Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Lady of All Nations

I need Athos' opinion discernment-wise, about whether I may be slipping over into the hyper-pious fringe of the Church, but nonetheless, I do pray this prayer sometimes, and wonder whether I ought to pray it more.

I Am King Herod

In today's Liturgy of the Hours, there is a reading from a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus. In it, the good bishop says:

A tiny child is born, who is a great king. Wise men are led to him from afar. They come to adore one who lives in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

King Herod was afraid to hear of the possible birth of a king. Why? The Christ Child had not come to drive him from his kingship, but Satan from his. But because of a perplexing yet explicable dynamic that mimetic theory calls the "problem of the doubles" or the dilemma of the "model/rival", Herod sees an enemy usurper at his gate. He shows the enormity of cruelty in the death of so many children. There are no categories of good or evil in his mind, only power (mine) vs. another rivalrous one (the infant usurper).

Fast forward to the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, 2006; Andy Warhol's solemn pronouncement about everyone one day being famous for fifteen minutes kicks in; paraphrase: Everyone will be King Herod for fifteen minutes. Men. Women. Children. We collude to allow the violence to be doled out, no matter our gender, age or station and call it "democracy" or "freedom to choose" or other such mystifying cloaking the darkness of our royal deeds.

This is the sacrificial crisis of our age in which not only kings are on stage wielding the power of an Apocalypto priest's stone knife. Whoever threatens my ego is liable to murder, real or imaginary, or, if possible, under the sanction of the state. We even practice it, giving it full influence upon our mirror neurons as we play horrendous video games. Watch gore and mayhem at movie theaters. See it carried out in far-off exotic countries. Allow our reason to be infiltrated so as to allow for abortions of "convenience" (read: "expedience"). The more voiceless, helpless and innocent the victim the better. Who will know? Who will care? Saint Quodvultdeus:
The children die for Christ, though they do not know it...The child makes of these as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to himself. See the kind of kingdom that is his, coming as he did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this ...While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

And so, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, goes on apace. Not something to cluck our tongues at done so long, long ago by a faceless tyrant, but today, here, here, and still again here.

I am King Herod. Mea culpa. Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dreadhead Following

Do visit Dreadnought to catch up on his latest posts. Excellent stuff.

Virtues, Gifts, Fruits: Target 07?

The Seven Virtues
Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, Love
Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Justice, Temperance, Fortitude

Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Strength, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord

Fruits of the Holy Spirit
Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Generosity, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-control
(Galatians 5:22)

It might seem like basic stuff, but it was hard for me to find all of it in one place, which must be why I jotted the above on a single crispy page of my 2006 pocket calender.

Athos and Aramis could probably do loads better commentary on these, so I won't even try.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Porthos Deletes Again!

Because it just won't do to have a deconstruction post hanging over a Rafael Madonna and Child (thanks, Athos, by the way!).

And it wasn't that important anyway.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Rad Trad Good News of Great Joy

Madonna dell Granduca - Rafael
c. 1505 (110 kB); Oil on wood, 84 x 55 cm (33 x 21 1/2 in); Palazzo Pitti, Florence

In keeping with our Massketeer motto of "Squaring the Circle of Our Rad Trad Catholic Girardian Conserberalism," here is the text of a late Advent sermon given one of the most faithful voices of the Magisterium of Mother Church, the Pontifical Household preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa. He is also a well informed reader of René Girard, to whom he makes passing reference in the body of his message of peace, goodwill to all humankind. The homily can also be found at Zenit – The World Seen From Rome until they replace it with other news pieces.

Cheers and blessings this Christmastide to all peacemakers!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hail, the Newborn King

The Nativity - Barocci (or Baroccio), Federico (b. c. 1526-1535, Urbino; d. 1612, Urbino)
1597; Oil on canvas, 134 x 105 cm; Museo del Prado, Madrid

The Logic of Christmas

Gospel Truth

As a precursor to THE day, even if you don't happen to like his pith and wit, it's great that Mark Steyn takes on the debunkers and demythologizers of Christmas here.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Real Barn or Pottery Barn?

Over at NRO, Jennifer Graham urges us to desanitize our Nativity.

In America today, we sanitize everything. We are all Howard Hughes now. Many grocery stores offer disinfectant wipes so we can clean the shopping cart’s handles before we touch it; God forbid we make contact with a germ. I love Louis Pasteur as much as the next guy, but, having once carried Purell to church for use after the Sign of Peace, I’m trying cut back.

As we have sanitized our lives, so we have also sanitized the Christmas story. We have made this stable, this “mean estate,” a romantic, straw-strewn birthing suite, with a supporting cast of merry animals straight from the set of Snow White. The stable we envision, the one that is depicted in the wood or marble crèches on our mantles, is like my little barn the week before the animals moved in: rough and cozy and clean, scented with fresh green hay and aromatic wood chips. Add a Wii and a sleeping bag, and my teen-aged son would have been content there for a week.

But, oh, look at it now. There’s a reason no one sells Eau de Donkey Dung.

Dutch Renaissance?

(Het Straatje)
c. 1657-1661
The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

To accompany Athos' prayerful intentions about the Netherlands in his post below, I would like to present Vermeer's The Little Street, one of my very favorite paintings. Click for detail!

O Holy Night

Catholic blog diva, matriarch and vocal arts enthusiast Anchoress links Aled Jones (unknown to me) singing O Holy Night across the dividing years of his younger and older selves. Nice.

Actually, my favorite version of this song is Mariah Carey's.

A Rebirth of Faith - Which One?

Joshua Livestro writes on the revitalization of Christian faith in the Netherlands here.

In the article, he relates that:

According to Bakas and Buwalda, God is back in Europe's most notoriously liberal country. Or rather: The Dutch are moving back to God. It seems an implausible hypothesis. After all, Europe was supposed to have entered the realm of post-Christianity, to use C.S. Lewis's term--a state of eternal unbelief from which there is no return. And yet, Bakas and Buwalda claim, the Dutch are turning back. Take the almost unnoticed reintroduction of crucifixes and other religious artifacts into the classrooms of Catholic schools throughout the country. Years of gradual but seemingly unstoppable secularization have given way to a reaffirmation of old religious identities. The change is also starting to affect the attitudes of pupils at these schools. In a recent newspaper interview, a head teacher at a Catholic secondary school in Rotterdam observed, "For years, pupils were embarrassed about attending Mass. Now, they volunteer to read poems or prayers, and the auditorium is packed."
Another observation that Livestro makes is that mainline Protestant churches, as well as the liberal Catholic are rapidly declining while so-called "house churches" and "youth churches" are burgeoning. A pastor at one of the latter worship "centers", Stanley Hofwijks, says:

"If you look closely, you'll see that only the traditional churches are affected by secularization. Almost all nontraditional churches are growing, and growing strongly. The reason is simple: While the message stays the same, the methods change to suit the times. If people want it, we'll have flags, loud music, people jumping up and down in the pews, even hip-hop. But Jesus remains the same as he was 2,000 years ago. The Word never changes." His main challenge is not secularization but increased competition from other immigrant churches. Amsterdam already counts around 170 immigrant church communities, and new ones are founded every month. Hofwijks doesn't seem to mind: "Competition is good, it keeps you humble. It also keeps you focused on what really matters: following God, being close to Him."

As Hofwijks leans back in his chair, the building starts to shake to the sound of loudspeakers bellowing 100-decibel praises to the Almighty: "COME, NOW IS THE TIME TO WORSHIP!!"
And that is the rub. Like the mega-churches of the United States, the youth churches of Holland give the customer what s/he wants: emotionality, breezy entertainment and low commitment. Christianity Lite. Doesn't fill you up or slow you down.

I'm of a mind that the Netherlands IS experiencing a reflowering of Christianity. It has been scared back INTO its senses by several truths confronting it -- from the murder of Theo van Gogh to demographic suicide to the dark pit of pagan nihilism and scientific reductionism. It will quickly fly through the steps that we in the States have witnessed over the past three decades compressed into perhaps one, it seems to me.

Then after the first or second "youth church" pastoral indiscretion, the absconding of funds, gay lover(s) on the side -- wait, this is Holland, that may not scandalize -- and the throngs marching to the temple singing may ask themselves a telling question or two:

What is the source and summit of this orthodoxy we seek? Where is Jesus still to be found Really Present?

