Monday, December 31, 2007

Girard and von Balthasar

From Gil Bailie at his Reflections on Faith and Culture:
A friend who knew the great Catholic theologian Henri de Lubac recalls that, late in life, de Lubac remarked that, if he were young and beginning his theological work again, he would begin with René Girard.
Read on.

Always and Forever

Pat Metheny (gt.), Christian McBride (bs.), Antonio Sanchez (dr.)

John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy--My Favorite Things

Friday, December 28, 2007

There's Parable Here - Part 2

Baptism. Water from on high (frozen). Look up and heads up! Will you listen, O man?

And Now For Something Completely Different

Cooties and Tim Hawkins on Marriage @ Creative Minority Report.

When It Rains ...

Important Prayer Concern and Daily Intention Alert: Dawn Eden's doctor wants her to have a half-thyroidectomy due to a suspicious "papillary carcinoma." Sigh.

It is said that Julian of Norwich was on her way to give a talk to a gathering of religious when her cart's wheel came off. As she struggled to fix the cart it began to rain. The rain became a storm, and soon she was covered with mud trying to hoist the cart and reattach the wheel. As lightning flashed and rain pelted her, she raised her eyes to heaven and said, "Lord, if this is how you treat your friends, is it any wonder you have so few of them?"

Keep Dawn in your prayers for peace, healing, and awareness of God's presence.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto & the Sacrificial Crises Facing Us

Commentary is swirling around the sacrificial vortex regarding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan today. It should cause little wonder that it should occur. The ramifications, however, are cause for grave concern. Pam Geller at Atlas Shrugs gives good details surrounding the murder. Mark Gordon at Suicide of the West foresees a true corner being turned globally. Robert Spencer at Jihad Watch tells of a drastic and immediate movement of U. S. Special Forces to Pakistan. News, predictions, interventions.

From a Girardian perspective, this event indicates a furthering of the sacrificial crisis in Islam. To paraphrase Robert Hamerton-Kelly, when the sacrificial mechanism of the primitive Sacred at the heart of a culture begins to lose its "gravitational field" that it uses for social and psychological coherence, it tries to regenerate itself by increasing the number of sacrificial victims or prestige of its victims: genocide or regicide. Here is a case study of the latter.

Should we rejoice somehow that Islam is undergoing a weakening of its culture founding, culture maintaining impetus? Let me just say this: in my opinion the same process is underway at a more advanced stage of the disease in the West. Surprising?

Islam, while well ensconced in the constructs of the primitive Sacred, has constraints built in to itself in its myth, ritual, and prohibitions. We may not agree with them, find them palatable, or like the fact that Jews and Christians (and by extension, democracy) are their Model/Rival, but the culture is still reasonably strong. Procreation is a primary and attainable goal for Muslims.

The West, on the other hand, has been in free-fall for decades. Its descent into the vortex of sacrificial preparation as seen in its sin symptomology -- Girard's "crisis of distinctions" in sexual and psychological promiscuity to name only two -- was hard at work in the 1960s, resulting in the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy ("regicide"). The abortuaries keep churning out the smallest, most silent, and most vulnerable victims in the West ("genocide") that makes Carthage's child sacrificing worship of Baal Hammon and Tanit pale in comparison. Neo-pagans indeed wear very well appointed Saks clothing and Levis.

So regicide has happened today in Pakistan. It happened in Dallas also. For people who follow Christ through His Catholic Church, the "wars and rumors of war" continue unabated. And in this we find hope: we realize that Islamofascism is hardly the only source of sin and suffering for the innocent. Westerners in the culture wars, whether as promulgators of sin symptoms as "virtues" to be normalized, or as players in what Kipling called "the Great Game," are just as culpable. Perhaps more culpable, since we had the precious gift of the Gospel and are throwing it away. Yet the Church is still the rock and salvation of all who cling to Her with faith, hope, and charity, infused with God's grace through the Sacraments.

”Catholic Resistance” must look with honesty, sternness, and boldness at both fronts in the present darkness: the West as it falls painfully into post-modern neo-paganism and Islamofascism.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"I Have a Santa Claus Complex"

Peter Applebome writes on Father Groeschel in the New York Times:

Forty-five years ago, the Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel had a small idea.

Then the chaplain at the Children’s Village for troubled youths in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County, he decided in December 1962 to take Christmas dinner, other food and a smattering of presents to the impoverished families of five children from the South Bronx and Harlem whom he worked with.

Those families mentioned others — nephews, cousins, friends who were also in need. He thought: Why not? So next year the circle widened a bit. Word spread in the neighborhood. A building superintendent or neighbor would mention other names. Each December the list continued to grow.

Before long, he realized he had begun something that couldn’t be stopped, a Christmas tradition with a regular cast of characters, a past as well as a present, one of those reminders that the more noble notions of Christmas can sometimes creep in amid the seasonal clutter of commerce, bustle and noise.

Pick your religion, the essence of the season is the enormous things that can flow from small ones — a birth among the poor in a humble stable, a day’s worth of oil that somehow burns for eight.

And so, when Father Groeschel and his crew of helpers went to the South Bronx for the 45th year on Saturday, this time with around 700 boxes of food and thousands of presents, the message was not just about the importance of service to the poor. It was also about the huge things that can come from tiny ones.

“As a psychologist, I have to say I have a Santa Claus complex,” Father Groeschel said on Friday, the calm day between the loading and delivering of the food and toys and their distribution. “But I never, ever anticipated that this would become anything like this.” Read all …

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What is the origin of the Nativity Scene (creche)?

From the Catholic Educator's Resource Center:

The story of the origin of the Christmas creche rests with the very holy man, St. Francis of Assisi.
In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass.

read on

The short article ends with: Although the story is long old, the message is clear for us. Our own Nativity scenes which rest under our Christmas trees are a visible reminder of that night when our Savior was born. May we never forget to see in our hearts the little Babe of Bethlehem, who came to save us from sin. We must never forget that the wood of the manger that held Him so securely would one day give way to the wood of the cross. May we too embrace Him with all of our love as did St. Francis. To all of the readers of “Straight Answers,” I wish you a very holy Christmas.

