March 31, 2008

Et tu CRS?

Having experienced the '70s, I have zero tolerance for tomfoolery from an organization labeled "Catholic", so Catholic Relief Services has some 'splaining to do. I've recently become aware of the good work Food for the Poor does, so now they will get my contributions.
Classy

Imaginative Opening Day tribute to the late Joe Nuxhall (I've blogged about him here):




Major league baseball allowed the Reds to be introduced in these uniforms, but only starting pitcher Aaron Harang was allowed to wear the Nuxhall uni in the actual game.
This & That

Fabulous basketball game yesterday - Davidson vs. Kansas. I watch so little sports these days, to my detriment. I could use a lot less negative nabob-ism in the form of news and more heroic striving in the way of sports. Today, by the way, is a Holy Sports Day of Obligation in Cincy: it's Red's Opening Day!
_________

I was checking emails this morning and afterwards got up from the desk (which faces a wall & window) and lo & behold who do I see behind me on the bed? My dog and my cat, the lion and the lamb (I'm undecided which is which), lying next to one another.

My greeting to them: "Hello fellow creations of God! How are you doing, fellow creatures of God?"

I'm reminded of the gospel verse about preaching the gospel to "all creatures", not just all humans.
_________


Yesterday was Thomas Sunday and I find the gospel passage fascinating and not just because it involves my patron saint. I'll never forget reading a commenter on Amy Welborn's blog - this was back in 2002 or so - who lamented that he'd never had a supernatural experience of God despite longing for one for so many years.

One of my more memorable experiences was praying before the shrine of St. Therese of the Little Flower and noticing the unmistakable scent of roses. It happened twice in the 300+ times I'd been there. I thought it miraculous though I've always wondered whether perhaps it was just the rose perfume of another patron of the shrine.

But to that forlorn commenter I think Christ's words are so powerful: "blessed are they who do not see, yet still believe". Jesus didn't say, "it's understandable that you didn't believe, Thomas, since you weren't here with the others last time when I showed myself" or "Thomas, I've given you a lot here so more is expected of you than those who haven't seen what you've seen". That commenter on Amy's blog is more blessed than those who have received something more tangible.

_________


I did not know that the Annunciation is an older feast than Christmas (remembered today rather than on March 25th because of Easter week).

Christmas was derived from 3/25 (9 months) rather than vice-versa. And in very old Christianity 3/25 was also the day of the Crucifixion. A fine symmetry in that: that Jesus arrived on earth and left this earth on the same day.

March 30, 2008

Divine Mercy Sunday
Where the paschal blood is poured,
Death’s dread angel sheathes the sword;
Israel’s hosts triumphant go
Through the wave that drowns the foe.
Alleluia!

Praise we Christ, whose blood was shed,
Paschal victim, paschal bread;
With sincerity and love
Eat we manna from above.
Alleluia!

(Lyrics from "The Lamb's High Feast" sang at Mass today.)

As was said by the author of this this new Divine Mercy guide (recommended by Fr. Benedict Groeschel), it's not just a quirk of Polish spirituality!

March 29, 2008

Emmasaurus

Saw “Emma” on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre. It started slow but finished strong. While watching I was thinking of something I’d coincidentally just read in the John Henry Newman bio – how Newman had read some of Jane Austin and said that he found her lacking and that her characters were mostly unlikable, though he liked Emma if not Jane Fairfax. Watching the movie, not having read the book, I concur; Emma is often nails on chalkboard but she actually wants to improve and that makes all the difference. No wonder Knightly, a man as noble-seeming as Newman, was smitten. I suspect PBS well-cast it: their Emma (who reminded my wife and I of Little House on the Prairie's Melissa Gilbert) was plainer than Jane but ultimately grew on you to a far greater extent.
Spanning Ian Ker's Cardinal Newman Biography

This line from Cardinal John Henry Newman reminds me of how Flannery O'Connor said she had to write of the grotesque because modern people are so numb:
The age is so very sluggish that it will not hear unless you bawl - you must first tread on its toes, and then apologize.
Newman also writes of the Catholic idea of Tradition:
It is latent, but it lives. It is silent, like the rapids of a river, before the rocks intercept it. It is the Church's unconscious habit of opinion and sentiment; which she reflects upon, masters, and expresses, according to the emergency. We see then the mistake of asking for a complete collection of the Roman Traditions; as well might we ask for a complete catalogue of a man's tastes and thoughts on a given subject.
These lines are from Ian Ker's biography of Newman; on page 132 Ker discusses Newman's view of celibacy for the Kingdom:
Newman had already understood that the essence of celibacy as a spiritual ideal as opposed to a pragmatic convenience, was not so much that it provides freedom from the ties of marriage and family for a fuller commitment to the work of a religious profession, but rather that the very pain of the lack of intimate human love is meant to impel the celibate to find affective fulfilment in the exclusive love of God. As a poem he wrote in 1833 puts it, 'Thrice bless'd are they, who feel their loneliness' - for 'sick at heart, beyond the veil they fly, / Seeking His Presence, who alone can bless'.
On rationalism:
"Instead of looking out of ourselves, and trying to catch glimpses of God's workings, from any quarter, - throwing ourselves forward upon Him and waiting on Him, we sit at home bringing everything to ourselves, enthroning ourselves in our own views, and refusing to believe anything that does not force itself upon us as true."
Newman on sermons v. sacraments:
Bishop Butler's 'wonderfully gifted intellect caught the idea which had actually been the rule of the Primitive Church, of teaching the more Sacred Truths ordinarily by rites and ceremonies', while they are 'prepared for' by a 'severity of preaching' that should 'enlighten the mind as to its real state' and 'dig round about the Truth'. It was far more 'reverential' that doctrines should be taught through sacraments rather than sermons.
On the benefit of looking back:
In truth I find nothing is supporting in trouble and anxiety as bright seasons which remain in the memory and are recalled at pleasure. Why was St. Paul caught into the third heaven but that he might have a vision to soothe him amid the dust of the world?
Ian Ker on Newman's early travels:
The difficulty of deciding the merits of travelling had, not surprisingly, turned into a problem of reality: if sightseeing was inevitably unreal at the time, it could become real by recollection after the event. He compared the 'pure trouble' of travelling 'while it lasts' with the 'anxiety' he experienced when writing: it was something one wanted 'to have gone through', and which 'has its enjoyment' in the end result.

March 28, 2008

Nuttin' Civil about this War
"Nothin' could be finer than to be in Caroliner in the morrrrnin'!"
Read kind of a humorous website about South Carolinians upset about all the Ohioans moving there. I won't link it, as I don't want to encourage that sort of thing, but it was satisfyingly jejune and the comments back and forth were of the same tenor of our Cincinnati grade school taunt to other Ohio cities: "but our symphony is better!" As if! As if we ever even went to the symphony. Most of us were musically illiterate but were willing to use anything to defend our cause. ("And we have the finest water polo team in the tri-state too!")

Speaking of illiteracy, one of the funnier emails was from an Ohio guy complaining about the illiteracy of Carolinians while misspelling every fourth word. Needless to say, an SC responder noticed and helpfully pointed out the errors.

Most of the taunts can be grouped into just a few categories:

1) Ohioan criticizes SC in response to the website
2) Carolinian responds, "if it's so bad here, then why'd you come down here in the first place? Uhhhh!?"
3) Ohioan makes obligatory Civil War comment: "We beat your @ss once, are we gonna have to do it again?" or "Why don't you secede again since that worked out so well the first time?"
4) Carolinian responds, "Oh that's so original....NOT!"
5) SC: "Ohioans are fat!"
6) OH: "Carolinians are dumb!"
7) SC: "Y'all can't drive!"
8) OH: "You can't drive! And where's your Southern hospitality?"
9) SC: "Why you here if you don't like our Southern hospitality?"
.....(and thus we arrive back at number 2 above in an endless loop action)

Another funny discussion was on the relative merits of an SC versus Ohio education, which was hilarious because each brought out some link from some federal agency showing that one state or the other was two or three places ahead even though neither was in the top half of the country. "My state is 31st in education and you're 34th, so there!!" (Call it "the Battle of the Mediocrities'!)

Anyway, I enjoyed the witty comebacks but was sad that not once was there any mention of anyone's mother wearing army boots.

One SC'r came to the conclusion that Hilton Head is the source of the evil:
"I have the real theory. Ohioans all vacation in Hilton Head. My family has grown up going to our beach house and we are always bombarded by mini van after mini van. My dad hates renting to Ohians because they always try and argue with the prices. Anyway, the kids have grown up vacationing there and then when they get older it is ingrained in their bitter minds that they must attend college in our great state so they go to Clemson or College of Charleston. The rest is history...The way to fix this problem would be by making it more difficult for Ohioans to get into South Carolin colleges."
Divine Mercy Quote
"As I was meditating on the sin of the Angels and their immediate punishment, I asked Jesus why the Angels had been punished as soon as they had sinned. I heard a voice: Because of their profound knowledge of God. No person on earth, even though a great saint, has such knowledge of God as an Angel has. Nevertheless, to me who am so miserable, You have shown Your mercy, O God, and this, time and time again...In spite of all my defeats, I want to go on fighting like a holy soul and to comport myself like a holy soul."
[# 1331 & #1332 Diary of St. Faustina]
Saintly Economists for $100 Alex

Years ago I asked: Where are the saintly economists?