The answer is the Catholic Church, faithfully protected and nourished by the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, through the power of God the Father and in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity. This is the headwaters of all Christian faith; everything else is downstream.

May we live to see the rebirth of Europe, a new Christendom, not based on earthly powers and instruments of war craft, but build on the solid Rock [Mtt. 16, 18] at the center of which is the Lamb. And, if it is not speaking in sacrificial terms, may we like Saint George of legend put to death the sin, error, heterodoxy and schismatic differences that keep us from loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and our neighbor as ourself.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I Saw Three Pigs Go Sailing In On Christmas Day

From Scott Ott at Scrappleface, a parody of a "Christmas Message" from the second in command of Al Qaeda, Zawahiri. It's making the rounds, but, hey, we can pray, right?

William Faulkner Does Stooges

Jimmy Akin links to this winner of a parody contest.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why Is This Man Laughing?

For all the obvious reasons, of course. The Three Massketeers aren't some roundhead louts who've cut ourselves off from the source and summit of the life of the Church. We have sworn fealty to the once and future King and are brothers to all who pledge likewise. We are all for one and one for all. Our eyes twinkle because, despite all the world's darkness, we see a horizon whose Dawn is already assured in Our Lady, the Second Eve, and the Empty Tomb, the Second Garden in which there is no Fall. We raise a tankard with all good men and fine ladies who share the Panis angelicus, or who are being led to that Eucharistic feast. We seek no martyrdom, not being worthy of it, but praying that if that opportunity arises, we wear that crown not of our own merit but of the merits and bounty of the Lamb Slain since the Foundation of the world. +

The Laughing Cavalier - Frans Hals (1582/3 - 1666)

Denial, Displacement, Scapegoating

Fantastically good essay (in my opinion) linked over at the GA Blog
really nails it, I think.

No, this is not a return to political/cultural commentary. It is a chance to test out my blockquoting capabilities (achieved by using the edit function to steal 'n paste the tags from Athos' post).

Key graphs:
One result of that transposition, the record shows, has been the creation of a world of political scapegoats for the unease and anxiety that are the unwanted companions now of Westerners everywhere. These scapegoats, perverse non-explanations for what really ails us, can be identified by features common to the breed everywhere: The passion invested in them by their antagonists is disproportionate to any real problem the scapegoat represents; they are invoked to explain more about the world than they do; they capture some part of the truth, i.e., have a degree of verisimilitude without which a scapegoat cannot exist; and — also like scapegoats everywhere — they pose no threat of retaliation for their overburdening. They are scapegoats in the classic sense: metaphorical beasts seen not in their own right and reality, but rather as communal vessels carrying a political and psychological weight beyond themselves for reasons of communal relief.

In sum, to judge by current intellectual trends, many post-9/11 attempts to diagnose the American soul, both here and in Europe, have served less to clarify reality than to gravitate toward safer and more palatable substitutes. It is a fraught, fascinating spectacle worth exploring in detail — the more so because a parallel outpouring of books, especially from the contemporary European front, makes very clear what today's obvious displacements of political passion are really about.

Read the whole thing, as they say in the blog world.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Be Still and Know That I AM God

Statue of Saint Benedict
Holy Cross Abbey
Berryville, Virginia

Europe Extracts God - Good Luck

Hieronymus, or Jerome, Bosch, b. c.1450, d. August 151
The Extraction of the Stone of Madness (The Cure of Folly)
c. 1475-80 (200 Kb); Oil on board, 48 x 35 cm (18 7/8 x 13 3/4"); Museo del Prado, Madrid

In his book, Christianity & the Crisis of Cultures, Pope Benedict XVI probed and analyzed the malaise of modern Europe with the skill of a cultural anthropologist (albeit a thoroughly devout and holy one). The fact that he saw it to publication shows the Holy Father's theological virtue of Hope, else readers would react by thinking it was the clinical report of an autopsy of a cultural suicide.

The leading lights of the European Union staunchly and dogmatically hold that the foundations of Europe must not be acknowledged, either by making reference to God in the constitution or in mentioning its Christian roots. The claim that doing so would offend other religions -- Islam or Judaism -- isn't convincing, according to the Pope. The former is more threatened by "the cynicism of a secularized culture" and the latter understands that Christian roots wind their way all the way back to Mt. Sinai and "bear the imprint of the voice that rang out on the mountain of God" [33].

No. Instead, Benedict XVI follows the widespread disavowal of Christian foundations to the Enlightenment philosophies and its laicist positivism -- which ipso facto allows no place for God.

They are based on a self-limitation of the positive reason that is adequate in the technological sphere but entails a mutilation of man if it is generalized. The result is that man no longer accepts any moral authority apart from his own calculations ... even the concept of liberty, which initially seemed capable of expanding without any limits, leads in the end to the self-destruction of liberty itself ... A tree without roots dries up. [40, 43]
The Holy Father is echoing what the Catholic convert, Arnold Lunn, said in his fine book, Within That City, in the early twentieth century; namely, that "the collapse of supernatural belief would be followed by a collapse of moral conviction." The rationality borne of the Sacred Scripture and Tradition, guarded and served by the Magisterium of the Church recognizes the sad, death spiral of the rejection of that Revelation. Liberty without the Faith equals moral collapse, recrudescence of the pagan and the "withering of the branches" who will not remain in the True Vine [John 10].

Exclusion of God in the public discourse -- the last and greatest form of scapegoating -- is a crude, self-aggrandizing philosophy that will lead to the worst forms of human horrors, prefigured in the regimes of National Socialism and the gulag.

Fortunately, we have a papal shepherd who tells it like it is. And he is faithful to his model and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will never leave or forsake his Church to the gates of such a hell-on-earth.

Porthos Deletes

I have deleted my previous two posts on account of having unpleasant feelings about the tone of my posting, and on account of not wanting to place any onus on my other two Massketeers.

In general, I think I will stick to art and music posts and comment box quips.

For me, re: the Internet and perhaps life in general, I've begun to feel that the rule should be, talk less, pray more.


Friday, December 15, 2006

To Stem Violence, U.S. Aims to Create...?

St. Augustine reminds us; for thou hast made us for thyself and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.

Reading the previous post from Athos, To Stem Iraqi Violence, U.S. Aims to Create Jobs and coming upon the Stuart Carlson political cartoon I thought that Carlson answered the Washington Post article pretty well. Simply throwing more money at the problem will not quench our thirst for the transcendence. And if you notice, even the labels we try to use to explain away the violence, as in Carlson's cartoon, miss the mark.

As Athos laid out the options:

Option A: The free market, jobs and spending money;

Option B: the sacred;

place your bets on which the young, angry men in Iraq (or US, Europe, etc) will choose.

Department of Random Notes

1) Choral Treasure is great to have going in the background. (Takes a while to get the music running though, and it seems to slow down other keyboard operations--at least on my computer.) Anyway, thanks again to Aramis! The site is clickable, over near the top of our sidebar, and well worth the click.

2) Hold up dear Aramis in prayer for a gruelling Christmas season. For me it's going to be the fourth sorrowful mystery (Carrying of the Cross). Hey, hold all of us up. Hasn't been easy for me either, though easier than for Aramis.

3) I keep missing (or sort of drifting by) these great feast days, being the isolated expat that I am. The Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. John of the Cross . . . Is there a good, solid Catholic Calendar that we can link on our sidebar? (Not to make more work for Aramis--let's think about it when 2007 comes around.) I'm getting kind of tired of saying to myself "That was (yesterday/last week/etc.)?"

4) Another generous link to us at Suicide of the West (see our sidebar again). Here's to quality content (and good visuals) from Athos and Aramis attracting more of the same, and hoping that my gratuitous Mahler links don't discourage it. (Actually, I think I'm almost done with Mahler, but I've been hunting for some optimum Stravisnki and Eric Dolphy as well as movie clips).

5) After some huddling, it's been kind of sort of decided that reflections on Gil Bailie's series "Let This Mind Be in You" will continue, but in a more freestyle mode (e.g. presenting notable excerpts with commentary, rather than shooting for a methodical discussion carried out mostly in comment boxes).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Contrition - The Truest Form of Knowledge

The return of the prodigal son c. 1662 (210 Kb); Oil on canvas, 262 x 206 cm; The Hermitage, St. Petersburg
"...For this son of mine was dead, but now he is alive; he was lost, but now he has been found." And so the feasting began. -- Luke 15:24
The Massketeers talk a great deal about sources of the self, ontology, personhood and the like. The New Testament word for substantiation is ousia (Gr. Ion. that which is one's own, one's substance, property). Jesus makes clear that one's substantiation comes solely from the Father in this parable. It can't be clung to or wrenched away from Him and taken elsewhere as a personal possession.
It is only in returning to his Father that the prodigal son regains his original status, his sonship. Contrition, remorse, repentance and penance return us to right relation with the Source of our very being.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Got Mahler?

