Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Upon reflection, I'm not sure I'm going to post my retreat prayer srevice here. I don't particularly want any google seraches for that particular retreat them bringing people here. When I talk about the university Catholic Center, I can't be accused of bringing disrepute on it if I never give the name or too many clues. I will probably post a summary of it after I reflect a little more, but without the "theme" the service won't make a ton of sense.

Hmmmm.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Affect and effect. Learn the difference. PLEASE.
Once in a while, I follow a train of thought that utterly wastes a moment of my life, railing in the subjunctive against the sinful nature of the world and, in effect, wishing that Adam had never fallen. This morning it became clear to me that even if Adam hadn't, I would have.
From the "Wish I'd Said It, and May Yet Steal Credit For It" file

Karen Hall writes a beautiful epigram: (Disordered Affections) I have a friend (yes, of course, a Jesuit) who says, "You know you've created God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do."
Since some comments and questions about my adolescent Catholics post seemed to think I was talking about *them* let me clarify one point: not all people who are struggling with the faith appear adolescent to me, let alone to be dissenters. When I use that term I use it very precisely, to include people who have stopped trying to conform their consciences to the Church and have instead started trying to conform the church to their consciences, and who do so rather more publicly than is comfortable for the rest of us. I have many many struggles and difficulties, but I stopped being a "dissenter" some years ago. Dissenters are people who form organziations with "Catholic" used falsely in the title, or who give interviews on street corners decrying theology they don't understand to reporters who know even less. Dissenters are people who think it funny to wear a "recovering Catholic" t-shirt at an awards ceremony or other prominent place. But people who struggle are simply the Church.
Later today or early tomorrow I will post the prayer service I did on Friday night. I feel like it went well, but since I was not there for the whole evening I am not sure.
Some alternate verses to Eternal Father, Strong to Save that are especially fitting today.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Though the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!

Aloft in solitudes of space,
Uphold them with Thy saving grace.
Thou Who supports with tender might
The balanced birds in all their flight.
Lord, if the tempered winds be near,
That, having Thee, they know no fear.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

I am very, very sad. I spent most of the day at Fenway Park trying to get tickets to the Red Sox for this season, but I take absolutely no pleasure in getting what I did. I am sure I will be happy again by the time the games roll around, but for now, today feels achy. I was a sophomore in high school when Challenger blew up, on my way to lunch when I diverted to my dorm room to watch my illegal TV, having been told of the explosion 3 minutes before by my roommate. It's hard to take such things seriously when you are not quite 16, and hard not to when you are older.

Friday, January 31, 2003

The Kumbaya essay is not what I wanted it to be, and I'm not sure how good it is. Sorry about that. Maybe someone will write a better version on their own blog. (And, maybe Father Jim will finish writing my essay about universalism, as he promised a few weeks ago. Then I can stun him with a really, really, really, radical theory.)
Kumbaya redux

The really challenging thing about many American Catholics’ beliefs about their faith is not that those beliefs are false, though they surely are that, but that they are adolescent. A spirit of juvenile contradiction, self-righteousness, and absolute certainty defines the collective mass of dissenters in the US, just as it defines the outward appearance of large numbers of teenagers in high schools and colleges across the country. (Let us not forget too the obsession with sexuality as the locus of so much grievance.) It is not surprising, really, that we have an adolescent Church, after all. The boomers have bequeathed us an adolescent culture, forever lusting after youth, newness, hipness, sexuality. We are focused on “who’s hot, and who’s not,” like the in crowd in the high school cafeteria.

[Please note, I referred to the “collective mass” of dissenters. I’m sure you are perfectly nice, and not at all adolescent, personally.]

Voice of the Faithful captures what I am getting at perfectly. First, in its slogan, and second, that is has a slogan at all. “Keep the faith. Change the Church!” The narcissistic definition of the faith, limiting it to not much more than the Trinity (and an androgynous Trinity at that, to at least some of it adherents) and social justice, and the demands for change in the recentering of “power,” rather than on change for the protection of children. The “support of priests of integrity” places the emphasis on something we can all agree on (who would oppose supporting priests of integrity) while carefully omitting the criteria by which priests’ integrity is to be measured. Adolescent cliques have a tendency to redefine their criteria from time to time, in the interest of keeping the Alpha members in charge (“Kill the pig! Drink his blood!”) and VOTF has certainly done that, by floating and then disavowing notions of things an integrated priest would be in favor of, such as married clergy and women’s ordination.

I don’t mean to single out VOTF, as though it were the only problem in the Church. VOTF is a symptom, not a cause.

But the adolescent mentality which it typifies helps point the way out of the problem. In an article on Confession that Kathy the Carmelite sent me (the link was broken, so I can’t link to it; maybe she will in the comments section) a Jesuit quoted in it talks about “meeting people where they are.” Now, aside from the hackneyed buzzword nature of that idea, it is problematical on its merits. As a tautology, it is unhelpful: where else would one expect to meet them? As a philosophy, it is limiting. Shall we stand here all day, Vladi? As theology, it is false: Christ did not come to hang out with us, but to lead us home. If we “meet people where they are” and never offer to show them the way, the truth and the life, in what sense can we be calling ourselves disciples?

Adolescents improve in two ways: by growing, and by growing up. The first happens however much or little we desire. The second only happens with the assistance of outside agents. Parents, friends, teachers, clergy, coaches, employers, even enemies, all cause us to grow up. Truth which seemed false at 14 often looks different at 21 (for instance, on June 16 1991, I suddenly found underage drinkers in bars to be an irritating bore) and still different again at 28. A parent of a doubting teen will not necessarily overcome with a full frontal assault of loud and repeated assertions of Truth. Instead, the patient, quiet living of it, and the refusal ever to deny it, while encouraging the maturing process that will eventually allow the child to acknowledge it on his own is often the better strategy.

How this plays out vis-à-vis the Church in America I am not sure. It is far easier to prove something true or false than to fashion a mind willing to admit inconvenient truths or falsehoods. And there is little use presenting Truth to a mind as yet unable to comprehend it. But the paradox of the adolescent is that more than anything else he wants to been seen as and treated as an adult. Somewhere in that contradiction lies the ability of the external agent to encourage maturing.
“Retirement” Update

In the past 10 days I have been offered 4 jobs, one of which I felt compelled to accept. It is *extremely* part time, and temporary, and I have no idea how much in the end I will be paid. But it will at least set me in good stead with the person who gets to decide how long we get to stay in our cushy housing. The other offers were a bit different, with one trustee at a school trying to recruit me to take a job in fundraising, which I want to be done with, and a couple of "be my sales rep up there" kinds of things from alumni of my former employer. I guess it is nice to be wanted, but still...

