Steven Riddle: November 2002 Archives

Plea for Proofing Help


Plea for Proofing Help Again

Look at these titles:
The Life of the Venerable Mother Mary of the Incarnation by A Religious of the Ursuline Community
The Jesuits In North America In The Seventeenth Century by Francis Parkman

These are only two of the many titles that the distributed proofreading project is currently proofing. If you can do so, please help with proofing, or better yet, if you have Public Domain copies of works that would be good to have in electronic format, see if Charles at The Distributed Proofreading Site is up to taking on more texts.

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A Poem Remembered from Childhood


A Poem Remembered from Childhood and Only Now Rediscovered

I found this browsing through the new books at Blackmask. I recall it from long ago, but being here in Virginia puts me in mind of these things again, so I offer it for your delectation.


[Sidenote: June 28, 1778]
The battle of Monmouth was indecisive, but the Americans held
the field, and the British retreated and remained inactive for the
rest of the summer.

On the bloody field of Monmouth
Flashed the guns of Greene and Wayne.
Fiercely roared the tide of battle,
Thick the sward was heaped with slain.
Foremost, facing death and danger,
Hessian, horse, and grenadier,
In the vanguard, fiercely fighting,
Stood an Irish Cannonier.

Loudly roared his iron cannon,
Mingling ever in the strife,
And beside him, firm and daring,
Stood his faithful Irish wife.
Of her bold contempt of danger
Greene and Lee's Brigades could tell,
Every one knew “Captain Molly,”
And the army loved her well.

Surged the roar of battle round them,
Swiftly flew the iron hail,
Forward dashed a thousand bayonets,
That lone battery to assail.
From the foeman's foremost columns
Swept a furious fusillade,
Mowing down the massed battalions
In the ranks of Greene's Brigade.

Fast and faster worked the gunner,
Soiled with powder, blood, and dust,
English bayonets shone before him,
Shot and shell around him burst;
Still he fought with reckless daring,
Stood and manned her long and well,
Till at last the gallant fellow
Dead—beside his cannon fell.

With a bitter cry of sorrow,
And a dark and angry frown,
Looked that band of gallant patriots
At their gunner stricken down.
“Fall back, comrades, it is folly
Thus to strive against the foe.”
“No! not so,” cried Irish Molly;
“We can strike another blow.”

* * * * *

Quickly leaped she to the cannon,
In her fallen husband's place,
Sponged and rammed it fast and steady,
Fired it in the foeman's face.
Flashed another ringing volley,
Roared another from the gun;
“Boys, hurrah!” cried gallant Molly,
“For the flag of Washington.”

Greene's Brigade, though shorn and shattered,
Slain and bleeding half their men,
When they heard that Irish slogan,
Turned and charged the foe again.
Knox and Wayne and Morgan rally,
To the front they forward wheel,
And before their rushing onset
Clinton's English columns reel.

Still the cannon's voice in anger
Rolled and rattled o'er the plain,
Till there lay in swarms around it
Mangled heaps of Hessian slain.
“Forward! charge them with the bayonet!”
'Twas the voice of Washington,
And there burst a fiery greeting
From the Irish woman's gun.

Monckton falls; against his columns
Leap the troops of Wayne and Lee,
And before their reeking bayonets
Clinton's red battalions flee.
Morgan's rifles, fiercely flashing,
Thin the foe's retreating ranks,
And behind them onward dashing
Ogden hovers on their flanks.

Fast they fly, these boasting Britons,
Who in all their glory came,
With their brutal Hessian hirelings
To wipe out our country's name.
Proudly floats the starry banner,
Monmouth's glorious field is won,
And in triumph Irish Molly
Stands beside her smoking gun.

What better tribute to her slain husband than this? What a heart of courage. I've been told that there were actually several "Molly Maguires" and "Molly Pitchers" throughout the revolutionary war.

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Thinking About House of the


Thinking About House of the Spirits

I haven't finished it yet, and I know that it is old news, but Isabel Allende's House of the Spirits evokes thought similar to those of all works of magic realism. I'm not sure House of the Spirits qualifies for the genre in the classic sense; however, it certainly partakes of the atmosphere that lends Latin American Fiction a perfervid clarity and brilliance lacking in nearly all other fictions of the time. There are exceptions, but they are few.

It strikes me that there would be a certain physical satisfaction living in such a metaphysical reality. The scales of karma would be immediately visible and you could watch as they tip. You would see the realities of spiritual laws clearly delineated in the physical world. Many people do not believe in spiritual laws, but I am certain beyond possibility of conviction that they are real and operative here and now. Enlightened self-interest suggests that "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is the only viable way to live a life. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us," is an absolute immutable reality and we experience its truthfulness in our recidivism as we head to confession. How often do we find ourselves confessing exactly the same sins that we committed the previous week? That recidivism is a sign in concrete reality of what happens in the spiritual world when we hold on to our grudges and hatred, we drag about a huge stone that serves only to roll down and crush us at intervals. Believe it or not, that too is God's mercy, a continual reminder of what we must confess and lay before God before it is too late, and a constant reminder that we are forgiven in the measure that we forgive.

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Glorious Autumnal Shade Looking out


Glorious Autumnal Shade

Looking out the window this morning a single reflection:

If the skies in Florida looked like this, something would be falling from them.

In Virginia, you may vary color without the need for leaking fluids.

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Reflections on Slavery at Mount


Reflections on Slavery at Mount Vernon

When I first went to Mount Vernon some years ago, slavery was unapologetically acknowleged. There was nothing made of it, nor was it denied. It was simply a non-issue. There were no displays, and if slave's names were known, nothing much was done with the information.

Today it is quite different. There is a great deal of information about slaves and discussion of slaves as one tours the plantation. This is true in nearly all the great houses of the south.

Today, it was brought home to me powerfully as I toured the grounds. I saw an African-American family, Mom, Dad, three kids, walking behind the greenhouse where there is a long row of exhibits that discuss aspects of slaves lives--maintaining the fires for the greenhouse, shoe-menders and maker, and a room with ten bunk-beds representing the lodging of the slaves. Suddenly, I realized that these people before me, ordinary in every respect, could not have the same access to Mount Vernon that I had (and I consider this revelation a gracious gift from God). Surely, the African American family probably recognized that this was the house of the Man who jump-started the republic in which we now live--not so much in deed but in example. But the awful reality was that when they looked into these rooms it was possible that some distant ancestor occupied them. The whole crushing weight of the reality of slavery visited me for a moment. I visit Mount Vernon and see a monument to a man who helped to make a nation. Others may visit this same home and see only another link in a chain of oppression. They may be reminded that great-great-great-great-grandfathers and grandmothers were regarded as another person's property.

At Woodlawn Plantation the lady giving the tour informed us, "At the age of 12 or so, each of the children of the house were given a slave of the same age who accompanied them through life." What an utterly appalling notion. I do not convict these people of the past for not breaking out of their own bondage of time and ignorance; however, if I were one whose ancestors served on these plantations, might I not feel otherwise?

These questions are hard questions to answer, but I'm glad to see that they are finally being asked.

At the time of Washington's death he owned 317 PEOPLE. The law observed his "right" to control the lives of 317 individuals. To Washington's tremendous credit, he released his slaves in his will (but only upon Martha's death). In addition he set aside funds to care for the elderly among his slaves and for the education of the young. In a quotation of 1786, Washington wrote, "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for [its] abolition." A laudable sentiment that met with an unfortunate silence. I strongly recommend the chapter of "Founding Brothers" titled "The Silence."

I don't know what to make of this ramble except to say that God in His providence granted me a moment today to realize what the reality of slavery COULD mean even today to some people. I do not know that this could accurately represent anyone's thoughts but my own, but we all carry, to some extent, a weight of the past. I exult in all things colonial and Revolutionary, and I am dragged down by all things related to the WoNA or to give it a name less controversial and incendiary, the War Between the States. (And no, I won't spell out the acronym--them as know, know, elsewise it isn't important.) The seeds for said war were set in the earliest times and the necessity for the eradication of the great evil of slavery (not the fullness of the reason for the war) undeniable. However, when I am at Chancellorsburg, or even driving by the sign that announced the exit to the Cold Harbor Battlefield, I feel a tremendous sense of sadness. I tend to think that many are moved in similar ways by different things. And it seems that we do an injustice not to recognize that a sizable minority of this great country have access only to this memories and hints of the great indignity foisted on one people by another. Not all, by any means, and this by no means rationalizes any violence committed in the name of past injustices or excused on that basis. However, I am not privy to the powerful feelings that could be conjured up in thinking simply of family stories.

My prayer is that a great many can take away from such places a similar sense of the past, and a deep understanding of some of the sorrow, horror, and anger that must fill many. I pray for a continued understanding and compassion when it comes time for me to tell my son about these things. I pray that they light the way for the future--understanding, compassion, sympathy, and a willingness to listen to stories without judging. There is no question in my mind that we have become a people more aware of injustice and more aware of the indignities suffered by many. May God use each of us as a vehicle of understanding and solidarity. May we acknowledge the sins of the past and strive to help heal the wound of psyche that must still exist. May we learn how to open the doors of communication without opening the sluice gates of useless guilt-induction and guilt-raking. As a loving people, we must be ever more welcome to stories that differ from our own and be willing to make them part of the great tapestry of this nation.

I look to Mount Vernon and other exhibits that feature the lives of slaves, and I rejoice in these good fruits of "multiculturalism." For a very long time this voice was silent, and a large minority of people in the United States lived with an unspoken, and sometimes largely denied history. Multiculturalism, despite its ridiculous excesses, forced this door open, and we have been enriched in our understanding as a result.

We do well to take steps to make this story known--not for the sake of guilt, but for the sake of the future--that it may never take root in any form in our country today. Praise God for His eternal mercies--"He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree." We should know the names and the places of the Slaves of Mount Vernon. We should still love and respect Washington for all that he was and all that his legacy left to us. But we should also recognize his limitations as a person and realize that people worked, and lived, and died at his word alone. I do not know if anyone ever was whipped or killed at his command. I hope not. But I do know that even if it did not happen, the circumstances of the time would have allowed for it, and that is something that must never happen again in any way, shape, or form.

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Drawing Aside the Curtain for


Drawing Aside the Curtain for a Moment

A interested reader wrote and asked a question that normally I probably would not care to answer. However, the particular individual is one for whom I have deep respect, and over the years, I hope a certain kind of friendship, so I feel that I owe a reasonable answer to his inquiry.

Well, I dunno if I'd be classified under "choirs of angels" but I'm curious to know *your* take on Hillary, having mentioned this:

"My Father-in-Law is an amazing man with amazing taste in reading. He reads profoundly interesting conservative materials and holds staunchly conservative views--you would blanch to hear him talk about HiIlary Clinton. "

Never let it be said that I discouraged curiousity. My comments may not satisfy it, but then, it would be a shame to discourage by satisfaction.

Ms. Clinton is precisely what one would expect of Herod's wife. As such she is a deeply deluded, deeply dangerous woman in desperate need of all of the prayers we can muster in her favor. Given the potential for destruction that lies in power, the good people of New York would do well to repudiate their selection of this candidate, and we would all benefit from her retirement from public life. I believe that she is a deeply deceiving, frightening figure in American Politics. I do not care for her views, and I am not completely certain that there are not certain very dark marks on her past record. I pray that I am wrong particularly on this latter front, but I harbor my doubts and pray about them.

I hope that I have said that gently enough not to hurt people who stop by and who may admire many aspects of this woman's character. She is a strong woman, with strongly held views, and were those views more in line with Phyllis Schlafly and her ilk, I would find much to admire. As it stands, I believe that her plotting and deceitfulness exceeds that of her two biblical analogs--Jezebel and Herodias. May God have mercy on us all and protect us from her gentle ministrations. May God have mercy on her and show her the profound errors of her actions, words, and thoughts.

Now let the curtain fall back into place, and please--"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

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Clarification on my Statement About


Clarification on my Statement About the Bishops

Many seem to take exception to what I consider remarkably unexceptionable in my comments about the Bishops. If so, I have clearly not expressed my intent clearly. I pull out of the comment boxes one of the interchanges that I feel makes clearer what it was I intended when I originally wrote.


Basically I agree with you. We need, however, to be vigilant ourselves to ensure that what seems to be teaching is so. For example, the recent uproar about the Catholic/Jewish paper recently released by a committee is NOT a teaching but, the press would have us believe it to be so. We have been presented with the "fact" that we are not to share the Messiah with His own people!


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Wise People Are Doing Better


Wise People Are Doing Better Things with Their Time
Than reading this on Thanksgiving day; however, it doesn't prevent me from writing it. Awakened early by a coughing child with nothing much else to do, I blog. Hope all is going well for you all today. When I go to mass, I will remember all in my prayers.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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On the Teaching of the


On the Teaching of the Bishops

I guess I am just completely stupid, will-less and spineless, and ready to be led about by the nose. However, when the Bishops speak on any matter, I rejoice. I remind myself of the infinite confusion from which I escaped--the morass of protestantism where the preaching of one pastor or elder had every bit as much authority as the next and none of them were binding on any believer who, supreme in their own consciences and in the "priesthood of the believer" had to weigh between all these various sayings and find out where the truth lay.

Here, the Catholic Church offers authorative, official teaching, even if not binding, and there seems to be slew of people saying, "We don't want the Bishops to say anything about matters in which they have no expertise" (which by the way includes everything except and extremely narrow and defined set of theological propositions.)

Thank God the Bishops speak, and thank God that we are required and encouraged to consider it very carefully, even if it is not infallible. Thank Goodness the Church speaks with one voice and we can go somewhere for guidance. I don't know about you all, but the swim through the sea of Protestantism made me thoroughly ready for a landfall on concrete teaching. Maybe they are wrong--but I'm willing to bet that the teaching is better than that of thirty random protestant ministers.

I encourage you all, no matter how you feel about the teaching, to remember that at least you have a church that does have the authority to teach and that does take that authority and responsibility seriously. The Bishops may produce flawed work, but they at least consider it important to speak and to teach and I am certain that they do not undertake the office lightly or frivilously. I'm also certain that collectively they have given more thought to an issue than I am willing or able to give it.

I may not always agree with the teaching. But normally I discover my disagreement revolves around my misunderstanding or misconstruction of their actual statements. It would absolute hubris for me to assume that I know more than the collective intelligence of the American Episcopacy.

But perhaps mine is a view that can only come from having escaped from a religion in which when you asked any given question your would receive nine or ten best answers and no one spoke with any real or binding authority at all. (Although there are claims to the contrary--for example the Southern Baptist Convention whose rulings are supposedly binding on the member churches--but that is as may be.)

Thank God for the teaching authority of the Church. Thank God for even this fallible guidance, for it is far better than no guidance at all. At least some of the groundwork of the thinking is laid out. Thank God for the courage of beseiged Bishops, still willing to speak out and to try to guide their flock. May God make me responsive to His Word through their lips!

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Wishing You All the Very


Wishing You All the Very Best of Thanksgivings

May the day be blessed in the company of your loved ones in the beauty of God's grace and in the warm embrace of the Holy Spirit. May you all come forth strengthened, enlivened, and ever more grateful for the sheer bounty of God's insuperable grace.

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On Peter Kreeft I cannot


On Peter Kreeft

I cannot explain why, but Peter Kreeft is one contemporary author whose nearly every work appeals to me. The exceptions (a couple of books about the Bible, and one or two others) are books for which I am very evidently not the intended audience. The books on the Bible seem very elementary and not particularly insightful, but I doubt they were written for a dyed-in-the-wool former fundamentalist, even so, they seem to lack some of the insights that Mr. Kreeft's work usually carries. I have also written to Mr. Kreeft about his seeming preference of Huxley over Orwell as predictors of the future. He seems to think Orwell's totalitarian state passe--I believe it is still a terrifying possibility, and the more I hear of our media people, the more I become convinced that somewhere in the U.S. a minispeak and a minitruth are both live and well.

However, while at the Basilica Shrine, I purchased another IVP title (to which I would otherwise have little or no access as it falls perfectly between the normal stock of the Catholic Bookstore and that of the "Family Christian Bookstore" which tends to be highly suspicious of things that reek of Catholicism.

This work, How to Win the Culture War made for some interesting subway reading on the way back home. There are many insights, and I'll start by sharing just a taste.

from How to Win the Culture War Introduction Peter Kreeft It's loud and crude, and I'm not sorry. For it is written on a battlefield, in the heat of battle. It is written for soldier or potential soldiers, enlistees. It is therefore not a carefully nuanced, politely academic argument. It is not a sweet violin; it is an ugly, blarng trumpet. On a battlefield, a trumpet works better than a violin.

Here is a preiew and summary of the book in one page.

To win any war, an any kind of war, the nine most necessary things to know are the following:
1. that you are at war
2. who your enemy is
3. what kind of war you are in
4. what the basic principle of this kind of war is
5. what the enemy's strategy is
6. where the main battlefield is
7. what weapon will defeat the enemy
8. how to acquire this weapon
9. why you will win.

Now, I must say as a crypto-pacifist, I find this kind of language very disturbing. On the other hand, I sense deeper than the disturbance the truth of what is being said. More than that, I realize that we are talking about a war which we must win and we must win not with battle in arms, but with battle in the spiritual realm. I have always regarded Paul's words about the real battle as a fundamental and central truth of the Bible--"We battle not against the powers of this world, but against the powers and principalities, thrones and dominions of the spiritual world." (Bad paraphrase, but you get the idea.) And I have always wanted to do my part in this battle. Once again, one of my favorite writers is there to encourage me. I owe Mr.Kreeft a great debt of thanks for this wonderful work. I will share more later.

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First, Some Thanksgiving My sincere


First, Some Thanksgiving

My sincere thanks to Therese for the metro stop. Thanks to those great instructions I had no problem getting to the Shrine today. It's amazing. It has an interesting dome, but seems mostly unimpressive when approached from CUA; however, once inside it is absolutely overwhelming. Attended mass and purchased a couple of books that I would otherwise have to order through Amazon (against my distributist leanings) about which, more in a moment.

Thanks to God for fair weather despite the terrible forecasts.

And thanks to all the pleasant, caring, cheery, delightful people of Washington D.C. for making the experience so warm and fuzzy. (Actually one lady in a Metro booth was both extraordinarily helpful and tremendously pleasant. And most of the people I intereacted with in the course of their employment. What was nearly unendurable was the general mass of humanity, which would give one a good view of why Christianity is undoubtedly true.

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I Have Been Vouchsafed a


I Have Been Vouchsafed a Glimpse of the World to Come

And I truly repent. Yes, the wonders of Chuck E. Cheese's emporium of fun can be likened to the whirlwind that Dante places the Lover's in (Circle 2, I believe). This place just begins to give me a sense of what it must be like and it is horrifying. The swirling progressively louder, nearly infinite activity. Oh well.

Tomorrow is likely a first trip into D.C. It may be a revisit (solo) to Mount Vernon (one of my favorite places on Earth). Samuel continues to ask where George Washington is, and why is picture is all over the place (quarters and dollars).

Anyway, no profound insights to share. Reading Suzanne Skees God Among the Shakers which is very interesting, and House of the Spirits for which I am slowing acquiring a taste. As with much that partakes of magic realism, it is, at first disorienting.

More later.

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Quote from a Book in


Quote from a Book in my FIL's Library

My Father-in-Law is an amazing man with amazing taste in reading. He reads profoundly interesting conservative materials and holds staunchly conservative views--you would blanch to hear him talk about HiIlary Clinton. As these books are either not stocked in local libraries, or I am in such profound ignorance of their authors that I have not sought out their work, I often peruse them in off-hours at home. (There are not many of these because my Father-in-Law is an inveterate story-teller, with a true story-teller's voice, rhythm and expressions. I'm hoping to record a passle of these stories while we are here and MP3 them as a gift for family members. See my post elsewhere about the "buy-nothing" Christmas) Here from the Cal Thomas introduction to Marvin Olasky's Fighting for Liberty and Virtue a wonderful insight.

from the "Introduction" to Fighting for Liberty and Virtue Cal Thomas Sadly, the closest we get to history today is the instant replay. A generation of baby boomers, who mostly discarded the past as morally inferior to the present, has mired us in a cultural goo from which it is extremely difficult to extricate ourselves.

