse to you?
Bingo night did not begin propitiously.

Ten minutes till I have to leave and I can't even believe what I'm seeing. Our cat is peeing in my shoe. And worse he was all la-de-da about it like it was the most natural thing to do in the world while doing it right smack-dab two-feet in front of me. In a fallen world sometimes only a vulgarity will do: what the f--k!?

After cleaning it up I put a reminder note on the kitchen board to "google 'how to stop cats from peeing in your shoes'". What did we do before the Internet?!

Then just after my wife gets home she sees me in my jeans, the ones I'd been wearing routinely, and notices a three-to-four inch gash in the seat. Unfortunately I'd been wearing these to work on "casual Fridays". More casual than I'd planned evidentally.

So there was cat pee and ripped jeans but there will be no violins as Kim, America's hardest working bingo worker (she'd be on "Bingo with the Stars" if such a show existed), arrives at five pm at the hall every fourth Thursday - that's a whole 90 minutes prior to me which is equivalent to 3 hours in bingo time. The sheer endurance of some people amazes me. What bothers me about self-pity is I can never quite own it, there is always somebody who has it worse.

The great bingo volunteer divide is between those who work the floor, selling instants or calling, and those who work behind the lines in the 'softer' kitchen industry of pouring water for the occasional customer. It's sort of like we're the migrant workers and they've got cushy office jobs. Normally we don't much notice the divide but when the new guy worked in the kitchen tonight and said afterwards that "that wasn't so bad" Kim felt the righteous indignation that only the righteous feel.

Tonight's "weirdness special" consisted of two flagrantly gay men who set up dried chicken bones beside their bingo sheets, "painted with nail polish" . They said they used them in voodoo rituals. Uh-huh. Okay. Moving on...

After seeing that, the ladies who go deep-bra on us seemed tame and sane by comparison. One co-worker joked that if that's where they kept their bills then you don't even want to know where they keep their change and Kim got up and pantomimed pulling something out of her rear, which was way too crass until she joked that with pennies you wouldn't know any different. Comedy covers a multitude of sins! She shoots, she scores. I was glad I was later able to use my cherished Eddie Murphy line, the one I'd shared on this blog recently and, incidentally, the story of my life.

It's an earthy crowd, this 'un. Kim's mother tells us about her husband, in the hospital, who asked to take a certain medicine home since it had been helping him out so much. "No, it'll make you impotent!" said the nurse. "I must've taken that ten years ago!" he replied. Rimshot!

UPDATE: Kim responds:
Nice brazier! Unfortunately the straps I have seen on the deep bra women were a little more grayish and dirty in color- kind of like they had been worn for a really, really really long time and were actually too worn out to provide any real lifting or separating.
So, so true.
Every Day, Now, is a Free Day
This about the injured Bob Woodruff...
“You can see why I think every day, now, is a free day,” he said, his voice soft but firm...“The good news is that I’m getting my ability to do journalism again,” he said. “It’s probably not going to be 100 percent in the same way it was before. But in some ways I’m 120 percent better than I was before. My wife has even said I was kind of a jerk sometimes, and now I’m not.”
...reminded me of this by St. Augustine:
What then takes place in the soul, when it is more delighted at finding or recovering the things it loves, than if it had ever had them?...A friend is sick, and his pulse threatens danger; all who long for his recovery are sick in mind with him. He is restored, though as yet he walks not with his former strength; yet there is such joy, as was not, when before he walked sound and strong.
Various & Sundry: Arts & Lit Edition

I very much enjoyed William F. Buckley's favorite movie, The Lives of Others. Now I'll see if I like fellow conservative Bob Novak's favorite, the 1962 film The Leopard.
_______

In a recent New Yorker there's a riveting review of the life and thoughts of Jacques Barzun, the last generalist in a specialist world. He was the wise man I recently recommended to aspiring film-maker Ham o' Bone without remembering his name! (Am I aging?) A proponent of the great books, i.e. those authored mostly by dead European white men, Barzun also resisted the Marxist shibboleths that entranced and shipwrecked many an academic. But alas no hero is without an Achilles’ heel, least of all one in academia. Turns out he kisses the ground of the pragmatist philosopher William James. Barzun's love for James makes sense given that he loves the Romantic Era. Beneath the placid scholarly surface must roil a Steven Riddle-like emotional life.
_______

Are you, like me, tired of Germans being the cause of everything bad in the world, including two world wars, the Reformation, the rise of Jesus Seminar-like biblical criticism, and pernicious philosophy (Nietzsche)? Well then you get to blame them for contemporary church music too. But banish your prejudice by taking two deep breaths and repeating after me: "Pope Benedict is German. Pope Benedict is German. Pope Benedict is German...."!
_______

