March 2005 Archives

Father in Heaven,

Thy will be done. Your faithful servant has served the faithful long and well. Thank you for the gift of him. If it be your will, let us keep him with us a while longer. Nevertheless Father, I'm certain that he is longing for home. Thy will be done to thy greater glory.


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Blogging May Be Light

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I'm off shortly to Dallas for a convention. In addition to the routine dozen and a half vendor meetings and meet and greet with all and sundry, my days will be considerable lightened by a lunch meeting on Saturday in which I will meet two of the three Summa Mamas (I hope) and Julie Davis of Happy Catholic. I can't begin to say how thrilled I am that this can happen.

And yes, TSO, eventually I will make it back to Columbus and we'll have to have a gathering of the Columbus bloggers. (It may even be this year--who knows?)

I'll keep you all informed as to my future jaunts. I'm always looking to meet the people from St. Blogs.

But I'm especially pleased about this trip because I get to meet three ladies from Texas--and as we all know, Texas practically defines what it means to be a lady!

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I have searched and searched for God's hand in this affair. Why doesn't He intervene? Why does He allow this to continue? Of course, there are no answers to questions about purpose because His purpose is beyond what we can know.

On a lesser plane though, we each receive the instruction we are inclined by the Holy Spirit to receive, and I thought I would share what I have learned through this whole terrible ordeal.

On Good Friday the words "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," resonated throughout the day and throughout the weekend. We still do not know what we do. We are still ignorant, and we are still crucifying the innocent. The thin veneer of civility that we call civilization can be scratched off with a fingernail. Our risible attempts to prove that we are somehow more "advanced," more "civilized," more "compassionate" than the rabble that had Jesus crucified are belied by all of the events surrounding this innocent woman.

What God said to me is abandon your pretensions of culture, civility, kindness, humanity, all of your pretensions. This is what you are and what you ever have been and without My grace what you ever shall be. Humanity is humanity, fallen away from God, dependent upon human abilities to come to decisions and make judgments.

I am deeply saddened, though truth to tell not shocked, at having the curtain drawn back once again from this illusion. The police guarding Terri Schiavo have stated that they would have fought with agents sent by the Governor rather than allow her to live--what more evidence do we need of Roman Centurions? We could go on making analogies, but to what purpose? The point has been made. We think we are socially, ethically, morally, philosophically, and intellectually advanced. In fact, we are nothing more than we were in the time of Jesus, and perhaps a little less.

The real sorrow of this is that it is such a paltry lesson to learn at the price of a life. And yet, if we are to advance in grace, we must learn and relearn and relearn and relearn.

If something does not change soon, Ms. Schiavo will be with God and we will be diminished both for her loss and for its cause. It is our duty as Christians to remind the whole world of this innocent woman's wrongful death and to seek its remedy both legally and by changing the hard and misshapen hearts of those who make our laws.

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The Art of Singing


by Luisa Tetrazzini and Enrico Caruso--the former having a most formidable bosum, and undoubtedly capable of prolonged, protracted, perhaps even painful musical exhalations.

Find it here

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The Purpose Driven Life

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First--Alleluia, He is Risen! Easter Greetings to all.

A number of people are responding to an upsurge in interest over the Rev Rick Warren's religious self-help book and this link will take you to my original response to it.

My tone may have mellowed as the book has slipped completely out of my thoughts, but time has not changed my mind. As with many books from the Evangelical Self-Help shelves the glow passes almost before you get it out of the shop. If you're really interested in improving any aspect of your religious life and you want something out of the Catholic fold, I would recommend almost anything by Dallas Willard (you can read some samples of his writing). In particular, I found The Divine Conspiracy insightful and helpful.

Richard J Foster, a modern Quaker writes some extremely helpful books. My favorite among them because it enters into its subject with such great depth and delicacy is The Freedom of Simplicity. In this work Foster rediscovers and refurbishes the truths of the faith known since Gospel times.

And on the Philosophical side the entire Plantinga Family: Cornelius (Neil) with the magnificent Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin , Alvin, and Harry, who runs the magnificent e-text site Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

It is wise, however, to remember that the Catholic Church has all of this ground covered and more. We do not need to stray outside the fold to learn about how to love and serve others--Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Katherine Drexel teach us in both short writings and their lives. And so with all the other aspects of The Purpose Driven Life--such purpose is easily found by those who steep themselves in the richness of Catholic tradition.

There are many places from which to take substantive nourishment, do not be lured by the heightened popularity of a single source. Like The Prayer of Jabez, you may experience a momentary heightened emotional sensation, but when it passes, you will find nothing memorable--at least, if you've been a Christian for more than a few years. Perhaps Warren's attraction is more for those new to the faith and learning. But think about Warren's book as a tent-rivival between hard covers. That will give you a sense of what goes on in the text. There is nothing evil here, simply shallow, vacuous, and ultimately unsatisfying.

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If we repent of our good actions, what, I pray you, is left for our
faults and follies? It is not the beneficence of the laws, it is the
unnatural temper which beneficence can fret and sour that is to be
lamented. It is this temper which, by all rational means, ought to be
sweetened and corrected. If froward men should refuse this cure, can
they vitiate anything but themselves? Does evil so react upon good, as
not only to retard its motion, but to change its nature? If it can so
operate, then good men will always be in the power of the bad; and
virtue, by a dreadful reverse of order, must lie under perpetual
subjection and bondage to vice.

Find the source here.

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Trying to find the exact formulation of the quotation from the previous post, I did find this rather nice on-line compendium of Burke's writing. It includes Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontent, Reflections on the Revolution in France and Letters on a Regicide Peace.

Here's another listing, for those interested, including a wider variety of works.

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The Rootlessness of Evil


One of the interesting implications of Hannah Arendt's proposal regarding the rootlessness of evil is spelled out later in the same paper I cited yesterday. The good side of rootlessness is that it is not intrinsic. Humanity is fundamentally good and seriously flawed, but the flaw doesn't go to the root of who we are--it is a serious, potentially fatal wound--but it is not a deformation of the essence of what God originally created.

Now the down side. If evil is rootless, it cannot be radically exterminated by any human means. Something with a root can be uprooted, removed, and destroyed. However, evil is more like a fungus--rootless and vastly destructive of self and others. Ask any of a million Florida homeowners who, after the hurricanes last year had to have the mold in their houses destroyed. This is not an easy procedure.

One way to think about evil is that it is like bacteria--we can introduce an antibiotic, but some strains will survive and eventually prosper in the environment. Tolkien described evil as biding its time, shifting its shape and place, and eventually returning in a form more virulent. We compare the Sauron of The Hobbit in his Mirkwood hiding place with the Sauron of Lord of the Rings. The interesting point here is that the lapse in time is not all that great.

Okay, so we've spell out the worst of it. But what we celebrate this week is the true cure. As anyone can tell you, mold has a serious difficult time growing in the incandescent heat of direct sunlight--the hyphae might still exist "underground" but light and heat are better remedies than anything that can be done in the dark. And it is in this week that we celebrate the brightest light, the greatest heat--the Passion of the Son of God, who by His death and resurrection has set us free. Evil exists all around us, and even has hyphae within us--but if we are open to the Light, it will burn out evil. It will destroy our propensity for self-involvement. When we unite ourselves to Jesus Christ, we have the only specific against evil that can be effective. And uniting ourselves to Him means more than lip service, it means taking action. We can talk about the battle between good and evil till the cows come home. The truth of the matter is (as attributed to Edmund Burke in any one of a variety of ways) "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

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To start with, and to make emphatically clear, I do not condone, excuse, or offer any quarter to the judges who have made the decisions that have thus far condemned Ms. Schiavo. As Dickens says at the beginning of A Christmas Carol, "You must understand this for without it there would be no story."

However, there is a serious danger in lilmiting the blame to the individual judges. That they are morally culpable for their decisions cannot be doubted. Nevertheless, the fact that several judges now have arrived at the same conclusions leads us to a more frightening possibility. If these judges are judging fairly, on the merits, and by the rule-of-law (I don't stand capable of judging these issues), then the law by which they are guided to their decisions is seriously, indeed dangerously flawed. In this sense the actions of the Florida legislature are required immediately to remedy the flaw in the law.

I suspect part of this flaw may have to do with the medical and legal definition of life-support. As countless people have already pointed out, being forced to breathe and pump blood under the aegis of a machine constitutes extraordinary measures. Providing food, while technically life support, is hardly extraordinary. What may be happening in the law is a failure to distinguish between these two methods.

Ms. Schiavo's plight is a wake-up call for all of us. Some take it to mean that we must be explicit in our durable power-of-attorneys or living wills. I take it to mean that we must begin to redefine and truly understand what extraordinary measures are. There may be circumstances under which withholding food MIGHT be moral--I am not enough of an ethicist to understand every possibility. But when we are speaking of a living, functioning human being who happens to be operating at less than their former capacity, there is absolutely no question of the immorality of removing ordinary means of maintaining life.

The courts do not care about morality. They care, rightfully, about the law. That three sets of courts can find no merit in the arguments surrounding Ms. Schiavo must be our tip-off that something is seriously amiss in the legal system. Believe me, I am no friend of the judiciary--however, I think the focus must be on changing flawed laws to assure that future decisions are made in favor of sustaining life whenever there is any doubt as to the person's wishes. We cannot err by sustaining life and allowing God to make the decision as to when and where and how a person will join Him; however, when we take it upon ourselves to pretend to know this, we are in moral jeopardy, and for those who know better, in possible jeopardy of soul. A judge who knows the morality or immorality of the law is not likely to be able to hide behind the excuse of "I was just following orders" when called to account for his or her actions.

As concerned citizens, we must heed this wakeup call as we continue to pray for Ms. Schiavo. We must work quickly and in concert to move our legislatures toward laws that make sense and are compassionate and pro-life. The danger of focusing solely on the individual decisions is that we may not eradicate the root of the problem--bad law and bad legal definitions and understandings. The judges may be in the wrong morally, but the calamity is they may be in the right legally. If so, we must work as each is able to assure that such a thing as this never happens to another family.

Mr. Appleby, who neither endorsed nor approved the message above, does ask that we make everyone aware of his message with which I am in complete agreement. The immediate necessity is to pray, call and work to save Ms. Schiavo--but in the longer term, we must band together to prevent a recurrence of this nightmarish evil.

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from "Evil: The Crime against Humanity"
Jerome Kohn, Director, Hannah Arendt Center, New School University

There are ways in which Eichmann in Jerusalem recalls the last sections of The Origins of Totalitarianism, but there are also important respects in which it differs. Arendt laid considerable emphasis on these differences in a number of letters. To Mary McCarthy she mentioned three of them. She wrote first that she no longer believed in "holes of oblivion" because "there are simply too many people in the world to make oblivion possible." Secondly, she realized that "Eichmann was much less influenced by ideology" than she would have assumed before attending the trial. What had become clear to her was that "extermination per se" did not depend on ideology. Thirdly, and this was by far the most important difference, the phrase banality of evil "stands in contrast to . . . 'radical evil.'" This last distinction is developed in more detail in a letter to Gershom Scholem (see letter to Scholem, July 24, 1963). There she wrote: "It is indeed my opinion now that evil is never 'radical,' that it is only extreme." "Thought tries to reach some depth, to go to the roots, and the moment it concerns itself with evil, it is frustrated." That there is nothing in evil for thought to latch onto is what Arendt meant by the banality of evil. Not the murderous deeds but the evildoer she faced in Jerusalem and the massiveness of the evil he inflicted on the world are banal in that sense.4 The realization that the most extreme evil has no meaning that the human mind can reveal, that it is not only senseless in its own terms but meaningless in any terms, was momentous; to say the least it afforded Arendt relief from a burden she had borne for many years.

[complete source here]

I have no great philosophical mind. I do not always understand things written in the way they are intended. But what I derive from this brief discussion is that evil has no deep roots and no intrinsic sense because it is, in a sense, utterly alien from what we are. That is, we are created good, only good can be radical because it stems from the depth of our being in God. Evil, which subverts these depths, which starts in a place outside the ground of our being, can have no depth and can ultimately make no sense.

The phrase "banality of evil" was used to descirbe Adolf Eichmann as he faced trial in Jerusalem. He was an accountant of death, dealing merely in numbers. Free from passion, simply exercising his functions within the legal system of his time.

