Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Quando omni flunkus moritati. The new motto of Kairos.
I just accidentally got my necktie caught in the office shredder. I just thought you should know that.
"They're not baaaaad, just different."

[Sorry, can't help revelling in word play sometimes.]

Gay Sheep May Help Explain Biology of Homosexuals

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Gay sheep that mate only with other rams have different brain structures from "straight" sheep, a finding that may shed light on human sexuality, U.S. researchers said on Monday.


I'm sure it's just my narrow mind, but I can't help but wonder whether the choice of the word "gay" to describe a sheep is really especially useful, except for political reasons. And how come Reuters, the news service that won't call al Qaeda "terrorists" without the scare quotes, can describe a sheep as being "gay" with a (ahem) straight face?

I also wonder (and you have to read the whole article to understand this) whether, if someone comes up with a pill to increase aromatase in human brains, this will be viewed as good news by large segments of the news media. But I'm pretty sure a heavy investment in the stock of a pharmaceutical company that did so would pay off fairly significantly.

These findings, no doubt, will be held up as "proof" that "being gay" is "natural." But I wonder if it doesn't instead indicate that the statement "intrinsically disordered" becomes more literally true. For myself, I'm actually somewhat ambivalent about that statement--I can't quite square it with many of the gay friends I have had over the years. But finding a malfunction in the brain--and possibly seeing a medical treatment for it--would probably lead me out of ambivalence. (Though there's much too much subjunctive mood in the last couple of sentences for anyone to need to bother about them as yet.)

But consider: accept for a moment the 10% number asserted by some gay advocates as accurate. (There are all kinds of reasons to doubt it, and to think the actual number is between 1 and 4%, but forget that for now.) That would mean that 90% of the population is not gay. An incidence of a medical condition in only 10% of the population (never mind in only 1 to 4%) would have to be considered an "abnormality" (and was until the DSM changed its mind a few years ago).

Now, in March the Mayo clinic estimated the incidence of ADHD in children at 7.5%. Other studies have put the number at as little as 1% and as high as 20%. (In other words, statistically the same as or higher than the reported incidence of homosexuality.) As it happens, Ritalin is one of the most widely consumed pharmaceuticals in the country. There is wide disagreement about the actual meaning of a diagnosis of ADHD, and the appropriate course of treament. But no one who has studied the issue (or who has taught in a classroom) doubts that there is in fact a group of students who have different brain chemistry, that this is an abnormality, and that they need treatment ranging from behavior modification training to medication.

Call me crazy, but I'm guessing that the debate won't be quite so settled around homosexuality.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
A few days ago, I complained about the tendency of Catholics to see the rules as the religion. An epigram in front of one chapter in “Miracles” by CS Lewis (which I don’t have at hand) says something like “Those who make religion their god, won’t have God in their religion.” It is frustrating, not because the rules are in themselves bad, or even wrong, but because their value is actually very limited, and merely following them in a rote manner has very little to do with attaining Salvation.

Simply put, you must arrive at the point where you pay no attention to the rules. This will sound shocking (though not to those who know me; I often disregard rules, though rarely for the right reason), but only until you understand what it means.

Quick: recite the Our Father!

That’s the sort of thing I mean. If you did what I said, you did it without thinking about the words. There was no method actor moment: “Our Father, who art in…LINE!” You uttered the words without regarding them. This is both good and bad. Good, because it shows you that you have so absorbed the Lord’s prayer that you need not dwell on it to say it, but bad, because the Lord’s prayer is a source of endless comfort and wisdom, and in 60-odd words conveys more wisdom than one lifetime can digest.

So it is with the rules. To “pay no attention” to them, in the sense I meant it above, is to have transcended them, literally. To become at one with them (that is, to atone) so completely that you are no longer worried about breaking this one or that one, or even particularly know the individual rules at all. I find it hardest to recite the Our Father when I am trying to teach it to my son, when the words are the focus, rather than the prayer.

I freely admit that this is no easy thing, and that few people in their lifetimes ever submit themselves so fully to the Divine Will that they achieve this. Heaven knows I am very, very far from achieving it myself. But as with all things in Christianity, failure to accede to the truth does not obviate it. (Once in a while, I overwrite in the style of the rules just because I am a difficult person.) Or, more intelligently put, we are all sinners, but the Law is still the Law.

The error of mistaking the rules for the Law, or for God, is significant. It is not enough to say “but following the rules is the best we can do.” Because the error lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of religion and the nature of God, and opens the door to all sorts of errors, heresy, and apostasy. It must be quashed.

God is not a traffic cop, and the rules are not arbitrary constraints laid down by Him to trip people up. But that is precisely the only image allowed by a legalistic, Lidless Eye interpretation. I say again, that is the only possible understanding of God allowed by religious legalism.

For instance, I do not have to repent before God will forgive me, because God likes to see the two-legged creatures squirm. I have sinned because I have abused my free will. And to repent of that abuse of free will is not comfortable, anymore than quitting substance abuse is comfortable. In fact, the analogy is almost precise, almost ceases to be analogy at all. God has not said “This is My requirement for you,” and ordered the rule writers to make it so. Instead, he has said, “To undo what you have done will hurt, and it would be best if the rules acknowledged the truth of it, and led you to understand that getting clean involves painful scrubbing, where the stain is deepest.”