I also got roped into doing a prayer service, as I think I mentioned a few days ago. I'm not super impressed with the retreat format, so I have to be careful about how I approach what I'm doing. Since there are at least a couple of people who read this blog occasionally who attend the university where I work, I will say very little that might identify the retreat. But I am going heavy on scripture in the prayer service, as a means of balancing the Kumbaya nature of the thing. (As a joke, I almost picked Kumbaya as today's hymn, but I decided that ironic liturgical music would pretty much mark the end of my ability to limit irony to some portions of my life only, and thereby guarantee a final destination somewhat warmer than hoped.) As of right now, I do not have to run the blessed thing, but that could change as late as 5pm today.
Now Thank We All Our God

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep still in grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest heaven;
The one eternal God, Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For SFB. For the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. For victims of terrorism in so many places. For the victims of fire in Australia and of a bus mining in Afghanistan. For Karen and Dale. For the President, the Pope and all who are laboring to ensure a lasting and just peace.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Two parting thoughts, before I'm done for the day

Being at home, and in charge of the chores now (as opposed to sharing them fairly evenly before), my faith is a great comfort. In particular, if my faith has taught me anything, it is that there is a special place in Hell reserved for the person who invented glitter, and for the person who first suggested its use to Kindergarten teachers.

On the other hand, I saw a disturbing bumper sticker the other day, that posed the question:

What if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about?
Nota bene

I am trying to work out an essay on the “I’m okay, you’re okay” strain of Catholicism, but it is slow going now that I have to pause during writing to change over the laundry or run the vacuum around. Sorry about that. I also was asked at the last minute if I could conduct a prayer service on Friday night for a student retreat, and may even have to stay over at the retreat center to be the “adult in charge” because the Catholic Center director may have to go home to attend to her dying mother. So, my apologies for the fact that the blog may be a little light on substance this week. [Insert “just this week?” joke here.]
Addendum

I think I did not express myself clearly enough, in my complaint about the particular prayer of the faithful last Sunday.

First, lest anyone think I have jumped on the “pick apart every tiny problem with the Mass and use it to demonstrate the truth of my particular bugaboo” bandwagon, I have not. There was nothing even remotely problematical from a liturgical standpoint about this prayer, so far as I know. And I invoked the name of the Lord with the rest of the congregation at its conclusion.

Second, I do not object, per se, to the government aiding the poor, weak or vulnerable. What I object to in Church is the shifting of responsibility away from the congregation to the government. It is first and foremost our responsibility as individuals, citizens, and especially Christians, to see to the needy. Whatever we cannot handle, it is not only appropriate but necessary that we ask the government to do so. But the context in which I live is that of people who look first to the government to solve problems. I have no time for Utopianism in the present world, but my state leaders dish it out constantly.

Third, as someone commented on another blog (which had linked to my post), I don’t find praying for someone else to be made to do something is an especially pious or valuable form of prayer on the whole. (I’m sure Tom will find an example I can’t argue with and put it in the comments box, however.) If we had prayed “That government leaders will not neglect the homeless and hungry in the present fiscal crisis” that would have been hunky dory. Instead, we prayed that the government fix the problem, presumably so we could all get home to Super Bowl (this being 5 o’clock Mass, and the game receiving no fewer than 3 mentions between procession and recession) without being further troubled by the unsightly huddled masses.
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My parish is in fact very good about seeing to the needy, compared to some I have known. It runs a food pantry, and makes at least one Sunday a month “food pantry weekend.” I would much rather that when we pray for government assistance, we also pray that members of the parish will be as generous as possible to the food pantry.
Thank you for your prayers last week. The doctor's exam went pretty well. She could not hear the baby's heartbeat with the fetal monitor, but that's not terribly unusual at 10 weeks or so. Mrs. Kairos Guy will go back for another check in a couple of weeks, right before we go to Canada for a few days, but for now things look pretty good.
Awake, my soul, and with the sun

Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise,
To pay thy morning sacrifice.

Thy precious time misspent, redeem,
Each present day thy last esteem,
Improve thy talent with due care;
For the great day thyself prepare.

By influence of the Light divine
Let thy own light to others shine.
Reflect all heaven’s propitious ways
In ardent love, and cheerful praise.

In conversation be sincere;
Keep conscience as the noontide clear;
Think how all seeing God thy ways
And all thy secret thoughts surveys.

Wake, and lift up thyself, my heart,
And with the angels bear thy part,
Who all night long unwearied sing
High praise to the eternal King.

All praise to Thee, Who safe has kept
And hast refreshed me while I slept
Grant, Lord, when I from death shall wake
I may of endless light partake.

Heav’n is, dear Lord, where’er Thou art,
O never then from me depart;
For to my soul ’stis hell to be
But for one moment void of Thee.

Lord, I my vows to Thee renew;
Disperse my sins as morning dew.
Guard my first springs of thought and will,
And with Thyself my spirit fill.

Direct, control, suggest, this day,
All I design, or do, or say,
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. In thanksgiving for Abigail, who is now nearly recovered. For SFB and the new online ministry "e5men." For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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.

Monday, January 27, 2003

I'm a little miffed that none of the more poetical types who read this blog took any notice of my gloss of a song last week. I generally stay far away from waters where I am apt to drown, and I expect praise and much stroking when I wade into them. I realize it was a mere pop song, but a rather good one. Harrumph, I say. Harrumph.
Happy Australia Day! (a little late for my readers down under, where it is already Tuesday, or very nearly so)
Ugh

Last night at Mass, the prayers of the faithful included this one: "For the government, that it will find new ways of sheltering the homeless and feeding the hungry, we pray to the Lord."

Now, since you already know I'm politically conservative, you can assume I'm not going to like a prayer like that. But you may not know why, especially if you are politically liberal.

Jesus did not tell us "Make sure Caesar feeds the hungry!" He said, "Feed the hungry!" He said "Clothe the naked!" "Comfort the afflicted!" In fact (and this is the thing that will make you want to argue with me) he did not say "Solve the problem of poverty." He said "Care for those in front of you." I am not one of those people who flings "there will be poor always" around as an excuse to do nothing, however often that caricature is used to attack my position. In fact, I rather think "there will be poor always" is an argument in favor of doing more, because there cannot be enough done to eliminate poverty.

Instead, I find that prayers like the one from last night are offensive. They absolve the parish from responsibility for the poor, by shifting it to "the government." And they set us on the quixotic quest for the elimination of poverty instead of the concrete plan of helping the beggar outside the church doors. "There will be poor always" means there will always be someone who needs our help--MY help; Your help; not "the government's" help. As in everything else we are called to do, we can never fully succeed in this life, but we will be measured by how little we let the knowledge of our inadequacy cause us despair.

"Love of humanity" is the great evil of our time. It allows us to do all sorts of terrible things to specific people with specific dignity in the name of "all people." "How can I measure the value of this solitary creature in front of me against the good of untold billions of others?" 40 million babies are dead because of the love of humanity. 20 million citizens of the Soviet Union died for the "progress of man." The "Great Society" condemned most of a generation of black Americans to ever worse living conditions. Before long, it will be nearly impossible to go to a doctor's office without being offered--or even being given without explanation--a treatment derived from a person murdered to cure cancer, diabetes, paralysis, Parkinson's, and so on.