Eichmann's example occurred to me as I considered the plight of the police officers who are standing guard over Terri Schiavo. There are still people who are willing to do evil and prevent good as a matter of course. Perhaps they do not understand the evil they do--I pray it is so. But if they are aware of it and do it anyway, they have entered the realm of senselessness. While their moral culpability may not be sinful, nevertheless, it should give us all pause to consider how we cooperate with this same evil and accept the shallow, the rootless, the invasive. And unfortunately, it seems, there is no end to the people who are willing to enter the realm of the senseless. Even if every officer present today were to quit, there would a cadre of others to replace them. This is not to say anything about police. Were the police to leave, there would be a cadre of misguided "compassionate souls" who would be willing to preside over her execution. (The same souls, I might add, who are aghast at the barbarity implicit in Scott Peterson's possible demise--after twenty to thirty years of appeals. I echo their concerns, but see the terrible compassion that leads to the gas chambers.)

The real danger of what we face here is outlined by Arendt's discovery in a trial in Jerusalem.

[source as above]

Perhaps the most provocative aspect of Eichmann in Jerusalem is its study of human conscience. The court's refusal to consider seriously the question of Eichmann's conscience resulted in its failure to confront what Arendt called "the central moral, legal, and political phenomena of our century." The Israeli judges understood conscience traditionally as the voice of God or lumen naturale, speaking or shining in every human soul, telling or illuminating the difference between right and wrong, and this simply did not apply in the case of Eichmann. Eichmann had a conscience, and it seems to have "functioned in the expected way" for a few weeks after he became engaged in the transport of Jews, and then, when he heard no voice saying Thou shalt not kill but on the contrary every voice saying Thou shalt kill, "it began to function the other way around." (see Eichmann in Jerusalem, chapter 6) And this was by no means true only for Eichmann. Arendt was convinced by testimony presented at the trial that a general "moral collapse" had been experienced throughout Europe, from which even respected members of the Jewish leadership were not exempt.5 (see Eichmann in Jerusalem, chapter 7)

The systemic danger we face from this single case is far greater than we might imagine. It is the sound of the torrent that turns us from Thou shalt not to Thou shalt. Too many mistake the law for what is morally right--the reason of the law replaces the light of God and conscience. Indeed, in a society where religion is sidelined, it is possible that what is legal becomes the definition of what is moral.

Ms Schiavo's case is not over, and I pray it has a better end than seems possible now. But if it does not, I think we need to recall Donne's prescient understanding, "Each man's death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

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Two Views of the Law


Aristotle wrote, "The law is reason free from passion."

Modern society accepts, "The law is agenda free from reason."

The law cannot but fail us if it is reason free from compassion, and it has once agin failed us in the defense of life. However, one can no longer argue that the unfortunate, indeed evil, result of Ms. Schiavo's case is a single person's point of view. Too many sources have reviewed and uphelf it. I do not know the law, but it appears that all who do seem to think things were conducted as they should be. This suggests that there is something malign and dangerous about the law as it presently stands. Hence, the law must change.

I also do not know where God's will lay in this matter or what, ultimately, may happen to Ms. Schiavo. What I do know, is that no matter what the outcome, legislators must continue to fashion laws that will protect the innocent and the ignorant. Casual statements cannot be taken as the source of our ultimate disposition. I am surprised that the law allows hearsay without considering hearsay on the opposite side. The law must find in favor of the spouse, but when there is serious disagreement over a person's wishes AND that person cannot be consulted, the law should be forced to decide in favor of life--particularly when the measures used to support that life are merely the provision of sustenance.

If a mother withheld food from her child until it died, the law would, at a minimum charge her with neglect and abuse. Unless a person categorically states that they would waive right to nutrition, how can we presume otherwise? How does this case differ?

Judges should be forced in such cases to witness the results of their decisions. Law may be reason free from passion, but it should not be reason free of compassion. And compassion is not cultivated in the courtroom.

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Have you ever noticed that when Jesus gives an answer that is evasive, He is directly speaking beyond His time to our own?

I thought of this yesterday listening to the Passion narrative. Jesus tells us that the one who dips into the bowl with Him will be His betrayer. Judas asks directly, "Is it I Lord?" And our Lord's answer is equally direct while being evasive, "It is you who say it."

Who is the person that was better off had he never been born? Who betrayed Christ? We are so used to the narrative that we seldom think of the huge implications of this question. Yes, we all know that Judas betrayed Christ directly. The Gospels are clear on that. What they are equally clear on, but we are less attuned to, is the question of who else may have betrayed Christ. For example, who stayed awake to pray for Him and His deliverance? For that matter how many actually went even so far as the garden? Did not Peter deny Him three times--another betrayal? Who was present at the foot of the Cross? In Mark's gospel none of the apostles were there. In Luke they were at a distance. In John it is the disciple that Jesus loved.

How many other times did these men (representing all others) betray Christ in little and big ways? Perhaps we need to read the statement that Jesus makes to Judas more broadly as being to all the Apostles as representatives of all of humankind. Woe be unto the person who betrays Christ. It is better for that person had he never been born--UNTIL such time as he or she repents of the crime and turns back to Jesus, who will forgive and forgive and forgive. I believe the one unforgivable sin is the belief that there is something so dire that God cannot forgive it, some sin so enormous that Christ's blood cannot cover it--we doubt that the Holy Spirit can move us to repentance. God is not enough. Nonsense--Christ's sacrifice covers all sin. We are given many opportunities to return to Him. But Woe unto the one who does not, it is better for him or her that he or she should never have been born.

Rather than a direct indictment of Judas (which it may also be) we need to read this as said to us here and now under the present circumstances. Woe to the person who betrays Christ without repentance, with hardened heart and countenance. It would be better had they never seen light. But joy unto the person who hears these words and knows himself for one of those betrayers, because his eyes are opened and his opportunity to return to the Father increased immeasurably. The person who thinks that they can sin against God in such a way as to defy forgiveness, need merely look upon the face of the Savior throughout this week and know that His sacrifice covered all forever. Nothing more is needed.

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As I had guessed when I reviewed The Grudge some days back, Ju-On is infinitely creepier and infinitely less lucid. The conventions of Japanese Cinema, rather like the convention of the Noh play, are not familiar to the Western mind. As a result, things that may make perfect sense to a Japanese audience and may be perfectly clear, are less that clear here.

However, the story in the Japanese version is much, much less straightforward, and much more indirect. In fact, it seems without the structure offered by the American version to be an absolute muddle of a film. We don't know why what is happening is happening. There are subtle hints given about midway through the film, but no explicit treatment as there is in the American film. In a sense this increases greatly the disturbing influence and undercurrents of the film. That what is happening is obscure--that people meet terrible fates for no discernable reason, gives a deeper sense of chaos and darkness to the world-view.

Ju-On is instructive in that it lets us into the extremes of the modern mindset. This is nihilism spelled out. Life is meaningless and ruled by powers and influences that we don't even begin to understand and there is no hope. Those are the disturbing and pervasive elements of Ju-On and The Grudge. The good of this is that it lays bare the pernicious lie that is the subtext of so much that happens in our society--from the pathetic tragedy and blindness that surround the Terri Schiavo case, to our constant desire for longer life distilled from death. A film like this one, while no masterpiece, makes clear what we live out, and the wise amongst us fight against, in our modern absurdist/nihilist world.

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My small book group has taken up for its next read (the last was St. Dale) Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. I am by no means a fan of Roth's writing--there is something in it I find tremendously off-putting most of the time. But this book may crack that open and allow me to investigate Roth's works more extensively.

The Plot Against America is about an alternative USA in which Lindbergh wins the 1940 election and signs a concordat of understanding with Hitler. (I had not realized how very anti-Semitic some of what Lindbergh said and did was.) The story is the tale of a Jewish family in the aftermath of that election and what happens to them. I've only read about 100 pages (about 1/3) but I find the prose compelling, and while I don't particularly like some of the characters, I find their plight appalling.

I guess part of what drives this home for me is that I had not realized how very strongly anti-Semitic some groups within the Catholic Church are. All the while denying their anti-Semitism, I have read in several place on St. Blogs the lies and the filth that through the ages have weighed down our Jewish brothers and sisters with the onus of Christian hatred. The modern world has changed that a lot. But it should come as no surprise when Jewish people are hesitant to believe that, especially when we have the likes of the writing of some extreme elements.

During Holy Week, we do well to keep in mind that the Jewish people did not kill Christ. While some of the leaders of the Sanhedrin (we must be very cautious about how we say this remembering both Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) were complicit in the events that led to Christ's death--they were merely the instruments--we, all of us, today and throughout time, are the cause. The question is less, "Who killed Christ" than it is "For whom did Christ die?" As He said in the passion of St. Matthew, "Do you not think at this very moment I could give the word and more than 12 legions of angels would come to my aid? Nevertheless, how would it be fulfilled according to the scriptures?" As it is said, Christ went to His death for us. We arranged it, and we were responsible for it, but He took it up and bore it. Questions as to who was responsible miss the point entirely. As in any murder mystery, the most likely culprit is the one who benefits most.

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Some Final Words on Helena

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I finished the book some days ago and have held off writing about it for a number of reasons. But now it is time.

The book, as I said before, is wonderful and distinctly different from the other works of Evelyn Waugh. There is still the biting observations of the foibles of men--as for example what Constantine decides to do with the nails brought back from Helena's search for the cross. In addition, his skewering of Fausta and her pet Bishop Eusebius are both highly pointed and entertaining.

The book has one minor flaw, which actually redounds to its credit is odd ways. To understand the title of the last chapter, one must read Waugh's introduction to the book. "Ellen's Invention of the Cross" makes no sense from the narrative point of view. But when you read the genesis of the tale, rather like Jane Yolen's The Devil's Arithmetic you'll see what it is all about.

Get and read this book. It should take only a couple of days (if that). It will serve as an introduction to some of the finest prose of the 20th century and perhaps those who have been Waugh-shy to take up some of the other 15 or so novels. The oeuvre, like that of Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, is not dauntingly large (unlike that of Graham Greene). A normal person can hope to have read the entire works in a year or two, interspersing them with other things to leaven out the bitterness. But Helena is a sweet start--yes, the curmudgeon is there, mostly hidden, but occasionally popping out to tweak us; however, the work as a whole is a magnificent tribute to the wonders of faith in general and the truth of Catholicism in particular.

Not merely recommended--required! Test on Thursday next.

(Later: My thanks to those who made the typos evident--sorry.)

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Who Knew. . .


that John Dryden, one of the greatest of the crop of late 17th century writers actually composed a Life of St. Francis Xavier and, it is reputed in the intro a life of St. Ignatius. Haven't read 'em so I don't have any idea how "fair" they might be, but it came as news to me.

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Sermons of St. Anthony of Padua


Via Summa Minutiae. Find them here.

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The Moment of Definition


from Helena
Evelyn Waugh

"There are people in this city," said Sylvester quite cheerfully, "who believe that the emperor was preparing a bath of children's blood to cure himself of the measles. I cured him instead and that is why he has been so generous to me. People believe that here and now while the emperor and I are alive and going about in front of their faces. What will they believe in a thousand years' time?"

"And some of them don't seem to believe anything at all," said Helena. "It's all a game of words."

"I know," said Sylvester, "I know."

And then Helena said something that seemed to have no relevance. "Where is the cross anyway?" she asked.

"What cross, my dear."

"The only one. The real one."

"I don't know. I don't think anyone knows. I don't think anyone has ever asked before."

"It must be somewhere. Wood doesn't just melt like snow. It's not three hundred years old. The temples here are full of beams and paneling twice that age. It stands to reason God would take more care of the cross than of them."

"Nothing 'stands to reason' with God. If he had wanted us to have it, no doubt he would have given it to us. But he hasn't chosen to. He gives us eanough."

"But how do you know he doesn't want us to have it--the cross I mean? I bet he's just waiting for one of us to go and find it--just at this moment when it's most needed. Just at this moment when everyone is forgettting it and chattering about the hypostatic union there's a solid chunk of wood waiting for them to have their silly heads knocked against. I'm going off to find it," said Helena.

