Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

By Your Light We See Light

Girl with a Pearl Earring
c. 1665-1666; Oil on canvas, 44.5 x 39 cm; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague

In our ongoing discussion of conversion, self hood, and ontological substantiation, we throw around some pretty big words. Delve into dark corners and crevasses of the human soul. Muck about. But every once in a while we owe it to ourselves to come to a quiet place. Allow our eyes to gaze on beauty. Light. And instead of being pulled by demons in every direction (like the drawing of Saint Anthony below), we will find the mind returning to the Source of our being. Gratitude, too, will follow.

Our friend and mentor, Gil Bailie, whose blog can be found here, has written on serenity that can only be got through prayer ... and its beastly alternative. Meditate well on his words, and let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.
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.

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."

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In a Very Strange Land

A common mistake is taking a western country to be, by its very definition, a Christian country. Mahsheed relates that the following is a fairly common experience of an immigrant from a predominantly Muslim country who wants to enjoy the freedom of the west:
Let me tell you a typical Muslim immigrant experience. He chafes under the restrictions of his Islamic home country. He does not pray or fast (is Muslim in name only--MINO). He finally makes it to America. Once here he experiences the severe culture shock of encountering a permissive sexual society plus the adjustment of living as an outsider (who can blame him--his own culture is very different). And he is envious. What is that secret things that divides his repressive Islamic society from the democratic West? He looks for clues.

Maybe he tries to assimilate, but finds it impossible as some changes would destroy his identity. Like can he allow his daughters to screw around in high school and still consider himself a man?

At no point does he ever discover that the secret of the West's success is Jesus Christ. That their societies are robust and democratic because these are the natural fruits of a Christian world-view. He never sees the third way as there have been no Christians to present it to him. In fact he has taken for granted that everyone he meets is Christian. Where are the Christians? He is not likely to encounter them as they travel in different circles as they have their own schools and universities and are concentrated in the red states and tend not to advertise their beliefs. And when the Muslim attended university what education did he get? Everything he was taught reinforced what he already knew about the evil Church and the crusades and the inquisition and the Dark Ages. He is relentlessly fed liberal PC multicultural victimology claptrap. From the media he encounters the writings of the judas apostate clergymen (what we call liberal Christianity) and is gleefully convinced by their claims. Now he sees that the West with their filthy culture has been the culprit all along. He figured it out.

Whereas before he had idealized Western values as being the key to reforming his home country, now he sees that those Islamic restrictions are all that keep him from total chaos. In his own country he envisioned all sorts of reforms such as more mingling of the sexes etc, now the slippery slope (every reform will lead to chaos) has been firmly entrenched in his mind--he sees where it all will lead.

Thus in a strange land he finds himself clinging to his Islamic identity; he prays and fasts and listens to the imams at the local mosque. Islam is the answer.

Now I ask those of you who deny his humanity, did he ever really stand a chance?
(Hat tip: Mark Shea)

Perhaps this is one reason Pope Benedict XVI sees Islam and the Catholic faith on the same side of a line drawn in the sands of human existence. We are both strangers in a very strange land.

However, whereas the Muslim immigrant has a land from which he or she came, and back to which he or she can go, the Catholic only has a dwindling memory of Christendom long gone save for the tattered remnants of civility and sanity. And oases wherein we become the people we wish to God we were around the Eucharistic table and altar.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Let This Mind Be in You - Tape 5

Where are you in this 1324 fresco by Bernardo Daddi called The Martyrdom of St Stephen?

Though continually being dismantled by the Christian revelation, the cultural and psychological mechanism of scapegoating is still in place as it tempts us with various pseudo conversions. This mechanism is the mimetic dynamic and Rene Girard has provided us the interpretative tools to make the Gospels even more relevant today in the modern world.

In tape 5 on this series on conversion, Gil Bailie talks about the influence of a model on us and how this fact is central to the social and psychological economy of Christian conversion. There is always a model.

Over the years mimetic processes have been mistaken for sexual or socio-economic ones, and so without the insights into the mimetic dynamic there is a tendency to see secondary problems as primary. That is to say, there is a tendency to see in sexuality itself, or in money or wealth itself, or in power itself, the source of all evil. Girard's insight helps us to see the mimetic dynamic at play in our fall (our sinfulness) as well as seeing the same mimetic dynamic leading us to our redemption. With this insight enabling us to get beyond the secondary problems we can begin to address our struggles at a more hopeful place.

The major themes that Gil has been using in this series on conversion are:
1) the theme of ‘gravity and grace’ provided by Simone Weil - gravity being that pull towards confusion and sinfulness leading us toward violence - and grace being the alternative to it;
2) Nietzsche's idea that the modern world has to choose between Dionysus and Christ;
3) Don't Get Sucked In - the summation of the Western Tradition;
4) Realizing that self-possession is not a viable alternative to getting sucked in, it is simply the preliminary to getting sucked in;
5) the Cross is a source of another kind of gravitational field which is the only alternative to the gravitational field that holds us in the grip of some kind of primitive sacred system and;
6) Mimesis leads us into the hellish place and it is what leads us out.

Nietzsche says that at the heart and soul of the Dionysian motif is the confusion of the transitory state or what Girard calls the crisis of distinction where all the social and psychological confusion reaches a climax resulting in destruction. One could say that St. Paul experienced his conversion while looking on the act of destruction (the scapegoating act) itself when he saw Stephen stoned. Most of us do not see these acts first hand – we see it on TV, but generally these acts seem disconnected to our world. There is a gap between those scapegoating acts of destruction and the transitory state from which we find ourselves in. Girard has helped to close the gap by showing us how this transitory state of confusion and delusion leads to that violence – it is by mimetic desire. Gil points out that if we are able to keep from slipping into the last stage of destruction it is because we are blessed with certain social and psychological structures that help that to be the case. Our experience is probably not from the pit of hell looking at the destruction of the Dionysian dynamic, but rather it is the stage of social confusion that the transitory state represents and that often leads to the destruction.

So from within this transitory state, one can observe how the mimetic process works in our relationships with models and friends. Friendship can lead one out of the mess of social and psychological disorder, as well as it can lead one into it. So friendship (a model) is another word for mimetic affects. The power of an example of a crowd can lead one into the gravitational field of the Dionysian craziness and the power of example of a model which stands outside of that can lead one out. In both cases, it is mimesis at work because it is the DNA of human social and spiritual life.

The challenge for us is to notice when this process takes a sinister turn, as you can bet that it will, at a point that is nearly always veiled to our eyes – a game, a jest, a laugh, a playfulness – by way of mimetic contagion a desire to do injury will come, moving toward its sacrificial or Dionysian end. This dynamic is what generates all conventional social solidarity.