My employer is offering an (optional) diversity meeting titled "Same-sex Marriage". There is no diversity in the presenters, of course; reading the bios of the speakers you immediately see why there is no question mark after the title. Your cubby reporter might well be there, a mole, a secret agent, a spy, though one not too well camouflaged given my extreme white maleness (the next extreme sport?) and wedding ring. (Shhhh! Don't tell nobody.) Ham o' Bone might make an appearance though he's concerned about his acting ability. He's not Irish like me and we Irish are sneaky. We had to be in order to survive the perfidious British. I'm actually not surprised by the way things are going on the gay marriage front...It's not as intuitively wrong as abortion and it's clear that when sex was severed from procreation there would be huge negative societal repercussions. Sad but true.
_______

The banner alone proves that this blog has the capacity to stand out in the crowded blogophere.
_______

Happened across the following tidbit:
A synchronicitous moment, is when a weird coincidence seems to have strange undertones of real meaning. The Greeks with their ancient culture have the word, “Kiaros” which means exactly the right moment.This strange story is completely true and is a living example of Synchronicity, coincidence and Kiaros. St. Thomas Aquinas, the great catholic theologian once said; ”the highest manifestation of life consists in this, that a being governs its own actions, a thing which is always subject to the directions of another is somewhat of a dead thing." But believers in synchronicity say that beings do not govern their own actions, these actions are governed by a greater force than either human or coincidence.
_______

Is a line in this poem - "To insist on dispensation" - modernity's rallying cry?
_______

Another poem:
Man and Derailment
by Dan Chiasson

When the man took his son down the ravine
to view, along the opposite bank,
the pileup of a passenger train,
backhoes and cranes, things the child had seen
only in miniature, now huge, hauling
life-sized train cars out of the deep ravine,
inside his life-sized head the quiet boy
wondered how he would remember the scene
and, once he knew his father better, later,
and later, knew himself better, what it would mean.
Belated Happy Feastday of St. Teresa of Avila

Last Monday was her day and since I know very little about her these anecdotes and quotes are probably well-known to most readers:
____
One confessor was so sure that the visions were from the devil that her told her to make an obscene gesture called the fig every time she had a vision of Jesus. She cringed but did as she was ordered, all the time apologizing to Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus didn't seem upset but told her that she was right to obey her confessor. In her autobiography she would say, "I am more afraid of those who are terrified of the devil than I am of the devil himself." The devil was not to be feared but fought by talking more about God.

Although she proclaimed poverty, she believed in work, not in begging. She believed in obedience to God more than penance. If you do something wrong, don't punish yourself -- change. When someone felt depressed, her advice was that she go some place where she could see the sky and take a walk. When someone was shocked that she was going to eat well, she answered, "There's a time for partridge and a time for penance." To her brother's wish to meditate on hell, she answered, "Don't."
Her most famous quip - "no wonder you have so few friends Lord!" - is apparently not in any of books but was said during the last year of her life:
On her journeys through Spain where she established many Carmelite convents, she constantly called upon God. Even those who know little about St. Teresa of Avila may have heard her famous quip to God. In 1582 while on her way to make her last Carmelite foundation, where in fact she died, she and her companions encountered life-threatening flood conditions. Standing in a river torrent, she complained: “Lord, amid so many ills this comes on top of all the rest.” A Voice answered her, “Teresa, that is how I treat my friends.” She retorted, “Ah, my God! That is why you have so few of them!”

This banter between friends suggests much more than Teresa's familiarity with God; it reveals the depth of their relationship. Only someone in very close friendship with God could speak with such familiarity!
_____
"My love of, and trust in, our Lord, after I had seen Him in a vision, began to grow, for my converse with Him was so continual. I saw that, though He was God, He was man also; that He is not surprised at the frailties of men, that He understands our miserable nature, liable to fall continually, because of the first sin, for the reparation of which He had come."
Vintage Cincinnati


Parade of last surviving original Cincinnati Redlegs


Art room at Catholic institution

 
Inside old Cincy Public Library

October 24, 2007

A Funny Via My Domestic Church

Hate to Say I Told You So...

Who am I kidding, I love saying "I told you so":

Shea can't believe that "NRO is going to bat" for the ad. No: Mike Potemra is.

Know those sports cheers that go "Over....Rated..."? Let's hear: "Over...Reaction...". The ad wasn't even state-funded! (Although my reacting to an overreaction is arguably an overreaction.)
Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

This cemetery of the deceased sisters, each stone with a simple white cross etched on it, is reminiscent of the white crosses over the graves of the boys at Flanders. Just name, rank and serial number, or in this case religious name and death date. If there seems a lack of individuality it would be symbolic since we are to lose our lives in order to gain them. It's the Church Militant, and they were soldiers for Christ.

I feel a little sheepish seeing those simple tombs given my own impulse for personal flourish, often through the vehicle of quoting someone else (i.e. Spanning the Globe comes naturally, funny Jim!). I recall how intent I was in putting something in my wedding program that made it at least somewhat different from every other wedding program you've ever seen. This took the form of quotation, of course, but my wife vetoed this line from Shakespeare: “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married." But that impulse is the same one that makes engaged couples want to get married in a unique location, without the liturgy, and to make up their own vows...

I'd always envisoned a scriptural passage as an epitaph, something like "By His stripes, we are healed", something uplifting, such as what Gerard always posted, God rest his soul.

