Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Eve Tushnet has a contest. I will post my entry here after she is finished.
Of the moment, not in it?

The great challenge of living is that everything is over, or it hasn’t happened yet. As soon as the realization of a moment enters your thoughts, the moment itself has passed, and your thoughts are already into the perfect tense.

Now, it may happen that the moment that has just passed is being succeeded or about to be succeeded by other moments more or less just like it. So the thrill of going down the roller coaster track seems to continue for several seconds successively, before being replaced by the temporary calm of clackety-clicking your way up the next hill. All too soon, the ride has ended, and you have to decide whether to get back in line to go again, trying to recapture a thrill that will not be quite so much the next time, or look for another ride. But before long, the day at the amusement park will be over and the long ride home will leave you with quickly fading memories of the marvelous terrors of the day.

Time will pass at 60 seconds per minute no matter what you do, and everything you can think about has already happened.

The future differs because we have influence over it, but never control. It is ours to nudge this way or that, to delight in anticipation of it, or hollow ourselves out with worry. We have a duty to the future, to borrow its resources to plan for that which can be reasonably expected. But even the “reasonably expected” rarely materializes in quite the way we thought.

The only moment we control is the present one. We control it by accepting it, reveling in its tangibility. The only thing we can touch, the only thing we can manage, is right now. But each now has to be consigned to the past as the past. A pleasure can be set in a special place, to be considered now and again, to be given up as thanks later. A sin must be repented of, that its past occurrence does not dominate the present or threaten the future.

Our language has so many cliches for this thought, simply because it is true. We say a person is “living in the past,” or that he “lives life to the fullest.” Alcoholics use its truth as a means to recovery: Easy Does It. One Day at a Time. They consign the future and the past to their “Higher Power” (in the language of 12-step programs) because mortal peril lies in trying too hard to control either. “If only” is useful only insofar as it teaches the lessons of next time. When it takes hold for its own sake, it becomes sin.

The Spirit challenges us to live right now, because only in right now can we do anything. Right now the beggar is at our door. In a moment, he will be someone else’s problem. Right now the victim of priestly abuse stands before us. Tomorrow, he may be an abuser himself.

Right now we can do. Yesterday we did. Tomorrow, we will have done, and must let go again. We must be of each moment, but not in it. In it, we can get stuck. Of it, we can take it and pass it along.
I've quoted this song before, but it so perfectly captures the human aspect of the post about moments that I thought just to post the entire lyric here.

I'm not afraid of anything in this world
There's nothing you can throw at me that I haven't already heard
I'm just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company

I never thought you were a fool
But darling, look at you
You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight
These tears are going nowhere, baby

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better now you’re stuck in a moment
And you can’t get out of it

I will not forsake, the colours that you bring
But the nights you filled with fireworks
They left you with nothing
I am still enchanted by the light you brought to me
I still listen through your ears, and through your eyes I can see

And you are such a fool
To worry like you do
I know it’s tough, and you can never get enough
Of what you don't really need now... my oh my

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Oh love look at you now
You've got yourself stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it

I was unconscious, half asleep
The water is warm till you discover how deep...
I wasn't jumping... for me it was a fall
It's a long way down to nothing at all

You've got to get yourself together
You've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it
Don't say that later will be better now
You’re stuck in a moment and you can't get out of it

And if the night runs over
And if the day won't last
And if our way should falter
Along the stony pass

And if the night runs over
And if the day won't last
And if your way should falter
Along the stony pass
It's just a moment
This time will pass
Some days

Some days, I miss this sooooooo much. If you knew my son, you'd really understand.
Shorter blogs today

Kairos has been too long winded lately, so postings today will be somewhat shorter. (I hope.)
Tuesday Intentions

Today's intentions: Annelise's Dad, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
God of Our Fathers

God of our fathers, Whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

Thy love divine hath led us in the past,
In this free land by Thee our lot is cast,
Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay,
Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way.

From war’s alarms, from deadly pestilence,
Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense;
Thy true religion in our hearts increase,
Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace.

Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way,
Lead us from night to never ending day;
Fill all our lives with love and grace divine,
And glory, laud, and praise be ever Thine.

Monday, June 10, 2002

A request

If you like Kairos, and find it has something worth saying, please share it with someone. You don't need to use the handy-dandy "Tell-A-Friend" form on the left. Just sned an email with a link. I'm not doing this to become rich or famous (since I don't use my name, and there's no collection plate, that should be obvious), but I am hoping to make a little bit of a difference in my small corner of the world, and the more people you tell, the more chance there is of that happening. Mille Grazie.
Response to “Confession” from a reader

Robin wrote me to comment on my confession posts. I present here her email in italics, with my response in regular text. Sorry for the length of this one: I couldn't find a good place to edit Robin's email down, and wanted to respond to several of her points.

I usually love your posts, but I thought your defense of Confession was almost damning with faint praise. Your argument can be summed up as follows: (1) Confession is not really a very big deal -- maybe a little silly (we all need to vent, but there are other ways to do so); (2) the Church says we gotta; and (3) certainly no harm done, and maybe a little good from it, so why not.

I have no argument with 2) or 3) (recognizing that 3 is aimed at people who think confession superfluous) but 1) I take exception to. I think that captured my idea about it before I reconsidered. However, you need to read this post on forgiveness, to understand how important I consider the psychological letting go to be to the spiritual forgiveness. The last 2 long paragraphs don’t do as good a job as I had hoped of recapitulating the idea, but it is there. Only confession gives you certain knowledge of forgiveness, and so only confession can clear away fully the destructiveness of sin. Contrition alone may clear away the sins, but our minds don’t let the aftermath go quite so easily.

Additionally, implicit in the idea that “we are made for confession” is that God made us that way. Therefore, even treating confession as a purely psychological activity is nevertheless not dismissive, and even high praise, if we take it as something Divinely ordained. None of this was made explicit or clear enough in the original post, however.

I know I'm oversimplifying your points a bit, but I think you are underestimating the power of the sacrament of Confession. And I say this as someone who also underestimated it for many, many years.

Until relatively recently, I had not been to confession in 20-some years. Although I was reared as a Catholic, during the 20-year period, I had spent time as an agnostic, an objectivist, a Protestant, and as a Catholic of sorts (attending Mass and raising my kids to go to Mass but not really feeling that I was a "true" Catholic because some of the Church's demands -- including but not limited to Confession -- were more than I felt I could bear).


This is all sounding very familiar—except the objectivist and Protestant part.

About three years ago, I got some of my act together and began attending Mass on a regular basis instead of sporadically. I went every week. I had no idea any more how to pray. I bowed my head during communion but just pretended to pray because I didn't know what to say. Something in the Mass was drawing me, because I had grown to looking forward to it each week, but I was still separated from God.

Early this year, I began attending a more traditional Catholic church. (It was amazing how quickly the new environment inspired reverence in me, but that's another letter to the editor!) Within a short time, I decided that I was going to go to Confession no matter what it cost me emotionally.

I spent days reading about the sacrament and examining my conscience. It had been so long since I'd gone that I was afraid I was going to miss something big! Once I was satisfied that I had managed to recall all my mortal sins, I was deeply ashamed. Indeed, "horrified" would not be too strong a word. I had committed several over the 20-some years, and they were not small. My first reaction was to make excuses -- well, this was, after all, 20 years' worth of sin; and I have a lot of good qualities, too; these sins are not all that I am; etc. But I knew that the confessional was not the place for excuses.


That last point is the reason I said the Sacrament is better than simple private contrition. I am always inclined inside my head to justify and excuse what I have done. I am even inclined to do so in ordinary conversation. But the discipline of the confessional forces rejection of that kind of thinking.

I was scared to death, but I did it, with no excuses. The priest was very kind to me, and the whole process was over in five to ten minutes.

I left the confessional and did my penance, weeping in relief and thanks to God. But the really amazing thing is what happened to me afterward.

