Monday, December 16, 2002

On the way home from Church yesterday, the lad asked "Why did they crucify Jesus, Dad??" Try formulating an answer to that, suitable for a precocious 5 ("and three-quarters!!") year old while negotiating Massachusetts traffic and drivers on a Sunday afternoon. At least the Barely-Converted Heretic wasn't in the car, having gone to a funeral out-of-state.
Victor mused last week how much he likes the new Target commercials with Stevie Wonder in them. I didn't have the heart to tell him that I loathe the musical stylings of Stevie Wonder in his comments box, but more importantly, I have a question about his closing comment on them. He approved of the use of "Christmas" instead of "Holidays." (Though in such a PoMo fashion I can't tell how serious he was. The problem with PoMo fashions is, I'm not sure he knows either...)

I have spent the last several years getting irritated at the PC manner of replacing "Christmas" with "Holiday." It’s so stupid, because it’s perfectly obvious to all concerned that the only reason to have a “holiday” is “Christmas,” and I resent deliberate stupidity. (Last June, the Head of my Academy spoke warmly of lighting the “Non-denominational Winter Solstice Tree.” It’s pretty funny that she thinks a pagan ritual dating back at least to the Vikings and probably a lot older is “non-denominational,” especially with a few avowed pagans in attendance. And she’s a Harvard-trained anthropologist!) (And while we’re on the subject, why is it okay for my son to do “Hanukah” pictures at school, but not Christmas ones? Are American Jews so thoroughly secularized that there is no longer any but political significance to celebrating Hanukah? I’d like to introduce a few of my religious Jewish friends to anyone who answers “yes.”)

Anyway, as you can tell, I think Stupid People should pay large fines just for being Stupid. (As opposed to people not born so bright: they are usually very nice, or at least not willful.) But here, I wonder if I haven’t been backing the wrong horse.

12 years ago I wrote a story for my college Conservative paper titled “Merry Secular Holiday,” raising all the usual arguments decrying the crass commercialization of Christmas. (At last report 3 years ago, it was still on the fridge of a friend’s Catholic mother.) Upon reflection (not to mention at least a modest improvement in maturity) I think “Happy Holidays” a vast improvement over “Merry Christmas” in the mouths of people who do not comprehend, and do not care to comprehend, what Christmas actually means. If we are to commercialize “Christmas” out of all recognition, isn’t it better that we start calling it something else? Maybe then we can, by political correctness run amok, of all things, finally separate the orgy of spending and buying, and comparing outlays to receipts, from the day that is supposed to signify the liberation of us from all of that.

Ask yourself which is more offensive: that “the Gap” has told it’s employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” or that “the Gap” ever connected what it does to the birth of the Savior in the first place?
Monday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the repose of the soul of Sue Pasco. For 5th grade Mary, who is recovering. For R. A.'s son. For the children of Lawrence, MA. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Watchman, Tell Us of the Night

Watchman, tell us of the night,
What its signs of promise are.
Traveler, o’er yon mountain’s height,
See that glory beaming star.
Watchman, does its beauteous ray
Aught of joy or hope foretell?
Traveler, yes—it brings the day,
Promised day of Israel.

Watchman, tell us of the night;
Higher yet that star ascends.
Traveler, blessedness and light,
Peace and truth its course portends.
Watchman, will its beams alone
Gild the spot that gave them birth?
Traveler, ages are its own;
See, it bursts o’er all the earth.

Watchman, tell us of the night,
For the morning seems to dawn.
Traveler, darkness takes its flight,
Doubt and terror are withdrawn.
Watchman, let thy wanderings cease;
Hie thee to thy quiet home.
Traveler, lo! the Prince of Peace,
Lo! the Son of God is come!

Friday, December 13, 2002

There is nothing I can say today that will do you or me any good whatsoever. So, the rest is silence.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Sartre is smartre

Jean Paul Sartre once wrote that "Hell is other people." While, ontologically speaking, Sartre was wrong about this, I certainly take his point.
Bush Appoints Postal Service Review Panel (washingtonpost.com) "Within that bound, we want them to explore all the ideas," Fisher said. "This is not a stealth project to privatize the Postal Service."

So the one thing we do know is this is a stealth project to privatize the Postal Service.
Looks like I got under nihil obstat's pelt. Heh heh.

(But that sure is a lot of typos. Looks like early retirement can't come soon enough...Although one of the alleged typos is actually correct. If nihil is going to be a pedant, he or she or it at least ought to be an accurate one.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

New Quiz Alert, brought to you by Kairos

I got tired of taking other people's quizzes, so I made my own. Good luck.

Kitchen%20and%20So%20forth
What store to loot when civilation crumbles?

brought to you by Quizilla

UPDATE: I have modified the graphics a couple of times. If you used the paste code before 4:00 EST, your images may not work.
Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,
Thou didst come to make thy dwelling
Here within our world of sight.
Lord, in pity and in power,
Thou didst in our darkest hour
Rend the clouds and show thy light.

Praise to thee in earth and heaven
Now and evermore be given,
Christ, who art our sun and shield.
Lord, for us thy life thou gavest,
Those who trust in thee thou savest,
All the mercy stands revealed.

--St. Thomas Aquinas
Public Service Announcement

nihil obstat makes another mistake. here.
The First Noel

The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields where they lay tending their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Refrain

Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.

They lookèd up and saw a star
Shining in the east, beyond them far;
And to the earth it gave great light,
And so it continued both day and night.

Refrain

And by the light of that same star
Three Wise Men came from country far;
To seek for a King was their intent,
And to follow the star wherever it went.

Refrain

This star drew nigh to the northwest,
Over Bethlehem it took its rest;
And there it did both stop and stay,
Right over the place where Jesus lay.

Refrain

Then did they know assuredly
Within that house the King did lie;
One entered it them for to see,
And found the Babe in poverty.

Refrain

Then entered in those Wise Men three,
Full reverently upon the knee,
And offered there, in His presence,
Their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

Refrain

Between an ox stall and an ass,
This Child truly there He was;
For want of clothing they did Him lay
All in a manger, among the hay.

Refrain

Then let us all with one accord
Sing praises to our heavenly Lord;
That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with His blood mankind hath bought.