The Feast of Stephen
Anthony Hecht


The coltish horseplay of the locker room,
Moist with the steam of the tiled shower stalls,
With shameless blends of civet, musk and sweat,
Loud with the cap-gun snapping of wet towels
Under the steel-ribbed cages of bare bulbs,
In some such setting of thick basement pipes
And janitorial realities
Boys for the first time frankly eye each other,
Inspect each others' bodies at close range,
And what they see is not so much another
As a strange, possible version of themselves,
From the vast echo-chamber of the gym,
Among the scumbled shouts and shrill of whistles,
The bounced basketball sound of a leather whip.


Think of those barren places where men gather
To act in the terrible name of rectitude,
Of acned shame, punk's pride, muscle or turf,
The bully's thin superiority.
Think of the Sturm-Abteilungs Kommandant*
Who loves Beethoven and collects Degas,
Or the blond boys in jeans whose narrowed eyes
Are focused by some hard and smothered lust,
Who lounge in a studied mimicry of ease,
Flick their live butts into the standing weeds,
And comb their hair in the mirror of cracked windows
Of an abandoned warehouse where they keep
In darkened readiness for their occasion
The rope, the chains, handcuffs and gasoline.


Out in the rippled heat of a neighbor's field,
In the kilowatts of noon, they've got one cornered.
The bugs are jumping, and the burly youths
Strip to the waist for the hot work ahead.
They go to arm themselves at the dry-stone wall,
Having flung down their wet and salty garments
At the feet of a young man whose name is Saul.

* commander of the German Storm Troopers

The feast of Stephen…it is still happening today. We see versions of it happening and we don’t make the connections. We almost cherish the gap as we go blind with apathy and claims of innocence. It is not a case of moralizing but rather unveiling a structure of enslavement to the human mimetic dynamic that we are all a part of just like Saul at the stoning of Stephen from which his conversion liberated him. Paul comes to see, through his conversion experience that the same human mimetic dynamic is the structure that will lead the way to freedom and out of the violence, as Christ led him to the disciples and the building up of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

For other posts on Gil Bailie's tape series, Let This Mind be in You:
Athos notes here
Athos notes on tape 9B link here
Aramis notes on tape 5 here
Aramis notes on tape 4 here
Aramis notes on tape 3 here
Aramis notes on tape 2 here
and you can see our first post regarding this tape series by clicking here

Thursday, January 25, 2007

H5N1 - A Grim Reaper

The Washington Post published a small article in today's issue, 1/25/07, regarding the extremely real yet largely denied possibility of a pandemic outbreak of the Avian flu:

U.S. Should Prepare For Avian Flu, Panel Told

Bird flu poses as big a threat to the world as ever, and people need to worry about it more, U.S. senators and health experts agreed yesterday.

The H5N1 avian flu virus could cause a human pandemic at any time, killing perhaps millions, yet preparations are slow, they told a Senate hearing.

Federal health officials said they were working to raise preparedness, although progress has been slowed by budget limitations and the generally poor state of public health systems.

"People who fail to prepare for a flu pandemic are going to be tragically mistaken," said Julie L. Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the hearing. "It is inevitable. I don't know when and I don't know which virus will be the culprit."

The virus is "moving biologically," she said. "It's mutating and evolving."

The H5N1 virus has started to become more active again. Hungary confirmed an outbreak in geese yesterday, the European Union's first case this year.

Five people have died of the virus in Indonesia since Jan. 1, and new cases in poultry have been reported in Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. China, Egypt and South Korea have also reported human cases in recent weeks, with one death in Egypt.

What with our capability and normal obtuse human tendency to elevate trivial, hypocritical matters into major melodramas, there is a real possibility that such a flu pandemic will reorient our priorities and reintroduce the reality of our mortal existences.

What then will be truly important to us? An office rival getting a raise? A second home as a tax write-off? Botox? Hair loss? It was Mark Twain in his Connecticut Yankee ... who said that the imminent prospect of being hung in the morning has the wonderful effect of clearing the mind.

Let the H5N1 virus be a virulent reminder that all of us, every one of us, live in the eleventh hour. And, to paraphrase Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, we should be about the important business of working to "love the one you're with" with the love of Christ.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On the theme of Don't Get Sucked in?

Or, What does it mean to be Catholic in a Protestant country?

From Cardinal George's column:

"There are many good people whose path to holiness is shaped by religious individualism and private interpretation of what God has revealed. They are, however, called Protestants."

What a great line, huh? Amy Welborn pulled this text out from Cardinal George's column and it sucked me right in and I am thankful it did. As he points out, and I completely agree, the "disappearance of external protections left the internal life of faith exposed to error and confusion." Hopefully we will see throughout the year in our liturgies across the country attempts to help Catholics-in-the-pews deepen their understanding of what it means to be Catholic; helping us to differentiate that from the Protestant interpretation of faith that we are inundated with in this country. I hope that with this effort to deepen our faith at the pulpit we are provided and encouraged to participate in on-going adult education that includes out reach opportunities in communities.

Here at the 3 Massketeer blog we have tried to provide a couple links for both on-going education opportunities like the Cornerstone Forum website and blog, and Jeff Cavins blog, as well as charity and out reach sites like The San Damiano Foundation. (Please tap into the other links on our sidebar as well. And as time allows we will be adding to these sites.)

The point of it all is that we can only fundamentally and finally avoid being sucked in by being sucked into something else. That something else is the great experiment called The Church.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Let This Mind Be in You - Tape 4

Don't Get Sucked In is the Western Culture's mantra which has been highly influenced by the Gospels, and though it is sound advice be aware that attempting to stand separate from the Gospels in a self-possessed posture, with even a virtuous character, is only the first stage of being possessed by something else.

We have grown up under the cloud of the Enlightenment Age and have been taught that one can take or leave religion (or simply compartmentalize your life so it has little or no meaning). My son, who worked at a printing and copy shop years ago, brought home the poster I have attached here because he thought I would like it. I have used this over and over in seminars on the problem of living without God as the center and focus of one's life. I would often conclude that the trajectory of one's life seems to always be misfiring and/or aborting when God is not at the heart of your life. So it seemed to me that the poster fits the lesson of this tape.