The empress dowager was an old woman, almost of an age with Pope Sylvester, but he regarded her fondly, as though she were a child, an impetuous young princess who went well to hounds, and he said with the gentlest irony, "You'll tell me, won't you?--if you are successful."

"I'll tell the world," said Helena.

Just one of many examples of exactly the right touch, exactly the right exposition, exactly the right weight and understanding that guides Waugh's hand throughout the novel. If my other carryings-on have not already convinced you, let the prose carry you to go and get this novel. Rather like dipping into Flannery O'Connor, you'll be very pleased that you did.

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La Belle Hélène


In reading Helena last night I stumbled across a large number of passages I would like to share. But I thought the more important thing to share was an observation. Evelyn Waugh liked this best among his books. There are a good many reasons why this might be so: it is splendidly written--both the prose and the coherence are several notches above some of his earlier, more frenetic work. It is tightly done, with just the right strokes and exactly the right selection of detail.

But I suspect the reason Waugh prized this above all the other works is that in the course of writing it, he became a different person. No other piece of his writing has such deep insight and appreciation for a single character. Yes, the old Evelyn is there nipping at the heels of nearly every person in the book other than Helena. However, his obvious admiration for and reverence of Helena effects a transformation in his prose to create a work unlike anything else He had done.

I claim no deep familiarity with the entire Opus of Evelyn Waugh; however, at this point I feel that I have read widely enough through his career to understand and appreciate the comment of the woman who said that Mr. Waugh was not a very nice man. Strongly evident in the early works, present and pronounced in Brideshead and recidivus in The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh, the novelist comes across as strongly misanthropic, perhaps even more strongly misogynist, and terribly bitter.

If Helena were your only acquaintance with Waugh's work, you would certainly smell the cologne, but would assume that the real Evelyn Waugh had left the room. There are moments of Vile Bodies reserved for some of the more repulsive characters, and yet there is never the stunning detraction, the sheer biting nearly vindictive character assassination that makes some of Waugh's work so hilarious.

And so, while there are a few chuckles, this is another uncharacteristic work in that it is not terrible humorous. There is a slyness and a cleverness to what is going on; but there isn't the savageness nor the hilarity to be found in many of his books.

As a direct result, I suspect, this among Waugh's fictional works, is one of the few to fall in and out of print. Publishing history suggests that many of the works have been available from the time they were published to the present day. But Helena apparently makes a rare appearance and then bows out. That said, the wise Amazon consumer will dutifully make a discrete purchase at the earliest possible opportunity. It would be a shame for this greatest of this religious "biographies" to vanish.

And that is another point. Waugh's nonfiction lives, St. Edmund Campion and Msgr. Ronald Knox fall woefully short of the wonder of his fictional prose. Perhaps Waugh needed to reign in his natural animosity. Whatever the reason the biographies are strangely stilted and oddly disjunct works that try the patience of the most determined reader. Incident piles on incident without any real insight into the life of the person about whom Waugh is writing.

Not so Helena, because Waugh abandoned any pretense of being able to say anything truly definitive about the character, and because he allowed himself his usually jabs at other characters, Helena is not merely a compendium of events, but a view of a person through the eyes of an admirer. We see her grow and mature and become progressively more holy, and the detractions of ages past, whether reportage or Byzantine fabrications are stripped away to show the circumstances of the time and how they "built" holiness. In many ways, you read in Helena Waugh's "redemptive" work. It is a work in which one feels that the Spirit of God was active in the author.

So, that Waugh considered this his finest work is not surprising. For him, it appears to have been a work in the transformation of understanding that would define for him what his lifelong quest had been and would continue to be. Yes, the old Waugh returns, but transformed by his late encounter with Helena. The child that transforms the parent for the better is nearly always the best loved child.

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How's that for elitist and snooty? Nah, on second thought, the only way to really enjoy these is with a crowd--that's why I invited y'all into my secret lair of "the-things-I-really-oughtn't-to-admit-to-even-knowing-about-but-which-will-
dispell-the-odd-notion-of-me-that-some-seem-to-have." AKA Guilty Pleasures:

The Mabinogion--and yes, even the Evangeline Walton series of four novels that takes the four branches and turns them out at bombastically amazing length. Everyone should know about the four branches--not because it's essential cultural information, not because it's great literature (although it is that too), not because it will make your brain bigger--no, just because it is fun. It's like the Tain Bo Culaigne translated by Lady Guest (you can even fine some of the older versions of the Mabinogion in the magnificent Lady Guest translation). What's more, often the translations include "side-stories" like "Culhwch and Olwen," a riff on the Arthurian Legend with a giant magical stew-pot. Yep--the Mabinogion is simply a treasure.

Locked Room Mysteries--Okay, it's a very tiny genre, tried by many, but perfected and executed at least fifty times successfully by John Dickson Carr under a variety of names. As with all of the prolific Golden Age writers, read enough and you'll see the plots repeated--sometimes shifting from short story to novel, often picked up and moved from one novel to another. However, if you are to dip into this genre, you should have a roadmap. It Walks By Night while not a favorite because it stars the least robust of the detectives does have the unique feature of being the only mystery I know of dealing with a decapitation in the locked room. The Three Coffins featuring the most frequently recurring of the Chestertonian Detectives, Dr. Gideon Fell. This has the unique distinction of a lecture on locked room murders and a subtle twist--a murder that takes place in the middle of a street watched from both ends by witnesses and yet not seen by either. Among my favorite of the Fell series--The Man Who Could Not Shudder, The Mad Hatter Mystery, and The Problem of the Wire Cage--not a locked room, this last one, rather a tennis court that shows only one set of footprints going out to a dead body that experienced a definite "hands-on" end. And finally, my favorite of the Chestertonians--Lord Henry Merrivale--these under the pseudonym Carter Dickson, erratically in print, and even paperback copies of some of these are incredibly expensive. I collected them more than twenty years ago when I had access to the amazing world of genre used-book stores in and around Washington D.C. My favorite of these Death in Five Boxes The Skeleton in the Clock and one considered the finest of the locked room genre The Judas Window in which a person in a room with one entrance, locked from the inside, and no secret passageways (I should have mentioned that Carr does not cheat) is murdered by a crossbow bolt. All of these are very rarified intellectual puzzles--characters are fun, but central to the action (as with Dame Agatha) is the puzzle under consideration.

Treasure Island, mentioned below. I don't know if this is just a boy's book, but I've read it two or three dozen times and no other book about the sea remotely approaches it. It may be quirky like my greater than forty-five readings of Tom Sawyer which I like much, much better than Huckleberry Finn.

Finally, I have a thing for time travel science fiction. I've read some fairly bad recent stuff which has gotten acclaim--Swanwick's Bones of the Earth moves from bad paleontology through bad morality into simple dullness, Cryptozoic, now much less well known, is Brian Aldiss's infinitely more sucessful version of the same. Julian May's highly literate "Pleistocene Saga" starting, if I recall with The Golden Torc, Robert Silverberg's uncharacteristically funny Up the Line, to the poignant, frightening, and tremendously well written The Domesday Book. One mustn't forget certain classics of this genre, Bradbury's "The Sound of Thunder" and C.L. Moore's (I think) "Vintage Season." (It was written under the pseudonym shared by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, but I think it is now attributed almost entirely to C.L. Moore.)

And let us not forget the highly Christian, highly symbolic, very eerily misshapen world of Cordwainer Smith--"Scanners Live in Vain," "The Game of Rat and Dragon," "The Ballad of Lost C'mell" and a great many others. These are so odd and of such startling originality that there is simply nothing else to compare them to. People have borrowed from them and ripped them off, but they have never succeeded in recreating the astonishing sense of Otherness that Smith attains. Very highly recommended.

Okay, enough for the short walk through the field of the less-than-highly-erudite that constitutes a good 70% of my collection of books. I think one of the reasons I read so many classics now is to make up for the years of wasted youth reading "mind-numbing rot." Well, so it has been called by others who have failed to acquire the taste.

(It should come as no surprise that among my favorites are Jack Vance and C.A. Smith, whose highly ornate prose is ever a pleasure. Nor should any be astonished when I say that I don't share their enthusiasm for Gene Wolfe. Some of the Short Stories have been very fine, but I'm afraid that most of the full length works have yet to find a warm space in may heart. I've read many of them and can appreciate the finer qualities, but they simply don't speak to me the way many of these works do.)

To come, perhaps later--the amazing world of the lesser-known Golden Age--Hake Talbot's Rim of the Pit and Anthony Boucher, Frederic Brown, and if that hasn't bored you completely to tears, you can listen to me wax enthusiastic about the wonders of the prose of Lord Dunsany, David Lindsay, and E.R.R. Eddison--an author with a book having the unlikely title A Fish Dinner in Memmison. And this doesn't even mention Joy Chant and Hope Mirless.

And if there's too much hissing and spitting, you may be subjected to my disquistion on Mary Roberts Rinehart, the queen of the "Had I but known then what I know now" school of mystery--who nevertheless created some of the fanciest tricks in the mystery book. And finally, you might be subjected to my life-long affection for Dame Agatha and everything she wrote, from autobiography through romance. Could create a character any thicker than tissue paper, but boy could she plot! Unlike the much better stylist Ngaio Marsh, whose writing and characters are quite fine, but whose mysteries are somewhat thin and unsatisfying. But I do go on when I had intended to stop.

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Some Questions

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A gift from Gregg and MamaT

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
Oh, this is really tough--either Bleak House Charles Dickens, Pseudolus Plautus, or Dandelion Wine Ray Bradbury.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Yes, three--the eponymous Emma, Kate (from Taming of the Shrew--probably like TSO's Dulcinea because of the fieriness of Elizabeth Taylor's version), and Margo Channing (All About Eve--class and irascibility mixed in the marvelous package of Bette Davis's drawl.)

The last book you bought was . . .
Helena and The DK Shakespeare Guide, the title of which eludes me.

The last book you read was . . .
Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling Ross King

What are you currently reading?
Helena Evelyn Waugh, The Collected Short Stories of Evelyn Waugh, Ascent to Love Ruth Burrows, Great Expectations Charles Dickens, Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy, Carmelite Prayer, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Life of Johnson, oh, and my guilty pleasure The Punch and Judy Murders Carter Dickson (to be followed up with some Craig Rice I was able to get from Blackmask as e-books!)

Five books you would take to a desert island: (The First Three are for sure. The last two would be a last minute decision. I'd select one from each group depending on the mood I was in and why exactly I was going to a desert island.)

1. Bible - Authorized Version (KJV with original inclusion of the Deuterocanonical Books).
2. Collected works of Shakespeare
3. Complete Works of St. John of the Cross
4. One of: Ulysses, A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, Bleak House, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, or Treasure Island (Depends on the pleasantness of the Isle and my feeling about possible length of stay and purpose)
5. Neal Stephenson either Snow Crash or The Diamond Age; The Difference Engine is a distant and unlikely third possibility.

What three people are you passing this stick on to and why?

Tom of Disputations - sheer curiousity as to whether he would stoop to this level.
Brandon of "Siris"--sheer unadulterated curiousity.
Mr. White-- ditto

I'm just a nosy parker.


Two points: How could I possibly have forgotten Emma Peel--the constant companion of my just-pre and adolescent years. My first girlfriend was a tristate champion in three martial arts.

And secondly, I'd also like to pass this own to Eutychus Fell because so much of what he writes strikes a familiar chord.

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I had lined up in my head a post detailing all of my opinions about matters such as school prayer, gay marriage, and other items of the day. Then I realized several things.

(1) Who cares?

(2) Who am I trying to convince?

(3) While I enjoy discussion and controversy, I am not a controversialist. I don't really kick up a fuss, largely because my opinions on matters are not really hard and fast for the most part. I'm willing to be persuaded and my mind changes as quickly as the Florida weather--so I'm not really a candidate for posting these sorts of things.

(4) In many ways I'm really too ignorant of the salient facts to make pronouncements on policies of any sort. I have a muddle of opinions gathered together that spew forth with little rhyme or reason only to be changed by the first commenter who makes a reasonable point. The only matters on which I am thoroughly convinced and intractable (or at least can hold my own) are matters of literature and the arts. I'm less confident in the arts, but still can hold my own in theory, philosophy, and practice.