Refrain

If we in our time shall do well,
We shall be free from death and hell;
For God hath prepared for us all
A resting place in general.

Refrain
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the repose of the soul of Sue Pasco. For 5th grade Mary, who should be recovering. For R. A.'s son. For Mr. and Mrs. Riddle. For the people of St. Stnaislaus parish in Cleveland. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

I had a letter published in one once. Both my friends noticed.
Requiescat in Pacem

Sue Pasco, my wife's cousin.
I don't know why this should be, though I have some theories I'm not planning on sharing. But I have noticed that almost all the people I know who are rigorous, follow-the-law-to-the-tiniest-letter-even-in-a-footnote Catholics are "reverts." A few are outright converts, but most are Catholics who fell away from Catholicism, spent a good deal of time in another Christian denomination, and had a struggle to find their way "home to Rome" (as my college chaplain put it.)

This is commendable. And I admire you for it. But it is not the way I understand the Church. And badgering me about it is rather more likely to make me to think you and the Church a collection of Pharisees than a group which can teach me very much about God and my broken nature. It is a perfectly valid approach to God--indeed, I will even go so far as to say it is the best approach to God. But it is not the only one. Your prayers are sometimes more welcome than your speeches.
"Intentionality" once again rears its seven heads

58 priests send a letter urging cardinal to resign Boutin said he believes that his promise of obedience is less important than his duty to obey his own conscience, and he said that he views the clergy sexual abuse crisis as a turning point in church history.

He might have asked himself if a conscience which told him to disobey a solemn vow was really properly formed enough to be trusted.

"JB believed his promise of marital fidelity was less important than his duty to obey his own conscience, and he said he views his wife's debilitating disease as a turning point in his marriage."

"JB believed his promise to protect and defend the constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic was less important than his duty to obey his conscience, and he believed turning over the nuclear codes to Castro was a turning point in history."

It sounds a whole lot less impressive, now, doesn't it?

[The letter is here. The one priest I know on the list is someone I have vaguely distrusted for a while. The vagueness is gone.]

Monday, December 09, 2002

O Lord, please help me find a Church worthy of my personal holiness. Until the day you lead me there, Lord, please do your best to make the one I have a little more up to my standards.
Living here in Boston, seeing each morning new shocks and new scandals on the frontpage of the Globe, listening, as last night, to yet another homily by a good priest as horrified as the rest of us, I can see one reason, and one reason only, to leave Law in place.

Law is undergoing a penance. Until the last "revelation" has been set forth in the newspaper; Until the last lawsuit has been filed; until the last priest has been removed: Why would you remove Law? To bring in a new bishop while still more information lurks in the files of the Archdiocese will only serve to undercut the new man, and it would remove the millstone Law selected for his own neck many years ago.

I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of him. God send that my own weaknesses, failings and evildoings may never receive the public scrutiny that his have. I presume that his continued presence serves a purpose, and am content in that. I do not attend Mass or receive the sacraments because of my bishop, however flawed, however holy. With the Blessing, others who have bishops who appear holier will focus on their own, and less on mine.

Addenda: I say I can see only one reason. But I don't have the whole universe and all of time in my field of vision. the person in charge does. My personal desires are neither here nor there.
Why I am an "Advent person"....

“The Shaking Reality of Advent”
Alfred Delp, SJ, d. Feb 2, 1945

There is perhaps nothing we modern people need more than to be genuinely shaken up. Where life is firm we need to sense its firmness; and where it is unstable and uncertain and has no basis, no foundation, we need to know this too and endure it.

We may ask why God has sent us into this time, why he has sent this whirlwind over the earth, why he keeps us in this chaos where all appears hopeless and dark and why there seems to be no end to this in sight. The answer to this question is perhaps that we were living on earth in an utterly false and counterfelt security. And now God strikes the earth ‘til it resounds, now he shakes and shatters; not to pound us with fear, but to teach us one thing—the spirit’s innermost moving and being moved.

Many of the things that are happening today would never have happened if we had been living in that movement and disquiet of heart which results when we are faced with God, the Lord, and when we look clearly at things as they really are. If we had done this, God would have withheld his hand from many things that have stirred up and shaken and crushed our lives. We would have seen and judged the limits of our own competence.

But we have stood on this earth is false pathos, in false security; in our spiritual insanity we really believed we could, with the power of our own hand and arm, bring the stars down from heaven and kindle flames of eternity in the world. We believed that with our own forces we could avert the dangers and banish night, switch off and halt the internal quaking of the universe. We believed we could harness everything and fit it into a final order that would stand.

Here is the message of Advent: faced with him who is the Last, the world will begin to shake. Only when we do not cling to false securities will our eyes be able to see this Last One and get to the bottom of things. Only then will we be able to guard our life from the frights and terrors into which God the Lord has let the world sink to teach us, so that we may awaken from sleep, as Paul says, and see that it is time to repent, time to change things. It is time to say, “All right, it was night; but let that be over and let us be ready for the day.” We must do this with a decision that comes out of these very horrors we have experienced, and all that is connected with them; and because of this our decision will be unshakable even in uncertainty.

If we want to transform life again, if Advent is truly to come again—the Advent of home and of hearts, the Advent of the people and the nations, a coming of the Lord in all this—the great Advent question for us is whether we come out of these convulsion with this determination: yes, arise! It is time to awaken from sleep. It is time for a waking up to begin somewhere. It is time to put things back where God the Lord put them. It is time for each of us to go to work, with the same unshakable sureness that the Lord will come, to set our life in God’s order wherever we can. Where God’s word is heard, he will not cheat our life of the message; where our life rebels before our own eyes he will reprimand it.

The world today needs people who have been shaken by ultimate calamities and emerged from them with the knowledge and awareness that those who look to the Lord will still be preserved by him, even if they are hounded from the earth.

The Advent message comes out of an encounter of man with the absolute, the final, the gospel. It is thus the message that shakes—so that in the end the world shall be shaken. The fact that then the Son of man shall come is more than a historic prophecy; it is also a decree, that God’s coming and the shaking up of humanity are somehow connected. If we are inwardly unshaken, inwardly incapable of being genuinely shaken, if we become obstinate and hard and superficial and cheap, then God will himself intervene in world events and teach us what it means to be placed in this agitation and be stirred inwardly. Then the great question to us is whether we are still capable of being truly shocked or whether it is to remain so that we see thousands of things and know that they should not be and must not be, and that we get hardened to them. How many things have we become used to in the course of the years, of the weeks and months, so that we stand unshocked, unstirred, inwardly unmoved.