Maureen, our Dayton bloggling colleague, has answered here.
From Theodore Dalyrymple article

...in the latest National Review:
I have long realized that there is a hierarchy among prostitutes, as there is in all professions. My first patient with tertiary syphilis, for example, was an old prostitute, impoverished, raddled, and toothless, who still plied her trade on waste ground for the price of a cigarette. Her pimp was also her husband, and her cries of despair when he abandoned her still ring in my mind’s ear. I have never encountered desolation deeper than hers.

Another of my patients was a smartly dressed black woman whom I initially took to be a business executive. She was a dominatrix. She had her own website and flew around the world flogging the prominent of many nations. She was particularly proud of her connection, if that is the word I seek, with a senior judge in one of the southern states of the U.S. She had a large house and an expensive car and was proud of her success. It was skilled work, after all, and she provided value for money, or else her clients would not have retained her services. Many of them, indeed, were in love with her. She was so amusing that I could not condemn her, even in my heart.

* * *

One might have supposed that in a relatively liberal sexual environment such as ours, the demand for prostitution would decline, but that does not seem to have happened. This suggests that raw, biological frustration of the sex drive is not at the root of the demand. Appetites not only grow with feeding, but diversify with it. The limits or boundaries of licit and illicit change, but the demand for the illicit remains constant.


The following sounds very similar to the Hanssen spy case, where an FBI spy spied for the Russians:
Moreover, one might have expected a man like Mr. Spitzer — who built his career on the prosecution (or was it the persecution?) of very rich men who supposedly had broken the rules without any compelling need to do so — to behave with circumspection, if not extreme caution, with regard to breaking rules, moral or legal. He who rises by moral outrage, after all, tends to fall by moral outrage.

On the other hand, the very dangerousness of what Mr. Spitzer did may have been what made it so exciting to him. For those with such a turn of mind, there are few pleasures greater than that of breaking rules and getting away with it; it heightens the esteem in which they hold their own intellects.
Occurrences in Modern Corporate Life

  • Miss a day, miss a lot: take a Monday off and folks will make a beeline to your desk on Tuesday to find out how your weekend was, as if you might've traveled to Ethiopia and halted deforestation during that time. Their timing is a bit off; for me, on Tuesday mornings after taking off Monday, I'm groggily re-adjusting to corporate life and am just starting my caffeine drip. I appreciate their enthusiasm afterwards though.

  • Late to the 'vator, ripe for jokes: Few things prompt more commentary than making a dash for the closing doors of an elevator. The way this is done is merely passing your hand between the closing doors, but you'd think you'd just hiked Mt. Everest. Comments like, "that was brave - I'm always afraid I'd lose my arm!" issue forth. Or comments like, "I'm sorry!", for not hitting the 'door open' button as if they were responsible for having a premonition that I was approaching. And of course the old standby is to say, "If I knew it was you I would've hit door close!"

  • Meetings shan't last for less than the scheduled amount of time. It's apparently a faux paus to adjourn a half-hour meeting in ten or fifteen minutes. I can only guess that the person calling the meeting feels sheepish if it's too short, as if it's some reflection on him for calling a meeting that might not have been necessary or that could've been handled by a phone call.
  • March 27, 2008

    Bingo: Tonight with Guest Star Moby

    It was like one of the old Love Boat episodes where you have the familiar cast along with one guest star. In this case the substitute caller was a dead ringer for the singer Moby. Kim asked him if he'd been told that before and he said yes he had. She offered, I think, that he called much better than Moby sang.

    The carpet got pulled out from under me later on when a middle-aged lady who was buying tickets like John Daly drinks said she had to get up at 3:30. As in A.M. As in "works two jobs so has to get up at 3:30 A.M." It put the great fatigue that is Bingo in perspective, or rather it left me slack-jawed at how the other half lives.

    Bingo tonight was so busy ("how busy was it!"), it was so busy that I got carpel tunnel from counting cash. It was so busy that we made enough money to keep Eliot Spitzer in hookers for the rest of the millennium. It was so busy that I missed the end of the Xavier-WVU basketball game -- and that's just not right.

    We also had a fat man indecently exposing himself. It's a law of the universe (the one just after gravity) that this always occurs with a fat man and never a pretty girl. One lady sitting behind (no pun intended) him told Kim, "tell him to cover himself" but Kim declined since how do you go about telling an extremely overweight guy that he's showing way too much crack for those pants?

    Then too I heard that Mr. Clean got propositioned at bingo. Mr. Clean is, as his moniker suggests, a muscular, bald co-worker. A black lady said to him, "have you ever been with a black woman?" He said no, she offered to be the first, but he declined. And you thought bingo was family-friendly.

    Another co-worker mentioned the time he was driving 85 miles per hour while quaffing a beer. These are two mutually exclusive acts, like wearing an American flag lapel pin at a Rev. Wright service. You can drive 85, or you can drink, but you cannot do both. (Reminds me of the joke told by Little Jimmy Dickens. He was getting a little up there in age when his wife said to him, "let's go run upstairs and make love". And he said, "I can do one or the other but I cannot do both!")

    So the driver's brother would pass him a new beer and then discard the empty, presumably in the cooler in the back. But instead he was putting them on top of the cooler.

    The cop pulled him over, noticed the beer cans, and ended up writing him a $235 ticket for open container and a $100 ticket for speeding. He said he was "lucky the cop was cool".

    "Sorry," his brother sheepishly said.

    Them were some expensive beers.

    Speaking of beers, there was beer after bingo tonite and I experienced gravely mixed emotions: the good news is they were free. The bad news is they were Bud Lights. And the problem is that once you go dark beer, you never go back.
    Primary Thoughts

    Paul McCartney once asked via the lyrics of a silly love song whether the world needed another silly love song. I would answer him in the affirmative, at least compared to another political post such as this one. (See my blog title as an explanation.)

    But in the wake of his "pastor disaster", Obama's speech -- while intelligent and thrillingly non-patronizing - was a non-sequitor. To paraphrase Tina Turner, "What's race got to do, got to do with it...." ? This was about anti-Americanism, which is most deadly for candidates we don't know real well or who have had little experience.

    To give someone the benefit of the doubt is one thing; to give them your vote for leader of the free world is another. This ain't a city council election. Certainly an American who is anti-American is no more uncommon than an individual who is self-destructive: you can hate your country as easily as you can hate yourself. The funny thing about the McCarthy era was that there actually were a lot of Communists in high places, something not confirmed until after the opening of Soviet files during the '90s. (And it's not pandemic to the left; there are those on the right wing who talk about America having killed 'one million Iraqis' during the Iraq War even though most credible sources put the number of Iraqi deaths at a tiny fraction of that. I think - I'm still working on my personal definition, although I sense that it's like pornography in that you'll know it when you see it - that anti-Americanism is best demonstrated by believing the worst about our country when there is evidence to the contrary. The patriot doesn't miss the flaws of his country but neither does he purposely exaggerate them.)

    [Update]: Condoleezza Rice makes a good point in saying, "What I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn't love and have faith in them — and that's our legacy."

    Obama's speech was mostly painful to a conservative's ears because it showed Obama would not transcend either race OR politics; if some thought he would bring liberals and conservatives together, the speech showed he is resolutely liberal. If some thought he was beyond race then his even comparing his white grandma's comments to Rev. Wright's racism shows that Obama certainly hasn't transcended race.

    I read somewhere once that James Joyce writings used Catholicism, used its themes and could be said to be dependent upon Catholicism for the richness of his writings. I wonder if being black is felt, by Rev. Wright and his followers, only in its opposition to whiteness. In other words, instead of being a positive thing on its own terms, 'authentically black' is defined negatively by bonding against a common enemy (whitey). The scapegoat, as Girard wrote of, is usually one person singled out, or a minority such as the Jews, but here we see it applied to a majority (whites).

    This is why for some in the black community if you take school seriously you are "acting white". Can you believe it? So sad. But that's what happens if you define yourself only in reaction to someone else. You become not your own - you become merely whatever someone else isn't.

    * * *

    If you want someone with 'street cred' with both conservatives and liberals, blacks and whites, then look no further than John McWhorter, a black man who has written extensively on race. His is an independent voice with friends (and enemies) in both communities. I am more swayed by McWhorter's views on race than anybody left or right - here is a man who can bring the country together, or at least made me try to think outside my ethnic group and background. Nothing Obama said particularly calls me to that. Obama's tone is great; but the substance of his rhetoric leaves something to be desired.