The incessant clamor for more Mahler is beginning to effect my nerves unbearably. Alright, already. If the Adagietto from no. 5 doesn't quiet you down, I don't know what will.

But we have some options here:

The Adagietto with no frills, just a photo of Mahler to stare at. But unlike the clips below, it has the whole movement.

The Adagietto as background music to a nice monochrome video presentation dedicated to London. But it is only an excerpt of the movement, and cuts off the last half rather brutally (I thought).

The Adagietto as background music to a rather spectacular video presentation of Gustav Klimt's art. (Content Warning) Also a bit clipped at the end, but only a bit.

The Adagietto was also famous as the background music for Visconti's film adaptation of Death in Venice (a ponderous, glacial and somewhat over-rated flick, in my Philistinian opinion).

To Stem Iraqi Violence, U.S. Aims to Create Jobs

This is a Joke, Right?

The Washington Post reports that the Pentagon plans to create new jobs as a deterrent to violence in Iraq. With unemployment hovering around 70%, Army Lt. General Peter Chiarelli says that jobs will quell the temptation of Iraqi men to join insurgent activities for pay. You know: dollars for sniping at Americans, money for joining militias. That sort of thing.

Of course, the Defense Department understands that unemployed young men tend to get into mischief. "Idle hands are the devil's workshop," as it was once said.

But as a deterrent to violence? This seems another pipe dream of faith in the free market over the benighted, backward realm of religion. "Of course these young fellas just want a job so they can afford internet, video games and reruns of Baywatch and Seinfeld like the rest of us. We give 'em that, and all will be hunky dory."

After all, we've all seen how well the (angry) unemployed young men of Muslim tendencies have assimilated into the values and culture of the West in the countries of Europe once called Christendom. The imams in London, the Hague and Copenhagen are downright placating to good ol' free market values that the Pentagon now wants to instill into the hearts of Iraqi young men.
"If it works for Muslims in Paris, Madrid, Dearborn and Falls Church, it'll work in Falujah, Mosul, Najaf and Ramadi too," seems to be the brilliant insight of our finest thinkers in the Defense Department.

Option A: The free market, jobs and spending money.

Option B: The Prophet, Koran and the sacred.

Place your bets on which the young, angry men in Iraq will choose.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Merton's Ascent and a Few Quotes

I've been veeerrrrryyyy slllllooooowwwwlllyyyy slogging my way through Thomas Merton's The Ascent to Truth. Merton (whom Athos could introduce better than I) was a great modern writer and thinker in the area of Catholic mysticism.

Let me say that I do not recommend this book, even to myself, as it is written for people who are not only quite a bit higher up on the contemplative ladder than I am now, but probably higher than I will ever be. In this sense, the book (a commentary and elaboration of St. John of the Cross) is "moot." It is also a borrowed book, and borrowed only because I didn't have anything new of my own in the category of "spiritual literature."

That said, I am learning some things--crumbs, as it were, for the puppy under the table. Some of them have to do with reason and will and may be quite valuable. Reason in particular (if I read this right) is both more and less important than we are accustomed to think in relation to devotion and contemplation. The primary function of reason here is gatekeeping and discernment. This role is never quite lost even when infused grace is taking over the heavy lifting. Only the giants of contemplation will get to the point in contemplation where reason won't work--because God cannot be registered via our rational (or "sense"-ible) categories when we're that deep into Him. (This is not a celebration of "irrationality," which is an error of faddish as well as borrowed--and usually dumbed-down--Eastern mysticism.)

Anyway, here and there, Merton's words jump out at me as news I (yes, even a hopeless slug like me) can use.

For instance: "The purpose of mortification is to liberate the spirit and make it plastic in the hands of God." (p. 175)

I had to stop at that sentence and say, Wow. And, reflecting on it now, I need not think of mortification in terms of self-administered whuppins, but rather in St. Therese of Lisieux terms: perhaps they are little, secret grating things, grating people, grating encounters at work. Instead of cussing, why not welcome them? Indeed, why not even seek them out (as Therese did)?

Another longish quote I thought was particularly good and may (possibly) be adaptable in some way to my lowly state in life:

"Saint Gregory Nazianzen calls the soul of the spiritual man--the mystic--an instrument played by the Holy Spirit: organum pulsatum a Spiritu Sancto. The Holy Ghost draws from this instrument harmonies and a melody of which reason and the will of man alone could never even dream. It is this music vibrating on the well-tuned strings of a perfect human personality that makes a man a saint. It is when special harmonies are wrung from a human instrument that the Holy Ghost makes a man a contemplative. What part has reason in this silent song that God sings for Himself and for His elect in the soul of a mystic? It is the function of reason not to play the instrument but only to tune the strings. The Master Himself does not waste time tuning the instrument. He shows His servant, reason, how to do it and leaves him to do the work. If He then comes and finds the piano still out of tune, he does not bother to play on it. He strikes a chord, and goes away. The trouble generally is that the tuner has been banging on the keys himself all day, without bothering to do the work assigned to him: which is to keep the thing in tune." (p. 181-182)

Even though Merton is not talking about me or anyone like me (as if!), the idea that my job (via reason and will?) is to keep the piano (me) in tune, not to pound away on the keys--this might be something I can take away and apply somehow . . .

That is all.

Advent - A Time for Meditation

Philosopher in Meditation - Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669)
1632 (110 Kb); Oil on wood, 28 x 34 cm (11 x 13 1/2"); Musee du Louvre, Paris

During the liturgical time of year called Advent, it is good to recall what passes for freedom versus where we find the true source of freedom. May you find the latter as we wait and watch for the second Advent of Jesus Christ. Peace & joy to you and yours.

From a true pal, mentor and medium of wisdom for the Three Massketeers, Gil Bailie, comes an important differentiation between worldly "freedom" and the truest form of freedom available in this time space continuum. Read and reflect this second week of Advent, 2006:

Promiscuity means the lack of standards by which to judge or sort out things. Psychological promiscuity ... is the kind of involvement in mimetic contagion and mimetic desire which reaches the point [that] the self becomes unstable, because of the multitude of its influences. We do not have to influenced by a multitude of people [in a negative way]; all that influence simply needs to be thematized. We do not want to turn off the influences of other people; we need other people ... The way the Christian economy works is we reach God through Christ, we reach Christ through each other. So we don’t want to be stopped being influenced, but that influence needs to be thematized or else it becomes polymorphously perverse -- and that is the mimetic crisis.

It is the effort to leave the ‘beaten path’ which forces everyone inevitably into the same ditch.

It is a mind enslaved. It desires not only to possess the other, but to consume or destroy. It wishes not only to imitate the other, nor merely to possess itself in the
other, but to destroy the other as the place where the self is alienated to itself.

All the appeals to custom, to tradition, to authority, to the positive teaching of religion, to the gestures repeated since childhood are not meant to compel reason nor to suppliment it, but to protect it against the vertigo of the imagination. And the only people to be scandalized are, in the words of St Augustine, ‘Those who do not know how rare and difficult a thing it is for the fleshly imagination to be subdued by the serenity of a devout mind.
-- Gil Bailie

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Asleep in the Trojan Horse

Slumber Cells - Roosters Crowing

In the raucous aftermath of Benedict XVI's speech at Regensburg and subsequent visit to Turkey -- not to mention too vociferously the British foiling of terrorist plots -- it certainly is no time to fall into a fitful sleep regarding the world of Islam, Christianity and what the Pope considers a primary foe, relativistic secularism.

A host of commentators try to mesh what we are coming to know about all three collective actors on the world stage. For example, Uriya Shavit asks, Why have Latin American republics, Japan and Germany, former Soviet bloc lands, and tigers of Asia chosen democracy -- why not the Arabs? He does so almost without a single reference to the importance of religion, which from the point of view of mimetic theory, is a naive example of chasing the wrong rabbit into the brier patch of secularist and fruitless social science.