When we pray for an impersonal thing--"the government"--to do what we are called to do, we are diminished. We lazily surrender a piece of our humanness in favority of humanity at large. "No greater love hath man than this: to lay down his life for an ideal" apears nowhere in the Bible, and it would be an abomination if it did. It is only when we get to "his friends" that everything the Gospel means to teach us makes sense: we are to find the individuals around us, deal with them as individuals, and do what we can for the particular people within reach, even unto death. Nothing else signifies.
And you say
Be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
Don't you understand
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin
Yes and don't you understand
It's my very own plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin


Today is in fact the first day of my very own plan, although it doesn't feel like it. I actually have to go back to the office today, irony of ironies. There was a board meeting on Friday that kept everyone hopping, so I said I'd come back today for a goodbye lunch, and to clean out my desk. If it turns out not to be just my own plan, that will be a good thing. Posting will be of uncertain frequency as I adjust to my new life. I may post daily, and frequently, or I may be more sporadic until I develop a routine. This dial-up connection thing really bites.
The psalm with today's date--1/27--seems especially fitting a way to start a new life, as the primary parent and a builder of a new house, a complete change of careers.

Psalm 127

1 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
3 Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth.
5 Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
Monday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Abigail, who has pneumonia. For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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, January 24, 2003

Requiescat in Pacem

A mother of a student, after suffering an anuerysm
a student at our University, in a fire
The grandfathers of two other students

Such has been Mrs. Kairos Guy's week.

Also, Bill Maudlin, the famous cartoonist.

Deliver them, O Lord, unto eternal rest, and grant them and their loved ones the peace of the shelter of your Grace. Amen.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

I wasn't expecting to blog again until next week. These last few days at the office are going to be busy.

But then I saw this. First off, for all of you who think it is relevant to remind Europeans more or less in perpetuity that they are free because of the United States, stick a cork in it. If not for France, we'd still be a nation of tea drinkers, and have to stand up every time some snot nosed kid wants to yell, "Ladies and Gentleman: I give you THE QUEEN!"

Henry Kissinger once said "Countries don't have friends, they have interests." That is certainly true of most of the countries of Western Europe, and we should not expect loyalty from people who have never shown it before. But Kissinger was a European, on the other hand, and the United States does in fact have friends, most particularly Great Britain. I also think there is a real possibility that some of the loyalty presently shown by East European countries may last a very long time. I count those nations as our friends, not merely our interests.

But France and Germany should really shut up too. The governments of those two countries have spent the last decade resenting us because our protection was necessary to keep the Soviets away, and taking every opportunity to lecture us for our arrogance (ironically enough, when you consider it for just a moment).

How many lectures do you expect us to take before we start ignoring you? Let's all just acknowledge that (at least at the intellectual elite level, as opposed to the level of general populaces) that we find one another useful, but like married people having affairs with each other, we don't in fact like one another very much. Sure the sex is good, and the adventure is kind of fun, but we must never pretend to have a real emotional connection.

Then we can go on without all the melodrama. Very European, don't you think?

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

For those, like me, who are hopelessly torn by the notion of a Patrick O'Brian movie, the trailer can be found here. It does not inspire me to think the producers understand the books at all.
I wonder if it has occurred to any of the moral retards now heading to Iraq to act as "human shields" that they will legally become war criminals, and aiders and abetters of war criminals, should they in fact fulfill their "mission." Furthermore, they will deprive Iraqis who help them of the protections of the Geneva Conventions.
On the whole, the 1980s were a sad wasteland, musically speaking. “Glam Rock,” “hair bands,” really stinky analog synthesizers, and of course “Dexie’s Midnight Runners” pretty much destroyed FM for the better part of 10 years.

Happily, there were a few exceptions to the overall standard of crappiness. Grand Master Funk invented a genre and then got shut out of it. U2 succeeded with the “post-punk” sound where so many others failed. The Rolling Stones recorded their last album (all subsequent albums having been recorded by animatronic simulacra).

And then there was “Men at Work.” Now, you may fairly say that Men at Work’s sound has not aged especially well, and I’ll agree. But as the first real band from Australia to make it big in the US (anyone who mentions the group that can be formed from the anagram “Yuppi Lars” will be banned from my comments box. Don’t try me: I never bluff.) they had huge hurdles to overcome. And the undeniable musical ability that the band members brought, together with pretty good rhythm, clever words, and the most successful integration of a flute into popular music since Jethro Tull made it very sad that the band disintegrated in 1986.

But frontman Colin Hay has continued to record and write music, and has maintained a popularity just below that necessary to get onto any of the McStations owned by ClearChannel. Thankfully, a few of the better written popular TV shows are doing their best to bring Hay back to our attention, as the couldn’t-come-soon-enough” end of “alternative rock” has left radio stations with nothing but American Idol runners-up. The song below was featured prominently in a big Broadway-style (well, really “Rent-style”) finale to last week’s episode of Scrubs.

I like the use of the song, especially the way it was connected in the show to a death—the actual beginning of the new life that only love can usher in. But more to the point, I like the fact that the fecklessness of the way most of us live gets in the way of what is really worth thinking about. Or, rather, I like the way the song highlights that. It is unusual to find anything so Catholic on television.


(Theoretically, an mp3 can be found here, but it hasn’t worked for me today: http://colinhay.com/enter/media.html)

Any minute now
My ship is coming in
I'll keep checking the horizon
I'll stand on the bow
Feel the waves come crashing
Come crashing down down down on me

And you say
Be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
But don't you understand
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin

When I awoke today
Suddenly nothing happened
But in my dreams I slew the dragon
And down this beaten path
And up this cobbled lane
I'm walking in my old footsteps once again

And you say
Just be here now
Forget about the past
Your mask is wearing thin
Let me throw one more dice
I know that I can win
I'm waiting for my real life to begin

Any minute now
My ship is coming in
I keep checking the horizon
And I'll check my machine
There's sure to be that call
It's gonna happen soon soon soon
It's just that times are lean

And you say
Be still my love
Open up your heart
Let the light shine in
Don't you understand
I already have a plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin
Yes and don't you understand
It's my very own plan
I'm waiting for my real life to begin
In keeping with the vocational theme

Sunday's homily spoke to the vocational issue that I and so many of you are struggling with. There are two mechanisms here, and perhaps both are operating, even though they would seem at first to be in opposition.

The first, as to the question of discernment, is best put by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Cassius means it as a complaint, a call to improve his station by assassinating Caesar. But I think it is true of all of us, and much of our struggle is the same hybris that brings about the end of Cassius. Our society and our culture encourage the "climb to the top": isn't that at its root really "the American Dream"? None of really especially wants to be an underling, which is what every one of us will be so long as we seek our Redeemer. "It is better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven" is a sure way to miss both alternatives. But this dissatisfaction that I feel, is it not at least in part a rebellion of my pride?

The second operative was something Father recited Sunday, something Martin Luther King once said. "If you are called to be a street sweeper, sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'" This desire not to be an underling, this desire to do what I want and not necessarily what I am called to do, makes it very difficult to be a good street sweeper. So long as I resent the station that I hold for leaving me an underling, I wonder if I can ever find satisfaction.

It so often happens that when I rail against my fate, a moment’s reflection and self-examination point out once again that the fault is in myself. I lack the humility and patience to be a good street sweeper when so many “better” things call out for attention.
If you would, please pray especially this week for Sally, me, and the continuing progress of our baby. the first doctor's exam is on Friday, and mystery pain continues. On this day in particular, please keep this one unborn child in mind, along with all the others.
A Hymn from Scotland

(Aside: there is no surer way to annoy a Scot, besides calling him an Englishman, than pointing out that "Scotus" is Latin for "Irishman.")