    McWhorter is an Obama supporter who thinks that the race speech was brave, which is the sort of feedback that helps. It never occurred to me that black Obama supporters would see his disavowal of Rev. Wright's comments as particular galling. (Although I'm skeptical since I think polls have shown him losing a lot more black support than white support.)

    On C-Span recently McWhorter touched briefly on the reasons Colin Powell and Condi Rice have proved to be of so little inspiration to black kids; mainly because they don't give a lot back to the black community and that they are, of course, tainted by their being in a Republican administration. And they are not in THE leadership role. He says that he thinks Obama having four years, especially eight years, in the White House would have a very positive effect on black children, in seeing the Obama's and their children grow up in the White House. He doesn't see it as a cure-all for race relations of course, but that it would push the ball forward.

    McWhorter asserts that the black family was relatively intact and the ghettos not so terrible before welfare. The Great Society was the turning point. You can say that a government program ruined the black family; can a government position (i.e. a black as President) help repair it?

    * * *


    What's interesting about this year's election is that it involves three candidates who would have fatal flaws but for the wide-open nature of this election, and it's going to be fascinating to see which flaw is the "least fatal". Obama didn't have one until now (I tend to think his association with Wright will likely cost him the White House). Hillary carries the Jacob Marley chains of lying and self-righteousness that birthed the word "Clintonian". And McCain has made two fatal statements: one, about being in Iraq a hundred years, but even more about the economy not being his thing. McCain can say that he'll surround himself with economic experts but that won't fly after George Bush. Experienced hands under Bush turned out to be not as advertised. Late night television comedians are also doing their best to bring McCain down due to his age, so that's another potentially fatal flaw.

    This year it's the battle of the blind versus the lame versus the deaf. Rock-paper-scissors. I think a lot will depend on what happens in the debates between John McCain and ----? (Democratic candidate to be determined).
    Happy Easter Thursday

    Holy Week Homiles of Pope Benedict

    _______


    A Dominican priest mentioned recently that Easter isn't one day, it's eight days long! It's the only feast day to transcend the event of the sun going up and then down. So I gave myself permission to say the Glorious Mysteries all this week, not just Wed & Sunday. I give you, any readers out there, permission too.

    _______


    I think it was either Cardinal Newman or a retreat master who said that we should not pray that we become better, but that we pray that we want to become better. I was reminded of that when reading this from the Corner's Derbyshire.

    March 26, 2008

    Charism of Incuriosity

    Curt Jester writes of the "Charism of Incuriosity":
    I have to admit I find it rather funny the way the media has now turned on Hillary Clinton especially over her Bosnia sniper story. I guess the Senator has not yet realized that she has lost her charism of incuriosity. Normally when a Democrat makes a statement on faith, morals, or pretty much any subject their charism of incuriosity protects them in all that they say and that there is a freedom from reporters looking into their error. The incuriosity of reporters around Democrats is well established by the scriptures in the New York Times and Washington Post and was made a dogma by the First Viacom Council.

    What Sen. Clinton does not realize is that while normally the charism of incuriosity would protect her from reporters perceiving error and that the Wholly Spirit of the Times would guarantee this gift even among competing Democrats, that this charism can be lost when a majority of reporter electors select another to fully receive this gift.
    It was humorous how there was this brief flurry of media embarrassment at being so pro-Obama (something discarded immediately after hearing The Speech, the one given in the wake of 'pastorgate'). So I added this: A temporary charism can sometimes be invoked by sprinkling of incense by Saturday Night Live, in the form of a skit that makes fun of the majority of reporter electors. This happens extremely rarely since SNL is normally in sync with the electoral reporter's college.
    Irish Song Wednesday & a bit about Alcohol

    This one is still resonating in my brain from the Irish St. Patrick's Day celebration on the 15th:
    'Twas down by Brannigan's Corner, one morning I did stray
    I met a fellow rebel, and to me he did say
    "We've orders from the captain to assemble at Dunbar
    But how are we to get there, without a motor car?"

    "Oh, Barney dear, be of good cheer, I'll tell you what we'll do
    The Specials they are plentiful and the I.R.A. are few
    We'll send a wire to Johnston to meet us at Stranlar
    And we'll give the boys a bloody good ride in Johnston's Motor Car.

    When Doctor Johnston heard the news he soon put on his shoes
    He says this is an urgent case, there is no time to lose
    He then put on his castor hat and on his breast a star
    You could hear the din all through Glenfin of Johnston's motor car.

    But when he got to the railway bridge, some rebels he saw there
    Old Johnston knew the game was up, for at him they did stare
    He said "I have a permit, to travel near and far"
    "To hell with your English permit, we want your motor car."

    "What will my loyal brethren think, when they hear the news
    My car it has been commandeered, by the rebels at Dunluce?"
    "We'll give you a receipt for it, all signed by Captain Barr
    And when Ireland gets her freedom, you'll get your motor car."

    ______

    Picture found via Irish Elk:



    Mark writes, "The bibulous cleric is religious cousin to the dog playing poker."

    Speaking of drink, Modern Drunkard Magazine humorously thinks of hangovers like Minnesotans think of winter - it makes them tougher:
    Hangovers make drunks a tougher breed of character. The hangover is the mean older brother who toughens you up and teaches you how to fight back. Don’t believe me? Tell you what—you gather the gang from Starbucks and I’ll assemble the boys from Kelly’s Pub and we’ll meet in the parking lot. The caffeine crowd won’t even manage to throw a punch, they’ll be too busy texting the cops: OMG! DRNKS TACKNG US! HLP!
    My Own Field of Dreams Connection

    1927. An iconic year for baseball, the year of the "Murderer's Row", of the greatest team in history. It was also the year my great uncle played in three major league baseball games.

    Sure it was a cup o’ coffee , but still a dream fulfilled. The Baseball Encyclopedia reports only three games and nine atbats; he was a third basemen who had no errors, no hits and one strikeout. He was my exact height – 5’ 10 ½ and he died a decade and change on the day before my birthday.

    He played three days in May; later he was managing a Class A minor league team.

    What would it have been like to walk into the past, only the past wasn't the past? To feel the dust of the little band box in Philly whipping up on that May day?

    The day after he left town part of Baker Field collapsed:
    "...parts of two sections of the lower deck extension along the right field line collapsed due to rotted shoring timbers, again triggered by an oversized gathering of people, who were seeking shelter from the rain. Miraculously, no one died during the collapse, but one individual did die from heart failure in the subsequent stampede that injured 50. On both of those catastrophic occasions, the Phils rented from the A's for a while while repairs were being made to the old structure.
    Tales from the Cubical Crypt

    Made the move this week from the grand office into the tiny cubical. Seems I’m situated along a major thruway, and my boss's boss travels by at least ten times a day. He has taken an unnerving interest in me and thus removed my heretofore magic cloak of invisibility* (he noticed I missed one of his meetings; I thought with twenty or so other people I would go unmissed since I blend in pretty well with middle-aged white men). So now not only do I have to go to the lame quarterly meetings but have the high visibility of being situated on the work equivalent of Interstate-75.

    And, it turned out my co-worker’s brag of bringing in truck-loads of cardboard this week was greatly exaggerated.

    “We’ll make a shanty-town!” he’d exclaimed, promising to construct moat-like eight-foot cardboard cube walls and doors after showing me cubedoor.com.

    I felt a bit of irrational exuberance at the thought of testing the limits of our corporation’s patience with cubical modifications. It appealed to my inner Democrat. Ideally I could see if he got away with it before beginning my own construction.

    But the next day he came in with two scraggely bits of cardboard. I hadn’t even noticed – he had to point it out - that he’d narrowed the eight-foot expanse of his “vulnerability” by six inches of cardboard. I’d never seen so much promised and so little delivered since Notre Dame hired Charlie Weiss.

    “You want this?” he said, holding out barely enough cardboard to cover a decent-sized book. I declined.

    The biggest plus to the whole move is they put a small refrigerator in an empty cube about ten feet from me. I can use it to store extra lunches and bring them home for dinner. My wife is always very pleased when I bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, er, microwave.

    I sent my boss my lamentation (as seen on this blog!) about the loss of office space and he complimented my writing and said that I have talent and asked if I tried to pursue it as a career. I told him the average writer makes $4,000 a year and that I haven’t been able to write a novel that is any good.(Except for those two minor issues I’m good to go!) It’s the first time I felt comfortable enough to share my writing with my boss, but then he confessed that he’s writing his autobiography. He's finished four chapters on his childhood (“not too much happened”) and plans to finish it in retirement. Comedians lament, “everybody’s a comedian!”; you could say the same of writers.

    * - my motto is “Keep a low profile initially, then lower it.”