(5) No one really wants to read yet another set of opinions on the same issues. Or if they do, they would get far better bang for their buck reading the comments on the major channels of St. Blogs.

So, what happens is that I'm left without much to say this morning. I aplogize for that and will try to do better around lunchtime or later this evening. Certainly by tomorrow morning. Perhaps I'll post some of the delights from the truly insightful and wonderful novel Helena.

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William Law

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Sorry, now I'm started and I can't resist introducing one of my other favorite protestant mystics.

from Of Justification by Faith and Works
William Law

A DIALOGUE BETWEEN A Methodist and a Churchman.

[Just-1] Methodist. Say what you will, sir, I must still stand to it, that almost all the sermons of your bishops and curates, for these last hundred years, have been full of soul-destroying doctrine. {Mr. Berridge's Letters, page 20.}

[Just-2] Churchman. Pray, what is that doctrine?

[Just-3] Methodist. It is the doctrine of salvation, "partly by faith, and partly by works; or justification by faith and works." {Ibid. page 13.}

[Just-4] Churchman. Salvation by faith and works, is a plain, and very intelligible scripture-truth. But salvation partly by faith and partly by works, is a false and groundless explication of the matter, proceeding either from art, or ignorance. What sounder gospel-truth, than to say, that we are saved by Jesus Christ, God and man? But, what falser account could be given of it, than to say, that if so, then we are saved, partly by Jesus, and partly by Christ; that Jesus does something, and Christ adds the rest. For is not Jesus Christ, as such, the one undivided savior, with one undivided operation? And who can more endeavor to lose the meaning, and pervert the sense of this gospel- truth, than he, who considers Jesus, as separately, and Christ as separately, doing their parts one after the other, the one making up what was wanting in the other, towards the work of our salvation?

[Just-5] Now to separate faith from works, in this manner, the one partly doing this, and the other partly doing that, is in as full contrariety to scripture, to all truth, and the nature of the thing, as to separate Jesus from Christ. For as the one savior is manifested in and by Jesus Christ, one undivided person; so the one salvation is manifested, when faith is in works, and works are in faith, as Jesus is in Christ, and Christ is in Jesus.

See also the extraordinary and beautiful The Spirit of Love,
The Spirit of Prayer, and his masterwork A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

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Jonathan Edwards


I love innocent comments that give me a reason to ride one of my hobby horses. ~M2~ innocently asked if Jonathan Edwards ever wrote about love.

It is my belief that Jonathan Edwards, along with William Law, George Whitefield, George Fox, William Penn, Jeremy Taylor, and a smattering of others, is one of a very elite group of protestant mystics whom God granted the grace to see far and see hard.

As a result Edwards did produce some remarkable works centered on love, affection, and compassion.

His treatise Religious Affections is one example, from which, the following excerpt:

from Religious Affections
Jonathan Edwards

The evidence of this in the Scripture is very abundant. If we judge of the Nature of Christianity, and the proper spirit of the gospel, by the word of God, this spirit is what may, by way of eminency, be called the Christian spirit; and may be looked upon as the true, and distinguishing disposition of the hearts of Christians as Christians. When some of the disciples of Christ said something, through inconsideration and infirmity, that was not agreeable to such a spirit, Christ told them, that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of, Luke 9:55, implying that this spirit that I am speaking of, is the proper spirit of his religion and kingdom. All that are truly godly, and real disciples of Christ, have this spirit in them; and not only so, but they are of this spirit; it is the spirit by which they are so possessed and governed, that it is their true and proper character. This is evident by what the wise man says, Prov. 17:27 (having respect plainly to such a spirit as this): "A man of understanding is of an excellent spirit." And by the particular description Christ gives of the qualities and temper of such as are truly blessed, that shall obtain mercy, and are God's children and heirs: Matt. 5:5, 7, 9, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." And that this spirit is the special character of the elect of God, is manifested by Col. 3:12, 13: "Put on therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another." And the apostle, speaking of that temper and disposition, which he speaks of as the most excellent and essential thing in Christianity, and that without which none are true Christians, and the most glorious profession and gifts are nothing (calling this spirit by the name of charity), he describes it thus, 1 Cor. 13:4, 5: "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil."

Portions of this Thanksgiving Sermon are lovely:

from "Thanksgiving Sermon"
Jonathan Edwards

1. Proposition. The saints in heaven are employed; they are not idle; they have there much to do: they have a work before them that will fill up eternity.

We are not to suppose, when the saints have finished their course and done the works appointed them here in this world, and are got to their journey’s end, to their Father’s house, that they will have nothing to do. It is true, the saints when they get to heaven, rest from their labours and their works follow them. Heaven is not a place of labour and travail, but a place of rest. Heb. iv. 9. There remaineth a rest for the people of God. And it is a place of the reward of labour. But yet the rest of heaven does not consist in idleness, and a cessation of all action, but only a cessation from all the trouble and toil and tediousness of action. The most perfect rest is consistent with being continually employed. So it is in heaven. Though the saints are exceedingly full of action, yet their activity is perfectly free from all labour, or weariness, or unpleasantness. They shall rest from their work, that is, from all work of labour and self-denial, and grief, care, and watchfulness, but they will not cease from action. The saints in glory are represented as employed in serving God, as well as the saints on earth, though it be without any difficulty or opposition. Rev. xxii. 3. “

To judge by all of his works and his life, he was, like John Wesley, a man after God's own heart and God spoke to him of intimate matters; however, he was woefully misguided in some of his opinions by misunderstandings that accrued as a result of common errors of his time and some Calvinist influences.


Admittedly, the majority of his corpus was dedicated to being "a fisher of man" and reeling in the lost souls of the time--so Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is a note struck forcefully and often. Nevertheless, not all of his work is so militant, even though all is strident and forceful. Were I to give a single word to describe Edwards's work, I would say that it is vigorous. There is a tautness to it that sings of Divine Things. Take, for example, "The Church's Marriage to Her Sons and to Her God"--a remarkable sermon that wayward Priests would do well to read again and again. So too with True Saints, When Absent from the Body, Are Present with the Lord:

from "True Saints, When Absent from the Body, Are Present with the Lord"
Jonathan Edwards

And therefore there is a certain place, a particular part of the external creation, to which Christ is gone, and where he remains. And this place is that which we call the highest heaven, or the heaven of heavens; a place beyond all the visible heavens. Eph. iv. 9, 10. “Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended, is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens.” This is the same which the apostle calls the third heaven, 2 Cor. xii. 2. reckoning the aerial heaven as the first, the starry heaven as the second, and the highest heaven as the third. This is the abode of the holy angels; they are called “the angels of heaven,” Matt. xxiv. 36. “The angels which are in heaven,” Mark xiii. 32. “The angels of God in heaven,” Matt. xxii. 30. and Mark xii. 25. They are said “always to behold the face of the Father which is in heaven,” Matt. xviii. 10. And they are elsewhere often represented as before the throne of God, or surrounding his throne in heaven, and sent from thence, and descending from thence on messages to this world. And thither it is that the souls of departed saints are conducted, when they die. They are not reserved in some abode distinct from the highest heaven; a place of rest, which they are kept in, until the day of judgment; such as some imagine, which they call the hades of the happy: but they go directly to heaven itself. This is the saints’ home, being their Father’s house: they are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, and this is the other and better country that they are travelling to, Heb. xi. 13-26. This is the city they belong to: Phil. iii. 20. “Our conversation or (as the word properly signifies, citizenship) is in heaven.” Therefore this undoubtedly is the place the apostle has respect to in my text, when he says, “We are willing to forsake our former house, the body, and to dwell in the same house, city or country, wherein Christ dwells,” which is the proper import of the words of the original. What can this house, or city, or country be, but that house, which is elsewhere spoken of, as their proper home, and their Father’s house, and the city and country to which they properly belong, and whither they are travelling all the while they continue in this world, and the house, city, and country where we know the human nature of Christ is? This is the saints’ rest; here their hearts are while they live; and here their treasure is.

The geography of the afterlife may be truncated, but the image herein is glorious.

Reading The Types of the Messiah is an intricate and satisfying Bible Study all on its own. Truly remarkable is the thought that this is a small fraction of the work on one man. Reading this treatise sends you through a high-speed survey of the entire Old Testament looking for the signs of the Messiah throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. I won't cite it here; however, were one to read it slowly with reference to each of the Scriptures quoted, there is no doubt but that one we be far better acquainted with the person of Jesus than before one started.

And let me conclude this whirlwind tour with another beautiful fragment of a sermon. Stop and think what it would be like today to be able to here sermons so well constructed, so carefully considered, so well thought-out. It would be this remarkable quality that would serve to draw people toward Christ--the truth presented in all of its beauty.

from "The Peace Which Christ Gives His True Followers"

“My peace I give unto you.” Christ by calling it his peace signifies two things,

1. That it was his own, that which he had to give. It was the peculiar benefit that he had to bestow on his children, now he was about to leave the world as to his human presence. Silver and gold he had none; for, while in his estate of humiliation, he was poor. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests; but the Son of man had not where to lay his head: Luke ix. 58. He had no earthly estate to leave to his disciples who were as it were his family: but he had peace to give them.

2. It was his peace that he gave them; as it was the same kind of peace which he himself enjoyed. The same excellent and divine peace which he ever had in God, and which he was about to receive in his exalted state in a vastly greater perfection and fulness: for the happiness Christ gives to his people, is a participation of his own happiness: agreeable to chapter xv. 11. “These things have I said unto you, that my joy might remain in you.” And in his prayer with his disciples at the conclusion of this discourse, chapter xvii. 13. “And now come I to thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” And verse 22. “And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them.”. . .


The use that I would make of this doctrine, is to improve it as an inducement unto all to forsake the world, no longer seeking peace and rest in its vanities, and to cleave to Christ and follow him. Happiness and rest are what all men pursue. But the things of the world, wherein most men seek it, can never afford it; they are labouring and spending themselves in vain. But Christ invites you to come to him, and offers you this peace, which he gives his true followers, and that so much excels all that the world can afford, Isa. lv. 2, 3.

You that have hitherto spent your time in the pursuit of satisfaction in the profit or glory of the world, or in the pleasures and vanities of youth, have this day an offer of that excellent and everlasting peace and blessedness, which Christ has purchased with the price of his own blood. As long as you continue to reject those offers and invitations of Christ, and continue in a Christless condition, you never will enjoy any true peace or comfort; but will be like the prodigal, that in vain endeavoured to be satisfied with the husks that the swine did eat.

What is particularly nice about Edwards is that each sermon has this "application" section in which the abstracts of the commentary, the ideals that are pointed out, are given focus and purpose. This might well be called the "exhortation to holiness." It is rarely without reference to God's Wrath (a favorite subject) but also His infinited mercy in welcoming sinners home. Edwards is a nice specific to a time in which sin is seen as "not so bad." We tend to have lost a sense of the enormity of the crime we commit, the immensity of the ingratitude we express when we follow our own lead.

I love the work of Jonathan Edwards. The theology may have its problems, but the prose is sinewy and peppered with startling images and wonderful, powerful language, all crafted with an eye to making the Glory of God known to sinners. A Catholic must tiptoe through the TULIP and other things Calvinist, but there is remarkable fruit to be harvested here.

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As I said, if you want sin and hell, (among other things much more pleasant to reflect upon) you cannot do better than the great Puritan preachers. This passage from Jonathan Edwards clearly spells out the logic of the Eternity of Hell.

from Remarks on Important Theological Controversies--Chapter II Jonathan Edwards

§ 11. If the wicked in hell are in a state of trial, under severe chastisement, as means in order to their repentance and obtaining the benefit of God’s favour in eternal rewards, then they are in a state of such freedom as makes them moral agents, and the proper subjects of judgment and retribution. Then those terrible chastisements are made use of as the most powerful means of all, more efficacious than all the means used in this life which prove ineffectual, and which proving insufficient to overcome sinners’ obstinacy, and prevail with ‘their hard hearts, God is compelled to relinquish them all, and have recourse to those torments as the last means, the most effectual and powerful. If the torments of hell are to last ages of ages, then it must be because sinners in hell all this while are obstinate; and though they are free agents as to this matter, yet they wilfully and perversely refuse, even under such great means, to repent, forsake their sins, and turn to God. It must be further supposed, that all tins while they have the offers of immediate mercy and deliverance made to them, if they will comply. Now, if this be the case, and they shall go on in such wickedness, and continue in such extreme obstinacy and pertinaciousness, for so many ages, (as is supposed, by its being thought their torments shall be so long continued,) how desperately will their guilt be increased! How many thousand times more guilty at the end of the term, than at the beginning! And therefore they will be much the more proper objects of divine severity, deserving God’s wrath, and still a thousand times more severe or longer continued chastisements than the past; and therefore it is not reasonable to suppose, that all the damned should be delivered from misery, and received to God’s favour, and made the subjects of eternal salvation and glory at that time, when they are many thousand times more unworthy of it, more deserving of continuance in misery, than when they were first cast into hell. It is not likely that the infinitely wise God should so order the matter. And if their misery should be augmented, and still lengthened out much longer, to atone for their new contracted guilt; they must be supposed to continue impenitent, till that second additional time of torment is ended; at the end of which their guilt will still be risen higher, and vastly increased beyond what it was before. And, at this rate, where can there be any place for an end of their misery?