Rorate

Rorate coeli desuper!
Heavens, distil your balmy showers;
For now is risen the bright Daystar,
From the rose Mary, flower of flowers:
The clear Sun, whom no cloud devours,
Surmounting Phoebus in the east,
Is comen of His heav’nly towers,
Et nobis puer natus est.

Sinners be glad, and penance do,
And thank your Maker heartfully;
For He that ye might not come to,
To you is comen, fully humbly,
Your soulès with His blood to buy,
And loose you of the fiend’s arrest,
And only of His own mercy;
Pro nobis puer natus est.

Celestial fowlès in the air,
Sing with your notès upon the height,
In firthès and in forests fair
Be mirthful now at all your might;
For passèd is your dully night;
Aurora has the cloudès pierced,
The sun is risen with gladsome light,
Et nobis puer natus est.

Sing, heaven imperial, most of height,
Regions of air make harmony,
All fish in flood and fowl of flight,
Be mirthful and make melody;
All Gloria in excelsis cry,
Heaven, earth, sea, man, bird and beast;
He that is crowned above the sky
Pro nobis puer natus est.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Abigail, who has pneumonia. For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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, January 21, 2003

Cookbook has a lot going on.
Some jokes write themselves

Sharpton Formally Declares Run for President

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 21, 2003; 10:30 AM
WASHINGTON –– Saying that the Democratic Party needs to expand its political base, the Rev. Al Sharpton formally filed papers Tuesday seeking the party's nomination for the 2004 presidential race.
Is it just me, or does Lent start really late this year? I don't know about you, but I could really use a Lenten season in February this year.
Those of you who read "ibidem" should note that he has changed blog services. Ibidem can now be read at http://ibidem.blogmosis.com/.
Being Catholic holds terrible temptations for me.

I have a tendency to “intellectualize” everything, to break it down into analytical bits, that can easily be placed in boxes. This has the marvelous effect of preventing me from suffering any pain when things don’t work out. All I really need to do is build another box: bigger; smaller; a different shape. It doesn’t really matter, so long as there is a box to put things in.

Catholicism plays right into that. Check out all 9,000,000 pages of the Catechism is you don’t believe me. Everything has a box in there, and I do mean everything. Likewise, the rituals. The formality and structure of the liturgy, the fact that the Ordo has a plan for pretty much any eventuality in it, all provide a nice set of storage devices. If you aren’t sure what to do, there’s almost surely a rule that, if followed, will be correct 99 and 44/100 percent of the time, and it will keep you 99 and 44/100 percent pure, too.

We’ve got it all, really. Yes, there are lots of details to learn, but heck, that part’s easy. Go to Confession. Go to Mass. Receive the Eucharist. Put your hands and legs in the appropriate position depending on the moment (all handily noted in your missalette). Tut-tut at the decline of the culture. Speak disapprovingly about abortion. Mumble about divorce. Throw a couple except bucks in the basket at Christmas and Easter, and, if you really want a self-approving rush, take a little tag off the Giving Tree during Advent.

Except.

Except absolutely none of that makes a bit of difference if your heart isn’t in it. None. It’s all just formality, empty people saying empty lines, in a grand play. But it gets so complicated, sometimes, that it really is possible to think that all this belching and farting and scratching is really the Faith.

There really is a grand irony that a religion founded in part because a worship of the Law had replaced worship of the Lawgiver should wind up with so very many rules written in such tiny type.

As I said: being Catholic in itself holds so very many temptations for one such as I.
People I know

Another friend is trying to discern what life and God are asking of her, professionally and otherwise. The list has grown significantly of late. Perhaps we should start a "vocations intentions" section as well.

Kairos Guy
Kendra
Alicia
Tim
Reynolds
Victor
Karl
Jenne

Lord, let me know clearly
the work which you are calling me to do in life.
And grant me every grace I need to answer your call
with courage and love and lasting dedication to your will.

Amen.
Monday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Abigail, who has pneumonia. For Kendra. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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.
Our God, Our Help in Ages Past

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of Thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God,
To endless years the same.

Thy Word commands our flesh to dust,
“Return, ye sons of men:”
All nations rose from earth at first,
And turn to earth again.

A thousand ages in Thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Trying to understand something

What difference does it make whether one believes in the doctrine of "consubstantiation" or "transubstantiation"? Yes, I know the former has been condemned as heresy since the Lateran Council of 1215. That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking why we had to settle on one or the other in the first palce. This argument seems to me to be very much akin to different understandings of the Atonement, which on the whole do not diverge into "orthodoxy" and "heresy." A person who believes in consubstantiation believes in the True Presence, as does a transubstantiationist. Both admit that Christ is present in the Eucharist, and both thereby require one to approach it as more than just "a symbol." The remainder seems to me one of those "faith" versus "works" argument that somewhere down the line we are going to decide isn't really much of an argument. We'll say something like "What St. Thomas called 'accidents' Luther called 'material' but both agreed that receiving the Eucharist really involved receiving a physical part of Jesus."

Can anyone shed any light on what substantive, doctrinal difference it makes?
A reader has accidentally gotten me very interested in the Catholic Distance University. Does anyone (besides that reader) have any knowledge of, or experience of, CDU? I confess to being very interested in the Masters programs, but don't know if they are really worth it.
Please read and comment on (if appropriate) my request for info on a "Virtuous Living" environment in a college. I have gotten some funny comments, but I'm actively seeking practical advice as well.
Please keep Kathy the Carmelite in your prayers. She has become a St. Blog's addict at a time when she should be focusing on other things, especially stuff she really, really has to get done this weekend.
Every time I think I can understand the comparatively low number of black head coaches in the NFL in a way that does not impute at least some form of racial prejudice to team owners, one of them goes and blows up my theory. Jack Del Rio was a fine player, and a fine coordinator, and I'm sure he's well suited to coach the Jaguars next year. But, once the "former head coach" requirement goes out the window, how does Wayne Weaver not interview Terry Robiskie or Sherman Lewis? And for that matter, how does Art Shell not get a call during the "former head coach" phase of things? It's great that Denny Green got invited, but he couldn't have been a serious candidate, because he's just like Coughlin when it comes to control-freakiness, and that was ruled out a while ago. Don't tell me he's been out of the game: what's Parcells been doing recently? I really, really, really hate suggesting racism where I don't know the people involved well enough to say it's there, but at some point one has to look at actions and recognize that something is amiss.
Seeking Input

I know I have mentioned at times that my family and I live in a college dorm. It is in many ways a desirable arrangement, but in others, a somewhat challenging place to be with small children—almost a missionary activity in some ways.

The college at which I live, like many others, offers a fair amount of “theme housing” choices: floors and buildings that have an organizing principle of one kind or another. There are language-based, ethnically based, sex-based (not gender, by the way: sex) choices. There are even, scattered in different dorms “healthy living” environments. (Set aside whatever quibbles you have with them; they are no doubt valid, but not essential to my main point.)