Merry Christmas +

Monday, December 24, 2007

Fr Cantalamesa - 4th Sunday of Advent

There is something that the three readings have in common this Sunday: In each one a birth is spoken of: "Behold the Virgin will conceive and will give birth to a son and he shall be called Emmanuel, God-with-us" (first reading); "Jesus Christ ... was born from the line of David according to the flesh" (second reading); "This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about ..." (Gospel). We could call it the "Sunday of births!"

We cannot avoid immediately asking: Why are so few children born in Italy and other Western countries? The principal reason for the scarcity does not have to do with economic factors. From an economic point of view, the births should increase as we move up through the levels of society, or as we move from the global South to the global North; but we know that the contrary is true.

The reason is deeper: It is the lack of hope, and the lack of what hope brings with it, namely, confidence in the future, vital drive, creativity, poetry and joie de vivre. If you wed, it is always an act of faith; bringing a child into the world is always an act of hope. Nothing can be done in the world without hope. We need hope like we need oxygen to breathe. When someone is about to faint we say, "Give them something strong to help them breathe." Something similar should be done for a person who is about to let themselves go, to give up on life: "Give them a reason for hope!" When hope is reborn in a human situation, everything looks different, even if nothing in fact has changed. Hope is a primordial force. It literally works miracles. Read all …

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Festivus!

H/T Instapundit

Do You C-17 What I See?

"HEY! You can't park that thing here!"

A friend from years past in my United Methodist pastoring days sent the traditional Christmas Letter along with a card. In it, he, a United Airlines 767 pilot, says that his son who was in my Confirmation classes as a youth, is now flying the C-17 (one pictured above) for the Air Force, is married, and just welcomed his second child into the world. Boy, do I feel old.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Iraq - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Prayers for Dawn

Let us all keep Dawn Eden in our prayers, especially in these waning days of Advent before the Solemnity of the Nativity. Our gal about town -- our latter-day Joan of Arc in the culture wars, really -- posted this announcement that should inspire us to lift her up in our daily intentions.

Spe Gaudentes + Joyful in Hope

Pontifical Household preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa gives his sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Adventin the presence of Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia:
One cannot abound in hope without the power of the Holy Spirit. There is an African-American spiritual in which one just continually repeats these few words: "There is a balm in Gilead / to make the wounded whole ..." In the Old Testament, Gilead is famous for its perfumes and ointments (cf. Jeremiah 8:22). The song continues, saying: "Sometimes I feel discouraged / and think my work's in vain / But then the Holy Spirit / revives my soul again." For us, Gilead is the Church and the balm that heals is the Holy Spirit. He is the scent that Jesus has left behind, passing through this world. Read all …

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas in the Trenches

John McCutcheon relates the amazing events of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

A Christian Christmas in Snowy Iran

William Wedin offers a photo essay and beautiful reflection on our brothers and sisters existing and, seemingly, thriving in a snowy and festive Iran. A must view/read. [HT: Andrew Cusack]

Thursday, December 20, 2007

O Holy Night

One year later, and I still think Mariah does the best version of this hymn. She owns it.

John Heard on High

Dreadnought offers a Christmas reflection.

How Are They to Believe?

Sherry W does a superb job of distilling Father Cantalamessa's homily, How Are They to Believe In Him of Whom They Have Never Heard?

To proclaim Jesus as one's Lord means to subject to him all the region of our being, to make the Gospel penetrate everything we do. It means, to recall a phrase of the venerated John Paul II, "to open, more than that, to open wide the doors to Christ."

For whom do we work and why do we do so? For ourselves or for Christ, for our glory or for Christ's? It is the best way this Advent to prepare a welcoming crib for Christ who comes at Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Merton on Advent

“The certainty of Christian hope lies beyond passion and beyond knowledge. Therefore we must sometimes expect our hope to come in conflict with darkness, desperation and ignorance. Therefore, too, we must remember that Christian optimism is not a perpetual sense of euphoria, an indefectible comfort in whose presence neither anguish nor tragedy can possibly exist. We must not strive to maintain a climate of optimism by the mere suppression of tragic realities. Christian optimism lies in a hope of victory that transcends all tragedy: a victory in which we pass beyond tragedy to glory with Christ crucified and risen. …

“It is important to remember the deep, in some ways anguished seriousness of Advent, when the mendacious celebrations of our market culture so easily harmonize with our tendency to regard Christmas, consciously or otherwise, as a return to our own innocence and our own infancy. But the Church in preparing us for the birth of a “great prophet,” a Savior and a King of Peace, has more in mind than seasonal cheer. The Advent mystery focuses the light of faith upon the very meaning of life, of history, of man, of the world and of our own being. In Advent we celebrate the coming and indeed the presence of Christ in our world. We witness to His presence even in the midst of all its inscrutable problems and tragedies. Our Advent faith is not an escape from the world to a misty realm of slogans and comforts which declare our problems to be unreal, our tragedies nonexistent.”
Thomas Merton. Seasons of Celebration. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishers, 1950: 88-89

“The human soul is still the image of God, and no matter how far it travels away from Him into the regions of unreality, it never becomes so completely unreal that its original destiny can cease to torment it with a need to return to itself in God, and become, once again, real.”
-Thomas Merton. The New Man. New York: Ferrar, Straus, Giroux Publishers, page 112

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Converts 'R' Us

Aramis and I often reflect on the way that the ideas of French scholar René Girard, refracted through the writings and talks given primarily by mentor and, by the grace of God, friend, Gil Bailie, helped lead us to our conversion to the Catholic Church. This is a conundrum that will continue to fascinate and call for prayerful meditation for many years to come.

But here I want to make note of something slightly less anthropological and more theological. It is the fact that, for me, certain literary mentors are more helpful to me than others. I cannot place my finger on the reason for this, and I feel a certain degree of embarrassment in saying so.

Let me give just three examples: I read with the utmost respect the words of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, in his Jesus of Nazareth, but I sense that -- right now, mind you -- his words do not resonate within me. Likewise, Father John McCloskey, III has penned a great and important work, Good News, Bad News - Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith, that addresses pastorally and sensitively the way to speak about the Catholic Church with skeptics, fall-away Catholics, Protestants, and non-Christians. I know to my core that it is a vital work for today, but, again, my antenna seems pointed a bit askew to its signals. But Scott Hahn's new book, Reasons to Believe, evokes an inner series of "Yes!" "Yes!" "Yes!" affirmatives that make me want to sit at this fellow's feet and digest this material because I KNOW it will be useful for me and my situation (he continues the plodding and rather flat-footed pun sub-headings, but I overlook that).

