Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I have recently come to the realization...

...that I am something of a crypto-Jansenist, or at least that I have strongly Jansenist tendencies. Too long in the camp of those who unthinkingly wander down the aisle at Communion, without regard for worthiness or the probability of sacrilege in the unprepared heart, I found myself committing an equal and opposite sin or sacrilege: refraining too eagerly. Though Augustinian predestination holds no appeal for me whatsoever, much about the Jansenist view of our sinful nature appeals. GK Chesterson's famous bit about reading the daily paper to confirm the doctrine of original sin seems mere inches from the Jansenist worldview, only needing to be updated to viewing the web every day, and even reading a fair number of Catholic blogs.

There's a line in the song "Grace" by Phil Wyckam that says "I need a voice that's louder than mine!" and that sort of sums it up: the necessity of grace; the roughness of our sinful nature; and a strong propensity for vacillation between a libtertine and scrupulous worldview. I do in fact need a voice that's louder than mine--most days just to get from the shower to the office, let alone through to the end of the work day.

Stressing the need for frequent confession is a good thing: it's good psychologically, as well as theologically. (For a pretty thorough explanation of why I think this is so, you can go here, and here, plus a conversational piece about it here.) Stressing the importance of approaching the Sacrament worthily is good too. And yet...St. Pius X advocated, contra Jansenism, frequent, even daily reception, and wanted First Communion to be as early as possible.

So we have modern day, would-be Jansenists like me, and we have an almost Protestant view of Eucharist as symbol, not substance (or Transsubstance), both present in the Church, and both busily judging others. This post touches on a particular case, going way back, that came up through the folks at Catholic Light.

There has to be a medium, that doesn't reduce God and the Sacrament to a syllogism, that doesn't seek to confine the supernatural within the natural. There has to be a place where Jansenism is condenmed but people remain serious, and take worthiness seriously, but also where people are open to God's Grace and calling, open to the sudden recognition of perfect contrition.

Still finding my feet again, obviously.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Some good things mentioned in the comments below. Let me now ask a couple of highly specific music questions:

I like chant, and I agree with the idea that chant is supposed to be given primacy of place. But chant is not something most kids intuitively respond to, especially given that they've been exposed to very little of it, if any at all, in their lives. Does anyone have any specific experience with re-introducing chant into a parish, especially in youth Masses?

This past Sunday's readings included St. Paul's line about "putting away childish things," which struck me an almost physical blow. We are teaching children to put away childish things, but we are also trying to balance that against the fact that Christ said the kids do a better job approaching him than we do. Set aside hymns with obviously problematical theology, and even setting aside non-problematical but still objectionable hymns which place the Congregation's focus on itself ("Gather us in," which I also heard this weekend, and songs of that ilk.) Idon't like those hymns and I won't tolerate them in the areas that I have control over. But what about aesthetics? Take a cheesy little number like "Sing a new song" or "You are near." The texts of those are derived from psalms, and the music appeals to the young ear. Are there other textually sound hymns that you have epxerienced, that appeal to children without grating on adults? We're in the "Barney" era of children's music, remember, and saying it *should* be otherwise may be true, but is unhelpful at this stage.
Prayers needed...

For my sister, who is seriously struggling, and for Mrs. K-G, who is helping her.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

What I am looking for these days...(Youth, Ministry and Music)

Amy Welborn touches on this once in a while, but I'd hope to start a serious discussion about it. My new life makes these questions of really significant professional, as well as personal and spiritual.

Many, many readers and members of St. Blog's seem to agree that catechesis of the young is in appalling shape nationally, even if there are a few exceptions here and there. But it often seems that agreement ends there. So, let me ask specifically: what exactly is wrong with it?

Second, what kinds of youth ministry seem to be exceptions? What works?