If you read just the couple lines about the saint of the day in the Liturgy of the Hours, you'd think they were all the same. Try this:
Born in ----, she started a religious order devoted to serving the poorest of the poor in ------. Died in ----.
You'd get much richer detail in Butler's Lives of Saints, but even that resource wouldn't get within a mile of what I'm reading now about the saint in question, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Turns out she's a real person.

Similarly, imagine another Lit of the Hours entry in the future: "This cloistered nun suffered tremendous physical pain throughout her life but went on to start a television network."

Okay, so that's a bit unusual. But it's nothing compared to what you'd think about Mother Angelica after you've read Arroyo's biography.

But back to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. There is, not surprisingly, little biographical material on the individual sisters, though there is concerning the founder, St. Julia who always said: "The good God is very good!" Other quotes (she was also ahead of her time in anticipating WWJD):
"All that is undertaken at His divine will and marked by the sign of the Cross succeeds."

"We must always have recourse to the Blessed Virgin in all our wants, both spiritual and temporal."

"You will not doubt this: friendship in God lasts forever."

"Whatever we are doing, we should often ask ourselves: 'How would Jesus have done this?'"

"The beauties of nature must lift your soul to your Creator. You will look upon them spread before you like an open book."

"I ask the good God to give you patience with your children; all will go well in time."

"Never let the peace of your heart be disturbed by anything in the world."

"Time is like loose change. It is given to us here below to buy the real things of eternity."

"In whatever way God comes to us, He must always be welcome."
From St. Julie we go to the history of the Ohio order:
Eight pioneer Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to Cincinnati, Ohio from Namur, Belgium in 1840 at the invitation of Bishop John Purcell. Eager to bring the service of education to the "untutored Indians," they were somewhat disappointed to find Cincinnati quite civilized.

Upon their arrival on October 31, 1840, Bishop Purcell offered them a beautiful and extensive property some miles from the city. They refused politely, stating that they would never find the poor outside the city. Within a few weeks, the Sisters were able to procure property at Sixth and Sycamore Streets, in the heart of Cincinnati. In January they opened their first school with three divisions: boarding, day and free (poor) schools.
From the seeds of that start came a prodigious growth in numbers and infrastructures. A 1900 secular history of Cincinnati praises them:
MT. NOTRE DAME, Reading, Hamilton Co., Ohio, one of the most famous boarding schools and institutions of learning for young ladies, in the United States, was founded in 1860. The number of boarders could no longer be accommodated at Sixth street, on which account a tract of land, containing about eighty acres near Reading, nine miles from the city, was purchased. A fine church and spacious convent, now grace the famous "Mt. Notre Dame," which, during the thirty-three years of its existence, has become the cherished alma mater of hundreds of ladies Catholics, Protestants and Jewesses-who are distinguished leaders in their respective Churches, and in society, throughout the western and southern States.

The success and popularity of the Sisters of Notre Dame, as educators, are to be ascribed to their own excellent beginning; the sublime Christian motive that actuates -them in all their undertakings; their self-sacrificing devotion to duty for the glory of God and the good of others; their simplicity and practical method of teaching, and their firm yet gentle discipline. The Sisters of Notre Dame, and the pupils whom they have taught, are everywhere noted for their charming simplicity, combined with breadth of mind and freedom from little feminine weaknesses which so often mar the completeness of an otherwise excellent training. The aim of the Sisters of Notre Dame is to form good women, useful at home and admirable in society.



The latest and grandest achievement of the Sisters in the cause of education is the erection of the convent and academy on Grandin road, East Walnut Hills, popularly called "Our Lady's Summit." This enterprise was begun in 1890. It will be known as the "Mother House" of the Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States, and will serve the triple purpose of a novitiate or training house for postulants and novices, a home for invalids and superannuated Sisters, and a select day school and academy...


Sister Louise, the first Superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Cincinnati, after a long life of usefulness in the cause of charity and education, passed from the scenes of her arduous labors December 3, 1886. "She was a remarkable woman (writes a pupil of Notre Dame); "from her earliest youth she had been devoted to the care of the poor. She was of stately and dignified presence. Gentleness and firmness, modesty and transcendent ability, utter unworldliness, joined to wonderful discernment in reading character, were in her singularly blended. She possessed a rare charity; only the God, whom she loved and served from the cradle to the grave, will ever know her benefactions." Sister Louise was succeeded in the office of Superior of the Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States, by Sister Julia. one of the first pupils in America, and for many years the Superior of the convent in Philadelphia.

October 23, 2007

Classic Old Photo

"Books to help think things through":

Thomas Worthington's Daughter

I used to live right next door to Worthington, Ohio and belonged to the parish there. The city was named for Thomas Worthington, an early governor of Ohio and United States Senator. I didn't know about his daughter:

"Among the least celebrated to the contemporary visitor but certainly among the most important persons in the history of the Cincinnati archdiocese is Mrs. Sarah Peter, who died in 1877. The eldest daughter of Thomas Worthington, first governor of Ohio and one-time U.S. Senator, Mrs. Peter converted to Catholicism following the death of her second husband. Her life is a series of good works benefitting both civic, cultural and religious institions in Cincinnati where she finally settled. The Church remembers most her being responsible for bringing five orders of religious women to the area - the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, the Sisters of Mercy, the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Sacred Heart nuns. She is also responsible for the presence of Passionist priests in Cincinnati.