    UPDATE: Seems I must've properly shamed by cube mate, for he brought in a bunch of cardboard and festooned it as a sheave around his cube. It didn't last long; it was up all of thirty minutes before our boss told him to take it down. But 'tis better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all. (Image for this post found here; all rights preserved in mason jars.)

    March 25, 2008

             
    The experience of teaching the play [Romeo & Juliet] suggests to me that the heart of the play is the failure of spritual fatherhood - most especially for Romeo, who relies on Friar Laurence, but also for Juliet. To begin with, both Romeo and Juliet are alienated from their parents. Romeo's father cannot speak to him, seeking Benvolio's help to understand his son, and Juliet's mother wants to send the Nurse away, but cannot face Juliet without the one who nursed her and interacts with her daily. Seeking to establish themselves in life, young people need reliable guides who can help them embrace their destiny. Juliet relies on the Nurse, who is foolish, fickle, and crass. Romeo, however, relies on the Friar, who is knowledgeable and wise, but somewhat removed from worldly cares. Shakespeare will not allow us to accept the virtues and vices of these spiritual guides at face value, but has the Friar remind us that: ...
    ...Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;
    And vice sometimes by action dignified.
    Virtue and vice, wheat and tares, grow up together and human creatures do not easily discern among them. Is it possible, then, that the Friar's wisdom could be as harmful as the Nurse's foolishness?...After Romeo learns that he has been banished, Friar Laurence is trying to comfort Romeo, but Romeo won't listen, so the Friar says, "O, then I see that madmen have no ears," and Romeo replies, "How should they, when that wise men have no eyes?" In criticizing Romeo for having no ears, the Friar is criticizing Romeo's resistance to obeying his counsel; Romeo's criticizes the Friar for not recognizing the experience of his own life and situation. I cannot help thinking that Friar Laurence has set his confidence on himself and his own cleverness instead of encouraging Romeo to hope in Christ... He reminds me of the priest in the conclusion to Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz: after counseling a woman who wants to euthanize her child, the priest realizes that he had not preached the Gospel to her, but merely stoicism with a Christian patina...It is only fitting, then, that I answer the catastrophe of the play with an image of the hope that was never urged or tried. When he sees Juliet's tomb, not knowing that she was not truly dead, Romeo describes it as
    Thou detestable maw, thou womb of death,
    Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth,
    Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,
    And, in despite, I'll cram thee with more food!
    Instead of leaping into this maw or denying it by calling it a lantern (as Romeo does later in this scene)...Christ, not mere human cunning, pries open the mouth of this nothingness with the cross (not a crowbar)...Had Friar Laurence thought to educate Romeo in hope (a hope present even in the desolation that Romeo felt at his exile!), he might not have accepted the finality of Juliet's death and taken his fate into his own hands, but instead hoped in Christ, done nothing, and discovered Juliet restored suddenly, as if by grace. - Frederick of "Deep Furrows"; post here

    Cardinal Zen said he accepted the pope’s invitation with “little hesitation,” but soon discovered, much to his surprise, that his early drafts did not reflect a very Christian attitude. He said he had to step back and purify himself of the “less than charitable feelings” he had toward those who made Jesus suffer and who “are making our brothers and sisters suffer in today’s world.” In “thinking about persecution,” he wrote, “let us also (think) about the persecutors” and how even they are being called to salvation by God. - On Cardinal Zen writing the meditations accompanying the Stations of the Cross for Good Friday

    As a corrective to those dealing with anger-management issues and a noticeable lack of patriotism, Edward Everett Hale's excellent short story "A Man without a Country", about a young United States Army leutenant who, when tried for treason, bitterly renounces his nation shouting "Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!" -- suffice to say the judge grants him his wish, the sentence carried out to the letter. The end result is that he came to understand how much he had lost in receiving his wish. A similar lesson might be a book my father read to us when we were little: Peter Jenkin's memoir, A Walk Across America, about an angry young radical who was challenged by an older, wiser man to actually explore the country he was thinking about leaving in his disgust -- and literally walked across our nation, meeting and staying with American citizens of every color, class and stripe along the way. At the time he read it to us my brothers and I thought it was a neat story, a great adventure -- in retrospect, perhaps he was trying to teach us something more. - Christopher of "Against the Grain"

    Making the Mormons Look Better Every Day--title of "Inn at the End of the World" post concerning Obama's pastor

    Catholic blogger Tom Kreitzberg is opposed to irony, basically because he views it as a destructive form of humor, one that is parasitic on the good. But he inadvertently offers one of the best justifications of irony I've ever read. He writes: "Irony has no place in the Kingdom of God." Which, in my view, is exactly why irony is so crucially helpful in the world we live in. The Kingdom of God is a place of love and truth — a place where there is joy because there is truth: "What is" and "what should be" are identical. In our world — excuse the understatement — the powerful and the good are, ahem, not identical. Irony is the weapon the powerless use to reassert human dignity — to point out that when preening politicians lie, unctuous clergymen are vicious and faithless, regimes that glorify "The People" actually torture and oppress the people, none of this is as it should be. Irony has no place in the Kingdom of God — but, boy, do we ever need it down here. Irony points out precisely the ways in which we fall short of the Kingdom — and can therefore serve as a prophetic grace. - Mike Potemra in NRO's "The Corner"

    The whole point...was to give me a creative outlet and an intellectually-engaging pastime to escape a bit from the dull monotony of everyday life and to recreate virtually the mentally-stimulating environment I had grown used to in university and seminary. As I've added other pastimes and outlets and friendships over the years, my personal need for the blog has really evaporated...The purpose was never ministerial or evangelical, although I suppose it has collaterally served that purpose from time to time...At a time when acrimony and and a bellicose spirit often characterize the interactions of religious and non-religious people, I have tried to keep the tone of this blog irenic and to show the worldly folk the riches of Catholic tradition, and the Catholic folk the contributions of the worldly or non-Catholic, and to look at the positive ways in which different people express both their common humanity and their different spiritual visions. - Fr. Jim of "Dappled Things" last post
    Various & Sundry

    One for the Archives: Fr. Edward Oakes on atonement the concept and Atonement the book & movie.
    ____

    Watched a rather bleak movie, “Beautiful Ohio”, an indie that offered brevity given the late hour I was watching it (90 mins). The percentage of characters you wanted to slap silly approached 100%, without ever quite reaching it. I’d considered watching “The Kingdom” but I’d figured I’d chosen the better way given its gratuitous violence. Now I’m not so sure since I skipped a movie showing gratuitous violence in favor of one inciting it. (I jest.)

    The main character, played by William Hurt, was a guy who felt he’d sold out by being too bourgeois occupation-wise and thus felt he had to be more liberal in his personal life and attitudes than the next guy. (Showing again that no one is not religious...we're either worshp God or false gods or some combination.) He prided himself on his progressivism but we found out he had a fatal flaw (major plot spoiler coming!) in that he was insufficiently sensitive to homosexuality.
    _______

    I was recently made aware that a couple of 60-somethings we know are shacking up, i.e. living together before marriage. That is the rage these days, but still it's odd to see it involve people of that age (and one of them is a Eucharistic minister). It seems like there’s a fifth column within the Church, although I recognize we’re all fifth columns because we’re all sinners. But as the catechism says of co-habitating unmarried people, “It is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.”

    I think this goes along with the present day lack of shame, in how there are no "bad Catholics" (other than the judgmental ones). The syllogism goes: a) I am a good person b) I do things the Church disapproves of, therefore c) the Church is wrong.

    The public shacking up not only undermines marriage but undermines all the sacraments, because marriage is a sacrament last time I checked. It displays a belief that the graces that conferred through the normal channel of the sacraments either don’t exist or aren’t important or necessary. If so, then why is the Eucharist necessary? Why Baptism? And Catholicism without sacraments is like water without wetness, which is important only because that’s not what Christ intended since Catholicism is relevant because it mirrors the Founder’s intentions.

    The children are dismayed not by the shacking up but by the suddenness of it all and the change in family dynamics. But I can’t help thinking that their dismay is linked to the way it's happened. If marriage is holy and recognized by Christ and a conduit of grace, then whatever disruption to your familial comfort zone occurs can at least be seen as legit, as coming from Christ and therefore blessed and necessary. Taking the comforts of marriage, including sex, before the sacrament makes light of the sacrament, makes the blessing an afterthought, makes marriage itself seem not intrinsically important and therefore makes this second marriage between a widow & widower harder to swallow.
    ________


    I half-understand Eve Tushnet half the time, but I sense her post on First Things is powerful and true:
    Lovers desire a paradoxical union in which the beloved still remains distinct, “other”; this dance of two identities requires both lover and beloved to have recognizable selves. They need to know who they love; otherwise what they call “love” is merely the projection of a kaleidoscope of shifting wants and preferences. And love makes promises, persists across time, requires a form of loyalty and therefore an identity that won’t slide out from under one. Devotion is an anchor for the self, and so it’s entirely appropriate that devotion of any kind is not depicted in the novel.
    ________

    Now for some ersatz nostalgia...