I can only hope that the Holy Spirit will open similar doors of perception within me to the wisdom of the Holy Father and Fr McCloskey. But for now, it is with a fellow convert that my non-fiction catechesis continues. Here is an hors d'oeuvre:
...the laws of God, like the law of gravity, do not depend upon how I feel about them. They are inexorable, and God has willed them to be knowable, even in the absence of strong emotion or apparent miracles ...

'Shot for Wearing Shorts'

Now in the dark, cold days of Advent, we have the high and holy feast of the Nativity to which to look forward. But, ah, after that? Epiphany, of course, but then the drab, drear weeks of winter will drag on and on. The cargo pocketed shorts will languish in the drawer waiting the first inklings of warmer weather to come. Right?

If you think the kerfuffle over the jerseys of the Istanbul team Fenerbahce has shown the thin-skin of Muslims over apparel, just remember this:

Iraqis shot 'for wearing shorts'

Iraqi policeman at a checkpoint in Baghdad
The men were stopped in their vehicle in southern Baghdad
The coach of Iraq's tennis team and two players were shot dead in Baghdad on Thursday, said Iraqi Olympic officials.

Coach Hussein Ahmed Rashid and players Nasser Ali Hatem and Wissam Adel Auda were killed in the al-Saidiya district of the capital.

Witnesses said the three were dressed in shorts and were killed days after militants issued a warning forbidding the wearing of shorts. Read all of “Shot for Wearing Shorts.”

Amboy has a work-in-progress: The List of Things That Offend Muslims.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Skool Christmas Carol Quiz

Figure out the Christmas Carol title from the clue: [HT: Jason Schmock]

1. Not here in an animal's dish
2. Smack the Passageways
3. Move and speak towards the elevated plains
4. Yahweh sleep you happy dudes
5. Hey! The #1 angelic beings belt it out.
6. It showed up on a cloudless 12 at night
7. Shaking Chimes
8. Happiness to the planet
9. 12-25 shrubbery song
10. Get here if you're reliable
11. Like a strainer + time when the sun is down
12. Small city of Christ's birth song
13. Quiet non-day
14. The premier not 12th letter of the alphabet
15. XII 24hrs. of 12-25
16. Not down on the roof of the home
17. Us Trio that�s royalty from China (exist)
18. Us dream not us a happy December 25th
19. Spill the 411 on the baby
20. Small percussionist lad
21. Tim Allen's movie character will appear in a hood
22. Song about a hoofed animal with a crimson schnozola
23. Chilled the crystallized H20 male
24. Don't stop the winter precipitation
25. Traversing in a 4th season amazing country
Answers here

St. Lucy and Holy Violence? - And the Violent Bear It Away

From Father Mark at Vultus Christi.
"Holy violence is an expression of the virtue of fortitude. It is related to the boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit."
He continues,
"There are those, even within the Church, who think that peace — or what they would like to call peace — is worth any price. They will go to any length to avoid confrontations, to appear to agree when they disagree, to approve when they disapprove, to keep everyone happy. The moral relativism pandemic in society today fosters this attitude. The relativists would have us believe that there are no absolute truths, that nothing is absolutely wrong or absolutely right. They preach a wishy-washy adaptability to whatever the prevailing trends happen to be, and they call it tolerance. The relativists are forever saying, “To each his own.” The idea of going against the social or political grain fills them with horror. There are no martyrs among them."

"And Saint Lucy? She could have saved her life in this world, had she not insisted on being altogether more violent than the torturers who took her life by violence. More violent? Yes. More violent, because Saint Lucy applied all the strength of her virginal love swiftly, intensely, and forcefully to bearing away the Kingdom of Heaven."

When reading this, I kept going back to this quote of Father Mark,
"Holy violence is an expression of the virtue of fortitude. It is related to the boldness that comes from the Holy Spirit."
It is a hard pill to swallow, but there is something in this thought that cannot be denied.

The typical hedonist today does not aspire to anything larger and higher, but settles for "feeling good". Such a life does not require fortitude.
Here is more on the virtue of fortitude.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Choose Your Candidate

with the Candidate Calculator.

Our Lady of Guadalupe +

Mr. Jim Coop quotes Our Lady as we commemorate her feast day today:
"Am I not here, I who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?" The Blessed Virgin Mary spoke these words to an Indian merchant on December 12, 1531, during the last of her several appearances to him. It is quite probable that one of the consequences of these apparitions was the prevention of an armed revolt of the Mexican Indian population against their Spanish conquerors. Another was the greatest mass conversion to Christianity in the history of the Church.

Today, we are being told that there is a "clash of civilizations" between the Western and Islamic worlds. Few people, however, are asking if the Mother of God can help prevent this clash from becoming cataclysmic. Continue reading …

Monday, December 10, 2007

"The Virgin Without Sin"

From Chronicles of Atlantis Athos links us to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap with a most powerful message.

Instead of liberation from sin, all efforts today are focused on liberation from regret over sin; instead of fighting against sin we fight against the idea of sin, replacing it with something very different, namely, "guilt feelings." We do precisely that which in every other sphere is considered the worst thing of all, that is, we deny the problem rather than resolve it, we push back and bury evil in the unconscious instead of removing it.
Read more.

Feast of the Virgen de Guadalupe, Dec 12


on a day hardly safe for salt trucks and police, our standing-room-only Parish celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Special Mass ceremony honors the Virgin Mary
Maria Luisa Zamudio, administrative coordinator of the ISU’s Bilingual Education program, lived in Mexico City, the site of a basilica in honor of the Virgin. She described people crowding the streets days in advance of the Dec. 12 celebration, which is a national holiday in Mexico.

“People would walk for days to visit the Virgin no matter what the weather,” she said.

St. Mary’s parishioners proved that they will brave the freezing rain and icy sidewalks of Bloomington to honor the Virgen de Guadalupe.

On the Lighter Side? Staying awake, does that go for remembering as we get older?