On the other hand, Rolf Potts makes some extraordinary connections all the way back to a Islamic commentator on the Koran -- the right direction to inquire -- who received a bad haircut in Greeley, Colorado in 1949 (!) and traces events and thought processes all the way to the events of 9/11/01 here.

Using the template of the mimetic theory of René Girard, however, a derivative of the spirit at work in the biblical narrative -- is that too great a leap? Take my word for it. -- it is essential to see the invariable likelihood of violence as a group phenomenon, even if only one or two -- or 19 with box cutters -- carry it out.

The increasing volatility, violence and sheer volume of Wahhabi / "radical Islamist" behavior is NOT an indicator of a new storm surge of Islam world-wide. First of all, nearly all will say that Islam is not monolithic -- indeed, it couldn't come to an adequate agreement on the hierarchy of a caliphate (leaving off talk of funding, accountability and other matters of statecraft) if the world or the entire fate of Islam depended on it.

Secondly, mimetic theory via the exposition of the New Testament's explication of the satanic (the "Generative Mimetic Scapegoating Mechanism" of Hamerton-Kelly) gives an instrument to understand the violent portions of Wahhab, etc. It is this: the extreme self-righteousness with concomitant license to administer corporal violence is quite simply the sacred. When a practitioner feels "pushed" by encroachments of the pagan (the secular West) or a radically oppositional alternative (the Gospel in all its hydra-headed forms from its purest, the Catholic truth, to its basest, a journalist digging around mass graves), such a practitioner experiences the sacred's permission to use violence.

Dawn Perlmutter's work at The Institute for the Research of Organized & Ritual Violence is the best at applying this insight (though not so thematized).

What we are seeing is evidence of tumult -- social and psychological -- within Islam, yes, but not just within that religion.

The similarity between the American phenomenon of the Ku Klux Klan's righteousness and ease of slipping into the sacrificial is a local expression of the same sacrificial crisis we see nearly world wide.

The problem is not Islamic "sleeper cells," conscious or unconcious, in the midst of declining Western societies (if you want to use nation-state delineations, fine). The problem is a failure to live up to the only -- yes, the only -- alternative to the sacred ever visited upon this planet: the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount.

All of us are in "sleeper cells." The only question is, will we be awakened to the nightmare of violence and the sacred, or to the crowing of the rooster of the Gospel?

All of us are asleep in a Trojan horse. Conversion, as our friend Aramis reminds us, is the only answer.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Angel - E. Burne-Jones

What good news do I need to hear this first week of Advent?

A Green Chri$tma$ or The Nativity Story

"I did some stuff for Dupont and they said, 'Well, we know about the prunes and pizza rolls, have you ever taken on a really serious client?' and I said, 'Other than God?'" -- Stan Freberg

My wife and I went to the lovely film The Nativity Story this past weekend where there were only a hand full of people in the theater and yet leaving we were amazed at the lines in front of the major retailing stores.

Folks seem to get all warm and fuzzy about x-mas celebrated here in the West. And many of them critize the trend for some sort of political correctness that discourages references to Christmas at work and government. Many of these same folks get all bent out of shape over social and moral issues and yet they go merrily along allowing themselves to be sucked into the marketing of deviated desire. Take a few moments to link to the story of Stan Freberg's Green Chri$tma$ letting it soak in, remembering that the song came out nearly 40 years ago. Our wonderful market economy, by way of its huge success of luring us "consumers" into the false transcendence, has swallowed up this song and spat it back into our faces, laughing all the way to the bank.

[Excerpt from the The Story of Stan Freberg's Green Chri$tma$]
"Do I have to tie my product into Christmas?" Crachit asks. "Christmas has a significance, a meaning!"

"A sales curve!" Mr. Scrooge responds. "Christmas has two s's in it and they're both dollar signs!"

"I listen to that now, and it's like I did it last week. I'm amazed that it holds up all these years." Freberg says. "The interesting thing is that after that record, both Coca-Cola and Marlboro came to me to do ad campaigns. And this is after the president of Capitol, Lloyd Dunn, said, 'Well, I'll tell you one thing, Freberg. You'll never work in the advertising business again.' I was just getting started in the field."

Ironically, Green Chri$tma$ may have marked the turning point in Freberg's career as he shifted his professional focus from radio in the late 1950s to advertising in the 1960s. Freberg went on to a storied career in advertising winning numerous awards and accolades for humor in advertising.

Green Chri$tma$ resonated with listeners but rankled advertisers on Freberg's show. "This record, of course was an attack on the over commercialization of Christmas.," Freberg says. "And when it first came out some sponsors refused to pay for any of their commercials that were programmed within five minutes of my record being played. They felt that my record negated their commercials." So critical was the business of radio and advertising that Green Chri$tma$ received no commercial airplay prior to 1983.

While Freberg is hailed as visionary for his biting brand of satire skewering everything from pop culture to the history of the United States of America it is Green Chri$tma$ that brings out a funny and sad reminder of how twisted we have allowed Christmas to become.
[End of excerpt]

CS Lewis, in his book "Mere Christianity," talked of one of the cardinal virtues - temperance, and that it “referred not specially to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.” Do you think we have allowed what has turned into a 9 month marketing ca$h cow driven by x-mas hype to get out of hand? Can we live in this Green Chri$tma$ world and not be of it? If so, how?

At the end of this strange little meditation on our deviated desires that we "freely" allow ourselves to be hood-winked into because of x-mas hoopla link to The Nativity Story : and find where the movie is playing in your city and go see it.

Trivia Related to the Musical Preferences of Lady Aramis

Aramis has informed us that the good Lady Aramis is quite partial to a song called "Spirit in the Sky," a song generously linked by brave Aramis himself some weeks ago.

That madrigal reminded me of another which I could not place, and it has been nagging me ever since. Luckily, my colleague, Catholic godfather and drivin' rock enthusiast has come to my aid. The song is "On the Road Again" by Canned Heat.

Compare "Spirit in the Sky" by Jeff Greenbaum.

Draw what spiritual conclusions you may from this bit of musical dot-connecting [e.g. recommencing that paschal journey ("on the road again") by which, please God, we will ultimately arrive the beautific vision (go "up to the spirit in the sky") etc.]


Latest Dread

No, not some looming catastrophe this time. I mean Dreadnought. I haven't visited Dreadnoughtfor a while, but he's had some good stuff up recently. Dread is a rad trad 'gay' Catholic, exuberantly faithful to the magisterium, and a fine writer. I consider Catholics like Dread to be some front line folks re: the living meaning of chastity, and often get a lot from his insights, including spiritual insights which are very much in the "offer it up" and "pour it out" school--though Athos doesn't totally approve of Dreadnought's tone and style. (I add that Dread has Amy Welborn's stamp of approval.)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Who Needs Enemies?

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Next Generation

Why the ennui? Whence the lack of wherewithal to procreate, raise healthy, happy children within a lifelong , committed "Domestic church" called the family? Are these such banal, futile aspirations?

What are better aims? Those determined by Madison Avenue, MTV and the storefronts in the Mall?

Cardinal Lopez Trujill shares his opinion at Spero News regarding the "suicide" facing Western societies, primarily in Europe. He says,

"In the Western culture, we have been witnessing a society model of extreme liberalism rooted in moral relativism, refusing the traditional family model based on marriage between a man and a woman, and thus other types of unions have been put forward such as civil unions, de facto unions, and even unions of persons of the same sex. This has resulted in the exaltation of individualistic models with a profusion of rights but a refusal to assume the corresponding responsibilities."

The result? "That the fertility rate of 1.47 babies per woman is low, according to the 2005 estimates for the European Union as a whole, is a well-known fact," said the cardinal. A rate of about 2.1 in a stable society is considered necessary to keep that society’s population constant in the long-term.

The whole article can be read here

His Eminence notes that Western people have been accumulating more and more "rights" in their own minds while discarding more and more of their duties. These rights always work against new life. "Among the rights that have been diffused have been those of abortion and of reproductive health, bringing about a change in mentality," he said. "Also, the creation of a welfare state in Europe has aggravated the problem by imposing high taxes and perverse incentives. Young people are faced with high taxes and a high rate of unemployment, which also contributes to delaying the time of marriage and in limiting the size of the family."