Third, music is a really hot topic, and Amy certainly has her views, both theological and aesthetic, many of which I agree with. But if we are to renew musical aspects of liturgy in the nation, it has to go hand in hand with catechesis, which means no more "This Little Light of Mine" at the confirmation Masses. If we want to restore primacy of place to chant, then we have to teach kids chant when their tastes are still being formed. So my question: what resources exist for teaching children the richness of our heritage, without turning them off? It's all fine to say "Well, just hit them with chant and make them like it!" but it's not really very useful. Yes, yes, by all means, teach chant. But are there resources specifically aimed at young people that work! That are shown over time to improve appreciation for, understanding of, and even preference for, chants, in the minds of students?

Any input is extremely welcome.
Okay, new template, new look, new job, comments working. Ready to go.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

As soon as I can figure out Blogger's comments, commenting will be up and running.

And for anyone who was wondering what I was depreseed about in the 3 year old post a few entries down, think back to Pedro Martinez, Grady Little, and Aaron Frickin' Boone. I'm still not really over it, in spite of the passage of time, and the results a year later.
The Complete Text of the Screwtape Letters, online...

So, first new post, and it's just a "hey, here ya go!" Screwtape Letters. Complete. Online. Free. Mmmmmm, good!
Yeah, about that whole "never posting at blogger again" thing...

I'm actually not sure how much, if at all, I will be blogging again. I have a new job that doesn't ban me from blogging, but does require in me even more prudence in what I say than I have had to observe in the past. But I think I'm going to give it a try.

The version of Kairos that appeared at the St. Blog's grouping is completely gone. I never posted much of interest there anyway, since that blog came about right around the time my second child was born and I started staying home with her. So, if you once read Kairos, or happen to stumble across me for the first time, this is where you'll find the blog again. If after 3 months I haven't posted regularly enough to make it worth my own or anyone else's time to visit here regularly, then down the blog will come, cradle and all, for good.

Welcome back.

Monday, October 20, 2003

I have officially moved to the new home of Kairos. Nothing that happens here will have anything to do with anything anymore. Buh bye blogger. I appreciate your freeness, but it's time to go someplace more sophisticated.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I'm so depressed, I'm never posting at blogger again. See you Monday at

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I recently finished "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams, the least known of "The Inklings." I enjoyed it, but I confess that I find the heroes of his novels too passive. In this one, the Archdeacon is obviously a holy and good man, but he seems to have a kind of stupefied "since I can't do anything without Christ, I can do whatever with him," that seems to me reliant less on God than on deus ex machina. He's like the guy in the joke about the flood who when he gets to Heaven asks God why He didn't save him. "Well, I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more do you want??" God replies. It seems to me that reliance on Christ and abandonment to divine Providence don't mean passiveness in the face of evil, but I've been wrong before.

I also don't understand why in one chapter the heroes spend all night fighting the evil powers through prayer, then the next day hand the Graal over to those same powers. But that's more likely just me being obtuse.
I'm wondering about the form of prayers. My most typical style of prayer is to form an intention, then recite a rote prayer, offered up as it were on behalf of that intention. Now, formerly I would get very specific about the intention, forming actual words describing precisely what intercession is necessary, and sometimes carrying on a lengthy exposition. Presently, I usually manage to imagine the thing desired (for myself or more often another) without verbalizing it so much, and thenr ecite the prayer. Today, I even managed to pray for an intention without the lengthy exposition, but also managed to omit the crutch of rote prayers. It is interesting to undertake to grow one's prayer life without relying on any particular tools, such as books or spiritual direction. / Sports / Baseball / Red Sox / Down, of course, but never out "'This is exactly the kind of game we've won all year,' said starting pitcher John Burkett, with an air of self deprecation. 'John Burkett goes out, gives up the lead, and his guys come back to win it. I don't think we ever anticipate these things happening, but when you come feeling all bummed out, like I did, you can see that these guys are already regrouping.'"
My blog will be much more boring without Kathy the Carmelite in the comments boxes, but it sounds like a pretty good deal for her.
Queen raises fears over EU constitution

A dark shadow is falling once again across Europe, not this time the spectre of communism or fascism, but an ideology even emptier. For centuries, France and Germany have vied for control of the continent, and the quantities of blood shed in that contest made Europe the worst killing grounds in all the world. Now the relatively peaceful aberration of the past 60 years is giving way to a resumption of history.