I received these 2 emails this morning, one right after another, and thought, hum, how appropriate if I put them together into one. So here you are. The first is a quote from Thomas Merton:

“We are like pilots of fogbound steamers, peering into the gloom in front of us, listening for the sounds of other ships, and we can only reach harbor if we keep alert. The spiritual life is, then, first of all a matter of keeping awake. We must not lose our sensitivity to spiritual inspirations. We must be always able to respond to the slightest warnings that speak, as though by a hidden instinct, in the depth of the soul that is spiritually alive.”
-Thomas Merton Thoughts in Solitude [page 39]

And the second email just had this:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Hawk on Hugh on Mitt

Though I like Romney AND Hewiit, I must note Iowahawk's hilarious take down of Hugh Hewitt's effusion over Romney's speech.

The Immaculate Conception +

Mary, mother of Jesus as the Immaculate Conception. Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. Museo del Prado

On this Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, Mark Shea (the Catholic Bill Moyers) gives us a nifty summation of understanding and controversies. And, from an earlier post, a tribute to Our Lady by way of Zefferelli and Gibson.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Hauerwas on the Reformation

A relative and admired professor at Duke Divinity School, Stanley Hauerwas, gives one of his smokin' &%#X-prophetic homilies for Reformation Sunday:
I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do no understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday. Continue reading ...

UPDATE: Read The Seat of the Reformation.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


(Click on "Advent Calendar" below to go to the link.)

Skipping through internet sites for material on Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (the previous post) I stumbled across this interesting site "The Weight of Glory" created by Clayton Emmer. May I suggest that you check out his Advent Calendar. He has put together some wonderful reflections and meditations so far. ENJOY.

Through the person was the person of God

Doctors of the Catholic Church 12/5

The below meditation by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson (+ 1914), a convert to Catholicism, is best known for his novels about the faith. This is a dynamic, universal perspective, from all dimensions, and how the humanity of Jesus united to his divinity, reveals God’s infinite and tender concern for the human race forever. It is a dramatic viewpoint that will help us treasure and appreciate Jesus Christ made possible through the Church, and his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Benson shares with us a love story that reveals the Creator’s unlimited and beautiful love, mercy and profound pity for us who need redemption. It is given to us not only from the Blessed Trinity, Jesus Christ and Mary, but from all human beings who have received those gifts from God. God helps everyone to help us receive those same gifts through the rich mercy of God’s sanctifying power. God gives to every creature all the blessings that are possible when we pray, love, and do good.

Meditation of the Day

It is believed by Christians that this work, of redemption and revelation was accomplished through human nature assumed into union with the divine – that God did not, so to speak, act merely in virtue of his deity, but through humanity as well – that, first a nation, then a tribe, then a family, and then a person, were successively drawn from the world as a whole – Israel, Judah, the line of David, and finally, Mary – and then, by a unique substance was produced so perfect and so pure as to be worthy, in a sense, the entire summary of the Old Testament – that his substance was then assumed into union with God, and used for his divine purposes – by which he lived and suffered and died as man, was the instrument of both revelation and redemption; that by a human voice he spoke, that human hands were raised to bless, that a human heart loved and agonized, and that these human hands, heart, and voice – broken, pierced, and silenced as they were – were the heart, hands, and voice of Very God.

Consider that claim carefully. Through the person was the person of God, the nature by which he was accessible and energetic was the nature of man. It is by union with that humanity that Christians believe themselves redeemed. This in that last emphatic act of life of him humiliation he took bread, and cried, not here is my essential self, but “This is my Body which is given for you,” since that Body was the instrument of redemption. And, if the Christian claim is to be believed, this act was but a continuation (though in another sense) of that first act known as the Incarnation.

He who leaned over the bread at that “last sad supper with his own” had, in another but similar manner, leaned upon Mary herself with similar words upon his lips.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Summing Up "Spe Salvi" - BXVI

The world needs God, otherwise it remains without hope, said Benedict XVI when he summarized the central message of his encyclical "Spe Salvi."

The Pope said this today before reciting the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square. He also spoke on the meaning of Advent, which begins today.

Advent, the Holy Father said, "is the propitious time to reawaken in our hearts the expectation of him 'who is, who was and who is coming.'"

The Pontiff regarded the First Sunday of Advent as "a most appropriate day to offer to the whole Church and all men of good will my second encyclical, which I wanted to dedicate to the theme of Christian hope."

Benedict XVI noted that in the New Testament "the word hope is closely connected with the word faith." Hope, he added, "is a gift that changes the life of those who receive it, as the experience of so many saints demonstrates."

He asked: "In what does this hope consist that is so great and so 'trustworthy' as to make us say that 'in it' we have 'salvation'?

"In substance it consists in the knowledge of God, in the discovery of his heart as a good and merciful Father."

"With his death on the cross and his resurrection," added the Pope, Jesus "has revealed to us his countenance, the countenance of a God so great in love as to communicate to us an indestructible hope, a hope that not even death can crack, because the life of those who entrust themselves to this Father always opens onto the perspective of eternal beatitude."
Continue reading …

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Stay Awake - 1 Advent

The Vigil - John Pettie

The uncertainty of the hour should not cause us to be careless but to be vigilant. If the liturgical year is at its start, the civil year is at its end. This is an optimal occasion for a sapiential reflection on the meaning of our existence. In autumn, nature itself invites us to reflect on time that passes. That which the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti said of the soldiers in the trenches on the Carso front in the First World War holds for all men: "They are on the trees as leaves in autumn." They are ready to fall at any moment. "Time passes," said our Dante Alighieri, "and man pays no attention."

[ ... ]

Let us see what faith has to tell us about this fact that everything passes. "Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever" (1 John 2:17). There is someone who does not pass, God, and there is also a way for us not to completely disappear: Do God's will, that is, believe and follow God. In this life we are like a raft carried along by the current of a roaring river headed for the open sea, from which there is no return.

At a certain point the raft comes near to the bank. It is now or never and you leap onto the shore. What a relief when you feel the rock under your feet! This is the sensation often felt by those who come to the faith. We might recall at the end of this reflection the words left by St. Teresa of Avila as a kind of spiritual testament: "Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you. All things are passing. God alone remains."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Philip Pullman Is A Liar

As Jimmy Akin makes manifestly apparent.
Naturally, the Catholic League and its head Bill Donohue are warning parents against The Golden Compass, and Pullman is quoted as saying the following:

"To regard it as this Donohue man has said - that I'm a militant atheist, and my intention is to convert people - how the hell does he know that?" he said, in an interview with Newsweek magazine.