Advent is time when we ought to be shaken and brought to a realization of ourselves. The necessary condition for the fulfillment of Advent is the renunciation of the presumptuous attitudes and alluring dreams in which and by means of which we always build ourselves imaginary worlds. In this way we force reality to take us to itself by force—by force, in much pain and suffering.

The shocked awakening is definitely part of experiencing Advent. But at the same time there is much more that belongs to it. Advent is blessed with God’s promises, which constitute the hidden happiness of this time. These promises kindle the inner light in our hearts. Being shattered, being awakened—only with these is life made capable of Advent. In the bitterness of awakening, in the helplessness of “coming to,” in the wretchedness of realizing our limitations, the golden threads that pass between heaven and earth in the times reach us. These golden threads give the world a taste of the abundance it can have.

We must not shy away from Advent thoughts of this kind. We must let our inner eye see and let our hearts range far. We will encounter the earnestness of Advent and the blessing of Advent in a different way. We will see characters, completed and whole personalities, that belong to these days and to all days—characters in whom the Advent message and the Advent blessing simply exist and live, calling out to us and touching us to cheer and shake us, to console and to uplift us.

I am referring to characters that live in these days and all days. The types I mean are these three: the Angel of Annunciation, the Blessed Woman, and the Crier in the Wilderness.

[This excerpt, and the remainder of the essay, appear as the December 5 reading in “Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas”, © 2001, The Plough Publishing, Farmington, PA. Father Delp wrote this in a Nazi prison, two months before he was hanged.]
For the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Ave Maria

Ave Maria, gratia plena
Dominus tecum, benedicta tu
In mulieribus et benedictus
Fructus ventris tui Jesus.
Sancta Maria, Sancta Maria,
Maria ora pro nobis,
Nobis peccatoribus,
Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae

Monday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For 5th grade Mary, to undergo surgery tomorrow, and her surgeons. For R. A.'s son. For Mr. and Mrs. Riddle. For my wife's cousin, who is in the final stages of cancer. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Friday, December 06, 2002

A plea, that might help lead to civility

The Catholic use of language can be a real problem. We obscure great and beautiful things in pompous tones and unclear words. We use the word "church" to mean an event, a building, a group of people we spend an hour with, an insitution, a collection of hundreds of millions of people, a collection of several billion people, and an invisible but real thing spread out across history, encompassing billions and billions of people, spirits, angels and ministers of grace. (sorry to go all Carl Sagan at the end.) Sometimes it's clear from context which is which, but I suspect a lot of arguments would be less heated if those in dispute would just define their terms, like in history class.

Perma-link

I have added a perma-link in the right-hand column to the Principles of Ignatian Spirituality, for those who wish to review them from time to time, without having to search around. I had gotten into the habit of the Examen for a time, and have fallen off the wagon. I also have forgotten to do somethign that Father Confessor suggested during Lent, when my confession was so filled with the small sins of vanity that make up so much of my daily life. "Start each day," he told me, "saying, 'Okay Lord. It's just you and me today. Help me, and help me remember that, the rest of the day.'" Good advice, that Pride pushes aside as soon as I'm not looking.
Another late intention

Kathy S. writes: "Please pray for 5th-grade Mary, who will undergo a 7-hour back surgery on Tuesday."

I will also pray for the surgical team.
Please keep my friend from Flos Carmeli and his wife in your prayers. She is sick and they are far from home.
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the repose of the soul of Sam Gale, and for his family. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Faxon. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
Today's Hymn

Today's Hymn comes via Kairos Musical Advisor, Dave Pawlak.

"People, Look East is one of my favorite modern Advent hymns. The tune is Besancon (not in CyberHymnal, but found
elsewhere)."

People look East. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People look East, today:
Love the Guest is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People look East, today:
Love the Rose is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People look East, today:
Love the Star is on the way.

Angels announce to man and beast
Him who cometh from the East.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the Word, the Lord is coming.
People look East, today:
Love the Lord is on the way.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

"What Would Jesus Eat?"

Let's see if I can stir up a new controversy.

"Self-help" Jesus books that can't be far away:

"What Would Jesus Shoot? A Christian Hunter's Guide to Firearms"
"What Would Jesus Boot? Computers that will make you Rapturous"
"What Would Jesus Invest In? 12 Can't-Miss Investments for the Christian Trader, Plus a bonus investment for the one that does go wrong."
"What Would Jesus Bake? A Recipe-filled Follow-up to the Best-Selling 'What Would Jesus Eat?'"
"What Would Jesus Abort? Planned Parenthood's New Translation of the New Testament, with a forward by Rev. Mark Bigalow"
"What Would Jesus Pay? A Christian's Guide to Negotiating Your Best Deal"
"What Would Jesus Sue? A Legal Guide to Christian Guerrilla Judicial Activism"
"What Would Jesus Design? Furniture and Interior Recommendations from the World's Most Famous Carpenter"
"What Would Jesus Cellar? Top Wine Recommendations from the Nation's Top Christian Oenophiles"
"What Would Jesus Sell? Amway's Biggest Catalog EVER!"
"What Would Jesus Use to Survive an Attack by a Weapon of Mass Destruction? Survival Gear for the Christian Who Already Has a Year's Supply of Food Stashed Away in a Plywood Structure The FBI Doesn't Know About"

Please note I hold the copyright to all these titles, and will gratefully sue the pants off anyone who actually publishes a book under these names.

UPDATE: A few more. (Send your own, and I'll list the best ones.)
"What Would Jesus Pave? A Conservative Christian's Guide to Protecting Our Wilderness While Opening Up New Areas to Development"
"What Would Jesus Use? A Deeper Understanding of Christ Through a Deeper Understanding of Cannabis"
"What Would Jesus Join? Clubs and Associations That Won't 'Raise Eyebrows'"
"What Would Jesus Ski? A Vacation Guide for the Saved"
This is kind of cool. Music that will please both me AND my wife, which is very hard to do.
Seven Principle Elements of Ignatian Spirituality

This is reproduced from the pages of a Jesuit High School I know. It is meant to give a little balance to the esoteric ruminations of Dominicans and Carmelites found elsewhere.