I am convinced that that confession was a necessary step to bring me into true communion with God. I had stopped misbehaving long before. I was going to Mass, and I had stopped doing the other things that were seriously sinful. But I was not close to God. I still felt psychic anguish, depression, and dread, and I was frustrated about many of my own personal characteristics that seemed to have become worse as I got older. I certainly did not feel any strong compulsion to lead a truly Christian life.

My confession has completely transformed my relationship with God. The anguish is gone. I thank Him every day for the miraculous way He has changed me. I get up early in the mornings now (NOT an easy task for me!) so that I can spend some quiet time with God before the kids get up and my work day starts. I'm praying for my enemies -- by name. I'm praying for the co-workers I once found so annoying or foolish. I am now aware of the sins that I am most susceptible to, I ask for help each day with them, and God always helps me! Best of all, I am daring to pray AT ALL -- something I was completely unable to do before I received the sacrament of Penance. I am really experiencing God as my good and loving Father.

The Church is absolutely right about this sacrament -- if anything, once a year is not nearly enough. It's not just "harmless," but a true sacrament, a miracle.

Many people like me who grew up in the 60's have very bad memories of Confession. When we were children, we remember being bawled out by priests because of what we did, or because of the time since our last confession, or because we couldn't recite the Act of Contrition smoothly enough. That trauma made it very easy to stop going once we were old enough to make our own decisions.

Fortunately, young people today don't have this same experience. Based on discussions with my kids and their friends, I think the biggest stumbling block to young people is that Confession seems pointless.

In short, the baby boomers are scared to death of Confession, and young people think it is an innocuous waste of time.

Both groups are wrong, wrong, WRONG! If you're older and were traumatized by a nasty priest when you were young, please have enough faith to give Confession one more try. The Church has changed in many positive ways, and this is one of them. I can almost guarantee you will not have a bad experience again.

If you are young and wondering "What's the point?," first forgive your elders for "overcorrecting" for the abuses they suffered in the past and failing to give you a sense of sin. Then read the Catechism and find out what sin is. Then examine your conscience and make a meaningful confession.

All it takes is a mustard seed of faith to result in a mighty tree. If you take this tiny step and make a good confession, God will reward you a hundred times over.

PS - I agree with you completely about the need for priests to preach this in Mass. I was fortunate -- at my church (the non-traditional one, believe it or not!), one of our priests got on a tear about our failure to go to Confession. He spent two full homilies on it. He was absolutely right to do so, and his homilies were what started my thinking that maybe I needed to do this. Before his sermons, I had convinced myself that no one went to Confession any more, and I wasn't even sure that the Church required it.


I don’t think that we are in disagreement on any significant point. The biggest problem for the sacrament is that one often hears the reasons not to participate and rarely hears an opposing viewpoint, except from tired old sticks-in-the-mud who are much more concerned with wickedness than forgiveness. If we disagree, it is mainly in emphasis: my focus is on showing opponents of confession that, even on their own terms, confession makes sense. Robin takes the argument back onto a more spiritual plane, where all penitents wind up, it is to be hoped.
Monday Intentions

Today's intentions: Annelise's Dad, Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, Lauren, Lou, Megan, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Today's Opening Hymn

To Jesus' Heart All Burning

(accompaniment)

To Jesus’ Heart all burning
With fervent love for men,
My heart with fondest yearning
Shall raise the joyful strain.

Chorus—While ages course along,
Blest with loudest song

The Sacred Heart of Jesus
By ev’ry heart and tongue,
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
By ev’ry heart and tongue.

O Heart for me on fire,
With love no man can speak,
My yet untold desire,
God gives me for Thy sake.

Too true I have forsaken
Thy flock by willful sin,
Yet now let me be taken
Back to Thy fold again

Friday, June 07, 2002

The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

---From The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Confession, Part II

(If you didn’t read part I, skip down, and read that first.)

So, why go?

I admit to finding persuasive the logic that makes confession somewhat extraneous. I really do. Several things have caused me to rethink my attitude towards the sacrament, though.

First of all, the Church says we should go once a year, even if we believe ourselves not to be in a state of mortal sin. While I’m not quite sure why this should be, anyone who takes moral theology seriously understands that one must give great weight to Church teaching in informing the conscience. This means, if the Church says something, and you don’t want to do it, you have to be able to explain why the teaching is not merely inconvenient or unfair, but wrong. I can construct a case that perhaps confession is not essential, but that’s not the same thing as proving the teaching in error. So there’s one major reason right there.

Second, what harm does it do? Now, this may seem a silly reason to follow a teaching, but it isn’t. Think about birth control. In the very recent days when “NFP” wasn’t as accurate or reliable as now, following Church teaching on birth control had potential consequences that were quite significant in the present world. So a couple had to decide one way or another, and be prepared for the outcome of their decision. But there’s no harm in confessing one’s sins, at least not that I can see. So, suppose I had been right, and confession is unnecessary for the forgiveness of sins. If I go anyway, the worst that has happened is I lost an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon, hanging around Our Lady’s chapel, praying. That seems like one of the least risky propositions I can think of—especially as compared to the alternative. (I.e., that I was wrong about the necessity. This is one of Aquinas’ arguments for the existence of God, by the way: the Divine Wager, I think it is called. Which bet would you rather lose: that God exists, or that he doesn’t?)

The third, and final reason that I have rethought my opposition to the sacrament is the one that I have always recognized as valid, as encapsulated in the quote above. We are designed for confession. We are built with a release valve, set to let out all the “bad humours.” We can’t help it. Don’t believe me? Turn on Oprah, or Sally Jessie, or any other daytime talk show and watch for a week. The urge to confess is what makes those shows possible. It is a psychological necessity.

When I reflect on my ills, my failings, my sinfulness in the peace and quiet of my room, I am always inclined to mitigate and excuse. “Well, I really let poor so-and-so have it today, but he sure deserved it!” In the confessional, no such excuse is tolerated. I let so-and-so have it. Period. I am sorry for having done it. Period. The clear contemplation of my fault in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and what I have failed to do, is the surest path to forgiving myself. Truly. Because I cannot forgive in myself what I do not acknowledge about myself.

And that is why I think the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so important. It is true that God’s forgiveness is all around, and always there for the taking. But hanging on to the wrong things—the excuses, the justifications, the sins themselves—fills the place where forgiveness goes. Continuing to condemn yourself is a way of clinging to your failings, and being contrite, by itself, leaves you no certain knowledge that you can safely let your sins go.

In the moments before death, the Act of Contrition succeeds as it does not at other times because it is not a way around the problem right before death. It may be true that Confession is not necessary to accept forgiveness, but it is the best way I know of to receive it. At the end, when all is said and done, you walk out having let go of your wrongs, in the certain knowledge—because someone other than you has confirmed it—that you are forgiven. There is remarkable liberation in that moment.

Now, if one of the priests would just get up and remind us of that some Sunday.
The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible.

---From The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Confession, Part I

For many years, my attitude towards Confession has been that of most American Catholics. I never went out of my way to attend it, and only on very rare occasions availed myself of it at all. Until one noon last November, I hadn’t been in many, many years.

I never thought it out quite so logically as I’m going to present it here, but most of the reasons for not doing so that I now write were in my thoughts. My reasoning went something like this:

“Confession” as we think of it now is a comparatively new innovation. For the first several centuries, the Church taught that there was “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” and that was it. Constantine converted to Christianity, but delayed his baptism until he was on his deathbed—a common practice at the time—because he knew as Emperor he would have to sin.

Having moved baptism to shortly after birth (again, my thinking went), the Church had to find a way to allow for forgiveness of the sins we all inevitably commit. Thus came Confession. For a long time, this meant a public recitation of one’s sins and failings, and a public penance. Sometime in the early middle ages, apparently, Irish Monks instituted a screen between the sinner and Confessor, and the sanctity of the confessional was born.

One can choose to see the hand of man or the Hand of the Spirit in this evolution and still come to the conclusion that God had lots of forgiving to do of people who were truly repentant but had no mechanism for repenting prior to the institution of Confession. And it is not a far leap from there to the idea that the state of repentance is much more important than the act of confessing. From there it is a couple of baby steps only to the idea that Confession is not essential to forgiveness.