We are addicted to our sinful nature. The rules of the Church are mere descriptions of what it will take to overcome our addiction. It’s no good watching an alcoholic enter AA, and looking for him to trip up. Of course he will fail. He will, if statistics are to be believed, fail numerous times before achieving “clean and sober.” And even then, his chances of relapsing are high. The Lidless Eye types focus on the 12 steps: have you made enough amends? To the right people? Attended enough meetings? Not, Are you in danger of a relapse? Can I help prevent it?

But the purpose of the steps is not the steps themselves, anymore than the purpose of the ten commandments is the governance of a good society. What kind of a man watches an alcoholic solely for the purpose of seeing him relapse? What kind of a god would do so?
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 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.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Updates coming Tuesday. Really.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

I think if I have a major objection to Catholicism, it is not so much to the theoretical Church as to its practice in reality. Some days I want to scream at just about everyone I know (myself included) “Shut up!!! You are missing the point!!!”

There are a lot of rules in our Church. I would never go so far as to say those rules are not necessary; plainly they are. But the rules are not themselves the Church, and with only a few exceptions, every rule of the Church may in the right circumstances be broken in the service of a greater good.

But all too many people, Catholic and otherwise, priest, Bishop, layman, heretic and orthodox, mistake the rules for the Church. James Carroll continued the confusion only last week, writing about “good Catholics” and “bad Catholics” using a rules-based paradigm. I am part of the ongoing dispute over at the “bustedhalo” message boards, from which Greg Popcak has been banned for pointing out that some posters there were advocating as Catholicism something that deviated so much from the rules as to be unrecognizable. The Lidless Eye types run around, policing blogs, looking for minor deviations in orthodoxy, which they define as a set of rules established under Pius X and unalterable for all eternity. Rod Dreher bemoans in the pages on National Review and on Mark Shea’s blog the failure of the pope—the Pope!—to enforce the rules as CEO of the Church.

Every one of these examples, on its own, can be justified, or at least explained. But as part of the pattern of background noise, they are exasperating. The rules exist to help you conform your heart to Christ’s teachings. Your heart does not exist to give the rules purpose.

Far too many Catholics—and I am at times egregiously, sinfully, culpable of this—think of Catholicism as some kind of set of metaphysical traffic laws. A legalistic interpretation of these laws creeps in, where so long as I don’t exceed the speed limit on this stretch of road (or exceed it by more than 5 mph), or stop for a “one-two” count at that stop sign, I am okay. Soon enough, a driver begins to think of the manifestation of Virtue that is “obeying traffic laws” as the Virtue itself.

It is certainly true that these are good driving habits, and generally necessary. But there is a manner of following them that is entirely correct vis-à-vis the law that nevertheless is selfish and obnoxious in the extreme. There are also times when speeding significantly and treating stop signs with less-than-meticulous care (on the way to the hospital, for instance) is entirely justified.

Staying in right relation to the rules is a poor substitute for staying in right relation to God. It is easier to do the second when one does the first. But achieving the first is absolutely no guarantee of achieving the second. And we have so bloody many rules, it is extraordinarily easy, and almost infinitely tempting, to confuse the two.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. With Thanksgiving for Karin's and Elizabeth's recoveries. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Why Doth the Lord Stand Off So Far?

Why doth the Lord stand off so far?
And why conceal His face,
When great calamities appear,
And times of deep distress?

Lord, shall the wicked still deride
Thy justice and Thy power?
Shall they advance their heads in pride,
And still Thy saints devour?

They put Thy judgments from their sight,
And then insult the poor;
They boast in their exalted height,
That they shall fall no more.

Arise, O God, lift up Thine hand,
Attend our humble cry;
No enemy shall dare to stand
When God ascends on high.

Why do the men of malice rage,
And say, with foolish pride,
“The God of Heav’n will ne’er engage
To fight on Zion’s side?”

But Thou forever art our Lord;
And powerful is Thine hand,
As when the heathens felt Thy sword,
And perished from Thy land.

Thou wilt prepare our hearts to pray,
And cause Thine ear to hear;
He hearkens what His children say,
And puts the world in fear.

Proud tyrants shall no more oppress,
No more despise the just;
And mighty sinners shall confess
They are but earth and dust.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Yes, I am back.

Kairos has returned from an unannounced hiatus. I have been trying to figure out what had gone wrong; blogging had begun to affect adversely my prayer life, which, when I first started, it had helped tremendously. So, a few changes are in order. First, I will soon be deleting the comments section, as soon as I can figure out how to archive the old ones. Readers have been extraordinarily civil in them, but they have taken on a disproportionate importance to me, and so they must go. If you have something to say, email it.

Second, I will be ditching the Bravenet stats. It's fun to know how many and who, but also, disproportionately important.