1.God in All Things. God is present in all of human existence. The world and all it contains reveals God to us. It was out of this conviction that Ignatius became known as an “incarnational mystic,” a “contemplative in action.”

2. The Consciousness Examen. If God indeed can be found in all things, then human beings can discern God’s presence in the world. The examen is a prayerful reflection on one’s day in order to notice where God was present in one’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, actions, relationships, work, play, etc, so that one may respond with grateful generosity.

3. Two Standards: The Standard of Christ and the standard of Satan. We ought not to be naïve about the presence of evil in the world. We are called to discern and reject what is evil and to do battle against evil, serving Christ under the standard of the cross.

4. AMDG, Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam. For the Greater Glory of God; and Magis, more. For most people decisions involve a choice from among various goods. AMDG reminds us that we are called to seek that which will give greater glory, i.e. what is most especially conducive to the praise, worship, and service of God?

5. The magis is not a question of doing more, but of carefully discerning what is especially fitting in the service of God.

6. Ignatian Discernment. God’s voice can be discerned most clearly by a careful examination of one’s deepest, most authentic desires. God’s voice can also be discerned in a group setting: prayerful consideration of the movements of the Spirit in the groups ongoing work, conversation, prayer, etc.

7.Cura Personalis. This term can be paraphrased with: “ The person in front of me is the most important person in the world.” Cura Personalis is the attentive concern given to each individual, taking into consideration that person’s whole self: body, mind, and soul. No aspect of what it means to be human ought to be neglected. This principle also implies that a human being must never be treated as a means to an end, but is always to be treated with respect as an individual man or woman, made in God’s image and likeness.
I have been slow to update my links on the right, and therefore have neglected until now to add a fine blog, Ut Unum Sint. In the unlikely chance you haven't seen it, go visit. It's not filled with exactly the same views as a hundred other blogs, including this one.
I want to be clear that my post yesterday about going back to confession recounts as exactly as possible just what happened. If anyone reading this is a materialist, let me assure him that all the natural forces at work in me were trying desparately to remove me from proximity to the confessional. Something like CS Lewis' experience of "compelle intrare" was at work. Had it not been, you may consider yourself guaranteed that I would have been scarfing a sandwich at Cosi and marvelling at the weird tricks the mind can play when you are tired.
I stumbled across the book Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas on the shelves at the local library a couple of days ago, and peaked into it last night. I can't recommend it enough. In particular, the December 2 essay by Karl Rahn was excellent.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the repose of the soul of Sam Gale, and for his family. For Rev. Steve W. For my cousin who just had surgery. For the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Faxon. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Emily's friend Katie. For Monica M. For Mrs. Kairos Guy, her cousin and her grandfather, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
A Child This Day Is Born

[There are a dozen more verses to this hymn. Click the link
if you want to see the whole thing.]

A Child this day is born,
A Child of high renown.
Most worthy of a scepter,
A scepter and a crown.

Refrain

Noëls, noëls, noëls,
Noëls sing all we may,
Because the King of all kings
Was born this blessèd day.

The which the holy prophets
Spoke of long time before,
That from the fall of Adam
He should us all restore.

Refrain

This Child both God and Man
From Heaven down to us came,
He is the King of all Kings,
And Jesus is His Name.

Refrain

These tidings Shepherds heard
In their field watching their fold,
Was by an angel unto them
That night revealed and told.

Refrain

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Requiescat in pacem

I apparently missed the news that Ned Beach, USN, veteran the Pacific War and author of, among many other excellent works, "Run Silent, Run Deep," died on Sunday. I met him once at the US Naval Institute's annual meeting, and had the pleasure of sitting with him for lunch. He was a fine gentleman and a true patriot.
White House Looks at Smallpox Vaccine -- Will the Bishops?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration plans to make the smallpox vaccine available to all Americans eventually, but officials will recommend that only those who are at greatest risk of encountering a patient get the shots.

The Bishops have spoken a lot about a prospective war, admitting as they do that their opinions are formed by incomplete information. And whatever their opinions, they are principally meant to guide the leaders of the country--who are not, by and large, Roman Catholic, and who are therefore unlikely to feel bound by those opinions. This is all well and good, and part of the natural order of things.

But I would like to hear from the Bishops on smallpox (and other bioweapon) vaccinations. There are significant ethical and moral considerations to examine before a "voluntary" program is undertaken, and well in advance of any mandatory mass vaccination.

In 1 million vaccinations, the statistical probability is that two or three people will die. Several dozen others may get seriously ill. All this assumes 1 million people of reasonable health, with normal immune systems. If all 270 million of us get a shot, that amounts to hundreds of dead citizens, and thousands of seriously ill people, without a terrorist raising a finger. On the other hand, even 20 or 30 million new vaccinations will have the effect of slowing the spread of smallpox among the uninoculated. This could save tens of thousands of lives in an attack.

Does this then place a moral obligation on those of us who are otherwise in good health to get a voluntary shot? In addition to building up what epidemiologists call "community immunity" (cutting down on the number of possible transmitters of an infection), several 10s of millions of already-immunized people could relieve what is sure to be a very significant strain on an already-taxed healthcare system. Finally, a pre-immunized population would be able to keep essential economic and political infrastructure operating (beyond just the "emergency responders" in police and fire departments), offsetting and somewhat mitigating the devastating economic consequences of what would otherwise be a national quarantine.

There are therefore compelling reasons to think that a "voluntary" inoculation is not far from an imperative, but there are countervailing imperatives as well, particularly for parents with small children. This is something that is unquestionably within the competency of the bishops' authority, and most if not all the relevant factors of risk and benefit are well known and in the public domain.

Please, your eminences, speak now while discussion can still be fruitful.
He leadeth me beside the still waters

I promised my story of how I came back to the Confessional after a long absence. Here it is.