"Powerful multinational lobby groups and international organizations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation" are partly responsible "for eroding family values and responsibilities," Cardinal Lopez Trujillo continued. "They attempt to introduce in some countries 'sexual education' in primary and high schools, often without the consent or at least the support of the parents, teaching the use of masturbation, contraception, 'safe sex,' and condoms. . . ."

In my Ethics class at Duke, Waldo Beach taught us about "consequential judgment." We don't get to blame God when tons of metal that we ride screaming through the sky at 40,000 feet plunge to Earth. If we live in Oklahoma, we'd better have a storm shelter. If we live in trailer park in Florida, guess what will probably come calling?

If a vast majority of our children, or present young (but aging) adults decide not to marry, not have at least 2.1 children, not enjoy the family comforts and adventures of lifelong self-donating love, guess what happens, demographically?

This is consequential judgment. The Father of the Prodigal can only wait and watch for the wayward ones' return to simple sanity beyond self-centered "fulfillment" projects and the latest fashion ware and independency.

Choral Treasure

Link and tune in!

And from Amy Welborn's open book site you have a couple other options for Advent and/or Catholic sacred music.

Just what the doctor ordered.

Beatrix - Redux

Beata Beatrix (1863) -- Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The poet, painter, and designer Dante Gabriel Rossetti, b. Gabriel Charles Dante Rossetti, May 12, 1828, d. Apr. 9, 1882, was a cofounder of the PRE-RAPHAELITES, a group of English painters and poets who hoped to bring to their art the richness and purity of the medieval period. The son of the exiled Italian patriot and scholar Gabriele Rossetti and a brother of the poet Christina Rossetti, Dante showed literary talent early, winning acclaim for his poem The Blessed Damozel (1847) before he was 20 years old. As a student at the Royal Academy Antique School (1845-47), he met William Holman Hunt and John Millais, with whom he launched the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848.
Rossetti's first Pre-Raphaelite paintings in oils, based on religious themes and with elements of mystical symbolism, were The Girlhood of Mary Virgin (1849) and Ecce Ancilla Domini (1850), both in the Tate Gallery, London. Although he won support from John Ruskin, criticism of his paintings caused him to withdraw from public exhibitions and turn to watercolors, which could be sold privately. Subjects taken from Dante Alighieri's Vita Nuova (which Rossetti had translated into English) and Sir Thomas Malory's Morte Darthur inspired his art in the 1850s. His visions of Arthurian romance and medieval design also inspired his new friends of this time, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones.
Romantic love was Rossetti's main theme in both poetry and painting. Elizabeth Siddal, whom he married in 1860, was the subject of many fine drawings, and his memory of her after she died (1862) is implicit in the Beata Beatrix (1863; Tate Gallery, London). Toward the end of his life, Rossetti sank into a morbid state, possibly induced by his disinterment (1869) of the manuscript poems he had buried with his wife and by savage critical attacks on his poetry. He spent his last years as an invalid recluse. (WebMuseum, Paris )

As per my comment here, Rossetti was an extraordinary artist whose favorite subject was the wife of William Morris, Jane. A perfect exemplar of Victorian beauty, Jane succombed to Rossetti's advances. Morris, like a King Arthur, knew full well of the affair between his beloved and good friend, but subsumed his pain into his own prolific artistry in poetry, languages, arts and crafts.

Leveling our gaze, settling for less than the true transcendence of God will lead to similar paths as suffered by this artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Happy (One Month) Birthday to Us

So, how are we doing?

Speaking of young life, congratulations to Gil Bailie and his family on the birth of his first grandchild.

I don't know if it is proper to comment on this, but Gil Bailie's daughter-in-law is a rather (um, how shall I put this)
attractive representative of the female branch of the human family. . .

Am I being too blunt, here?

And we've been looking for a Beatrix for the Massketeers . . .

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let This Mind Be in You - Gil Bailie TAPE 2

The Massketeers press on with our look at the psychology of Christian conversion through a study of a tape series by Gil Bailie called "Let This Mind Be In You." This post will lead us into a discussion of tape 2 (we discussed tape 1 last month). Please join us as we explore the psychology of Christian conversion looking at metaphysical desire which can be either vertical (Real Transcendence) or horizontal (deviated); the former brings us into true personhood and love and the ladder leads to first scandal and then violence. Now don’t be shy, we are open to responsible comments.

The following are a few excerpts from tape 2.

Matthew 22:37,40 -- And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' "This is the great and foremost commandment. "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

We have heard this a million times, but I don’t think we have heard it enough, particularly the first commandment. He did not say to believe in God and love humanity. He did not say be nice and love others. He said these two go together and the first is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul. And the second is to love others AS yourself. Now historical Christianity's compliance with this injunction and the compliance with individual Christians down through the ages has been a hit and miss affair. But thank God the injunction is there as a reminder for us when we need a touchstone.

Partly due to the romantic view of basic human benevolence, which was retailed by Rousseau, and others and partly due to the rationalistic, ‘where there is a will there is a way’ spirit of the Enlightenment, the modern world came to believe that it could obey the second commandment without bothering with the first. …

In practice, if not always in professed belief in doctrine, the modern world enshrined only the second of the two great commandments, the one Jesus said was the lesser of the two and the one that was dependent upon the first one. The modern world has assumed that the two commandments could be separated. The creaking and groining, indeed the shouting and the shooting that you hear outside, is coming from the collapse of that assumption. …

Girard, in Things Hidden, says: "In reality, no purely intellectual process and no experience of a purely philosophical nature can secure the individual the slightest victory over mimetic desire and its victimage delusions.

… There is so much territory covered in this statement. It is precisely that arch between mimetic desire and the victimage delusion which Girard has made it his business to delineate…

He goes on: "Intellection can achieve only displacement and substitution, though these may give individuals the sense of having achieved a victory."

What he means with displacement and substitution – when we try to explicate ourselves from the mimetic desire and the victimage delusion we do so by being morally offended by the effects of someone’s victimage delusion and so we crank our own victimage operation in order to direct it toward the victimizer that we have just been scandalized by. So we have substituted or displaced the object of the victimage delusion, but we haven’t broken the spirit of the prince of this world (to speak in Biblical terms).

Going on to the last sentence of this Girard quote from Things Hidden: "For there to be even the slightest degree of progress, the victimage delusion must be vanquished on the most intimate level of experience."

This is where Christian conversion comes in. And that is where the first commandment comes in. ...

We are desire. This desire is metaphysical - not desire in a Freudian sense - this is not some impulse-response to a natural need of urge, because those desires can be satisfied, but ours can’t. What happens with that desire is the big question anthropologically? What do we do with this enormous desire? Well, we fool ourselves completely by thinking that it is animal desire or some version of it, like some materialists desire. However, Alexandre Kojeve, in his analysis on Hegel says, “Human desire must be directed toward another desire.” ... It must be directed toward another desire. So to speak metaphysically, could I love God if God was not love and did not love me? Human desire must be directed toward another desire. But there are plenty of other desires around. The world is filled with them and of course the most potent are metaphysical ones.

Now we come to the human socio-drama and the contagiousness of the desire – desire must be directed toward another desire and what happens when it is?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Thrill of Orthodoxy

Between the devil and the G. K. C.

As we begin a New Year of the Lord’s grace today – 1 Advent, Year C – what can we say with certainty beyond our personal inclinations, hunches, regardless of how “sincere” we think or feel about them? (Hitler was, after all, sincere.)

A major mentor in the Faith to whom C. S. Lewis turned (with his close friend J. R. R. Tolkien) was that giant of Christian defense in the early 20th century, Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Chesterton wrote in his classic, Orthodoxy:

“The church could not afford to swerve a hair’s breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christian shepherd was leading, but a herd of bulls and tigers, of terrible ideals and devouring doctrines, each one of them strong enough to turn a false religion and lay waste the world. Remember that the church went in specifically for dangerous ideas; she was a lion tamer. The idea of birth through a Holy Spirit, of the death of a divine being, of the forgiveness of sins, or the fulfillment of prophecies, are ideas which, any one can see, need but a touch to turn them into something blasphemous or ferocious. The smallest link was let drop by the artificers of the Mediterranean, and the lion of ancestral pessimism burst his chain in the forgotten forests of the north … if some small mistake were made in doctrine, huge blunders might be made in human happiness. A sentence phrased wrong about the nature of symbolism would have broken all the best statues in Europe. A slip in the definitions might stop all the dances; might wither all the Christmas trees or break all the Easter eggs. Doctrines had to be defined within strict limits, even in order that man might enjoy general human liberties. The church had to be careful, if only that the world might be careless.