If we are to be liberated from this mire of our own making and find true freedom, I am convinced our emancipation will not come by external means--that is, by government, no matter which party or philosophy is in power, or by "values" imposed from the top-down. "Trickle-down" morality won't work. We must pursue "bubble-up" morality--that which flows from the people, upward. Historically, the quality of leadership has reflected the quality of followership. When ancient Israel was obedient to the law and the will of God, they generally enjoyed righteous leadership.

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Thank God for the Catholic


Thank God for the Catholic Church!

Back when I was Baptist, travel carried with it a certain kind of pain. You would leave your own comfortable church home and venture into new territory, missing for the time you were away the Pastor's ruminations on the Letter to the Romans (a seventeen week series) and joining momentarily reflections on Isaiah's messianic prophesies--if you chose to go to church in your temporary abode. Many times I simply preferred not to because nothing seemed to be standard. Everything seemed different, even if there were certain constants--"altar call" and the monthly "Lord's Supper" outside of regular service.

Here I am and the Catholic Church is here and it is like stepping right back into the home routine. I go to Church, and here rather than Morning Prayer we have a Rosary and Novena, but the Mass is the same. I know the parts and the readings join me to the pulse of the universal Church.

I was impressed this morning with the wonderful Novena at "Our Lady of the Angels." I'm going to ask for a copy for home. It was a Novena based on the beattitudes, and I had never encountered it before. I don't know if it is acceptable for private devotion, but my assumption is anything okay for public recitation must be okay for private reflection. Isn't it normally interdicted the other way round?

Anyway, in addition to all these marvels--they have 24 hour perpetual adoration except for an appropriate period from Saturday at 5:00 pm to Sunday at 7:00pm (vigil to final Sunday Mass). What a treasure!

Since I'm in the area it would be great if I could attend a Latin Mass (there is no Latin Mass (not even Novus Ordo) anywhere within a hundred and fifty miles of home. I'm hoping that in this more cosmopolitan area I might encounter at least the possibility.

More later, but I am in constant prayer of thanksgiving to the gracious God who gives us the gift of the Church!

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A Pseudo-indulgence of Another Enthusiasm

Yes--unapologetically--I am a profound enthusiast for all things colonial and revolutionary. Being here in the right part of Northern Virginia for a relatively easy hop down to Mr/Pres./General Washington's beloved abode, we made our first sojourn today. My four-year-old was beside himself with excitement at getting to go to "George Washington's House." He asked several times where Washington was. We finally explained that Mr. Washington would not be at home, he was at present visiting with a few close friends--Sally Fairfax, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson (assuming Washington was more flexible and forgiving than the American Sphinx--who held some rather unflatter opinions of the Father of our Nation.).

Later this week we will journey to Gunston Hall, the former residence of the redoubtable George Mason, a founder, who like George Wythe is too often overlooked and too readily forgotten.

We will probably visit the Smithsonian--most particularly the "bone-man dinosaurs" favored by my son. (And of course not to be overlooked by his paleontologist Dad, although my taste runs more to the Burgess Shale exhibition.)

More perhaps later. Now on to another subject.

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Some Catholic Curiousities Just going


Some Catholic Curiousities

Just going to Mass this morning, I was astounded by the curiousities I ran into. Here, declaimed from the pulpit was week four of some sort of instruction on the Liturgy, none of which I have heard in my diocese. In addition, this is a church (Our Lady of the Angels) run by a group of Stigmatine Priests. I had never heard of Stigmatine Priests before this. In addition to that there were extensive resources supporting the mission of some group called the Mercedarians--another I had never heard of. Finally, before leaving home, I had received a magazine from a group called Campos, which I guess represents the group of Brazilian Priests formerly of one of the separatist movements (SSPX?). The claim within the magazine is that the reunification represented the vindication of Archbishop Lefebvre. Does this seem a reasonable interpretation? Does it matter?

My conclusions is that the depth of spirituality in the Catholic Ocean is so great that we can only sample a little bit of the uppermost of that abyssal depth. We are blessed with an abundance and an overabundance of spiritual resources with which to bring proper praise and acclaim to God. Is there anything at all like it? Are there any depths greater?

It would seem to me that this is one of the most obvious arguments for the truth of the claims of the Catholic Church. Perhaps not, it little matters, for on the Solemnity of Christ the King, He in His mercy has seen fit to grant this servant a glimpse of the vastness of His Kingdom here on Earth.

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Those Looking for the Perfect


Those Looking for the Perfect Gift Item

A bottle with essentially infinite capacity, depending on how your think about inside/outside. Offered to us by a Pilgrim here.

There are certain things that are fascinating beyond the possibility of words. Klein bottles and the entire field of topography is among them. I was really excited when I learned that a coffee mug was topographically equivalent to a sphere with one handle. If you really want to get a glimpse of the riches of the mysteries of God, you can't do better than to look into some of the discoveries of "deep" mathematics.

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Prayer Reminder Prayer Requests and


Prayer Reminder
Prayer Requests and Reminders
Please remember the needs of:
-Gregg the Obscure and wife in a health concern
-Bishop Hoffman of Toledo
-a good friend who is making a recovery and going through a difficult patch,
-and yours truly and his family--for special needs of the day.

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Prayer for Interecession of St.


Prayer for Interecession of St. Gaspar

Fr. Keyes C.PP.S. is so incredibly generous, and today I desperately needed a "lift me up prayer." And this is one if I've ever seen one. Thank you again Father Keyes.

This also gives me the chance to thank everyone out there that posts such resoundingly good material day in day out. I love the witness so many provide to the effects of God in their lives, and I love the humanity demonstrated. Thanks for all of your faithfulness.

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A New Quiz Result You


A New Quiz Result

You can blame the blogmeister of Quenta Nârwenion. But this was utterly irresistable. Sorry.

The sixth book written, you're nevertheless the first chronologically. You not only describe the creation of Narnia and tell where the White Witch, the lampost and the wardrobe came from, you get to bounce between worlds with the help of Uncle Andrew's weird magic rings.

Find out which Chronicles of Narnia book you are.
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Major Kudos to the People


Major Kudos to the People of HIlton Head, S.C.

Passing by an Exit to Hilton Head S.C. we so a billboard produced by the pro-life group at Hilton Head, featuring an unborn child, Jesus on the cross and the heading, "Father Forgive Them. . ."

This sort of thing is a fantastic advertisement for the city of HIlton Head, in my estimation. They should all be warmly applauded for speaking aloud the truth. It is sometimes a difficult thing to say properly, this billboard dd so properly and tastefully.

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Blogging on AOL, so


Blogging on AOL, so I don't know how this will go. . .

Travel over, settled at my In-Laws and enjoying the ambience and quiet. I still have washes of road noise rumbling through my brain. After I get over being tired from the trip, I will be planning what to do in DC over the next few days. If anyone has any advice or hints, any such would be appreciated.

Expect blogging to be unusually light for the next couple of weeks as I won't have a lot of time at the computer. But I will try to make an appearance each day.

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Peace in the Family You


Peace in the Family

You all were probably already aware of this site and it looks fantastic at the surface. If you have any feedback, please let me know. I've added it to the left-hand column while I continue to review. A partial list of contents:

+ Holy Poverty +
* Preferential Love for the Poor
* Social Justice Teachings
* True Liberation theology
* Social Peace and Justice
* The Eucharist & Justice
* Works of Mercy & Gospel
* Peace of the Christian
* Christian Hospitality for Poor
* The Poor and Jesus Christ
* The Sick and Poor of Jesus
* St. Catherine on the poor
* The Works of Mercy
* Those who endure mental suffering
* Poverty in America
* Dignity of Human Work
* Micro-enterprise & the Poor
* Madonna House
* Voluntary Poverty
* Distributism
* Sojourners / SoJoNet
* Holy Solitude
* National Catholic Register
* Catholics United for the Faith
* Live Webcam Monks of
Adoration Chapel
* Houston Catholic Worker
* Second Spring
* A Catholic Page for Lovers
* Our Sunday Visitor
* Touchstone Magazine
* Credo of Buffalo Homepage
(CUF chapter)
* Cardinal George's Columns
* Jacques Maritain Center
* Click for Pro-life News
* Arts and Letters Daily
* The New Criterion
* TCR Geopolitical Opinion &
Resource Page
* The Caelum Et Terra
* Gray Friars Newsletter
* James Likoudis' Homepage
* Houston Catholic Worker on the
clergy sex abuse scandal
* Militarism
* Writings of Dorothy Day
* Christendom Awake
* Voice of the Faithful?
* Focolare Movement
* Communion and Liberation
* Communio Journal
* Traces: Communion and Liberation
* JPII Encyc: Faith and Reason
* Charles de Foucauld
* Church Fathers
* Leaflets of Faith
* Catholic League
* Holy Shroud info links
* Theotokos Web site
* Errors of Fr. Nicholas Gruner
* Fatima Apostolate
* Catholic Dossier
* Leadership U
* AD 2000
* Homiletic & Pastoral Review
* Denver Catholic Register
* Ressourcement: Links
* Social justice news
* Catholic Worker Movement
* Living His Life Abundantly
* Feminists For Life
* Christian Antropology and Homosexuality
* Society for Catholic Liturgy
* Antiphon (Liturgical Journal)
* Ecclesia Dei, JPII
* Fraternal Society of St. Peter
* Vatican Congregation for the Clergy
* U.S. Catholic Dioceses
* NCCB Weekly Movie Reviews
* Latest News US Conference of
Catholic Bishops
* US Bishops Peace Page
* Victim Souls of the Sacred Heart
* Living Monuments Of Reparation
* Hermanolen Clip Art
* Catholic Canada Directory
* Busy Christian's Guide to Catholic Social Teaching

I can't vouch for everything, but I'm pleased to see much gathered in one place, and it seems like a useful resource overall. It seems to point to places that are largely loyal to the magisterium. So go and check it out and please let me know of anything good or bad!

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Although I'm Seriously Late It


Although I'm Seriously Late

It never hurts to repeat the winner of the Annual Bulwer-Lytton Competition. And the winner is:

Bulwer-Lytton Competition Grand Prize Ms. Rephah Berg On reflection, Angela perceived that her relationship with Tom had always been rocky, not quite a roller-coaster ride but more like when the toilet-paper roll gets a little squashed so it hangs crooked and every time you pull some off you can hear the rest going bumpity-bumpity in its holder until you go nuts and push it back into shape, a degree of annoyance that Angela had now almost attained.

and we mustn't forget the Detective Category:

Winner Detective Category Matthew Chambers Chief Inspector Blancharde knew that this murder would be easy to solve-despite the fact that the clever killer had apparently dismembered his victim, run the corpse through a chipper-shredder with some Columbian beans to throw off the police dogs, and had run the mix through the industrial-sized coffee maker in the diner owned by Joseph Tilby (the apparent murder victim)--if only he could figure out who would want a hot cup of Joe.

Veritable masterpieces of bad prose. My thanks to the winners for brightening the day.

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Prayer Needs Reminder Thanks to


Prayer Needs Reminder

Thanks to all who responded before, I just post this reminder of current needs:

(1) Gregg the Obscure and his wife as they battle medical problems
Prayers Needed
(2) Bishop Hoffman of Toledo
(3) a good friend who is making a recovery and going through a difficult patch,
(4) and yours truly and his family --safety in travel, security for house.

Thank you for your faithfulness.

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What Does It Mean to


What Does It Mean to Be Catholic Green?

At least the way I define it. In a comment below, Therese articulated it precisely. I reprint it here for wider circulation as it deserves more notice.

Comment by Therese Would love to see a party focused on responsible citizenship by VOLUNTARY giving of one's self and ones resources to preserve life, liberty, and happiness for all from womb to tomb. A party truly dedicated to this can't help but create a governmental environment where it is natural and easy for citizens to freely choose to: --protect all human life as how can we hope to protect other species if we don't love our own? --nuture all humans -- not just the economically viable --treasure each human for the priceless gifts that they are --go the extra mile to help the woman in a crisis pregnancy, --feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and go the extra mile to provide the support that they need --compassionately care for -- not just sustain -- the sick --actively and lovingly accompany those who need help to make it through the day--mentally ill, elderly, sick, less skilled, etc --transform our economy by purchasing items with an eyes towards fair pay, social justice and environmental responsibility (is my good deal purchased at the price of anothers loss of livlihoood or enslavement?), --make the US a good neighbor of all, --preserve the environment as it contributes so much to health and happiness --permit people in their childbearing years to concentrate on child raising and to pass on a legacy of love and the value of human relationships --value the long term result as much if not more than the short term

We can't get there if it is mandated by the governement for then it becomes someone else's responsibility. We can't get there if civic responsibility means my self-sufficiency at someone else's expense. We can only get there if WE citizens make a choice to do whatever it takes to be a nation that freely chooses to be self givers for the good of all. When you get right down to it, that really was what the founders excelled at -- so many gave their lives and fortunes to the nation. Somehow, I think a nation of self givers is the kind of nation, Jesus would have us have. Or even a party dedicated to self giving would be the party he would want us to join.

This articulates in nearly every detail what I meant about "green" leanings. All of these things (along with several more repugnant to Catholic sensibilities--therefore the splitting into "Catholic Green") are part of the party platform. Of course, they are taken to some enormous extremes. But what is articulated here--grassroots Christianity as it should be, is my political credo.

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Expect Blogging to be Light


Expect Blogging to be Light to Absent

For the next couple of days. I suspect my Father-in-Law would not take too kindly to me rushing into the house to do my blogging. But I do hope to post something each day.

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Another Potential Member?


Another Potential Member?

Do I see an incipient member of the Glorious Seventeenth Century Poetry Society hiding within the blog of Quenta Nârwenion? I would be annoyed that someone had stolen my thunder, but this marvel by Dryden--set to music by Handel in 1739 (although you should also hear the Purcell Odes of 1683 and 1692--the Glorious Seventeenth Century) is welcome where'er it may appear. Look for the entry for today (Thursday 11/21/02) titled "Tommorow's feast." (Hear also the Hymn to St. Cecilia by Britten, and the Parry Cantata for the day. Marvelous music all.

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Sorry, Guess this is just


Sorry, Guess this is just a "Joy of the Lord" Kind of Day

Suggested Therapy for a bad work day:

When you have an "I hate my job" day try this: On your way home from work, stop at your pharmacy and go to the thermometer section. You will need to purchase a rectal thermometer made by "Johnson and Johnson." Be very sure you get this brand. When you get home, lock your doors, draw the drapes, and disconnect the phone so you will not be disturbed during your therapy. Change to very comfortable clothing, such as a sweat suit and lie down on your bed. Open the package and remove the thermometer. Carefully place it on the bedside table so that it will not become chipped or broken.

Take out the material that comes with the thermometer and read it. You will notice that in small print there is statement "Every rectal thermometer made by Johnson and Johnson is personally tested". Now close your eyes and repeat out loud five times "I am so glad I do not work for quality control at the Johnson and Johnson Company. Have a nice day and remember there is always someone with a worse job than yours.

Donated by a generous colleague.

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We Are Amused Sorry to


We Are Amused

Sorry to steal this from Mr. Gil's site, but it seemed necessary as direct links are really out of whack, and I want to be able to enjoy this again and again.

Several cannibals were recently hired by a big corporation.

"You are all part of our team now," said the HR rep during the welcome briefing. "You get all the usual benefits and you can go to the cafeteria for something to eat, but please don't eat any of the other employees." The cannibals promised.

Four weeks later their boss remarked, "You're all working very hard and I'm satisfied with you. However, one of our secretaries has disappeared.

Do any of you know what happened to her?" The cannibals all shook their heads no.

After the boss had left, the leader of the cannibals said to the others."Which one of you idiots ate the secretary?" A hand raised hesitantly, to which the leader of the cannibals continued, "You fool! For four weeks we've been eating Managers and no one noticed anything, then you had to go and eat a secretary!"

Thank you, Mr. Gil.

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A Hymn for Dylan


A Hymn for Dylan

I offer this hymn setting (Lux in Tenebrae) from the recently discovered (for me) Gilbert and Sullivan Archive Site to Dylan, honoring his blog. See this for sheet music and lyrics. Also available here as a PDF.

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An Irresistable Indulgence Please


An Irresistable Indulgence

Please forgive me as I regale you with the following. I am an absolute addict for Gilbert and Sullivan, and I fear you may be hearing more from these as we go along. Right now we treat you to one of the great songs from The Mikado. For those who may not know, Ko Ko is the Lord High Executioner.

from The Mikado Act I Lyrics by William S. Gilbert

As some day it may happen that a victim must be found,
I've got a little list--I've got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed--who never would be missed!
There's the pestilential nuisances who write for autographs--
All people who have flabby hands and irritating laughs--
All children who are up in dates, and floor you with 'em flat--
All persons who in shaking hands, shake hands with you like that--
And all third persons who on spoiling tête-à-têtes insist--
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!

He's got 'em on the list--he's got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be miss'd!

There's the banjo serenader, and the others of his race,
And the piano-organist--I've got him on the list!
And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
They never would be miss'd--they never would be miss'd!
Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
And who "doesn't think she dances, but would rather like to try";
And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist--
I don't think she'd be missed--I'm sure she'd not he missed!

He's got her on the list--he's got her on the list;
And he don't think she'll be missed--he's sure she won't be miss'd!

And that Nisi Prius nuisance, who just now is rather rife,
The Judicial humorist--I've got him on the list!
All funny fellows, comic men, and clowns of private life--
They'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed.
And apologetic statesmen of a compromising kind,
Such as--What d'ye call him--Thing'em-bob, and likewise--Never-mind,
And 'St--'st--'st--and What's-his-name, and also You-know-who--
The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you.
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list,
For they'd none of 'em be missed--they'd none of 'em be missed!

You may put 'em on the list--you may put 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed!

A midi-sequence of this patter song, which gives only the vaguest notion of how it might sound, may be found here.

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Recent Periodical/Web Reading

I've been on a jag of reading materials about Wahhabism and other aspects of Islamic Cultures. I cannot recommend highly enough two sites with some insight. Memri provides translations of selected Middle Eastern newspapers and dispatces. The Islamic Supreme Council of America adds a voice of reason and of warning to the mix of information we get from that part of the world.

One of our greatest enemies is ignorance. If we listen to the version of what we get through our own media we will never be able to come to terms or understanding of what we are witnessing in the world. With regard to Wahhabism, we need to understand what it is and what it means and how it relates to the rest of Islam. I have wavered back and forth over the entire question of Islam and what it means and whether it really is a "Religion of Peace." I seek to remedy my own woeful ignorance. Only in that way can I find the way to love and to pray for these brethren.

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Prayers Needed Please remember in


Prayers Needed

Please remember in a special way in prayer today Bishop Hoffman of Toledo, Gregg the Obscure and his wife, a good friend who is making a recovery and going through a difficult patch, and yours truly and his family as we prepare to travel several hundred miles to spend Thanksgiving with our family in Fairfax, Manassas, and Winchester. Thank you for your faithfulness.

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Note to Those Looking for


Note to Those Looking for Mary Sidney Herbert's Psalms

Five or six google searches for this item. If you want to see the most extensive collection I've found online, visit Luminarium (see left column) pick "Renaissance" and look for Mary Herbert. Good luck and thanks for visiting.

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Prayer Request--Wife of Gregg the


Prayer Request--Wife of Gregg the Obscure

One of our parishioners, Gregg the Obscure, has asked for prayers for his wife who recently had a negative result on a test and is going in for a biopsy. Please remember Gregg and his wife in your prayers.

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My Beef(s) with SOME of


My Beef(s) with SOME of the Pro-Life Movement

Ha! Thought that would get your attention. And I suppose it should be beeves, but let that go for now.

There are two sub-factions of the pro-life movement from whose philosophy I wish to divorce myself. I have no tolerance with the "we're fighting a war and abortion doctors who are killed are simply casualties" approach. This is not pro-life. You cannot end life to support life. There is no doctrine of double effect here--killing is killing. I also have little patience with the "love 'em and leave 'em" school of supporting the mother up to the time of birth and then cutting welfare benefits because she has more than two children. Another group, for which I have considerable sympathy but who I think are barking up the wrong tree are the "constitutional amendment" and "legislate it out of existence people." While I wish them well, and my heart goes with them, the fiercely practical side of my constitution says, "It ain't gonna happen."