"As a result of her good works, Mrs. Peter has been called the mother of the Church in Cincinnati. Some even consider her a candidate for canonization."
--St. Joseph Cemetery Association.

She also had an appreciation for art and nature. An excerpt from one of her letters, from the Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Sarah Peter By Margaret Rives King:

"

More tidbits: excerpts from a book about her using a handy posting option now offered by Google Books -- this next is a letter written by her and concerns her opening up to Catholicism (she was an Anglican at the time):

Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Sarah Peter By Margaret Rives King: "No Text"

Memoirs of the Life of Mrs. Sarah Peter By Margaret Rives King: "only the one great object but Mrs Peter as we have had occasion before to notice was a many sided woman She had trained herself into the power of freeing herself from any one fixed thought and now even the absorbing religious interest which had come into her life did not enslave her Before passing out of Italy Mrs Peter had determined to make a tour into the heart of the Apennines and to visit some of the old Greek settlements on the eastern side washed by the waters of the Adriatic gulf In her route she was to take Subiaco and Loretto two places sacred in the eyes of all Catholics the first as the home of St Benedict and his sister Scholastica who had there founded convents many centuries ago Her own letters will now be our most interesting guide Before leaving Rome Mrs Peter made some additional purchases of works of art for herself and for her son She says "
         

Anyone who can write a line as riveting and odd as "Fugues fly from pipes veiled in my spine" is up to something... "The Paschal Four" manages to be the most intriguing poem in the issue. It is not content to be fashionably plain-spoken and understated. It wants to sing, loudly. - Meredith of "For Keats' Sake"

Abraham’s whole life points to the fact that it is by grace that we receive God’s redemption, and it is by grace that the Holy Spirit enters our hearts and empowers us to live a life pleasing to God. How easy it is to believe that Christianity is a life of giving—of striving to be good enough and selfless enough to merit God’s favor. But just the opposite is true! The grace that God wants to shower on us each day comes as we learn to receive. Only then, with the help of grace, can we give in return by being good or laying down our lives for those around us. - "Word Among Us" meditation

I try to tell my kids they'll get justice in Heaven and not necessarily on earth even if we strive for it: so be ready to suffer with joy. Easier said than done I know. The new covenant is 'turn the other cheek' not an 'eye for an eye'-not implying we don't continue working for justice while turning the cheek. Just the rules of engagement are different...St. Isaac Jogues is an inspiration in both his love for the Mass (he begged and got special permission to continue saying the Mass even with mutilated fingers which made some of the rubrics problematic) and in his love for the pagan Indians he was sent to evangelize (returning to them even after his ill treatment at their hands.) - Jim Curley of "Bethune Catholic" & Requiem Press

Those who've read Flashman & the Dragon will hear echoes of the Chinese mandarins in Notre Dame loyalists' imperial hubris. - Mark of Irish Elk, linking to a ND fan urging fellow fans not to rush the field after beating Boston College. ND lost.

I think that most atheists, rather than really believe that God is not there, choose to blame Him for not being a constant presence in the world. "If he cares so much about us, then where the hell IS he - especially when we need him?" If you can't see or feel Him, especially in times of trouble, then it's next to impossible for such people to imagine that He actually is there. I get the feeling that reading that poem about the footprints in the sand would not suffice to clue them. - commenter on "Happy Catholic"

Miracles and supernaturalism. I’m not a Spirit Daily [magazine] kind of Catholic, but there can be no doubt that the Catholic faith is both rational and mystical. The world sees a contradiction here. How can a religion which is so intractable in its insistence on earthly authority, and so relentlessly consistent in its theological and moral teaching, be the same religion that embraces miracles and signs and wonders which seem so … wild and personal and individualistic? Isn’t it afraid of the supernatural undermining the natural? Ah, but it is all of a piece! This dichotomy of the natural and the supernatural is rooted in a proper distinction, but the modern world takes it too far, compartmentalizing each, so that one may have nothing to do with the other. Yet the fact is that each depends upon the other. There would be no “nature” without the supernatural events that brought it into existence and keep it going. And there would be no miracles apart from the backdrop of nature. - Jeff of "Stony Creek Digest"

To avoid porn, you have to keep from getting hooked by it. This requires quick reactions. If you avoid it completely, then you will find life a lot better. Porn is not life; it is death. Every instant you look at it, is an instant you are dying instead of living. There is no point in discussing its merits, because it has none at all. - commenter on "California Catholic"

Today I had a choice: read Schaeffer or read Conrad's novel The Secret Agent. It surprised me that I chose Escape from Reason. It astounds me that I have such a desire to learn about American Protestantism - and at the same time I've never been so deeply Catholic. - Fred of "Deep Furrows"

