Friday, February 14, 2003

Very early Sunday morning we are heading for a long-planned vacation in Alberta. No more blogging until I'm back, probably a week from Monday. Be safe, be sane, and be good.
Learning in War-Time
A sermon preached by C.S. Lewis at Oxford in 1939

". . . I think it important to try to see the present calamity in a true perspective. The war creates no absolutely new situation: it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself. If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun. We are mistaken when we compare war with "normal life." Life has never been normal. Even those periods which we think most tranquil, like the nineteenth century, turn out, on closer inspection, to be full of crises, alarms, difficulties, emergencies. Plausible reasons have never been lacking for putting off all merely cultural activities until some imminent danger has been averted or some crying injustice put right. But humanity long ago chose to neglect those plausible reasons. They wanted knowledge and beauty now, and would not wait for the suitable moment that never comes. Periclean Athens leaves us not only the Parthenon but, significantly, the Funeral Oration. The insects have "chosen" a different line: they have sought first the material welfare and security of the hive, and presumably they have their reward. Men are different. They propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache: it is our nature. . .

War makes death real to us: and that would have been regarded as one of its blessings by most of the great Christians of the past. They thought it good for us to be always aware of our mortality. I am inclined to think they were right. All the animal life in us, all schemes of happiness that centered in this world, were always doomed to a final frustration. In ordinary times only a wise man can realize it. Now the stupidest of us knows. We see unmistakably the sort of universe in which we have all along been living, and must come to terms with it. If we had foolish un-Christian hopes about human culture, they are now shattered. If we thought we were building up a heaven on earth, if we looked for something that would turn the present world from a place of pilgrimage into a permanent city satisfying the soul . . . we are disillusioned, and not a moment too soon. But if we thought that for some souls, and at some times, the life of learning, humbly offered to God, was, in its own small way, one of the appointed approaches to the Divine reality and the Divine beauty which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we can think so still."
Saddam Bans Import, Production of WMD

Oh, well, in THAT case....
Special Intention

The Best Man from our wedding called from the West Coast last night. He heads to the Persian Gulf Region in a very short time, to a place well-known to Saddam but that he couldn't say to me. (Even though, since I read newspapers, I know full well where it is. Security is a weird, weird thing in government.) He has two worries: his plane getting shot down as it tries to land; and getting "slimed." I love the bravado in calling a chemical or biological attack on his person "sliming," but I wish to God that weren't on his mind as a serious possibility. (Ask all the idiot "human shields" who deny Saddam is a threat what their plans are when the slime starts flying. Probably the Iraqis will blow them up themselves, and then place the casing from a cruise missile at the scene, as they did in 1991.)

To make matters worse (in a small, but irritating way) he is due to be promoted to Major next week, but will not get the cameraderie and ceremony that is his due because he will not be with his current unit. The Inflexible Bureaucracy denies a brave young man, with a wife and two smal children, one small measure of comfort and recognition, even as he goes off to what is surely one of the most prominent terror and military targets in the world.

Please keep "Holmie" (as he is universally and ironically known, he being as WASPy as WASPy get) in your prayers. His wife Pam, and children Katie and Colin, too. They are only one family out of hundreds of thousands being disrupted and potentially destroyed, and all the families need prayers. But if you would toss in a small extra for the Holmes family, I'd appreciate it.

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.
Mr. Grammar Strikes

English is an impressively flexible language, it is true, but it is sadly weakest at the point of human strength. It ought to be possible, without sounding like a pedant, to distinguish between transitive and intransitive love. A lot of conversations would be very much simpler. A lot of times, one says, "I love you," but really means by it, "I have love for you,"--the intransitive notion, where the verb takes an indirect object. At the same time, the other, hearing the transitive "I actively love you," does not believe it. And, when the imperative form comes to us in the Gospel "Love one another," we allow ourselves to think what it really means is "Have love for one another."

Having love for someone is a fine and noble thing, and not always easy to do, as I noted about Osama the other day. Actively loving someone--that is, doing by your actions love--is very much harder. Hardest of all is confusing the one for the other.
There is also nothing quite like making a real sincere effort at doing Christianity in your heart for easing the anxieties that so quickly pile up.
There is nothing like the 23rd Psalm early on a Code Orange day...

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

On a Catholic terror-related note

Riding the subway home from my consulting gig this afternoon, I glanced up from my book. My eyes happened to come to rest on a discarded newspaper, with a picture of Osama on the open page. "Evil motherf---er," I thought to myself, and started back to my book. But duty called itself to mind, and I paused to consider what exactly it means, as a Christian, to hope for my enemy's good--as it were, to love my enemy.

It obviously starts with ritual pronunciations about hoping he'll see the light, etc., etc., but it can't end there. And I know I'm not doing a very good job, because I positively relish the probability that the evil psychotic is going to roast in hell for all eternity, along with the cruel, heartless men who do his bidding.