As to the first school, the less said, the better. I repudiate them and all their glamours. Evil is evil. Murder in the name of a good cause is murder. I don't need to continue on this track, everyone who reads this could not but agree.

As to the second group--let's face it, the pro-life movement must be prepared to be sacrificial in giving. There may be some welfare moms who continue to have progeny to reap greater benefits; however, I doubt that is all that is happening. These people need serious help--counseling and deeply compassionate love. A woman who has five children by five different men must have some serious self-esteem issues. If she continually enters into relationships even for the momentary solace of sex, there is something fundamental missing at the core.

The welfare system of people depending upon the government for help is at best a flawed system, resulting from the fact that we have not been as responsive as we should have to the mandates of God's word. The Government should not have to care for the poor. We as individuals should be making sufficient provision for those around us that the government should not have to step in. Many of us do a great deal for the poor. But not all of us. Many of us have the attitude expressed by Pink Floyd's "Money." "Keep your hands off of my stash." While our first social responsibility is to ourselves and our families (thus not adding to the list of those needing help) our next must be outreach. In the case of a pregnant woman, it is outreach not only to the child in her womb, but to her. We must let her know that someone does care. And as I said, this can be a sacrificial act.

As to the legislate it out of existence crowd. I wish them well, and I hope with all my heart that they succeed. In the meantime, it seems we should be working hard to restore our society to a place where we have eliminated the root causes of abortion. In a certain sense we need to restore a sense of moral responsibility in which it is more desirable to have a lasting marriage that to entertain the notion of serial monogamies or endless one-night stands. We need education that helps young women know that it is right and proper to refuse the advances of any person, that it is right and proper to refuse to have sex until marriage, and that it is right and proper to accept children as the gift from God that they are. This is not taught through histrionics, endless shouting matches, and sturm und drang methods. It is taught by the way we conduct ourselves. It is taught when we turn off Friends and Ally McBeal; when we carefully monitor what we are watching, and when we choose to indulge in something that may present potentially morally difficult situations, we clearly discuss how we ourselves would handle such a situation. It is taught by how we treat others on a regular basis. It is taught when we do not casually accept those who have "chosen alternative lifestyles," but while we continue to love them, we explain why the actions are wrong. We love the person and hate the sin, and we really do that. Above all, it is taught by continual emersion in the life of prayer. Prayer must permeate all that we do however we choose to do it. Every moment of every day should be steeped in prayer, and thus in meaning. We should make clear that every decision, every action, should be preceded by, conducted in, and wrapped up with prayer. We have influence over a very small portion of the world. But it is the portion that we influence that becomes the tide that washes over the next generation. If we are not circumspect, caring, and involved in the lives of our children, we will never eradicate the scourge of abortion.

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Weird Science I really loved


Weird Science

I really loved this article (found I think via Video Meliora. . .). Talk about arcane, nearly insane, Sir-Fred-Hoyle-esque reinterpretations of the universe. Mirror matter. I won't say it isn't so, but it is akin to superstrings--maybe there, maybe not--but what does it end up meaning. Physicists seem expert at manufacturing their own versions of reality.

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Buy-Nothing Christmas

This, orginally from the Mennonites, but inviting everyone. Thanks to Sr. Gonzalez at fotos del apocalipsis.

A partial list of alternatives:

1. Create coupons for a massage, spring cleaning, child-minding, manicure, etc.

2. Create a menu of various culinary delights (e.g., Tantalizing Thai, Mexican Fiesta, etc.) and have the gift recipient choose one of the options.

3. Collect meaningful photos for the gift recipient, make colour photocopies and create a collage.

4. Write and illustrate a book for the young people in your life.

5. Knit a stocking, hat, socks, etc.

6. Do something exciting and challenging together (e.g., long walk, bike ride, hike, art course).

7. Compile a list of memories and arrange them in a creative fashion.

This is something for which I can find profound sympathy and for which I feel a profound resonance. My favorite gift EVER from both my mother and my wife have been handmade things (a afghan and a bathrobe). (Buy the way, for all of you out there in blogland that were contemplating the perfect gift for me--edibles are very, very good. I just thought I'd let you know, to relieve the stress that I'm sure was weighing on your mind over it.)

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Prayers for one of


Prayers for one of Our Bishops

Mr. or Ms. Drake at Catholic Point of View, points out the need for prayers for Bishop Hoffman of Toledo who has been diagnosed with cancer. Please remember him in your prayers.

(Direct link may not work. Please truncate URL or go to Catholic Point of View from side column and look for the 9:19 am entry for today to see more details.)

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At the Request of a


At the Request of a Friend

My good friend Katherine asks that I bring this to everyone's attention, and as all things Papal appeal to me greatly, it is my pleasure to do so. The full article is available from Zenit News

His Holiness makes three very good points in addressing Brazilian Bishops on the sins of sterilization, abortion, and divorce:

First, he told the pastors that to fail to proclaim the truth about marriage and the family "would be a grave pastoral omission, which would lead people to error, especially those who have the important responsibility to make decisions for the common good of the nation."

Second, John Paul II called for the commitment of all Catholics, especially married couples, who "must be the first to witness to the grandeur of conjugal and family life," to respond with "a more incisive and constant catechetical and educational action, which will give incentive to the Christian ideal of faithful and indissoluble conjugal communion."

Third, he exhorted "those who are afraid of the exigencies that such fidelity implies": "Be not afraid of the risks! There is no difficult situation that cannot be addressed in an adequate way when a climate of consistent Christian life is cultivated."

I love particularly the last sentence, a motto rephrasing St. Paul, but powerful for our times--There is no difficult situation that cannot be addressed in an adquate way when a climate of consistent Christian life is cultivated. Or even better--There is no crisis that cannot be overcome when Christ is the mainstay. (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.) Thank you, Katherine.

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On Integrists and Their Genesis


On Integrists and Their Genesis

A wonderful and insightful post from Gregg the Obscure on the origin of what he terms (rightfully so, I think) "integrists." Go and enjoy.

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Blogger Again Okay, today has


Blogger Again

Okay, today has decided me. I'm either paying for blogger (undecided) or I'm taking my blog to movable type and to my own home somewhere. Those who have taken this step, I would appreciate any input you have--is it terribly difficult? Is it hard to transfer Archives? Is it even possible? What is your advice from experience?

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And Now, For Something


And Now, For Something Completely Different

On the other hand, I have had the enormously good fortune of following the generally excellent advice of the music critic of Crisis, Richard Reilly, as a result I have been exposed to an endless variety of very fine music, access to which i might not otherwise have. Currently I am listening to Malcolm Arnold, Symphony Number 5, and while there is a bit of dissonance, it is certainly no more than marks the works of the early Twentieth Century Greats Stravinsky and Debussy. The chromatics and rather interesting and provide a lovely color to the work. If you have a chance, slip over to Crisis Magazine (here) and take a look at the music column. You may have the pleasure of discovering something wonderful for your listening pleasure. Oh, and the great thing about the Matthew Arnold is that it is available on Naxos, which means it costs between one-half and one-third the price of a normal CD.

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Commentary on the Modern Music


Commentary on the Modern Music Scene

One might infer from this post chez Dylan that Dylan does not much care for the muscial stylings of the redoubtable (emphasis on the doubt) Eminem. While some of the sentiments are a trifle stronger than I would give rise to, particularly toward the end, the review is delightfully vitriolic and well worth your attention if you happen to agree with this line:

Eminem is a cancer-cell. His fans are cancer-cells. The genre in which he works is the epitome of all things cancerous and malignant.

We have neighbors who, from time to time, are kind enough to share with us their taste in music--usually at 5:00am or at the other end of the clock. It penetrates our house as a deep kind of throbbing--the only thing more potentially sonically devestating being the twin sonic booms of the returning space shuttle. I can, to some degree, sympathize with this sentiment, particularly as it appear to have been, as Kevin Kline says in that remarkable film, Fierce Creatures "sleep interruptive."

I would point out that the sharp invective is not for the faint of heart or easily perturbed. But, I do believe, shorn of its hyperbole (which is magnificent) it has targeted the bullseye.

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Does Anyone Really Care. .


Does Anyone Really Care. . .
what I'm reading? I doubt it. But I see side columns at other bloggers places and I know I'm always interested. I used to maintain a side column here, but with my ever lengthening lists, and the possibility of new additions (Paleontology and Poetry), I think it is probably better for me to mention from time to time things I am reading.

Present reading includes: Suzanne Skees God Among the Shakers, Rohinton Mistry Family MattersIsabelle Allende Daughter of Fortune and House of the Spirits, and innumerable things into which I dip from time to time such as Chesterton's Heretics and Pearce's Wisdom and Innocence and Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables. I'm anxiously awaiting the previously reported Italian Hours so that I can put it on my palm and have another Henry James to read along with the longstanding Portrait of a Lady. Naturally none of these proceeds very rapidly as I juggle from one to another between glimpses of the Extended Tolkien. But all in due time.

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St. Gaspar from a Different Quarter


St. Gaspar from a Different Quarter

Fr. Keyes C.PP. S. often is the source of Gaspariana. Recently he made us aware of 31 maxims on Humility that St. Gaspar promulgated and encouraged his followers to post. John DaFiesole at Disputations(direct link not working as this is the most recent entry--look for "Humility 101") has repackaged these in an interesting, perhaps more useful form. Each to his or her own taste. The repackaging is a trifle abrupt for me, but it does provide a good synopsis and some excellent lessons on humility.

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From a Blog I Obviously


From a Blog I Obviously Need to Visit More Often

From Peter Nixon's Sursum Corda this quiz. I need to visit this blog more often if only to figure out exactly what I think of it. There are so many enticing and puzzling thoughts and strands running through it. For example, I am unable to share the enthusiasm for Fr. Rolheiser's column as I am somewhat put off by reference to the diety as "she." (I suppose this is what was mean't when my professor said I was too "gender specified.") On the other hand, you may also encounter stirring passages such as the one that follows--available in its complete form here.

Prayer is not a question of insight, of being smarter than anyone else; nor of will, of being stronger than anyone else; nor of emotional restraint or sexual aloofness, of being less passionate than anyone else; nor of withdrawal, of being less exposed to temptation than anyone else. Prayer is a question of unity and surrender, of uniting one's will with someone else and surrendering one's will to that other. Prayer is the desire to be in union with someone, especially in union with that other's will.

There are other anomalies that set off the early warning radar in Mr. Nixon's blog, but also much good, clear, purposeful thought. Perhaps I just need to bestir myself out of the comfortable Orchid Room I have created and engage these ideas. Perhaps my discomfort stems from not choosing to engage in this conversation. Perhaps it stems from other, deeper sources, prejudices that need eradication rather than nurturing in my Wolfeian Orchid Palace. Perhaps I need the challenge of encountering these perspectives and wrestling with their proper place and understanding. No, all of these perhaps are not perhaps but true, I just don't have the moral courage necessary to face up to some of these things. With prayer and God's grace, it will come.

Now, on to the discovery I made at this blog: I have long since gotten over my Buffy fascination, when it moved out of monster-of-the-week into some bizarre brand of proselytizing I found I lost patience with it. But I do love quizzes, so, what can I say.

Moreover, if I may give vent to my latent Calvinism, it's right on target, I do have a destined calling, as I believe the vast majority of people have--heaven is calling me home.

Which Buffy archetype are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

[You know, I've corrected technical and philosophical deficiencies in this entry something like eight times now--perhaps it is not meant to come to fruition.]

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On Tolkien As with many,


On Tolkien

As with many, I have recently gotten the extended version of The Lord of the Rings and I started watching it a couple of days ago, going through much of the documentary stuff and about the first half of the film.

Something I have not much seen described in all the discussion of Tolkien is the reaction I have to him, either in the books or in the true-to-form video. Tolkien is one of the few writers who inspire in me a sense of longing and belonging. When I read or see Tolkien, I want to be in the world he has made, and I know is some ineffable sense I am. His work puts me in direct contact with at least a sense of supernatural realities. The same is true for certain parts of the Arthur Legend. When I read the Old French contributions, and even Mallory, the entire world is transformed in the light of these legends and works. So too with Tolkien. I cannot describe the reaction any further than to say that it is a deep longing, a strong belief that I am encountering the truth in ways that cannot otherwise be explained. I love Tolkien's work for this transformative ability. I agree with some critics and scholars who point out that there are certain awkwardnesses of phrasing and a lack of felicity in some of the writing; and yet, it makes no difference whatsoever in its impact.

I have seen people for whom Tolkien offers nothing whatsoever and they are impossibly enigmatic to me. I would like to understand them, but I have no grasp whatsoever on what drives them. I guess Tolkien incites in me that "romantic" fire in the original sense of the term. His work is steeped in a deep history which is often more interesting in its fragmented appearance in The Lord of the Rings than it is in the more detailed works.

For me, this then is the essence of Tolkien--he touches upon the mythic and supernatural in ways that only two other things do--King Arthur and the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord. I don't know why these three take me to this different place, and of course there can be no equivalence between them, two being inventions and one being the Truth; however, they are part of the gracious way God has seen fit to make me and to the treat me. To me, they are the constant reminders of our eternal home, and they succeed always in calling me there, in making me aware that it is indeed a real destination, and reminding me that " There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

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Courtesy of Mr. White Mr.


Courtesy of Mr. White

Mr. White wrote a comment below and connected to one of Russell Kirk's very fine essays. The following is an excerpt.

Cant and equivocation dismissed, it seems to me that there are three great bodies of principle and conviction which tie together what is called modern civilization. The first of these is the Christian faith: theological and moral doctrines which inform us, either side of the Atlantic, of the nature of God and man, the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, human dignity, the rights and duties of human persons, the nature of charity, and the meaning of hope and resignation. The second of these is the corpus of imaginative literature, humane letters, which is the essence of our high culture: humanism, which, with Christian faith, teaches us our powers and our limitations -- the work of Plato, Virgil, Cicero, Dante, Shakespeare, and so many others. The third is a complex of social and political institutions which we may call the reign of law, or ordered liberty: prescription, precedent, impartial justice, private rights, private property, the character of genuine community, the claims of the family and of voluntary association. However much these three bodies of conviction have been injured by internecine disputes, nihilism, Benthamism, the cult of Rationalism, Marxism, and other modern afflictions, they remain the rocks upon which our civilization is built.

These seem to embody the most important traditions of Burkeian conservatism, a laudable thing indeed.

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A Joke to Start the


A Joke to Start the Day
Because I don't much feel like laughing. It's been a difficult (fiscal) week and I fear things not much better loom on the horizon. The bright spot in all of this is that we shall be visiting Virginia for Thanksgiving. I'll get to see brothers and in-laws, which strangely is a real boost--now I have to dig out my winter wardrobe somewhat early.

An atheist was taking a walk through the woods, admiring all that the "accident of evolution" had created. "What majestic trees! What a powerful river! What beautiful animals!" he said to himself.

As he walked alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turned to look and saw a 7-foot grizzly charging towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path. He looked over his shoulder and saw that the bear was closing in on him. He ran even faster, so scared that tears were coming to his eyes. He looked over his shoulder again and the bear was even closer. His heart was pumping frantically and he tried to run faster still.

He tripped and fell to the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up, but saw the bear... right on top of him... reaching for him with the left paw and raising his right paw to strike him.

At that instant the atheist cried out "Oh my God!...."

Suddenly, time stopped. The bear froze in motion. The forest was ever so silent. Even the river ceased to move. As a brilliant ray of light emerged from the sky and shone upon the man, a powerful voice spoke to him, "You have denied my existence for all of these years; you teach others that I do not exist and you credit creation to a cosmic accident. Do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you now as a believer?"

The atheist blinked directly into the light. "It would be hypocritical of me to convert to a Christian after all these years, but could you instead make the bear a Christian?"

"Very well," said the voice from above. The bright light disappeared. All of a sudden, life resumed around the man. The river ran again. The forest became alive once more with the gentle sounds of nature.

The bear stirred. Slowly, he lowered his right paw, brought both paws together, bowed his head and graciously spoke: "Lord, for this food which I am about to receive, I am truly thankful."

The moral of the story--better a hypocrite with a chance of heaven than food for a cosmic accident.

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That Post On Politics Did


That Post On Politics Did Have Good Results. . .
It reminded me of Russell Kirk, one of the people I greatly admire as he was both a deep thinker and a writer of some incredible little dark fantasy/horror stories, the one coming to mind is the splendid "Lex Talionis." If you have been culturally deprived by education in the current multicultural/nocultural system, find this story and enjoy!

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Okay Now, Let's Have a


Okay Now, Let's Have a Show of Hands

How many of y'all do blogging over the weekend? By that I don't just mean surfin' and readin', I mean hardcore writin' 'n' linkin'. I stopped by a bunch of your places and there were nary a thing there for me to read. Thank heavens for loyal good bloggers like Dylan and Mr. Gil who do their best to keep me entertained. But the rest of y'all. Well, I just don't know what to do about it. (long meaningful look).

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Political Survey I got this


Political Survey
I got this via Dylan's Blog and doubt my ability to answer all the questions or even if it is a useful exercise.

Political Party/affiliation: None--leaning toward Green (Greens are like the Popular Front of Judea--they just keep splitting and spliltting--I'd go for the Catholic Green Party--dump those platforms that support abortion and other teachings counter to the church--keep environmental awareness (not Activism), a preferential option for the poor, and certain other aspects) with a large dash of libertarain (not of the obnoxious Randian variety).
Favorite Political, er, Person: George Will/Camille Paglia (is she political--don't know--but I really like her)
Favorite Political Quote:"I set out with a perfect distrust of my own abilities, a total renunciation of every speculation of my own, and with a profound reverence for the wisdom of our ancestors, who have left us the inheritance of so happy a Constitution and so flourishing an empire, and, what is a thousand times more valuable, the treasury of the maxims and principles which formed the one and obtained the other." Edmund Burke and
"[Re: French Revolution] I thought that ten thousand swords would have leaped from their scabbards to avenge even a look that threatened her [Marie Antoinette] with insult. But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded." (Edmund Burke-Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790.)
Pet Issue: Pro-life
Ideal Presidential Ticket 2004: none
Ideal Presidential Candidate 2008: none
Who will the Democrats run in 2004? haven't a clue, couldn't care less--if they follow the party line I won't be voting for them
Favorite Gun: A flinklock without powder
Least Favorite Politico: Kate Michelman/Patricia Ireland (more like Plebia Ireland)
Favorite Political Periodical: National Review
Favorite Columnist(s): Peggy Noonan, (sorry, guilty secret here--Camille Paglia--when she is on, she is on!)
Favorite President: John Adams (distant past)//Theodore Roosevelt/Harry Truman (recent past)//Reagan (my lifetime)
Least Favorite President: Clinton
Favorite Supreme: Thomas hands-down, and of course Robert Bork, who should have been.
Favorite Senator: Rick Santorum
Favorite Governor: Jeb Bush (my Gov!)
Favorite Political Book: Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke)/The Conservative Mind (Russell Kirk)/Slouching toward Gomorrah (Bork)

[long digression]
Kirk's Six Canons of Conservative Thought
"Belief in a transcendent order, or body of natural law, which rules society as well as conscience."
"Affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of human existence, as opposed to the narrowing uniformity, egalitarianism, and utilitarian aims of most radical systems;"
"Conviction that civilized society requires orders and classes, as against the notion of a 'classless society'."
"Persuasion that freedom and property are closely linked: separate property from private possession, and the Leviathan becomes master of all."
"Faith in prescription and distrust of 'sophisters, calculators, and economists' who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs."
"Recognition that change may not be salutary reform: hasty innovation may be a devouring conflagration, rather than a torch of progress."
[end digression]

Favorite Political Simpsons Episode: "The Austrailian "Booting" Episode"
Favorite Conservative Polemicist: Dinesh D'Souza
Have you ever been assaulted by a former Weatherman or Black Panther member? No.
Favorite Experience Being Oppressed By a Liberal Teacher/Professor: Having a professor comment that I was too "gender-specified"
Favorite out of the closet conservative/Republican celebrity? I don't do celebrities
Favorite Feminazi to Make Fun of: Tough one here--Susan Faludi/Catherine MacKinnon
Were you ever a member of the Communist Party? No.
Secret Political Shame: None
How Satanic is John McCain? Ignore him, perhaps he'll go away.
Political Organization(s) that Scares You More than Death, Spiders, and Death by Spiders: People for the American Way, NARAL and NOW

Okay, did this accomplish something other than mortify me beyond words? Did it help to clarify anything? Well, now you know a little more. And surprise, suprise, my favorite political book and president lived in the 18th century. Not quite so glorious as the 17th, but way up there.