France and Germany have united under the blue and gold flag of anti-Americanism, resenting Europe’s adolescent niece, hating her so much indeed that they will now make common cause with China, the one state on the planet with both the potential and the desire to enter into military conflict with the US. Too lazy and stupefied from 40 years of suckling at the socialist teat, Europe is not likely to engage in actual combat with the US—and it will be a generation before her troops could go anywhere without the services of the USAF in any case. The intellectual elite and the leadership will nevertheless stand and cheer at every and any bloodying of America, toasting themselves and rooting for our demise, foolishly unaware that the United States is now and has been for a century the only thing keeping the barbarians outside Europe’s gates.

The corruption of Europe’s institutions is staggering. Once synonymous with “Europe,” the word “Christendom” now cannot even be spoken with a straight face by anyone who wants to be taken seriously in Paris, Berlin, or Brussels. The materialism that has been delivered for 3 generations significantly because of money spent and provided by the American taxpayer will not soon enough grow hard to sustain, as exploitable markets in China and other parts of the developing world will for a while sustain enough growth to support it. The EU constitution will put power in the hands of corrupt and unelected bureaucrats, rather than in an elected legislative body. Meanwhile, the nations that gave the world Napoleon and Hitler will lecture the US for its “arrogance” in trying to force a fascist, militaristic country to be a democracy, even as the widows and orphans of Algeria send their own children to destroy Europe from within. DeGaulle’s corpse no doubt smiles.

The smaller nations collaborate, as they always do where German and French expansionism intrude. Anti-Americanism has been something of a lark for 35 years now, and it seems to be good for business. Belgium, by virtue of having been conquered more than any other country in Western Europe (and still only a few days’ march from the real centers of power), becomes the official capital of the new Europe, granting it importance out of all proportion to its size or wealth. Ireland goes along half-heartedly, desiring to do whatever irritates the English most, but never quite thoroughly committed to the latest Continental horror. The Netherlands, heroes of the last major military conflict, have returned to their mercantilist roots and will do whatever they believe is most profitable. Italy and Spain are not quite so eager to cast aside the US, but would rather be in Europe than merely of it. Great Britain continues to try to straddle an increasingly wide ocean, but will soon have to choose one side or the other. That choice is much less clear today than it seemed just a few months ago.

The nations of Eastern Europe do not share Franco-German hatred for the US, and indeed seem grateful to her still for their new freedom, but trapped between Russia and Europe, and noting the distraction of the United States, they look Westward as they have always done when given a choice. The historical reflex will not help them this time, sadly, and they show every sign of being corrupted and defeated. The Christianity and the sanity that 50 years of Totalitarian rule could not destroy will be wiped away in the New Prosperity that standing up to the US offers. Donald Rumsfeld was vilified for making a distinction between “The Old Europe” and the East, but he merely had the audacity to state explicitly what everyone in Washington and Brussels knows: the gravest threat to the existence of liberal democracy on the shores of the North Atlantic does not reside in Tehran or Mecca, but in Paris and Berlin. Nations are choosing up sides, more subtly than in 1945, and with less threat of military force, but that makes the choices no less real.

An anti-Jewish pogrom can once again become respectable, as Israel merely becomes a proxy for the US. Europe’s two centuries of colonial exploits and the League of Nations asinine Mandate System left the Middle East in disarray. Europe’s eager desire to be shot of the Jews caused enough Jews to want to be shot of Europe too that now a “shitty little country” (in the words of one French diplomat) can be hated more openly than good manners allow for any of its citizens.

The dark shadow may still pass. The citizenry haven’t all quite caught up to their rulers’ level of contempt, not yet. Britain may still pass on the EU constitution, and that may cause one or two other countries to do the same. France and Germany made their ambition a bit too naked last spring, and let their hatred of America peek out from under the face of concerned statesmanship. But whether or no it passes, it will grow darker still before the light returns. It would be well if more of us acknowledged that the light is fading in Europe.