This addresses the conception of Hell as a purgatorial waystation on the path to salvation. It says nothing whatsoever of other matters formerly discussed, but it is an excellent exercise in logical consequences.

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Seek and Ye Shall Find


However, I don't believe I shall knock. . .

A Compendium of Resources Related to the Question of Hell

Count on the Puritans: They have the best sermons and the most extensive landscape displays around. But I did get at least one, and probably several equally satisfying answers to my quesitons.

A very protestant site there are articles on antinomianism and legalism, but the chief sources sited, Spurgeon, Owen, Taylor, Calvin, et al. are Anglican or Calvinist; so, beware for some "thar be monsters." (For example the article "Are Roman Catholics Christians" abounds in multiple misunderstandings of Catholic Doctrine, implying that we believe we are somehow saved by works and not by grace--but this is the usual froth of those who examine the surface and practice and don't understanding the underlying principles. It is clear to me that some protestants do--it is not clear to me that they had much to do with this site. Nevertheless some really good and interesting reference materials if taken in proper context.

For those of weaker constitutions, or those prone to wrath or detraction, this site which gives one of Edwards's sermons on the matter might prove sufficient if you had cared about the answer at all. And Edwards is nothing if not wonderful reading. I can scarcely imagine being present at the delivery of one of these magnificently crafted sermons. It was his day's equivalent of the Superbowl, I'm certain.

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A Question About Hell

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For those who understand better what the Church means by her various pronouncements.

In a comment to Alicia:

Now, someday, I will request that the learned focus their attention on the "eternity" of hell and give that some attention. Because that "eternity" seems quite a bit different than the eternity of the reign of God. But I'm very ignorant in these matters. (My chief problem is that if Hell were eternal, then it would have to be coterminous with God Himself who is the only thing that is Eternal. Angels, Demons, people, and places all have a beginning. They are not thus "eternal" in "always" existent.) If we switch to the other definition of eternal--endless in time, aren't we told that there is a point at which time itself ends?

Anathema was pronounced on those who say that the torments of Hell have an end or that Hell is not eternal. Now, perhaps it really is a technical difference in the meaning of eternity and eternal, but if so can someone explain it. I was under the impression that at the end those who are rejected will ultimately succumb to death--in a sense they would be annihilated. If so, then Hell must have an End. If not, then scripture must mean something else by the passages that state this.

Looking for any input that might clarify the question of what Eternal means here. Do we really mean to say that Hell and God existed if that's the right term outside of creation--because that is Eternity or Eternal, or does the Church mean to say that Hell came into being with the fall of the Angels and exists forevermore from that time forward?

I don't suppose it much matters, but it has been a matter of some considerable confusion to me.

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The Monk
You scored 5% Cardinal, 84% Monk, 47% Lady, and 35% Knight!

You live a peaceful, quiet life. Very little danger comes you way and
you live a long time. You are wise and modest, but also stagnant. You
have little comfort, little food and have taken a vow of silence. But
who needs chatter when just sitting in the cloister of your abbey with
The Good Book makes you perfectly content.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 1% on Cardinal
You scored higher than 99% on Monk
You scored higher than 92% on Lady
You scored higher than 25% on Knight
Link: The Who Would You Be in 1400 AD Test written by KnightlyKnave on Ok Cupid

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The Grudge

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Horror films from Japan are wonderful because they tend not to head straight for the gross-out splatter effect but for the atmosphere. The Grudge is an American-sponsored remake of a Japanese film. This remake was directed by the director of the original and keeps its original Japanese location. I suppose the effort was directed at making the film accessible to wider audiences by avoiding the double whammy of "Read-the-film" and bad dubbing.

What I like best about Japanese Horror films, which include the film Ringu from which The Ring was derived, is that they are surreal, atmospheric, and never quite complete. While The Grudge makes better sense than The Ring at the end, you still get the sense of things not quite wrapped up. You don't really know the full back-story, nor do you find out what really happened to precipitate the curse that seems to march on so relentlessly. There is so much that is still vague and mysterious, while not seeming incomplete, and that is what makes this film so satisfying. Unlike The Ring that seemed to end with an end to the curse that some revives itself a la Freddy or Jason, this film makes no pretense of an end and you are given a reasonable explanation of why.

The Japanese sensibility, when relatively untrampled by western influences, will seem rather naturally surreal to a western audience. The Japanese way of thinking and even perhaps perceiving is such that while we can appreciate it, we can have no deep understanding of what all of the currents. Thus, it comes off as disjointed and surreal. Add to that the very complex time-scheme of this movie with its in medias res beginning and multiple cuts forward and back to gradually peel back layers of the story and reveal all of the nuances. There must be seven or eight chronological jumps and juxtapositions through the film creating even a greater sense of disorientation (no pun intended).

Well worthwhile for adults and older teens, much too intense for younger members of the audience. If you want to spend an evening with creeping unease, this is the movie for you.


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If you can handle the underlying message (which is not laid on too thick) Robots is an utterly delightful and super-fast-paced film that children will enjoy and adults will appreciate. The gags come a mile a minute and include everything from slapstick to verbal and visual humor. It moves much too fast to take in everything the first time you see it.

The plot is slight, but amusing. A young robot grows up to be an inventor. He goes to the big city to meet Big Weld, the benevolent patriarch of the largest inventing firm in the world, his motto You can shine whatever you are made of, representative of his entire approach to business. Of course something has happened and Big Weld has vanished, and nasty, greedy corporate types have take over and instituted a new motto Why be you when you can be new? The film centers around the conflict.

The animation is superior. Done by the team that gave us Ice Age, this is a vastly superior work; however, the trailer and lead-in from a new ice-age film is extremely amusing and functioned as a introductory cartoon as well as a trailer.

If you have kids, go and see it, they will love it. If you do not, go and see it, you will enjoy it. A wonderful, light entertainment.

Highly recommended.

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One of the great delights of any work of historical fiction is to find out things that were previously unknown; to see how a writer works historical fact into a fictional work. I've already shared with you one interesting fact that, had I known it before, slipped my mind entirely. Waugh peppers his work with them and deals with them slyly. Today's example is particularly fine.

St. Helena's father, according to some sources, was King Coel, or King Cole. Yes, indeed, he of the rhyme:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul
and a merry old soul was he.
He called for his pipe
and he called for his bowl
and he called for his fiddlers three.

Well indeed, in the course of the beginning of this novel we are treated to a scene in which King Coel entertains the visiting Constantius with a long and wearisome musical evening celebrating his lineage. Latter, Coel is considering whether or not to allow Constantius to woe his daughter.

from Helena
Evelyn Waugh

"Mead," roared Coel, "and music. No, not your"--as all the bards came bundling in--"only the three strings and the pipe. I have to think."

What a wonderful and sly working in of the material of a nursery rhyme.

Overall in the novel, Waugh has not lost his edge and edginess--there are still sharp jabs at human nature and foibles; however, the overall tone of the book is much less sarcastic and misanthropic than the majority of his fiction. There is about the work a surprising gentleness and cleverness that shows Waugh at his very best.

My only question and lament is, why couldn't his biographies be nearly so interesting? Waugh is obviously as master of narrative prose. Was he unable to get close enough to those he would chronicle to turn their stories into the stuff of readable, entertaining, and entrancing art? Whatever the reason for the failure, such a lack is not part of Helena. A masterful storyteller and novelist at his very best. The novel is perhaps not so good (as a novel) as say, A Handful of Dust or even Vile Bodies, but that may be due, in part, to the limitations of the particular genre. The prose is rich and beautifully crafted--the novel is a breeze to read. I haven't finished yet, so stay tuned, but if the work continues in the same high quality it has presently, I anticipate a very strong recommendation.

One important note: of all of Waugh's fiction, this is the only book that is not consistently in print. There is a paperback version available now from Loyola Press and I would recommend that if you plan to read it, you get a copy now. There is no telling how long it will remain in print.

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My Movie Character


From Vita Brevis

The latest craze is to disclose the movie character with whom you most closely identify.

Joe Gillis from Sunset Boulevard--I'll leave the parallels to your imagination.

Either that or Henry Higgins, and I paraphrase here, " And I treat a duchess as if she was a flower girl. . . . The great secret, Eliza, is not having bad manners or good manners or any other particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls: in short, behaving as if you were in Heaven, where there are no third-class carriages, and one soul is as good as another." (From the Play, not the film)

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The First Supercool Thing

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about Helena was a little known fact, that had I read it before, I failed to remember. I looked it up and found confirmation:

Sometime towards the end of 259, or at the beginning of 260, Valerian was caught and made prisoner by the Persians. It is said that he was subjected to the greatest insults by his captors and later executed. After his death his skin was stuffed with straw and preserved as a trophy in the chief Persian temple.

Now, I know Samuel (bloodthirsty little beast) would get a real kick out of that.

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Three Quotations

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from an idea at Summa Minutiae

Here's a blogger challenge: describe yourself with three quotes - serious, ironic, humorous, whatever - from various literary sources, as I've done in the "About the author" section over in the right sidebar.

My quotations:

"H[is] changes change his changes constantly" Dante Inferno

"And such a want-wit sadness it makes of me,
I have much ado to know myself" Antonio Merchant of Venice

"Something appealing,
Something appalling,
Something for everyone
a comedy tonight" A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Okay, this was really, really hard, and I may have to change it, but this comes close.

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I'm thrilled to have gotten my copy of Helena today. I hope as a novel it is better than most of Waugh's biographical writing. I'll look into it soon and let you all know.

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There is a fascinating discussion going on over at Disputations which is well worth the time of anyone interested in the question presented above.

I need to be absolutely truthful. Were there not a specific interdict against it and anathema pronounced upon it, I would probably be a Universalist. At a time before I understood Catholic Doctrine as well as I do now (still not well), I believed that it was possible for God's love to redeem even Satan. I am obedient to the fact that the Church says this is not so. I am obedient because the Church is trustworthy and guided by the Holy Spirit.

Obedience does NOT stop my wayward soul from hoping that it could be true anyway. Hoping, not in the theological sense, but in the sense of some wild resolve. I know that what the Church teaches is the truth. The specifics of the anathema are against the redemption of the fallen angels and those who are already in Hell. However, the Church does leave me an out. I can believe that Hell's only inhabitants are the fallen Angels. I admit that my knowledge of human nature argues against this conclusion, nevertheless, I can hope that it is true, because my knowledge of human nature is far from complete and my knowledge of God's mysteries even more full of gaps.

But I think it only fair to say that at one time I was a Universalist in the condemned sense. I did not know that the Church taught against this. Knowing now that the Church condemns the proposition, (and yet still desiring that it be true), I can be obedient to her teaching because her teaching in these matters is faultless. Nevertheless, the mind does not control the heart, and the misguided heart still wants God to bring all things back to Him. Yes, He is simple and cannot be reconciled to anything that is not--and yet, with God all things are possible. So the heart says. But the head knows that this reunion is out of the question. So head and heart are at war in this matter. I think the most critical matter is that regardless of what I want (for whatever reason), what I want is not what is real. What is real is what the Church teaches and my desires will no more affect this than will my poor reason.