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Christina Rossetti I love Project


Christina Rossetti

I love Project Canterbury (see left column) they produce such wonderful Anglo-Catholic stuff. In this week's e-bulletin was a brief on-line biography of the poet who gave us the wonderful carol, "In the Bleak Midwinter." Go here to read it. An excerpt follows.

It is sometimes said that Christina Rossetti dwells overmuch on the physical aspect of death. Her poetry has, indeed, its sombre strain, but the trails of glory are never far away. Like that other singer of the Catholic Revival, John Mason Neale, it is for the dear, dear country that her eyes keep vigil. Beyond the dull street on which her bedroom window looks out is the vision of Urbs Beata:

I saw the gate called Beautiful
And looked but scarce could look within.
I saw the golden streets begin
And outskirts of the glassy pool;
On harps, on crowns of plenteous stars,
On green palm branches many-leaved
Eye hath not seen, nor ear hath heard,
Nor heart conceived.
I hope to see these things again,
But not as once in dreams by night,
To see them with my very sight
And touch and handle and attain
To have all Heaven beneath my feet
For narrow way that once they trod;
To have my part with all the saints
And with my God.

This biograpphy makes me think I have neglected the poet who gave us the wonderful "Goblin Market" overlong. I have a magnificent pre-Raphaelite illustrated version of that single poem, but it is evident that I will need to seek out a more complete "Works." If anyone knows of an on-line resource, please let me know in the comment box or send me an e-mail. Thanks.

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On-Line Proofing and Henry James


On-Line Proofing and Henry James

After encouraging everyone to share in this endeavor yesterday, I was able to go over and enjoy the proofing of about a half-dozen pages of Henry James's very fine travelogue/art history/social commentary Italian Hours. Henry James has of recent date become something of a weakness for me. For the longest time I simply couldn't understand what anyone saw in his work. After the list of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century was issued from the Modern Library group, I determined that because his name was on the list three times, I must truly be missing out on something. I started with he most recent of those three entries, and by far one of the most challenging books I had ever read--The Golden Bowl it took me weeks of nibbling and note taking, a little here and a little there, until finally I was able to get through the entire thing. While I'm not certain I agree with the critics in calling this his best novel, it certainly opened the door into his works for me. In James, as in Conrad, and to some extent Hawthorne, it is not so much the arrival that matters as the journey. You don't read James to find out what happens in the traditional sense of tracing a story line. You read James to find out why anything happens. All of the stories center around characters and actions that are highly psychologically motivated. Thus the confusion of many when they reach the end of "Turn of the Screw" and they say, "So, what exactly was going on here?" Nevertheless, read properly, slowly, truly savoring the prose and the winding labyrinth of the tale, "Turn of the Screw" is one of the most effective and horrifying ghost stories you will read.

The breakthrough with James opened other doors that had hitherto been closed. I've become a major fan of Joseph Conrad and Nathaniel Hawthorne, both of whom I had considered too windy and somber before. Hawthorne, you might be surprised to learn, has quite an engaging and delightful sense of humor.

For those who have no so challenged themselves, I would recommend taking up a book by James--though I wouldn't recommend The Golden Bowl as a starting point. Perhaps Daisy Miller or even Turn of the Screw would make for an interesting and entertaining beginning to expanding your acquaintance with this unjustly neglected key figure in American Literature.

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As Threatened--Rohinton Mistry
A Review of A Fine Balance with sundry comments on other works.

As you may already have heard, Rohinton Mistry, a Canadian Writer, recently cancelled a book promotion tour here in the states due to the harassment he received at each airport he went through. The press made this out to be some big political statement about profiling, but I suspect Mr. Mistry was simply annoyed at being searched twice and three times in a day. I neither know nor care about his view of this matter. What I do care about is his superbly crafted fiction.

He has, to my knowledge, four books, each wonderful in its own way. The first, Swimming Lessons is a set of short stories which have as their unifying theme the apartment complex in which they take place. Each story presents interesting characters and situations and provides a great deal of insight into a culture and religion little known in the west.

There followed three novels. I will speak only of the second novel A Fine Balance. This was selected as a Oprah Club Book, which belies the usual stereotype one might see portrayed of such books. Ms. Winfrey's choices largely centered around thematic elements--dysfunctional families or cultural views. A Fine Balance falls into the latter category and it is a domestic epic. The story concerns the lives of four characters brought together because they all live or work in the same flat. The principle character is a Parsi woman whose husband has died some time ago, leaving her the meager rent-controlled flat in which she lives and from which her landlord wishes to evict her so that he can make it another high-priced condominium. To retain her apartment and support herself, the widow takes in a border, a student from the Himalayas. This student is Sikh. In addition, she retains the services of two Hindi itinerant tailors, Uncle and Nephew, who have left their village in search of better money and to escape the shadow of their past. Both of them started lives as the lowest of the low--leather workers, untouchables.

The story centers around the lives of these people during the middle seventies in India during an "internal state of emergency." In the course of this wonderful novel you get glimpses of the practices of three religions, and a real insight into the struggle to retain dignity in a truly oppressive, impoverished country.

Along the way you meet such characters as the Beggarmaster who guards and cares for the thousands of beggars in his area, collecting from them a majority of what they take in and providing for them some measure of security and food. You learn that it is common practice to take small children and make cripples of them so that they will collect more in begging. You also meet a man who collects human hair to send to the great wig factories for ultimate export to the west. From him you get some of the most amusing and insightful lines in the book. Paraphrasing a line that stuck in my mind, the hair collector responds to one of the tailors, telling him why he collects hair to make wigs. "Because people in the west are afraid of going bald. People in the west have so much money they can afford to be afraid of very silly things." For reasons that elude me, that really opened my eyes to the privileged way in which I live and of the real horrors of the third world.

Mistry presents to us characters that are nearly all likeable. (The single exception being the Town Leader who precipitates most of the crisis and trouble for the two tailors). We come to understand and love each of these characters and we follow them through good times into bad, and at least a little way back out again. The novel rings true through and through and it is compassionate and eye-opening. I would highly recommend it to all readers as an exercise in developing compassion and deepening the understanding of what the third world is like.

His most recent novel is called Family Matters and I've only just started it. So far, it is set in a completely different milieu than A Fine Balance. The family involved is considerable better off than the protagonists of A Fine Balance. The set-up of the story has intriguing similarities to Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections in that the patriarch of a dysfunctional family has Parkinson’s disease. The story seems to be about the resolution of the internal conflicts in the family, just as, to some extent, Franzen's book is. However, the writing is so much less contrived, so much more immediately engaging. Mistry is a story-teller whereas Franzen is a self-styled "raconteur." Franzen's tales, as he made clear in his childish gaffe over being selected by Ms. Winfrey for her book club, are not meant for everyone. Only the intellectual elite will "get it." ("Stuff and nonsense" is the kindest reaction one can muster for such absurdity.) I'll let you know later about Mistry's book, but I expect it to be a very fine read.

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Memo to Self Remember to


Memo to Self
Remember to tell everyone about Rohinton Mistry. Compare Mistry and Franzen. I'm sure everyone will be riveted to their seats.

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Distributed Proofreaders (found here) could use your help. The concept behind Distributed Proofreaders is to proof public-domain e-texts for posting on the Gutenberg Site. Past projects have included things like Pope's translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey as well as a great many others. If you are interested in e-texts, in proofreading, or simply in getting a glimpse into the world of those of use who read nearly everything on a Palm OS computer--drop in here and see what's going on.

(Yes, I carry about 100 different books, articles, and collections on my Handspring with memory expansion. I want to get a machine that will take compact flash or smart media and load it up with complete Shakespeare, some lengthy anthologies of poetry I've found around the net and other more guilty goodies (such as the "Barsoom" Series of Burroughs and much of the complete opus of H. Rider Haggard--author of She, King Solomon's Mines [written on a dare] and Allan Quatermain. I could also put on A.E.W. Mason's Four Feathers, much of Stevenson [who I've come to like better than I originally did after reading his spirited defense of Fr. Damien], and yes, Chesterton--Currently I'm carrying Heretics, Orthodoxy, The Man Who Was Thursday, St. Thomas Aquinas, and some selected essays and poetry.

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Rashomon for Basho


So, how does one translate Japanese poetry. In the column to the left there is a link to Basho's most famous work variously translated Narrow Road to the Deep North or Narrow Road to Oku. I have selected stop 26 on the journey to look at the translations offered of a single haiku.

Station 26 - Ryushakuji

[translation by Nobuyuki Yuasa]

In the utter silence
Of a temple,
A cicada's voice alone
Penetrates the rocks.

[translation by Dorothy Britton]
In this hush profound,
Into the very rocks it seeps -
The cicada sound.

[translation by Cid Corman and Kamaike Susume]
into rock absorbing
cicada sounds

[translation by Helen Craig McCullough]
shizukesa ya Ah, tranquility!
iwa ni shimiiru Penetrating the very rock,
semi no keo a cicada's voice.

[translation by Helen Craig McCullough]
In seclusion, silence.
Shrilling into the mountain boulder,
The cicada's rasp.

You can see that all five give us a sense of the main elements--the quiet or stillness, the cicada's voice (which by the way, if it's anything like the cicadas I've heard precludes any sense whatsoever of quiet) and some sort of rock. In the first translation, the translator introduces the notion of a temple which is nowhere present elsewhere, Britton gives us rocks rather than rock, McCullough gives us a mountain boulder.

The difficulty of most haiku is that the fourteen syllables of the poem may never be united. They may remain fourteen syllables that have little relations to one another. For example, it might be like saying in English,

clock dripping water deathwatch beetle Huxley's surprise

It is up to the translator to have these seemingly random elements make sense. Britton chooses to do so through rhyme, Korman and Susume seem to wish to give the closest sense of the original, in doing so it is the sparest and probably least appealing to American ears.

Which translation do you prefer and why?

(Tip for homeschoolers seeking to inject some diversity of culture--this is one of the most famous and most translated books of Japanese Poetry available. In addition, it is a rather interesting travelogue. With some of the prints of Hokusai illustrating some of the places referred to in Basho, this can make a pretty neat lesson. In addition, Hokusai has some very appealing prints of things like cat and butterfly. His masterpiece--One-Hundred Views of Mount Fuji includes one of the most often reprinted images--"The Great Wave of Kanagawa." Finally, the haiku, like the diamante is kind of a school-figure for the writing of poetry. Most kids enjoy them and most adults can help guide them. This book gives a sense of how profound and beautiful a haiku can be.

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The Virtue of Humility


This direct link may not work properly; if not, please go to The New Gasparian and read the post on humility titled "St. Gaspar's Maxims". As pointed out the litany is rather sing-songy and archaic, but the truths espoused there are central to the pursuit of a holy life. Father Keyes, along with Ms. Knapp, and several others are consistently providing us with great spiritual food for thought and food for a healthy Christian life. They work tirelessly with little comment or support, so it would be great to leave these great spiritual helpers and guides a note of thanks.

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Welcome to Regina Caeli Another


Welcome to Regina Caeli

Another new blog that looks quite charming. From the Blog itself

I suppose I need to clarify my intentions in creating this page; while I sincerely enjoying reading the web logs listed on the right, I don't intend in any way to put myself on a parallel with them. I am not at this moment very involved or informed enough about Catholic doctrine, politics, news, liturgical abuses, or anything of that sort to attempt to cover these subjects here on a daily basis. Rather, the emphasis will be on my daughter, my family, what i'm reading, graphic design, music, art, etc.

Which makes this the perfect place for me. As I may have said before, I have no problem with people posting and commenting on the news, and I do enjoy many such places. But I can read and comment on the news myself. What I cannot do is know how others live out their spirituality, their faith, and their commitment to God. That can only come through sites like this and others that I have listed, and I get my most notable boost from those sites that are the plainest and barest in terms of what they say. When someone likes something, they don't feel the need to hide it or apologize for it. Where one is not in perfect conformity with what every else thinks should be the way of the world--well, that makes the person and the blog and interesting place to visit. Personal and spiritual sites are the very best, from them I learn what it means "to work out my salvation in fear and trembling."

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Following the Lead of Ms.


Following the Lead of Ms. vonHuben

I'm not certain this is such a good thing to make public, but I wanted to see where I was on the Beatles' Album chart. We have an Abbey Road and a Revolver. I suppose we needed this.

Which Beatles Album Are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

Yes, another useless, but highly amusing quiz for which I had trouble answering the questions again. But even after changing answers several times on the questions where there was some wiggle room I ended up "Sgt Pepper." Wonder what you had to do to get either "Magical Mystery Tour" or "The Beatles" (AKA the "White Album"). But Sgt Pepper does have one of my very favorite Beatles' songs (actually about 10 of them--it comes as close to perfection as is possible in an album of that era.)

I suppose if you combined the results of enough of these quizzes you might actually begin to have some rather interesting personality profiles. Ms. vonHuben points out that she is "an Abbey Road Augustine," and Dylan is a "Revolver Karl Barth." I am a firm Sgt. Pepper borderline Erasmus/Augustine. Add that to the Founding Fathers quiz and you've got Sgt. Pepper Erasmus Jefferson--sounds like a great name for a character in a novel. Now add language--I'm a Quenya Sgt Pepper (mind-blowing concept it itself) Erasmus Jefferson.

As I said, with enough of these, even though the answers are sometimes tough, you might end up with a vague outline of the contours of personality.

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Doctrine and Dogma I was


Doctrine and Dogma

I was reading at another blog the other day some intimation that the "rules" of Catholicism occasionally dominate the "spirit" of Catholicism. I apologize that I cannot recall where this thread started. However, it did start me thinking about the role of doctrine and dogma in the Church. It occurred to me that very rarely are the two overtly important in day to day transactions. I conceived a metaphor in which doctrine and dogma are like one of those invisible fences one puts up for dogs. They do not block or obscure the view and they rarely come into conscious thought because in normal day-to-day functions we stay well within the yard. However, they come into play when we reach the edge of the lawn and are wondering if we should stray over into other territory. They become sharp reminders of the way in which we are called to conduct ourselves for the benefit of all. Most of the time, we practice our faith and our spirtuality without any need of correction, but the rules come into play when they are needed.

Perhaps because I was not born Catholic, I find myself less hemmed in by the rules and teachings of the Church. In fact, I find them tremendously liberating. Because of them, I have been able to take down the nasty, faded, dirty-gray battered cedar fence that once blocked my entire view of the world. Now I can see all the tremendous vistas of God's goodness without impairment, and can understand clearly my place in that vast, wide-open space.

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More on Chesterton Yes, it's


More on Chesterton

Yes, it's sort of a minor obsession of recent vintage. I still don't know about the writing, but reading Joseph Pearce's insightful and ultimately very kind biography, I discover that regardless of the prose, I have the feeling I would have liked the man very much. The following excerpts illustrate why:

from Wisdom and Innocence Chapter 8, "Uncle Chestnut" Joseph Pearce

[quoting an excerpt of a letter from Chesterton to Father O'Connor, July 3, 1909.]

One of the mysteries of Marriage (which must be a Sacrament and an extraordinary one too) is that a man evidently useless like me can yet become at certain instants indispensable. And the further oddity (which I invite you to explain on mystical grounds) is that he never feels so small as when he knows that he is necessary. ) (p. 112)

If Chesterton's chastisement of his pets was so light-hearted and mild, it is scarcely surprising that the children were never seriously scolded. There was, however a notable exception. On one occasion a small visitor to Beaconsfield spoke rudely to the maid and Chesterton told her to apologize. the child retorted: "What does it matter? She's only a servant." Gilbert responded in rare wrath and sent the girl up to her bedroom. It was, according to Frances, the only time Gilbert ever punished a child. (p. 118)

Yet if Chesterton was incapable of real malice, he was, on occasion, capable of anger. According to Clare Nicholl, "unkindness or uncharitable gossip were the things that made him angry, as well as speciousness or cheap 'cleverness'." Nor, she continued,

did personal affection for the sinner in question prevent him showing his anger--on the contrary, the closer the affection the more severe the rebuke. He very rarely found fault openly, but the offender would know by his silence and sudden lack of response that she had transgressed. One's thoughtless words would sound against the silence of G. K. C. like counterfeit coin against a touchstone. It was infallible as a test of integrity. Even unconscious lapses of taste were illumined by that silence. One would think, "Now why on earth would he object to that. . ." and thinking it over afterwards, one would realise that the rash remark had been prompted by exhibitionism, vanity or malice, though one had not realised it at the moment of speaking." (p. 121)

Such integrity and concern for all people is entirely laudable, and entirely engaging. I become convinced that I am reading a modern haigiography, even if the sanctity thus expressed is never elevated to the honors of the Altar. I am certain that every writer out there, who attempts his or her work with integrity, determination, and firmness of purpose, has as his or her patron in Heaven G. K. Chesterton. (Not to mention the actual patron of writers St. Francis de Sales, and given his tremendous lifetime output, St. Alphonsus di Liguori.)

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And Introducing in the Column


And Introducing in the Column to the Left

Three new entries made possible by actually paying attention when I visited the redoubtable Ms. Lively's site. Say hello to, Sillyness spelled wrong, and Inane Thoughts of a Catholic WriMo. All added so that I can keep better track of my writing interests. There are plenty of places to go, one just needs to pay attention. (One in this case being me--but feel free to use it.)

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An Addendum to the Review


An Addendum to the Review

I just remembered an incredibly important negative for Ms. Coulter. In listing "best-sellers" produced by conservatives, she included the utterly repugnant Atlas Shrugged on the list. Ayn Rand is NOT a conservative. I don't know what to call her other than "Objectivist," and I find nearly everything about objectivism objectionable. If I were a conservative (and I choose to eschew lables as nothing fits well) I would be horrified to find myself associated with Ayn Rand. It is the same horror (although admittedly on a far lesser scale) that I would have with being associated with Hitler, Stalin, or Leopold X of Belgium. So I do throw this caveat into the mix. I trust Ms. Coulter herself is not sympathetic to objectivism (the fundamentals of which seem necessarily repugnant to Christianity.)

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Book Review: Slander by Ann


Book Review: Slander by Ann Coulter

Perhaps God does not wish me to write this review. This is the third time I've tried after writing considerable portions of the first two. In both cases I believe it was my own actions that caused the thing to vanish, as much as I would like to blame blogger. If this does not make it to blogdom, you shall not know the saga, but I note this for future reference.

The title gives the main thesis of Ms. Coulter's book. The slander refers to the fact that liberals have long used ad hominem attacks, name calling, and slurs in the place of reasoned argumentation when attempting to face down conservative points in argumentation. The end result of this is a complete absence of engagement in ideas and discussion of important points.

On the whole the book is well-written and mostly convincing in its particulars. However, I find the main thesis questionable. There are a number of attractive features to the book. One of the main strengths is the substantial documentation of each of the cases she cites. There are few paragraphs in the book that do not have at least one footnote. The main body of the text is about two hundred pages long. The end-notes comprise about forty pages of considerably reduced text. If they were printed in the same font and size as the remainder of the book, they would probably run to a hundred pages or more. Thus, one-third of the book is documentation--appropriate if you are attempting to engage in reasoned argument to prove your point.

The prose is supple, simple, and quite readable. Apart from one egregious horror and a couple of regrettable tendencies that I will remark upon below, it is nearly "invisible" prose. Once again, if the point of the work is to provide a careful reasoned documentation of a thesis, this is necessary and desirable.

In the individual cases cited the reasoning is impeccable and convincing. Ms. Coulter is a lawyer when she is not writing books, and it shows in the tightness of the argument.