Summary of tape 4: Conversion is something that happens to us – it is not something we do. What we must try to do in the mean time however, is not to get sucked in to something that substitutes for it. We cannot avoid getting sucked in by remaining self-possessed or by thinking that all you need is a virtuous character. We can only fundamentally and finally avoid being sucked in by being sucked into something else. The problem with the Western Culture mantra is that if you work at not being sucked in to anything you could miss what happened to W. H. Auden as he writes from "Forewords and Afterwords:"

“One fine summer night in June 1933 I was sitting on a lawn after dinner with three colleagues, two women and one man – we liked each other well enough but we were certainly not intimate friends, nor had any one of us a sexual interest in another. Incidentally, we had not drunk any alcohol. We were talking casually about everyday matters when, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, something happened. I felt myself invaded by a power which, though I consented to it, was irresistible and certainly not mine.” (inserting comment: This experience is obviously NOT self-possession.) “For the first time in my life, I knew exactly – because, thanks to the power, I was doing it – what it means to love one's neighbor as one's self. I was also certain, though the conversation continued to be perfectly ordinary, that my three colleagues were having the same experience. (In the case of one of them, I was later able to confirm this.) My personal feelings toward them were unchanged-they were still colleagues, not intimate friends, but I felt their existence as themselves to be of infinite value and I rejoiced in it.

“I recalled with shame the many occasions on which I had been spiteful, snobbish, selfish, but the immediate joy was greater than the shame, for I knew that, so long as I was possessed by this spirit, it would be literally impossible for me to injure another human being. I also knew that the power would, of course, be withdrawn sooner or later and that, when it did, my greed and self-regard would return. The experience lasted at its full intensity for about two hours when we said good night to each other and went to bed. When I awoke the next morning it was still present, though weaker, and it did not vanish completely for two days or so. The memory of the experience has not prevented me from making use of others, grossly and often, but it has made it much more difficult for me to deceive myself about what I am up to. And among the various factors which several years later brought me back to the Christian faith in which I had been brought up, the memory of this experience and asking myself what it could mean was one of the most crucial, though, at the time it occurred, I thought I had done with Christianity for good…”

Auden continues: “Not the least puzzling thing about it is that most of the experiences which are closest to it are clear cases of diabolic possession as when thousands cheer hysterically for the man-god or cry blood thirstily for the crucifixion for the God-man. Still without it, there might be no church.”

For other posts on Gil Bailie's tape series, Let This Mind be in You:
Athos notes here
Athos notes on tape 9B link here
Aramis notes on tape 4 here
Aramis notes on tape 3 here
Aramis notes on tape 2 here
and you can see our first post regarding this tape series by clicking here

Monday, January 22, 2007

In This Boat Together

Mark Gordon over at Suicide of the West has an analysis of symptomology that passes for entertainment in our present state of sacrificial preparation, "The Love That Dare Not Whinny Its Name."

The Massketeers have been discussing how difficult it is not to get caught ourselves in the mimetic swirl of rivalry, resentment and ongoing human funny business. How awfully true this is. That is why I illustrate this post with Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee.

If one counts carefully, one will see Our Lord seated in the boat as the storm rages. One counts and finds ... ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen disciples? What is happening here?

Rembrandt has painted himself into the painting. He's the fellow hanging onto the rigging and his hat. He knows that we are in the same boat as the disciples, facing the same storm and same fears and human weaknesses.

So, when we relate the symptomology of others, as Mark Gordon does arightly above, we aren't judging, castigating, scapegoating. We are only where we are on this journey of faith by the grace of God, and "there but for that grace go we."

But analyze the cultural situation we must. If more had before Kristallnacht, many millions of lives might have been saved in the conflagration of World War II. Naiveté and ignorance lead only to more sacrificial behavior.

The only solution we have comes via the transmission of the deposit of faith in Sacred Scripture and Tradition protected and handed on by the Magisterium of the Church: namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Through this power alone can we supercede the paganism that threatens to swamp our boat.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ringing Bells, Chaos & Order

The proprietor of The Village Craftsmen on Ocracoke Island, North Carolina and my decades-old friend, Phillip Howard, told me once over lunch that he was really ticked at the audacity of the Methodist Church. The church decided to put its bell on a timer and ring it three times a day, every day. Phillip found it intrusive on his beliefs, his space, his sense of propriety. Christianity may be okay as long as it remains a silent witness (for now), I suppose, but show initiative and proclaim and -- no go. Saint Francis purportedly said somewhere, "We should always preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words." A ringing bell roughly a hundred yards away from his bedroom window -- three times every day! -- was an preaching of a world view and superstition (from Phillip's perspective) he found intolerable.

You have to understand: we started our friendship when I was a New Age Zen Methodist, into Jungian analytical psychology, the collective unconscious, Celtic music (still am on that point), and the I Ching. Now, I'm in full communion with the Catholic Church and a real puzzle to Phillip. But, somehow we still manage to enjoy each other's company, discussion, and a beer or two when I get down to the barrier island called Ocracoke. Though he'd never admit it, I think he builds on presuppositions of Sacred Scripture and Tradition to his very bones; as do nearly all of us, regardless of ostensibly rebellious attitudes toward Mother Church.

One such presupposition is order. Modernist reductionism may posit that our being here on Earth as humans as the chance happenstance that arose from a chaotic dance of atoms in a cold, dark, godless universe. Or, if there is a g/God, he is nothing so specific as detailed in the Judeo-Christian doctrines of revelation in general or the Catholic Magisterium of the deposit of faith. Way too scandalously specific. For such a modern thinker, a nagging church bell is a disgusting proclamation of all he or she does not believe. Yet that same modern certainly depends on order, and not chaos, with every breath, every heart beat, every transaction of life.

Gil Bailie, in his lecture series on Euripides' The Bacchae, says:
In the Dark Ages, the first thing that the monasteries did when they began to pull what was later to become western civilization out of the “bog” of the Dark Ages was to build a belltower, and put a bell in it, and ring it on the canonical hours at least and, more often than not, on the hour. In other words, to give order to the day, and that ringing of the bell became western civilization. You have to say the biblical revelation that is behind that is really it, but at a level of social structure, you have to say it starts with the bell...

(In Lynn Nicholas’ book) The Rape of Europa about what the Nazis did to the art treasures of the western world, there is a picture (on p. 352) of hundreds of bells with a caption that reads, “5,000 bells from all over Europe stolen by the Nazis during WWII awaiting disposition in Hamburg.”

It’s a symbol, a parable, of what I am saying. What did the Nazis do? They take the bells away. Why? because they want to turn them into swords, so to speak. So I would say the old Isaiah thing about ‘swords into plowshares’ maybe not quite as good as it could be, because swords into plowshares implies a kind of materialism in that metaphor, and a kind of technological feature to that metaphor that doesn’t really go to the heart of the cultural problem so much. A Marxist analysis could use the swords and plowshares metaphor with no problem. It’s materialistic and technological enough. Maybe the real one (w/out correcting Isaiah) should be ‘swords into bells.’ Cultural progress is made when you turn your swords and weaponry into bells and order the day and order the world. And there is regression when you take your bells, like the Nazis did, and you turn them into tanks.