Should we stay for the next couple of years, it is likely that I will become the proctor, replacing Mrs. Kairos Guy in title if not in all aspects of the job. I am giving serious consideration, if that happens, to submitting a proposal for the creation of a “Virtuous Living” arrangement in some portion of the dorm. The idea would be to construct a code of conduct for that hallway that would explicitly and implicitly reflect at least the four cardinal virtues, and some form of the theological ones (at least Caritas), as well as many lesser ones.

Now I’m looking for your input, as to how that could be done on the campus of a major international university with all that that implies in terms of left-wing ideology and political correctness.
This drought monitor is pretty nifty.
Bishop O'Malley's letter to Palm Beach

"This year by a vote of the United States Bishops’ Conference and confirmation by the Holy See, it is a particular law of the Church for Catholics of the United States that January 22nd will be observed as a day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through abortion and as a day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.

"The liturgical calendar (Ordo) states that the Mass for Peace and Justice should be celebrated with purple vestments. It is also a day when we are all asked to fast and pray and to make sacrifices as we do during Lent. I would certainly encourage people to try to attend Mass on that day and to pray the rosary."

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Would you use an immoral means to save your life?

Would you push a friend in front of a bullet meant for you?
Would you push someone you didn't like in front of that bullet?
Would you push a stranger in front of it?
Would you buy a kidney from a Chinese company that sells the organs of executed prisoners?
Would you betray your country to protect yourself?
Would you deny your faith in God, or allow your spouse to be raped, to save yourself?

Would you do any of these things to save your wife or husband? To save your child? To save your friend? To save a stranger?

There is a day coming, I fear, when your answer will determine whether to accept treamtent at all for many diseases, or at least to limit severely what treatments you can consider. There are already some "routine" options provided to you that are not morally licit, but you probably don't know about them, and won't until you are in the ER, and then you won't know whether the treatment is acceptable or not.
False alarm for anthrax again in DC, for those who obsess about these things.
This looks snooty enough for me. I've signed up: I'll let you know how the paries are.
I listen to the classical radio station a lot these days, and I have decided that Christopher Hogwood and Sir Neville Mariner are classical music's Britney Spears and Christina Aquilera.
In lieu of a hymn, a psalm

(When I post psalms, I pick them almost at random. Sometimes I use some variation on the date, as today 116, other times some other number that occurs to me as significant. It is amazing how often, when I do that, the first psalm that results says exactly what I needed to hear or was trying to say.)

Psalm 116
1 I love the LORD , for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
4 Then I called on the name of the LORD :
"O LORD , save me!"

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, O LORD , have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,
9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
10 I believed; therefore I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."
11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."

12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD , truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD .
18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
19 in the courts of the house of the LORD -
in your midst, O Jerusalem.

Praise the LORD .
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Abigail, who is very sick. For my friend Tim and his pregnant wife, as he goes through an unplanned career change. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

The www.korea-dpr.com website that everyone is talking about looks bogus to me. Registration info is for Spain, which (along with the "Esperanto" translation) seems conclusive.

Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les (template COCO-664474)
vientian@hotmail.com
Lopez Pelaez, 12 BIS, tercero, sexta
Tarragona, Tarragona 43002 ES

Domain Name: korea-dpr.com
Status: production

Admin Contact, Zone Contact:
Alejandro Cao de Benos de Les (COCO-664474) vientian@hotmail.com
(phone deleted)
Technical Contact:
Salvador Salas Prieto (COCO-124384) salva@digival.es
(phone deleted)
I believe in capitalism, as the best economic system we are likely to get before the Apocalypse. Capitalism, after all, does not depend on mankind being virtuous, to function more or less equitably. (It does require some virtue, especially in those overseeing it, but comparatively few virtuous people make a significant difference.) Every other system proposed seems to depend on good people running it, to avoid it not only going wrong, but going very, very far wrong. (There's a passage to this effect in Graham Greene's "The Power and the Glory," though he wasn't exactly talking about cpitalism vs. Marxism.)

But capitalism is an economic system, not a philosophy. However necessary it may be, however desirable that governments permit a free-market place as the most just (or rather, least unjust) means of distributing wealth, it is highly undesireable that we as individuals start thinking about other people the way capital markets do.

This inherent conflict requires constant attention, particularly for those of us who are politically conservative but view the Gospel as something more than how we spend the time the pregame show is on. Markets necessarily value people, over time, according to their ability to create and produce wealth. We must value people according only to the fact that they are in fact people. Truisms, I realize, and hardly worth repeating.

Except I found I needed to repeat them, as I thought about the GE strike up the road a few miles. GE did not invent the mess that is our health care system, and one can hardly blame them for saying to workers that the burden of the problems in that system ought to be shared. One can also hardly blame the workers for what is a very substantial hit on their net pay, with a 45% increase in a benefit that already takes a big bite out of a paycheck.

GE is a highly profitable company, after all. But, because it is pubicly traded, and few people own more than a tiny, tiny slice of it, the mutual stock owners necessarily want the maximum return on their investment. In one sense of the word, the shareholders are hardly "invested" in the company at all. They own it only so long as it returns better than some alternative. (For day traders, this "ownership" is measured in hours.)

On the other hand, if GE were "closely held" (that is, not a publicly traded company) the people who own it might well have absorbed the cost of the insurance without even thinking about it, recognizing that the company has been so profitable of late that this is a means of sharing the profits with the people who earn them. But, that is a difficult decision to make as an investor with 0.84469 shares of GE in your portfolio, and no realistic means of making that desire known to managers even once formulated, and even less means of seeing it come to fruition.

No obvious solutions to this problem leap to mind. There *are* many "socially responsible" mutual funds out there, but most of them define social responsibility in a way that conflicts with any number of moral principles I hold. Simply not investing seems to me a rather selfish thing, too. It is not good stewardship of your blessings (remember the parable of the Talents, where the one who buries his money in the ground is rebuked). But one thing we can do: make investments in companies that seem to treat their workers well, and recognize that the people of a company are more than factotems represented by the rise and fall of the value of those investments.
Please, stop watching "Reality" television shows, at least the ones like "the Bachelor" and "Joe Millionaire." They are among the highest rated shows on television, and all they do is encourage us to treat one another as objects, for our use. They positively do harm, by continuing the process of the destruction of dignity. OF COURSE such things have always gone on, but never before in history have 17 million people been treated to them, all at one time.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
Wednesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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, January 14, 2003

I think the cliche that best describes both the person who designed this, and me for using it, is "fiddling while Rome burns." But, in any case, though the Redskins can't beat the eagles these days, a 'Skins fan *can* beat an Eagles fan.
I changed a title below, because I thought of a better one. My blog. My rules.
Greg Popcak emailed me a haiku, because comments aren't working right now.

"What defines beauty?
There's a button on my belly.
I now gaze on it."
Haiku of the day

What defines beauty?
There’s a spot on my ceiling
That is watching me
Shall I compare thee to a kindergarten choir?

The discussion of beauty that I referenced earlier was at least in part started by a wide-ranging commentary/argument about the crummy nature of much modern liturgical music. I think I've made clear how much of it I dislike, and in some cases why.