However, there are a number of regrettable things in the book, among them that the central contention is too broad to be meaningfully addressed without committing the title of the book against a number of innocent people. But let's start with the more subtle problems.

Throughout the book there are numerous references to George Orwell's 1984. In some ways, comparison to 1984 is like comparison to the Holocaust. No one comes away unscathed in the analogy. It becomes a kind of histrionic drum beating as we hear of things disappearing down the memory hole (obviously they have not if they are being cited here), a Goldbergian "two minutes hate," and the constantly shifting identification of the enemies in the war that is constantly being fought. The invocation of Orwell is itself Orwellian propaganda, a kind of mini-truth attack that subverts the reasoned argument that sits atop these accusations. That some liberals have on occasion done what the book accuses them of doing seems undeniable, that there is an Orwellian undercurrent of threat seems ludicrous. Manipulation of the truth is a central political game, both sides do it, the winning side often more successfully. We do not need to worry about Big Brother or "memory holes" so long as we have people like Ms. Coulter writing books that expose them as well as this one does. This is an example of "talking to the jury" and of highlighting dramatic and fear-invoking tendencies that are largely a matter of interpretation.

A second, extremely minor, but very irritating point is that Ms. Coulter sees fit to coin a particularly hideous, unnecessary neologism--"substantiveless." To give her her due, this is the kind of thing an editor should edit out of a work. But I have noted of recent date that editors do not even seem to do copy-editing any more much less more substantive work. What Ms. Coulter meant, and what should have been said in the sentence where this word is used is substanceless or without substance. Substantiveless is simply meaningless and ugly. It is itself a contribution to the Orwellian multiplication of vocabulary so aptly noted in "Politics and the English Language" written in 1946. It is one of the reason people can no longer "use" anything, they must "utilize" it. It is right and proper for a language to grow, but it seems improper to add functionless, difficult, and redundant obfuscatory verbiage to the treasury of language.

A third ultimately tiresome problem with the work is that Ms. Coulter constantly interjects asides to the jury that break the frame of objective presentation of a case and interject her personal sentiments about various liberal tendencies. Now, it seems clear from the fact that she chose to write such a book that she is not fond of the tactics they have used in the past, so why would she choose to use similar slurs herself?

The largest complaint against the work is that ultimately her thesis is not, and cannot be, borne out. By that, I mean, that if one were to believe the central point--liberals do not argue, they use name calling, you have resorted to stereotyping. Ms. Coulter has amply made the case that all things written in the liberal media need careful scrutiny to discern if there is a smidgen of argument amidst a mountain of invective. But surely there are liberals who argue points as cogently as conservatives. And conversely, surely there are conservatives that resort to liberal name-calling tactics. That the media is biased is almost unquestionable. That every person within the media adheres to some protocol of liberal conservative-bashing is unbelievable and probably libelous.

All of that said, and too much time spent on some relatively minor flaws, Ms. Coulter's book is an interesting and insightful read. The cases she documents clearly support the contention that there is a tendency for the liberal media to abandon reasoned argumentation and resort to what they think may be more hard-hitting and meaningful to Mr. Joe Couch-Potato who is imbibing their wisdom at the glass teat. It is a useful cautionary tale and a helpful examination of how to read the various media.

My Father-in-Law, whom I love as my own father, reportedly said (he was speaking to my wife) that he had purchased and read this book and "Ann Coulter is my girl." High praise indeed from a very intelligent, very reliable source. I'm not certain that Ms. Coulter would receive it as a compliment, but it was intended that way and it is a noble sentiment.

I would wish for a bit less grandstanding and somewhat less addressing the jury along the way, but ultimately I highly recommend the book. The documentation and argumentation are impeccable even if, as I believe, she ultimately fails to make her case. Perhaps the point was not to prove "in all cases" but more to point out a trend that needs careful watching lest we be caught up in it ourselves.

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Chesterton Again The Colossal


Chesterton Again

The Colossal Genius is growing on me. There are still quirks I do not care for in his prose, and I find his sympathies (at least in language) with his contemporaries mostly unfortunate. However, whatever words he may use to refer to those with darker skins than his own, it is quite clear that he has no sympathy with Kipling's view of them, and that is refreshing and encouraging. I'm still trying to figure out what my aversion to the prose is, as for the most part we're talking simple, standard English. But with the encouragement of a great many out in blogland I've decided to continue and as I continue, and as I read the biography Wisdom and Innocence I find great sympathies. Thanks to all who continue to tout his praises. Perhaps one day I shall grow to like him as you all do. (After all, it took thirty years after first exposure to Henry James for me to like his work, and now I constant mourn his death, there simply isn't enough James to last my years.)

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Monet, Picasso, and Spongebob


Monet, Picasso, and Spongebob too!

Yes, all the greats of art are here for you to recreate via Java Applet. (Note Mac users--Java Applets are notoriously unreliable--but try anyway.). The original came from the wonderful blog of More Like Mary, Less Like Martha. Thank you.

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Another Quiz--Another Interesting Result

Some of these quizzes are darned difficult to answer. Almost always there is no choice that truly represents my view so I have to lean to an extreme one way or another. Here's the latest example.

"It is the chiefest point of happiness that a man is willing to be what he is."
You are Desiderius Erasmus!
You have great love for others and will do just about anything to show it to them. You are tolerant and avoid confrontations, so people generally are drawn to you. You are more quiet and reserved in front of strangers, but around some people you open up. When things get tough, you like to meditate alone. Unfortunately you often get things like "what a pansy," or "you're such a liberal."

What theologian are you?
A creation of Henderson

Erasmus? Well, I guess I have the enormous benefit of being a friend of one of the all time greats (Saints that is).

(Original link via Sainteros)

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Can You Say Childrens' Crusade?


Can You Say Childrens' Crusade?

In the "those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it" category the nominees are. . . University of Berkeley, Ca. (what a shocker).

This via the blog of the Lady of Shalott. Direct link, misbehaving so go to the root and look for the first post for Wednesday.

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Ranking the Founding Fathers T.S.


Ranking the Founding Fathers

T.S. O'Rama has an interesting post in which he compares how he felt about the Founding Fathers at two different ages. I shall do the same, as our lists have a remarkable similarity.

Ranking at Age 12

Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Patrick Henry, Hamilton

Ranking of Recent Date

Washington, Adams, Madison, George Mason, [smallish gap here]Franklin, John Marshall, [big gap here]Jefferson.

I like Jefferson better as a person outside of politics. He so tortuously combines such noble and repugnant elements that it is hard for me to sort out my conclusions. Stephen Ambrose's new book touches upon these contradictions very nicely. My respect for Mason comes not merely from the Bill of Rights, but from the fact that Mason actually freed his slaves while living. My admiration for Washington has grown greatly since I have been able to break away from the college-level indoctrination that would have you believe that libertinism is the sine qua non of greatness and that Washington was a particularly dull and stupid man--all I can say is utter Calumny. As I learn more about the role of Madison in the formulation of the Constitution, I am stunned at the brilliance and sheer determination of the man. Unfortunately, while I acknowledge the contribution of Alexander Hamilton, I have formulate a dislike beyond reason springing from the arrogance of certain actions on his part. He is one of the kingmaker schemers that I breathe a deep sigh of relief that we were well rid of early on.

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I Could Cry My one


I Could Cry

My one entry planned for this morning to be delayed as blogger decided to devour it and now I am in the place of having to actually get to work. My apologies. I will try to get to it during some breaks, but its length is such that I fear I shall not be able to return until this evening. I was commenting on Ann Coulter's book, Slander. In the meantime I post this important link which was related to one of the points I was trying to make in the discussion. For the morning enjoy what may be George Orwell's most incisive and important legacy to us--a standard by which we should judge ALL public speech--"Politics and the English Language." Once again, my apologies.

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An Unusual Gem, Stumbled Across


An Unusual Gem, Stumbled Across

Perhaps only Dylan, Mr. Core, and Mr. Luse had some acquaintance with this poet before I stumbled across this lovely poem. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Christ in the Universe Alice Meynell

With this ambiguous earth
His dealings have been told us. These abide:
The signal to a maid, the human birth,
The lesson, and the young Man crucified.

But not a star of all
The innumerable host of stars has heard
How He administered this terrestrial ball.
Our race have kept their Lord’s entrusted Word.

Of His earth-visiting feet
None knows the secret, cherished, perilous,
The terrible, shamefast, frightened, whispered, sweet,
Heart-shattering secret of His way with us.

No planet knows that this
Our wayside planet, carrying land and wave,
Love and life multiplied, and pain and bliss,
Bears, as chief treasure, one forsaken grave.

Nor, in our little day,
May His devices with the heavens be guessed,
His pilgrimage to thread the Milky Way
Or His bestowals there be manifest.

But in the eternities,
Doubtless we shall compare together, hear
A million alien Gospels, in what guise
He trod the Pleiades, the Lyre, the Bear.

O, be prepared, my soul!
To read the inconceivable, to scan
The myriad forms of God those stars unroll
When, in our turn, we show to them a Man.

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The Luminous Mysteries If


The Luminous Mysteries

If you like to pray a "scriptural rosary" you can go here to find a selection of texts to go with the new luminous mysteries. This comes from a site managed by Mr. Martin Ford, and I quote the luminous mysteries text below for the sake of further dissemination in the community. However, I emphasize this is not my work and we have Mr. Ford to thank for this great prayer helper. Found via "The new Gasparian, " thank you Father Keyes for the reference.

Texts for the Luminous Mysteries compiled by Mr. Martin Ford

The Baptism of Our Lord
1) In those days John the Baptist came…saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
2) "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I.
3) He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
4) His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
5) Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.
6) John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
7) Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness."
8) Then John consented.
9) As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water.
10) At that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.

The Wedding of Cana
1) On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.
2) When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."
3) "Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come."
4) His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."
5) Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim
6) "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."
7) They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine.
8) He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
9) "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."
10) He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

The Proclamation of Christ's Kingdom
1) After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
2) The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
3) "The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
4) As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew.
5) When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
6) Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
7) When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.
8) So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
9) “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
10) “Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

The Transfiguration
1) After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
2) There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
3) Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah."
4) While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
5) When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.
6) Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
7) "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."
8) The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?"
9) "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished.
10) Jesus replied, “In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

The Last Supper
1)So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve.
2) And while they were eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me."
3) They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, "Surely not I, Lord?" Jesus replied,
4) "The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him.
5) But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
6) While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples.
7) Take and eat; this is my body."
8) Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them.
9) "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
10) I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom."

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What Does Matter?


In the spiritual life it is important to remember that failures are as important, or perhaps even more important, than successes. To know when we will be tempted, and when we will most certainly fall, is a great strength because it gives us the opportunity to resist the near occasion of sin. Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said of failure that it did not dismay him, but allowed him the opportunity for greater prayer because he could look to heaven and say "It is ever thus when I stray from you."

Spiritual "successes", on the other hand, can be a nearly certain road to derailment of spiritual life for those not well-inured and practiced in it. St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross warn about the temptation of seeking consolations in prayer. In seeking, you become attached to locutions, visions, or sweetnesses offered by the Lord, and your attention is distracted from Him. Your focus is no longer pure and true, it is diluted with another pleasure.

The most central pivot of our spiritual lives lies in this: Our entire joy is in the Lord. Everything that is done is done for love of Him. Without this pivot the lever with which we would move the world is merely a stick we use to beat it into submission. There is no loss so great as the loss of our spiritual center. There is no wandering so lonely as wandering away from Christ, for even though He is always with us, we lose sight of Him in a fog of our own making.

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Conversations that Matter Perhaps I


Conversations that Matter

Perhaps I am just slow at getting to things, but this is exactly the kind of blog I want to read all the time. Conversations that Matter from the hand of Fr. Keyes C. PP. S. and others is about putting our spirituality into practice. As with any such blog, not every entry will speak to every person, but it is a constant stream of comments and short entries that may prove just the "pick-me-up" needed for a day or a week in the doldrums. Check it out!.

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Keats Formerly Last Poem For


Keats Formerly Last Poem

For nearly 100 years the following poem was thought to be Keats's last. No longer so (though I do not know what is the last). This sonnet certainly foretells an early death. In addition it is a lovely love poem.

Bright Star, Would I were Steadfast as Thou Art John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

A bit of a guide. An "Eremite" is a hermit. Note the second line of the octet has its response in the first line of the sestet. Keats wishes to be akin to the star in its steadfast illumination but not a lone and distant observer (first two lines). I leave it to you to conclude what it is he does desire.

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How to Read St. John of the Cross


How to Read St. John of the Cross
Part I: The Poem Introduction to Ascent of Mount Carmel

The Dark Night
St. John of the Cross

Songs of the soul that rejoices in having reached the high state of perfection, which is union with God, by the path of spiritual negation.

1. One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast,
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

First, it seems ridiculous, but we must recall the genre. This is poetry. You cannot assume that the "I" speaking is the poet. The "I" of the poem may or may not be the poet himself. It depends upon the type of poem and the author. For example, the "I" of the confessional poet is almost always the poet, but much of the time the first person is an invitation to read substituting yourself for the "I" of the poem.

Here St. John makes the interpretation somewhat easier by announcing his intent at the beginning of the poem. " Songs of the soul that rejoices in having reached the high state of perfection, which is union with God, by the path of spiritual negation. " From this follows two points. The "I" of the poem is the soul transported and this eight-part poem is not a single song. The stanzas do not flow one into the other but they constitute a number of songs. However, there need not be eight. One reading of the poem, the one I shall pursue here, would find two different songs--stanzas 1 through 5 which all seem bound by a common thread and stanzas 5 or 6 through 8. Stanza 5 seems pivotal and its importance is signaled by language that very much resembles liturgical language. Something about it suggests the Exultet of Easter.

Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."

The power of this holy night
dispels all evil, washes guilt away,
restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Earlier in the Exultet we find the line concerning the night in which the pillar of fire led the people out of bondage.

It seems that central to St. John's point is this stanza, that is why I could see it associated with both "songs." By his language St. John of the Cross refers directly to the central event in the Christian Experience. This is the pivot upon which the entire spiritual life turns. Thus you could view stanza 5 as ending one song and beginning another. Try reading the poem as two songs--the first a song of a person leaving their still house driven by the search for the beloved, the second a song of the loved and the beloved together in union.

We are still left to pursue the understanding of the poem. St. John of the Cross ostensibly wrote two books explicating the poem (although Ascent leaves the poem fairly early on and only Dark Night of the Soul visits the entire poem.

One other important point to remember about the poem, is that as with all spiritual poetry when you read it, you mustn't merely look for the authorial intent--you need to plumb the depths and see what it is saying to you. You need to become the "I" of the poem. Because this "I" is female, such a reading is at surface somewhat more difficult for men than for women. It is very difficult to put yourself in the place of the female of the poem until you remember that in God's embrace all souls are "female." This has less to do with sex than it has to do with the role and response defined in classical terms of the female to the male. Modern sensibilities have often brushed this aside, but the meaning of this poem can only be captured in that classical understanding. The soul is bending, yielding, and fruitful under God's ministrations. When reading the poem set aside your modern sensibilities and accept the notion of the time during which the poem was written.

As with all poems read it, reread it, and read it aloud. If you understand Spanish, seek it out in Spanish and read it aloud. Let the music and the rhythm of the poem have their proper place.

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A Trying Morning Already Okay,


A Trying Morning Already

Okay, so we start the morning with trauma. My garage door opener won't work. No big deal, EXCEPT, I live in Florida Post Andrew Building Code, and this garage door is the heaviest thing you've ever seen in your life. So on a day of EXTREMELY important meetings and work, I'm stranded at home until it can be fixed. This the next in a long series of tedious things. Pray for me for patience, perserverance, and good temper. Thanks.

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Today the Best is Silence


Today the Best is Silence
So I offer you only this at Dylan's Blog. Tomorrow I hope to give a brief discussion, which I am preparing for my Carmelite family, on how to read the poem on which Ascent of Mount Carmel and Dark Night of the Soul are intended to be commentary. Perhaps it will give some pointers on how to read any spiritual poem--perhaps not. Now to quote another great of the seventeenth century--And so to bed.

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Political Debates and Christianity

[Please be advised this is not directed at anyone in the blogworld, these are simply random thoughts on an issue that disturbs me, and which I often find myself caught up in.]

I picked up a book by Ann Coulter at the Library this afternoon called Slander. The subtitle is Liberal Lies about the American Right. I find this, as with much of politics, unhelpful to clarity. The title seems a kind of whining (now, it's the kind of title that sells books, and I will say nothing of the content as I have not read the book and it may belie its title). Another point that really bothers me is the ready attribution of ill-will or malfeasance to the persons on the opposite side of the debate. In the heat of battle everyone is prone to make stupid, insensitive remarks. Such remarks reflect momentary exasperation, not the fullness of the worldview of the person in the debate. Liberals are not generally stupid people, nor are conservatives. So too very few people wish actually ill on others. Sometimes we may be unaware of the implications of some of the views we hold. And sometimes you can hold a very bad opinion for a very good reason. One might believe that the right to choose helps to alleviate some of the suffering in the world. I would counter that it adds to that suffering, but I must understand that the focus of the person I am in debate with is quite different from my own as they make their statements, and I need to shift my focus to be where they are. I am focusing on the life within, the voice for the voiceless. The person making the statement is focusing on the suffering readily visible to him or her. I need to bring my focus back out and point out that we all suffer to a greater or lesser extent. Better then to suffer momentarily the pangs of whatever burden then to suffer continually the pangs of the guilt you will bear if you were to terminate a pregnancy. Here I see both parties taking their views from a need to support and encourage others. The person in favor of abortion has bought a societal lie that it is consequence-free and conscience-free.

When we debate, on the web or in person, the first step we should take is to recall that the opponent, no matter how incorrect his or her views are from our perspective, holds those views with an intensity and a sincerity with which we hold our own. Rather than allow the debate to degenerate into a long list of epithets and a series of ad hominem expostulations, consider the words said carefully and respond to the words and the argument, not to the tone, not to the meaning that WE attribute to the words, but which may never have been intended. As Christians, we need to be "as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves." Our words need to be words of light and love. Rather than engaging in forthright battle, enter by the straight gate and the narrow way. Such an approach to a position is far more likely to bring light than heat and our duty is to be the light of the world--not its fireplace.

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A Marvelous View Direct linking


A Marvelous View

Direct linking not working for some reason today, so hie thee to Dylans' Blog, and seek there an entry of this title for today's date-- "The Formidable Fifty-Seventh chapter of Isaiah." I think you will find much there to cogitate upon.

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The Mood of the Day


The Mood of the Day

This says it all. Says it better with music, but the words are mostly there.

Linger Cranberries If you, if you could return, Don't let it burn, Don't let it fade. I'm sure I'm not being rude, But it's just your attitude. It's tearing me apart, it's ruining ev'rything. I swore, I swore I would be true And honey, so did you. So, why were you holding her hand? Is that the way we stand? Were you lying all the time? Was it just a game to you? But I'm in so deep. You know I'm such a fool for you. You got me wrapped around your finger,ah ,ha, ha. Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to, Do you have to, Do you have to let it linger? Oh, I thought the world of you. I thought that nothing could go wrong, But I was wrong. I was wrong. If you, if you could get by Trying not to lie, Things wouldn't be so confused And I wouldn't feel so used, But you always really knew I just wanna be with you. But I'm in so deep. You know I'm such a fool for you. You got me wrapped around your finger, ah, ha, ha. Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to, Do you have to, Do you have to let it linger? Oh, I thought the world of you. I thought that nothing could go wrong, But I was wrong. I was wrong. And I'm in so deep. You know I'm such a fool for you. You got me wrapped around your finger, ah, ha, ha. Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to, Do you have to, Do you have to let it linger? You know I'm such a fool for you. You got me wrapped around your finger, ah, ha, ha. Do you have to let it linger? Do you have to, Do you have to, Do you have to let it linger?
Guess it's better than "Paint It Black" hard to tell.
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For Science Fiction Fans This


For Science Fiction Fans

This news from Instapundit. I got it via the forum at Blackmask

After being sworn to secrecy, I have just been permitted to release this information. One of the seminal authors of our field, Andre Norton, is gravely ill. She was admitted to the hospital last Monday for surgery, and is still there. More to the point, her spirits have sunk to a life-threatening low. She needs to know just how highly regarded she is in our community, and she needs to know now.