AND (my reasoning continued) the Church itself teaches this too. If you are about to die, and know you are about to, you can rattle off an Act of Contrition, and, if you are really sorry, expect forgiveness on the other side. If the train is heading for the avalanche, Father Benevolent in the front row can turn around and give mass absolution to everyone on board, whether they asked for it or not.

Finally, I can’t actually say as I have heard a homily about attending confession since perhaps my First Penance. If the priest can’t be bothered to encourage me to go, how important can it actually be? Surely, if it’s as important as all that, a priest might occasionally mention it, right?

In other words, Christ’s mercy is such that confession and forgiveness are not so intimately bound up that you can’t have the latter without the former. So why go?

(Whatever you do, please don’t stop reading the Kairos blog at this point. Come back later today or over the weekend, or early next week for the answer. It’s important.)
Psalm 32

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.
When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.
For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.
I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found: surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him.
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah.
I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.


Because I do not have time this morning for a "Virtue" blog, I thought I would try to find a reading that says something worthwhile. Since I turn 32 in the near future, I picked the 32nd Psalm, without knowing its subject matter. The reason I tell you this is: I have recently been rethinking my attitude towards the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I had been mulling a blog on that subject for a while, and will take the occasion of this Psalm to do so later today if I have a chance, or over the weekend if not. It will be light blogging until lunchtime at least, so check back in late in the day.
Friday Intentions

Today's intentions: Once again, the victims of a bombing in Israel, Annelise's Dad, Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, Lauren, Lou, Megan, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Today's Guest Hymnalist is GKC himself

O God of Earth and Altar

O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide;
Take not Thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men;
From sale and profanation of honor and the sword;
From sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether, the prince and priest and thrall;
Bind all our lives together, smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation aflame with faith and free,
Lift up a living nation, a single sword to Thee.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

Justice

As with the other virtues, the name of Justice leads to some confusion. Americans tend to think of justice as something the State does, on our behalf, criminal justice, essentially. Or we think of it as something we as private citizens demand from large corporate entities, whether public or private. But it is very rare to hear individuals, other than parties to a lawsuit, talking to one another about “Justice.”

Which is really too bad. For if we could return to a classical, older notion of justice, there might be fewer lawsuits. As Aquinas sets it out, Justice is keeping in right relations to others. One finds out what is just by use of reason, and in spite of common misunderstandings, it is not particularly dependent on arbitrary cultural standards to be known.

Anyone who doubts this should spend a little time volunteering in an elementary school. Children arrive at school with an inherent sense of justice, only they call it “fairness.”

“Aha!” you say. “That proves that it is arbitrary and cultural, for children always start out thinking that whatever negative thing happens to them is ‘unfair!’”

Not at all. The error here lies not in the child’s perception of justice, but in the child’s perception of others. If little Johnny is hungry, and ready to eat, but told to wait, he may perceive that as unfair, or unjust. But small children are inherently egotistical. They think first of themselves—for a long time only of themselves. If the requirement to wait for a meal were entirely arbitrary—if Johnny were the only person eating that day—Johnny would be quite right; it would be unjust to make him wait. But if Johnny is being told to wait because there are others who must eat dinner too, and they have not yet arrived, or dinner is not yet ready, Johnny’s sense of justice is only incomplete. Johnny doesn’t need to be taught what is fair, only that he is not the only one affected by what is fair.

As he grows, Johnny will come to understand this, if he is taught appropriately. His innate sense of justice will allow him to see that the teacher who punishes the whole class for the transgressions of one member is acting unjustly, and he will say so, if he is the courageous sort. When his father promises to play catch after work and then reneges on the excuse of being too tired, he may accept it, out of compassion, but he will know that too was unjust. When the other team’s pitcher in the ball game hits a teammate with a pitch, Johnny may even do likewise in a later inning. Though it violates a rule of the game, it is in accord with his sense of justice.

It is only as we grow clever that we begin to think justice arbitrary. We mistake the rules for applying justice for the thing itself. Take the case of the hit batsmen above. The written rules of the game prohibit a pitcher from deliberately hitting a player with a ball. It is, after all, extremely dangerous, and always painful. If it were not proscribed, nothing would prevent a team from deliberately injuring the other team’s best batters in order to win. It is, therefore, unjust. The rules of baseball, however, generally favor the first pitcher to strike a player: a warning is usually given for the first offense. This may be necessary for the keeping of order, but it is not just. And, because it offends the inherent sense of justice in every one on the team, the opposing pitcher almost always retaliates.

Listen (if you can) to your local sports radio station after a ball game where batters are hit, and you will understand what I mean. Half the callers will argue that the retaliation was absolutely required (in the name of “fairness”), and the punishments handed out by the League totally unfair, and the other half will argue for an absolute application of the rules.

There is another confusion about Justice that I will have to address later: the belief that the personal virtue of Justice should be the same as the impersonal application of it by the State. I need to brush up on St. Paul before I do that, but it’s time to get to work.
Thursday Intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. Each day that I blog, I will post the names or descriptions of some people who need not only my prayers, but yours as well. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me, and I will include them. Friday's intentions are below.

For those who are wondering whether it is worth doing this, check out this and this. The Beauty of the Infinite is, God knows who you mean, even if you aren't sure yourself. Some on this list are sick, some are deceased, and some have particular needs that are their own. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: Once again, the victims of a bombing in Israel, Annelise's Dad, Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, Lauren, Lou, Megan, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Today's Opening Hymn is found on page 173 of your Missal

Jerusalem My Happy Home

Jerusalem, my happy home!
Name ever dear to me;
When shall my labors have an end,
In joy, and peace, and thee?

When shall these eyes thy heaven built walls
And pearly gates behold?
Thy bulwarks, with salvation strong,
And streets of shining gold?

There happier bowers than Eden’s bloom,
Nor sin nor sorrow know:
Blest seats, through rude and stormy scenes,
I onward press to you.

Why should I shrink at pain and woe?
Or feel at death dismay?
I’ve Canaan’s goodly land in view,
And realms of endless day.

Apostles, martyrs, prophets there
Around my Savior stand;
And soon my friends in Christ below
Will join the glorious band.

Jerusalem, my happy home!
My soul still pants for thee;
Then shall my labors have an end,
When I thy joys shall see.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Sophia

One of the great literary characters in recent decades is Jack Aubrey, RN, Commander of HMS Surprise. Together with his great friend, Stephen Maturin, medical doctor, ship’s surgeon and sometime agent of Naval Intelligence, Jack fought dozens of single-ship and fleet actions in the Napoleonic wars in Patrick O’Brian’s masterful series of 20 novels. (The first, Master and Commander, can be found here. Give yourself 50 pages to get used to the old-fashioned way of writing, and you’ll be hooked. Soon enough, all your meals will come from this, and you’ll be listening to this.)

Aubrey is highly skilled at his profession, a virtuous man for his age, with great courage, and a piety that finds great comfort “in the sound of the Book of Common Prayer, if not quite in its full implications.” He possesses abiding loyalty to family and friends, a passionate sense of duty and chivalric honor. He is a bit weak in the chastity department, perhaps, but he is a sailor after all. Afloat, few men are Jack’s equal, and none his better.

Ashore, on the other hand, Jack is lost. Throughout the 20 novels, Jack is forever getting himself into trouble with women, speculators, crooks, con men, and the politics of the Admiralty. His native intelligence and professional training help him not at all on land.

For Jack, you see, lacks wisdom in the ways of men. Though he marries Sophia and his first command is the Sophie, Jack never fully possesses either his wife or his vessel. The latter is lost in battle and the former fights him to a standstill, possessing his heart but never quite his full attention. The same intelligence which allows him to see through the most delicate subterfuge by sea, cloaks him in self-satisfaction on land, and gives him no end of trouble.