But I disagree with many people who also dislike it that, barring heresy or other concrete problems with the lyrics, it is somehow worse to use music that is smarmy than to use Handel. Some of those arguing in favor of abandoning the cruddy stuff do so on grounds that are a little hard to summarize briefly, but I'll try. Basically, we must worship the Perfect with the best that we are capable of, and beauty, because it is something that is part of our being, is the best.

But I kind of think this misses the point. We are told to approach God as a small child. If you've been recently to a kindergarten singalong, as I unfortunately have, you know that there is very little going on there, musically speaking, that could be considered beautiful. The songs are cheesy, the kids are wild, the key is somewhat hypothetical, and the melody a mere asymptote. And yet, the parents are quite pleased with it, even when the kid who was on Star Search gets a pretty good solo, the other parents are all quite happy. No one begrudges the soloist (except the dad who beat up the little league coach for not starting his 4-year-old on the traveling T-Ball team) but likewise no one says "I really wish they had cut out the all crappy singing, so we could hear more of that Star Search kid!" even though, objectively, that kid blew the socks off all the other kids.

We are, comparatively speaking, much lower than kindergartners to our Father. If we are singing our little hearts out, I don't think He really cares whether we are singing the Alleluia Chorus or Be not Afraid, if we are singing hard and reverently.

CS Lewis uses the example of the child borrowing money from his father, to buy Dad a birthday present. The father winds up quite pleased with the whole thing, but only a fool would think the father was 6-pence the better at the end of the transaction. Liturgical music is money borrowed from Dad, and if we sing poor music we may not be borrowing enough, but if we sing it as best we can, I don't think Dad's appreciation of the gift is really going to be very much worse.
Much of my blogging time of alte has been spent in other people's comment boxes. In particular, if you are interested, there is a multi-party discussion going on between Tom of Disputations, Steven of Flos Carmeli, me, Kathy the Carmelite, and various and sundry others at the two blogs linked herein. There are posts and comments that go back and forth, and so the thread can be somewhat awkward to follow, but it is a really ripping discussion of the nature of beauty (and therefore of goodness) that I finally had to stop commenting on when my brain started to hurt. But for people who think no hair is so fine it can't be split a little more thinly, go take a peak. Start at Flos Carmeli, then go to Disputations, then take whatever medication will stop the spinning.
Mom has taken me to task for referring to Pinky and the Brain, which she doesn't get. They were genetically engineered lab mice who spent every night trying to take over the world. So, for Compuserve or AOL to "go all Pinky and the Brain" would be for those companies to try to take over the world.

She also thought I was being disrespectful of the Queen by not actually calling her "Queen Elizabeth." I wasn't. It was just an accidental omission. But to answer her question, which may be yours, as to what is wrong with a news item about her: nothing. But to have a scheduled, elective knee surgery be the Lead Story on a day when American forces head off to war seems to me not just a news item about the Queen of England. It demonstrates, again, an unhealthy fascination with the Royal Family. There is no other leader in the world, aside from the US President or Saddam Hussein, whose minor knee surgery would garner front page attention.

Like I said: I love the Queen, and God bless England for all time. But, there are more significant things going on right now, and if she weren't royalty, the editors at WBZ would have realized that.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Attention DC-area readers

I have a regular reader in the DC area who has fallen victim to corporate restructuring. He is a Human Resources specialist with 20-some years experience in the field, both for private companies and the federal government. If you, your firm, or anyone you know might have interest in a seasoned pro and fellow "parishioner" of St. Blog's, please drop me an email and I will forward his resume. HR, law office management, non-profits, and almost anything with some substantive societal value to it would likely be very welcome.
I will always love Elizabeth for having the Coldstream Guards play "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the "changing of the guard" ceremony on September 12. It may sicken some of my ancestors and even a probable cousin or two in the very pro-IRA town of Newry, but for me it's England, Harry and St. George! after that.

But, still, didn't we fight a revolution sometime in the past so we didn't need to pay attention to stuff like "Queen Elizabeth Hospitalized"?
In the post immediately below, I noted that I would be doing something "for the indefinite future." When, exactly, is the future ever definite? I think a better Christian than I would banish the phrase "indefinite future" as a tautology.
Peter Nixon of Sursum Corda put me in mind of this hymn this morning. Yesterday, I learned that the second of my friends on active duty was heading for the Gulf. One is a helicopter pilot aboard the USS Iwo Jima (where Eric Johnson of Catholic Light's Marine brigade did its training a few months ago, and where he may wind up). The other is headed to the high tech USAF command post in Saudi Arabia. I will be frequently posting this hymn and the prayer from last week for the indefinite future.

Eternal Father, Strong to Save

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy Word,
Who walked on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!
Our family shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect us wheresoever we go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.
Let's see:
The former president had a bit of an honesty problem, and left office under something of a cloud.
The current president ran as an outsider, having been an undistinguished governor of a Southern state.
The federal government has added cabinet-level agencies and grown at a rate not seen in decades.
Investor confidence is extraordinarily low.
Gas prices are creeping up.
The economy after a multi-year "Go-go" boom, has had a very hard time staying out of a major bust.
War in the Middle East seems very likely, with the Syrians and Israelis looking down some very large gun barrels at each other.
The Korean peninsula threatens to lead to wide scale war.
France thinks the best way to deal with Middle Eastern despots is to stick its head in the sand and wag its collective finger at the US.
Bell bottoms and ugly plaids and browns are fashionable, along with blue eyeshadow and scruffy mens' haircuts.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is conclusive. The Seventies have returned.

The horror. The horror.

(For the record: if President Bush uses the word "malaise" in any way--other than by mistake as a condiment--I am taking advantage of my dual nationality to move to Ireland.)
In the mid-1980s, my Dad began a Compuserve subscription. Now, I freely admit that I liked Compuserve a fair amount. (Among other things, I got to email back and forth with a number of authors of my favorite comic books, and even met one or two of them at conventions.) [Ed. note: mock my geekiness. I dare you.] Compuserve, to borrow Ollie North's expression, was a neat idea.

I never, ever, in my wildest dreams, could have imagined Compuserve, or anything like it, going all Pinky and the Brain on us. Heck, that's one of the main reasons, in the early 1990s, when I lived 15 minutes from AOL World Domination Headquarters, that I didn't bother following up on an interview opportunity. I confess to regretting that decision many, many times in the *late* 1990s, since most everyone who got a job there when I might have had by that time retired to their private Greek islands.

So, forgive me for a little schadenfreude this morning. It's good to see that, even if I was wrong for the better part of a decade, I turned out to be right after all. It's good to be right.
"Plogging"

Victor Lams is one seriously deranged individual. Go here to view his new creation, "plogging." (As bad as it is, if he ever chooses to combine it with this, we, collectively, will be just moments away from the Rapture.)

Friday, January 10, 2003

One of the great, great things about quitting my job is, I will be free to spend $10 at 2:05pm on April 11. Any curse-addicts out there care to join me in the bleachers that day?
I posted a variation on this in a comment on Not for Sheep, but then realized I wanted to develop the idea a bit. [Links are not working right at the moment. I've fixed it several ways without success. I will try again later.]