How "the hell" does Bill Donohue know that Pullman is a militant atheist out to convert people?

Because Pullman himself has said so!

In an interview published in the Washington Post (Feb. 19, 2001), he stated:

“’I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief,’ says Pullman. ‘Mr. Lewis [C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia] would think I was doing the Devil's work.’”

Enough said.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

From the Encyclopedia of Bad Ideas

Emily and the boys at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping invite you to visit a tavern on Repeal Day, buy a drink to honor the occasion, and listen to your favorite renaissance recording artist at a Harpsichord Bar near you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Box Bux Sux as Stix Hix Nix Xmas Flix

Iowahawk strikes again.

Advertisers to Economists: Please Do Your Part to Help Keep Chri$tma$ Green

CRATCHET: No, no... no product in it. I was just going to say, "Peace on Earth... Good Will Toward Men."
MAN: Well, that's a peculiar slogan!
SCROOGE: Old hat, Cratchet! That went out with button shoes! You're a businessman . . . Christmas is something to take advantage of!
SCROOGE: A red and green bandwagon to jump on!
SCROOGE: A sentimental shot in the arm for sales! Listen!
Read the entire transcript of Green Chri$tma$ here.

We must realize that it's not just a sentimental shot in the arm for sales... in fact, we in the West have placed all our bets on 'consumption frenzy' to forgo becoming a 'new creation' or the final mimetic spiral into violence, attempting, but only achieving a false illusion of peace on earth.

In this approaching ADVENT season let us help each other break from the Chri$tma$ that Stuart Carlson (the cartoon) and Stan Freberg so aptly describe and let us prepare for the coming of the True Christ.
The Church has her own special liturgical year and calendar in which she presents again the history and unchanging mysteries of our salvation, from Creation to the Second Coming, together with the entire life of the Savior... Advent is an especially lovely season and we can make great use of it. With the beginning of the season of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. The First Sunday of Advent is therefore the Church's "New Year's Day".
Read more on celebrating Advent.

Simpson's Theme vs. Star Trek Theme

About time I started pulling my weight around this joint.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe & of Hearts

"Ecce Homo!" -- The Passion of the Christ

By Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap

ROME, NOV. 23, 2007 ( - The solemnity of Christ the King was instituted only recently. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 in response to the atheist and totalitarian political regimes that denied the rights of God and the Church. The climate in which the feast was born was, for example, that of the Mexican revolution, when many Christians went to their deaths crying out to their last breath, “Long live Christ the King!” Continue reading …

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Spirit of Thanks - A Spirit of Giving

I want to give thanks and praise that our pilgrims to Rome and Assisi are back from having, what they said was, a fabulous time there. [I have to admit that I was concerned that a couple of our friends might have decided to remain in Assisi.] On the idea of thanksgiving GK Chesterton concluded in his book on St. Francis that the spirit of thanks was who Francis was.

For that is the full and final spirit in which we should turn to St. Francis; in the spirit of thanks for what he has done. He was above all things a great giver; and he cared chiefly for the best kind of giving which is called thanksgiving. If another great man wrote a grammar of assent, he may well be said to have written a grammar of acceptance; a grammar of gratitude. He understood down to its very depths the theory of thanks; and its depths are a bottomless abyss. He knew that the praise of God stands on its strongest ground when it stands on nothing... From him came a whole awakening of the world and a dawn in which all shapes and colours could be seen anew. The mighty men of genius who made the Christian civilisation that we know appear in history almost as his servants and imitators. Before Dante was, he had given poetry to Italy; before St. Louis ruled, he had risen as the tribune of the poor; and before Giotto had painted the pictures, he had enacted the scenes. That great painter who began the whole human inspiration of European painting had himself gone to St. Francis to be inspired.
A hat tip to Dawn Eden

Teach Us to Number Our Days

Daniel Mitsui shares the woodcuts of a priest or monk in the Middle Ages who had seen death many times. Death is not a Washington two-step but a serious drama for which one must prepare oneself: Ars Moriendi.

Hunting Wild Boar

I, Athos, will admit it: I have a lust for traipsing (fr. OF, 'trespass') through woods in cold weather, good food cooked out of doors, friends, and a few bottles of something tasty. All of this makes my boyhood memories of camping, hiking, and roasting my chilblains near an open fire seem all the rosier.

A hunter I am not, although I once was hunted by a black bear in New Mexico; an experience I am happy to say I came away from, literally, with "just a scratch" (but how many can say a bear claw attached to a bear leg scratched me just there over my left eye, as one stands smiling with drink in hand?).

But I must say that this story -- A Game Journey -- On a French boar hunt, life as a traqueur is not easy -- brought the scent of decaying leaves, woodsmoke, a crisp autumn day, and that certain stillness that one can only find deep in, say, an 100-acre wood. If you have a mind, enjoy the story and the photo essay. You may develop a desire for donning a pair of wellies and heading out for the Wild Wood.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Presentation of the Virgin Mary

It is an ancient and very trustworthy tradition that the Blessed Virgin was thus solemnly offered in the Temple to God at the age of three by Her parents, Saint Anne and Saint Joachim.

From St. Ambrose:
Let the life of the blessed Mary be ever present to you, in which, as in a mirror, the beauty of chastity and form of virtue shine forth. She was a virgin not only in body, but in mind, who never sullied the pure affection of her heart by unworthy feelings. She was humble of heart, serious in her conversation, prudent in her counsels, fonder of reading than of speaking. She placed her confidence rather in the prayer of the poor, than in the uncertain riches of this world. She was ever intent in her occupations, reserved in her conversation, and accustomed to make God, rather than man, the witness of her thoughts...her very appearance was the picture of her mind and the figure of piety.
(To see more stain glass windows as above click on the words "stain glass window".) The stained glass windows in the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes in the IHM Center were made by Baut Studios, Inc. of Forty Fort, PA in 1961. Designs by John F. Love of Baut Studios. Painting by Eugene R. Baut. Color selection by S.H. Baut. - The Congregation of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

An American Bishop - Be it in RI or IL

Thanks to Mark at Suicide of the West for this find, An American Bishop. As I watched the segments on Bishop Thomas J. Tobin I felt that it could just as well have been a segment featuring Bishop Jenky of my diosese. I just came from the Conferral of Ecclesiastical Honors of our local Catholic Diosese, where a friend of mine was honored, and I must say that it was quite a beautiful ceremony. Bishop Jenky presided over the celebration. I know him to be very approachable, open, down-to-earth, humble and yet a holy man. Bravo to those faithful and ever-giving servants of God.