In November 2001, I had to go to New York City on business. Never having loved New York--indeed, having loathed it the two times I had been before taking this job--I was, as you might suppose, unhappy about going so soon after September 11. (A brief trip in October had been far worse in that regard.) I didn't especially know my way around then, and so it was quite by accident that I found myself outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in mid-town. Churches often invite me in, for some reason (and not just Catholic ones: St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Boston Common and I are old friends), and so I entered.

It would be pointless to pretend that the still-smoking pile a couple of miles away had no influence on my wandering inside, but that was not the only thing. My two-years-long apostasy had ended in Summer 2000, but I was still working out what the end really implied. An hour and a half until my next meeting only three blocks away meant there was time for real prayer and contemplation, and so the Spirit carried me in.

St. Patrick's is an enormous Gothic structure, just the sort of thing one associated automatically with the word "cathedral". With chapels and memorial altars up and down the sides of the Church, its European ancestry is obvious even to an architectural ignoramus such as me. My own tastes run more towards simple stone churches, but St. Pat's was for me on that day quite literally breathtaking. I have no notion that "Heaven" is anything like a church, but I fully understand why an architect who wanted to capture it in a building would design St. Patrick's.

After quietly examining the altars along the side, I sat in front of one that I particularly liked for a little silent prayer. My mind is sadly undisciplined, however, and I kept peaking out from under my closed lids, looking for distractions. Eventually they fell on a sign just to my left that told me confession would start in about 20 minutes and run for perhaps an hour.

I did not actually hear the still, small voice saying "take and read!" but something very like that did happen. I shut my eyes again but soon enough found them fixed on that sign. Again, I shut my eyes. A third time I realized I was reading the sign, this time while calculating the odds of making it into and out of the confessional, conducting a penance for a decade's worth of sin, and still fulfilling my duty to my employer, to make it to the next meeting. Anxiety seized me as the numbers revealed that it was not only possible but indeed probable that it would work out, but only if I got in the quickly-growing line right away.

Now my wandering eyes were alternating between my watch and the door. "You can't be late to this meeting!" "The people in front are taking too long." "You'll never get it all done, you need to go NOW!" "Get out! Get out! It's not too late!" "Leave, before you kill me!" Finally, my turn came. The door to the confessional opened, and no one else moved.

More reluctant feet have hardly ever walked such a short distance in all of human history. Again my breath was taken, not this time by awe and majesty, but instead by fear and trembling. Adrenaline turned the tiny click of the doorlatch into the clanging seal of the gas chamber door. And, why not? My fear was real, and it was also perceptive: the only reason to go into the booth was to kill myself, or at least that part of myself that was afraid, the part that had to die forever so that the rest can live.

The same thing that kept drawing my eyes to the sign on the wall outside mastered my shaking legs enough to help me kneel. No more delay, now. No escape. Now comes the time to find the courage to admit what a coward I am, and have too often been.

"Bless me, father, for I have sinned." Exhale carefully. "I really don't know how long it has been since my last Confession." Deep, forced breath. "Nine, ten years at least."

"Welcome back," he said.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

It is again abnormally cold here in Boston today, with temperatures in the teens and wind chills taking it below zero. Please pray for those without proper shelter.

For my cousin who just had surgery. For the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Faxon. For Sam G and his family. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. For Mairen and Tiernan. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks

[note: there are several tunes for this hymn, and the Cyberhymnal has not chosen the best known one as their background music. The one you are familiar with is "Winchester's Old."]

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around,
And glory shone around.

“Fear not!” said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind.
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind
To you and all mankind.

“To you, in David’s town, this day
Is born of David’s line
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord,
And this shall be the sign,
And this shall be the sign.

“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed,
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands,
And in a manger laid,
And in a manger laid.”

Thus spake the seraph and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God on high,
Who thus addressed their song,
Who thus addressed their song:

“All glory be to God on high,
And to the Earth be peace;
Good will henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease,
Begin and never cease!”

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Have you participated in Operation Uplink yet?
Kerry Steps Up Attacks on Bush Policies (washingtonpost.com)

"This administration is willing to do terrorism insurance for big industry, but they weren't willing to do unemployment compensation for people who are out of work," the senator from Massachusetts said a day after announcing he would form a presidential exploratory committee. "That's the big difference in how we approach the economy."

Funny, but I would swear that that bill got caught up in the still-Daschle-led Senate, not the White House. Maybe it was the White House where decorated veterans dump cheap imitations of their medals over the fence but pretend the medals are real even though they secretly treasure the originals like ambitious Gollums who wants to have it both ways.
Confession Rant, part the second

Last week I vented about my Archdiocese's apparent lack of interest in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Who knew that I would find the solution to my problem where all American problems get solved: the Mall! Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen. I went to worship Mammon on Friday and found God instead (actually, I went to get new tires at Sears, but that isn't much of a rhetorical flourish, is it?). With apologies to my Dominican friend Tom, I note that the Carmelites have reversed the Gospel story, and set up a temple amidst the money changers.

Can you believe this schedule?

Masses: Mon-Fri, 8:30, Noon, & 3:00pm. Sat, 8:30am, Noon, 4:00pm and 5:30pm. Holy Days, Vigil 4:00pm, Day, 4:00pm and 5:30pm.

Confession: Mon-Fri one half hour before every Mass. Sat, 8:00-8:30am, 10:45-11:45am, 2:45-3:45pm, and by appointment.

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: Mon-Fri, 9:00am - 7:30pm. Sat. 9:00am-Noon.

Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament: Wed., 7:45pm.

Would that a few parishes around here had such a schedule. Although perhaps we should acknowledge the reality of the situation and rename the North Shore Mall "Our Lady of Good Bargains" and declare it the largest parish in the Eastern US. In any case, though the Mall is no longer especially conveient to where I live, I can make my way there when 3:00-3:45 Saturday is taken over with family obligations. (Since they pay their rent with donations and purchases in the gift shop, I encourage my Boston-area readers to visit and drop a few bucks.)

