Friday, August 31, 2007

Choosing ... A Culture of Death

As a spokesman for all the formerly "tie-dyed, doe-eyed, wishy-washy, indeterminate, unprincipled, well-meaning, liberal placater of the feminist agenda" (raise your hand if, like myself, you were for many long pre-conversion decades), Kevin Myers lets off steam regarding collateral damage – boys and men.

The Gift of Self - Freedom & Love

Gil Bailie, starts off in tape 6 of his series The Gift of Self with the following remark pertaining to his book, Violence Unveiled;

In the book that is being made ready for publication, I argued that we live in a world where we are less and less able to resolve social crisis violently because the Gospel revelation has shorn our violence of its sacred pretension and without an aura of sacred surrounding it, violence can never be a source of durable cultural stability.

It all has to do with one of the two revelations that is overtaking us in our world: one is that conventional religion and culture is intertwined with violence and the second is that the self is constituted by its relation to the other or to others or to The Other.

The first 5 tapes of the series Gil takes up the first revelation and now he begins to map out how the second revelation is working out in history. I will post on this later, however I felt the calling to do a little weaving of thoughts by 3 great minds here and I hope I can make clear this tapestry. I have already referred to Gil as one source - the others are Raymund Schwager, who just prior to his sudden and unexpected passing on February 27, 2004 had agreed to serve on Cornerstone Forum board; and Romano Guardini, renowned Catholic theologian and writer.

Bailie's very short summary (above) on his book is a great meditation: "the self is constituted by its relation to the other or to others or to The Other." I was drawn to see how freedom and love are linked to this meditation on the self.

In his book, Banished from Eden, Original Sin and Evolutionary Theory in the Drama of Salvation, Schwager elaborates on freedom and I have pulled a few quotes from (link here) Chapter 4 Human Self-Reflection and Universal Responsibility:

At the same time this insight makes it evident that freedom cannot be completely understood either from the standpoint of the isolated subject nor from that of the I-Thou relation, but must be seen in the context of human society and history in their entirety. ... Individual self-reflection, accessible to earlier human individuals within certain limits, has developed into a comprehensive process of self-reflection, which can only be fulfilled by humanity as a whole and in view of its final destination.
... it makes sense that freedom in its radical form as total self-determination cannot be a matter pertaining just to the individual or any group, but is a task of all mankind. All individual attempts toward self-reflection and freedom must complement one another toward an all-embracing self-reflection in which humanity intervenes in its own nature and determines itself with regard to its future and final destination. ... But if freedom is a universal process, it also becomes clear that each individual subject is more determined by the free acts of others than by his or her own self-determination. Freedom turns out also to be an affliction, something that the traditional doctrine of original sin has always known.
Aramis here: The modern individualistic view will never be able to see how we are interconnected. Prayer is key here. We are inter-dividual as members of God's creature and that freedom is bound up with one another. And freedom can only be brought forth in relationships as one surrenders his or her will to the Will which stands outside the mimetic whirlwind, but yet is so very near as Christ's life showed us.

Monsignor Romano Guardini writes from Living the Drama of Faith:
To love, from the human point of view, is first of all to admit the existence of a being greater than myself who demands a sacrifice on my part. To love means to be prepared to meet the Most High, not to shun this encounter, but to seek it in order to realize that it is only in the gift this encounter will involve that I can truly find myself. This attitude awakens in me all that speaks of God, and enables me to see him.
Guardini writes that being in this image of God - being in love with God is "infinitely more vital then whether this or that man exists..."

Aramis here: After going through a rocky time of my life I was invited to go to church (being a non-church-goer for most all of my life, but go figure that I could learn something from church) and what followed, looking back today, is nothing short of amazing; I came to experience love through a poverty of self. This love reached out from me and touched everyone and everything that I too touched. I came to understand that for me to continue to experience this love I had to empty all my closests out to God, and by His Gifts to me I could come to an acceptance of my fallenness, repentance and a metanoia that was embracing and at a deeper level allowing me to reach out and embrace everyone around me. I was able to share this with my wife and we have built our marriage around this love of God, that encapsulates the two of us as one. We came to understand that my love for her (and vise versa) comes from God alone and only by my being humble and open to receive this love can I pass it on to her (and vise versa).

In the end, as Howard Thurman told Bailie, "what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Are we being Christ, coming alive in freedom and love as the new creation, spreading His Love in the world?

The gift of self - freedom and love of the new creation 2 Corinthians Chapter 5: 14-21

For the love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer. So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Our Dopplegangers?

Omawgawd, check this out.