The greek word for wisdom, of course, is Sophia, and I prefer it when thinking of wisdom as Virtue. Sophia is a female name and a feminine characteristic, just as intelligence is a masculine one. (Please don’t write to tell me women can be intelligent and men wise; I would never dispute it. I write here of gender, not sex.) Where “Wisdom” conjures up images of long, flowing beards on the faces of gray haired mountain dwellers, “Sophia” calls to mind a patient woman explaining to a precocious child that he has much to learn.

Sophia differs from Intelligence, the sort of “book-learning” that more worldly people distrust and even despise. “Intelligence” can often make me think of arrogance, of simple knowledge unmeasured by compassion or understanding. Intelligence brought about atomic weapons and ICBMs. Sophia has kept them in their silos. The beginning of Wisdom, as Plato recognized, lies in knowing the limits of intelligence.

And indeed, one need not be brilliant to be wise. In fact, Sophia is quite distinct from brilliance. Where Intelligence scorns the commonplace, the common knowledge, the platitudes of ages past, Sophia revels in them. Intelligence rejects them because they are old, because they are not in keeping with the current thinking, because they cannot make him shine. Sophia enjoys them because they are true.

Sophia does not come with an IQ score, nor a diploma, nor an important job, though all of those things impart the opportunity to receive her. She is as present at the local public high school as at Harvard—may even be easier to find there, in fact—but she must be wooed and welcomed. For she only visits in the shadow of her brother Humility. Only a man who recognizes his own limitations, the limits of his brains and his training and his education, can be open to Sophia.
Wednesday Intentions

Today's intentions: Once again, the victims of a bombing in Israel, Annelise's Dad, Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Please welcome Dave

Please welcome Kairos' new musical advisor, Dave, everybody. Dave appears to have been raised in a better class of Parish than I was, where not all the music came from OCP, and so has a lot of good suggestions for the daily hymns. Since the consensus is that at St. Blog's we don't applaud the music people, why not send him a comment during donuts and coffee after the 10:30.
Oh, It Is Hard to Work for God

Oh, it is hard to work for God,
To rise and take His part
Upon this battlefield of earth,
And not sometimes lose heart!

He hides Himself so wondrously,
As though there were no God;
He is least seen when all the pow’rs
Of ill are most abroad.

Ah, God is other than we think,
His ways are far above,
Far beyond reason’s height, and reached
Only by childlike love.

Workman of God! O lose not heart,
But learn what God is like,
And in the darkest battlefield
Thou shalt know where to strike.

Then learn to scorn the praise of men,
And learn to lose with God;
For Jesus won the world through shame,
And beckons thee His road.

For right is right, as God is God,
And right the day must win;
To doubt would be disloyalty,
To falter were to sin.

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

For those who are looking for my serious posts, skip on down to here.
Habemus Papam!

Pope Pius XIII -- Pope of the Holy Catholic Church
October 24, 1998
I announce to you a great joy. We have a Pope.
The most Reverend Father Lucian Pulvermacher, OFM Cap.
Priest of the Holy Catholic Church
Born April 20, 1918 and ordained a priest on June 5, 1946
Who takes to himself the name Pius XIII.


And Jonah Goldberg thinks Martin Luther was a little squirrelly!

(Please note: this officially earns "Kairos" a "Red Light" from the Petersnet rating system, since clearly "Pope" Pius XIII is a heretic of the weirdest magnitude.)
Attention Rod Dreher!

This is really cool. (And, yes, I say that even knowing that the Petersnet rating system is proudly mentioned.)
From Africa With Sympathy for 9/11

(This story was noted in The Best of the Web on Monday)

ENOOSAEN, Kenya -- In this remote corner of Africa, news about the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon traveled slowly to the red-robed Masai people who live here.

And now, people in this tiny village have responded with an outpouring of support to show the deep sorrow they felt for the United States and victims of the attacks.

They decided to give their most prized possessions, what Masai regard as the highest expression of sympathy: cattle.

On Sunday, the Masai in this southwestern Kenya community conducted a ceremony to express their condolences.

"They say Americans are wealthy, and indeed we are in many ways," said acting U.S. Ambassador to Kenya William Brencick, who gratefully accepted the cattle. "But when we count the value of these cows and ... add the value of the great spirits that gave them, we can say without doubt that you seem richer still."
NFP Alternative Meanings

Rather than choose the best 10 answers, I’ve divided the suggested alternative meanings into those that can be used in an NFP class, those that can be used in a class with a sense of humor, those likely to lead to an inquiry from the Holy Office of the Inquisition, and one that damns me for sure.

Orthodox
Not For Pagans
No Freakin' Pill!
Nightly Fecundity Prognostication
New Fetus Postponement
No Further Pregnancies
Not for "Partners"
No Forgetting Pills
Necessary for Piety

Irreverant
Next fortnight, perhaps
No friskiness, pal
New fetal person
Now facing procreation
Never Fear Procreation
Natural Fertility Police
National Fetal Producers

Head to Confession as fast as ever your feet will carry you
Nookie Frequency - Pathetic
No Free Period
Normal Fun Prohibited
No Faking Possible

Too late, straight to Hell for me!
"What do you mean the stick is blue?!? Nice Frickin’ Plan!"

The only prize I could think of is not posting your name next to “winning” entries. (But, to be honest, the person who suggested “Not For ‘Partners’” was hoping to win, and she did, though “Nookie Frequency - Pathetic” came in a close second.)
All things in moderation, even moderation

Temperance has gotten a bad reputation.

Thanks to the efforts of well-intended but apparently illiterate Christians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Temperance has come to be equated with abstention from alcohol. I say apparently illiterate because: a) temperance and abstinence have very different meanings, as any dictionary would have told them; and, b) Christ’s first miracle was to make sure there was enough wine at a wedding, hardly the act of a person who disapproves of alcohol as such. If you don’t believe me, try doing a Google search on the word, and see how many hits take you to the Summa Theologica.

But Temperance is so much more than mere abstention from alcohol. Indeed, a case can be very easily made that the so-called “Temperance Movement” was utterly intemperate, inasmuch as the objection to alcohol became an absolute enforced by a kind of dictatorial hysteria.

For Aquinas, Temperance is the virtue that causes one to act against passion, or to restrain it. The latin verb temperare means to obey, or to control, and so to lose one’s temper is to lose control. Thus, any unregulated passion is inherently intemperate, and any virtue can easily become a vice if given free rein.

This shows up in a lot of ways. Those who believe others are unfaithful create the Spanish Inquisition. Those who see others as selfish establish confiscatory taxes. Those who defend victims of racism become racists. And so forth. In the case of alcohol, those who do not drink go from advocating abstinence to requiring to enforcing it. For them, temperance itself becomes gluttony.

What Temperance really means is using reason to subdue the emotions. It is the power of will to control passion, to control anger, lust, desire, and so forth. It is St. Paul’s “love of money is the root of all evil.” Gluttony is the inordinate pursuit of any material or created thing to the exclusion of the Creator, and Temperance is the act of the will by which we subdue it.

More on this later.
Tuesday Intentions

Today's intentions: Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, Karin, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Today's Opening Hymn is Number 299

Alleluia! sing to Jesus!

Alleluia! sing to Jesus!
His the scepter, his the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph,
his the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion
thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation
hath redeemed us by his blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans
are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us,
faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received him
when the forty days were o'er
shall our hearts forget his promise,
'I am with you evermore'?

Alleluia! bread of heaven,
here on earth our food and stay!
Alleluia! here the sinful
flee to thee from day to day.
Intercessor, Friend of sinners,
earth's Redeemer, plead for me.
Where the songs of all the sinless
sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluia! King eternal,
thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary,
earth thy footstool,
heaven thy throne.
Thou within the veil hast entered,
robed in flesh, our great High Priest.
Thou on earth both Priest and Victim
in the Eucharistic Feast.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Feeling a bit apologetic

I was digging into Peter Kreeft’s Handbook for Christian Apologetics over the weekend, and came up against an objection to Christian salvation that has troubled a lot of people, believer and non-believer alike, myself included (and included as both a believer and non-believer). Before returning to the Virtues, I want to take a look at this objection: the question of free will and determinism, or predestination. (Note to philosophers: please don’t email me with all the subtle shades of distinction between predestination and determinism. The terms are used here very loosely.)