I find that a very Catholic sensibility. - commenter Deacon Scott, responding to Fred's comment above

[Francis] Schaeffer brings a refreshing perspective to the philosophical history of the Twentieth Century. I really loved this book, which is a breezy introduction to modernity for modern Christians. Never have I seen Kant and Hegel summarized so concisely and so clearly. Schaeffer neatly cuts through the clutter, reminding me of an accessible Reinhold Niebuhr...First, the errors. Schaeffer relies uncritically on Jacob Burkhardt's work, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860). He sees Thomas Aquinas as the thinker that set the Italian Renaissance in motion. He accuses Aquinas of inventing the intellectual autonomy of the human person - which strikes me as a confusion of Aquinas with Descartes... He sees the Reformation as the rise within Christianity of a biblical approach to things, dismissing the patristic age (which he irritatingly refers to as Byzantine) as Platonic and the scholastic age as naturalistic. I guess it was fortunate that a biblical approach happened 1600 years after Christ. Ok. Thomas Aquinas was a revolutionary and the Reformers were the originators of a biblical Christian culture. Despite this unpromising start, there's much to be admired in this book. First and foremost: it's theology that is open to human experience as expressed in art, music, and other cultural productions. - Fred of "Deep Furrows"

I am about two-thirds of the way through this book and have been surprised by how it has not matched my preconceptions. I put off beginning it because I expected it to be dreary and full of misery because of Mother Teresa's now well known "dark night of the soul." However, although the first half of the book alludes to that, most of it is about her early life as a nun, her struggles to set up the Missionaries of Charity, and her early days in Calcutta...I had no idea that her messages from Jesus to go serve the poor of India took the form of her actually being able to hear his voice. She had many recurring and various visions of Jesus, Mary, and the massed poor of India pleading with her to bring them to our Lord. It was the view of her confessor that she was in a state of "near ecstasy" during those times, which brings inevitably to mind St. Teresa of Avila. - Julie of "Happy Catholic"

Benedict XVI also told the monks of Heiligenkreutz: "A liturgy which no longer looks to God is already in its death throes." Haydn, a Catholic with a deep spirituality, was not far from this view of beauty in the Christian liturgy when he wrote at the end of each of his musical compositions, "Laus Deo," praise to God. When in the Creed of the "Mariazeller Messe," the soloist intones "Et incarnatus est," and when the "Benedictus" is sung in the Sanctus, flashes of eternity truly break through. More than a thousand words, great liturgical music communicates the mystery of "He who comes in the name of the Lord," of the Word made flesh, of the bread that becomes the body of Jesus. The liturgy that inspired Haydn - together with other great Christian composers - these sublime melodies, glimmering with theological joy, was the ancient, Tridentine liturgy: just the opposite of the "sense of staleness" that some associate with it. - Sandro Magister via Mark Sullivan
Parody is Therapy updated...

October 22, 2007

Clip 'n Save

Latin prayers in the Novus Ordo:





____

On a related note, while Mr. Culbreath's assessment of the Novus Ordo as a "theological disaster" seems unduly harsh, his post is thought-provoking.

October 21, 2007

Ride into the Country

“Agri-tourism”, the next big thing says Dwight Schrute, and I imagine a visit to the Culbreath spread...Cheaper to ride the bike out of town, into the next county, down a road with gleaming horses moving leisurely. Suddenly the brief glimpse of a rider upon a horse, in full regalia, a mystic image disappearing as soon as it registered.

A five-inch praying mantis suns on the path, angling its pale triangular head towards me.

Two trees, alike in fair Verona, twins from a single trunk, one froths a canopy of blood, the other a hood of green.

Two little girls, maybe ten years old, riding kids’ bikes. The sharp smell of tobacco smoke: coming from where? Oh. The disjointedness of seeing pre-pubescent girls, barely past Big Wheel age, smoking cigarettes.

Pungent smell of skunk, dead in the road, the white “V” in the jet black fur.

Mixture of other scents: pine needles...“horse apples”….then fallen leaves.

Skeletal remains of corn stalks say that our own aging is in solidarity with them, with nature.

Pond, strong wind whips it, sun streaks it, replete with the wonder of fish generated within, via birds, without being stocked.
Brutus Buckeye Says...   -clip 'n save!

As a middle-class Midwesterner living in a swing state, I guess my bona fides as far as being able to discern viability are about as good as anyone's. So, as a public service, I offer you these viability ratings free of charge:

Viability (scale 1-10, from least able to defeat Hillary Clinton to most able)


Giulliani = 9
McCain = 8
Romney = 7.5
Huckabee = 6.7876
Thompson = 3
Ron Paul = 2
Everyone else = 0


  • If the socially liberal Giulliani is popular in the Republican primaries, as he seems to be, he'll be wildly so with swing voters.