I don't know why I say this except that I felt the need to expand beyond mere "Yes it is, no it isn't" argumentation of the ambiguous "facts" of the matter to say what guides my interpretation of those facts. I admit that I will ever read scripture to say what most closely points in the direction of this conclusion--it is ingrained, part of who I am. However, I will also guard against ever going beyond the strict line of what the Church permits. Regardless of what the wayward heart wants, I must train it to desire what God desires, and much, if not all, of this is revealed through His teaching voice on Earth--the Holy Catholic Church.

(that little pythonesque voice pops up and says, "But it still doesn't stop me from wanting.")

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In the past two days I have received notes from two different readers correcting or adjusting my view on two different matters. I am deeply appreciative that both people took the time to write. One gentleman spent some time talking about the Center for Economic and Social Justice and the ideas thereon. As a quiz I took this morning put me at the extreme left of the economic scale (calling me, in fact, a socialist, which I think rather strong and not really representative of my views), I thought I might need to give the site an overview and arrive at a course correction in my economic understandings.

The second gentleman corrected an erroneous post I had made some time ago. Gavin Douglas did not translate The Aeneid into English, he translated it into Scots. My mistake was that I had no background material with the excerpt and so I read the text and found nothing out of the ordinary for Middle English dialects and leapt to an incorrect assumption. This of course is an unjust attribution, and I hasten to correct it here.

There is almost nothing in the world more wonderful than learning something new. My sincere appreciation and thanks to the two gentlemen who took the time to write to me.

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from "Sermon XL. On Lent, II." St. Leo the Great

V. And Still Further It Should Lead to Personal Amendment and Domestic Harmony.

But, beloved, in this opportunity for the virtues' exercise there are also other notable crowns, to be won by no dispersing abroad of granaries, by no disbursement of money, if wantonness is repelled, if drunkenness is abandoned, and the lusts of the flesh tamed by the laws of chastity: if hatreds pass into affection, if enmities be turned into peace, if meekness extinguishes wrath, if gentleness forgives wrongs, if in fine the conduct of master and of slaves is so well ordered that the rule of the one is milder, and the discipline of the other is more complete. It is by such observances then, dearly-beloved, that God's mercy will be gained, the charge of sin wiped out, and the adorable Easter festival devoutly kept. And this the pious Emperors of the Roman world have long guarded with holy observance; for in honour of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection they bend their lofty power, and relaxing the severity of their decrees set free many of their prisoners: so that on the clays when the world is saved by the Divine mercy, their clemency, which is modelled on the Heavenly goodness, may be zealously followed by us. Let Christian peoples then imitate their princes, and be incited to forbearance in their homes by these royal examples. For it is not right that private laws should be severer than public. Let faults be forgiven, let bonds be loosed offences wiped out, designs of vengeance fall through, that the holy festival through the Divine and human grace may find all happy, all innocent: through our Lord Jesus Christ Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth God for endless ages of ages. Amen.

Taming the self. What a concept. Abandoning what I want in favor of what another needs--what a strange new line of thought! This Christianity must be a very odd faith indeed if it asks us to look to the good of others before ourselves.

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One Last Post


You were probably wondering whether or not I would ever shut up today. This is it! Quite a day--quite a number of posts. God was very generous with inspiration today.

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10 Things

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Okay, I've resisted temptation up until now, but like Oscar, "I can resist anything but temptation." So my list of ten things most others might not have done:

1. Won first prize in an annual James Joyce writing competition for a poem composed in a composite language modeled on Finnegan's Wake

2. Named a species of fossil after my wife. (It was a compliment not any implication about the spouse.)

3. Had dinner and a knock-down drag-out fight with Stephen Jay Gould over the theory of contingency and whether it properly understood was science or not. (Okay, I admit it, that's an exaggeration. Let us say an animated and lengthy discussion complete with table napkin drawings and other paraphenalia.)

4. Went to a poetry reading (and read) in a State Penitentiary

5. Demonstrated origami for International Children's Days on the National Mall.

6. Assisted in digs on Mount Vernon Grounds and Williamsburg.

7. Helped excavate a mammoth, a dog-faced bear, and a peccary the size of a horse.

8. Went on a field trip to San Salvador, Bahamas to study modern carbonate depositional environments and joined the islanders in an iguana and conch feast.

9. Sat on Sophia Loren's lap in a helicopter shuttle for Kennedy Airport to La Guardia.

10. Presented a paper in a National Geological Convention on the periodicity of Mass extinctions and was congratulated and assisted by no less than David Raup and Jack Sepkoski themselves.

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God's Universal Love


In the course of addressing what I believe to be erroneous assertions made at Disputations regarding the validity of Universalism, I came across this lovely passage.

from William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography, pg 65-67

Fourth, I believe implicitly in the ultimate and complete triumph of God, the time when all things will be subject to him, and when God will be everything to everyone (1 Cor. 15:24-28). For me this has certain consequences. If one man remains outside the love of God at the end of time, it means that that one man has defeated the love of God - and that is impossible. Further, there is only one way in which we can think of the triumph of God. If God was no more than a King or Judge, then it would be possible to speak of his triumph, if his enemies were agonizing in hell or were totally and completely obliterated and wiped out. But God is not only King and Judge, God is Father - he is indeed Father more than anything else. No father could be happy while there were members of his family for ever in agony. No father would count it a triumph to obliterate the disobedient members of his family. The only triumph a father can know is to have all his family back home. The only victory love can enjoy is the day when its offer of love is answered by the return of love. The only possible final triumph is a universe loved by and in love with God.

Of course, I rush to reassert that these words prove nothing at all, but they do state for me one of the chief lynchpins of my hope in salvation for all.

Read the complete excerpt here.

While I acknowledge that I could be wrong in my belief and hope, I trust that God will look kindly upon the direction of the error and will note that I do not rest idle hoping that this will be the case but work, in my own way, toward making the free gift of Jesus Christ know to all.

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Hooray for Mel!


Our Senator from Florida is trying to intervene for Terri at a Federal Level--Praise God and keep praying.

See here

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Clean Films

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Y'all may or may not be aware of a little organization called Clean Films, which takes popular Hollywood movies and reedits them to remove offensive content.

I'm of several minds about this service. First, how do they get away with it? I suppose Hollywood favors anything that makes more money, but I'd be surprised at the director who would release his or her film to be cut by someone else according to their standards. Does anyone have any idea how this arrangement is done?

But on the other hand, what a pleasure it would be to be able to bring a film into the house and know that the whole family could watch it without having to worry about language or nudity or any number of other things that can crop up in films as "mild" as PG.

It does seem an infringement on artist's rights, on the other hand, it is such a fine service to families with young children. A dilemma.

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from Good-Friday, 1613, Riding Westward
John Donne

If on these things I durst not look, durst I
On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus
Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ?

Interesting isn't it? The Anglican Church took a long time to shake off the chains of Catholicism, and early on, and perhaps in some places even today, the respect and veneration for the Blessed Virgin remained quite profound, as well they should. And I've never seen it more succinctly or certainly phrased than in this lovely pair of couplets.

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There is a new, and uncommonly tone-deaf "inclusive" translation of the Bible, that does once again great harm to God's word and even greater harm to the English language. Those who cannot hear its dissonances (how in the world can you take the concrete "Kingdom" and turn it into "reign" and think that you have not done violence to the meaning?) are merely too enamored of their own agendas to recognize the damage they do to scripture and to language. Of them John Donne wrote the first four lines of this:


ETERNAL God—for whom who ever dare
Seek new expressions, do the circle square,
And thrust into straight corners of poor wit
Thee, who art cornerless and infinite—
I would but bless Thy name, not name Thee now
—And Thy gifts are as infinite as Thou—
Fix we our praises therefore on this one,
That, as thy blessed Spirit fell upon
These Psalms' first author in a cloven tongue
—For 'twas a double power by which he sung
The highest matter in the noblest form—
So thou hast cleft that Spirit, to perform
That work again, and shed it here, upon
Two, by their bloods, and by Thy Spirit one ;
A brother and a sister, made by Thee
The organ, where Thou art the harmony.

Modern translations seek to accommodate modern sensibilities, to update, renovate, and refresh what is ever new. There is a word for this--presumption.

Inclusivity need not be hideous, nor need it be so obsequious as to find fault in the word Kingdom. The Kingdom of Great Britain is ruled by a Queen--the word in itself has no gender, but the foolish rive it and find fault. (Rather like women and wymmin--or however it is "neutered.") It is also foolish to take the concrete "kingdom" and turn it into the nebulous "reign." A plot of land becomes a piece of time. This is not a matter of inclusivity--rather it is a paean to obfuscation and a grand example of what Orwell inveighed against in Politics and the English Language. This should be required reading for all who presume to improve upon past translations--they should be certain that what they do is actually an improvement, not merely an agenda. Inclusivity is NOT the issue, where the original lacks any sex or gender referent, so the modern can convey; however, it should do so gracefully, and not in a way that rends the fabric of language and meaning. Too few seem to understand the violence they do.

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John, Cap, 3. Ver 2.
Henry Vaughan

THROUGH that pure virgin shrine,
That sacred veil drawn o'er Thy glorious noon,
That men might look and live, as glow-worms shine,
And face the moon :
Wise Nicodemus saw such light
As made him know his God by night.

Most blest believer he !
Who in that land of darkness and blind eyes
Thy long-expected healing wings could see
When Thou didst rise !
And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun !

O who will tell me, where
He found Thee at that dead and silent hour ?
What hallow'd solitary ground did bear
So rare a flower ;
Within whose sacred leaves did lie
The fulness of the Deity ?

No mercy-seat of gold,
No dead and dusty cherub, nor carv'd stone,
But His own living works did my Lord hold
And lodge alone ;
Where trees and herbs did watch and peep
And wonder, while the Jews did sleep.

Dear Night ! this world's defeat ;
The stop to busy fools ; cares check and curb ;
The day of spirits ; my soul's calm retreat
Which none disturb !
Christ's* progress, and His prayer-time ;
The hours to which high Heaven doth chime.

God's silent, searching flight ;
When my Lord's head is fill'd with dew, and all
His locks are wet with the clear drops of night ;
His still, soft call ;
His knocking-time ; the soul's dumb watch,
When spirits their fair kindred catch.

Were all my loud, evil days
Calm and unhaunted as is thy dark tent,
Whose peace but by some angel's wing or voice
Is seldom rent ;
Then I in Heaven all the long year
Would keep, and never wander here.

But living where the sun
Doth all things wake, and where all mix and tire
Themselves and others, I consent and run
To ev'ry mire ;
And by this world's ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night.

There is in God—some say—
A deep, but dazzling darkness ; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that Night ! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim !

* St. Mark, cap. I, ver. 35. St. Luke, cap. 21, ver. 37.

What I love about this poem is the metaphysical conceit that centers around Nicodemus seeking Jesus by night. It suggests either a zeitgeist or the dissemination of the teachings of St. John of the Cross. What is particularly lovely is the couplet:

"And, what can never more be done,
Did at midnight speak with the Sun !"

Thus Nicodemus was privileged, in a special way, to speak with the Source of Light under the cover of darkness. The brilliance of eternity comes only under the cloak of night, with the deadening of all the sensate world and the concentration on the things of God.

Once again, in an interesting trope, we see the day turned into darkness, and the darkness that blinds the senses and provides us with real and certain knowledge of God, becoming the true purveyor of eternity:

"And by this world's ill-guiding light,
Err more than I can do by night."

And there is the final turn, the last stanza that wraps it all together and makes the conceit meaningful. It has within it an absolutely lovely turn of phrase, "There is in God--some say--/A deep, but dazzling darkness." St. John of the Cross says that true knowledge of God is darkness to the intellect because God cannot be comprehended by the senses nor by the intellect. The divide that separated us from Him in the fall separated us so thoroughly that we cannot by our own lights see Him in His glory--we can only make out the barest outline. But in the darkness of the intellect, the Light of God shines brilliantly and the knowledge of Him is made secure. Thus Vaughn concludes:

"There is in God—some say—
A deep, but dazzling darkness ; as men here
Say it is late and dusky, because they
See not all clear.
O for that Night ! where I in Him
Might live invisible and dim !"

That I might live invisible and dim in the light of eternity and not in the false light, which is really darkness, that I draw around myself when I pretend to greater knowledge than I have!