    College Mammories

    (...induced by an alumni magazine.)

    Pine, pine, do I
    for lost youth's simplicities,
    for gray craggy buildings of stone,
    for ornate chapels and
    a good night's sleep.

    For spacious greens with rises that obscure what comes next
    for crisp sunshine mornings and professors in tweed
    for the sweat-pants-slouch of undergraduate life
    for the lack of parking lots.

    For micro audits while walking Hunter Hall,
    for poems in stone and ice
    rinks and fountain drinks,
    for obscurities, needless and otherwise,
    for endless racks of magazines promising worlds
    for arches and frozen dinosaurs in glass cases
    for sleepy Saturday morns before the football game
    and for the satisfaction of clean laundry.

    ____

    I've often wondered whether the nanny state and our modern tenderness creates ripe conditions both FOR illegal immigration (because until now a fence on the border was seen as "too draconian") but also for a backlash (for providing them free medical care and education)?

    Similarly, does the way we raise kids now make for more reluctant parents? Derbyshire says:
    My generation was I think the last in the Western world not to be consciously "raised" at all. Our parents — not just my parents, ours, everybody's — shoved us out of the house on every possible occasion. People who could afford to, hired other adults to raise their kids for them. The ancient paleolithic formula of keeping a child by the mother till weaned, then dumping him into the tribal peer group, still held. Then [Benjamin Spock] showed up and everything went to hell.
    _____

    I got a copy of "The Story of Our Lady of Victory" for my niece's First Communion and started to read it and noticed I felt almost reflexive political correctness. It begins, "Long ago Moslem soldiers had something evil planned," and it's funny how I wanted to amend it in my mind as, "Long ago soldiers who happened to be Muslim..." or "Long ago, young people for whom there weren't enough jobs planned something evil...

    March 24, 2008

    This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday

    In St. Faustina’s diary, Jesus tells her that He has this great mercy going to waste simply because few can believe it. No one really trusts his mercy. (Presumably because we all are expert judgers but not expert mercy-givers, so it’s easier to see God as a god of Judgment rather than a god of Mercy. It’s not exactly in our wheelhouse to forgive.) Mercy is expressed perfectly on the Cross where at that moment in time God could’ve exercised his judgment. One could scarcely think of a better time. That is our hope – that even at that point of massive disconnect between weakness of our performance (i.e. that of the Apostles) and ease of standard (don’t kill God, for heaven sakes!) –mercy was shown.

    Forgiveness by God redefines us. Simon was called “Peter” in Matthew 16 but then a verse or two later was re-christened “Satan” after he’d sinned in suggesting Jesus avoid the cross. You could say this was accurate; Peter was “the rock” when he proclaimed Christ as Messiah and Peter was “Satan” when he tried to get Jesus to avoid the Crucifixion. But Jesus forgives and the Lord calls him “Peter” again.

    I’m always amazed at how even the spiritual life can become something of our own creation, of how even prayer and fasting and almsgiving be of our mix and God be treated as an onlooker to be pleased rather than participant and guide.

    (Excellent Divine Mercy post here, by the way, from the prolific Karen Hall.)
    _____

    How much there is to like about St. Peter! He is "everyman", the apostle most of us can most relate to of that disparate band.

    His words are so often my own: “Don’t go there Jesus,” I would likewise say. Then too I love Peter’s saying, “Lord, you will not wash my feet!”. There’s something in that impulse that is familiar, in not wishing that Jesus lower himself by serving us. To simultaneously save his dignity and our embarrassment given the disparity of rank. And yet that is a poisonous attitude and Jesus starkly answers that He must, and that is good to know so that we can expect what we have no right to expect. I’d read somewhere that there is a great leveling sentiment inbred in Irish culture: “Are you acting above your station?” would be a typical accusation. And yet level seems the opposite of the way the Founder intends. Peter, as leaders will, had to act “above his station” not on his own volition but for the fact that it was ordered by Christ, the highest authority...
    _____

    Our pastor makes himself so transparent in liturgy and in homily as to be invisible. You could hear a year of sermon’s and not hear a personal pronoun. So it made for a dramatic moment when he related at Holy Thursday’s Mass how the office of the priesthood is of God and the man in the office often nothing special. The gulf can render the faith incredible, as in not credible, and unbelievable. He said that in the past some of his priest friends had said or done things that were greatly wounding and at the time he felt great anger, but now he sees their transgressions as gifts for they allowed him to see what his sins are like.
    Where the Deer and the Antelope Roam

    Enjoyed the rhythm of a hike in what purports to be spring but which one must take on faith given the temperatures and lack of greenery. I’d rather I’d gone off trail and up the hill to the old pioneer cemetery; it always cheers me to go to see the graves both because they are like time capsules of a better era and because it halts all self-pity since you see the alternative.

    Instead I trod the familiar path but caught a less than familiar sight: two deer feeding just ten feet off the path. Only their white-starch'd tails gave them away. They stared at me, unmoving, until I was even with them and then they resumed their eating, convinced that someone had told me, “move along ‘bub, nothing to see here”. Their coats perfectly matched the surrounding leafless trees. The thought occurred that Heaven would be a place where we will be in our element at last, perfectly matched to our surroundings, no longer sticking out as sinners amid these animal saints, who are always where they are supposed to be, always doing what they should be doing.

    Our dog rattles his legs against the hardwood floors when he’s dreaming. I think it’s funny that all animals dream. Perhaps it’s a “species prejudice” (they have issues too!) but I figure they have less call for dreaming than humans. My understanding is that dreams help resolve the conflicts of the day, help tie things up for purposes of BMH (“Better Mental Health”). So naturally I’m wondering what my dog is dreaming about. Near as I can tell, he sleeps the whole day so there’s not much to resolve. I wonder if he has repressed memory syndrome concerning a painful early childhood incident of an absentee father or having a squirrel picked before him in some sporting event.

    The river is so high today they closed the trail for the first time I can recall. I made an executive decision to ignore the yellow tape and sign that said “High Water”. I rationalized it by figuring I’m a taxpayer, I paid for this trail, and that if they asked what I was doing I’d say, “don’t worry, I can swim.” I’m sure it was all about liability. When you have a lawyer around every corner, you have to close things for no real reason and ignoring the sign was my way of absolving them from responsibility without having to sign anything. A two-fer: good for them and good for me. I figured I’d have the trail to myself but came across a large group of fellow transgressors.

    March 23, 2008

    Happy Easter!    

    March 22, 2008

    If This is True Then Why Ain't I Dead?

    A laugher from the local paper quoting psychiatric nurse Amanda Rush:
    “Sex is something you can’t live without,” Rush said as she pointed to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs on the worksheets provided. “Sex is a basic physiological need, just like food, water, breathing and sleep.”

    March 21, 2008

    Quote

    In general, every time you feel in God's creatures something pleasing and attractive, do not let your attention be arrested by them alone, but, passing them by, transfer your thought to God and say: 'O my God, if Thy creations are so full of beauty, delight and joy, how infinitely more full of beauty, delight and joy art thou thyself, Creator of all!'
    - Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

    March 19, 2008

    Stats from a Non-Stats Major
      Or 'Will Blog for Prayers'

    Since procrastination is the mother of invention (when it comes to blog posts), I proffer the following in lieu of my regularly scheduled programming.

    It seems I'm unduly hyp-mo-tized by the resuts of the Catholic Blog Awards. I'm mostly interested in the shape of the curve - it's far more steep than I would've thought - and what that might say about this distinct group of Catholic bloggers and blog readers (likely mostly the former). (By the way, I'd like to thank the five voters for this blog! Very kind of you.)

    Now if I were a statistician I might be able to say interesting things about this. Or maybe not given the limited sample size. Maybe this distribution would be the expected one.

    But here is how I thought the curve would go:

    The dominating win of "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" in this category ["Best Individual Catholic Blog"] was surprising, but even more so how its followers voted for it in pretty much every category. One gets the sense that the blog would've won for Best Group Blog if nominated. It finished tops in Best Apologetics Blog, Best Blog by Clergy/Religious/Seminarian, 3rd in Best Designed, 2nd in Funniest Catholic Blog, 1st in Most Spiritual and 1st in Smartest. You get the idea. (Best designed?) Either this guy is Cardinal Newman and the rest of Catholic blogdom is Jimmy Swaggart, or there's a cult of personality at work. Or maybe it's part of the innate desire of people to vote for a winner or to go with the latest fad. Maybe Catholic blog readers have a certain reluctance to vote with that Protestant ethic of "rugged individualism". People have a desire to be led, and Fr. Z has much of the criteria of leadership: confident, an insider, the authority earned by the collar, and very knowledgeable. His blog is surely deserving of an award based on merit but the wins all over the place show the lack of objectivity of those involved in a cult-of-personality (something we outsiders to Obamamania will recognize).