"We" are keeping the location of the hospital and room "secret", because she cannot have visitors and we don't want to overwhelm her with autograph-hounds when she needs to be getting stronger, not being disturbed---this is already a problem as word of her illness has percolated into the local community in Tennessee. The hospital in question will deny that she is there.

Please send cards and letters to:

Andre Norton
114 Eventide Drive
Murfreesboro TN 37130

If you wish to send flowers, you may also send them to this address, but direct the florist to leave them on the porch if no one is home. Andre's two friends who are caring for her will make sure they are brought to her, but they are spending most of the time at the hospital, and so may not be there. (If this gets to be a problem, arrangements will be made for frequent pick-up!) Please do not send food, as she is on a liquids-only diet.

You may send e-cards to:

Andre Norton
E-mail Address:

Again, her friends will make sure she gets to see them.

Those of us of a certain age cut our teeth on Andre Norton in entering the world of Science Fiction. Here's your chance to return something for the joy that she gave us. As you send your greetings, send also aloft a prayer for her. Thanks.

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A Continuation of the Previous


A Continuation of the Previous in which the Author Attempts To Put His Brain Back Together

Okay, so I made my initial point about Chesterton--we are not temperamentally suited for one another. I do not share his enthusiasms and he would laugh at mine.

However, I was reading Pearce's biography this morning and reflecting on Chesterton's near-worship of Dickens. This led me to think about Dickens-related things, and ultimately to Sir Carol Reed's magnificent screen musical interpretation of Oliver Twist--Oliver!

Now, this movie brings back any number of memories for me. The first being seeing it when it first came out as part of a summer camp experience. I don't know that we were able to stay for the entire film because the councilors quit work at a certain time, and the film is somewhat long, but I do recall hearing and liking a couple of the songs. Relevant to my thoughts now are two of these. If you have not seen Oliver! do yourself a favor and seek it out. The portrayal of Fagin is not nearly so overtly anti-Semitic as I recall (perhaps quite unfairly) Dickens being. What I recall of reading Oliver Twist is that Fagin was much reviled as a dirty "Jew." But that could have been the influence of my teachers, so please don't take this at face value, only as a vague and distasteful recollection.

The two relevant songs are quite wonderful--"Where is Love?" and "As Long As He Needs Me." Now, I think if I were doing another (Heaven forbid) Sister Act, I might consider these two songs for treatment. Oliver sings, "Where is Love?" I would have to review the movie to relate the circumstances, but given the plaintive sound, I suspect that it was in quite forlorn circumstances. But sometimes I ask myself, "Where is Love?" Where is the love we are supposed to show to one another? Did I do so today? I can tell you that I didn't fail as mightily as I did yesterday, and yet, I doubt I have done nearly what was set out for me to do. It is my hope that anyone who came within my circle of influence would never have cause to sing this song, that they would know that Love was wherever I was. Today that is not true. But I know that is what I am called to. There is no doubt, we are all called to be saints, and to be saints we are all to be exemplars of God's caring compassion not just when we give a thought to it, but all the time.

The second song, is lovelier taken out of context. Within in context it is one of those songs that makes me cringe because it is sung by Nancy just after she's been beaten by Bill Sykes and seems to diminish his culpability in the abuse he has rained upon her. The result is a song in which while she doesn't quite justify her abuse, she resolves to remain within the abusive situation because her love can change it. Ultimately, that proves not to be true, and in a truly heroic act of love she. . . well--watch the movie. Anyway, her love cannot change Bill Sykes, nor can the human expression of love we show to one another truly change anyone because our love is needy, we need something back from it. Our promise of love, as much as we would like it to be pure, comes with all manner of strings attached. If we are not treated in the way that we feel we ought to be, we become hurt and withdrawn. However, "As Long As He Needs Me" is true if the love we are showing is God's love. If we are in a difficult relationship or situation (but not one that ends in abuse or harm to one or other person) and we determine to stay there because we are called to loyalty to our vows, or out of true God-given love, the love of Christ may change that situation. I think of Elizabeth LeSeur, who all her life lived with an atheist husband, loving him as a wife should love a husband, praying constantly for his conversion. After her death her husband became a priest. This is the kind of love that transforms. If our love becomes detached from earthly expectations and serves only our Heavenly Father's will, that love becomes transformative. So Nancy's forlorn hope becomes the promise fulfilled for those who love and pray with God's love. We need not stand by and be used and abused by those we love, but we must always love them with the passionate love of Jesus Christ on the cross. We must stand ready to help those we love to salvation, sometimes at great personal cost. In fact, we must stand ready to help those we don't particularly care for with the same sense of sacrifice. That is the country of saintliness.

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A Curious Reflection I've been


A Curious Reflection

I've been reading Chesterton's Heretics this week and enjoying it in an offhand fashion. I will continue to say that I do not care for the man's style, I find him homey to the point of hokey and sometimes just overmuch. In the "Kipling" chapter of Heretics, Chesterton tries my patience with a long digression on the poetics of the name of Smith, and how it is the most poetic of names, hearkening back to the days of yore etc. etc. etc. Some may be charmed by these proses excurses--I bear with them in hopes that the point being made is worthy of the trip. Most of the time I think it would be better made in a simpler phrase. So that just says I don't like Chesterton's style and I doubt that I will ever grow to like it. This is not to discourage others with sensibilities different from my own, but simply to make clear that Chesterton is a hard row for me to hoe--I prefer R.H. Benson, Ronald Knox, and other contemporaries writing in a similar vein. I far prefer C.S. Lewis, for example. But, taking Chesterton with what I perceive as limitations and all, he is still more readable than the most readable of the slick writers today and a lot more entertaining than the vast majority of the "literary" writers today. Five minutes spent with Chesterton is worth all the Sebold and Franzen you can pack in around the clock.

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One Heckuva a Week Once


One Heckuva a Week

Once again late in blogging, and there won't be much this evening I fear. I am exhausted with the trials and joys of the week. Two episodes of car trouble, an election, a crisis and a full day meeting at work, and additional tasks relating to annual review made for a very packed week. So packed that I didn't make it to daily Mass once, and boy can I tell it from my energy level. I keep it at the top of the priority list, but this week was simply impossible. Oh well, God gives us these weeks sometimes, so I rejoice in the gift and move on, thanking Him for seeing me through. His Grace is irresistable, His Love infinite. I love you, Lord, my strength.

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From the Blogmaster at Quenta


From the Blogmaster at Quenta Nârwenion

Okay, this was pretty cool It's one of my favorite colors and I've no idea what the others languages might be. Didn't even experiment after I got this, I liked it so much.

what foreign language are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

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Les Chants de Maldoror Call


Les Chants de Maldoror

Call this the Eraserhead of the turn of the century. Called variously decadent and surreal, Maldoror is a book-length prose poem by Isidor Ducasse, the self-styled Comte de Lautreamont, that has some of the most disturbing images in modern literature. Note, for example, that this site chooses as illustration Goya's Saturn Devouring His ChildrenMoreover, on more than infrequent occasions it makes no syntactical sense. All of that said, I wonder what it translates to in Spanish. Here's your chance to find out. Next Mr. Gonzalez will perhaps regale us with the Spanish version of Finnegan's Wake. I am given to understand that the person who undertook to translate Joyce's last work into Greek had a nervous breakdown and died shortly thereafter. But that could be anecdotal.

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I'll share with you as a précis of the day, one long observation of people meeting.

Closed Meeting
Two Haikus and Two Quatrains on Eternity
The buzzing of these human bees
rapidly threatens to deafen me.

Round and round and round
and round and round and round and round
it starts out being just like words
and ends up merely sound

I have learned my great
ideas are made of air.
I shall swallow them.

Do these vibrations try the air
the way they try my ear?
Thank God they go, I don't know where,
just anywhere but here.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

Sheer unadulterated doggerel. But hey at least it's unadulterated.

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The Poetry of Nature


I know Gilbert White more from his pioneering studies of what we would today call ecology. He worked in the eighteenth century and wrote a number of works about wildlife near his native Selbourne. He also happened to be an ordained, but non-practicing minister. Despite its unflinching metrical regularity (blame Dryden and Pope) this poem is quite nice in its evocation of some of the rhythms and sights of a summer night in the 18th century.

The Naturalist's Summer Evening Walk
Gilbert White

equidem credo, quia sit divinitus illis
Ingenium. Virgil

WHEN day declining sheds a milder gleam,
What time the may-fly haunts the pool or stream;
When the still owl skims round the grassy mead,
What time the timorous hare limps forth to feed;
Then be the time to steal adown the vale,
And listen to the vagrant cuckoo's tale;
To hear the clamorous curlew call his mate,
Or the soft quail his tender pain relate;
To see the swallow sweep the dark'ning plain
Belated, to support her infant train;
To mark the swift in rapid giddy ring
Dash round the steeple, unsubdu'd of wing:
Amusive birds!- say where your hid retreat
When the frost rages and the tempests beat;
Whence your return, by such nice instinct led
When spring, soft season, lifts her bloomy head?
Such baffled searches mock man's prying pride,
The God of Nature is your secret guide!

While deep'ning shades obscure the face of day,
To yonder bench leaf-shelter'd let us stray,
Till blended objects fail the swimming sight,
And all the facing landscape sinks in night;
To hear the drowsy beetle come brushing by
With buzzing wing, or the shrill cricket cry;
To see the feeding bat glance through the wood;
To catch the distant falling of the flood;
While o'er the cliff th'awaken'd churn-owl hung
Through the still gloom protracts his chattering song;
While high in air, and pois'd upon his wings,
Unseen, the soft enamour'd woodlark sings:
These, Nature's works, the curious mind employ,
Inspire a soothing melancholy joy:
As fancy warms, a pleasing kind of pain
Steals o'er the cheek, and thrills the creeping vein!

Each rural sight, each sound, each smell, combine;
The tinkling sheep-bell, or the breath of kine;
The new-mown hay that scents the swelling breeze,
Or cottage-chimney smoking through the trees.
The chilling night-dews fall:--away, retire;
For see, the glow-worm lights her amorous fire!
Thus, e'er night's veil had half obscur'd the sky,
Th'impatient damsel hung her lamp on high:
True to the signal, by love's meteor led,
Leander hasten'd to his Hero's bed.

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For Those Inclined to too


For Those Inclined to too Much Reason

This is a nice poem particularly for those too bound to their own notions of what constitutes acceptable data in the argument for or against religion. Really a bit of doggerel, but it makes the point amusingly and lightly.

The Positivists Edward James Mortimer Collins   Life and the Universe show Spontaneity; Down with ridiculous notions of Deity! Churches and creeds are all lost in the mists; Truth must be sought with the Positivists.

Wise are their teachers beyond all comparison,
Comte, Huxley, Tyndall, Mill, Morley, and Harrison;
Who will adventure to enter the lists,
With such a squadron of Positivists?

Social arrangements are awful miscarriages;
Cause of all crime is our system of marriages;
Poets with sonnets, and lovers with trysts,
Kindle the ire of the Positivists.

Husbands and wives should be all one community,
Exquisite freedom with absolute unity;
Wedding rings worse are then manacled wrists,
Then he was a MAN - and a Positivist.

If you are pious, (mild form of insanity,)
Bow down and worship the mass of humanity,
Other religions are buried in mists;
We're our own gods, say the Positivists.

Just as a side note, the Huxley mentioned here is T.H. Huxley, relative in some fashion or another of the quasi-mystical Aldous Huxley (who, along with C.S. Lewis had the misfortune to die on the day of the Kennedy Assassination).

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Praise and Thanksgiving My dear


Praise and Thanksgiving

My dear friends in California have written me to thank everyone who has been praying for them. After a particularly trying time, they have come to a decision that will be the best for their family at this time. I'm sure my friends will not mind if I share from their message:

Please post a note on your blogsite thanking people for their prayerful support. Our agonising time of decision making is over. . . . We are most grateful to your blogfriends for their help. It was much needed.

Thanks to everyone who helped in this prayer endeavor. And please don't forget these friends, move their needs to a back burner, but as with every such decision, there will be details to deal with and accommodations to make, and perhaps a future set of decisions to make. Please continue to pray for them as I know they do for all of us.

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The Conscience of America


After our initial surprise/joy fades, we would do well to remember that we are the conscience of America. While we elect our politicians with the hope that they will do at least some part of what they have promised us, politics is the art of compromise without looking like you're compromising. Most politicians don't seem to start with well-formed consciences anyway (I point to Ms. Granholm as an example; she might in all sincerity cling to her barbaric and ruthless beliefs, but surely that should be a signal that something is malformed in the conscience.) Many of our supposedly Catholic politicians and leaders seem to have little or no conscience or deep understanding of what the Church teaches and what it means. I was shocked when even Antonin Scalia--a supposedly well-informed, faithful Catholic announced his particular brand of cafeteria Catholicism (if it doesn't look traditional enough to me, I'll reject it.)

We must serve as the consciences of these men and women. Voting is the beginning of communication, but it becomes more and more imperative to continue to keep those lines of communication open. We must communicate and pray. The window is open for a very brief period. Everyone seems focused on things other than the issues most of us voted on. It is time to temporarily redirect their attentions to these issues and to get at least some minor relief in place for the unborn. We cannot rely upon the politicians to remember everything they have told us--the pressures of political life are such that it is nearly impossible. And so through our prayers and our letters, we need to remind them.

A suggestion--get a Mass Card from your favorite Church, Cathedral, or Society, and send it to your representative and/or Senator with a note that indicates that you are praying for them daily. Let them know that part of the electorate (a larger part than will be represented by Mass Cards) is truly Christian and truly concerned about both what is going on in Washington and the people themselves. Politics must be a lonely, ruthless, unpleasant business. People do not seem to be particularly happy--but then addicts generally are not. Most politicians are addicts to the power they have received. Sending them a note that encourages them and lets them know that we are thinking about them in something other than wholly negative terms will be a boost. More, it will keep the issues we are concerned with in their minds.

I suggest a Mass Card because it is something within our tradition that both supports our institutions and offers real help for those to whom we give them. But if it seems inappropriate--if your representative is Jewish or Christian of some other variety, buy a specifically religious greeting card that without apology invokes the name of God and send it. Send several in the course of the year. Let our representatives know from whence come our marching orders.

Perhaps we have too long been asleep. Perhaps it is time to be less apologetic (in both senses of the word) about our faith and more demonstrative of it. The best argument against an Evangelical or Fundamentalist who is seeking to convert Catholics is a life of exemplary faith. Even the most Evangelical or Fundamentalist among us would be hard-pressed to say something bad about Mother Teresa. We, that is all of us Christians, are the light of the world, and sometimes I think we've grown very used to the bushel basket secular society asks us to remain within. Now it is time to break out and to express ourselves not in political terms, but in overtly religious terms. The most important part of this expression is to let the person with whom we communicate know that they are loved, prayed for, and cared for by the God who loves us all. We must function as the well-formed conscience of the nation--we must not simply sit back and complain or make commentary, we must pray, pray, pray and let those in Washington know we are praying. Such an outpouring of prayer will certainly call down the Holy Spirit to convict a few who need conviction and to give courage to a few who need to move forward with the torch.

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A Small Delight from X.J.

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A Small Delight from X.J. Kennedy

A favorite poet of mine gets it just right:

Nothing in Heaven Functions as It Ought X. J. Kennedy

Nothing in Heaven functions as it ought:
Peter's bifocals, blindly sat on, crack;
His gates lurch wide with the cackle of a cock,
Not turn with a hush of gold as Milton had thought;
Gangs of the slaughtered innocents keep huffing
The nimbus off the Venerable Bede
Like that of an old dandelion gone to seed;
And the beatific choir keep breaking up, coughing.

But Hell, sleek Hell, hath no freewheeling part:
None takes his own sweet time, none quickens pace.
Ask anyone, "How come you here, poor heart?"—
And he will slot a quarter through his face.
You'll hear an instant click, a tear will start
Imprinted with an abstract of his case.

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Founding Fathers Again I've been


Founding Fathers Again

I've been about looking, and I've seen a few Adamses (my choice, but unfortunately not my personality, but we're a perfect match--After all Jefferson and Adams shared a very long friendship after they got over their snit.) They were so close that the good Lord took them both to Him on the same day (July 4, 1826). Remarkable.

There are more than a few Hamiltons. (I am a borderline Hamilton, only toppled over into the Jefferson category when I was so thoroughly chagrined at being likened to the arrogant little illegitimatum (literally)). Usurping power, consorting with the enemy and undermining American foreign policy. It's hardly a wonder that he got himself shot. (In case you can't tell, I'm not a Hamilton Partisan. In fact, I'm about as far away as possible--identifying myself as that mysteriously transmorgrified "Federalist"--which today means what "Democratic-Republican" meant at the time of Jefferson. Now we kind of lump this bunch into libertarian, which isn't entirely accurate. I prefer my rule a bit closer to home.

Jefferson is no great shakes in my estimation either. A man arrogant enough to refuse to free his slaves either before or after death because it would be an injustice to them to be released into the world unprepared. Give me a George Mason or a George Washington any day. Or best of all an Adams. Probably wouldn't have cared for him in person--but one can never tell, I have tremendous admiration for what I know of him as it stands.

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Prayer at a Difficult Time


Prayer at a Difficult Time

In some ways, times of great joy are incredibly difficult for prayer. We are so busy rejoicing, planning, and looking ahead that we forget to give proper thanks to God. Yesterday when I was standing at the lines in the polls, I prayed the joyful mysteries of the Rosary. I don't necessarily follow the cycle of the days, and it seemed that since what was heavy on my heart was the question of children (unborn) and the need to protect these most innocent and most vulnerable of all, it seemed the joyful mysteries, focusing on Mother Mary and children as it does, were good for line-standing. I suspect many prayers were raised and God has given us a brief time of favor. More than that something else occurred in another aspect of my life that was nearly miraculous--long awaited, half-hoped for, half despaired of. Out of the blue it struck and I spent the day asking everyone I saw whether it was indeed true, whether I would return only to find that it was an elaborate and complicated joke. It was not.

Now, I need to balance this unbelief with the acknowledgment of the miracle, and I need not to exult in the event, but exult in the evidence of God's hand. More than any of this, my friend, a confirmed agnostic admitted to me that as a result of this event he actually said a prayer and may be beginning to think about eternal things. (Please pray for him.)

Prayer is so much more difficult in joy. It mustn't be gloating, it mustn't be exultation at another's failing or downfall. It mustn't be full of oneself. All prayer must push aside these material things. It must detach from the glorious gifts we have been given, and it must recenter around pure love of God. We must focus not on what has happened, but on what we are called to today. I know that I need to listen around the braying, cawing, the mourning, and spinning, and try once again to hear God rather than the innumerable pundits and commentators. God has the victory and we are His good people. We must now take our places in His loving plan.

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Much to be Grateful For


Much to be Grateful For
While the election results are much to be thankful for, long, strong, ardent prayer is still in order. What needs to be done requires little political courage, but that little seems more than our people in Washington can summon. In addition, while attending to the most critical issue in some small way, I must say the results do not reflect a preferential option for the poor. Much work needs to be done, but it is work that is in the proper domain of compassionate caretakers. As good and faithful Catholics, we are called more than ever to reach out to the poor, the disenfranchised, the marginalized and make them feel more central and most of all loved. I think it is more than a coincidence that we have a year of a Rosary and an opportunity to do something about the gross injustices to the unborn. Our Lady has interceded for us once again. Those of you who have recently elected Senators, start pushing and continue pushing until Partial Birth Abortion is banned. Keep at them on the judicial nominations. Now is not the time to rest on laurels, but to move those who represent us to start representing the least of us!

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Light Blogging Initially Today Sorry


Light Blogging Initially Today

Sorry folks, but a light blogging day for the first part. I'm still stunned over the events of yesterday both personal and national. Stunned in a good-I-can't-really-believe-this-is-happening sort of way, but stunned, nearly to silence. God is incredibly, wonderfully good and merciful.