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More on Lent


from "Sermon XXXIX--On Lent, I"
St. Leo the Great

II. Use Lent to Vanquish the Enemy, and Be Thus Preparing for Eastertide.

Accordingly, dearly-beloved, that we may be able to overcome all our enemies, let us seek Divine aid by the observance of the heavenly bidding, knowing that we cannot otherwise prevail against our adversaries, unless we prevail against our own selves. For we have many encounters with our own selves: the flesh desires one thing against the spirit, and the spirit another thing against the flesh. And in this disagreement, if the desires of the body be stronger, the mind will disgracefully lose its proper dignity, and it will be most disastrous for that to serve which ought to have ruled. But if the mind, being subject to its Ruler, and delighting in gifts from above, shall have trampled under foot the allurements of earthly pleasure, and shall not have allowed sin to reign in its mortal body, reason will maintain a well-ordered supremacy, and its strongholds no strategy of spiritual wickednesses will cast down: because man has then only true peace and true freedom when the flesh is ruled by the judgment of the mind, and the mind is directed by the will of God. And although this state of preparedness, dearly-beloved, should always be maintained that our ever-watchful foes may be overcome by unceasing diligence, yet now it must be the more anxiously sought for and the more zealously cultivated when the designs of our subtle foes themselves are conducted with keener craft than ever. For knowing that the most hollowed days of Lent are now at hand, in the keeping of which all past slothfulnesses are chastised, all negligences alerted for, they direct all the force of their spite on this one thing, that they who intend to celebrate the Lord's holy Passover may be found unclean in some matter, and that cause of offence may arise where propitiation ought to have been obtained.

What may be most helpful, and most a cause for thought and repentence, is the idea that if we cannot order ourselves and we cannot conquer self, we cannot hope to withstand any great trial. Lent asks for little sacrifices that in the age of indulgence seem monumental. It seems that most people cannot wait for Lent to end so that they may resume their former ways. But I have to admit to being a little sad at the ending of Lent because during this time we are all trying and working hard toward the goal. Afterwards, it seems, the tide of energy and intent is dissipated; every step toward holiness is dogged by the mire around my feet. In Lent, I am borne forward by the efforts of all of those trying to will one thing. Afterwards, in the "joyous" time of Easter, I find all of my efforts ineffectual, I slump back into my former mode--perhaps a little improved, but not sufficiently to be doing God's will as my heart inclines me. So, I hold fast to the fact that there remain two full weeks in the Holy Season (as of today) to improve my ability to resist self and go with God. Perhaps for part of that time, I will pray rather for the success of others and thus open my heart more fully to what God has in store. Keep moving forward! In this holy year of the Eucharist, God has great treasures in store for those who endure and deny self.

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I'm Always the Last to Know


Welcome back to Gregg the Obscure--Vita Brevis

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Boswell re: Johnson 1750

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from Life of Johnson
James Boswell

With what devout and conscientious sentiments this paper was undertaken, is evidenced by the following prayer, which he composed and offered up on the occasion: "Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdom is folly: grant, I beseech Thee, that in this undertaking thy Holy Spirit may not be with-held from me, but that I may promote thy glory, and the salvation of myself and others: grant this, O Lord, for the sake of thy son, JESUS CHRIST. Amen."

A prayer which Catholic Bloggers might do well to read and make their own as they continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ.

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On the Misuse of Fasting

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The following most likely comes from the Sermons of St. Leo the Great, although it is rather difficult to be certain given the site I was using. It comes from Series II Volume XII of the Church Fathers.

from "Sermon XLII. On Lent, IV"
St. Leo the Great

IV. The Perverse Turn Even Their Fasting into Sin.

This adversary's wiles then let us beware of, not only in the enticements of the palate, but also in our purpose of abstinence. For he who knew how to bring death upon mankind by means of food, knows also how to harm us through our very fasting, and using the Manichaeans as his tools, as he once drove men to take what was forbidden, so in the opposite direction he prompts them to avoid what is allowed. It is indeed a helpful observance, which accustoms one to scanty diet, and checks the appetite for dainties: but woe to the dogmatizing of those whose very fasting is turned to sin. For they condemn the creature's nature to the Creator's injury, and maintain that they are defiled by eating those things of which they contend the devil, not God, is the author: although absolutely nothing that exists is evil, nor is anything in nature included in the actually bad. For the good Creator made all things good and the Maker of the universe is one, "Who made the heaven and the earth, the sea and all that is in them." Of which whatever is granted to man for food and drink,' is holy and clean after its kind. But if it is taken with immoderate greed, it is the excess that disgraces the eaters and drinkers, not the nature of the food or drink that defiles them. "For all things," as the Apostle says, "are clean to the clean. But to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is clean, but their mind and conscience is defiled."

This is of particular interest to those who would argue the evil of material things. Don't think there's many of us about, but a few hard-line protestants and some renegade members of various Catholic camps.

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From that most remarkable of sort-of-Blog sites, a true compendium of learning, erudition, and on occasion amusement, Pepys' Diary.

"He discoursed much against a man’s lying with his wife in Lent, saying that he might be as incontinent during that time with his own wife as at another time in another man’s bed. "

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From Mixolydian Mode I discovered that:

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

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An Excellent Note and Remedy

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from Renovation of the Heart
Dallas Willard

Genuine transformation of the whole person into the goodness and power seen in Jesus and his "Abba" Father--the only transformation adequate to the human self--remains the necessary goal of human life. But it lies beyond the reach of programs of inner transformation that draw merely on the human spirit--even when the human spirit is itself treated as ultimately divine.

The reality of all this is currently veiled from view by the very low level of spiritual life seen in Christianity as now placed before the general public. That low level explains why there are at present so many psychologies and spiritualities contesting the field--often led or dominated by ex-Christians who have abandoned recognized forms of Christianity as hopeless or even harmful.

Recently, however, a widespread and intense interest in spiritual formation, under that very name, has arisen among many groups of Christians and their leaders. Why is that? It is mainly due to a realization--confirmed now by many thorough and careful studies, as well as overwhelming anecdotal evidence--that, in its current and recent public forms, Christianity has not been imparting effectual answers to the vital questions of human existence. At least not to wide ranges of self-identifying Christians, and obviously not to nonChristians. And spiritual formation has now presented itself as a hopeful possibility for responding to the crying, unmet need of the human soul. The hope springs once again for a response to the need that is both deeply rooted in Christian traditions and powerfully relevant to circumstances of contemporary life.

Recently Tom (of Disputations) remarked on the difficult transformation facing third Order Dominicans as they moved from being prayer groups to becoming formed and really part of the Order. The same is true for the Carmelites, and perhaps for many secular Orders. Attention has been focused upon spiritual formation of candidates for reception and profession into these orders. And while spiritual formation includes prayer, it also goes beyond vocal prayer to encourage the candidate to transform his or her inner life.

Catholicism may be one of the few places where there is an identifiably Christian spirituality still present and, in some places, vibrant. A tour through any local evangelical Christian bookstore will show the truth of Mr. Willard’s thesis above. Almost to a one the books on the shelves are religious varieties of "self-help books." Being a better husband, serving better, being a better father, mother, teen. And almost none of the advice that is given within these books really focused on following God's will. There is a lot of talk about prayer and awareness and petitions and action and any number of other topics related to getting closer to God, but very little substantive advice about how to do so. And this has been the trend for a long time. Everyone flocks to the Rick Warrens of the world because there is at least the hint of approaching God and surrendering to His divine will. But even there, the surrender is subdued to any number of other actions we must take. For a faith that professes "Sola Fides" there sure seems to be a lot of helter-skelter running about in Protestant Christianity. And I don't fault the Protestants of today as such--when you have been cut off from the streams of tradition that feed a vibrant spirituality you are going to end up with a very works-centered "spirituality." Warren's spirituality seem to be expressed by the number of people who he knocks upside the head with the Gospel story (though admittedly, he is much more gentle than that.) When you refuse the living water of sacred tradition, you will be stuck with the still water of what people can contrive to be spirituality.

The joy of being Catholic is that while there are still a large number within our own faith stricken by the paralysis that afflicts some of the Protestant Churches, there are nevertheless rich streams of devotional and divine literature that feed a healthy spirituality. (And so too even in the Protestant faith, if only they would look closer to the roots rather than to the tips of the branches--Quakers, Shakers, and Anglican divines have tremendous things to say to those who are not chronological chauvinists.) But God has especially blessed the Catholic Church by preserving her ancient traditions and encouraging newer, wonderful writers who lay bare those traditions and build upon them. While we have any number of ancient Saints whose writings support the foundations of the Church and the base of Catholic Spirituality, so too we have many modern writers who translate those documents into living realities for us today. St. Thér&egave;se moved St. John of the Cross from sixteenth century Spain into the 20th century. Thomas Merton explores Cistercian Spirituality for Modern readers. Vanier, Vann, Goodier, Healy, Merton, Day, Nouwen, and many, many others add immeasurably to the wealth of the Catholic Church and her deep spirituality. The list of writers could go on and on--Balthasar, Rahner, Knox, Claudel, etc. What we learn from them is nothing new, but it puts a modern face on what is ancient beyond time.

Catholic Spirituality is alive and well. What is a shame is that so few turn to face it and take any notice of it. Too often we are dragged off-course into the most recent irritations and outright scandals we face.

One of the great things that Ross King's book on Michelangelo did was to reveal the fact that there really hasn't been a "golden age" for the Church. They are all equally Golden and equally lead. In every age there are those who pay attention and follow the eternal and those who follow the promptings of their own minds. We are embroiled in the crisis of the day--as well we should be—that we fail to see some of the wonderful things that are taking place around us, even in the small world of St. Blogs. We must be ever mindful of how blessed we are. On NPR (of all places) the other day they had a short spot featuring the usual "Demise of the Pope" stuff popular in current media. One of the speakers there said that Pope John Paul has provided us with food for thought for many, many years to come--even if there were nothing else to consider during the entire time of his pontificate. And of course there is. Every soul that pays attention and responds to God leaves a mark on the world. Sometimes that mark is in the form of literature, sometimes in the form of action. Either way the marks can be read, interpreted, and followed into the House of the Lord.

So despite the alarums and excursions of the present day, the spirituality of the Holy Catholic Church is intact. It is there for anyone who really wishes to lead a life of holiness. The bottom line--there is no excuse. It is only our own laziness that stands between each of us and the sanctity and spiritual heights God wishes us to attain. He wishes this for us not for our own good, but for the good of all, because if each attain his or her appointed place, the world becomes more Christlike and the Body becomes a living, breathing, resurrected Christ transforming the world into His image.

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It has been confirmed, I will be visiting Dallas at the end of this month. If any of y'all have advice about good places to eat/see while there please let me know. Generally on these trips we are not allowed to rent cars so I'm stuck with public transport and will be staying Downtown, downtown--a couple of blocks from the convention center.

Restaurant ideas are greatly appreciated!

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A Mnemonic for Pi


This has been posted as a mnemonic for the digits of Pi. Somehow, I suspect that the mnemonic would be more trouble to memorize than the poem; however, the poem appears to be a very nice translation of Sappho's "Hymn to Aphrodite"

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A long time ago, I don't remember when or where, I signed up for CQOD--Christian Quotation of the Day--to be sent to me daily. This is today's quotation:

Use yourself then by degrees thus to worship Him, to beg
His grace, to offer Him your heart from time to time, in the
midst of your business, even every moment if you can. Do not
always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or
particular forms of devotion; but act with a general
confidence in God, with love and humility.
... Brother Lawrence (c.1605-1691)

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from Renovation of the Heart
Dallas Willard

Our life and how we find the world now and in the future is, almost totally, a simple result of what we have become in the depths of our being--in our spirit, will, or heart. From there we see our world and interpret reality. From there we make our choices, beak forth into action, try to change our world. We live from our depth--most of which we do not understand.

"Do you mean," some will say, "that the individual and collective disasters that fill the human scene are not imposed upon us from without? That they do not just happen to us?"

Yes. That is what I mean. In today's world, famine, war, and epidemic are almost totally the outcome of human choices, which are expressions of the human spirit. Though vairous qualifications and explanations are appropriate, that is in general true.