    One big thing, I think it says, is that liturgy is what interests us most. The scratch that Catholic blogs seem to itch, or the itch that most readers want scratched, is the extreme angst felt over liturgical abuse. Ours appears to be a very religiously conservative group and not a particularly intellectual one as shown by the puzzling non-appearance of folks like Zippy Catholic, What's Wrong with the World, Bill Luse, Pertinacious Papist, Scott Carson's blog, and so many others. Or it could simply be that those perusing those blogs are less likely to go to the trouble of voting. (Aside: Mark Shea was a bit lower than I expected; I wonder if he's paying a price in popularity for his Bush loathing?)

    Despite the steepness of the curve there is, however, an impressive breadth: some 119 blogs got at least one vote for "Best Individual Catholic Blog". The top vote getter got "only" about 13% of the vote. (Also, of course, the blogs are all (that I know of) in English, which is unfortunate given some of the excellent blogs written in Spanish and German and British (joke - remember the old line about America and England being two nations separated by a common language?)

    Anyway, as said before, if I were a statistician perhaps I could say something more meaningful about all this. Instead I say there are lies, damnable lies, and (say it with me)...statistics. But I can say without hesitation that anyone reading this blog is a person of exceptional discernment and erudition. As proof, Steven Riddle reads this blog, and I might well remind him that he'd sure better pray me into Heaven seeing as how he'll be getting there first (not due to age but holiness of course).
    ______

    Update: A reader writes:
    I think you're absolutely correct in the interest in liturgical matters, as well as a desire for priestly leadership. There are a ton of people (it seems from the comboxes) who have suffered real injustice for many years in (for lack of a better term) having the Holy Mass and their parishes hijacked by a non-Catholic agenda...

    --WDTPRS was on top of the biggest Catholic story of the year--Summorum Pontificum--and a truly indispensable source of reliable and accurate information leading up to and following the worldwide implementation of the Motu Proprio. Rorate Caeli and NLM were good, but relied mostly on European news reports. Other bloggers relied, for the most part, on the VIS and Fr. Zuhlsdorf.

    --Quantity and quality. What do you get when you have an energetic priest who has a lot of time on his hands (dissertation writing time, I think)? On average, 4 to 6 written posts daily, on a broad set of topics that were timely and interesting. The one feature that I found truly outstanding, though, was the series of Podcasts on
    the Church Fathers. I don't think anyone else in Catholic blog-dom produced something comparable.
    No disagreement here; it was the range of categories more than even the margin of victory that surprised me. No deprecation of Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog intended or pretended by this post. This was merely to say that to win or nearly win in every category, including "Best Design", seemed interesting from a psychological perspective. Winning for "Best Design" calls some of the other awards into question. (Of course, it could be that some people only read Fr. Z's blog, so obviously they would vote for that blog for all categories.) (Full disclosure: I didn't vote, because I didn't want to put up with the hassle of registrating, which Gregg the Obscure also said was the reason he didn't vote.)

    Gregg also sent me an email with this round-up:
    The past year was one of major transition for the elders of St. Blogs. Fr. Tucker, the Angry Twins, the Ragemonkeys and Der Tomissar quit outright; Amy Welborn, Dr. Riddle, Dr. Schudt and Tom Kreitzberg cut way back on blogging; Kathy Shaidle went from Relapsed Catholic to secular conservative; Mark Shea went from a blog with a broad emotional range to a blog overflowing with anger, rage and fury (I used to read every day, now maybe once or twice a month to see if he’s still enraged); the center does not hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world! That, and Fr. Z is a heck of a blogger. His particular ministry is suited to a frequently-updated, content-rich blog. He has a great temperament and voice for blogging too. Your observation that people are deeply interested in liturgy – especially in liturgy that is reverent rather than “relevant” in the sense used in the 1970s – is spot-on.

    March 18, 2008

             

    Initially, he [St. Augustine] thought that once he was baptized, in the life of communion with Christ, in the sacraments, in the Eucharistic celebration, he would attain the life proposed in the Sermon on the Mount: the perfection donated by Baptism and reconfirmed in the Eucharist. During the last part of his life he understood that what he had concluded at the beginning about the Sermon on the Mount – that is, now that we are Christians, we live this ideal permanently – was mistaken. Only Christ himself truly and completely accomplishes the Sermon on the Mount. We always need to be washed by Christ, who washes our feet, and be renewed by him. We need permanent conversion. Until the end we need this humility that recognizes that we are sinners journeying along, until the Lord gives us his hand definitively and introduces us into eternal life. It was in this final attitude of humility, lived day after day, that Augustine died. - Pope Benedict XVI

    What Benedict sees as the great tragedy of the modern age is not that people are “less faithful” to the institution of the Church or have “strayed” from doctrines or dogmas, but simply that innumerable forces both in and outside the Church have worked to sow doubt - real, serious doubt - in the reality of Christ and the redemptive love and mercy he offers, and that brings us back to full, flourishing life in God. Materialism (in the broadest sense) teaches us that the transcendent is really not that real or important after all. Materialism (in the narrow sense) teaches us that God is unnecessary -or even an impediment - to happiness. Both of these and so many other forces in the world shut us up in small rooms with walls made up of our own striving, separating us from others, shutting us off from their suffering. In the Church, the misuse of some forms of Scripture scholarship and some directions in theology work, as they make their way into preaching and catechesis, to cut us off from the reality of Jesus, communicating to us that there is no real way to really know what he was all about...For Benedict, Christ is at the center...This is not a gimmick. It’s not a new communication technique that Benedict and his minions are dreaming up to soften his image or compete with the Protestants or even to avoid hard questions...Seeing our own wretchedness in the light of God becomes praise to God and thanksgiving, for God loves and accepts us, transforms us and raises us to himself. - Amy of "Charlotte was Both"

    I lay awake at night hoping that this celibacy is not permanent, but that the chastity - my own properly ordered sexuality - might be. This isn't purity based on unknowing, as if my mind could somehow regain the innocence of my prepubescent past. Rather, it's the purity that comes when you admit that there are some corner's of the devil's hell that you still find overwhelmingly erotic, but still, once more, you decide to look away. - Patrick Still via "Godbody" on suspension of marital relations due to his wife's childbirth

    The difference between the works of authors such as Nietzsche, Gibbon, Luther and Joyce, and “The Vagina Monologues” is a difference, not of degree, but of kind. The former have written serious philosophical, theological and literary works, which have influenced Western thought. As such, their work has academic merit and is worthy of serious discussion and critique in a classroom setting. Father Jenkins believes that Eve Ensler’s play was written to shock and offend. How can one put such a play, which many consider pornographic, on the level of serious works such as the writings of Gibbon and Luther? Even if one could make a case that this play has academic merit, it could be read in class. When a book or play is read in class, the student expects it to be discussed and critiqued; indeed, this is an essential part of the classroom experience. This is not so when one attends the performance of a play. - South Bend Bishop D'Arcy's response to Notre Dame's decision to host "The Vagina Monologues"

    Sometimes Nemesis does as befits her:
    An example is Eliot Spitzer:
    He who tortured the law
    Is now trapped in its maw,
    While the world roars out, "Fiat justicia!"
    - Bob of "Trousered Ape"

    I support affordable toilet paper for all people because I’m pro-life, and it’s hard to live a purposeful life if you’re chafed. - Eric Scheske spoofing how the term 'pro-life' is becoming a trojan horse

    To better serve the community, we may be introducing our very own non-traveling blog carnival...We're still working on a witty name. Some possibilities: "Carnival of Meaty Posts" (too ironical?); "Spanning My Attention-Span To Bring You a Constant...hey, look at that!", "Stuff I Found", "Linkin' Logs" - Robert of "Tribal Pundit"

    I yelled to Mary Helyn to get the car open and headed home with the dog. I got the lady into the passenger side and then handed her the dog. That's when I discovered that the little fellow, in the aftermath of his terror, had crapped on my hand. - Bill 'the Onlooker' of Apologia, on the indignities of his saving a small dog from a pit bull.