The problem is this: if God is all-knowing, then He knows before a person makes any choices what those choices will be. Therefore, that person cannot really have free will, and therefore cannot really sin, since sin requires volition, or a free choice to commit it or not.

Many theologians respond first by taking God “out of time,” that is, by stating that since for God there is no such thing as time (in other words, since he exists outside the calendar) there is neither before nor after for God, only now. Therefore, all choices are made simultaneously, in some sense. This is a very good answer, but difficult to get one’s mind around, and perhaps a little Jesuitical for some.

Essentially, the predestination argument supposes that one’s life is like a book, with God the author, and each person a character in His novel. None of us has any more choice (in reality) about what happens next than Hamlet. No matter how much agonizing he does, he always seems to wind up in the throne room with corpses all around.

I have loved to read since I was very young. “Some people say life’s the thing, but I prefer reading!” My favorite time of year was always the spring, because that was when my elementary school would host the annual book fair. And for some strange reason, my parents barely limited my budget at the book fair. Whereas in a regular bookstore I was spending my own limited funds, the Jenkins School Book Fair was pretty wide open.

One reason to enjoy the fair: there were sure to be 3 or 4 new “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” novels available. CYOA books were great. In each story, you started out at a fixed point, but within a few pages, you had to decide, would you go left in the tunnel, in which case, turn to page 23, or right, in which case turn to page 19. At each new section, you had to make a new choice, and hence arrive at a different point in the story. In 120 pages, as a result, you could have 5 or 6 substantially different adventures.

And so, even in a finite world managed by finite people it is possible for an author to write a book whose outcome is open to question. The mistake of likening life to a book is to suppose that we are merely characters in the book. We are also its readers.

The author of a CYOA book knows when it is published all the possible outcomes, and every possible path to get to them. He must, in order to be sure that the story hangs together. He can pick up a copy any time he likes, and enter the story at any point he likes, or stand over our shoulder, and watch our choices, or even nudge us to make different ones. But we the reader, though we take on in the story the persona of one of the characters, and function within the choices the author offers, nevertheless have the ability to choose our own fate, “our own adventure.”

How much more possible, then, for the Infinite to stand outside of time, and see each of us making choices on the pages He offers us, nudging, suggesting, cajoling—even begging—to make good choices.

There are flaws in this metaphor, surely. But there will be flaws always when we finitely approach the Infinite. I merely offer this by way of suggesting that those who choose “book” as their means of objecting need to consider all kinds of books before moving on.
Monday Intentions

Today's intentions: Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Elizabeth, Karin, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Today's Opening Hymn (in honor of Corpus Christi Sunday) is number 387

Draw Nigh and Take the Body of the Lord

Draw nigh and take the body of the Lord;
And drink the holy blood for you outpoured.
Saved by that body and that holy blood,
With souls refreshed, we render thanks to God.

Salvation’s Giver, Christ, the only Son,
By His dear cross and blood the victory won.
Offered was He for greatest and for least,
Himself the Victim, and Himself the Priest.

Victims were offered by the law of old,
Which in a type this heavenly mystery told.
He, Ransomer from death, and Light from shade,
Now gives His holy grace His saints to aid.

Approach ye then with faithful hearts sincere,
And take the safeguard of salvation here.
He, that His saints in this world rules and shields,
To all believers life eternal yields.

With heavenly bread makes them that hunger whole,
Gives living waters to the thirsting soul,
Alpha and Omega, to Whom shall bow
All nations at the doom, is with us now.

Sunday, June 02, 2002

Not feeling well today

Sorry, readers, but I'm a little under the weather today. Posting should resume tomorrow.

Today's intentions: Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Saturday, June 01, 2002

Don't Forget

Don't forget to send me entries for the NFP Contest. And don't forget to comment on various posts, like this one for example.
Saturday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
an Offertory Antiphon in lieu of a hymn

Recordare...Gregorian Chant

(chanted in real audio)

Recordare Virgo mater, dum steteris in conspectu Dei, ut loquaris pro nobis bona, et ut avertas indignationem suam a nobis.

Remember, Virgin Mary, when you stand in the presence of God, to speak well of us so as to turn his wrath from us.

Friday, May 31, 2002

Thanks to Widening Gyre

Thanks to Widening Gyre for pointing out that the version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic I posted was missing a verse. Here 'tis.

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me:
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.

We interrupt this blog for some good news!

Indiana Jones to return for fourth film

I was beginning to wonder if this would ever happen. It is getting perilously close to "IndianaJones and the Wheelchair of Doom" time.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled Catholicism.
More on Virtue

Last week we talked about Courage—even with an initial capital “c” it was mostly about small courage. It is necessary to think about courage in small ways, for most of us, because comparatively few ever get to practice big courage, at least in a physical sense. If you live your whole life in the suburbs or the wealthier parts of cities, and you work in an office building someplace, chances are you are going to lead a pretty physically safe and dull life.

But it would be a mistake to glorify physical courage while denigrating the mental and moral kind. For if you fancy yourself a physically courageous person, but then fail to do an act requiring physical courage, people who know and see will think you a coward. It is truly a terrible thing to think oneself a coward, far worse to know it.

But mental or moral courage is often very much harder to practice. For one thing, few people nowadays have any idea of what moral cowardice really is, and fewer still would condemn someone for it. “You have to take care of yourself, first” is the self-help mantra of the age. Often, that means practicing moral cowardice. “You have a right to be happy,” so it’s okay to leave your wife and family if they drag you down. “It’s your body, your choice” so go ahead and have the abortion if having a baby is going to mess up your plans. “You’re a real go-getter, and on the Fast-Track to the top!” so don’t have any scruples about taking the credit from or shirking the blame onto your co-workers.

Aquinas follows the Greeks in crediting courage as one of four Cardinal Virtues (from the Latin for “hinge”). But Courage really is the hinge that allows Justice, Prudence and Temperance to operate. Try walking away from a big promotion that will mean too much time away from your family (Temerance) and see how much courage it can take. Try speaking up on behalf of the unborn in the name of Justice at a party sometime. Try giving a friend just the advice he needs but doesn’t want about moving back in with his family.

The little chances to practice courage matter so much, because without taking those opportunities you will lack the habits necessary when the large moments arise. To some extent, terrorism caused me paralyzing fear. This surely happened because in my fat, comfortable life I have grown intemperate in my enjoyment of it pleasures, unquestioning of the world as it is, and blind to the injustice of life under Islamic fascist regimes.

I oppose abortion, but I can’t say as I have done anything about it. Cowardice! No rallies, no donations to group, no counseling or support for women who regret. No helping adoption agencies offer their services. Not even loud arguments (at least for a long time) with people who accept abortion without having really considered it.

I have a job, and sometimes I work very hard at it, but other times I twiddle away time on distractions. Cowardice! I have a child but I shoosh him to hear the punchline on the sitcom. Cowardice!I have a magnificent wife that I lose my temper at because she doesn’t always do the dishes after I make dinner. Cowardice!

All of these are cowardly acts because I lack the courage to do what is so clearly right in favor of what is merely easy. So it is difficult to be surprised that when something truly frightening came along I lacked many of the habits and underpinnings necessary to respond appropriately.

Next stop: Temperance, or “All things in moderation—even moderation!”
Friday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: Veronica and the soul of her brother Thornton, Kathy, The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Today's Opening Hymn is Salve Regina

(chanted)
(MIDI accompaniment)

Salve Regina, Mater misericordiae,
Vita dulcedo et spes nostra salve.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae.
Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes,
in hac lacrimarum valle.
Eja ergo advocata nostra,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.
Et Jesum benedictum fructum ventris tui
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.

Hail holy queen, mother of mercy,
Hail our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry poor banished children of Eve,
To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious advocate
your eyes of mercy toward us.
And after this, our exile,
Show us the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Opening Hymns...