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Founding Father's Quiz Found


Founding Father's Quiz

Found it at Vita Brevis who had it from Eve Tushnet. Came out an Alexander Hamilton, which I couldn't stand for reasons I need not go into, went back and changed an answer to something more accurate anyway, and came up with T.J. over whom I am quite conflicted. I don't think I can quite get over his actions in the Aaron Burr trial, and I think he and Adams were boneheads when it came to their friendship. Would have preferred John Adams whom I sincerely and deeply admire if only for the way he loved his wife. Truly one of the great men of history.

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Something has occurred that makes this a temptation. Please pray for me that I do not fall victim to it. Thank you.

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Fr. Walter Farrell, O. P.


Fr. Walter Farrell, O. P.

I mentioned Father Farrell in the previous post. I am delighted to report that many works are available online. For those daunted by an encounter with the Summa alone, you might wish to peruse the magnificent Companion to the Summa available online here.

Farrell wrote a good deal more and he wrote quite well.

The first lines of a lengthy, prophetic essay follow. For the entire essay see this.

No Place for Rain

By Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P.

The western world has nearly come to the conclusion that hell is probably unpleasant. At least the previews of the last fifteen years have shaken us out of a smug dismissal of the possibilities of hell.

Enjoy these wonderful gifts from our Domincan brethren.

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Great Link for Catholic Books


Great Link for Catholic Books

Found this great link via a little meditation blog called "the journey". PCP stands for "Preserving Christian Publications," and the site is an on-line catalog of out-of-print Catholic Books. Take a look! I remember that one of the local convents in Columbus was closing and the Regnum Christi bookstore bought their stock. I was able to get the wonder Farrell commentary on Thomas Aquinas for something like $6.00 a book. So, sometimes used books are a major bargain.

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The King is Dead!


The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Conscience is King!. Yep! If my conscience tells me to do it, I must. Yep. If my conscience tells me that saving three bunnies in a shampoo factory lab (by the way, a horrible travesty of research) is worth the annihilation of property and the slaughter of a few measly human beings, so what? I must follow conscience. In a PoMo world, conscience is sometimes not the best of guides. When consciences are formed with relativism and metheism at the base, the ultimate product could make Jeffrey Dahmer look like a humanitarian.

This note (link found on Jeff Miller's blog) helps to sort out some of the confusion.

In other words, if not checked by truth, the individual conscience tends toward error. How can we avoid following a flawed conscience? The Church affirms there's one sure way: to correctly form one's conscience. To form a good conscience, the Church proposes a few practical means. The first is the acceptance and practice of Catholic moral teaching as taught by the magisterium of the Church. Every Catholic has a serious obligation to know the Church's moral teaching in order to form good conscience. Next we need to strengthen our knowledge of the moral truth with prayer and mediation. Prayer enlightens the dictates of our conscience and directs us toward God, the source of all truth. To form a conscience that conforms with God's will, we need to examine our conscience frequently in light of Christian morality. This is the best way to prepare for the fruitful reception of sacramental confession.

I am often appalled at having to vote the way I do. I cannot countenance the vast majority of what politicians do. I do my best to remain overtly apolitical and to espouse in non-political terms what I desire from my representatives--a preferential option for the poor, proper stewardship of Earthly resources, justice for the disenfranchised (particularly the most disenfranchised at all) and so on. The only way that our politicians will hear us is if we stop talking politics and start talking the truth--straight from the shoulder in complete candor and honesty. And these truths should not be couched in the minispeak of PoMo advocates, but in the eternal verities that come from faith in Jesus Christ. These truths are relative to nothing--they are absolutes, and we should not be ashamed to espouse them because they are written on the heart and in the minds of all believing Christians. The Holy Spirit burns them into us with His annealing flame.

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The Important Stuff Floridians Need


The Important Stuff Floridians Need to Amend Their Constitution For

Apparently the legislature in Florida doesn't DO anything--which, as legislatures go is not all that bad. As a result every issue that comes up needs a constitutional amendment. We had ten on the ballot this morning. Some of them seemed legitimate, constitutional concerns--death penalty rulings, among other things. However, the one that really just about knocked me flat when I got the sample ballot and again when voting this morning was the amendment to prevent the inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy. Isn't this something the legislature could do or decide? We need a constitutional amendment for this? I never fail to be stunned by politics and political games.

On the plus side--I was able to vote against retaining two of the idiotic Supreme Court Judges who foisted off on the American Public the travesty of a political decision disguised as a legal ruling in 2000. I don't suppose it will do any good, as most people won't remember that far back, but it was a brief moment of triumph for me.

Get out and Vote! And vote as pro-life as you can. I know in some states it's nearly impossible, but there's almost always a lesser of two evils, and we should do what we can to keep diminishing the evil.

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A Blog I Must Bring


A Blog I Must Bring to Your Attention

There are many fine blogs in my list. All of them, exquisite for one reason or another. But among the very finest in both the observation and the recording of observation must be Notes from Pure Land Mountain. I haven't been listening in long but when I do I hear the sounds of things that I very much like. Not Catholic, but filled with a grandeur and a sensibility that reflects the fine hand of the creator. If you have some time, spend a few moments with this inveterate, contemplative gardener, you will be glad you did.

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On Poetry (part 9,847,715,235.1)


My friend Tom Abbott gives me much cause to rethink old thoughts about poetry and to examine them closely. Commenting on his blog, which today features the wonderful "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost, I had this to say of it.

So--surely what you read here seems valid, [a poem about death and eternity] but I would point you toward other indications in the poem--indications of something hidden--"Whose woods these are I think I know, his house is in the village though; he will not see me stopping here. . ." why is this important? (By the way, it isn't as though I have some secret answer you have to guess, I'm just asking you why in your schema or understanding this might be important.)

Another indication is at the end of the poem, "The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and mmiles to go before I sleep. . ." A suggestion of a desire to abandon all for an unseen something--a possible recommitment.

Work with some of those suggestive ambiguities and add it to what you already have--you'll find all sorts of new things springing out of a familiar work.

Poetry works on productive ambiguity, it gives rise to great meaning through little things. Watch the little signposts of the words and be prepared to account for each one. For poetry, like the cautious Christian is ultimately called to account for every word.

End original post and now this addendum. And that is why the PoMo and the deliberately vague commit such a sin against the art. Poetry is the most tightly packed of all the literary arts. It is called upon to attain a precision and concision not demanded of any other written art form. Think about it--it's difficult to write a coherent, deeply meaningful sentence of only seventeen syllables, and yet there are entire schools of poetry devoted to this very compact poetic form. In poetry there is no room for fat everything is lean, lithe, and has the tensile strength of carbon monofilament. And so, when it does not. . . let's just say, I am disappointed, the artist has done less than what is called for.

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Today's Poem of Choice On


Today's Poem of Choice

On the google search line, the poem of choice for today is Robert Frost's magnificent sonnet, "The Silken Tent." Those of you looking, I do not post paraphrases. A paraphrase of a poem is not an assist to understanding, it is a bowdlerization of a work of art. You don't need someone to interpret Michelangelo's "David", Leonardo's "Last Supper", or David's "Spirit of Liberty." So too, rely on your own reading and understanding. It is correct, it cannot be otherwise because a poem is universal because it speaks to each person where he or she is. Yes, you can extract some pre-existant "meaning" trying to divine "authorial intent." But that puts such strict limits on the poem. No paraphrase will help, nor will any commentary truly assist. Trust your own instincts--you'll learn a whole lot more that way.

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Voting Pro-Life?

Perhaps not, according to Judy Brown. In this splendid discussion Mr. Miller of De Virtutibus analyzes some of the positions and statements of Ms. Brown with respect to pro-life voting. A must-read. Thank you, Mr. Miller.

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Apologies Something went wrong the



Something went wrong the other night and I must have damaged my template. There is some garbled stuff there that I am weeding out. As a result links to Ms. Lively's site, Minute Particulars, One Pilgrim's Walk, and Quenta Nârwenion vanished temporarily. Perhaps other have also died and are mouldering in the underbrush. As I do my visit routine, I will try to restore these. My apologies to the blogmasters. These four, at least, have been restored.

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Poetry Considered Again


Dylan commented with respect to another post on poetry here:

I should have said in my notes on the epic, that whether the work is traditional (narrative, Prelude-like) or a sequence of smaller moments (Berryman's Dream Songs; Lowell's Notebook), or radically fragmented like the Waste Land -- the ultimate test is that highly subjective, almost romantic : Does the writer entice us, does he or she involve us, seduce the reader & bring the reader into the poet's particular vision? I'm more tolerant of experiment than most, I'd say, but it has to be experiment that brings me in somehow.

There's a quotation of Dickinson's, don't know from whence : If it takes the top of my head off, and knocks me over, I know it's poetry. Seems as good a test as any. Also : Do we return to it, year after year (Hamlet!), do we see new things in it with each reading?

There is much here to ponder. I think the first paragraph actually encompasses my definition of poetry. Poetry is a very, very deep, very still lake. You can admire the surface, see the water, the trees reflected in it, the clouds and the mountains passing by--you can take your boat out in it and get a gander at the shore from the middle of the lake. You can choose to put on your snorkel and plumb the depths to see what treasures may lie there. Perhaps you will discover the next Loch-Ness monster. What bothers me about much of the PoMo and even many of the modernist schools is that rather than a lake, they have made poetry a Sargasso. The water is glassy still and deep, and if you decide to jump into it to explore for treasure you will be mired and ultimately drowned by Sargassum a tangled mass of thick seaweed. More, you are likely to be stranded there forever in the doldrums, no longer reading poetry because poetry promises only depths you cannot plumb and a surface that is all too familiar.

I am relatively intolerant of experiment in poetry. Thanks to the things Dylan posts and writes I am becoming somewhat more accustomed to these things and rather than regarding them as similar to the execrations (or excretions) of modern "artists" who cannot draw a straight line with a ruler, I am coming to see them more as the expressionism and abstract renderings of a Picasso who is very deliberately breaking long-established rules to achieve a certain effect. This is successful experimentation. Even when such fails, it provides an interesting study. What is problematic to me isn't disjunctions, jumblings, and typographical anomalies, it is raw pretension. I am most disturbed by the casual toxic dumping of references to things the ordinary reader is unlikely to encounter or understand. Now, to give Eliot some credit, he did provide footnotes to The Wasteland that help with this. However, I studied poetry with an exceedingly fine teacher (not, in my estimation a great poet) who based much of his poetry on a character in an obscure novel by Djuna Barnes, and so all of the references centered around an intimate knowledge of Nightwood. Whatever you may think of the book, poetry that requires this degree of knowledge simply to begin to approach it is, for the most part, utterly useless.

Now, one shouldn't dumb-down one's poetry. Billy Collins is the prime example of a poet who writes one step above Rod McKuen and intends everyone to have access. I do not think there are any mermaids singing in his work. The middle ground between these two, to my mind, is where poetry belongs. There should be something that engages and drags the reader in--either rhythm, rhyme, or imagery (preferably all three) and once there, the poem should present enough fresh and interesting material to invite the reader to stay and "look around." For example, Keats's "Ode to a Nightingale" has wonderful language, rhythm and imagery, and a compelling subsurface look at those languorous, perhaps even melancholy moments when one cannot be dragged from the prison of self.

I rail against poets who feel they must show the reader how much more erudite, how much more knowledgeable, how much more profound their thought than that of anyone else. A poet thinks much as everyone else does, deeply or shallowly. The difference, I think, lies in how the poet sees and hears the world. And it is the exposition of this difference that enables others to see and hear differently. If we fail in that (as poets) then we have done a disservice to our art and our audience.

As to the second paragraph. Right on. Nothing more need be said. It is one of the reasons that I love Finnegan's Wake the sense of joy and of sheer play are overwhelming. Yes, it is difficult stuff to read--but the delight in reading it well compensates for any of the difficulty. Not true for many great "poets." As Dylan has noted, and I concur, plodding through the tedium of The Triumph of Life (about purgatory and a purgatory in itself) provides no new insights into what language can do, it provides precious little insight into the life of the poet, and its phrases drum dully and yet painfully--rain on a tin-roof for those who know what that sounds like, into the drain, suggesting that any attempt to read poetry is a futile, time-wasting endeavor. In fact, poetry lies at the base of language--its tropes, its rhythms, its means of expression enrich even our daily speech, sometimes without our awareness. Metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, all the tools of the trade that have readily entered the language because up until recently nearly everyone had a certain poetic consciousness. Now, I suppose we have a poetic unconsciousness or perhaps a bouquet of black roses--a deadness and an unseemly softness about the body that makes one queasy.

And perhaps the greatest tragedy of this, is that by alienating so many from the richness of the language, we have lost some of the power to speak of the magnificence of God. Our metaphors, our similes, our expressions need from age to age a freshening. The moribund nature of poetry has given us our NABs and other atrocious, tone-deaf, word-deaf translations of the Bible. They are the product of an age that has no ear because that ear has been drummed out of them with the arcane, the deliberately obscure, the ploddingly, deadly dull.

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Some Decisions to Make


Some Decisions to Make

I'm finding that more and more visitors are making their way to my site via arcane searches on Google. Apparently an entire generation of college students is terrified to read a poem for themselves and try to come to terms with what it is saying to them. I get two or three dozen searches a day for paraphrases for certain poems: Orlando Gibbon, Holy Sonnet XIV, Anne Bradstreet, and Edward Taylor among them. But as I do not now, nor will I ever, have intention of paraphrasing (unless the original is in say the Kentish dialect) this is wasted time for these poor searches. I am certain they arrive at the site and are merely frustrated by the deluge of material produced each week. This is not the problem. The problem is one noted by a great many bloggers already, and that is I am hypnotized by statistics. Unlike others, it is not a matter of concern about how many people are visiting--although that is interesting. I spend far too much time trying to determine if there are patterns in the numbers--does a week start slow and build, why are there anomalous days in which I get twenty-to-thirty percent higher numbers, is the change in visit correlatable to any other phenomenon (for example, I note that each time the name order in Mr. Seraphin's list changes, so too does the number of hits for about two days afterwards, usually going up). I love numbers, I love the patterns of numbers, and I love the analysis of data. But it is taking too much time away from actually blogging and actually thinking about what to say, when to say it. Worse, it is taking time away from poetry and it is giving me something to think about other than my literary output--which should be my chief concern. I want many to be able to read my poetry, and as outlined yesterday, I want my poetry to be a vehicle for evangelization, apologetics, and simple enjoyment. This takes a great deal more craft and thought than has recently been given over to thinking and writing. So perhaps I would do well simply to remove my stats.

On the other hand, it is by my stats that I have stumbled into some wonderful places. A great many people who visit do not leave comments, but they have their own wonderful sites which I would be unaware of had I not checked stats. So maybe what I'll do is to ask any new visitor who has their own blog to leave a comment somewhere so I can place a return visit. I am nearly always edified, and often tremendously pleased at the wonderful things that I find.

The blogworld is an interesting place. The quality of writing is not even from place to place, but each place that I go, I get to meet someone new and learn as much as they are willing to tell me. That is an exciting, interesting, and fascinating activity. Everyone that I read consistently, and nearly everyone that I do not, has interesting things to say even if they are not profound reflections on the nature of poetry. The sites I have the least patience with are those they tell me little of their owners and offer for me tidbits from the news with a line or two telling me why I should read it. These are mercifully few. Those that I like best are from ordinary people who have offered to share interesting aspects of their lives--ordinary fathers, mothers, family members, home-schooling moms (as we are about to decide what to do with our 4-year-old, these are particularly interesting right now), religious, clergy--there are so many different people and so many different ways of knowing the world. I am increased when I can come to terms with a new way of perception, a new mode of understanding the world. I am diminished when I refuse to make the effort. As my blog is primarily to help me figure out the road of prayer, I prefer to associate with those with whom I have the greatest religious affinities. I also prefer to stay to quiet places that are not trying to cater to everyone, but have a very clear audience in mind.

Enough baring of the soul. Basically, I am torturing myself over keeping or dumping the site statistics. If anyone has any opinions considering what they have read here or reflecting on their own experience in this matter, I would be deeply appreciative if you would share it. It may go a long way to helping me decide. Is your life and feeling about blogging better after dumping the stats? Was it a dreadful, serious mistake? Are you thinking about dumping them as well? Are you obsessed with numbers and patterns? Whatever, I'd just like to hear any reaction, favorable or unfavorable as I consider this.

(Being a geologist by training, you may rest assured that along with nearly any other decision I make, this too shall be made in geologic time. Or as Andrew Marvell would have it, "vaster than empires and more slow." See, another argument for the delectation of poetry--it becomes part of your day-to-day vocabulary and you can thoroughly confuse people with whom you do not wish to converse anyway.)

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A Prayer Before Blogging


A Prayer Before Blogging

Ms Kropp at More Like Mary, Less Like Martha presents this wonderful prayer:

ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who hast created us in Thy image and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the divine person of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor, during our journeys through the internet, we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

See her site for details and access to the Latin Version.

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Literature as Evangelism


I have thought about this a long time. I have thought about it since the time that Gerard Manley Hopkins convinced me that Catholicism was the way to go. I don't recall precisely how it happened. What I remember is reading Hopkins in a Seminar on Victorian Poetry (taught by one of my most enthusiastic professors). Somehow a discussion evolved, or I read in an introduction to Hopkins that he believed in something called "The Real Presence." Now, I had slim to no notion of what this was, but the notion attracted me, and if the idea gave rise to the glorious poetry I was reading, then perhaps there was some validity to it, perhaps it warranted further investigation. Thus, through the work of Hopkins, and C.S. Lewis, I found my way back to the church of my youth (Southern Baptist), and from there to the Catholic Church.

Dubay makes a powerful argument in favor of beauty as evidence of God in the universe (The Evidential Power of Beauty) and the Holy Father is convinced that Artists, and by that I am certain that he means Artists in the broadest sense of the word, have a great deal to contribute both to the support of the faithful and to the evangelization of the unbeliever.

What then must be the essential ingredients of any work that might help people come to God. First and foremost, I would think, integrity--a grass-roots, at-the-bottom, fundamental commitment to telling the truth as you see it, even if that truth seems to run counter to God. For example, though Wallace Stevens spent much of his life as a professed Atheist, I think much of his poetry deals with the question of the existence of God, and by stating his case honestly, one sees hidden within the poetry the opposite case as well. Some have argued that "Sunday Morning" is the great atheistic paean. And yet the poetry is, as one would say, "Christ-Haunted." One gets the impression that "methinks the artist dost protest too much." That he struggles mightily to make his point only to fall back on ambiguity and uncertainty that ring with a certain theistic tone. The "Disillusionment at 10 O'Clock" appears to be about aesthetics (another obsession of Stevens's) but it can be read to being about the drabness of the world without the Divine Imagination. So truth will out if one is as honest as he or she could possibly be.

The second quality is accessibility. Geoffrey Hill may convert a PoMo, but the man on the street will take one look and answer with "Say what?" T.S. Eliot, in "Ash Wednesday", "Preludes", and "Prufrock" gives us a certain kind of accessibility and encouragement. Hopkins too, though he is quite difficult. Accessibility means the invitation to dine, not spoon-feeding. There must be something at the surface of the poem that is fundamentally attractive and which encourages the prospective convert to read the work. But the surface must not exhaust the purpose of the poem. It can't be a sing-songy rhyme that tells about how lovely are the daffodils and tulips scattered by the saint around the feet of God. A poem like that can work, but most often it becomes a Helen Steiner Rice catalog item.

The third quality is that the work must be literature. It must be much better written than the vast majority of the novels that are being issued from the Catholic Novel Mill. I take a glance and see that the work of Bud McFarlane has actually been given at least one and perhaps two awards for Catholic Writing and I am appalled. Perhaps if the award was for piety in print I would have less objection, but McFarlane's work needs work. The sentences are as sloppy as most of what I publish on this blog. When writing a blog, a certain amount of that is allowable, but when executing a novel it is an unforgivable sin. Catholic and Christian work needs to be judged by the same standards that are applied when one looks at any work of literature. If the work does not rise to that standard, it should be neither awarded nor exalted. There is no reason that a Catholic Writer cannot consistently produce the work of say a Ron Hansen or a Jon Hassler (at a minimum) or a Flannery O'Connor, Shusaku Endo, Graham Greene, or best of all an Evelyn Waugh. We no longer truly encourage writers of this sort. We award our awards to those who can be most "Catholic" or most overtly religious--not a good way to decide any artistic merit.