Many Catholics approach the Church with an attitude that “I am Catholic, but I retain free will. Therefore, I will reject what doesn’t suit me or my worldview.” I have certainly been there myself, although I never rejected anything solely because I didn’t like it. I studied the issue, and tried to find out why I didn’t like it, and if there were objections that could be honestly rendered that would put me into an honest kind of dissent.

To some extent, I am still there. I still have problems with some teachings, and no doubt always will. My efforts to dissent in a legitimate, honest way also have grown. I find the least dissenting manner to construe my disagreements, and I am very, very much more cautious about how and where I speak about them, as well.

But it is harder and harder to avoid moving more in the direction of the Church, in many ways. An honest look at the substance of many Church teachings leaves one wondering how one came to reject them. To summarize Church teachings on, say, birth control as "don't use it," is rather like describing William Shakespeare as an author. While it may be in an obtuse sort of way, it is completely useless in the sense of telling you anything important. You might, at the end of a lot of study, still come to the conclusion that you don't like Shakespeare, but you might also realize that what you formerly didn't like about Shakespeare was the way in which your sophomore English teacher made Shakespeare boring and inaccessible. Just so with many things about Catholicism that I used to want to reject. (not everything, but many things.) The really hard part comes when, having accepted something as true, you realize you still don't like it.

Payback in Judges (washingtonpost.com)

You have to hand it to President Bush and his judge-pickers.

They understand the power of the judiciary to shape American political life for years to come. They brazenly use their executive authority to fill the courts with their allies. Then they attack, attack and attack again when opposition senators dare invoke their own constitutional power to slow a juggernaut...


Riiiiight, EJ. The Republicans just discovered, completely on their own, that the unelected judiciary is a place where mischief can occur. And they surely are the only ones in Washington who have an agenda in that regard. And they started the whole fight. Gosh, if only a few Democrats could be found, willing to put some of *their* allies on the bench.

Thanks a lot, EJ. Now I have to go to Confession this week, because of the mortal sins I commit after reading your columns.
Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
Requiescat in Pacem

Will McDonough, Boston sportswriter. He was opinionated, and I often disliked his opinions. But I always read what he had to say, and I always had to think about it.
Fr. Jim Speaks

Fr. Jim has posted some thoughts on "how to think about Heaven," in response to the post here, below, and the comments on it. He has promised some further thoughts about the crypto-universalism that often appears to emanate from the Church fathers. (In fact, I would say that it is not an appearance, but a fact that it emanates.)

Kathy the Carmelite noted a part of the liturgy of the hours that appears also to endorse the notion of universalism. And, quite by accident this morning, I discovered something in Ignatius' "Spiritual Exercises":

THE FOURTH DAY--MEDITATION ON TWO STANDARDS

The one of Christ, our Commander-in-chief and Lord; the other of Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.

Prayer. The usual Preparatory Prayer.

First Prelude. The First Prelude is the narrative. It will be here how Christ calls and wants all under His standard; and Lucifer, on the contrary, under his.


This obviously does not say all people will be brought under either standard. But my first reflection on this is, if Christ wills something for all eternity, sooner or later He will get what He wills.

(By the way, I would caution readers against undertaking the spiritual exercises by themselves. They are designed to be administered by a spiritual director. I did not link directly to them, because anyone who has some interest in them should find a Jesuit retreat center. They work best when they unfold as intended. If you have read the book as theory in advance, some of the power is diminished. Try the US Jesuit Conference for info on where to get an Ignatian retreat. And please ignore all the Jesuit haters in St. Blog's. There are plenty of bad Jesuits out there, but you never hear about the good ones: usually because they are too busy doing good things to promote themselves.)
There Is a Balm in Gilead

Refrain

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

Refrain

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

Refrain
Friday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

I don't know how it is for people who have achieved some form of holiness. But for myself, I find that almost every urge and impulse to do or not do something is wrong. If I find I don't want to pray for someone or something, 9 times out of 10, upon reflection I realize that I need to pray for that person or that thing. (The tenth, alas, comes all to often in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass: far, far too many of the ones I rebel at on first glance remain troubling after reflection.) If I find myself really wanting to do something, wanting in a state of near lust or gluttony, it usually turns out to have been the very worst thing I could have done at that moment. Likewise, when I have an urge to avoid something. (How often has a minor sniffle been turned into a potential dispensation from the Mass?)

If, like me, holiness is something to which you aspire but which you cannot claim even partially to have achieved, then, be like me, and do the opposite of whatever urges you are trying to talk yourself into following. After all, it hasn't worked for me.
This is an example of truth. Turn the sound down if you are at work. (Or, maybe turn it up, if you have a bunch of coworkers who need to hear it.)
Monday's post about Heaven, and my anxieties about it, has generated an interesting conversation, thanks to Kathy the Carmelite and Don Jim, St. Blog's Mafia priest, in the comments section. Take a gander if you missed it.
Just the Truth, Ma'am

Tom and I discuss this a lot, via email and such (when we are not abusing each other's football team choices): Very little modern argument is really about what is true and what is false. We have all of us acquired the nasty habit of assuming our own assertions and premises to be true and others' false a priori. And so, very little of a conversation is given over to the illumination of Truth itself. But, since an argument has to be about something (cf., "Argument"), we spend all of our time arguing about why the other guy is wrong. (CS Lewis termed it "Bulverism" in an eponymous essay.)

But, really, there is no question of greater importance in a conversation than, "Is it true?" People keep recommending to me "Bowling for Columbine," that movie by the notorious liar Michael Moore. I keep telling them I have no intention of seeing it, because it contains a number of known fabrications, falsehoods, and lies in it. (Among the problems: the title. Harris and Klebold were at one time reported to have gone bowling before going to school to commit murder, but better information came along to show that they had not done so. But still, the premise was too good to allow its falsity to get in the way.) And the response of people to that is shocking to me: "That may be true, but even so, the larger point he makes is so important, it is necessary for us to address the terrible problem of children and guns, and this movie helps us do that!" But, I ask in reply, if the movie contains fabrications and lies, how, in fact, do we know that there *is* a problem with children and guns? This is met with either hostility, malice, or pity (pity for such an ignorant creature as me, who plainly cannot see what is right in front of my face as self-evident truth).

Now, it would seem to me, if I were concerned with truth, as opposed to a priori conclusions, if I nevertheless believed there is an epidemic problem with children and guns, that the last thing I would do is lean on Michael Moore for support of that proposition, once it became clear that he is not a reliable source. I would, in fact, want to lead the charge in discrediting him, so that he cannot be used to abuse me and my position. I would say, "Oh, you can't rely on Moore's storytelling. He's entertaining, but not very scrupulous. A much better source on the subject, that demonstrates the problem very clearly, is 'X'."

But the truth no longer outs. Instead, we discredit the messenger, because we longer no how to discern the truth.

(Bonus points to those who can "spot the Bulverism" in this very essay.)
A prayer for vocations

For me, Alicia, Victor, Reynolds, Karl, and anyone else out there dealing with a present identity crisis.

Lord, let me know clearly
the work which you are calling me to do in life.
And grant me every grace I need to answer your call
with courage and love and lasting dedication to your will.

Amen.