That’s the world we live in. We’re always going in one direction or another. And as soon as we stop, the “slide” into the regressive one is there. We must always be turning swords into bells, because if we stop, it won’t be long before we’re turning bells into swords, just like the Nazis did.
I don't think for a second that Phillip thinks doing away with the bell of the Methodist Church on Ocracoke is siding with National Socialism. If anything, he would say that ringing that d***** bell is pretty Nazi-like. But scandal being the air we breathe, he finds the bell a handy scapegoat rather than something to be thankful for. What he and many others don't see is that rejection of the notion of order afforded our world by the message of Catholic truth is cutting off the limb on which he -- and all of us -- live and move and have our being. Find me hope somewhere else. Please.

At a general audience back in 2004, John Paul II the Great commented on the canticle to Christ in the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians. He said,
"The hymn paints a wonderful picture of the universe and of history, inviting us to trust. We are not a useless speck of dust, lost in space and time without meaning, but we are part of a wise plan that stems from the love of the Father."
I hope the Methodist Church on Ocracoke, downstream but still enjoying the benefits of the headwaters of Catholicism, is still ringing its bell three times each day. My friend Phillip is pretty influential on the island, so it may not be. But if it is, may its peal remind islanders and tourists of their true nature and identity: "part of a wise plan that stems from the love of the Father." Who knows? They may eventually begin to pray the Angelus for which the bells were intended.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Poor Clare's reflections on her life in a convent

Watching a video on Assisi, the region in Italy possessed with the infectious spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare, I was taken by a segment with the following meditation. As I recently shared some words of the mystic Simone Weil I thought it would be appropriate to offer up some thoughts graced in the spirit of Agape. May the words bring you to a place "free to become each day what a whole life cannot humanly become."

My Life as a Poor Clare
From "The Spirit of Assisi" video
Distributed by: Oriente Occidente Productions

To realize that in something like a breath, a flight, I have spent the greater part of my existence here, a moment suspended, then picked like a peach in June, all its fragrance, its mystery, its poverty and its simplicity in part of the universe’s rhythm.

My life as a Poor Clare, perhaps not yet a re-awakening, but a dream, yes in a great and sweetly wind rock. I speak of a dream, yet here I am lucid attentive to all that happens each event which hints at a presence all the more desired of it not fully perceived.

I wanted to hear your footsteps in the garden Lord and to walk with you. Instead, you set me down here, bent and patient to cultivate that garden for you and for me and for everyone who labors in it during their stay in your house. I wanted to help the whole church, and instead you have put me in a little, hidden place, where to love and to suffer takes up all of each day. I wanted to be filled with you instead you have given me joy and patient waiting.

You didn’t disappoint me Lord, you didn’t betray me when you made me your prisoner so as to set me free to become each day what a whole life cannot humanly become. Do not despoil me of your help, your gift of pity. Here I am a beggar of grace. I am hungry and thirsty for justice. I have fallen deeply into the abyss with the falling of days. I have flown my soul open to sunrises.

Oh my new day, my sun, my perennial day, may I see, may I shine, may I warm myself at your light, your brightness, may I live yearning toward you like the roses in the garden.

Whenever you will desire, coming near by, really you my God, I shall not dare to summon you. I shall admire in silence, made fruitful with you. I offer you Lord this moment which embraces the beginning and the end of a dream I lived during all the sleeping and awakenings of my faith.

[Other than being a part of the video, translated in English, this piece is found in a book entitled "Poverelle dal Signore vocate, Voci dal mondo delle Clarisse" published in 1992 by the Poor Clares in Cortona, Italy. I have not been able to find it anywhere else.]

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday at Twilight

An inkling of heaven for Athos has always been Friday evenings, the promise of good food, good drink, and, best of all, a meeting with friends.

May the Three Massketeers one day in the not too distant future enjoy your company on the boulevard with a bottle or two of a passable vintage, a light bill of fare, and a foretaste of heaven in the exchange of ideas.

Until then, enjoy the exchanges of thoughts from our "rad trad Catholic Girardian Conserberalism" -- All for 1 and 1 for All.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Saint Anthony, Abbot +

Five of the demons who tempted St. Anthony in the famous engraving by Martin Schongauer.
(tip: Daniel Mitsui @ THE LION & THE CARDINAL)

For those of us feeling beset on all sides.
St. Anthony, pray for us.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Let This Mind Be ... Continuing

"The Christian revelation not only deconstructs the sacrificial social structures but in doing so deconstructs the conventional self which to a considerable extent is a product of these social structures. Just as the agape community toward which Christian social life aspires has as its historical backdrop the disintegration of the sacrificial community, which is its anthropological antecedent, so the Christ-centered self toward which Christian spirituality aspires has as its psychological backdrop the disintegration of the conventional self. Which is to say, the self -- its anthropological predecessor, the self that has been a component part of the social and cultural life generated sacrificial reflexes – this self, this dying self, is what
Paul called the old anthropos, the old Adam. And he declared it to be dead or dying. And that the Christian spiritual life ought to devote itself to discovering a self that does not die,"
says Bailie.

The aspirant unawares soaks in light and grace, not seeing or knowing whence it comes, clinging to the conventional selfhood afforded it by the Dionysian realm. But, by that same grace, all is changed, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump.

And that self is ushered into the blessed realm if only for an instant. And the conventional is ripped and torn asunder (like Eustace in the Narnia Tales). And all is changed to be explored in newness and light.

Great plug

Sister Patricia and her book, "101 Inspirational Stories of the Sacrament of Reconciliation." I have some familiarity with Sister Patricia and can tell you she is the real thing.

More on the book and Sister Patricia at this link.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Simone Weil, mystic in the primitive state - 2 sites

"Potential mystics, or mystics in the primitive state," said Henri de Lubac, "are scattered in the world. These, above all, are the ones who must be reached" (cited by von Balthasar in "The Theology of Henri De Lubac" 1991, 101). Athos commented that he was not very familiar with Simone Weil. Well, I would like to introduce you to her through 2 sites; the first one starts out with a quote from Flannery O'Connor, and I said to myself, how can you go wrong with that?

"Weil's is the most comical life I have ever read about, and the most truly tragic and terrible." - Flannery O'Connor, letter, 1955

The article concludes with the following 2 paragraphs:

All of which is fine for the individual, but it begs the question "How are we to establish a universal morality and make justice possible?" In "Beyond Personalism," Weil argues that what passes for "justice" in the public sphere is simply a knee-jerk response to cries of pain from "injured personalities." Rights talk, says Weil, is nothing but "a shrill nagging of claims and counter-claims." We need an ideal of justice in which "the universal hope that good and not evil will be done to you" is held sacred. If we truly renounce the power we're able to wield over one another, if for every person there was "enough room, enough freedom to plan the use of one's time, the opportunity to reach ever higher levels of attention, some solitude, some silence," Weil concludes, we'd have a form of justice worthy of the name.