I'll end this post with a link to Jesus Christ, You are my Life video/song as I love it so much, but also because you catch a glimpse of Bishop Jenky blessing a little child in it.

War on Terror & Girard

An interesting look at a recent editorial by James Carroll who attempts a Girardian exposition of the "war on terror" at Augean Stables. Is it really a "slaughter of innocents" or legitimate defense?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Garry Wills & That Old Time Religion

Mimetically-Speaking, Of Course ...

Oh boy. Does Gregory Popcak put it to Garry Wills in this fine repartee. Popcak:
Garry Wills' recent L.A. Times Op-Ed article "Abortion isn't a religious issue," in which he claims that abortion is not a religious issue, might as well have begun with these fanciful words, because the article is as imaginative a bit of fiction as anything the Brothers Grimm could have penned — only significantly less entertaining.

In his essay, Wills cherry-picks Thomas Aquinas' theology; employs a simplistically idiosyncratic interpretation of Scripture and massacres history, science and philosophy, all in a fevered attempt to assert that people of faith should kneel at the altar of secularism because, he argues, Christian opposition to abortion is a Johnny-come-lately moral position founded on little more than thin air and pious politics.

Oh, really.

Neither faith nor reason supports Wills' claims.

Scripturally, the basis of Christian condemnation of abortion comes not only from the commandment "Thou shalt not kill," as Wills asserts, but from the fact that the Bible considers children a supreme gift and blessing from God. One does not reject a gift from God lightly. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knew us in the womb, and Exodus 21:22-23 imposes a penalty for those who cause the miscarriage of a fetus. Likewise, the scriptural case against abortion is drawn directly from biblical prohibitions against witchcraft. Hags who hawked their wares in the early days of Christianity claimed power over death and life. Contraceptive and abortifacient potions, and poisons to hasten the death of the inconvenient, were what paid the rent for every self-respecting, union card-carrying witch in the Western world. When St. Paul listed his denunciations of witchcraft immediately after his condemnations of specific sexual sins ( Galatians 5:19-21), early Christians understood exactly what he was talking about.

The argument against abortion from historical Christianity is even stronger. In his book, The Rise of Christianity," sociologist Rodney Stark, relying heavily on secular historical data, argues that Christianity grew as rapidly as it did precisely because of its strong pro-life ethic, which stood in direct contrast to the Roman culture of death. Abortion was a common killer of both fetuses and women in secular Roman society. Archaeologists have discovered Roman sewers clogged with the bodies of babies. Christianity condemned such practices from the beginning and was viewed as a sanctuary by pagan women who were drawn to the Christian faith out of a desire to protect themselves and their children from a secular world that treated both as disposable goods instead of as children of God entitled to their own rights and dignity. [HT: Mark Shea]
Poor Garry Wills seems clueless that he is caving to the primitive Sacred and spirit of our age these days. Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Christian theology should shape the way we talk about everything - does it?

Gil Bailie refers to this quote in one of his talks and I thought I would highlight it here:

The deep end of "truth" has been ceded to science, while theology swims in the shallow end of "meaning."
The quote goes on:

Aesthetic expression has been relinquished to the cult of original self-expression and "what-it-means-for-me." Morality becomes a subset of utility, or a creation of private conscience, and Christians are reduced to "sharing their values." An impoverished realm of "spirituality" or "transcendence" remains the rightful property of Christian reflection, and running on these slight fumes, theology drives toward relevance in a world over which it has renounced its authority. Radical Orthodoxy is nothing if not intensely opposed to this renunciation; for its adherents the whole world is fit for absorption into a theological framework. Christian theology should shape the way we talk about everything.
And the First Thing article concludes with:

To escape the patterns of theological modernism, therefore, the first task is not to imagine and invent. Instead, we must train ourselves in that which modernity rejects most thoroughly and fatally: the discipline of receiving that which has been given. We must eat the scrolls that the Lord has given us, and dwell amidst his people. Only then will the scope of an Augustinian ambition recover the intense, concrete, and particular Christ-centered focus that gives it the power of good news. Only there can we taste God’s peace. (my emphasis)
The convert R. R. Reno concludes another article with:
As a member of the Roman Catholic Church ... and it is not a small gift of grace to be guided by the Church, especially when the object of our intellectual desire is knowledge of God.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Arts & Letters: Socceratese Routs Germany

Anchoress links to a fascinatingphilosophical engagement over at the Deacon's Bench.

The World Needs Heroes

Archbishop Oscar Romero

The Archdiocese of New York has a new website: The World Needs Heroes. Isn't it the truth. [HT: New Advent]

All must check this out - Thank you, Athos

If You're Not Baroque, You Have Monet

The Kingdom of God among Us - Feast Day of St. Albert the Great

Perusing blogs (and for that matter papers, TV, or radio) when is the last time you heard that The Kingdom of God among Us? In the writing that follows from St. Albert the Great I found such a wake up call in the very first sentence:
"In proportion as the mind is absorbed in the thought and care of the things of this world do we lose the fervor of our devotion, and drift away from the things of heaven."
And later in the text:
"God is the “form” of the soul upon which he must impress his own image, as the seal on the wax or the stamp on the object it marks."
How have we today sacrificed our will for His Will enabling God to use His "form" in us so that His own image comes through?

nod to Doctors of the Catholic Church

The scientist and Doctor of the Church, St Albert the Great, that we celebrate today, writes in the Meditation today from the Magnificat Publication.

Meditation of the Day

The Kingdom of God among Us

In proportion as the mind is absorbed in the thought and care of the things of this world do we lose the fervor of our devotion, and drift away from the things of heaven.