This is a start at thinking about what might go into poetry as evangelism. And in this impulse, it might be possible to reignite the epic impulse that too long has lain dead. Chesterton did write both "Lepanto" and "Ballad of the White Horse." I am not particularly fond of these as poetry--a trifle overcontrolled and stuffy (Chesterton's best work is by no means his poetry. On the other hand, Belloc had some truly wonderful light verse and some really fine poetry as well.) The Epic impulse requires a single eye, an unfragmented vision. And the only way that is available in the modern world is through a denial of the modernist/postmodernist influence through a solid base in the truth of Christianity.

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The names use above were pseudonyms used by Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte to given their publications more substance in the eyes of a population that did not much value the contributions of women to literature--although with the advent of Jane Austen that was fast changing.

The following poem by Anne Bronte is exemplary of the work. Much of the poetry is quite fine if a bit regular and sometimes, depending on length, monotonous in rhyme.

Anne Bronte

ETERNAL Power, of earth and air!
Unseen, yet seen in all around,
Remote, but dwelling everywhere,
Though silent, heard in every sound.

If e'er thine ear in mercy bent,
When wretched mortals cried to Thee,
And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent,
To save lost sinners such as me:

Then hear me now, while, kneeling here,
I lift to thee my heart and eye,
And all my soul ascends in prayer,
Oh, give me-give me Faith! I cry.

Without some glimmering in my heart,
I could not raise this fervent prayer;
But, oh! a stronger light impart,
And in Thy mercy fix it there.

While Faith is with me, I am blest;
It turns my darkest night to day;
But while I clasp it to my breast,
I often feel it slide away.

Then, cold and dark, my spirit sinks,
To see my light of life depart;
And every fiend of Hell, methinks,
Enjoys the anguish of my heart.

What shall I do, if all my love,
My hopes, my toil, are cast away,
And if there be no God above,
To hear and bless me when I pray?

If this be vain delusion all,
If death be an eternal sleep,
And none can hear my secret call,
Or see the silent tears I weep!

Oh, help me, God! For thou alone
Canst my distracted soul relieve;
Forsake it not: it is thine own,
Though weak, yet longing to believe.

Oh, drive these cruel doubts away;
And make me know, that Thou art God!
A faith, that shines by night and day,
Will lighten every earthly load.

If I believe that Jesus died,
And, waking, rose to reign above;
Then surely Sorrow, Sin, and Pride,
Must yield to Peace, and Hope, and Love.

And all the blessed words He said
Will strength and holy joy impart:
A shield of safety o'er my head,
A spring of comfort in my heart.

Emily Bronte

HOW beautiful the earth is still,
To thee-how full of happiness !
How little fraught with real ill,
Or unreal phantoms of distress !
How spring can bring thee glory, yet,
And summer win thee to forget

December's sullen time !
Why dost thou hold the treasure fast,
Of youth's delight, when youth is past,
And thou art near thy prime ?

When those who were thy own compeers,
Equals in fortune and in years,
Have seen their morning melt in tears,
To clouded, smileless day;
Blest, had they died untried and young,
Before their hearts went wandering wrong,
Poor slaves, subdued by passions strong,
A weak and helpless prey !

" Because, I hoped while they enjoyed,
And, by fulfilment, hope destroyed;
As children hope, with trustful breast,
I waited bliss-and cherished rest.
A thoughtful spirit taught me, soon,
That we must long till life be done;
That every phase of earthly joy
Must always fade, and always cloy:

This I foresaw-and would not chase
The fleeting treacheries;
But, with firm foot and tranquil face,
Held backward from that tempting race,
Gazed o'er the sands the waves efface,
To the enduring seas-

There cast my anchor of desire
Deep in unknown eternity;
Nor ever let my spirit tire,
With looking for what is to be !

It is hope's spell that glorifies,
Like youth, to my maturer eyes,
All Nature's million mysteries,
The fearful and the fair-
Hope soothes me in the griefs I know;
She lulls my pain for others' woe,
And makes me strong to undergo
What I am born to bear.

Glad comforter ! will I not brave,
Unawed, the darkness of the grave ?
Nay, smile to hear Death's billows rave-
Sustained, my guide, by thee ?
The more unjust seems present fate,
The more my spirit swells elate,
Strong, in thy strength, to anticipate
Rewarding destiny !"

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Beginning Some Thoughts on the Epic


[The subtitle of this (originally the title, but it may not fit so well now "Fantasia on a Theme by Dylan 618" (apologies to Ralph Vaughn Williams. (Had to use the 618 to approximate the title more accurately--and I do think of this Tallis theme along with "The Lark Ascending" as some of the most beautiful bucolic music of the Twentieth Century. So much so, in fact, that I shall put them on as I compose to guide composition. Below starts the real beginning, so best to hop back up the title, skip this bracketed paragraph and continue as if I had never intruded. This is the Julio Cortazar Corner of my blog.]

Actually, probably not, but Dylan provided me with a wonderful springboard into a theory of poetry. So I quote his entire comment here for constant reference and comment. Thanks Dylan!

Comments by Dylan Yes, bash Hill's Triumph of Love if you must, & do so with my blessing ... The further I get, the more it disaffects. It is erratic, arrhythmic prose.

Much of this poem is senseless post-modernist dreck. I can't wait to get a copy of the earlier poetry to see if there are more lovely poems like the one I posted earlier this week.

I don't mind poems being obscure or fragmented, if there's a heartbeat within the obscurity, if each individual fragment implicates the mind and heart in the writer's own perspective. Heck, I'll read Clark Coolidge from time to time (not all that often) for the sheer fun of the sounds of the words -- as Stephen Fry would say, "Hoversmack tender estimate."

And then there's the jollity of nonsense.

Absolutely concur. I don't mind meaningful fragmentation. I do not mind the obvious disjunctions in Prufrock. What I despise are the deliberately obscure chunks of arcane literature dropped wholesale into the middle of the Wasteland. Wordsworth had no need of this to express the feeling and distress of his time. I do not read huge slabs of incomprehensible work in Browning (because there aren't any). Modern sensibility does not require the fragmentation of the psyche required to understand The Waste Land. One could, in fact, stop with the title of the poem and accept that as the final statement and without much trouble skip much of the rest of the poem. As Dylan has pointed out elsewhere, there are some lovely pieces within the bloat of pretension. One needs to cut down through the blubber and find the muscle--it is there--but why would anyone suffer this much to look for it? There is enough suffering in life already. There is enormous depth in other poems--some of those of Mr. Cummings, even those of Sylvia Plath (if you can get past the constant telegrams of her forthcoming/latest suicide attempts) have some incredible, beautiful depths. "Lady Lazarus," which I half-hate, has some powerful indictments of the intellects that allow for things like the holocaust. It is a brilliant poem marred only by the self-obsession of the later work.

As to nonsense--Lear, Nash, Belloc (yes I said Belloc, his work can be on par with that of one of the great artists of the Twentieth Century, Ogdred Weary [here (do see F, H, and N) and here])and others show us that poetry is marvelous vehicle for the conveyance of much amusement. Lewis Carroll and even some of the very lovely rhymes for Children by Roethke and Kennedy are wonderful examples whereof you speak.

But Hill's lines in Triumph do seem tired, & tiring after a while. It is not "diction that is galvanized against inertia" (Marianne Moore's phrase). The 65th joke about typographical errors, well, after a while it's like those French Connection UK signs that say, "vive le fcuk! [acronym of French Connection UK]" Gets old quite fast.

Oh, the exquisite kindness of this understatement. The work is endlessly self-referential and self aggrandizing. It is a constant melody written on one string--and one that is pitched at a nerve-wracking shrillness.

Good Sir Geoffrey can't be judged, personally, too harshly. He's gotten quite a few laudatory reviews & blurbs, and under the influence of such praise one can start to think that one's every scrawl and scribble is divinely inspired. Plus, all writers (I think) have to experiment -- even at the risk of momentous failure or just plain silliness. The poet's mind must be kept alive, and agile -- think of a great Shakespearean actor doing funny voices, or reciting naughty limericks.

In fact, I don't hold the artist all that responsible for the reasons delineated above and others. The entire critical world is directed toward keeping a poet from his or her rightful audience--the entire world. If one keeps it in the post-modernist, relativist Ivory Tower, then it is an exclusive domain, no one else invited. We can feel good about ourselves because we can wrest meanings from deep hollows, where I suspect little to none actually exists. Much of modern scholarship is a matter of "The Emperor's New Clothes." I have pointed out before the utter preposterousness of concepts such as the (I-kid-you-not: Googilize "Judith Butler""Lesbian Phallus" [in order to protect you from who-knows-what filth]) Lesbian Phallus. Poetry has, in large part, been taken captive, and it is up to the present poets to free it. I think that is one of the reasons I extol Dana Gioia to the point I do. His lyrics have depth, meaning, and beauty (two of the three seem always lacking in some of the much-lauded poetry of his contemporaries). He has indicated a way out of the morass, and I would love to be able to follow it.

Okay, so I didn't even begin to do what I wanted to. But this gives you something to read to start as I continue ruminations. I was thinking about something like "Poetry as Apologetics" or "Poetry as Evangelism" and a continuation of the question of the Epic. Tangential, but integral to the theory I'm constructing in my head.

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A Deliberate Misquote Those of


A Deliberate Misquote

Those of you who are fans know that I misquoted the famous song below. Those who do not probably haven't a clue to what I refer. However, it is important to emphasize that the misquote is deliberate. I want it painted black, but I sure as heck don't want to do it--there are lots of people out there with spray cans at ready, I'll just be the Tom Sawyer of this door painting and charge everyone for the privilege. Anybody got a June Bug with five legs or some jumping beans?

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Exhausting Day Trying to help


Exhausting Day

Trying to help people make St. John of the Cross relevant in their lives, trying to restructure our current meeting to help us take advantage of the year of the Rosary, inducting one new member and getting another started on serious formation, all before breakfast.

Add to that a breakdown at 4:15 p.m. Cause a dead battery (old battery installed October 2001). A wait for a jump. Of course the car can't be fixed before Monday as the dealer only has service until noon on Saturday--(because the battery is under warranty and there's no point in spending centibucks to have it repaired).

Then blogger ate this post three times. Devouring mercilessly.

You'd think that would make for a bad day. But you know, it doesn't really. Some friends came out to help us, we're taught a little bit about detachment from material things, as we may not be able to start the car up tomorrow to get it to Church, so I'll have to hitch a ride or walk the three or four miles (hope we don't have a Florida rain for the time period). But all is well. This could have happened at a much worse time. We could be waiting on the edge of the road in Georgia or South Carolina and not know anyone for hundreds of miles in any direction. You get the drift. God has been grand to us today, and though I am tired, and to some degree stressed, I am also much less alarmed than I might have been last year at this time. So I've either grown in grace or become so jaded nothing gets through my tanned hide. Given my choice, I prefer the former (as an explanation). What a glorious day!

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Reminder to Self This afternoon


Reminder to Self

This afternoon or evening, whichever permits of time, a comment on and elaboration to Dylan's wonderful post on the Epic in Modern literature. Contents: Diatribe concerning modernism and its excesses, ecstasy over Omeros, a trifle of Hill-bashing, some speculations on Dickinson as Interior Epic--Whitman v. Dickinson, and other jewels of less-than-half-baked thought. Hope this is rather more tantlizing than nauseous.

Oh, and in case you were wondering this is a "I see a red door and I want it painted black" sort of day. Perhaps I need to mellow a bit before our ceremony, so I'll need my Cranberries CD, or perhaps better Loreena McKennitt or Aine Minogue--her version of Across the Universe is worth the price of admission.

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And one other Written about


And one other

Written about a trip made to the wonderful city of Victoria, British Columbia--certainly the Jewel of the Pacific.

Nocturne 1 Night-blooming jasmine I've never seen it. Once through a window in a place where the moon cast different shadows, a scent I imagined was jasmine stirred the curtains in a room where I lay awake counting shattered pieces of moonwash.

At the window I leaned out
expecting white trumpets
on a wall covered by green ivy
and saw only a dusty yellow globe
and pebbly stone wall
bare in the night.

In bed again,
waiting for sleep,
and buried in the scent of flowers
that would return only in dreams.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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A Poetic Offering From an


A Poetic Offering

From an earlier, protosurrealist period.

Rhapsodies in Multiple Colors I Shape them in boxes and do not hope. Legs without minds within the fracture of unopened Earth.

There were fragments
in my eye
          exploded bombs
shards of a window
out, the pressure within.

Don't bother to explain.
You swear on words
formed of air, your meaning
is certain as poison,
large as ether
and collapsing distance
as a bridge.

Where have you been?
The x-ray and then the knife,
conclusion inevitable
as digestion
and unpleasant.

© 2002, Steven Riddle

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Another Important Prayer Opportunity

Please pray for us (my Carmelite group) today (turnabout is fair play). We're having a reception (an aspirant becomes a novice) and a profession (a novice becomes a full member) today. Everyone is very nervous (as usual) but all will go well. Also, we are considering a new person for Formation Director of the Received--a very important position--this person must help the received discern their true vocation. So prayers all around would be welcome. Expect relatively little blogging today.

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Envoy Has a Blog From


Envoy Has a Blog

From Catholic Light the news that Envoy has started a blog. I enjoy Envoy from time to time, although as with all apologetics-oriented things the charm can pall at times. (I've noticed fewer going-off-on-a-bender moments at Envoy but every so often creeping humorlessness takes a certain toll). Depending on how it develops, this could be a very interesting site. I'll be adding it to the left-hand column for a monitoring period to decide whether or not it stays. In the meantime, please visit. Stop back by here and let me know what you think.

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Okay, The Glorious Reality Is.


Okay, The Glorious Reality Is. . ."

If you are not visiting Ms. Knapp's site each day, you are really missing out. A wonderful poem today. Please go and check it out.

The last stanza follows:

The faithful
cling to the roots
of the saints,
growing up
from the ground.


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A Blog of Some Interest


A Blog of Some Interest

You all might want to take the time to wander over to Mr. Jim Kalb's relatively new blog Metanoia. In addition to being one of those blogs that will be alive when others are down due to blogger and blogspot, Metanoia is the blog on one who is studiously becoming Catholic, and some of his questions are better answered by minds more attuned to the forms of argumentation present in the legal profession. So if any canon lawyers ever stop by here (as I offer nothing to sate that manner of mind, it seems highly unlikely), you may wish to wander over to Mr. Kalb's blog. Those who are not canon lawyers have much to gain by reading the thought-provoking entries and considerations. Having been in the same place myself some years ago, I hear echoes and resonance from my time of questioning. I have a lot of sympathy but very few answers, largely because I found that the questions I was asking had less relevance because the Church opened the door to true love of God. Before that, as a Baptist, I "had a relationship with Christ," meaning I had been baptised after a "born again experience," but I didn't really know the name of Love until I had come to His Feast.

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Another by Browning Reading through


Another by Browning

Reading through "Caliban upon Setebos" last night put me in mind of one of my favorite bits of Browning's work, the epic The Ring and the Book. From that monster-poem, I offer only this small sample.

Invocation from The Ring and the Book Robert Browning

O lyric love, half angel and half bird,
And all a wonder and a wild desire,-
Boldest of hearts that ever braved the sun,
Took sanctuary within the holier blue,
And sang a kindred soul out to his face,-
Yet human at the ripe-red of his heart,
Never may I commence my song, my due
To God who best taught song by gift of thee
Except with bent head and beseeching hand-
Never conclude, but raising hand and head
Thither where eyes, that cannot reach yet yearn
For all hope, all sustainment, all reward
Some whiteness which I judge, thy face makes proud
Some wanness where I think thy foot may fall!

A poem not to be undertaken by the faint of heart or the easily daunted. In my edition of it The Ring and the Book runs to about 500 pages. But like Wordworth's The Prelude they are wonder-filled and wonderful, in parts transcendant.

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A Poet to Make One Despair


A Poet to Make One Despair

Robert Browning is a poet to make one despair. Everything he writes seems nearly perfect and he sustains enormous lengths of poetry with the seeming carelessness of a master gymnast doing floor exercises. Every leap, every step, every roll, every move, choreographed and meaningful, yet done without breaking a sweat. That is not how poetry is, and particularly not when the poetry has such depths. With that tortured introduction, I present part of one of Browning's ruminations on theology. For the complete poem, check here

from "Caliban upon Setebos Or, Natural Theology in the Island"
Robert Browning

"Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself."
          (David, Psalms 50.21)

            ['Will sprawl, now that the heat of day is best,
            Flat on his belly in the pit's much mire,
            With elbows wide, fists clenched to prop his chin.
            And, while he kicks both feet in the cool slush,
            And feels about his spine small eft-things course,
            Run in and out each arm, and make him laugh:
            And while above his head a pompion-plant,
            Coating the cave-top as a brow its eye,
            Creeps down to touch and tickle hair and beard,
            And now a flower drops with a bee inside,
            And now a fruit to snap at, catch and crunch,--
            He looks out o'er yon sea which sunbeams cross
            And recross till they weave a spider-web
            (Meshes of fire, some great fish breaks at times)
            And talks to his own self, howe'er he please,
            Touching that other, whom his dam called God.
            Because to talk about Him, vexes--ha,
            Could He but know! and time to vex is now,
            When talk is safer than in winter-time.
            Moreover Prosper and Miranda sleep
            In confidence he drudges at their task,
            And it is good to cheat the pair, and gibe,
            Letting the rank tongue blossom into speech.]

          Setebos, Setebos, and Setebos!
            'Thinketh, He dwelleth i' the cold o' the moon.

            'Thinketh He made it, with the sun to match,
            But not the stars; the stars came otherwise;
            Only made clouds, winds, meteors, such as that:
            Also this isle, what lives and grows thereon,
            And snaky sea which rounds and ends the same.

            'Thinketh, it came of being ill at ease:
            He hated that He cannot change His cold,
            Nor cure its ache. 'Hath spied an icy fish
            That longed to 'scape the rock-stream where she lived,
            And thaw herself within the lukewarm brine
            O' the lazy sea her stream thrusts far amid,
            A crystal spike 'twixt two warm walls of wave;
            Only, she ever sickened, found repulse
            At the other kind of water, not her life,
            (Green-dense and dim-delicious, bred o' the sun)
            Flounced back from bliss she was not born to breathe,
            And in her old bounds buried her despair,
            Hating and loving warmth alike: so He.

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The Boring and the Bored


The Boring and the Bored
Perhaps I am investing too much importance in the saying of a thing, but I think the quote below needs iteration every day. I suppose that makes me one of the boring. As Lord Byron, who invented this division of humankind, classes himself with the bored, I am more than happy to represent the other half.

from Heretics Chapter 3
G. K. Chesterton

We might, no doubt, find it a nuisance to count all the blades of grass or all the leaves of the trees; but this would not be because of our boldness or gaiety, but because of our lack of boldness and gaiety. The bore would go onward, bold and gay, and find the blades of grass as splendid as the swords of an army. The bore is stronger and more joyous than we are; he is a demigod—nay, he is a god. For it is the gods who do not tire of the iteration of things; to them the nightfall is always new, and the last rose as red as the first.

I must admit to never having cared much for G. K. Chesterton. I've never much liked the Father Brown Stories. I found The Man Who Was Thursday nearly incomprehensible. The short essays have never spoken to me, nor has the poetry. The apologetics has left me cold. However, I must admit that Chesterton is something like one's parents in one's youth. The older you get the smarter they seem. Reading Pearce's study of Chesterton helps contextualize and reify a legend who is largely known to me through the portayals of Sir Henry Merrivale and Dr. Gideon Fell. But I am discovering an undiscovered country for me, and it is a tremendous pleasure. When Chesterton is on, the prose is supple and can border on magnificent. I had heard recently that there is a movement promoting the cause of G.K. Chesterton and I had wondered at that, but as I grow more tolerant I see more reason behind such a cause. I may even eventually finish Heretics.

[later: I meant to add: 5 points for the person who can identifty the author associated with the two persons mentioned other than G.K. Chesterton. An additional 5 points for any title associated with the two characters.]

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Steven Riddle in November 2002.

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