This highly unsentimental approach to justice corresponds to Weil's firmly held belief that sentimental do-gooders are "cannibals" who eat up the gratitude of those they purport to help. It is important for the well-being of he who is helped, she insists, that he understand his helper's motivation as being "not out of pity, sympathy, or capriceŠ not as a favor or a privilege, nor as a natural result of temperament, but from a desire to do what justice demands." Truly moral action, for Weil, is never accomplished because one "should" do this or that, but because one's actions are an anorectic "gesture of purity and loyalty to ourselves."

The second site is a must see site on Weil. (Make sure to check out the numerous pages on this site, almost all of the pages are on Weil.)

The following quotes are from Weil's "Waiting for God."

Simone Weil - "The beauty of the world is at the mouth of the labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening" (1951, Waiting for God, pp. 163-164).

Simone Weil – “It is because the will is impotent in achieving salvation that the idea of secular ethics is an absurdity. Ethics only appeal to the will – religion on the contrary corresponds with desire, and it is only desire that saves us.”

Simone Weil - "God has provided that when his grace penetrates to the very center of a person and from there illuminates all his being, he is able to walk on water without violating any of the laws of nature. When, however, a man turns away from God he simply gives himself up to the law of gravity. Then he thinks he can decide and choose, but he is only a thing, a stone, that falls. If we examine human society and souls closely and with real attention, we see that wherever the virtue of supernatural light is absent, everything is obedient to mechanical laws as blind and as exact as the law of gravitation… Those whom we call criminals are only tiles blown off a roof by the wind and falling at random. Their only fault is the initial choice by which they became such tiles."
“The mechanism of necessity can be transposed to any level while still remaining true to itself. It is the same in the world of pure matter, in the animal world, among nations, and in souls. Seen from our present standpoint, and in human perspective, it is quite blind. If, however, we transport our hearts beyond ourselves, beyond the universe, beyond space and time to where our Father dwells, and if from there we behold this mechanism, it appears quite different. What seemed to be necessity becomes obedience. Matter is entirely passive and in consequence entirely obedient to God’s will. It is a perfect model for us. There cannot be any being other than God and that which obeys God.” Waiting for God (pg. 75-76)

Ontological Titlemanship

Why Wait for the Queen to Call?

With one click, you too can have instant ontological substantiation! Your very own obscure British aristocratic title with which to impress people and sound snooty using here.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wrestling with Truth

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel - Gustav Doré
1855 (160 Kb); Granger Collection, New York

Over at The Dawn Patrol, Dawn Eden continues her courageous, one-woman assault on the symptomology of sexual debauchery in the materialistic relativism of the west. In one You Tube episode [“The Truth Shall Set You Free,” January 8, 2007, Basement Japes], she begins her counterpoint by saying that she believes there is truth and it is true for everybody.

She descends into the maw of the beast of hedonism and decadence to offer a hand-up to people caught in slavery that passes for individualized “freedom”. Not bad for a self-admitted lax ethnic Jew and now Catholic convert? Nay, far more -- it is a magnificent effort of a feisty latter-day Joan of Arc.

If there IS truth, who do you trust to transmit it? Who, or what, is worthy? For Dawn Eden, she has decided that the Catholic Church transmits truth clearly, forthrightly, definitively. Okay. But if so, doesn’t it exclude by demarcating the boundaries of what is truth and what is not? Hmm. For anyone who has studied Girard’s mimetic theory, that smacks of remnants of the sacrificial system the Gospel has come to break down and do away with. What is to be done?

First, the usual argument: “Why should the Church deny the lifestyles and beliefs of people who disagree with the Magisterium? Isn’t it really just a few old power-hungry men trying to keep the rest of us from sharing the power and making democratic decisions about what the Church should be like?”

Note that this argument sounds egalitarian and unselfish. But at its heart it is self serving. By arguing that everyone should have a vote in what truth is or is not, it protects its own belief that I can decide what truth is. This is bedrock for relativist modernity; namely, the infallibility of the individual. “I did it MYYY way,” and “Don’t foist your opinions on ME.” The argument of pretending to stand for the rights of others in this case is not other-centered, but self-centered self-concern. This “dogma” says the individual is infallible and all-knowing. Yeah, right.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, is astonishingly humble. The Pope, the pontifical leader of the entire People of God, is hardly powerful. His hands are tied: he can’t change the deposit of faith even if he wants to. George Bernard Shaw even said:
"I had better inform my readers that the famous dogma of papal infallibility is by far the most modest profession of its kind in existence. Compared to our infallible democracies, our infallible medical councils, our infallible astronomers, our infallible parliaments, the Pope is on his knees in the dust confessing his ignorance before God."
Gil Bailie in his “Emmaus Road Initiative”series [Jan. '06] explains perhaps most clearly of all why the Church’s Magisterium is not only necessary but worthy of our humble appreciation in service to real, unadulterated, rock-solid truth:
What Paul calls the obedience of faith is different from obedience to the rigors of the law. Jesus says it all over the place. Paul says it all over the place. The rigors of the law are not for nothing, and you can’t walk away from them. They have a very important place in life; not only in the life of the young, the immature and so on. They will always have a place in life, because no matter what our age is or our level of maturity, spiritual or otherwise, there are moments in our lives when we betray it all. And the fact that there is something there, the stone tablets there, by which to calibrate this betrayal is very helpful.

So the idea that, oh, we’re just going to live by the spirit and throw out the Law is nonsense. You have to have that, but it is not enough. It’s not enough. But obedience of faith is not a sort of open-ended thing, because faith itself -- as the Christians learned about fifteen minutes after they first gathered in the Upper Room – everybody is going to have their version of it. It is going to go in all directions just like everything else; the Leonard Cohen thing, you know. It is going slide in all directions; won’t be nothing you can measure anymore.

So the very thing that is important for us to get beyond, an old-fashioned version of obedience, requires that faith itself be carefully defined, be guarded. So the Magisterium that guards faith does so not in the interest of imposing the old-fashioned law, but in the interest of keeping pristine this thing that frees us from it; not away from it, but into its heart, into its mystery. Faith is nothing but a bunch of paradoxes, and this is one of the most profound. You have to have that Magisterial protection at the heart of it in order to be freed from a slavish version of obedience into the obedience of faith.
So, take heart, gentle reader. There is truth. The Massketeers lay our swords at the feet of truth. And truth has a Name.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Let This Mind Be in You tape #3

The touchstone for the understanding the Bible is the moment when Saul, soon after witnessing the stoning of Stephen, had a conversion. He realized that he participated in the persecution directed at enforcing the law for cultural order trying to keep his religion from contamination by heresy. The significance is that though he participated and approved of the stoning of Stephen he still has a revelation – a revelation of the innocence of the victim of the law and order campaign of his day. It tells us that the power of the crowd is unbelievable. The next we know of Saul he's on the road to Damascus and the cock crows. He realizes that he has been a persecutor and yet becomes one who tells the story.