  • Romney would get a slam-dunk score of ten except for his Mormonism, which takes him to a 7.5 unfortunately. The Mormon issue is a true wild-card though and I can't back this number up. I think a couple one-on-one debates with Hillary and the voters will forget his religion. Flip-flopping also a problem, but he seems to sell it better than John Kerry did.

  • Ron Paul, the only candidate with two first names, gets only a "2" because America, like it or not wants a smiley, happy-faced president, not a "Dr. No". But his libertarianism is certainly bracing and who doesn't like the idea of a little wholesome American isolationism given recent events?

  • Thompson gets the low grade because it's not that he doesn't have the fire in the belly, he doesn't even have smoke in there. Or maybe even a belly.

  • Huckabee is by far the most difficult to rate in terms of viability. He'd play well on Oprah given his earnest, aw-shucks manner and inspirational weight loss story. I gave him a 6.7876 in order to make it look like there is more accuracy in these viabilities ratings than there really is. Huckabee's savior might be soccer moms who want a kindler/gentler Republican but aren't ready for the cut-throat Hill-cat yet.

  • On the Democratic side, Biden is by far the most appealing, but Democratic primary voters tend to consistently nominate the candidate most repulsive to midwestern sensibilities (i.e. Gore, Kerry, etc...).

    I don't have to tell you that it's extremely difficult to discern how much to give away in terms of "purity" in exchange for viability. Everybody's got to draw their own line there. Giulliani is a non-starter for me but everyone else except for Ron Paul & Thompson are on the table since candidates with viabilities of 6 and up I consider viable. I take no pleasure in seeing Sen. Brownback's run end since he was pretty darn pure in terms of social conservatism, but it was obvious he was not even close to being able to upset Hillary's apple cart.
  • October 20, 2007

    Football Saturday



    Besides the victory itself, a highlight was when the play-by-play guy announced that he was wearing a pink tie to promote "breast awareness". That's something we guys need about as much as "sports awareness" or "beer awareness".

    The loss in last year's national championship game still weighs heavy. Until recently the password to get into one OSU facility was "4-1-1-4", the score of that dread game.

    October 19, 2007

    The Retirement Party

    Sometimes just the anticipation of being able to shed the present causes the present to extend itself indefinitely -- so I thought as I looked at my watch as the time neared for our departure from my wife's bosses' retirement party.

    "He cut them off,” his wife confessed, meaning his former employer when they’d asked him to come in for a few hours. “Give them a couple now and they’ll want more later!"

    Like a switch thrown. Like the difference between the live and dead. Like a reverse electric chair. He was on the payroll and now he’s not.

    “I recommend retirement,” he began when the roars died down from those shouting “Spee-eeech!” and as the laughs began in response. “The sudden freedom…”.

    Shoot, I think, he's still a newbie with all the enthusiasm of a convert. Just wait till he's been retired a month or two...

    He was ebullient in his thick sweater, the kind a marathoner wears even in early fall due to a lack of body fat. My shirt was thin and short-sleeved. The lady sitting next to me mentioned she loved living in Belgium and Europe in general.

    “Why do you like it better there?”

    “Because when it’s time to go home from work they say, ‘It’s time for me to go' no matter what they’re in the middle of.”

    "I must be European," I tell her.
    The Skin Wasn't the Worst Sin

    Okay, so you need my play-by-play on this controversy about as much as you need another Paris Hilton story. But I was hyp-mo-tized by the little dust-up between Mark Shea & Mike Poterma of NRO. From my perspective, NRO is distinct from the dead-tree National Review. Internet sites are always more provocative than the magazine equivalent and the sort of comment Poterma made in defending a video which I think is indefensible would likely not be published in NR, probably because NR has an older readership than the edgier NRO.

    Poterma's gratuitous labeling of Mark Shea as 'anti-Iraq war' was unfortunate. You can be pro-Iraq War and anti-ad. I thought going into Iraq was defensible (although I thought we were removing a tyrant who'd violated a ceasefire and not started the Wilsonian Project Democracy in the Middle East, which seems about as likely as waging war in order to 'end all wars') & yet find the commercial offensive. You can also be anti-torture and for the Iraq War - so many non-mutually exclusives, so little time. (Btw, it seems Shea had a different tone about the war just before it than he does nowadays. Failure is an orphan, success has a thousand fathers.)

    I'm also curious about those saying NR isn't what it used to be without really backing it up. (Neither can I back up that it hasn't changed, so I'm not saying it hasn't.) But what exactly did it 'used to be'? NR has always been hawkish and always been a close friend of the state of Israel. I looked up a Buckley quote (actually Wills' quote) in which he was dismissive of papal pronouncements; looks like he regrets it now:
    Lopez: Anything you wrote during your tenure that you regret?

    Buckley: I had belated second thoughts about the wisdom of republishing a quip of Garry Wills's in my "For the Record" column. It was the phrase: "Mater si, Magistra no," in response to a papal encyclical that got us into lots and lots of trouble with the liberal Catholic press over lots and lots of years.
    Various & Sundry: Political Edition

    Ham o' Bone writes that we are "living in the land of RINOs", noting that 6 out of the 10 GOP OH Representatives voted to override Bush's SCHIP veto. Mention the word "children" in legislation and representatives fold like vampires before garlic. Maybe it's subterranean guilt over allowing the killing of children in the womb, but it's ironic given how so many liberal programs use kids as their trojan horse.