    Americans are obsessed with finding narratives of personal discovery -- finding our true selves. Narratives of transformation are more obvious in this respect than any other kind. Who wants to say, "Yeah, I was born Catholic and . . . am still Catholic now, so I guess that's who I am . . . you know, by default"? That just doesn't have the ring of radical self-discovery that Americans tend to consider "authentic." So perhaps what American Catholics need is a renewed devotion to the saints. The saints offer countless stories of people born Catholic who nonetheless underwent radical personal transformations in the fire of Divine love. Even saints who were born Catholic aren't Catholic by default. If we need some kind of story to tell us who we are, we could do much worse than becoming a self by surrendering that self to Christ. - Eve Tushnet via Amy Welborn & Terrence Berres

    Over the next two months, before the Pope arrives in our country, there is going to be a constant battle, it seems to me, to communicate clearly and authentically what this man is all about...Most of those proclamations are about “clear Catholic identity” or involve metaphors that evoke closed doors, tightening reins and battening hatches. Their paradigms are severely limited, it seems to me, because they can’t get out of adolescence - even the Catholics - in their relationship to the Church. Even the “thinking Catholics” see the Church as a fierce parent handing down arbitrary rules, so when Benedict comes along talking about Christ, they don’t know what to, well “think” anymore and they spend (waste) a lot of time trying to twist his words into, first their own definition of Church, and secondly their own pre-conceptions of Benedict. So what we see is a lot of head-nodding, invariable commentary about Benedict “softening his image,” a little bit of sneering that faced with the problems of the Church Benedict will be content to tell us just to “pray more” or even to encourage the malcontents to get out. What they don’t seem to grasp is that Benedict really believes this stuff. He believes that Christ instituted a Church through which He would teach and sanctify until the end of time and that this is it. And that the heart of the Christian faith is, well - faith - a deep personal faith in Christ that is marked by total trust, intimacy and love for the One who saves us from darkness, sin and death. And that it is through the Church, we meet Christ and we nourish that faith relationship. And this faith relationship - this orientation to God - is the most important thing in our lives and the most important thing we can can share with the world and the most important thing that the Church is called to share with the world. - Amy Welborn

    I am reading... "The Art of Praying," where they talk about the four types of prayer:
    1. "I'm sorry"
    2. Praise - loving God for Himself
    3. Thanksgiving
    4. Petition - "I want," either for yourself or others.
    I find that when I have issues, it's usually because I haven't had a balanced prayer life. You can't pray "I'm sorry, I'm an awful person," all the time, it's just not healthy. - commenter on "Darwin Catholic"
    My Own Version of Obamamania

    It seems I was guilty of my own version of Obamamania - I naively thought that electing him might have a huge side benefit of healing the racial division. But I started to gain a clue about how entrenched the anger is not so much by the rhetoric of Pastor Wright, but by how Donna Brazille and others hinted that this black church ain't all that unusual. I had invested Obama powers he does not have.

    It suddenly dawned on me that nothing from the outside (other than Christ) can remove the bitterness. Not even the election of a black president. Even if Obama were elected, there would be new conspiracies, new outrages, new Pastor Wrights.

    Yet hopelessness and Christianity are mutually exclusive. I was reading the book "God and Hillary Clinton" last night. Mother Teresa had delivered a blistering address against abortion in front of the Clintons. That might be seen to be the end of her responsibility. But no:
    That was not the end of the relationship, which Hillary looks back upon with fondness. In the short time she had left on earth, Mother Teresa continued to try to change Mrs. Clinton's view on abortion. According to Hillary, "she sent me dozens of notes and messages with the same gentle entreaty." She dealt with the first lady with patience and kindness, but firm conviction: "Mother Teresa never lectured or scolded me; her admonitions were always loving and heartfelt," wrote Hillary, adding that she had the "greatest respect for her opposition to aboriton." Mother Teresa saw in Hillary a potentially huge convert to the pro-life cause, and as was her style, she never gave up hope."
    Imagine...trying to change Hillary's mind on abortion! Now there's true faith.

    UPDATE: Read the Obama speech. The moral equivalency argument was one I suppose he felt he had to make, since he's trying to appeal to both his base and independents and so he had to make things equivalent without losing one or the other. Perhaps he really believes in that equivalency. But what's sad is that it has to be about race when isn't it about anti-Americanism? This is no different for me than when Jimmy Carter sat next to Michael Moore at the '04 Democratic convention and thus lent Moore the aura of respectability. What follows is what I would've liked to have heard Obama say:
    "Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, and many of you listening are of Irish descent. The way your forebears felt about the English is unfortunately the way many blacks today think of white America, including Rev. Wright. I would argue that Pastor Wright should be held to a different standard - yes, a lower standard - than someone who has not felt the sting of prejudice. I'm arguing for a double-standard not as redress for the past, for the past cannot be redressed, but merely out of an understanding of how our weaknesses differ. As the apostle Paul wrote: 'One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man,' - such as Pastor Wright - 'whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.' It's not for those who can eat meat to condemn those who can't. This is not to patronize Rev. Wright as to say that we all have fallen short of the glory of God. But I will take a modest step towards the equality that Martin Luther King spoke of by no longer attending Trinity church. I am of a different generation than Pastor Wright, I have seen racial progress, and I am running for the presidency of the United States. I understand that with that comes responsibilities not just to the ethnic group I identify with but to all Americans. With your help, I will be a bridge-builder by eating the meat of a single standard. Just as I would never consider voting for a candidate who considered his spiritual father to be Rev. Fred Phelps, who carries signs saying that "God hates fags", so too would I be held from now on to a similar standard."

    March 17, 2008

    Graham Greene Bio

    I'm reading Leopoldo Duran's portrait of the writer Graham Greene....Some tasty tidbits:
    We moved on to the genius of [John Henry] Newman. We all agreed that he may perhaps have been the greatest figure of the nineteenth century. The works of his that we rated most highly were Apologia Pro Vita Sua and The Idea of a University. Graham had read both these books more than once at his leisure...Graham asked me whether I remembered Newman's advice about seminaries: "All seminarists should read literature. Why? So as to avoid the 'shocks' of later life."
    And on the now famous non-meeting with Padre Pio (now St. Pio):
    A friend of Graham's wanted to take him to the sacristy before or after the Mass so that he could meet Padre Pio, but he refused because he was frightened of finding himself face to face with a saint. Later, Padre Pio asked Graham's friend: 'What became of your English friend, the one who would not dare to come and see me?'

    Nobody had previously said a word to Padre Pio about this 'English friend'.
    Today's Funny

    A "palm Pilate" by (who else) Curt Jester:

    On Suffering

    Scott Hahn's trouble with Purgatory I can understand mostly because the latter is literally painful. If we're not careful it can steal the joy in being forgiven, so I am sympathetic to Hahn's account since it's got to be hard for a non-cradle Catholic on something like that (and it's almost a catch-22 - those appreciative of being purified are those in least need of it):
    The Pope was a doctrine that was very difficult for me and so was Mary. Both of those were dealt with in terms of historical evidence and Biblical evidence and basically, I was done. Purgatory was different. I came to a conclusion that sufficient evidence exists for an intermediate state between heaven and hell on the basis of the Bible and ancient Jewish practices of praying for the dead and evidences in the early Christian Church that I will review this morning. But there was still a very big emotional block. Very big...

    I want to share with you my own intellectual, spiritual pilgrimage on this particular point because, as I said, I didn't just have intellectual problems, I had emotional problems, psychological difficulties with this teaching. One thing I did, though, was to ask the Lord to open my mind.
    ____

    Christ has accomplished our redemption. It's over and done with. He has finished it. But then He sends the Holy Spirit to apply it, and the application of redemption is just as essential.

    Caryll Houselander in Essential Writings as selected by Wendy Wright, writes of suffering:
    Suffering is the means by which Christ chose to redeem sin; logically so, since it is the direct result of sin. For this reason Christ and suffering are inseparable for so long as there remains one jot of unredeemed sin, one sinner on earth.

    It is not for the love of suffering that Christ chooses it in his saints, in whom he lives on, but for the love of men, because it is their redeeming and his communion with them...

    In man Christ does suffer more, and he will suffer more until the end of time; and in the saints, simply because they love men as Christ loves them and with his love of them, it is "a joy, and a bliss, an endless liking" [Julian of Norwich] to suffer too.

    ..."He who grows in love rows in grief": these words of a saint (St. Catherine of Sienna) are a tremendous understatement, for he who grows in Christ's love opens his heart not only to grief but to all the suffering and terror and sorrow and pain of the whole world.

    Christ has given suffering a sacramental quality, and like any sacrament its effectiveness for good or ill depends upon the man who receives it. Man can receive suffering sacrilegiously, he can resent it and do all in his puny power to resist it; he can desecrate it, and desecrated suffering is destructive. It corrodes the man who has inflicted it on himself and turns him sour; in the end it destroys him. In the measure that we accept the suffering God allows to come to us individually, we accept the power of God's redeeming love, which we can use to heal mankind as well as to be healed by it ourselves...The saint's desire for suffering is not the expression of a morbid mind, but the love of Christ for the world.
    ______

    Since Christ embrac'd the Crosse it selfe, dare I
    His image, th' image of his Crosse deny?

     --Donne
    Received from My Brother-in-Law

    My bro-in-law isn't Catholic and so it's interesting if painful to see the perspective of someone outside the St Blog's "Catholic ghetto":

    On another note, what's up with the Pope? Has he lost his mind? 7 new 'deadly sins'. He figures people aren't confessing enough, so he's gonna put new spins on old sins (I like that, The Church should've used that in their press release) to help them remember they need to confess? Sounds like political-think to me.