In this session Gil looks at 2 sayings that address the 2 forms of power/influence that bring about order.

Friedrich Nietzsche

"The thoughtless man thinks that the will is the only thing that operates – that willing is something simple, manifestly given, and comprehensible in itself. He is convinced that when he does anything, for example, when he delivers a blow, it is he who strikes, and he has struck because he has willed to strike. Of the mechanism of the occurrence, and of the manifold subtle operation that must be preformed in order that the blow may result, and likewise the incapacity of the will in itself to effect even the smallest part of these operations, he knows nothing of these. (Arthur) Schopenhauer with his assumption that all that exists is something volitional has set a primitive mythology on the throne. He seems never to have attempted an analysis of the will, because he believes like everybody in the simplicity and immediateness of all volition. While volition is in fact such a cleverly practiced mechanical process that it almost escapes the observing eye." -- from The Gay Science

Notes from Bailie: The will is something that happens to us. We get caught up in it. The will that Nietzsche wants to revive cannot be revived by an individual – in the same way that, try as we may, we cannot revive myths, because the mental attitude which is, ‘I am going to find a myth and believe in it,’ is antithetical to mythological consciousness. Mythological consciousness is a consciousness of someone who has been caught up in it. Likewise the will, according to Nietzsche, for it to revive culture to the Apollonian order of its heroic tradition must be swept up into a power greater than what an individual can revive – so then when you deliver the blow, you may think it is your will, but it is not, something else is operating.

St. Paul realizes the need to become Christ-links whereas Nietzsche wanted to transform humankind into Ubermensch with enough will-power to revive the Apollonian order. The reason for the Ubermensch with will-power is because myth no longer has the lasting power of old. What Nietzsche saw was that to reclaim order culture would have to come from either the Dionysian impulse or Christ.

Simone Weil

"God has provided that when his grace penetrates to the very center of a person and from there illuminates all his being, he is able to walk on water without violating any of the laws of nature. When, however, a man turns away from God he simply gives himself up to the law of gravity. Then he thinks he can decide and choose, but he is only a thing, a stone, that falls. If we examine human society and souls closely and with real attention, we see that wherever the virtue of supernatural light is absent, everything is obedient to mechanical laws as blind and as exact as the law of gravitation… Those whom we call criminals are only tiles blown off a roof by the wind and falling at random. Their only fault is the initial choice by which they became such tiles."
“The mechanism of necessity can be transposed to any level while still remaining true to itself. It is the same in the world of pure matter, in the animal world, among nations, and in souls. Seen from our present standpoint, and in human perspective, it is quite blind. If, however, we transport our hearts beyond ourselves, beyond the universe, beyond space and time to where our Father dwells, and if from there we behold this mechanism, it appears quite different. What seemed to be necessity becomes obedience. Matter is entirely passive and in consequence entirely obedient to God’s will. It is a perfect model for us. There cannot be any being other than God and that which obeys God.” Waiting for God (pg. 75-76)

The rest of tape 3 focuses on the play "The Bacchae" by Euripides. I will leave that for Athos and another post, but to end with Bailie's ending of the session: The romance of "The Bacchae" is that if one let’s oneself go, one can be swept away into this beautiful place – a golden age – where freedom is law and so one can go with the gravitational flow. We need to remember that we are under the influence of either the biblical God or it’s the influence of what Simone Weil called gravity and what Nietzsche called Dionysus.

For other posts on Gil Bailie's tape series, Let This Mind be in You:
Athos notes on tape 9B link here
Aramis notes on tape 2 here
and you can see our first post regarding this tape series by clicking here

The Cross, Remorse and Conversion

In our ongoing discussion of Gil Bailie's tape series on conversion, William Blake's painting depicting Cain's remorse at his murder of his brother, Abel, is operative. In the excerpt below, Bailie speaks of the absolute necessity for remorse in pulling away from the crowd (of which modernist "individuality" is a shammy parody) in order to experience authentic Christian conversion. As brother Aramis points out, however, this removal of oneself from the crowd is not meant to be an isolatory event. Rather, it is so one can (a) realign oneself with the true source of ontological substance, and (b) enter into true communion with others so graced in the Catholic Church, the gathering of those called into being around the eucharistic Lord at his eucharistic table. Bailie:

Christian conversion always means coming out of the crowd. When Peter heard the cock crow, it was curing him of that little crowd he gathered with around the charcoal fire at Jesus’ trial. When Paul is knocked down on the road to Damascus and he hears the word ‘persecution’, he is being pulled out of the crowd, of the mob.

It is/was in both cases for them and is, I think, the revelation of the cross that brings us out of the crowd for absolutely obvious reasons, once you think about it, because the crowd is brought together and it generates its social camaraderie precisely in those events that are structurally indistinguishable from the crucifixion. The crowd produces the crucifixion. So it is in identifying with the victim of the crowd that one comes out of the crowd. So the cross is the thing that brings us out of the crowd in the Christian economy of things.

So the birth of subjectivity, real subjectivity, is conversion. And the cross reveals because it destroys all the illusions, eventually, that allow us to believe in the god of the sacrificers. And once those illusions are taken from us, it is possible then to see the living God, the God of truth, which in human culture is always the God of the victim. Not because God or Christianity is perverse or masochistic, but because in a world that generates its culture and coherence sacrificially, the living God can only manifest via the victim. So the cross takes us out of the crowd and reveals to us something that takes the crowd’s place. You can’t come out of the crowd and just stay out of the crowd with no other grounding. You will just drift right back into another version of it, probably a sillier, shammier version of it …

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Christology From Within

Mark McIntosh authors this interesting book on von Balthasar. In chapter 2 he has a section titled, Theological Role of the Saints. Von Balthasar wrote: "Their (the saints) charism consisted in the ability to re-immerse themselves, beyond everything that convention might dictate, in a 'contemporaneity' with the Gospel so as to bequeath the legacy of their intimate experience to their spiritual children."

Von Balthasar sees the gift of the saints as an openness and availability to the Word as first a gift of the church, but it often becomes manifest "in a saint, whose soul has gazed so long and deeply on the light of God that it has come to hold within itself an almost inexhaustible store of light and love, and so can offer lasting force and sustenance."