Third, I will probably not be posting every weekday. The temptation to talk about the negative things in life is much stronger when I feel an external pressure to say something every day. My guess is, I will still post most days, often more than once.

Finally, I ask you to encourage me from time to time. I'm taking away the two most obvious ways (stats and comments) of seeing whether I have succeeded in explaining a difficult idea or helping you with a doctrine, or just plain been entertaining. All these things are important to me, and will remain so. My hope is only that they will be restored to their proper importance. But that puts a burden on you, Gentle Reader, to let me know these things directly once in a while, rather than relying on electronic surveillance to do the trick.

Finally, sometime after the first of the year, I will be restructuring my life. This may lead to further changes in Kairos. So, please keep me and my family in your prayers, as we get ready for a major, major shift in how we live.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Dave's sister. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather. For the repose of the soul of Kathy's mother. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places.
Now unto Jehovah, Ye Sons of the Mighty

Now unto Jehovah, ye sons of the mighty,
All glory and strength and dominion accord;
Ascribe to Him glory, and render Him honor,
In beauty of holiness worship the Lord.

The voice of Jehovah, the God of all glory,
Rolls over the waters, the thunders awake;
The voice of Jehovah, majestic and mighty,
Is heard, and the cedars of Lebanon break.

His voice makes the mountains and deserts to tremble,
Wild beasts are affrighted, the forests laid bare,
And through all creation, His wonderful temple,
All things He has fashioned His glory declare.

The Lord ruled in might at the flood of great waters,
A King Whose dominion is never to cease;
The Lord will give blessing and strength to His people,
The Lord all His people will comfort with peace.

Monday, October 21, 2002

posting may be very sporadic today.

Please keep Kathy Shaidle of "relapsed Catholic" in your prayers. Her Mom passed away early yesterday morning.

Friday, October 18, 2002

Warning: graphic imagery here. Big S Blog Not for those who have tried to avoid seeing 9-11 pictures again.
Bad news :-(

I'm going to have to give up being a Catholic blogger, now that I am joining the Church of Reality! Check out their list of saints. And note, unlike boring, schismatic Catholic nuns, their nuns actually wear habits.

The Kairos Protocol

No one has ever named anything for me, except behind my back, and that was in Junior High (a time I'd just as soon forget, so why'd you have to bring it up, huh?). But today I am proposing something that I would like to see all blogs adopt, and all commenters adopt: the Kairos Protocol. It's designed as a means of moderating my own bad behavior, and it might help you, too. The rules are in bold face.

Say a brief prayer before you read a blog. "In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Dear Lord, grant me charity and prudence. Amen." Seriously. Say that same prayer before you comment, or dash off an email to the author of a blog. If you have your own blog, say it before you write, and especially before you publish.

Next, when you find your blood pressure rising, stop reading. Look, as hard as ever you can, for the most charitable, least complaining way to construe what you just read. If you still see an error, find the most charitable manner of correcting it. It is absolutely true that most heretics have no idea that they are heretics, don't want to be heretics, and would fix it if they understood their heresy.

Remember that email and blogging, even filled with emoticons, does not convey body language, and jokes fall flat far more often than they succeed, even among people who are used to one another. I hope the Great and Wise Pop Daddy won't mind me using our correspondence as an example. Greg and I bicker, quibble, and fire poison darts at each other via email all week long, even when--especially when--we agree. Every exchange winds up including two or three extra emails reminding each other that some comment or other was intended only in jest. We both know and expect that the other one is going to make a sarcastic joke without ill intent, and yet we *still* miss it. My own sense of humor depends so much on the deadpan expression followed by a quick wink that it is impossible to reproduce it in written form without risking a great deal of offense. And yet....

Don't question the motives of an opponent in an argument. Ever. As soon as you start worrying about *why* the other person is wrong, you have stopped asking *if* he is wrong, and nothing but anger and insults will be the result. If you read something that is untrue, it will be untrue no matter what motivated the person to believe it. Prove your point not by showing what is wrong with the arguer, but with the argument. You will never convince someone that contraception is wrong by pointing out his vested interest in accepting it, only by showing him that it is objectively wrong.

If you are in a bad mood, go play Furious George, don't read blogs and certainly don't write them, or complain to their authors. This isn't Junior High, but every few months St. Blog's has a phase where most of us act like it is.

Find something nice to say. Our post-modern sensibilities have so corrupted us, that when we read a sentence like "I usually really enjoy your blog," we anticipate with bitter irony the "but" that will follow, and wonder why the correspondent bothered to include it. But that sensibility is poison. The reason to include it is to set the recipient at ease that the writer is not the enemy, and only seeks clarification or understanding. If you can't find something nice to say to the author of a blog about it, then why do you bother reading it? Reading something with the express intent becoming outraged is rude (for you rationalists) and sinful (for you Theists).