. . . Accordingly, the greatest need you and I have--the greatest need of collective humanity-- is renovation of our heart That spiritual place within us from which outlook, choices, and actions come has been formed by a world away from God. Now it must be transformed.

Indeed, the only hope of humanity lies in the fact that, as our spiritual dimension has been formed, so it also can be transfomred. Now and through the ages this has been acknowledged by everyone who has thought deeply about our condition--from Moses, Solomon, Socrates, and Spnoza, to Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Oprah, and current feminists and enivronmentalists. We, very rightly, continually preach this possilbity and necessity from our pulpits. Disagreement have only to do with what in our spirit needs to be changed and how that change can be brought about.

The key to transformation, as I am sure I will discover as I continue to read this wonderful book, is conformity to the image of myself that God has in mind. That is conformity to the daily crosses that shape and mold me to better fit into the places God wants me to occupy. Thus to effect transformation, renovation, if you will, I must not merely pick up my cross and carry it; rather, I must embrace it as God's will for me at the moment. I must hold it close to me and cherish it as God's gift to me, as that which will transform me and make we whole and complete in the body. The Cross is not something to be merely tolerated, it is something that we must desire. I begin to understand all the saints who prayed for things you and I would not think of praying for--greater humiliation, greater suffering, greater trial. They had learned to see that through these things not only do they share in the suffering of Christ, but they become transformed into His living image in the world. Right now, I am too timid to pray for such great hardships, but I do think I have worked my way up to really praying (and meaning) "thy will be done." Whatever I suffer now (in the realm of grace) I do not suffer later. The more I am transformed now, the less painful the later transformation will have to be. "Let it be done unto me according to thy will," knowing, all the while, that His will can only be good for me, no matter what it contains.

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An Amusement

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....from Video Meliora and SummaMamas. List the first five movie quotes you can think of. They must be from different movies. Here are mine:

(1) "My she was yar" (Hepburn referring to "True Love" in The Philadelphia Story

(2) "While you wait you can read my column. It'll make minutes fly
like hours." (George Sanders in All About Eve) Close tie for my favorite line with "Remind me to tell you about the time I looked into the heart of an artichoke. . ."

(3) "If I hold you any closer I'll be standing behind you." (Groucho Marx--don't recall which movie)

(4) "Klaatu, barada nikto," (Michael Rennie in The Day the Earth Stood Still)

(5) " You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." (Bacall to Bogart in From Here to Eternity

(6) " Alright Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up" closely rivaled by "We didn't need dialogue, we had faces." (Either case Gloria Swanson to the Police and Max or William Holden Sunset Boulevard

(7) And for my swan song, the one you have to have context for, but the greatest closing of any comedy, "Well, nobody's perfect." (Joey Brown to Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot. You can listen to it here

(8) But, were I being truthful, the second quote I thought of was , "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore Toto."

And just as a bonus on this feature--the reason the first came to mind right away was because I just a moment ago was listening to Patsy Cline singing "True Love" which is the song in High Society where Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby are recalling the yacht they had--"True Love." (As though you cared, but that does explain the stream of consciousness--for the rest of this--I cannot say where they came from.)

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Join the Fast for Terri

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Present Reading

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My present reading list is quite short, although the "add-ons" tends to grow.

Presently I am reading

Will in the World by Stephen Greenblatt, which is a kind of lliterary biography of Shakespeare's "cryptic" life. Using a variety of evidences, Greenblatt teases out what can be known of the Bard's enigmatic existence. Not prominent enough in his time to have had a lot of serious literary attention, most of the great biographies written many years after his death and the death of those whom knew him intimately, Greenblatt relies on documentary evidence and traces and suggestions in the plays to suggestion the shape of a Shakespearian life. Very fine reading.

Great Expectation Charles Dickens. I last read this book in 8th grade and recall only the merest outlines of its events and the ending not at all. So I thought it was a good time to reread this, considered one of Dicken's finest, and certainly spare by comparison to The Pickwick Papers or Nicholas NIckelby or even the great autobiographical David Copperfield.

Msgr. Ronald Knox Evelyn Waugh I shall probably give this up as a lost cause. For some reason Waugh's biographies leave me absolutely cold. They seem to be a narrated chain of events with little real feeling for their subject. I don't feel as though I am growing to know Knox through this biography so much as I am growing to know how little Evelyn Waugh wanted to do with the world of people. Disjointed and unclear, the only other work by Waugh that I found so completely unreadable was the biography of St. Edmund Campion, about whom I remember nothing from the book.

Speaking of St. Edmund Campion, and interesting passage in Will in the World suggests that it was possible that the path of this Saint and that of Shakespeare himself crossed at one point in Lancashire.

from Will in the World
Stephen Greenblatt

The Heskeths and the Hoghtons: it is altogether possible, then, that in the guarded spaces of one or the other of these houses Will would have seen the brilliant, hunted missionary for himself. Campion's visits were clandestine, to be sure, but they were not narrowly private affairs; they brought together dozens, even hundreds of believers, many of whom slept in nearby barns and outbuildings to hear Campion preach in the early morning and to receive communion from his hands. The priest--who would have changed out of his servant's clothes into clerical vestments--would sit up half the night hearing confessions, trying to resolve moral dilemmas, dispensing advice. Was one of those with whom he exchanged whispered words the young man from Stratford-upon-Avon?

. . . For his part, whether he actually met Campion in person or only heard about him from the flood of rumor circulating all through 1589 and 1581, Will may have registered a powerful inner resistance as well as admiration. Campion was brave, charismatic, persuasive, and appealing; everyone who encountered him recognized these qualities, which even now shine out from his words. But he was also filled with a sense that he knew the one eternal truth, the thing worth living and dying for, the cause to which he was willing cheerfully to sacrifice others as well as himself. To be sure, he did not seek out martyrdom. It was not his wish to return to England; he was doing valuable work for the church, he told Cardinal William Allen, in his teaching post at Prague. But he was a committed soldier in a religious order organized for battle, and when his general commanded him to throw his body into the fight, against wildly uneven odds, he marched off serenely. He would have taken with him young Shakespeare or anyone else worth the taking. He was a fanatic or, more accurately, a saint. And saints, Shakespeare understood all his life, were dangerous people.

Or perhaps, rather, it would be better to say that Shakespeare did not entirely understand saints, and that what he did understand he did not entirely like. In the huge panoply of characters in his plays, there are striking few who would remotely qualify. . . .

As well, I continue with Sr. Ruth Burrows's Ascent to Love and I have about five other Carmelite source lined up behind that one. Also looking to Brookhiser's brief biography of Washington and Joseph Ellis's Founding Brothers. Finally, Anna Karenina continues in a languorous way in the background.

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Is anyone else of the opinion that we would do well to return to the text of the constitution and examine what it says rather than continue in our merry way of ignorance. Today the Supreme Court will hear two cases regarding the display of the 10 commandments and whether that violates the so-called "separation of Church and State."

The text of the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Explicitly it is congress that shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. It seems very clear that this text refers explilcitly to congress requiring any group of people to worship in a way contrary to their conscience.

Note that the first amendment does not in any way preclude congress from festooning their chambers with texts from the Bible, statues of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, or paitning cherubs on the ceiling. It does not say what may happen within the individual states (though I will accept that it is logical and reasonable to assume that the several states would also not make laws regarding the establishment of religion.)

However, what the consitution DOES NOT prohibit is any display of religious identity at all. There is no word regarding opening prayers, or art, or speeches, or any other aspect of religion. It does not say that Congress shall keep the law completely separate from religion and shall not be influenced thereby.

Our modern doctrine is an egregious misrepresentation of what the Constitution says. There is nothring whatsoever about an individual's display of the Ten Commandments, nor even about the government's dispaly thereof. One of the argument for the removal of all relgious articfacts is that it makes an "uncomfortable" environment for those who do not worship as the majority does. We are to preserve a space of comfort for the minority opinion. But my question continues to be, why must the majority be put out to accommodate the minority in ever case. I would derive a great deal of comfort from the thought that the law was derived from and seasoned by the Law of God.

This is one of those cases in which the most appropriate response to whatever the ruling may be is Andrew Jackson's famous, "Mr. Marshall has made his law, now let him enforce it." Because, in fact, while congress has made no such laws, the Courts has inundated us with restrictions and hedgings to such an extent that it is not possible in some schools to read and report on the Bible. If this isn't a "law" restricting religion, I don't know what it constitutes. And it did not come from congress, but from the courts.

It is really long past time that we should take back what is our own from the courts. We have had too much taken from us and I would encourage Texans to petition their governor, regardless of the outcome of the Supreme Court's rulings on this case to keep the monument on the Statehouse lawn. It is ridiculous that our lives have become overrun by an oligarchy that seems bent upon recreating society in its own image. In the sixty years of the Roosevelt dominated courts, the tone of society has so far degraded that we look nothing like what we once did. In some ways these changes have been very good. It is good to see that people of color are more accepted than was once the case. (There's always the exceptions.) However, for the most part the insistence upon extreme secularization of society has been a detrimental influence on society and on individual behavior. It is time as a society to tell the Supremes to get off their high horse and get back on track. They are not the law of the land, nor were they ever intended to be. They were to interpret that law, not formulate new law. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in a great many years and we all suffer for it.

May God be merciful unto us though we do not deserve it and may He spare us from further depradations of the Court.

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Ross King has crafted a remarkable slice of history centered around the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine chapter. In this book we have architecture, art, history, and sociology all wrapped up in the story of how the fresco was conceived and painted.

At the time of the painting Michelangelo had had little experience painting frescoes. In a chapter that discusses what frescoing is and what it entails the author makes clear to us just how difficult the art form is and how rapidly one has to work with an area that has been prepared in order for the fresco to "take." So in addition to being a remarkable work, it is also an act of providence and grace that the work ever occurred, given the difficulty of the medium.

But in addition to discussing the painting of the fresco, we also learn about Pope Julius. The insights into his reign as Pope help immeasurably in understanding why Martin Luther eventually broke from the Church. It also helps immeasurably in understanding that today's crisis in the Church is nothing new. The corruption and large-scale sin of the past is simply projected into the present.

It is helpful to know for example that while not explicitly ordered, the slaughter of an entire city of people (Prato) was condoned and even celebrated by the Pope as a great victory. It is further helpful to realize that at the character of Julius II shaped much of what was happening in the Church and church politics. The Church was both a religious institution and a secular kingdom. If anyone wishes a cogent argument against a theocratic state, the reign of Julius II might well be invoked.

In addition to all of this, we learn a great deal about the rivalry between Raphael and Michelangelo. For example, at one point it seems, Raphael jockeyed to be able to complete the ceiling. Ultimately his suit was rejected.

If I have one criticism of the book it is that the photographs of the ceiling are far too small to make out the details that King wishes to discuss. If color plates were limited, it would have been better to leave out the Raphael frescoes (which while important in the discussion, were not the centerpiece) to allow for some larger pictures of the Chapel ceiling.

Overall, a wonderful excursion into the world of the Popes and Renaissance Italy. Well worth your time and attention.


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Bright Young Things


I don't know quite what to make of this film. Having heard of its advent, I read Waugh's Vile Bodies and while reading wondered how in the world one would make a movie of it. Like A Handful of Dust the episodic quirkiness of Waugh's writing seemed not to lend itself to filming.

While this is marginally better than A Handful of Dust as a film, I'm not certain it is successful for a variety of reasons. Although there is the hint of the inferno implicit in the introductory scenes, much of Waugh's sharper material has been left out of the movie. The ultimate fate of Agatha, for instance, is completely glossed over. We don't see enough of Mrs. Ape to see what a fraud and a sham she is. And finally, Stephen Fry has somehow crafted from Waugh's rather bleak book a "happy ending," which is in no way really happy for anyone.

I would have to watch the film again. And fortunately, it is extremely watchable--the cinematography is quite fine and there is much too much going on at any moment in the film for me to be certain I have captured it all. But overall, I would say that it was a good attempt at capturing the essence of the book, but it is ultimately subversive of Waugh's intent--a devastating criticism of modernism and of the shallow, empty life of between-the-wars England.

Worth seeing with the caveat that you shouldn't expect to see Waugh here.

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Sorry for the Hiatus Yesterday


Had a terrible head cold--of course still have it, but I'm back to a minimal reasonable functioning level.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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