McIntosh goes on describing von Balthasar's thoughts; mysticism which is not in some way in the service of the whole church's ever deeper appropriation and understanding of life in Chirst is not an appropriate theological matrix... What must be discerned is whether one has surrendered all personal claims to 'experience' in favor of making oneself available to share in the experience of Christ, which itself is then to be shared with the church: "The individual with his experience is ever an expropriated member of the whole and must feel and behave accordingly."

Authentic Christian spirituality is already communally oriented, for it is a spirituality ordered primarily to obedience, which always involves community.

I love swimming in such thoughts and can't help but find threads that link up with Girard and his mimetic theory. The idea that we all go off into some individual spiritual wonderland is not Christian spirituality. Christian spirituality is about coming back (like St. Paul) to tell the story - participating in the life of Christ, that is ever present, and giving witness to that experience. This participating in the life experience of Christ, as well as the mission of Christ, approaches the Christology from within for von Balthasar, who strived to get across that this is often lacking in our theology and dogma today. He stressed the need for theologians to get close to holiness and saintliness and in their work they openly and deeply share in the life experience of Christ as Christ is working in the world.

The Summa for Dummas

Our dear Athos has oft suggested such reading matter as has proved to be of value in instructing your humble servant. One such has been a condensed presentation of Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica called My Way of Life, a particularly helpful little tome for a creature like myself whose powers of penetration can sometimes be, if I may say so, somewhat less than inspiring. For this reason, I think of the treasured tome as my "Summa for Dummas."

As I browse once more through this exceedingly helpful condensation of Christian truth, I stumbled upon a passage which may be of some interest to those of us with Girardian inclinations.

The allure of the good is an ennobling invitation; for it is essentially a promise that we can become a part of this loved thing or make it a part of ourselves. It is this same characteristic that accounts for the debasing corruption of a false good. We do indeed become the thing we love. The enitcement of personal goodness lies precisely in its promise that we can become so like to this person whose goodness ravishes our heart, that we can move before men [sic] in a shared likeness of this beloved person. God is the supreme source from which all goodness takes its rise, the infinite reservoir of all that is desireable, containing and surpassing all that is found lovable in creatures; to love Him is to be caught by the promise of that infinite allure, to become like God and to move in His image before the eyes of me [sic], a likeness of the divinity surpassing all the pictures drawn by the varied beauty and goodness of the universe.

The saint, head over heels in love with God, finds the most perfect fellowship with every least and greatest thing in the universe, with every least and greatest man and woman. He understands them, he is at one with them, being himself so closely one with the God who is their source, the model on which they are formed, the goal to which they are so drawn. He is close to the world and to men because his heart is so close to God. His only hate will center on the disfigurements and mutilations that are wrought on the images of God to hide from the eyes of men the ravishing beauty of divinity.
pages 11-12

Monday, January 08, 2007

"If Today You Hear His Voice, Harken Not Your Heart"

The Three Massketeers Are All Ears

Holiness Means Listening to Jesus, Says Pontiff

Speaks of the Commitment Behind Baptism

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 7, 2007 ( Baptism implies a commitment to holiness, which consists in listening to Jesus, explained Benedict XVI.

The Holy Father explained this today before praying the midday Angelus with thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square, on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Earlier, the Pope presided at Mass in the Sistine Chapel, during which he administered the sacrament of baptism to 13 children.

"The commitment that arises from baptism" consists "in listening to Jesus; that is, to believe in him and follow him docilely doing his will, the will of God," he stated in his Angelus address.

"Each one of us can aspire to holiness, a goal that, as the Second Vatican Council reminded, constitutes the vocation of all the baptized," the Holy Father said.

Benedict XVI said that for the four Evangelists, Jesus' baptism in the Jordan is extremely important, as it is the first clear presentation of the Trinity, as well as the start of his public ministry on the roads of Palestine.

"There is a profound relationship between Christ's baptism and our baptism," the Pontiff explained. "In the Jordan, the heavens were opened to indicate that the Savior opened to us the way of salvation and that we can follow it precisely thanks to the new birth 'of water and the Spirit,' which takes place in baptism."

The Holy Father added that in baptism "we are introduced in the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, we die and rise with him, we are clothed in him."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Striding with Confidence

Con-fide/With Faith

Pope Benedict asks, "How is it possible for a man to use his eyes in such a way that he perceives and respects the dignity of the other person and guarantees his own dignity? The drama of our times consists precisely in our capacity to look at ourselves like this -- and that is why we find it threatening to look at the other and must protect ourselves against this ... A child can open himself confidently to love if he knows he is loved, and he can develop and grow if he knows that he is followed everywhere by his parents' look of love" [Christianity and The Crisis of Cultures, 70-71].

When we forget what the Holy Father says, we are consigned to ontological sickness. Our relation to our earthly mother and father will not avail, being abbreviated, imperfect, unsatisfying. But, as the Psalmist knows in Psalm 139, if we walk in the sight of the LORD, who does not wish to find us perishing or lacking in any good, then "all manner of things shall be most well," as Julian of Norwich observed.

If we do our best, stay connected in the Sacraments, pray constantly for ourselves and every single person we meet in "I-Thou" (M. Buber) interactions, our precious time will not be wasted. Indeed, how better can our time be "spent"?

Friday, January 05, 2007

Feast of the Epiphany +

The Adoration of the Magi - Albrecht Dürer
1504 (60 kB); Oil on wood; Uffizi

At Holy Cross Abbey, OCSO, Berryville, Virginia, the Chapel has a statue of Mary holding the infant Jesus out before her. It is as though Our Lady is saying, "Here, take my Son!"

I would guess that others like myself have experiences sprinkled in our lives of blessed Mary doing just that: offering us her Son. But she is so gentle about it; not pushy, just persistent.

May we give thanks that as Mary offered her son as Light of the World to the Magi, we are given the opportunity to present Our Lord, Jesus Christ, to a hurting, war torn, beleaguered world that needs to come to know Him, learn of Him, worship Him, only Son of the Father. She is a worthy model for us to imitate, her Son's first and best disciple.

The Humiliation of the Eternal Son - John Newman

This morning I was reading from Mark McIntosh's book, "Christology From Within” on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar, when I came across a footnote that had the below quote from John Henry Cardinal Newman.

We speak of Him in a vague way as God, which is true, but not the whole truth; and, in consequence when we proceed to consider His humiliation, we are unable to carry on the notion of His personality from heaven to earth. He who was but now spoken of as God, without mention of the Father from whom He is, is next described as if a creature; but how do these distinct notions of Him hold together in our minds? We are able indeed to continue the idea of a Son into that of a servant, though the descent was infinite, and, to our reason, incomprehensible; but when we merely speak first of God, then of man, we seem to change the Nature without preserving the Person. In truth, His Divine Sonship is that portion of the sacred doctrine on which the mind is providentially intended to rest throughout, and so to preserve for itself His identity unbroken.