I expect to be gently reminded when I violate these rules.
Given the comparatively small number of hits I get, and given how many of them originate at other blogs, the odds are inconceivably small that you are not aware of Disputations' series on the Rosary. In spite of a few shameless attempts at claiming credit for everything but the Angelus, it really is quite good, whether you are a dedicated Rosicrucian or someone who didn't know what the Rosary was until the Lidless Eye declared the Pope a heretic (and/or a fool) for thinking up some new mysteries for it. Check it out.
My mother (about whom I will speak kindly since she sometimes read this blog) bought me a silly "Catholic Trivia" game at a yard sale this weekend. I might post some questions just for fun over the next few weeks. However, Emily Stimpson and any other theology students specializing in Knowing More Than Thy Neighbor: you are officially disqualified.) Questions will *not* be open book, and you are on your honor not to cheat.
It is an ironclad rule of blogging that any blogger who swears off a topic publicly will violate that oath within 48 hours, and often in less than 6. I just thought you should know that.
Friday Intentions

For Ivette. For the safety of travellers. For the victims of terror in Bali, and the people of Australia. For Kathy's Mom. For Candace's grandmother. Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For Fr. RWB, and the repose of the sould of his mother. For Sam G., and for Dave. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall, but is recovering. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Karin. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.
I Love the Lord, His Strength Is Mine

I love the Lord, His strength is mine;
He is my God, I trust His grace;
My Fortress high, my Shield divine,
My Savior and my Hiding Place.

From God the victory I receive;
Most perfect is His holy way;
His Word is tried, they who believe
Will find the Lord their Shield and Stay.

For who is God, and strong to save,
Beside the Lord, our God of might?
’Tis He that makes me strong and brave,
The Lord Who guides my steps aright.

Thy free salvation is my shield,
My sure defense in every strait;
Thy hand upholds me, lest I yield;
Thy gentleness has made me great.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

So, I stand by what I wrote about the UN yesterday. But I definitely was having a bad biorhythm day or something. So I apologize for being intemperate in my choice of words at the outset. I'm no expert in international law, either. The personal blog is not some sacrosanct "personal record"; I routinely revise posts long after they first go up. But this one I'll leave alone. (And, if anyone cares, I am heretofore adopting--at least when I remember to--the British convention of only putting punctuation within the quote marks if the punctuation is part of the quotation. It's a much more sensible way of doing things.)
Pope to faithful: "Be not afraid, suckas."

Oh, Victor, Victor.
Okay, I'm as patriotic as the next guy (unless the next guy is Jimmy Carter--then I'm waaaay more patriotic). And I think a lot of the hysteria being fomented by civil libertarians is, um, hystrionical. But this gives me the creeps.
I had a trifle to forgive this weekend—something petty and stupid, really, and not that big a deal, except for the expense of undoing the damage. Someone vandalized both of our cars, along with a number of others parked in the same area, knocking off the passenger side mirrors. Considering that the North Koreans want to nuke me, the Islamicists want to put me and my family to the sword, and some nut job is shooting up every place I lived and shopped in the DC area, this petty act seems pretty inconsequential.

But you certainly wouldn’t have thought I felt that way if you had heard me on Saturday morning when I found the damage. The morning started out wrong, and just as it seemed it might start to improve, I walked out to discover the crime. Imprecations and swear words to color the cheeks of a nautical type flowed freely—though at least in a mumbled tone, lest the 5-year-old’s surprisingly acute hearing gather them in.

After the initial violence of anger had calmed a bit, I worked hard at keeping the embers warm, until I realized that this is one of those things that I needed to forgive, or the vandalism of my property would become vandalism of my heart. “Fine. I forgive them!”

So later on I was talking to someone, who wanted to know why I was in a tizzy. “Some idiots vandalized my cars last night! Can you believe some jerks would do that?” I replied. That still, small voice in the back of my head kept pushing the intercom button, but I ignored it. The sympathy of my friend (who lives nearby and so began to wonder about his own car) was like a bellows across a dying fire. “Put the still, small voice on hold. I’ll get back to Him later!” I told my internal secretary. “I can’t,” she replied. “He says it’s urgent.” “Fine, I’ll take it in the other room. Listen, Ben, I’ll have to call you back.”

* * *

So the not very great moral of the story is pretty obvious at this point. Merely saying “I forgive them!” means very little if I don’t consciously discipline my mind to adopt a spirit of forgiveness. Deleting angry references in my internal monologue to “Idiots” “Jerks” “Chuckleheads” and certain participles I’m unwilling to commit to the blog helped a lot. Finding a kind person at the Ford Dealership, who gave me a discount on the part for one car (the original cost he quoted is about 10% of the book value of the ancient Escort) helped as well—as did my realization that I could do the install myself. But what worked best was asking for the grace and help to get over it. The realization that I had to do something and am not wired in such a way as to make doing it a solo project was a very liberating one.

The violence to my car was a sin and a crime, a deliberate, wrong act. If the actors are identified, I would expect restitution or insist on punishment before the law. I honestly believe that those are the merciful and charitable things to do, if the villains are to learn to amend their ways. So, “What,” you may ask, “is the result of your forgiveness?” A fair question. 1) I no longer relish the many creative ways in which I imagined myself doing violence to their persons. This is significant. 2) I no longer wander around disparaging their parentage. 3) I could speak to them personally, without anger or malice, but objectively. They did in fact commit a crime, and walking away from that crime would not serve them or Justice. But I have given back to them power only over themselves, no longer over me. So long as I nurtured an anger (especially an anger out of all proportion to the wrong) towards them, I allowed them to go on harming me from afar.
O God, Preserve Me

O God, preserve me, for in Thee
Alone my trust has stood;
My soul has said, Thou art my Lord,
My chief and only good.