“This is the thrilling romance of orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting … To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom – that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.” [147-150]

As we prepare our hearts and lives this Advent, we pledge our fealty to the humble King born in Bethlehem. Our Massketeer swords we transmute into plowshares and bells (more on that to come, eh, Aramis?). And we honor the Magisterium by the Holy Spirit and in the Name and power of the Christ Child who guards the deposit of Catholic truth for all Christians and men of good will – whether they acknowledge the work of Christ's historic Church, or not.

Gans on Revolutionary Murder (and Academic Apologists)

In my opinion, brilliant post by Eric Gans over at the

Generative Anthropology Blog

First Sunday of Advent +

Vintage Dorothy Day

"Reflections During Advent," Part One
"Searching for Christ"

by Dorothy Day
Ave Maria, November 26, 1966, pp. 8-9.

Summary: Commenting on the riches and turbulence in an era of renewal of the Church, she decides to write about Mary in her life. Traces her early religious experiences, tells what led her to God, and recounts the gift of a rosary and a statue of Mary. Appreciates the physical and sensual aspects of prayer and relates the mysteries of the rosary to life experiences. Tells of other Marian prayers said at the Catholic Worker and Mary's role in bringing us to Christ. (DOC #559).

IT is hard to write these days because we are suffering from an embarrassment of riches In this time of renewal of the Church in the modern world. New translations of Scripture abound. In reading over Paul's Epistle to the Galatians, which carries a subhead, "Faith and Freedom," in the New English Bible published by the Oxford and Cambridge Universities Presses, I saw again how applicable it was for our own day.

The turbulence in the Church today is a result of a newfound, newly realized emphasis on the liberty of Christ, and the realization too that we have scarcely begun to be Christian, to deserve the name Christian.

Everything said or written is challenged, new meanings and insights are sought and found in the counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience; there is a new morality and a new theology.

Old customs are being tossed aside as meaningless or offensive to others, in our deep desire for unity with our brothers of another faith, or of no faith at all.

Old and beautiful prayers of the Mass may be meaningless one Sunday and suddenly strike you between the eyes on another. A prayer which stands out to your understanding and wraps itself around your heart with a warm comfort or pierces it with new meaning is suddenly dropped out and lost. And the accent on hearing the word instead of reading It sometimes means that you neither hear nor read it because the celebrant has a cold in the head or the congregation coughs too much, or the celebrant races along at breakneck speed through the familiar words, and again they are lost to the congregation. I keep taking my missal along to Mass in case. Anyway, for me to take it in with the eyes as well as the ears makes a double impression on the mind.

And now even the prayer, the Hail Mary, has been left out of the listing of Catholic prayers from the new Dutch catechism, so we are told in our diocesan paper.

After reading this I changed my mind about writing about the counsels for this first of an Advent series and decided to write about the Blessed Mother instead. She is, of course, a controversial figure, the last thing in the world she would want to be.

It is fitting to write about her in Advent, and I would like to tell in simple fashion about Mary in my life.

WHEN I was a very little child, perhaps not more than six, I used to have recurrent nightmares of a great God, King of heaven and earth which encompassed all, stretched out over all of us in a most impersonal way, and with this nightmare came also a great noise like that made by a galloping horseman which increased in volume until the sound filled all the earth. It was a terrifying dream and when I called out, my mother used to come and sit by the bedside and hold my hand and talk to me until I fell asleep. That passed, and then a few years later I met a little girl by the name of Mary Harrington who told me about the Blessed Mother and a heaven peopled with saints, and this also was a great comfort to me.

Years passed and I attended high school and college and then went to work for the Socialist and Communist movements in the early 20's. Nevertheless, I often dropped into churches. One winter when I was working in New Orleans and living across the street from the cathedral there I found great joy in attending Benediction. That Christmas a Communist friend gave me a rosary. "You were always dropping into the cathedral," she explained.

I did not know how to say the prayers but I kept it by me. I did not know any Catholics and would have been afraid to approach a priest or nun, for fear of their reading into such an approach some expectation which was not there.

A year or so later my friend, Peggy Cowley, as she was then, gave me a tiny statue of the Virgin, pale blue and white with hair like golden noodles and a gold wire halo around her head. It came from Czechoslovakia and some friend had brought it to her. She asked in exchange for it a fan my brother had sent me from Riga.

Later, it was my own motherhood which finally brought me into the Church, the joy and thankfulness I felt at tile birth of a child. I had to thank God. I felt the need of worship, so Sister Aloysia of the Sisters of Charity who lived at St. Joseph's by the Sea, on Staten Island, taught me my prayers and my catechism and I became a Catholic. I had known before, as I am sure many children do, the Our Father and the psalms as prayers and I had heard the canticles sung in the Episcopalian Church where I had been baptized at the age of 12. But the Hail Mary and the Salve Regina and the Memorare were new to me. I was soon introduced to the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, from which children used to be taught to read in the Middle Ages, and the versicles and hymns became part of my prayer life from then on.

Certainly it was the need to adore, to worship God that led me to religion. A sense of joy and thankfulness and exaltation made me want to raise my arms aloft to the sky and with my whole being praise the Lord. As Charles do Foucauld learned to worship by observing the religious worship of the Arabs, I had learned something of worship from observing the lives of the Jews on the East Side, where I had always lived when I was in New York. The very delicatessen reeked of prayer when I went there in the morning to buy fresh rolls and found the aged Jew alone in his shop with his phylacteries and his skull cap, his psalms before him, standing before his Lord offering up a morning prayer.

God was out- Father, SO I Could approach Him, daring to say, Our Father. But it was reading of Jesus Christ in the New Testament that made me want to put off the old mail and put on Christ, as St. Paul said. And who had given me our Lord but the Virgin Mary? It was easy to pray to her, repetitious though it might seem. Saying tire rosary as I did so often, I felt that I was praying with the people of God, who held on to the physical act of the rosary as to a lifeline, a very present help in time of trouble. Franz Werfel said of an old woman that she told her beads as though she were knitting garments for the poor.

AS A woman I appreciated the physical aspects of prayer. All the senses of the body were engaged in the worship of the Church, the eyes through color and stained glass and statue and ikon, rich vestments, jewels, sparkling lights, candles, the smell of incense and beeswax, the sound of music, psaltery and harp and all the other instruments listed, the taste through the reception of the Body of Christ in the Host and last of all, the touch through the fingering of the beads.

"Pray without ceasing," St. Paul wrote, and here was one way to pray without ceasing. What if there was repetition and the mind wandered? It could always be drawn back through remembering the mysteries, the joyful, the sorrowful and the glorious. (I never think of the Visitation to Elizabeth without thinking of some pregnant woman who needs our prayers.) In fact, I never think of the rosary itself as a whole without thinking of Father Farina's talks to married couples, the joyful mysteries reflecting not only the honeymoon aspect of human love but the joys of marriage, then the sorrowful mysteries which are a part of every life and finally the glorious, achieved through fidelity and perseverance, the supernaturalizing of human love, the lifting of it above the human plane so that it becomes "a joy which no man can take from you."

Of course, the mysteries are all mixed up in our lives, sometimes coming together, the bitter and the sweet.

Among my joyous recollections of the rosary: I am remembering now a young man who had been working with us in the early days of the Catholic Worker who went away to the seminary, leaving with us a gift of $50 with which we bought three or four young pigs for our first farm at Easton, Pennsylvania. Every night that first summer we used to gather in the garden which had been planted by a young Italian probationer from Sing Sing, and kneeling around a statue of the Blessed Mother, say the rosary after supper. Inevitably the pigs would escape from their pen or the cow would get loose and go trampling through the vegetable garden and prayers were speeded up so that everyone could go catch the pigs or cow.

I remember, too, the time when Plus XI died, and there was a larger gathering than usual for the rosary at St. Joseph's House at 115 Mott Street. Georgie Brazil, who called himself Georgie the Bum, came quite drunk to rosary and his contribution was loud and clear, "pray for US sinners, now and at the hour of OUR death."

We still say the rosary each night at seven o'clock at the Catholic Worker Farm, now at Tivoli, and we have said it off and on, depending on whether we have anyone to lead, at St. Joseph's House of Hospitality in the city. We say the shortened Compline afterward, from the breviary put out by St. John's at Collegeville, Minnesota.