In the 3 Massketeers’ study on conversion, I have been of late sidetracked to works that explore Trinitarian thought and personhood. I found Newman’s sermon another good reference to our puny efforts at trying to come to some kind of understanding of authentic personhood.

thorn offering

thorns choke this dark way
on my sad soil Thy seed fell
yet look, thorns, Thy crown


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Mainline Plumbing

One more from Steyn. Ouch.
Registration is required,
but free. Winter calm.

This Little Light of Mine

A Hero is as Hero Does

Hero Wesley Autrey, photo by Felix Bryant

What a great story! A real hero in the city!

A hero construction worker left his two young daughters on a Harlem subway platform and leaped into the path of an oncoming train yesterday to rescue a stranger who had fallen on the tracks.

“Tell my little girls that Daddy is OK!” Wesley Autrey shouted from under the No. 1 train after it screeched to a halt. It was just inches above him and the film student he pushed into the trough between the tracks.

Amazingly, neither Autrey nor the man he saved, 20-year-old Cameron Hollopeter, was seriously injured, even though the train grazed the construction worker’s wool cap.
After Autrey boosted himself up from the tracks at the 137th Street station, he modestly said, “You’re supposed to come to people’s rescue.”

The story of this man’s selfless act (and quick-thinking) could not be more dramatic - and terrifying for his kids:

As Autrey was going through the turnstile, he saw Hollopeter having a seizure. A Boston-area native, Hollopeter is in a producing program at the New York Film Academy in Union Square, and was on his way to classes.

Autrey and two women ran to his aid.

Autrey yelled to the station agent to call for help, and then used a pen to pry open Hollopeter’s jaw to stop him from biting his tongue. A few moments later, Hollopeter came to and stood up.

“Are you all right?” Autrey asked.

But before he could complete the question, Hollopeter stumbled and fell onto the tracks as the southbound train rumbled in.

“He landed between the tracks,” Autrey said. “Do I let the train run over this guy? I saw the ladies had my two daughters, so I hopped over on the tracks.
[…] Hollopeter “was kicking his arms and legs,” Autrey said. “I didn’t want his arms and legs cut off. I knew the train was going to go over us, so I took him, I grabbed him and we fell down.

“I wrapped my arms and legs around him and tightened up. I had to lock my whole body.”

He maneuvered himself and Hollopeter into the trough between the tracks, where “we maybe had one or two inches.”

Autrey said that all he remembered is the sound of the screeching brakes replaced with the screams of his two daughters.

“I’m OK,” Autrey shouted from underneath the train.
Even though Autrey - who went to work after the ordeal - downplayed his derring-do, his proud daughters had no doubt their dad was a hero.

“He was saving the man under the train and the train just went past,” Shaqui said.

Syshe added, “He saved a man.”

So the Wesley Autrey saves the life of another man, says, “you’re supposed to come to people’s rescue” and then goes to work. Awesome. And humbling. Real heroes never think they’ve done something heroic.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Gospel in a Cellphone Video

Sound Judgment

The surreptitious cell phone video of Saddam's death -- more the sound portion of it -- has raised the opinions of government leaders and a host of journalists regarding the solemnity befitting such an enactment of duly sanctioned capital punishment.

Those acquainted with René Girard's mimetic theory know that it includes the theory of human culture coming about from founding violence of the many against the one. "Unanimity minus one," in Girard's apt turn of phrase. In the wake of this founding murder is hypothesized the origins of religion; namely, ritual that reenacts the original murder through blood sacrifice. Many see the remnants of such rituals in the continuing executions of human beings to this day.

It is important to differentiate between the founding violence which while unscripted is carried out by mob action that includes an initial accompanying sense of great righteousness on the part of the mob and the ritualized violence that follows in its wake. Girard postulates that this sense of righteous indignation and accomplishment after the murder is carried out is undergoing a mammoth deconstruction due to the cross of Jesus Christ. This "one, perfect sacrifice" has undone the mob's ability to feel self righteous, and now wherever the Gospel has been at work, such violence will have an accompanying "moral hangover." (Caveat: F. Nietzsche saw this effect of the Gospel and supported a return to such ritualized violence anyway. His ubermensch would "gut it up" and get the job done.)

Since Our Lord, the "lamb slain" [Rev. 5,12], has revealed "what was hidden since the foundation of the world" [Mtt 13, 35], no matter who the culprit executed, the violence of the sacrificial ritual is compromised and radically diminished in its ability to reconvene the community as it once did. Girard and others go to great lengths to show that the more that the Gospel infiltrates into the hearts and minds of people, the more this sacrificial "mechanism" ceases to have its once beneficiary effects. In fact,

If the community uses the execution of a criminal to feel good about itself, regardless of certifiable, heinous crimes that he committed, the victim is structurally innocent.

It should be noted that Girard is explicit in his gratitude to Sacred Scripture for explicating these truths about violence. The Pontifical Household preacher, Father Raneiro Cantalamessa, has cited Girard's insights more than once.

For still the best introduction to Girard's mimetic theory read Violence Unveiled, by Gil Bailie.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Mary, Mother of God +

Much to the discomfiture of my evangelical family members, I did not come with the requisite circuitry to rail and tut-tut at the phrase, Mother of God. For Catholics, it is simple logic. If Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; and if Jesus was born of the virgin Mary; then Mary is the Mother of God. Go figure.

As Scott Hahn has said (and said better), if I were the Creator of the universe without whom nothing was made that was made, what kind of mother would I make for myself? A mother tarnished, blotted and stained with the guilt of Original Sin? Or, a beautiful, spotless, sinless maiden most fair? Indeed, "full of grace?" Well, to stoop to an apt phrase in less than lofty phrases of high discourse, it's a no brainer.

The Catholic Church in no way promotes worshiping Our Lady. Never has, never will. But it does promote devotion to her for obvious reasons (if one doesn't have that knee-jerk anti-Catholic rant reaction, that is).

The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" [Col. 2,9] should herself be "full of grace." She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the "Daughter of Zion": "Rejoice" [Zeph.3,14; Zech. 2,14]. It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle [Lk 1,46-55] lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son.
-- Catechism of the Catholic Church, #722

So the Mother of Jesus is also the Mother of the Church, Jesus's chosen instrument for providing grace today, and even "until the end of the age" [Mtt 28,20]. There are no orphans, no outcasts for those who are within Christ's "one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Fall in love with Our Lady. She is our Mother too.