[By the way. I solved my own problem--having missed the Chapel confessions by about an hour--by ducking out of holiday leftovers at the in-laws for a little while on Saturday. I was most amazed--amazed!--when I arrived 20 minutes early to find Father Confessor sitting at the altar himself preparing quietly to hear the confessions. A far cry from the last place I went, where the priest came rushing in 20 minutes late and gave me the most absurdly light penance I've ever had. St. Bernard's was the most encouraging experience I have had with the Sacrament since I rediscovered it a year ago. But the rediscovery is another story, and I'm running out of tangent space here.]
I pretty much gave up FM radio a while ago, though I occasionally flip back to it. Lately, however, I have been listening to WCRB a lot ("Classical Radio Boston"). There is a very funny, understated kind of humor they possess, that often gets lost in the mellow, comforting and sometimes pompous tones common to most classical radio stations (think Frasier Crane on Quaaludes if you have never listened). This morning, for instance, during the half-hour news break I was informed that "Last night the Celitcs beat the Orlando Magic 102-97. Tonight, the Bruins play St. Louis at the Fleet Center, and the Symphony plays 'Hansel and Gretel' at Symphony Hall."
Interesting. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's more likely related to those ridiculous shorts they wear.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

It is abnormally cold here in Boston today, with temperatures in the teens and wind chills taking it below zero. Please pray for those without proper shelter.

For my cousin who just had surgery. For the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Faxon. For Sam G and his family. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. 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.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Refrain

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

Refrain

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

Refrain

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Refrain

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

Refrain

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

Refrain

Monday, December 02, 2002

The Snooze of Complacency

In the missalette my Parish uses, there is a little paragraph at the beginning of each Sunday's section, sort of summarizing and sort of drawing out the themes of the readings. Usually they are quite simple, well done though plain. Once in a while, they stand out, as yesterday's did. After pulling out the relevant Advent themes, it concluded with the point of the Gospel, in convenient metaphor-form. (I like a good metaphor as much as the next guy, and have been known to stretch one to the breaking point and beyond. But some metaphors are best left in the junior high English classroom, however apt they may be.) The paragraph called on us "to let today's readings be an alarm, waking us from the snooze of complacency."

It ain't exactly the King James Version, is it?

On the other hand, I do like the image: not indeed of a person sound asleep, in heavy REM mode, but rather, a groggy, I-don't-wanna-go-to-school-today-Mom kind of way. Maybe its not a sign of the author's banality, as much as our own time's.
Monday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For my cousin who just had surgery. For the repose of the soul of Elizabeth Faxon. For Sam G and his family. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. 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.
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”


Refrain

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Refrain

Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

Refrain

Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.

Refrain

Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.

Refrain

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I liked the walking on water joke. We've moved from smirk to chuckle. Still need a belly laugh though.
Probably no more posting until Saturday or Sunday--possibly not until Monday. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving, and please remember those whose holidays will not seem very blessed in your prayers.
Can I make a suggestion to Harvard Law School? (Which raises the age old zen question: If a non HLS grad raises his voice in Cambridge, and no one at Harvard is listening, does it make any difference?)

Instead of a "free speech policy," why not try a "caritas" policy?

Requiring people not to give offense is an impossible task at any place with such a policy. The sense of grievance too many people arrive at colleges and graduate schools with these days is only encouraged by such nonsense. "You are right to feel aggrieved, and here is how we shall punish the malefactors as soon as you report them to us" is not a statement calculated to calm an ardent spirit.

But a "caritas" policy (so named because few people realize that "charity" means more than dumping a couple of quarters in the Salvation Army bucket while avoiding eye contact with the bell ringer at all costs) would encode into law something Harvard grads all seem to believe they possess by divine right: virtue. Require students to construe charitably everything they hear; require them to find the least offensive way of understanding what is said to them. Require them to suppose that a person who speaks even ignorantly might not in fact be willfully ignorant, might indeed be at Harvard in order to overcome his ignorance. In return, require speakers to construe complaints against themselves charitably. Require them to apologize for offense given even when it resulted from a misunderstanding. Require them to listen quietly when the specific nature of the offense is explained.

The paradox of a "free speech policy" is that it requires students to *be* virtuous but still can punish them. A "caritas" policy only requires students to *act* virtuous, whatever their private feelings may be.
If you haven't clicked on the "make a donation" link on the right, now would be a good time. Lazarus House has 5 of the 55 emergency housing rooms in Massachusetts, and they are full up right now. They are also desparately collecting Turkeys and other food for their food pantry to distribute tonight.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Sam G and his family. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. 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.
Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the Baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes;
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

I have been quiet about my archdiocese for a while now, because so many voices have been complaining about it, and it annoyed me. But today I have a complaint. Every Church I have looked at offers Confession during the same 45 minute window on Saturday afternoon: 3-3:45. This happens to be a uniquely inconvenient time, inasmuch as most of my family's weekend productivity happens after lunch on Saturday, and I do try (though often don't succeed thanks to laundry) to make Sunday a day of at least some rest. There are Masses available within 5 miles of me at almost any hour of the Day from 3 Saturday until 10pm Sunday, which is great. But why is Confession not offered with the same reckless abandon??
Please add Sam Gale to your intentions. He is a friend of Dave Pawlak's, and not likely to see another sun rise.
A reader says...

(and he probably doesn't want the credit/blame for this, so I'll leave him anonymous) that "The Fighting Papists of St. Blog's" are in a fight for the division title with the "Mitered Clowns of USC-CB" and the "OCP Demon Liturgists."

I agree. But that will still leave a battle for the conference championship with the Aggressive Agnostics and the Unitarian Unicorns. Sadly, the Jesuit Jumping Arguments are on probation after being caught using sophistry, then trying to prove that they weren't.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. 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.
O Holy Night

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Refrain

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our friend!

Refrain

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!

Refrain

Monday, November 25, 2002

The Fighting Papists of St. Blog's

I've just spent some time looking in the comments boxes on Amy Welborn's and a few other blogs. I have had a realization. St. Blog's has become a sports talk radio station, where the "sport" is the Church.

Ugh. I used to enjoy Rod Dreher, even when I disagreed with him. But now when I see his name I just cuh-ringe. But he's like "Larry on the car phone" on the show. Every time the host says "Let's go to Rod from Brooklyn," you just know that the volume level is going to go up.

At least I've thought of a team nickname, for the sports radio types to use: The Fighting Papists of St. Blog's. Go, Papists!

Now, what colors will the uniforms be?
Make me laugh. Please.
Once in Royal David’s City

Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden,
In whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be
Mild, obedient, good as He.