The greater, on the other hand, our diligence in withdrawing our powers from the memory, love and thought of that which is inferior in order to fix them upon that which is above, the more perfect will be our prayer, the purer our contemplation. The soul cannot give itself perfectly at the same time to two objects as contrary one to another as light to darkness; for he who lives united to God dwells in the light, he who clings to its world lives in darkness.

The highest perfection, therefore, of man in this life lies in this: that he is so united to God that his soul with all its powers and faculties becomes immersed in him and is one spirit with him. Then it remembers nothing but God, nor does it relish or understand anything but him. Then all its affections, united in the delights of love, repose sweetly in the enjoyment of their Creator.

The image of God which is imprinted upon the soul is found in the three powers of the reason, memory, and will. But since these do not perfectly bear the divine likeness, they have not the same resemblance to God as in the first days of man’s creation.

God is the “form” of the soul upon which he must impress his own image, as the seal on the wax or the stamp on the object it marks.

This can only be fully accomplished when the reason is wholly illuminated according to its capacity by the knowledge of God the Sovereign Truth; the will entirely devoted to the love of the Supreme Good; the memory absorbed in the contemplation and enjoyment of eternal happiness, and in the sweet repose of so great a state.

As the perfect possession of this state constitutes the glory of the blessed in heaven, it is clear that in its commencement consists the perfection of this life.
-Saint Albert the Great (+ 1280) was a German Dominican priest and the teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He is the patron of scientist. There is a popular adage about St. Albert which runs: "He was great in magic, greater in philosophy, greatest in theology." "Magic" here would mean science. It has also been said that St. Albert was a scientist by temperament, a philosopher by deliberate choice and a theologian by mood."

St. Albert, 1200-1280. Doctor of Science, Feast Nov. 15th.

Albert is a great model for all Christians, especially scientists. Many scientists like Albert have been blessed with independence of mind and great mental prowess. In this category, many rely more on reason and memory than faith. One recent survey from a national newspaper showed that there is least difference between the faith of eighty years ago (1917) and today (1998) among Physicists, Biologists and Mathematicians. Those who believe in God were around 40 percent and those who did not believe were 45 percent. Doubt and agnosticism resulted in about 15 percent.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hamlet Wore Ladies Undergarments

And you thought J. K. Rowling outing Dumbledore was shocking. Well, try THESE revelations, buddy!!!

Monday, November 12, 2007


Of Squaring the Circle of Our Rad Trad Catholic Girardian Conserberalism * all 4 1 & 1 4 all
Just a notice of something that passed by without my noticing it until now: The Three – Nay, Four Mass’keteers have passed the milestone of occupying our corner in the blogosphere for over a year! Happy Birthday to us. And, I for one, am still waiting to see D'artagnan's mug shot around these parts.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Fr Barron on Hitchens [HT: CMR]

Grandma, What Big Teeth You Have!

Double speak, Greg at Jihad Watch says, is most confusing. Let's see if I can keep my eye on the ball: those who fought and defeated Nazis are now the ones acting like Nazis for speaking about those who made the bombs to blow up the Tube, July '05 like Nazis? Hmmm. It sounds like someone doesn't want Nazi like actions to be labeled as such for some reason. I wonder why – maybe because playing the victim card is helpful? The wolf in sheep skin in grandma’s bed again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ultimate Frisbee -- Nunsense

The next time someone says all nuns are 105 years old, show them this: [HT: Creative Minority Report]

A Modest Proposal

A PhD grad student, Shamim Hunt, offers a ”modest proposal” regarding women and Muslim attire. A fatwa will, no doubt, be shortly forthcoming. [Via MercatorNet]

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Catholic Novel

Evelyn Waugh - 1941

Marion Crowe pens a good piece at First Things, "The Catholic Novel is Alive and Well in England."
Some people believe that the Catholic novel is either dead or terminally ill. In 1982, one critic referred to his book on the Catholic novel as an “elegy for an apparently dying form,” and two years later another wrote that “the religious or spiritual novel is in some sense only a memory.” Some attribute this demise to the imminent dissolution of the religion that inspired it, arguing that the dissent and chaos that have come in the wake of the Second Vatican Council are simply the death throes of a religion that is not sustainable in an age that is increasingly secular, liberal, scientific, and pluralistic. Some Catholics believe that the great Catholic novels of the past reflect the fortress mentality of the pre–Vatican II Catholic ghetto and have no place in today’s Church. Continue reading . . .

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Cross the Crowded Ways of Life

I know it's all over the place, but the Michael Yon’s image is really nice for a change.

Bosom Buddies - Pass the Soap, Please

But will they pass the sincerity test?
("I really, really feel like a transgender, dude. Just let me in, okay?")

I KNOW A WHOLE lot of teenaged not-identified-as-male boys who are going to be vvery happy about this here piece of legislation. "Hey, mom! Can we move to Montgomery? Fast?"

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ora + et + Labora

Do not depend on the hope of results.
When you are doing the sort of work
you have taken on, you may have
to face the fact that your work will be
apparently worthless and even achieve no
worth at all, if not perhaps results opposite
to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you will
start more and more to concentrate not on
the results, but on the value, the rightness,
the truth of the work itself.
-- Thomas Merton
[HT: The Catholic Worker]

Carpe Diem - Robert Hugh Benson

Glancing as I do down the list of blogs that the 4 Mass'keteers lists, I noticed at Daniel Mitsui's superb THE LION & THE CARDINAL something really exceptional. He offers a series of tapestries made by hand by Robert Hugh Benson, “The Dance of Death” tapestries. Why should this be so outstanding? For two reasons, really: first, Robert Hugh Benson was a British convert to Catholicism in the early twentieth century who, like Arnold Lunn, Ronald Knox, G. K. Chesterton, and others led the way to opening the sluice gate for Catholicism in England. Possessing a fine and agile mind, Benson became Monsignor Benson and the author of many works, fiction as well as nonfiction in defense of the faith.

Secondly, these tapestries show an aptitude for whimsical skill in arts and crafts that was hitherto unknown to me about the great man. I can't wait for the next revelation about my favorite group of people, it seems more and more apparent, British Catholic converts. I may find that John Henry Cardinal Newman was really a Pre-Raphaelite next. Who knows?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pro-life Hollywood?