    _____

    Even (especially?) government in the form of government schools scam us. Want to know how much teacher salaries are going up? Good luck. Here's something from a candidate for the school board:
    A key sentence in the newspaper story [about school salary negotiations] was this:
    The first wage increase negotiated for the teachers took place in January 2005 with a 3.5 percent hike, followed by a 3.65 percent raise in 2006 and again in 2007.
    As I alerted readers in an earlier post, this is not the whole truth. The members of the teachers’ union get two raises each year. The first, the one noted in this story, is the amount that the entire payscale is raised.

    A teacher with a Master’s degree and 10 years of service in 2006 becomes in 2007 a teacher with a Master’s degree and 11 years of service... [The actual increase in pay] becomes 7.95%. When $96 million of our annual operating budget goes to pay salaries, the difference between 3.65% and 7.95% is $4 million per year. Isn’t that worth more complete disclosure? This is my #1 complaint about the way our school system is run – the leaders hide the truth.
    Meanwhile, here's a remarkably accurate summary of the glossy, full-color newsletter we get at our expense from the school district:
    Vote for the levy if you care about the children!
    In other words: "Trust us, because we wouldn't spend your money stupidly!" Bwwwwaa-haaa-haaa! (Nevermind the recent deal with a developer to put in a mile long water line costing us $834,000 which the developer gets to use for free. Say what?!?)
    Various & Sundry: Spiritual Edition

    To ever think in terms of someone being your “project” is a mistake in the first order of magnitude. First, it denies the plank in our own eye and second it is intrinsically patronizing. We always, always, always resist being objects. Rightly so. We are subjects and we cannot attempt to influence a person for any reason other than a deep genuine concern for that other person. The work of conversion is God’s work and is not a mechanical process! That which is a slam-dunk for me - i.e. "how can you not see this!" - can be easily brushed aside by another. I'm too much a creature of the bureaucratic mindset, as if so-and-so reads this and hears this, they will see the light. But that denies individuation and free will as well as the entirely different experiences he's had in life.

    _______


    As I mentioned to a friend in an email, if lust was the 'thorn in the flesh' St. Paul experienced, he might have left it mysterious because it's one of the most embarrassing to admit. Paul admits to pride but not to lust and I do find it easier to confess in Confession to other sins more than to lust. But even if the thorn isn't lust, it fits well, in the same way that myth sometimes fits better than 'the facts'. I think I've read that if most of us could see the condition of our soul we would fall into despair. Sexual sin, because it is so obvious, lends itself more easily to despair in that sense. We see the gap there between standard and behavior most easily.

    _______


    Oh but it's been too long since I've written one of those wondrous poems about nature (I should mention wondrous to me, though surely not to the poetry snobs, or, more positively, those with good taste). Perhaps they arise out of the peacefulness generated by genteel reading (Walker Percy novels) combined with voluminous walking in the shattering-alone places like the hills of Ireland or in the meadows-within-meadows off the back roads of southeastern Ohio. Oh but to snuffle the composting leaves that will blanket the ground then, in November, when we are scheduled for a return visit. You can’t expect magical thoughts to be released, on command, even with the aid of Guinness. You have to fertilize your brain with brewer’s yeast and pixie dust, with fiction and Shakespeare’s plays, with “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” and opera music, with great gobs of nature and not concrete. Nothing but weeds grow between the concrete sidewalk cracks. I need the valium of the forest, the serenity found therein, in order to write good loam.

    October 18, 2007

    All the Things We Never Knew About Mother Teresa...

    ...Julie Davis has the scoop:
    I am about two-thirds of the way through this book and have been surprised by how it has not matched my preconceptions. I put off beginning it because I expected it to be dreary and full of misery because of Mother Teresa's now well known "dark night of the soul." However, although the first half of the book alludes to that, most of it is about her early life as a nun, her struggles to set up the Missionaries of Charity, and her early days in Calcutta. Most stories I have read about her tend to gloss over those days in order to get to the flowering of her mission in Calcutta so this was a revelation. Also a revelation was the "inner Teresa" that is shown to us in her early letters.

    I had no idea that from very early in her days as a nun Mother Teresa was known for her humility, joy, and for extraordinary sacrifice, even when it included going alone into the streets after religious rioting killed over 5,000 in order to find food for the school's students who had nothing to eat. What becomes obvious is her great love and devotion to Jesus and that she is being formed to be a great example to everyone.

    I had no idea that her messages from Jesus to go serve the poor of India took the form of her actually being able to hear his voice...
    Posting Away Again in Magaritaville

    Various & sundry items of varying interest:
    ______

    Saw "3:10 to Yuma". Very good flick. "Even bad men love their mommas."

    It inspired a parody mock-ups of recent films:
    4:25 to Pastaskala
    Tom tries to get his fusty aunt on the 4:25 bus to Pastaskala, Ohio in order to keep the family peace.

