March 05, 2005

An Amusement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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March 03, 2005

Join the Fast for Terri

Read about it here.

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For Those Interested in St. Edmund Campion

Ten Reasons in Latin and English.

Campion's "Brag" or Challenge to the Privy Council

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Present Reading

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

Presently I am reading

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

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

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

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

from Will in the World
Stephen Greenblatt

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

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

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

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

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March 02, 2005

The Ten Commandments Controversy

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

The text of the first amendment:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Bright Young Things

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

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

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

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

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Sorry for the Hiatus Yesterday

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

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February 28, 2005

St Francis Borgia on Judas

May as well continue my annual or semi-annual tradition of posting this little tidbit:

From the time that he began to give himself totally to the divine service Francis Borgia, who was canonized in 1671, learned the importance and difficulty of attaining to humility, and he tried unremittingly to humble himself in the divine presence and within himself. Amidst the honours and respect that were shown him at Valladolid, his companion, Father Bustamante, noticed that he was not only quiet but more than ordinarily self-effacing, for which he asked the reason. "I considered", said St Francis, "in my morning meditation that Hell is my due. I think that all men and even dumb creatures ought to cry out after me, 'Hell is your place'." He one day told the novices that in meditating on the actions of Christ he had for six years always placed himself in spirit at the feet of Judas; but then he realized that Christ had washed the feet even of that traitor, so that he thenceforth felt unworthy to approach even him.

See the poem I posted earlier this Lent.

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From Ad Limina Apostolorum

A list from NCR of theologians whose work has been questioned undergone scrutiny, and some of whom have been declared orthodox (see the entry for Karl Rahner).

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Hurricanes 2004

You can use this to find me in Florida. Look for the place where three tracks cross. And Ivan is a little deceptive because be caught some of the brunt of that storm on its back track as well.

Here's the map

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The Sacrifice

From Office of Readings: Psalm 50

Pay your sacrifice of thanksgiving to God
and render him your votive offerings.
Call on me in the day of distress.
I will free you and you shall honor me."

Ant: Offer to God the sacrifice of praise.

Prayer: Father, accept us as a sacrifice of praise, so that we may go through life unburdened by sin, walking in the way of salvation, and always giving thanks to you.

My praise has grown beyond words for the good things He has done for me.

accept us as a sacrifice of praise,
so that we may go through life unburdened by sin,
walking in the way of salvation,
and always giving thanks to you.

Father, accept us
as a sacrifice
of praise, so that we may go
through life unburdened
by sin, walking in the way
of salvation, and always
giving thanks
to you.

Accept me--this body, this life, this brokenness--because my words are just words and they have been used so long and so hard that they do not mean what they once did. But my heart knows you and your joy. My heart hears your word and leaps up. All of creation is a praise to You, O God, what can I add to that with mere words? But my life--let it be a constant praise, a source of joy and hope to those who see You in me. Let my ears hear, my heart obey, and my life be always directed to You in humble obedience and joy.

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February 27, 2005

Is Judas Saved?

Because he knew you once, Lord,

and loved you. More than I can really claim.
He sat at your feet with the others.
And when the time came he did like Peter
and turned away.

And knew, knew in his heart the wrong
he had done.
And sought in this frail human way
to make it right.
In the way that we have always sought
to make things right.

But didn't we learn from Abraham
and Isaac, that it isn't blood
that you want?

Not the destruction of sinners
but their redemption?

Oh Good Lord, you could not abandon one of your own twelve.
And so my hope is that
I can ride his coattails in
because I am not nearly so honest
so straightforward.

I have not sat at your feet as this one did.
I did not love you and serve you.

So I can hope that my betrayal, the betrayal of a stranger
does not hurt as much.
Oh, but it hurts me--
beyond the words I can find to say it,
beyond the feeling in the heart squeezed by it,
beyond the hope of finding you again.

And so I know that I cannot do it.

Oh, Lord, is Judas saved?
The answer matters so much to me
because if one you loved so much cannot see your face,
then what about one who loves only himself?

Lord, do you love me as Judas?
Then give me at least his share of love for you,
and let that grow.
If I cannot be your saint,
then at least let me be your sinner,
your tired betrayer,
your constant companion.

If your grace extend so far,
grant me at least the love of Judas,
the hope of heaven of one who was your friend.
Let me live to say my sorrow
all my days at what I have done.
Let me live to rejoice in the new creation
and to learn to love in ways at once unlovely
and true. Let me learn to be a son to You.

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My God, My God, Why Have I Abandoned You?

Silence is shattering.
It says nothing more than what you hear in it and what you see in it.
Sometimes it shows you the numbness of the heart.
Other times it shows you the hardness of the heart.
But silence cannot be silence without grace, and grace prevails.

Still you are left asking, "Why have I abandoned you?"
I am bewildered and wondering--not knowing what I have always known
and wanting now to know the way home--
to know if for ever so small a span of time
that there is a home. And the question returns

in the span of years of silence,
"Why have I abandoned you?"
Where did I turn away?
The spectre of Judas hangs before me
over and over again I see myself

accused and not noble enough to at least
be ashamed. Uncaring enough to spare myself.
In shattering silence I cry at first
why have you abandoned me?
Becomes, why have I abandoned you?