For He is our childhood’s pattern;
Day by day, like us He grew;
He was little, weak and helpless,
Tears and smiles like us He knew;
And He feeleth for our sadness,
And He shareth in our gladness.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in Heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.

Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in Heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
Wow. Commenting committed suicide within five minutes of my adding it. Bummer.
I've added commenting again. It may stay, it may go. Haven't really decided.
Why do I have a thing for quirky, funky TV shows that flit along, perpetually on the edges of cancellation? First, "Due South," now "Firefly". Oh, Lord, please make me happy with the standard pap the networks serve up, rather than continuing to taunt me with shows I like that don't last.
Church has two hickeys!

I don't know why I find this funny, but I do. The Archbishop of Washington DC for many years was James Hickey, who became Cardinal Hickey in 1988 (the day after giving me the Archbishop's award at my high school graduation; I was also a member of the Chess club for a while, in case you were wondering.). Cardinal Hickey retired a couple of years ago.

In 1991 the diocese of Perth in Australia received as its Archbishop...James Hickey. This means that, for about 10 years, the Roman Catholic Church had two Hickeys. I find this amusing, even if you don't.

Friday, November 22, 2002

washingtonpost.com: Iran

How is anyone in the State Department going to know to help the people of Iran if the Washington Post's coverage is so lame as to virtually ignore what is going on there? I realize that student protests in a foreign country aren't as sexy as getting ready to bomb the bejeebers out of someone, but dammit, THIS IS IMPORTANT.

So what do we get?



A picture of a staged rally 9 months old, with the following caption:
"Iranian clerics look at Iranian youths holding up an effigy of US President George W. Bush at an anti-US demonstration during held in Tehran to mark the 23rd anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. (Atta Kenare - AFP)"

Folks, here's the deal: The people of Iran are trying to liberate themselves. The State Department meanwhile has cut off funding for the Farsi version of the Voice of America, and is replacing it with a pop music channel with "light news" (or something) scattered in. And the Washington Post chooses to show us mullah-sponsored propaganda as the face of Iran. They need our help, and we are not giving it.
Stephen Chapman: Did Bush Blaspheme?

In my view, when the state takes on messianic significance, it ceases to be justly authorized (e.g., Romans 13 describes this kind of state) and becomes essentially demonic (e.g., Revelation 13 describes this kind of state). The only possible response for Christians then becomes one of civil disobedience.

Um, or maybe first we could write a few letters, you know? Let him know we're concerned, give him a chance to explain himself, amend or retract what he said?

What is it with college professors, where their first instinct is always to stage a protest or an act of civil disobedience? Howsabout we try civility, first???
Here's my question, now

This question is directed at me, and at you, and at anyone who argues with Church teachings in any area:

What wouldn't you give up for Christ?

That is, if you knew for sure that Christ wanted you to give up something, is there anything about yourself that you would say "Sorry, Lord. No can do!"? The story of the rich young man who comes to Jesus and asks what he must do is not principally about money. Christ looked into the young man's heart and saw the attachment--the undue attachement--the man had to his wealth and his belongings and said "This you must let go of."

So, what wouldn't you give up?

I ask it this way, because so many arguments about whether "Rome" is right about something (including those I engage in) really seem to me to be about what I do not want to give up, rather than what Christ is asking. If you can answer "Nothing" then all conversations can get much more civil and much less heated, because they then become an argument about facts--the facts in question being, "Do we indeed know that Christ does indeed want us to do or not do the particular thing in question"--rather than about the putative motives of "Rome."

So, next time you get worked up about your sexuality, or your wealth, or birth control, or women clergy, or married clergy, or anything else, put your conscience in the appropriate frame of mind, by asking "Would I give this up if I were sure I had to?"

Because, for me, the really awful thing is, I don't always know the answer to that question, and so I argue and I argue hoping that the facts will make the question irrelevant.
Every day, the man becomes a sadder cartoon of himself

Teddy, Teddy. How many other people will now lose their jobs in a department that doesn't affect your personal convenience?
A reader asked me an excellent question yesterday

Are we "Advent People" or "Easter People"? We are, after all, waiting for the Savior who has already come. I'll give my own answer another time, to let you think about your own, unpolluted by my bloviations.
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Charles L. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. 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 note on hymns

Well, Mom told me not to do it anymore, so no more background music. (At least, until she's senile and won't care anymore.) Also, it's pretty much Christmas music from here until Twelfth Night, so just deal. And if anyone has any linkages to Advent Chants that they especially like, send them my way...
O Come, All Ye Faithful

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

Refrain

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,
Lo, He shuns not the Virgin’s womb;
Son of the Father, begotten, not created;

Refrain

Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
O sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;

Refrain

See how the shepherds, summoned to His cradle,
Leaving their flocks, draw nigh to gaze;
We too will thither bend our joyful footsteps;

Refrain

Lo! star led chieftains, Magi, Christ adoring,
Offer Him incense, gold, and myrrh;
We to the Christ Child bring our hearts’ oblations.

Refrain

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
We would embrace Thee, with love and awe;
Who would not love Thee, loving us so dearly?

Refrain

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.

Refrain

Thursday, November 21, 2002

If you have a strong opinion about my having the "hymn of the day" playing in the background (pro or con) please let me know. Now that I've figured out how to do it, it is very tempting....
Shhhh...

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I find I don't make enough time for simple contemplation in my life. I’m not actually the sort of person to turn on music to drown out the voices in my head, or to have the TV on simply for the sake of not having to think. (Though I do watch a lot of TV, I am as apt to leave it off as not when I am home alone.) But I am fairly likely, when things get quiet, to pick up a book, rather than close my eyes and think.

This may be at least in part why I so dearly love to stand in the shower long after I have finished my ablutions, and why I so resent anyone coming in to the bathroom during this time. It is practically the only 10 or 15 minutes during the day when the background noise serves only to help me concentrate, when no book, phone, computer or television takes up just enough of my attention to keep me from noticing anything about myself or my world.

Sometimes, during that quiet time, I find myself really, truly on the edge of understanding something of tremendous importance. Indeed, I think there have been times not only at “the edge of understanding” but that actual, genuine understanding has penetrated my smirking self-satisfaction. At every one of those times, though, turning off the water and reentering society sends the understanding skittering away like the vestiges of a dream—the kind where you know you have discovered the secret of flight, if only you could remember it when the dawn comes.