Does anyone have a good source for more traditionally Catholic hymns? The Cyber-Hymnal is great, but missing many of the classic RC hymns. The Catholic-Hymns site has just Midi files, and unfortunately many of the sequenced ones are OCP stuff, which is fine, but not what I'm looking for. Requests and suggestions are highly valued!
Italian bishops vote to adjust Lord's Prayer

(from wire services and miswired services)

The Italian bishops agree God does not lead people into temptation, and they voted almost unanimously to make that clear in their biblical version of the Lord's Prayer.

A phone call to Jesus requesting comment went unreturned, but later a publicist for the so-called Second Member of the Trinity released a statement. "The whole situation is terribly embarassing," the statement read. "Mistakes were clearly made."

A Group calling itself "Sound of the Faithful" began calling on the Church to dump scripture in favor of "new ideas." "Keep the Faith--Change the Original Words of Jesus!" is their motto.

Meanwhile, a number of Church reformers are calling for further revisions. Protesters outside the Vatican held signs reading "Our 'Father'? WWJT?" and chanted "Ho Ho! Hey Hey! We need a Pope a little more gay!" When asked about the signs, a woman who would only identify herself as a "52 year old practicing lesbian and devout Catholic" explained that "WWJT?" stands for "What Was Jesus Thinking?" "I mean, come on!" she added.

Inside the Vatican, an anxious-looking Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger was seen stacking piles of wood in St. Peter's Square before being called indoors by an unidentified nun.

(Thank you to Kathy Shaidle for linking to this story. My Greek never got good enough to read the New Testament in the original--though I did try for a while--so I can't say that these prelates are absolutely nuts. Let's just leave it that I am suspicious that they may have missed the point.)

Thursday, May 30, 2002

Another Top Ten List? Already??

In honor of Emily Stimpson, who just posted the Top Ten Catholic pickup lines (and I'm not telling which suggestions were mine), I am hereby soliciting entries for the Best alternative meanings of NFP. Now, the REAL answer is Natural Family Planning, your very own Church's approved method of keeping the kneebiters in your house to a minimum. As it happens, I've been corresponding with a reader on this very subject, and here are just a few examples to get you thinking:

Naturally, Find a Pregnancy
No Fun Plan
National Fetal Producers

Now, there is one obvious word that can be substituted for "Family." If you need it to make your point, please make liberal use of the * key in lieu of some letters. Nothing is quite so depressing as finding an inbox full of that word. Email me with your suggestions, and I will post some reasonably good ones in the coming days.
Sorry, folks. The big post I had planned on Chairty and/or Temperance is going to ahve to wait until tomorrow. I do most of my blogging before work starts and during lunch, else it needs to wait until the off hours. So tune in tomorrow for more on the Cardinal Virtues (which would be a great name for a rock band!).
Thursday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: Kathy, The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Thursday's Opening hymn is number 33

Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!

(accompaniment)

Alleluia! sing to Jesus! His the scepter, His the throne.
Alleluia! His the triumph, His the victory alone.
Hark! the songs of peaceful Zion thunder like a mighty flood.
Jesus out of every nation has redeemed us by His blood.

Alleluia! not as orphans are we left in sorrow now;
Alleluia! He is near us, faith believes, nor questions how;
Though the cloud from sight received Him when the forty days were o’er
Shall our hearts forget His promise, “I am with you evermore”?

Alleluia! bread of angels, Thou on earth our food, our stay;
Alleluia! here the sinful flee to Thee from day to day:
Intercessor, Friend of sinners, Earth’s Redeemer, plead for me,
Where the songs of all the sinless sweep across the crystal sea.

Alleluia! King eternal, Thee the Lord of lords we own;
Alleluia! born of Mary, Earth Thy footstool, heav’n Thy throne:
Thou within the veil hast entered, robed in flesh our great High Priest;
Thou on earth both priest and victim in the Eucharistic feast.
busybusybusy

will try to post this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

“Our Elder Brothers”

Holy Scripture nourishes faith, strengthens ecclesial unity and is an important element of our common spiritual patrimony with Abraham's stock, our Jewish brothers and sisters.
--Pope John Paul II, 1987

Thomas Cahill’s excellent book The Gifts of the Jews tells the story of how Judaism made what we now think of as “The West” possible. By taking aside a pagan named Avram and teaching him and his children over the course of centuries that this God called “I am” is not only the greatest of the gods, but the only God, the Father raised all of us from the level of finite and irrelevant, to infinitely important. In becoming Avraham, father of a great nation, Avram bequeathed us the gift of Selfhood. His child Moses then gave us the gift of Law.

Coming down through the centuries, the prophets sounded a constant warning to adhere to the path of Righteousness and foretold of a king who would be anointed to set God’s people free. Long before anyone thought about or was promised eternal life, God demanded that we live as we were created to live: as lovers of His Law. For more than 2,000 years before the birth of His Son, the Father pounded it into our heads that we have but one purpose: not the achievement of eternal life, but the fulfillment of God’s love. Only after centuries of this teaching, did the outcome—eternal life—begin to appear in God’s story.

It is difficult to study this history of what we now call Judaism in the context of the wider world, without noticing something very peculiar. Within a very few centuries of the birth of this religion, the Hebrew people are enslaved in Egypt. 500 years later, they are set free, only to be conquered or controlled successively by the Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. After Christ, and then the conversion of the Roman Empire, the Italians put them in the first Ghettoes; the Spanish forced their conversion or expelled them; the Russians invented the Pogrom; Poles, Englishmen, Frenchmen, and nearly every other nation of Europe at best ill-treated and at worst simply murdered them. Germans finally tried to do explicitly what had been implicit to a greater or lesser degree for 15 centuries. Today, the Palestinians stall and delay and avoid peace at all costs, waiting for the day when Saddam Hussein will do with missiles what the Germans nearly managed with camps. Down through history, we chase them from our towns and villages as the goat is sent from the city on Yom Kippur.

The peculiar thing about the history of the Jews is this: something recognizable as Judaism has existed for more than 4 millennia. Every part of humanity that has come into contact with these people has spent the better part of those 4,000 years trying to kill them. Christians have, to our everlasting shame, openly espoused this eradication, reading into the fulfillment of the prophets the end of the need for the Nation that produced them. Often, this attempt at the destruction of the Jews is proposed as God’s Will, or God’s Judgment on the Jews.

It would surely be proof of an incompetent god who, with 40 centuries to wipe out a small tribe of desert nomads, failed time and again. Many peoples, tribes and religions have fallen silent in the history of the world, but not the Jews. 2,000 years after sending us the answer to the questions posed by Judaism, He has preserved the questioners from every peril, from more than one near-destruction. (Some demographers have estimated that, had the Hebrew population grown in the same proportion to the world as it had in 33 AD, there would be some 280 million of them today.)

What do they know, that 2,000 years after Christ, God has plainly worked very hard not to destroy them, but to preserve them? What purpose do they serve, that the Darkness has perverted so much of humanity’s creativity to the end of their destruction?

Truly, the answer is that there is no “them.” I have written repeatedly above of “us and them” and committed the same fallacy as those who would drive God’s Chosen ones from the cities. To be a Christian is to be a Jew fulfilled. All of us who accept a Jewish carpenter from the countryside as God’s only Son must accept Judaism, not reject it, persecute, kill it. Christianity cut loose from its roots will surely falter and fail, surrendering to worldliness en masse in a way that so many of us already do individually. Our elder brothers continue to show us perseverance in the face of complacency and indifference, unspeakable horror and terrifying evils.

In other words, fruit plucked from the vine quickly withers and dies.