I love Thy saints, who fear Thy Name,
And walk as in Thy sight;
They are the excellent of earth,
In them is my delight.

Their sorrows shall be multiplied
Who worship aught but Thee;
I share not in their offerings,
Nor join their company.

The Lord is mine inheritance,
The Lord alone remains
The fullness of my cup of bliss;
The Lord my lot maintains.

The lines are fallen unto me
In places large and fair;
A goodly heritage is mine,
Marked out with gracious care.
Thursday Intentions

For the victims of terror in Bali. For Kathy's Mom. Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For Fr. RWB, and the repose of the sould of his mother. For Sam G., and for Dave. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall, but is recovering. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Karin. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

I have failed repeatedly to invite you to visit the home of the Ennis Sisters, a marvelous trio of Canadian folk singers. Go there, and enjoy...
In honor of eve Tushnet's "Poetry Wednesdays" I am doing my own today.

There is a scene in the Patrick O'Brian novel "Post Captain" where Mr Lowndes, an insane but fairly harmless person, who supposes himself to be a teapot, offers to recite some poetry for another character. I shall now do the same:

Arma virumque cano, etc. Ain't it grand?

[Don't be annoyed if you think I may be the Teapot here. Once in a while I like to do things that amuse only me, to the flummoxing of others.]
Quick. Look over there, on the right. Have you signed the guestmap?

Have you made a donation? (Hint: I don't get the money if you do.)

Well, what are you waiting for? Get to it, man! Old time is still a flying, and these same flowers that bloom today tomorrow will be a dying. (or somesuch.)
As war blogging goes on, and people who know absolutely nothing about international law (along with a few who know something about it) weigh in with muddled thinking, one idea seems to have caught hold of the imaginations of those who oppose war in general, but want to believe they only oppose this one.

The objection is usually phrased as an apposite: "in this age of weapons of mass destruction..." or some similar wording. What follows is almost always a moral surrender. "In an age of weapons of mass destruction, we must hesitate to act, lest our acting cause something worse to happen." This usually appears as a part of an argument that also asserts that, say, Saddam Hussein (to pick a name at random) is no *immediate* threat to the US.

The syllogism seems to go like this: 1) The bad man is not an immediate threat. 2) He wants to be even more bad, getting weapons that could kill us all. 3) He will either use those weapons someday, or hold us hostage with the threat of using them. Ergo, we should not act now, because he might actually *be* an immediate threat to us.

It is possible, I think, to oppose war with Saddam on legitimate grounds at the present time. But this is not a reason for doing so. If war is ever just, then it must sometimes be mandatory. A day will soon come when Saddam and his ilk will declare their ability to harm us, almost if not in fact mortally, and we will in the very best possible outcome arrive at a new kind of Cold War. It will be more violent and ugly than the old one, though, because the Islamist fascists with whom Saddam will find himself allied value their own skins not nearly so much as the Politburo did, making "containment" a much, much riskier proposition.

If weapons of mass destruction necessitate a change in just war doctrine, as the bishops and others appear to believe, then I would posit that the change needs to be in the direction of acting on less immediate threats, precisely because of the danger those weapons present.
Wednesday Intentions

For the victims of terror in Bali. For Kathy's Mom. Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For Fr. RWB, and the repose of the sould of his mother. For Sam G., and for Dave. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall, but is recovering. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Karin. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.
Lord, hear the right

Lord, hear the right, regard my cry,
My prayer from lips sincere,
Send Thine approval from on high,
My righteousness make clear.
Thou in the night my heart hast tried,
Nor found it turned from Thee aside.

With steadfast courage I design
No wrong to speak or do;
Thy path of life I choose for mine
And walk with purpose true.
For help, O God, I cry to Thee,
Assured that Thou wilt answer me.

O Thou that ever savest those
Whose trust on Thee is stayed,
Preserving them from all their foes
By Thine almighty aid,
Let me Thy lovingkindness see,
Thy wondrous mercy, full and free.

O guard me well as one would guard
The apple of the eye;
While deadly foes are pressing hard,
To Thee, to Thee I cry;
Do Thou my rest and refuge be,
O let Thy wings o’ershadow me.

Mine enemy, grown strong in pride,
Would take my life away,
A lion lurking by my side,
Most greedy for his prey.
Confront and cast him down, O Lord,
From evil save me by Thy sword.

Defend me from the men of pride,
Whose portion is below,
Who, with life’s treasures satisfied,
No better portion know;
They, with earth’s joys and wealth content,
Must leave them all when life is spent.