    Across the Universe:
    A look at the '70s through the music of the Jim Croce, exploring such things as whether bad, bad, Leroy Brown was as bad as thought.

    Why Did He Get Married
    Examines the life of the Eddie Murphy character who in Trading Places said after a period of forced continence: "I'm so horny that when the wind blows I get hard."

    We Own the Day
    Powerful drama decribing the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes! (Doh! I just jinxed them. Pride goeth...)
    ______


    Uh, ok, back to 3:10 to Yuma (by the way, nice discussion by Matthew Lickona & friend here):

    * SPOILER ALERT! *

    I was initially disappointed by how Ben actually helped Dan get him to the station, because then Dan wasn't doing something really worthy of his son's admiration. It was like cheating. (Call it the equivalent of merely 'declared righteousness' rather than a theosis.) But in retrospect it's more impressive that Dan was able to inspire Ben's good side than it would be for Dan to (in Rambo-like fashion) kill all the bad guys in accomplishing his goal.
    * END SPOILER ALERT! *
    ______

    Friday Night Lights fans know it is one of the best kept secrets on television. I think one of the more interesting subplots is how the girl from the wrong side of the tracks is slowly being redeemed (with some help from a 'nerd' who is wild over her), while the girl from the right side of the tracks (i.e. coach's daughter) is becoming reprobated despite having a good guy, qb-playing boyfriend. The mystery of human freedom is played out. There is good New Yorker review here.
    ______

    Turned on the local country radio station and heard another person describe a near-death experience in which he was outside his body and saw light. Reminds me of a paraphrase of Sancta Sanctis's recent line: "Light isn't a cliche for those experiencing near death experiences."
    ______

    On Cincinnati, known as the "Queen of the West":

    And this Song of the Vine,
    This greeting of mine,
    The winds and the birds shall deliver,
    To the Queen of the West,
    In her garlands dressed,
    On the banks of the Beautiful River.


    -- Catawba Wine by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    ______

    I think I've drawn more profit from the anecdote about St. Thomas Aquinas in which he, as a child, calmly accepted the moniker the "Dumb Ox" than from my (admittedly very limited) reading of the Summa Theologia. Or at least that was when I felt such a flush of admiration and love for the great theologian.
    ______

    Back in the mid 19th century it seems people got married in the middle of the week rather than on Friday or Saturday nights. Two of my great-grandfathers were married on a Thursday while another got hitched on a Wednesday.
    ______

    I was driving through a poor, lower-class neighborhood and saw a not-unfamiliar sight, that of a lady giving "what for" to an older gentleman. Not a happy camper.

    This replays itself often when I go to bingo. The smokers outside are usually complaining bitterly (i.e. bitching) about something or someone.

    Observing the economically successful you see a completely different model. They are unfailingly positive, almost robotically so. They tend to never have an unkind word for someone (of course, there's a political angle to that too).

    You could say the poor have more reason to complain but generally no one whines like famous, rich Hollywood types.

    If there is any correlation between attitude and economic performance I'm not sure it carries over in the spiritual world. There are heretics (Joel Osteen) and atheists (a guy at work) who seem quite peaceful and positive. If inside Mother Teresa was experiencing dark night, outside she was certainly displaying love and joy.

    Osteen, btw, was profiled on Sixty Minutes last Sunday:
    They read more like self-help than religion. In his new book, Osteen lays out seven principles he believes will improve our lives.

    "To become a better you, you must be positive towards yourself, develop better relationships, embrace the place where you are. Not one mention of God in that. Not one mention of Jesus Christ in that," Pitts remarks.

    "That's just my message. There is scripture in there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I'm called to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these are principles that can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, 'Here’s a book that going to explain the scriptures to you.' I don’t think that’s my gifting," Osteen says.

    Wherever he goes, people tell Osteen that he helps.

    "Thank you so much. Thank you so much for what you do," one bookstore customer remarked. "You’ve changed my whole life."

    "You are such an inspiration. I watch you every week. You’re a great help," another said.

    But many theologians from mainstream churches find Osteen's message misleading and shallow.

    "I think it’s a cotton candy gospel," says Rev. Michael Horton, a professor of theology at Westminister Seminary in Escondido, Calif.

    "His core message is God is nice, you’re nice, be nice," Horton says, laughing. "It's sort of a, if it were a form of music, I think it would be easy listening. He uses the Bible like a fortune cookie. 'This is what’s gonna happen for you. There’s gonna be a windfall in your life tomorrow.' The Bible's not meant to be read that way."

    Reverend Horton believes that Osteen tells only half the story of the Bible, focusing on the good news without talking about sin, suffering and redemption.

    And Rev. Horton goes even further. He levels the harshest charge of all, calling the Osteen method of teaching heresy.

    "It is certainly heresy, I believe, to say that God is our resource for getting our best life now," Horton says.

    "Because?" Pitts asks.

    "Well, it makes religion about us instead of about God," Horton explains.