It’s fine to want him to be punished. If he sees Christ’s light, he ought to want that for himself. Indeed, handing himself over for punishment would be one of the only ways he could demonstrate to his temporal judges that he had in fact truly seen the light. But relishing the punishment, rather than seeing it as necessary corrective, is plainly out of bounds. It’s no good, either, saying he’s the devil, or a servant of the devil. For, so far as I understand these things, we’re supposed to hope for *his* eventual conversion, too.

A danger I encounter in dealing with somewhat more ordinary malefactors—the people I silently or verbally curse when I’m driving (which is an occupational hazard of driving in the Boston area)—is then to make excuses for them as I forgive them for irritating me by their selfishness. I’m not sure it’s good practice to justify the sins of others before forgiving them. But even if it is when we are talking about the guy who almost causes an accident, it absolutely has to be proscribed when we are talking about mass murderers. Perhaps there are excuses for speeding and changing lanes in a dangerous manner; there can be none for objective evil. Empathy with a mass murderer is a dangerous thing to seek, in any case. So no route to hoping for his good lies on this path.

There’s a remark in some CS Lewis book—possibly Letters to Malcolm?—that has always disturbed me. Lewis recounts talking to a priest of some kind who had met Hitler before the war. Someone asked him what he thought of Hitler, how he found him to be. “Like any other man,” came the reply. “That is, like Christ.” I rebelled at this for months after I first saw it, finding it vapid, foolish, fatuous, if not in fact directly evil. But with time I have come to find it Holy.

My mind and my heart both rebel at finding anything of Christ in Osama, or anything of Osama in Christ. But the instinct to do so is there. I am obviously far less holy than the priest who saw Christ in Hitler, but I am trying.

So, Osama, I’m sorry I thought to call you an evil motherf---er. And however improbable it seems, I hope you realize that what you are doing is as evil as evil gets. It won’t be too late, until the last Daisy Cutter falls, for you to turn it around. Fortunately for you and for me, God is great, and he can forgive all, if we but ask sincerely.
Anti-Aircraft Missiles Deployed Around Washington (washingtonpost.com) The U.S. military has deployed jeep-mounted Stinger anti-aircraft missiles around the nation's capital in an increased alert against possible terrorist attack, defense officials said on Wednesday.

I have heard numerous news reports about this, and seen several articles. Not a single one of them notes the really ominous purpose: those missiles are there to shoot down commandeered civilian airliners, passengers and all.

I completely understand this, but God help us.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

I also want to add that the papers keep calling what the Red Sox are doing "closer by committee." I think this is a misnomer. "Closer by committee" says to me that you are using the same strategy as other teams, except you're never sure which guy is going to pitch the 9th. The Red Sox are not looking for a closer. They are looking for the best way to finish games. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Nothing original to say, this morning. But I did want to note that Amy Welborn has decided not to delete her entire blog, nor to stop entirely. She will be linking mainly to her own articles, plus I'm guessing a few other things, on Mondays. (Blogging is like very slow, very aggravating crack cocaine. Trust me on this one.)
Tuesday Intentions

Please email me with other intentions.

For Amy Welborn and her Dad, who is having surgery. 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.

Monday, February 10, 2003

My loss is your gain.

Less Kathy the Carmelite in my comments boxes means more K the C for you to enjoy. Go visit Gospel M*I*N*E*F*I*E*L*D.
Something I wrote in the wee hours of the morning, after spending several hours working on "Henry V" for my new job

The Homeland Security threat level stands tonight at Orange--a fearsome level indeed--and I struggle with the decency of prayer. It is not that in general I find prayer during danger indecent. It is that my prayer life has been sadly in decline the last few months, and I wonder at the decency of restarting or regenerating it under such a threat. My resolve is to set such qualms aside, and marvel at a God that will have me even on such terms as these.

In any case, possibly danger is sent to remind us to pray (I will not say, to remind me to pray). Apposite that, it can be but little other than Pride that would say, "though I need Your help, I will not ask, lest you think me uncouth or ill-bred." My constancy is not all I could wish, but I cannot see it improving by a refusal to pray, in circumstances in which prayer is absolutely necessary. (Are there any others?)

"Henry V" and "Patton" have set my mind spinning over the value of war. I still believe that it will be to the good of Iraq, the US, and the world in general if that evil ------ in Baghdad is removed or put down. (And so much conversation about the war seems to assume that evil without ever considering it!) But Harry's eve of battle wanderings through the camp, and Patton's decrial of "push-button warfare" offer me little comfort and much in the way of doubt, confusion and anxiety. And so, child that I am, all too willing to venture out alone in the sunshine, run home to other's skirts at the sound of approaching thunder. I will pray.

How close will the lightning strike, I wonder?
Do you ever get the feeling the Scriptures are talking just to you?

Hiatus over. At the risk of making me sound (or more probably, revealing me to be) tremendously egotistical, St. Paul yesterday made it clear that I gots to go on.

But blogging will be less frequent than it might have otherwise been. I seem to have agreed to a more or less full-time arrangment with a media company. But I still get to do the bulk of the work from home, and since I am a "consultant" they understand and expect that parental duties will come first. (There's laundry going even as I type.)

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

I hereby declare a temporary hiatus of indeterminate length.

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.