Daddy, come and rescue me.

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My Note To Judge Greer

Informed and inspired by Smockmomma's actions, below is the transcript of my remarks to Judge Greer--may the Good Lord lead him in right paths for His name's sake.

Dear Judge Greer,

Sometimes I think in the routine of day-to-day operation we forget some of the profound truths that influence and shape our lives. You are in the privileged position of having led a life dedicated to the legal system of our great country and now you are faced with a terrible decision. Logic dictates that if no written record exists and two parties disagree on an issue the better solution to the entire problem lies in a decision that is not irrevocable.

More, it seems that a legal system is erected first and foremost as a bulwark against the depredations of the strong against the weak. The first rule of law is to be the defense of the defenseless against those who would unjustly use them. This necessitates your intervention in the case of Ms. Schiavo. She has people willing to care for her. She responds to voices and is obviously engaged. It would be a disaster of the first water for our legal system to determine that it would be allowable for someone to say she cannot be fed. That way opens the door to horrors we dare not contemplate. A new-born child cannot feed him or herself, would it be all right to withhold food on the basis that they cannot care for themselves or they are not aware of the world around them in the same way we are?

I know that the law is not necessarily compassionate. But those who administer the law must be. The greater error here would be to take away what cannot be restored. Please do not let Florida once again be the leader in the paths of infamy. Please allow Ms. Schiavo's mother and father to take her home and care for her. Please don't sentence her to a slow, agonizing death by starvation.

Please remember that the law was made to serve us, not we to serve the law--it is not implacable, remorseless, nor immovable and it is time to decide in favor of life, compassion, and hope.

Here is the place where you can take your own appropriate action. In this time of waiting, please write--frequently if necessary. Make it your Lenten bond of justice.

Thanks Smock!

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On Judas

I don't know why, but for some reason today at Mass my mind went to Judas once again.

Judas was the instrument of betrayal but we are all, each of us individually and every one of us corporately, the cause of that betrayal. We informed that betrayal and daily continue it. Just as Jesus became for us all the embodiment of salvation, Judas became for us all the embodiment of betrayal.

I cannot but think that when Jesus spoke the word from the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do," there was hidden there the forgiveness of Judas for his crime.

Judas betrayed Jesus, and Judas became betrayal--so much so that he even betrayed himself into taking his own life. Whatever his fate and we cannot know for sure, we partake of it and contribute to it with every step we take away from the God who loves us.

Judas is the instrument, all of humanity is the cause. We need to recognize our own part in that and take responsbility for it.

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More on Ms. Schiavo

Today at Mass the homily and the intentions were devoted to the plight of those who are "not worthy" of our attention. Ms. Schiavo's name came up no fewer than three times. There was blessing and relief in hearing her name and in hearing her treatment denounced from the pulpit. At the same time, the Pastor raised our awareness that Ms. Schiavo is only the most prominent of a great many who do not get from us the attention, care, consideration, and concern that they are entitled to through the dignity of being Children of God. Let us use this Lent to remember them in a special way.

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Interesting Comment at Another Site

At Mr. Shackleford's blog, noted below, this comment:

Is there not a group of, say, 100 not so peaceful men with shotguns who would enter that infamous "hospice" and free that longest ever hostage?

For heaven's sake, this is WAR, do you really want to have respect for this caricature of law that alows such barbarian acts as starving a disabled woman to death?

Wake, up, America, please, I'm on the verge of losing faith in you...

While I distinctly sympathize with the sentiments, not so with the methods. Nevertheless, the deep frustration one feels over this whole issue is given vent in such a comment. I have long wondered why the executive branch does not simply take this out of the court's hand. Why is it allowable to litigate a person to death but not allowable to kill a manatee? (Don't read this incorrectly, I don't think we should be killing manatees either.) But even a great and noble end does not justifiy any means--no matter how much we would like it to. Yet, it is hard to fault such fervor on the part of those most disenfranchised.

I am not one easily moved to support violent expressions, but this case has just about done it for me. How much more must we endure?

Newspaper articles often compare this case (unfairly) to Karen Ann Quinlan and others. But Karen Ann Quinlan couldn't even breathe on her own. Here is a living, breathing, reacting, loving person who has suffered a horrendous tragedy and so our solution to the problem is to starve her to death. Why can't a judge see how idiotic his "findings" are. He should get his officious, bumptious, judicious white butt off of his bench and spend some time in that room. Or on second thought, perhaps he should not because then we would have mandated executions of all persons with autistism, brain-damage, or palsy.

That God has withheld the justice of His hand from this for so long is a great measure of His abiding love and His desire for us to return to Him with our whole hearts. So as we pray for Ms Schindler, let us remember to thank God for his tremendous blessings and mercy. Oh, that we could live in the world where lovingkindness and mercy were the rule of the day and not the rule of our wayward gonads and warped desires.

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