I hope with the change in my life in a month or two, that I will be able to begin practicing the self-discipline I have long vowed, where there will always be within reach a notebook wherein to write a handful of words, to retain the important things that enter my consciousness triumphantly but slink away as a thief in the night. Too, perhaps I can impose upon myself the discipline of making time beyond my morning toilet to open myself to the mysteries that always stand in my peripheral vision, awaiting only a quiet moment when nothing else competes for my notice.
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For the pastor of my church, who celebrated 24 years of priestly ministry this week. For Michelle. 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, grandmother, and sister. For Alicia and her sister. 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.
Joy to the World



Among the hymns posted here, the largest plurality have been by the English Noncomformist Isaac Watts, including today's (by which I take a hint from Emily Stimpson and anticipate advent a wee smidge early).

Joy to the World

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

"Grabbing them is always preferable to blowing them up. But if it's a choice between losing them or blowing them up, you blow them up."

--Intelligence source, New York Daily News
Now that Ashley Bambi (or whatever her name on fox news is) no longer braves the Afghan Winter to bring us the latest update from the assault by the Northern Alliance on the gates of some city that no one ever heard of but that appeared to have strategic signficance;

Now that Geraldo no longer stands in front of a blue screen pretending to be on a battlefield;

Now that the Taliban is non-existant;

What on earth is going on in Afghanistan? Has anyone else noticed an almost total lack of news from there? Are we doing what we are obliged to, helping rebuild it, that the Taliban might never rise again? Were our promises to the people of Afghanistan well-meant, but no longer binding, or are we doing it and the reporters just don't care?

We did a necessary thing, in our own and the Afghans interest, in destroying the Taliban. But if we do not honor our promises, if we abandon the people of Afghanistan to the tribalism and warfare that has plagued it since 1980, it will be a horrid stain on our honor.
Proverbs 3

1 My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
9 Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
11 My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

This if fun. But you will get carpal tunnel syndrome. Don't say I didn't warn you.
I didn't post a hymn today, but here's something just as good. Bach.
Public Service Photo of the Day

For some reason, I think the capybara the coolest land mammal.

The Conclusion of Life…at Conception

None of what I propose is going to bring about instantaneous change in abortion or our society’s attitudes towards it. What I hope to do is provide a thoughtful way to move beyond the pointless “Life begins at conception!” “No, it doesn’t!” “Yes, it does!” “No, it doesn’t!” conversations that make up much of the “dialogue” between sides. I also hope that changing this conversation may help undermine some of the softer political support for abortion, and make possible passage of laws that at a minimum limit it in ways that are not now feasible.

The single most important thing is to challenge anyone who says she “supports a woman’s right to choose.” Always, always, always insist on an object for that verb. “Choose what? I support a woman’s right to make choices, of course, but let’s be specific. The right to choose what?” In my experience (YMMV) many people who support this vague amorphous ideal of choice are extremely uncomfortable actually uttering the word abortion. The reason to call their attention to this is not to be mean, rude, or superior, but to call their own native revulsion to abortion to their attention.

Insisting on an object also has a secondary effect among some of separating “choice” from the agenda of equality. That is, by leaving the words “right to choose” to stand on their own, you allow all the vague notions of women’s rights that Steinem et al. have associated with abortion to be the unconscious image in a “pro-choice” speaker’s mind.

The next step is to ask why they favor a women’s right to choose abortion. Do not stop at “because I have a right to control what happens to my own body.” First, because if you linger here long you will soon be into the “Does, too!” “Does not!” squabble in an irreversible downward slide. Note your disagreement with that premise, but then allow it for a moment, if only the speaker will consent to describe reasons why it is important to a woman to control fertility in this particular way. This is where the discussion of “glass ceilings” and the like usually come in.

(One argument never, ever to use: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” Eve Tushnet wrote very compellingly on this some months ago; I will not reiterate her argument in detail, but suffice it to say, having a child is not a punishment for your sins, and this statement seems to imply that it is. That particular position is the anti-life position, not the pro-life one.)

The point, in the end, is first to get those who consider themselves “pro-choice” to acknowledge what particular choice they are pro, then to ask whether that particular position is in fact pro-woman or not, which is usually the implied agenda, particularly for the soft middle. (By this I mean, those who favor keeping abortion legal but who would support a great deal of restriction on it after the first trimester; when I look at polls in aggregate I find that this is probably a majority of pro-choice voters.)

There are additional arguments that can be brought in: abortion even in a hospital is not always safe, and it often has lasting health consequences for a woman that she may not know about when she leaves the doctor’s office. Such studies as there are (it is hard to get funding or reporting on a study that shows the adverse consequences of abortion, at least according to those who have tried) indicate significant increases in difficulty conceiving later, along with possibly increased risks of certain cancers. (These studies, as I say, should be treated gently; they do not have large samples with which to work, or to speak authoritatively so far as I have been able to learn.) The eugenicist roots of Planned Parenthood and its white supremacist founder Margaret Sanger may or may not be worth mentioning, depending on your opponent.

Finally, don’t get bogged down in the exceptions. In 2000, there were roughly 1.2 million abortions in the US. According to Planned Parenthood, approximately 14,000 abortions annually are performed after the pregnancy results from rape or incest. This works out to less than 1.2%. (Numbers that show abortions alleging to protect the life or health of the mother are harder to assess, as they are often lumped together and protecting the mother’s health is a somewhat subjective criteria.) If we ever get to a point where the only argument about abortion is in cases of rape and incest, we will have accomplished a tremendous good. Meanwhile, let’s deal with the overwhelming majority of abortions that are elective and in no way medically necessary.

I wish I had a panacea for this. I also wish I had more courage, to engage in this conversation more regularly with people I know. None of this will alter the opinions of the people who would quite happily choose an abortion for themselves and go right back to work that afternoon. But most people are not that morally numb, and these talking points are intended to help you move beyond the intractable question, and to encourage discussion of the actual value of abortion as a choice. If anyone out there has comments, additions, corrections or other things to add, please email me and I will try to take them into account in a future post.