Perversely, the Wahabi Fascists who would destroy us understand this better than we ourselves do. “Crusaders and Jews” are uttered so often together in Arabic, it may as well be a single word. Today, at this very moment, it is important that all Christians recognize this, and work through prayer as well as economically and militarily once again to preserve our elder brothers. We are all Jews, and the Diabolical Powers once again seek to kill the Vine that gives us Life.
Blest Be the Tie That Binds

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.
Wednesday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: The people of Israel, Lauren, Lou, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Salvation

Uncharity is afoot in the countryside again. This time, a blogger offers a prayer for the soul of a deceased atheist, and some cad takes him to task for it. At what point, precisely, did Jesus tell us, “Be proud of the fact that you will be saved, while those dummies who aren’t as smart as you go straight to hell!”? Do we not pray every Sunday that the Father will “bring…all the departed into the light” of His presence? Are we now to be in the business of declaring we have distinct knowledge of what is in the hearts of men as they pass from the world? I am afraid I will have to get off the train at this station, for my own heart is often opaque to me.

The Baltimore Catechism tells us that our Church teaches there is no salvation possible after death. I don’t know whether this is correct: I choose to believe it, because believing it is safer than the alternative. But might there not come a moment before death and after animal life, when Christ might stand before those who implicitly acknowledged Him in their hearts while denying Him with their minds? Has no one ever fooled himself into thinking that he did not love that which he did love?

Is it not possible for the all powerful God who wants all of us to be saved that Jesus might present Himself to a dying man in an infinitely long space at the final moment of life? Is it not possible for death to occur outside of time, for the transition from bastard half-spirit and half-animal to wholly spirit in a moment that has no “after”? None of this prevents a rejection of Christ even then, and so does not violate that teaching.

Please. What harm can possibly come from praying for the soul of a dead man? We are all beyond redemption, except that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make it possible. The only person I will damn is myself, and only by God’s Grace will I avoid it. It is well and proper for us to act in our own cases as though I am wrong. But there is little danger in hoping that God’s mercy in the case of others is greater than we can know.
Final Words on Priestesses, for a very long time

There are people for whom the absence of women clergy is nothing more or less than proof of the corrupt patriarchy. I am not among them.

There are people for whom the ordination of women is the sine qua non. I am not among them.

There are people who want to use the present crisis within our church as a bludgeon to force politically-motivated changes on it. I am not among them, either.

The truth is, I am only in favor of women clergy insofar as they may have once existed. The evidence for this existence is, to put the best possible face on it, sketchy. The crisis which we now endure demonstrates that even in a “media age,” prelates are capable of concealing vast amounts of evidence of things they want to remain hidden. So I give the smidgeon of evidence that does exist fairly great weight, recognizing that the tendency to conceal is not a new one.

This does not mean that women were ordained in the early church, nor that Ludmilla Javarova was a valid priest. The scholarship I have read on these subjects does not strike me as honestly entered into. That is, authors on both sides have written polemics, rather than open discussions of the facts as history records them. Much work needs to be done by people more intelligent and learned than I before such questions can honestly be considered as settled.

Until then, I have nothing more than opinion and tantalizing possibilities to go on. Those who argue against me have the weight of 1700 years of inarguable tradition on their side. (I leave open the first 300 years as the debatable grounds.) The Javarova case is different, and is best left to canon lawyers, not uninformed lay people like me, or theologians who are used to dealing in absolutes. (An unambiguous statement on her specific case from Rome would help, though to the best of my knowledge has not been forthcoming. Please email me with a citation if I missed it.) Pope Joan is nothing more than legend—if she really reigned, so little exists in the way of fact about her, that she only exists or doesn’t for History “but wishing makes it so.”

The Holy Spirit will bring about the modern ordination of women or not, and nothing any blogger says on the subject will affect that. I will not pray that women are ordained, as such, but I will pray that history sheds further light on the subject, and that truth will out.
Tuesday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: The victims of another bombing in Israel, Lauren, Lou, the victims of the China Air crash, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Tuesday's Opening Hymn is number 281

Amazing Grace

(accompaniment)

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His Word my hope secures;
He will my Shield and Portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, Who called me here below,
Shall be forever mine.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

Sunday, May 26, 2002

I will be back to things more Catholic on Tuesday. I know some regular readers come from Canada, and as far away as Spain and even Japan (and welcome to you, whether Spanish, Japanese, or expatriate American!), and I apologize for going somewhat off-topic. Possibly in the future I will reflect on "God and country"--the manner in which patriotism and religion intermingle and stay separate for me.

In the meanwhile, if you can, please keep the men and women who serve in the American armed forces in your prayers, and ask God to keep them safe and to lead them to victory. Please remember the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, the firemen and police and EMS workers, the passengers and crews of the four airplanes, and the families of all those who died September 11. Please ask God's mercy on the nearly 3,000 civilians, from the United States and more than 80 other nations, who were murdered that day. Pray that God's light will shine on a darkened world.
Butterfield's Lullaby

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the hills, from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night, Must thou go,
When the day, And the night
Need thee so?
All is well. Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light; And afar
Goeth day, And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well; Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise, For our days,
'Neath the sun, Neath the stars,
'Neath the sky,
As we go, This we know,
God is nigh.

(You can find a large .wav file here.
Battle Hymn of the Republic
(accompaniment)

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword;
His truth is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His truth is marching on.

I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps
They have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
I can read His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps;
His day is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! His day is marching on.

I have read a fiery Gospel writ in burnished rows of steel;
“As ye deal with My contemners, so with you My grace shall deal”;
Let the Hero, born of woman, crush the serpent with His heel,
Since God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Since God is marching on.

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat;
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet;
Our God is marching on.
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Our God is marching on.
Something to look forward to

The National Memorial Day Concert at the Capitol tonight honored the survivors of the Bataan Death March, while Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki looked on. Several years ago, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was Gen. John Shalikashvili, who was born in Warsaw in 1936. In 1984, Shali was deputy commander of the 1st Armored Division in Germany, whose job was to defend against the East German, Russian and Polish troops who might try to cross the Fulda Gap. The Secretary of State, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell, is the descendant of West Indian blacks, who worked the sugar plantations of the Caribbean. Five American Indians have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, and one of the Marines who raised the flag on Mt. Surabachi was Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian.

50 years from now, I hope the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has a name like "Abdullah."
John 15:13

No greater love has man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.

Here in the States, it is Memorial Day weekend, where we collectively take note of our "honored dead." The specifics of how the day originated are in some minor dispute, but the story I like best involves freed slaves decorating a Union cemetery in Charleston. Others involve widows of Confederate soldiers taking care of the graves of Federal and Confederate soldiers. All agree that it came out of remembrances for the Civil War. (For some of my take on that war's lasting hold on the soul of the nation, see here.)

A visitor to America could be forgiven in most years for not noticing any of this, for thinking it just a "bank holiday" in the English sense. Between the "great overstock selections" that mysteriously appear at car dealerships across the nation, or the "bargains that won't last" on electronics, it is easy to miss the solemn nature of the day. Most other Federal holidays have in their nature at least some whimsical quality. Even July 4, the official--if dubious--birthday of the country, has its fireworks embedded in its roots, as it was John Adams himself who first called for them in celebration of the day. Veterans Day ("Armistice Day" to those of a certain vintage, or British and Canadian backgrounds), of course, is equally solemn. More so, in fact, inasmuch as it has resisted the 3-day weekend trend of other holidays, but it celebrates the living as well.

Memorial Day is different. It uniquely honors the dead. As we have many more dead to honor this year than last, and as more are still to come, before this War is over, consider today--Trinity Sunday, the day we honor the God who lay down His own life for His friends--the words of President Lincoln:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in
a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so
conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great
battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of
that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their
lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and
proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot
dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated
it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will
little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never
forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be
dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here
have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here
dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly
resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this
nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that
government of the people, by the people, for the people shall
not perish from the earth.
Trinity Sunday's Opening Hymn

LOST, ALL LOST IN WONDER
Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

Bring the tender tale true of the Pelican;
Bathe me, Jesu Lord, in what thy bosom ran---
Blood whereof a single drop has power to win
All the world forgiveness of its world of sin.

Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory's sight. Amen.
Sunday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: The victims of the China Air crash, the people of Pakistan and India, Nick, Jay, and Corey, the bloggers, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.