"This baby stuck its head out and kind of looked as us, and the thought that the baby is no longer with us is very difficult," Hayden Panettiere, who stars in the NBC show "Heroes"

Sadly, the TV star is talking only about a dolphin, not a human being.

Tis a very strange land we must pass through on our way back to our Home.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Bernard of Clairvaux & Rene Girard

A friend recently sent me this paper out of the Cistercian Studies Quarterly (1991-2007).
Bernard of Clairvaux and René Girard on Desire and Envy by Jonah Wharff, ocso

A feeling of incompleteness is part of the human condition. It is by comparison with others that we become aware of this feeling. We compare ourselves on the basis of comfort or feelings of well-being.We compare our insides to others’ outsides and discover a difference that is experienced as an insufficiency. The exterior of the other appears more substantial than the internal fragility of the self. Awareness of this difference leads to a sense of insecurity that is difficult to articulate. Our consumer culture capitalizes on this unease by offering us products, activities, and celebrities to distract us from anxiety over our inadequacies. Yet we continue to feel (and resent) this lack. This longing for completion is called desire.

Alternative Narnia

While I have for years, personally been trying to prepare/warn parents about Philip Pullman and his agenda to rob the joy from their kids, it seems only now that the movie is almost out that anyone is willing to do anything. Golden Compass comes out on the anniversary of a day that will go down in infamy (I can't help but think Mr. Pullman is having a bit of an evil laugh on that one), and folks are finally starting to ask what they can do.

Well, instead of bashing Mr. Pullman (although his anti-Christian slant would have you believe his head has already suffered a bit of a bashing), my recommendation is to promote a Narnia, or Christian children's weekend (MacDonald, Lewis, Ryle, L'engle, . . .even Veggie Tales) at your parish or school. Whining about Golden Compass will only make more of the foolish wish to see it, and than help to assure a sequel; so let's in turn just promote all the amazing material (instead of "His Dark Material") that Christians have been writing for years.

Show the Narnia film/BBC, or have a George MacDonald storyteller night; maybe create a little Narnia in your parish with your own Aslan.

Let's be proactive about this, and save the whine and cheese for DaVinci Code II (o:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

How to Handle A Woman ... Not

There's a way, said the wise old man ..." sang Robert Goulet in Camelot, r.i.p. +

And then there's this way, by one Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-’Arifi, who does little or no singing, but explains proper wife beating to young teens. Kinda sounds like Leonard Bernstein programs of old, doesn't it? Well, maybe not.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Christian Halloween Fan

A full service website for all your All Hallow’s Eve needs. [HT: Mark Shea] UPDATE: HellCo's Corporate Propaganda

Pilgrimage Route to Reopen

Now here is something the Four Mass'keteers should one day undertake: an 100-day pilgrimage on foot from Canterbury to Rome: the Via Francigena, which dates back to the 10th century, stretches from England across France and the Alps into Italy. What ho and anon, gentlemen. What sayest thou?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Care Enough to Smoke?

Dang! I suspected I was being hasty with that non-smoking thing . . .

(via Instapundit)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Atheists - "Autonomous, Loose and Randy"

Doug Giles pulls the covers off with his slam-bang funny -- and truthful -- essay, Atheism: An Intellectual Revolt or Pelvic Rebellion?

Look, I’m not buying that the atheists’ altruistic self-professed pursuit of reason is what undergirds their conclusion that God does not exist; I believe it’s because they want to believe that they’ll never be called into eternal accountability for their temporal actions by a holy God. Talk about an opiate for the masses ...

Y’know, Karl Marx said religion is the “opiate of the masses.” I think the real poppy derivative is the black tar belief that tells you atheist lads and lasses that when you take the big dirt nap that’s it. Ah what peace. What a high. No God. No accountability. All our sins of commission and omission will never ever come up again. No pain. No penalty. No heaven. No hell. Imagine. Yeah, dude. Hold that hit. Let it out slowly. Ahhh. Feel better?

There’s your opium.

Ouch. Sometimes the truth hurts. But it is preferable to the alternative; namely, denial of the biblical God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who wants us to redeem us from a hell of our own design. Update:
What the New Atheists Don’t See -- Theodore Dalrymple (To regret religion is to regret Western civilization)

The Quiet Revolution of Middle Eastern Greed

S. Gregg posits an interesting observation in Islam’s Quiet Revolution:

Coherence is not something expected from fundamentalist terrorists. But Osama bin-Laden's latest missive (September 7th) to the rest of humanity attained new lows in confusion by articulating ideas normally associated with unrepentant Western European leftists trapped in the 1960s.

Amidst the usual denunciations, al-Qaeda's leader developed a new theme: an attack on globalization, multinational corporations and capitalism alongside praise of hard-left conspiracy theorist Noam Chomsky.

In bin-Laden's words, "I tell you: as you liberated yourselves before from the slavery of monks, kings and feudalism, you should liberate yourselves from the deception, shackles and attrition of the capitalist system."

Leaving aside bin-Laden's somewhat inadequate grasp of basic Western economic history, he's probably aware -- and worried -- that several thousand miles to the southwest of his Afghan-Pakistani hideaway, small but important Muslim countries are gradually embracing features of those very same market-systems he despises ...

Economic liberalization is not a panacea for all the Muslim-Arab world's problems. These go far beyond economic issues. But while economic liberty and free markets are not sufficient for societies to be free, they are essential.

Fifty percent of new entrepreneurs in the UAE, Sheika Lubna Al Qasimi claims, are women. In all four countries, religious liberty restrictions are also loosening as a concession to non-Muslim expatriates.

Presumably neither bin-Laden nor the Taliban are thrilled by these transformations. Not long ago, such changes would have been considered revolutionary in the Gulf.

But as the nineteenth-century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed long ago, economic freedom has a way of loosening those bonds that unjustly diminish other legitimate expressions of human liberty -- including, it seems, in Muslim cultures.

Whether or not capitalism can bring purely secular, multiculturalist goals of gender and ethnic equality is one question. In the West, as Belloc and Chesterton foresaw, it ushered in newer and more lethal forms of pagan barbarism -- look around. Is it a "strong horse" that bin Laden would rather Muslims not admire in his neck of the woods, er, dunes? That looks like a big yes.