I HAVE said rosaries on picket lines and in prisons, in sickness and in health, and one of our friends who lost a leg in the Second World War said that he held fast to his rosary as he lay wounded on the battlefield, holding on to it as he was hanging on to life. In peace, working for peace, suffering for peace, and suffering in war, in times of joy and pain and terror, Mary has been Refuge of Sinners.

Brother Antoninus, the Dominican poet, who with Carol McCool ran the St. Colette House of Hospitality in Oakland, California, before he entered religion, told me of a fearful night he spent when one of the guests of the house ran amok with a carving knife threatening everyone there. Carol, ex-Marine and exTrappist and Brother Antoninus (then William Everson) poet and pacifist, went on saying the rosary.

As for its repetitious aspect, I always think of Sister Madeleva's poem--God speaking to the soul who wonders whether He is not wearied by our repetitions:

"Doth it not irk me that upon the beach the tides monotonous run? Shall I not teach the sea some newer speech?"

Every day at the Catholic Worker Farm when we gather for meals we say the Angelus before asking God's blessing on us and the food we eat. And it rejoices me to hear all the men, who are in the majority, saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy Word," and repeating together that marvelous and yet terrible prayer,

"Pour forth we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ was made known by the message of an angel, may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of Ills resurrection." This Incarnation came about by Mary's consent, she "through whom we have received the author of life."

So Advent must begin with Mary, who presents us with the infant Christ. "The flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary," St. Augustine wrote. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

When I go to the crib this year I will think, as I always do, that we are not dependent on the governments of this world for our safety, but "the government will be upon His shoulder." This baby cradled in a manger, this boy talking to the doctors in the temple, this youth working with St. Joseph as carpenter, this teacher walking the roads of Palestine, "Do whatever He tells you," Mary told us.

This text is reprinted from "Dorothy Day Library on the Web" at URL: and is not copyrighted. However, if you use or cite this text please indicate the original publication source and this website. Thank you.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Freedom - regulate the days of our lives

Since my parish doesn’t offer an early morning Mass on Saturday I attend a Mass where the first Saturday of each month it is held in Latin. For some reason I caught a difference in the Latin interpretation.

Eucharistic Prayer I (Roman Canon)

Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae, sed et cunctae familiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab aeterna damnatione nos eripi et in electorum tuorum iubeas grege numerari.

Here is what you usually find:

Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

In our little booklet, the interpretation of the same Latin is somewhat different:

We therefore beg you to accept, O Lord, this offering of our worship and that of your whole family; regulate the days of our lives so that they may be spent in your peace; spare us from eternal damnation and help us to be numbered in the fold of your chosen.

My mind was set upon the Lord after discovering that difference and reading the following excerpt from the meditation of the day in the Magnificat by Monsignor Luigi Giussani. “Our companionship has this “freedom,” which is not doing what we please, but the affirmation of the bonds that constitute us… So the first point is the awareness of the responsibility we have to make Christ present in our flesh, through our witness – witnessing being the way of behaving, of a self-awareness permeated by that memory, in which that memory is present. The second point is to free man from all despotism, from power, so that power goes back to being what Christ’s power was – service.

I found the idea of “freedom” linked up with our prayer; “regulate the days of our lives so that they may be spent in your peace…”

Orthodox and the Catholic Churches Meet

Did anyone else find this map interesting? It came from a link in the article on Pope BXVI and his visit to Turkey.

There has been so much talk in recent times of Islam sweeping across Europe...but what is the situation really?

On a different level: are the Mosques full? Are the church parishes full on Sunday? Are maps like this still helpful?

I read somewhere that freedom is about making a choice - it is not about being in a state of wavering indecision.

Around where I live if you want to know what people believe in you only have to visit the shopping mall.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Far and Near

The Three Massketeers - For Liz Bailie in Prayer

Even while the secular (albeit British) press sizes up the Holy Father's pilgrimage to Turkey , it is vital to keep our prayers active and alert for friends close to home.

At Holy Cross Abbey, Virginia, I, Athos, began my journey into full communion with Christ's historical Church in 1980. Two monks there, Fathers Edward and Andrew had an ecumenical book study for nearby pastors of various denominations. We would convene for afternoon prayer in the monastery chapel, listening to the monks' chants at 2:00 p.m. Then we'd gather in the Chapter Room / Library. After twenty minutes of centering prayer, we'd break for cookies and coffee, then down to business: The Cloud of Unknowing, Theologica Germanica ... you know, the basic contemplative literature.

Once in a while we were treated to lectures by such persons as Father Flavian -- Thomas Merton's Abbot at Gethsemane in Kentucky. We Protestant pastors were polite and attentive, sniffing a little at both our attraction to this foreign palette and our superiority as going beyond such medievalism.

Another fellow entered the picture, Father Mark Delery. He had already served a stint, like Father Edward, as Abbot here. And he, too, had an interesting past and present -- medical doctor, poet, artist, lyricist.

What I did not know was that he was also a spiritual director to a young lady named Elizabeth, up in Spencer, NY, at the Cistercian Abbey there.

And in the mean time, I went on retreat after retreat at Holy Cross, kneeling in the Chapel often at 3:00 a.m., before the Tabernacle, growing more aware of the Real Presence of our Eucharistic Lord and his Lady and Mother as years rolled by.

I finally received private catechesis with Father Jack Peterson on the sly in Fredericksburg, Virginia while he was serving as director of the Catholic Campus Ministry on the campus of Mary Wash College (now University).

I received the Sacrament of Confirmation there at the Abbey in the summer of 2001, and started teaching at Saint Charles Borromeo School in Arlington, Virginia that Fall. I've been there teaching in the Middle School ever since.

I gave Father Mark a copy of a videotape of Gil Bailie interviewing Rene Girard during a spiritual direction session while I was there on retreat.

Now, in these dwindling days of 2006, all of us have a remarkable opportunity. That directee and dear friend of Father Mark Delery, Liz, happens to be married to a cherished pal, teacher, liaison of wisdom and fellow sojourner: Gil Bailie.

Liz is struggling with brain cancer. She has seen her way through a rigorous series of treatments in the past year leading up to surgery, which recently took place.

It's our privilege to bring Liz, Gil, and all who care deeply for them (like Father Mark) before the Mercy Seat as powerfully as we are able.

Won't you join us in doing so? As you go to Mass, lift up Liz Bailie. Bring her before the Good Shepherd. And all of us will know we have done our part in seeing to it that, in the words of Julian of Norwich, "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Thank you for your prayers.

The Three Massketeers via Athos

No lift off here

Snowed/iced in. Somehow I made it to work and got stuck in the parking lot, though I only live a couple miles from home (home is where my wife's business is located and so she made it to work as well). All major employers and schools are closed (what whimps they all are).

Brought in my notebook of Bailie material in with hopes of looking up a couple points on the psychology of the person, but the phone keeps ringing off the hook.

I hope to get a post up sometime soon on Personhood and Being from John D. Zizioulas' book, "Being as Communion." Bailie has used his work as reference material and I finally got my copy in after months of waiting.


Keep the Mahler coming dear Porthos!

Mahler Fix ("Resurrection")

I just knew everyone was starting to get antsy for more Mahler. Always happy to oblige!

Final chorus of Symphony no. 2 ("Resurrection"):



Bernstein (may he rest in peace) does a fine job here. Good cathedral accoustics. Great camera work.

I can't do anything about the Chinese subtitles . . .

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Beatrice's Eyes

Reflecting the Griffon

A comment that friend Scott Dinsmore shared sparked a memory of something about the Church, connecting with others, and an alternative to "is this all there is?" ways of relating in a hall of mirrors.

The world is filled with people trying to connect with something transcendent, but usually in rather earthly ways with their eyes leveled on other human beings. René Girard's mimetic theory all too well delineates the ways that humans interacting with humans, sans authentic transcendence, degrades into rivalry, resentment and -- well -- basically the worst parts of human behavior.