When I in righteousness at last
Thy glorious face shall see,
When all the weary night is past,
And I awake with Thee
To view the glories that abide,
Then, then I shall be satisfied.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

These remarks are represent my first efforts at articulating something extremely difficult to place into words. Each time I try to specify precisely what I think I mean, the idea I am after changes direction, wafts away on the breeze. I post these comments because I think the idea matters, but please understand that this is entirely provisional. So no freaking out on me.

I have been thinking a lot about the “Pearl of Great Price” concept (what Greg Popcak was using in the form of “The Mercedes Principle” a few weeks ago) versus the idea of “Meeting people where they are”—“Defining Christianity Down” to a mere pabulum of harmless moral teaching.

What troubles me about many Christians who consider themselves Orthodox, or even “conservative,” is the exclusivity of the definitions, which plays itself out in the price they consider worthy of the pearl. The problem with this is not so much that they are wrong in setting the price (for that price is absolutely everything, and is never marked down) but that they err in supposing that they themselves have successfully paid it, and cherishing the belief that others have not. (Yes, cherishing. What else to call it?)

“Meeting people where they are” is fine as a starting point—necessary even—but stupid as an objective. Where “people are” is as fallen, sinful, wicked creatures. All of us. If all you do for someone is say “Welcome. God loves you,” then you have done them no good and actual harm.

The problem, for me, is these two points represent the extremes on a continuum. It is necessary to start at “where people are” and bring them to “the pearl of great price.” But it is not always necessary, or even desirable, to demand payment in full, up front. Most of us are probably familiar with conversions where this was in fact required, and thus are equally familiar with the singularly high failure rate of such conversions. Vows of perpetual virtue are all well and good, but uniquely unsuited to effecting a change in our nature when taken as the first step, rather than the last.

People like Mike Hardy do good work, as far as I’m concerned, and I find my charity sorely tested by people who want to ostracize him. Mike’s mission, it seemed to me, was to meet people at the door, ask challenging questions (of both heterosexuals and homosexuals), and move them along the continuum. It is certainly true that Mike’s end point would be different from mine. It is equally true that Mike advocated a position in moral theology different from that traditionally held by most Christians at most points in history. But so what? His sins may be much more public than mine but they are hardly worse. And I am no less inclined than he to try to carve out for myself an exception sometimes.

Mark Shea (I think) commented a couple months ago that he is no supporter of the “I will hold this absolute minimum/maximum set of beliefs” school of Christianity. In one sense, I agree—when those beliefs permanently fix themselves, calcifying as soon as formulated. But in another sense, I think people who set limits around their beliefs, if they are honest, are ripe for further conversion.

This is where the two endpoints connect. “I will believe this much and no more,” must inevitably lead to another step, and another, if a person is nurtured and cherished and treated with caritas. But treat that person with smug self-righteousness and instead of encouraging the person to open himself further to the Holy Spirit, you set the pearl out of reach. The pearl grows within each of us; in a sense we are the oysters, and it is the tiny irritant of a grain of sand that causes the pearl to grow, layer upon layer. It does not spring from us fully formed, and a great shock is far more likely to kill us than set the growth process in motion.
Monday Intentions

For the victims of terror in Bali. For Kathy's Mom. Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall, but is recovering. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.
Take Me as I Am

Jesus, my Lord, to Thee I cry;
Unless Thou help me I must die;
Oh, bring Thy free salvation nigh,
And take me as I am.

Refrain

And take me as I am,
And take me as I am,
My only plea—Christ died for me!
Oh, take me as I am.

Helpless I am, and full of guilt;
But yet for me Thy blood was spilt,
And Thou canst make me what Thou wilt,
And take me as I am.

Refrain

No preparation can I make,
My best resolves I only break,
Yet save me for Thine own Name’s sake,
And take me as I am.

Refrain

Behold me, Savior, at Thy feet,
Deal with me as Thou seest meet;
Thy work begin, Thy work complete,
And take me as I am.

Refrain

Friday, October 11, 2002

A fate worse than death?

Random thought: for a Christian, every fate is worse than death. Only at death are we finally granted the Beatific Vision that makes all the suffering, pain, and agony worth having been endured.

Losing a child and being rich are really much of a piece in a metaphysical but nevertheless real sense, along with living in the suburbs and undergoing torture. All of them offer opportunities for salvation or damnation, and even the happiest human existence is a horrible thing to have to endure compared to what comes next. I don't make light of suffering; I merely remind that even "the good life" is a fate worse than death.
Welcome for U.S. in Gulf No Longer Quite So Hearty (washingtonpost.com) Many Kuwaitis say that while they remain grateful to the United States, they are outraged by what they perceive as growing U.S. bias toward Israel and against the Palestinians.

It would be so much easier to take statement like this seriously if Kuwait had not undergone an ethnic cleansing of sorts, with the expulsion of nearly every Palestinian from the country in punishment for Arafat's support of Saddam last time around.
The Holy Nut explains to the excessive quantity

Babelfish does not always illuminate the writer's intent. To wit, from Benedikt's blog:

From the constitution over hl. the Liturgie:
2. In the Liturgie, particularly in the holy victim of the Eucharistie, """ the work of our release "carries out itself
4. Faithfully the holy council finally explains to the excessive quantity that the holy nut/mother church awards same right and same honour to all legally recognized rites. It is their will that these rites are promoted in the future received and in each way, and it is their desire that they, as far as it does emergency are examined to their whole extent in accordance with the spirit of healthy excessive quantity and equipped regarding conditions and necessities of the present with new strength.