    Far be it from me to be able to tell the Pope how to do his job (well, not that far really, just a few paragraphs) his talking for god and all,but I'd like someone to explain to me how he's gonna get anyone to swallow these when they're as vague as:

    "1) ruining the environment,
    2) carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments
    or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos
    3) taking or dealing in drugs,
    4) social injustice which caused poverty
    5) the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few
    6) abortion, which offended “the dignity and rights of women”, and
    7) paedophilia"
    Oy vey...the media...not our best friend 'eh? I sent along the following:

    ...you know how ignorant the media is of economics - imagine how ignorant they are of religion (and then double it). The media relishes making Catholicism looks silly because the Church is against giving condoms to 2nd graders and allowing unfettered abortion.

    First, this isn't the Pope - this was the statement of one archibishop: "When a second-tier Vatican official gives a newspaper interview, he is not proclaiming new Church doctrines. Archbishop Girotti was obviously trying to offer a new, provocative perspective on some enduring truths."

    Here's what the Archbishop actually said.
    My brother-in-law responded: "I think it's more an ignorance of language and translation than malice toward The Church -- most reporters and newsmen in this country barely have a grasp of English, let alone Italian. I searched for a while online but kept getting different translations of the story on different sites ..."

    March 16, 2008

    Le' Bloom is Off the Rose

    It seems the Obama story is perfectly tracking the Shelby Steele template: Obama is a "bound man" as the title of Steele's book asserts.

    NPR's Juan Williams says that the reason Obama hooked up with a crazy and paranoid preacher (who believes the U.S. government create H.I.V. to hurt blacks) was because he (Obama) had to prove he was "authentically black" when he first got into Chicago politics. While the pastor helped him then it hurts him now. Most Americans wouldn't feel too good about having a president with one degree of separation from a David Duke.

    The Steele template is that blacks have to wear masks: either the "authentically black" mask of Obama's pastor, which exaggerates racism in order to hold onto the power of white guilt, or becoming an "Uncle Tom" &, in the case of Obama, losing black and liberal support. Steele, who was born of a white mother and black father, perhaps understands Obama better than just about any outsider could and writes of Obama's minister:
    Racism is this minister's great strategic advantage; it gives him an almost demagogic power and a racial moral authority that distinguishes his church from its competitors. He offers his parishioners as much racial redemption as religious redemption. And if race is now of 'declining significance,' then so is he. So, effectively, he defines the black identity as a faith in the pervasiveness of white racism. He is blackest who believes most strongly in white racism. This is his implicit lesson for Obama.
    It's going to be interesting to see how this plays out.
    How to Make Seven Hours into Two


    Not too unlike the way I was seein' 'em

    I was surprised at how early my voice gave out this year.

    This was probably our fifteenth year at the Irish celebration and my friend Ham o' Bone was out of drinking practice, so I thought he'd be in trouble in that arena but it scarcely occurred to me that I was out of singing practice (or what passes for it) at the annual AOH Irish party. But I learned that even if you're hoarse, you can always force a little more when the time comes, i.e. at the penultimate "Give Ireland back to the Irish!"

    Ham will be reading so for his benefit (aside: can you do these sort of personal asides in blogs or are they unprofessional?) let me say that in regard to drinking he started slow and tapered off. *grin* We forewent (past tense of forgo?) the usual "shot heard round the world", i.e. the shot of Jameson that begins the festivities and all-in-all I think it a good call. It's the eve of Palm Sunday after all. And neither of us are as young as we used to be. In fact, AOH isn't as young as it used to be. Looking around it's amazing to see how different 1994 is from 2008. Irish was hipper then. (If only Obama was O'Bama.)

    It's certainly not every day you leave a Passion play early but it was right on the heels of our outing. Hambone had assumed incorrectly there would be an intermission and ended up having to try to sneak his family of six out just as Pilate was washing his hands. The lights came up and the Bone's were exposed, as if they were leaving in protest.

    We started out at dinner at Gordon Biersch's; "building the base" as we call it, and a fine base it was. At AOH we ended up sitting next to the Irish Hulk, the same guy who last year polished off nearly as many beers as Anheuser was able to brew. He was noticeably quieter this year.

    The dancers were without their wigs this year. No curly hair. I wouldn't have noticed except for the preponderance of blonde-hair'd Irish dancers whom I dubbed the "Scandinavian Irish dancers". But there was the Andie McDowell lookalike who looked like she was taking an algebra exam and/or drinking prune juice. She must be good, I thought, to frown so much.

    The house band - The Hooligans - were magic, as always. During Finnegan's Wake, our audience-participation "lunch" was afforded the highest mark in history. (A quick look at the record though shows that August 6, 2007 also received the 'best lunch in history'. Bad Hooligans, bad!)

    "Requests!" they asked. Hambone and I have a perverse knee-jerk reaction to yell out "Pope John Paul Polka" when requests are requested. I still had the invincible ignorance of thinking it harmless (i.e. respectful of our late Pope) but the Hooligans said that they hoped Father Hayes wasn't there, who obviously didn't approve of this one.

    About halfway into the song who do we see in the archway? Fr. Hayes. Up from Kentucky and looking stern. And clean-shaven. He'd shaven his beard and mustache since last year, making him look (obviously) very different.

    I’ll not forget the first time I saw Fr. Hayes. I was taking an Irish language course at a local Catholic college and in the middle of class he rushes in wearing those strange Dominican robes, a gigantic rosary at his hip like a Colt on a gunslinger. He sat forward in the tiny chair the classroom afforded and eagerly responded in Irish to queries.

    After tonight's shenanigans (an Irish word btw) the good padre sang "A Soldier's Song" in Irish and then we all finished with "God Bless America".

    [AOH's of years past: 2007; 2006; 2005; 2004; 2003]

    March 15, 2008

    The Cult of Efficiency at the Root of the Crisis?

    The "money quote" from Philip Lawler's The Faithful Departed, which deals with the dissolution of Catholic influence in Boston between 1938 and 2002 (even though actually the influence was already nil by the late '70s), might be this:

    Cardinal O'Connell took great pride in his ability as an administrator. Under his leadership, he insisted (with an implicit slap at his predecessor) that the Boston archdiocese be well managed. Decisions were made smoothly and policies were implemented promptly...

    Years later, the writer Paul Wilkes spent several months following the life of a Boston priest for his book Mysterious Ways. In the course of his research Wilkes visited St. John's seminary, where Boston's priests are trained. The rector, Fr. Thomas J. Daly, explained that young men hear talks about celibacy, about living alone, about how to find psychological help when they need it. "But above all," Fr. Daly said, "they must be professional. That's very important; we must have professional men."

    Those are frightening words, which illustrate a serious misunderstanding about the nature of the priesthood. That they were spoken by the rectory of the seminary...makes them all the more shocking.

    A priest is not a professional, like a doctor or lawyer, who can take off weekend and vacation time and look forward to eventual retirement. Once ordained, a priest is a priest forever; he may rest but he cannot stop being a priest. The priesthood is a vocation, not a profession, a calling from God, not just a line of work.

    It is no simple matter to measure the strength of a priest's interior life: to quantify the power of his prayer. It is relatively easy, however, to know whether a pastor is implementing diocesan programs on schedule. The system cannot discern how many souls the priest is saving, but it can account for the size of weekly collections. So skillful administrators are rewarded and move up through the ranks, gaining more power and encouraging younger priests to imitate their efficiency.

    The mystery of faith, the mystical personal encounter with God, is terribly difficult to explain to an unbeliever. But without it Christianity appears to the outsider - and worse, sometimes to the believer himself - as a series of propositions to be accepted and rules to be followed.
    I was reminded of this passage while reading a 1940s-era review of Catholic education in the Cincinnati diocese. It is filled with statistics and all those things that are "relatively easy to measure" in the words of Lawler. When I began reading it - before reading Lawler - I saw nothing untoward in this. As someone congenitally fond of systems and organization perhaps it's no wonder I didn't. But after reading Lawler...

    One telling line from the 1946 history book: "The archdiocesan educational program has grown and developed into a mature, modern, and healthily progressive system of Catholic education."

    Mature. Modern. Progressive. Understandable perhaps, since Catholics were perceived for a long time as upstarts (with roots still back in the old country) and backward and traditional. But noticeably absent were goals like being Christ-centered or furthering piety or providing strong catechesis.

    Efficiency was the word in vogue. In 1906, the first Cincinnati Superintendent of schools was appointed, and he went around to schools east. He was most impressed with the "high degree of efficiency of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia" despite that superintendent saying to him, "If you want to learn the best in Catholic education, go West; we have nothing much to show here in the East." The new Cincinnati superintendent perhaps shrugged it off as an excess of humility.