Saturday, May 25, 2002

Amendment to an earlier blog.

My buddy Kathy at +relapsed Catholic points out that she had the Crucifix story before Andrew Sullivan, which is true. And since she has given me lots of plugs, whereas Andrew Sullivan could care less if I existed, I am officially taking her side.
Saturday intentions

One of the most solemn obligations of a Christian is to pray for those who need God's help. If there are people you would like to add to the list, email me or suggest them using a comment, and I will include them. Please take a moment to ask God to look out for each.

Today's intentions: Nick, Jay, and Corey, the bloggers, Elizabeth, Karin, Michael, S, her mother, her siblings, and especially her brother, those who cannot forgive, Q and all the persecuted Christians of China, the people of Cuba, Rita, Bridgit, Mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael, and the anonymous ones as well.
Saturday's Opening hymn is number 243

O Merciful Redeemer

accompaniment

O merciful Redeemer, Whom yet unseen we love;
O name of might and favour, all other names above.
O bringer of salvation, Who wondrously hast wrought
Thyself the revelation of love beyond all thought;
We worship Thee and bless Thee; to Thee alone we sing;
We praise Thee and confess Thee; our gracious Lord and King.

In Thee all fullness dwelleth, all grace and pow'r divine;
The glory that excelleth, O Son of God is Thine.
O grant the consummation of this our song above
In endless adoration and everlasting love.
Then shall we praise and bless Thee; where perfect praises ring,
And evermore confess Thee, our Saviour and our King!

(thanks to Dave Pawlak for the suggestion. Why not visit his blog nto thank him if you liked the hymn?)

Friday, May 24, 2002

Courage

Yesterday I wrote of my fears. In trying to write about virtues, I have chosen to highlight them by pointing out my own failings and sinfulness. In much the same way as the Screwtape Letters highlight virtue by showing the devil how to attack it, my own inadequacies I hope may find resonance with you, and help you find your own way out of the things with which all of us struggle. In most cases such limited virtues as I possess will take care of themselves, if I am mindful of my vices.

Fear, however, is not a vice, even though it lies in opposition to Courage. And so in this instance, I must write a little more directly about Courage, my own and others’. I hope you will forgive what might become an exercise in Pride if I am not extremely careful.

I did some digging this morning on Thomas Aquinas’ take on Courage. (An excellent summary of the Thomistic view can be found here.) Aquinas is the bedrock of any modern theology of Virtue, so any direct discussion of a Virtue must start with him.

For Aquinas, the four “Cardinal” Virutes (that is, the “hinges” of behavior) are Justice, Prudence, Courage and Temperance. The three “Theological” Virtues are Faith, Hope and Charity. Courage has four parts to it: magnanimity, generosity, patience and perseverance. Note that none of these parts directly have anything to do with fear as such.

Fear is an emotion, and though Thomas and other philosophers have felt that emotions can be moderated by habit, few besides the Stoics felt they could be mastered entirely. (Let the Philosopher-flames begin!) What could be mastered was one’s behavior in the face of an emotion, especially when one had somewhat limited that emotion.

So Fear can be moderated by Courage. For Aquinas, magnanimity means sharing or even forgoing the honor that comes from a great deed. Generosity means bearing the financial cost so that the deed might come to pass. Patience keeps the goal in mind, the true Good of the deed, no matter the delays. Perseverance is the continued effort even when Patience is at its ebb.

CS Lewis summarizes Courage in the Screwtape Letters: “Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

So I have confessed my fears to you. But because those fears are not necessarily in opposition to Courage—indeed are the opportunity for it—I need now to tell you a little of Courage. You may choose to infer from this that I do these things, and you may be right (though not in all cases). Please excuse any Pride in myself that creeps in here. Sometimes Humility means allowing oneself to be an example against one’s wishes.

In the face of fear of Terrorism, Patience and Perseverance are perhaps the strongest aspect of courage for the ordinary citizen. Getting out of bed each morning, going to work, playing with my child. So much of the Cross we are asked to bear in life involves simply what Woody Allen joked about, showing up.

It was hideously overdone in October, the way everything seemed to be about “…or the terrorists will have won!” But that marketing ploy, cynical as it was in many cases (“Buy her a diamond anniversary band, or the terrorists win!”), worked and resonated precisely because it was about courage.

In one sense, the marketers were entirely right. Though we have an obligation to live in the present, and not the future, we nevertheless do have a duty to plan for the future, to expect the future. It’s the great balancing act, between living in the here and now and doing sensible things about what might happen, without giving in to anxiety. Courage helps us balance. And so, for someone for whom buying a car in October caused all kinds of worry about whether to bother, because we might all be dead in a week, buying the car is in fact an act of Courage. It really does defy the terrorists. In fact, a major capital investment like an automobile is inevitably an act or patience and perseverance for most of us, who finance our cars over 4 or 5 years, and who then commit to arranging our lives around making those payments.

Don’t overdo it, of course. Owning a car is not inherently virtuous, however patient or persevering your planning for it is. It can be, or it can be sinful. It all depends on the circumstances.

Generosity we saw in droves: my job involves raising money, and my organization saw a marked decrease in giving in the weeks after 9/11. The reason of course was that our regular supporters were giving their money to the Red Cross and others to help the victims and the families. Others, my wife and I among them, saw the dropoff that worthy groups were experiencing, and made larger gifts to organizations we didn’t usually support, or support as generously. Food pantries and homeless shelters seemed particularly hard hit.

Bravery in the battlefield or NYPD/FDNY sense is not really something most of us have an opportunity for. But fear can take root in such a way that even acts that objectively have no greater risk today than September 10 can require actual physical courage to undertake. My commute requires me to drive sometimes on several obvious targets, bridges and tunnels whose loss would have significant economic and human cost. Sometimes my job requires me to travel to the juiciest targets in the nation. Other people live and work there every day. It’s not the Courage of running into a burning building, but the small courage of saying, “target or not, today you cannot make my fears confound me.”

Resolving every morning not “to live this day as if it were my last,” but to live it as it comes to me each moment, is the Courage that banishes fear of tomorrow. Government leaders, soldiers, policemen, have a duty to plan for the things that really make me anxious. I have a duty to give them the tools, support, and encouragement to do so. My Courage in that case comes not from stupidly promising myself that “all is well” when plainly it is very much not well. Instead it comes from acknowledging that it is not well, but I must limit my worries to what I can do, and then do them well enough that I do not worry.

A priest recommended to me at the end of a Confession (a long litany of things I did wrong simply to avoid loss of Control) that I start each day by turning control over to God. “It’s just you and me today, Lord,” he suggested. “Help me get through it as best I can. Show me what you want.” This doesn’t mean God is going to keep the rain away from me. It means He provided someone to invent raincoats, and helps me remember to put one on.

Courage is measured in deeds, and great deeds inspire small Courage. That is, few of us ever have the opportunity to do a heroic thing, but it takes Courage to do many small things, and memories of heroism to remind us of that. Small children who fight mock battles do not, it seems to me, learn violence from that so much as they practice heroism. Every childhood battlefield of my memory had one side who were clearly the “good guys” or “bad guys.” There were a few kids who always wanted to be the bad guys, but most fought over the right to wear the white hats. And nearly every battle culminated with a white hat charging an imaginary machine gun nest and, with his last breath, throwing a grenade at the enemy. Great arguments often ensued as to the effectiveness of the grenade, but everyone understood intuitively that the charge, if well executed, was to be applauded.

Aquinas understood Virtues to be a sort of habit. The habits of heroism that children learn on the playground (at least before Zero Tolerance made such battles unacceptable) are the habits that keep fear in check. My fears can upset my stomach. They can wake me at 3 am, or keep me from falling asleep in the first place. They can make me check on my sleeping son “one last time,” or cause me to blink away tears for the dead. But they cannot keep me from driving to work, or traveling where I must, or even saving a few dollars for retirement or my son’s college education. There may be machine gunners right after the next exit ramp, but by God I will toss my grenade into them if it kills me.