My German is very, very rusty, but I'm pretty sure that's not what he said. But, since I'm not absolutely certain, I'll fall back on the copout I used to use when Frau McCune called on me and I had no idea what had been happening: Ich stimme zu!
A Light Blogging Day

Today will be free of lengthy posts, unless I get some serious time around lunch. Thanks for all the nice comments on the "Catholic Blogger" posts. Keep your suggestions coming for additions to the "You might be..." list. I'll yank them out of the comments box at some point and post them out here.
Friday Intentions

For Kathy's Mom. Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall, but is recovering. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

Thursday, October 10, 2002

Late Intention

Please include Kathy Shaidle and her mother in your prayers.
A largely rhetorical question

Is it possible to read the Gospels and the epistles, and come to the conclusion that Christ ever intended us to invent the species known as “canon lawyer?” I don’t mean to imply that canon lawyers are bad people, or unnecessary. But I can’t help but wonder how, with the Truth of Christ as our sword and the Holy Spirit as our armor, we still managed to go so far wrong as to have to invent canon law and a whole class of citizens to interpret it for us.
You might be a Catholic blogger if…

You have a PayPal account but have never been to eBay.
You didn’t know the word ephebophilia 8 months ago but consider yourself an expert on the subject now.
The words “liturgical norms” in bold face type make your palms sweat and your pupils narrow.
You have bookmarked comments.
You realize that “Flos Carmeli” is not what Italians do after eating candied apples.
You have more serious arguments with people you’ve never met than with anyone you know in person.
You would give up a major organ for a mention in “The Corner.”
You don’t like Andrew Sullivan but pester him in the hopes he will publicly take notice of your pestering.
You can say without thinking who uses the phrase “You are one with my blog.”
You have ever given serious thought to asking Shawn O’Neal to conduct an email or chatroom confession for you.
You’ve ever wanted to punch Jody, Justin Katz, Josh Claybourn or the Americanist in the nose.
You know who all the people in the last two are.
You’ve ever done a google search for “socratic cave baseball” to see where you rank on the list.
You are the only TRUE Catholic you know.
You know who “Joseph” is, and his age in months.
You have ever sent an email to 15 complete strangers asking them to comment on your opinions.
You have used the words “post conciliar church” in the same sentence more than once this year.
A calendar of “The Girls [or Boys] of St. Blog’s” sounds like a fabulous idea.
You have programmed EWTN into the “speed dial” buttons on your cable remote.
You have called your local cable company and said “I want my EWTN!”
“Booster” and “Reeves” make you giggle.
You know there’s a person called “Nihil Obstat” but you don’t know why.
“Lady Wimsey” is not a character from some 19th century chick novel.
“Strength, Pride and Strength” radio kicks “Heart, Mind and Strength” radio’s chasuble.
You have tried to order Pop Daddy’s “Gregorian Rap” at a record store, and run out giggling.
You own any book by Mark Shea or Greg Popcak.
Thursday Intentions

Please give thanks in your prayers for the completion of Elizabeth's treatment. She has been on and out of the list here since the beginning, and she had her final treatment on Friday. So far, so good.

Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall, but is recovering. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.
Yesterday I posted Psalm 15, today Psalm 4. I'm not much into numerology, but it often seems that when a number has significance to me, the corresponding Psalm does too.

Psalm 4

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.
3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.
4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.
6 There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.
8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

The 21 stages of Catholic blogging:

1. I HAVE A BLOG! I am soooooooooooooo cool. It’s going to be bigger than the Drudge Report! I will save souls. Many, many souls. “Dear Mark Shea, I have just started a new blog and…” I have so much to say.
2. 42 hits! Four. Tee. Tuuuu. I rock the party!
3. Alright! Somebody emailed me!
4. Hmm. Only 39 hits. “Dear Mom and Dad, You know how you’re always complaining that you don’t know what’s going on in my life? Well, now you can find out by reading my blog!”
5. “I know I promised I wasn’t going to blog ‘the Scandal,’ but..” (but I’m not getting very many hits) “I mean, pedophilia? What were they THINKING?”
6. “Thanks to Judy Blogsalots for the link…” but don’t miss MY unique take on it.
7. “Dear every other blogger whose email I could find, won’t you please link to this exciting commentary on the proper position of the eyelids during the Gospel Acclamation?”
8. Hmm. 36 hits? “Unusual sexual positions!” Hah! That will generate some google searches.
9. “The [check one] heretic/mindless Vatican drone/hateful little b--tard over at ‘Orthoblog’ is completely wrong about the eyelid positioning, and is going to Hell.”
10. “Marty Haugen is [check one] the greatest thing ever to happen to liturgy/the Antichrist/who?”
11. 25 hits. Agony! Self-doubt! Depression. “I’m thinking of shutting down the blog…”
12. Wow! 4 emails threatening suicide and excommunication if I stop! WOOHOO! Now, If I could just get a date with Emily Stimpson and/or Victor Lams
13. “I’ve added this little comments feature…” because none of you morons seem to know how to email me.
14. 76 hits! “Nihil obstat can kiss my dangling participle!”*
15. Hmm. What to write? Hmm.
16. "I'm not doing this for my own good, so I have added a Paypal button/link to my 'book' for sale at Amazon on the righthand column." Fork over. Salvation ain't free, you know!
17. “Dear Mr. Johnstone, The company is very concerned about the decline in your productivity during the 3rd quarter. We expect better during the fourth. Signed, The Boss.”
18. Hmmmmm.
19. “As of today, this blog is finished. I need to spend more time on other projects, and…”
20. “I know I said I was quitting, but…”
21. 36 hits. “I quit.”