(From "A Prayer Book for Catholic Families")
Thursday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Terry's friend Sarah, recently diagnosed with cancer. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

News You Can Use

St. Theresa of Avila is reported to have said that many more tears have been shed over prayers that were answered than prayers that went unheeded.

And the Spanish have a saying, sometimes used as a farewell or formal closing to a conversation, that I think I understand very well: May no new thing arise.

There is a definite relation between these two thoughts, if only I were smart enough to explain it.
The Cookbook has been updated. And Emily Stimpson promises some orthodox vegetarian recipes soon. Though I'm not sure that vegetarians aren't in violation of the Natural Law. After all, we care created in His image, and he plainly made us omnivores. Possibly there's a heresy in here somewhere...?
I found this at "Not for sheep." I wonder how Miss Collins, my high school religion teacher, would feel, knowing she can never be the first female Jesuit.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

It is a difficult thing to think about, far more so to say. But it is worth remembering: the probability that someone will attempt to kill you and me using a biological weapon in the next 10 years or so has to be considered as 100%.
Cost of being a stay-at-home mom: $1 million - MSN Money

I wonder what the cost of being a stay-at-home Dad will be? Doesn't seem to say anything about that option....

(The saddest thing about this article is that the first piece of "practical" advice for moms who are thinking about this is to examine their pre-nuptial agreements. I might suggest that people with pre-nups first examine their desire to get married and procreate. But that's just me.)
For the Men and Women of the Armed Forces

I am blessed to count a number of members of the different services among my dear friends. As they are called to active duty, or moved from the home front overseas, I offer the following prayer on their behalf. As my genius does not lie this way, I have borrowed heavily from the Third Army Chaplain, Col. Paul Harkins, and his famous prayer at Bastogne.

Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain the storm which threatens. If more fighting is to come, graciously hearken to our soldiers who call upon Thee that, armed with Thy power, they may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen.
A Little Logic is a Very Dangerous Thing

Jesus 'healed using cannabis'

"If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient anointing oil... and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ," Mr Bennett concludes.

Sounds like "Mr Bennett" has gotten a little too involved in his research, if you know what I mean. I am reminded of a similar "syllogism": When we drink, we get drunk. When we get drunk, we fall asleep. When we fall asleep, we commit no sin. When we commit no sin, we go to heaven. So, let's all get drunk and go to Heaven.
A Kairos standby for the hymn

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For the Kairos Guy family. For Reynolds, during a tumultuous time. For Victor Lams and his family. For Jack's father-in-law. For Bishop Richard Lennon. For R. A.'s son. For Rev. Steve W. For Roger, Randy, Deb and the ones whose names I did not know. For Katherine G. For the people of Afghanistan, and those who would help them. For Michelle. For me, a sinner. For Monica M. For Alicia and her sister. 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.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Okay, I think my modern-music/OCP-hating credentials are pretty well-known, and up to date (I got my membership card in the mail the other day, anyway). But to all those who hate the "sing in the first person as though you are God" style of music: it was invented by Psalmist. If you have a problem with it, and think it a modern invention, in keeping with our narcissistic times, well, you are going to have to take it up with David when you see him.
[rant] I know and like the blogs of nearly all the bloggers over at this new Caritas Unitas et Veritas blog. So, folks, please don't take this personally, ok? But, what the hell are you thinking? This is one of those conversations that drives me crazy, because it is so very, very inwardly focused. I approach my faith intellectually, too, but this is taking that too far.

Sorry. I'm sure plenty of people can (and do) find comparable critiques of my blog, but manage not to post them as rants. But any argument about the distinction between a "conservative with traditional leanings" and a "traditionalist with conservative leanings" is not likely to leave a lot of free time for handing out blankets and serving meals at the soup kitchen. [/rant]
This is for Reynolds

I don't know exactly what the answer is either.

Luke 12
16And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
18"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20"But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21"This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

Do Not Worry

22Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[2] ? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
32"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“Welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters, and all
who have left this world in your friendship. There we hope to share in
your glory when every tear will be wiped away. On that day we shall see
you, our God, as you are.”


--from the third form of the Eucharistic Prayer, in masses for the dead

I never feel quite so far from Heaven as when I contemplate on what “Heaven” means. I know I want to get there, but so many descriptions of it leave me cold enough that the mere thought of Paradise can leave me in true, deep doubt.

The Catechism more or less punts on “what will heaven be like.” Starting in Sec. 1023, there are a few paragraphs about it, but it essentially says “we don’t really know, but expect a beatific vision of some kind, to some extent.” Some Catholics, in one of those unappealingly Catholic mannerisms, seem to take the absence of proof as proof of absence, and describe Heaven as pretty much only a beatific vision, anticipating a permanent situation where we spend all eternity just staring at God’s face. No offense, fellows, but this sounds like the sort of vision the kid who used to remind the teacher to assign homework over the vacation would dream up. (I’m sure some one or more of these folks will now take me to task.)

Others have debated the question of “sex” in Heaven. Now, some people seem to be discussing what is more properly called gender, others, sexuality and still others, sexual intercourse. (Peter Kreeft had an essay on this topic on his website not that long ago. It was good, but I wasn’t always clear which of these meanings he was referring to.) I don’t much care whether or not there is actual sexual congress in Heaven, but I have a hard time with the idea that the spiritual bond between man and wife that is the essential underpinning of Christian marriage just kind of evaporates after death. I hear “there is no marriage in Heaven” and shudder: then what’s it all for? Why all the hard work now?

At the same time, everything I can come up with for what I’d like Heaven to be is (how shall I put this delicately?) exceedingly lame. I’m trying to envision the moments that give me the greatest authentic pleasure now as foreshadowings, but am much too literal to get beyond them. So I think of the time I soloed an airplane, and then imagine that in Heaven I can fly an airplane any time I want. And then I wonder why I would want to fly an airplane in Heaven at all? I drink a mouthwateringly good glass of wine, and imagine the wine in Heaven will be infinitely better, and impossible to get a hangover from. Then I wonder who would need wine in Heaven? And so forth.

But I will tell you what really gets me, what really sends the doubt screeching in. (Read no further if you are not in the mood for doubts today.)

Humanity has always thought of the Devil (in whom I believe) as a fallen angel. Well, the angels—so very much greater a creation than Man—have been blessed since creation with the beatific vision. They, like we, have free will, and abused theirs in the presence of God, or at least some of them. As I understand death and resurrection for what the catechism calls “the elect,” when we die in Christ, we become most fully ourselves, which has to mean we retain our free will. Why, if a creature as great as an angel can abuse his will in the Presence of God, does dying in Christ mean we are really, fully, finally saved? If Heaven is a place where even an angel can abuse his freedom, well, what hope in the end is there for someone as mundane and venal as I?

The image I like best is in the Eucharistic prayer above. The line “when every tear will be wiped away” is from Revelation 7:17. (I looked it up.) That seems to me the essence of our struggle, the wiping away of tears. What we are called to do in this life is wipe away the tears of those we find around us who are sad: feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; consoling prisoners. All this amounts to very much the same thing. That is the image I can live with, the only thing that stops the terrible doubting from overwhelming me.

But, still I wonder.
This week's forecast

Look for blogging in the light to moderate range this week, as I spend a lot of time getting things at the office ready for my departure.