I share at length an excerpt from a tape series by Gil Bailie (The Cornerstone Forum) that speaks to an alternative to this human dilemma:

At the top of the purgatorial mountain, Christ comes out -- Christ is manifested in this poem, in this pageant -- as the Griffon, the figure that is part lion, part eagle. The Griffon represents for Dante the two natures of Christ, the divine and human nature of Christ. So the Griffon stands there as Christ in Dante’s poem, and Dante is led by the four cardinal virtues -- justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude -- to the Griffon. And this is what Dante says, “They led me to the Griffon. Behind him Beatrice waited. And when I stood at the Griffon’s breast, they said in unison, ‘Look deep. Look well. However your eyes may smart, we have led you now before those emeralds from which Love shot his arrows through your heart.’” In other words, the transfigured Beatrice. You could almost say the risen Beatrice; the transfiguration of the Beatrice he had known in his youth. They say to him look there! They are performing the same function for Dante that the Serpent performed for Eve in the Garden. They are directing his attention, his desire, toward Beatrice. And what does he see? Dante says, “A thousand burning passions, every one hotter than any flame held my eyes fixed on the lucent eyes she held fixed on the Griffon.” So she’s not looking at him, she’s looking at Christ. And Dante says, “Like sunlight in the glass, the twofold creature shone from the deep reflection in her eye.” So he looked into her eyes and he saw the reflection as in a mirror of Christ. And I think that’s exactly it.

How do we get out of this mess? The same way we got in.

We see. We look. We see another whose desire is not “horizontal”, so to speak. Whose glance is looking at something above the horizon. We see somebody like that and we think, “Wait a minute.” It feels like somebody is calling us Home.

You go about your everyday life and all the little mimetic entanglements, you know, that we’re all involved in (“How’m I doing?” etc.). And every once in a while, you come somebody and you notice that their glance is above the “horizon-line”. They seem to be going through life looking at Something Else. And when you notice that, it is like being called Home. You think, “They’re onto something.” And then you notice, if you find out more about them (like you read the life of Teresa of Avilla and you find out how she was influenced by and was an influence on John of the Cross) and you see that, “My goodness! this thing is the Communion of Saints, isn’t it? We ‘do it for each other, don’t we?’”

We catch each other in this moment when our glance, when we’re looking at Christ, to use the Dantean metaphor. And at that moment, we start to come up out of this ‘soup’ we’re in. I’m not doing this justice, but I think there’s something quite symmetrical with the Genesis story of the Fall in Dante’s story of Redemption. Both have to do with mimetic desire. And we can’t get out of “this” except (by) the same way we got in it.

We don’t want to be ‘caught’ looking at one whose eyes are looking at Christ, because that seems pretty passé. Yet on the other hand, we don’t want to be caught with blood on our hands. So we don’t want just completely embrace the Adam, Eve, Cain syndrome ... (Bailie concludes by alluding to Virginia Woolf's novel, The Waves.)

So, of the three, I would suggest Dante’s.

The Church offers in the Real Presence of Christ -- body, blood, soul and divinity -- the One Who is worthy of our adoration, worship and "connectedness".

The closer we come to the Word made Flesh (John 1:14), the closer we come to one another in right relation. Far closer than in the sad, debased and often brutal ways of the sarx, (flesh) as St Paul warns.

The Massketeers attest to this in our lives and with our lives. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Do You Love Me?" -- My Church Meets You Where You Are

After his resurrection, Jesus met Peter on the seashore. Three times he asked Peter, "Do you love me?" (How many times had Peter betrayed him before the rooster crowed? You get the idea.) But not everyone knows that Jesus used a different form of "love" the first two times he asked Peter than the last time.

The first time Jesus asked, "Peter, do you agapais (unconditionally, selflessly love) me?" Peter replied, "Lord, you know that I philow (love you as a brother) you."

The second time Jesus again asked, "Peter do you agapais me?" Peter answered, "Lord, you know that I philow you."

The third time, the Lord changes terms. He sees Peter's weakness; but instead of remaining aloof, Jesus meets Peter where he is. He asks, "Peter, do you phileis me?" And Peter, disturbed, answers, "Lord, you know all things. You know that I philow you" (John 21:15-17).

In this small pericope, we see in miniature God's unlimited willingness to meet us where we are. It is a trait that continues in the Catholic Church.

George Tyrrell notes this in his Reflections on Catholicism:

"... we feel that Catholicism is, in tendency, a religion of all levels of spiritual development, and not of one only; that it has milk for babes and meat for adults; that it is a language in which the simplest and the subtlest can hold converse with Heaven on the shallowest themes and the deepest. And this range and versatility commends it to us as a product of experience, of God working through Nature; and not a device of human reflection...

"I could not be satisfied with a religion which, however much it did for me, did nothing for the masses or for the classes -- too academic for the former, too barbaric for the latter. The board spread for all must have every sort of fare, so that each may find something, though none can find everything, to his taste and requirement ... It is only the fantastic notion that we must eat everything on the table that makes the banquet seem burdensome to us."

Arnold Lunn in reflecting on Tyrrells' reflections adds, "The Catholic family, then, is not a museum exhibit of saints, but a human family in which saints, publicans and sinners all feed from the same table."

And Jesus feeds us all, our Eucharistic Lord, forgives us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and asks, "Do you love me?" meeting us each right where we are.

Bishop Lori's Prayer for B16

posted by Jimmy Akin here.



NOV. 28 – DEC. 1, 2006

Heavenly Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name, we humbly ask that you sustain, inspire, and protect your servant, Pope Benedict XVI, as he goes on pilgrimage to Turkey – a land to which St. Paul brought the Gospel of your Son; a land where once the Mother of your Son, the Seat of Wisdom, dwelt; a land where faith in your Son’s true divinity was  definitively professed. Bless our Holy Father, who comes as a messenger of truth and love to all people of faith and good will dwelling in this land so rich in history. In the power of the Holy Spirit, may this visit of the Holy Father bring about deeper ties of understanding, cooperation, and peace among Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and those who profess Islam. May the prayers and events of these historic days greatly contribute both to greater accord among those who worship you, the living and true God, and also to peace in our world so often torn apart by war and sectarian violence. We also ask, O Heavenly Father, that you watch over and protect Pope Benedict and entrust him to the loving care of Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Fatima, a title cherished both by Catholics and Muslims. Through her prayers and maternal love, may Pope Benedict be kept safe from all harm as he prays, bears witness to the Gospel, and invites all peoples to a dialogue of faith, reason, and love. We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.      

Prayer composed by Bishop William E. Lori,
Knights of Columbus Supreme Chaplain

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Tuning Fork for Let This Mind Be In You

This post will lead us into a discussion around the tape series entitled "Let This Mind Be in You" by Gil Bailie. Please join us as we explore the psychology of Christian conversion.

St. Paul – I live now not I, but Christ lives in me. – Galatians 2:20

Walker Percy: Doctor of Soul – This is the age of anxiety because it is the age of the lost of self.

Gil Bailie – Individualism, once considered an alternative to social conformity and a remedy for psychological alienation has turned out to be only a more ingenious form of conformity and a flamboyant form of alienation. What we thought was a cure for the epidemic for the psychological distress was only the next step of the epidemic. A real cure and a source of genuine psychological authenticity is what Christians call conversion, and it is a phenomenon, the psychological implications of which we yet to fully appreciate.

Gabriel Marcel captured the essence of Christian conversion and the psychological freedom it entails when he said that genuine selfhood involves “the subordination of the self to a superior reality – a reality at my deepest level, more truly me than I am myself.”

Gil Bailie – We have failed to grasp the scope and significance of today’s profound cultural and psychological crisis because we have yet to fully appreciate the depth and power of the revelation that is bringing it about.

Leszek Kolakowski from Modernity on Endless Trial “The strength of Christianity does not reveal itself in a theocracy or in a monopoly on the creation of rules for all areas of civilization. Its strength is manifested in its ability to build a barrier against hatred in the consciousness of individuals. The requirement of the renunciation of hatred was a challenge thrown down by Christianity to human nature. If Christians are only to be found among those who know how to meet this challenge how many are there now in the world? I do not know, however many there are, they are the salt of the earth and European civilization would be a desert without them.”

Entrance here to anthropology.

So if we are all tuned up, let us begin.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Prayers for Benedict XVI

A Warm Welcome ...

Our prayers as we see a Turkish Welcome for the Holy Father .

What if we depicted an erstwhile pretender-Prophet with similar venomous intent?

Gil Bailie relates an interview with a convert from Islam to Christianity at the Cornerstone Forum Blogspot .

Note well the venomous training in mimetic rivalry toward Jews and Christians.

God speed Benedict XVI.

The Three Massketeers X X X