(*I have to credit John D. from Disputations with the colorful image in 14.)
Our child was due April 15. With that in mind, here is Psalm 15, instead of a hymn.

Psalm 15 (link takes you to NIV text)
1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
2 He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
5 He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
Wednesday Intentions

Please give thanks in your prayers for the completion of Elizabeth's treatment. She has been on and out of the list here since the beginning, and she had her final treatment on Friday. So far, so good.

Please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For the residents of Iberia Parish, Louisiana. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Not surprisingly, I have been reflecting on the Lazarus story in John 11 a lot over the past few days, and there is something remarkable about it that I have never seen commented upon (though I have no doubt such comments exist; my insight is not very great).

What struck me as truly remarkable is the fact that Jesus had a friend who was not a disciple, nor a member of the larger following that went with him from place to place. Does it not seem odd, when first noticed, that the Son of God should have formed the sort of friendly attachment and even deep love that people normally form, without it leading, as in the case of the Apostles, to Lazarus being called?

And we know it was a real friendship from the language of the Gospel. In verse 35, Jesus wept.

For myself, I find it odd but in a good sort of way. It reveals an affection between Creator and creature. It blesses that natural bond that springs up between unlike people. It shows in unmistakable terms that Jesus was indeed fully human. And it reveals a profound sorrow that the state of the world is such that people must, in the course of things, die.
ICEL takes on great orations in history

In case you were wondering exactly what’s wrong with making language more “accessible”:

The Gettysburg Speech (by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy)

About 90 years ago, our grandparents founded a new country: thought of in terms of liberty, and guided by the ideal that all people are created equal.

Now we are fighting a violent civil war, trying to ensure that that country, and any country thought of and guided that way, can last a long time. We are meeting on one of the war’s bloody battlefields.

We have come to memorialize some of the ground as graves for those who died for their country. It is good to do this.

But, in a bigger sense, we can’t dedicate — we can’t make sacred — we can’t bless — the fields. The living and dead soldiers who fought here already did that, and we can’t change it. The world won’t hear or remember today’s speeches but it can’t forget what happened.

Instead, we who are still alive must finish what those who died were starting. We need to keep trying to complete the job; so that these special dead help us increase our commitment to the cause to which they were unselfishly committed — that we seriously promise that these dead won’t have died in vain — that this country will renew its freedom — and that government for the people’s benefit, chosen by the people, and made up of the people won’t disappear.

Thank you to all who posted or emailed your good wishes, prayers and words of comfort. Sally and I are deeply appreciative of the solace so many of you have offered.
Tuesday Intentions

Today, please pray for Sally, for Mairen, for Tiernan, and for me. Please pray for the victims and families affected by the shootings near Washington. Please pray for For Dylan's Mom. For the residents of Iberia Parish, Louisiana. For Steven, his wife, and their friend's daugher JB. For Mrs. Kairos Guy's student and the rest of the student's family. For Dean and his wife. For Adam E, who was hurt in a serious fall. For Fr. Jim's cousin Tom. For Karl K. For the people of Zimbabwe and the prisoners of the Lao Gai. For my wife's cousin Sue. For John Paul II. For Alicia, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend. For Bill L.'s mother, father, and daughter, who shares something in common with me. For Eugene D. For those who need strength to bear their crosses. For mothers who choose life, especially those who choose adoption, and for those who did not. For Randy, Deb, Roger, Corey, Michael and the anonymous ones as well.
This Is the Day the Lord Hath Made

This is the day the Lord hath made;
He calls the hours His own;
Let heav’n rejoice, let earth be glad,
And praise surround the throne.

Today He rose and left the dead,
And Satan’s empire fell;
Today the saints His triumphs spread,
And all His wonders tell.

Hosanna to th’anointed King,
To David’s holy Son;
Help us, O Lord; descend and bring
Salvation from Thy throne.

Blest be the Lord, Who comes to men
With messages of grace;
Who comes in God His Father’s Name,
To save our sinful race.

Hosanna in the highest strains
The Church on earth can raise;
The highest heav’ns, in which He reigns,
Shall give Him nobler praise.