3 Indicatives ... No Imperatives (Yet)

An obvious reality when one compares the Muslim world -- just the common, run-of-the-mill Muslim world that exists in good and growing numbers in, say, northern Virginia -- to that of the non-Muslim world that coexists right beside it is the sharp distinction of the sexes in terms of gender roles and appearances.

Some of the most obvious distinctions, at least to the untrained eye, are (1) women's head-covering (hejab) and flowing garb (rather than jeans and a tee) as a norm rather than an exception, while men generally wear western garb; (2) the preponderance of women in such apparel to be seen (a) are exclusively following their husbands while shepherding at least three children close in age to one another, or, if not married, (b) are with two or three other young women similarly garbed; and (3) are quite capable of carrying out conversations with great facility in either English or Arabic, usually the latter in and among themselves.

This is the indicative, if you will; I make no judgments; mere obvious and banal observations that can be noted by anyone. To be honest, I have also seen young Muslim women (they may be of other faiths, but they speak Arabic) dressed, shall we say, in more contemporary western garb: jeans and tops, nothing covering their heads and hair, and, I may be projecting but it seems like rather a rather rebellious expression on their faces, as though waiting for a boom to be lowered from some where on high, but they are the great exception.

Where do we observe a similar demarcation of the sexes among non-Muslims, at least in the U. S. A.? Clothing? Number of children from the same and, apparently, present husband in public? Coming from the Midwest, I can think of perhaps the Amish, the "old order Baptists," the Mennonites, but such clear distinctions are fading, in my observation (though not among the Amish). Anywhere else? I can't think of any (leave a comment if you can).

What does this add up to, the reader may ask? These are indicatives, I am not offering any imperatives, for now.

A second indicative is that if you don't believe in global warming, the statistics on "demographic winter" in the west are taking on greater and greater validity as we speak. How to address this? Well, Russia has proffered an interesting solution: set up compulsory youth farms (electronically monitored) at which sex is encouraged and condoms aren't to be found, as Gil Bailie has noted. United States citizens seem to prefer less crowd sexual situations, more "safe sex" (sometimes), and the sacrament par excellence of choice, abortion on demand, which, of course, defeats the purpose of the Russian baby explosion project.

A final indicative is that there is great deal of polarization and animosity going on -- on the internet at least -- pointing toward Muslims as the bane of the west. Hmm. Kind of seems that we're doing a pretty darn good job of that without pointing fingers at Islam and its adherents, if one looks at a few indicatives (above).

The Deepest Longings of Every Human Heart

Pope Benedict XVI said under sunny Italian skies yesterday that "The supreme human good is found in Christianty." This, one must suppose, is why our friend, good pal, and mentor Gil Bailie says that Christianity is not merely another "world religion." Yet it sounds like an end-zone dance, doesn't it?

Compare the teachings of Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular -- the guardian of the deposit of faith down through the long centuries -- to any other large body of monotheists in our world (of about a billion persons) when it comes to vengeance, or forgiveness, or the steadfast, unconditional love of God. How do these sets of beliefs match up? Where is there truly good news of a great joy which will be to all the peoples?

No wonder that the Holy Father can say with certainty, “By purifying our hearts and progressing in holiness, we are drawn to the vision of God and thus to the satisfaction of the deepest longings of every human heart”.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Saint John the Baptist + 29 August

On this feast day of Saint John the Baptist, the Holy Father has this to share regarding Jesus' first cousin:
The task set before the Baptist as he lay in prison was to become blessed by this unquestioning acceptance of God's obscure will; to reach the point of asking no further for external, visible, unequivocal clarity, but, instead, of discovering God precisely in the darkness of this world and of his own life, and thus becoming profoundly blessed. John even in his prison cell had to respond once again and anew to his own call for metanoia or a change of mentality, in order that he might recognize his God in the night in which all things earthly exist. Only when we act in this manner does another -- and doubtless the greatest -- saying of the Baptist reveal its full significance: 'He must increase, but I must decrease' [Jn 3:30]. We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves.
-- Via Magnificat
Gil Bailie also notes that John, once so confrontational with Herod his earthly king, had been far different that Our Lord. "If John chased the car leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident, Jesus was the one to stay with the victim" (or words to that effect).

The greatest and last prophet, John the Baptist is a role model for modern-day prophets, yet with a difference, it seems to me. It is too easy simply to point fingers, get in-the-face of victimizers, throw stones these days. We need prophets who carry on the work of Jesus the Lord. He must increase, and He is ( ... increasing). The Gospel is at work in history. Jesus is Lord.

All aboard next stop, Ave Maria, Florida

The following is from the city's website. Ave Maria re-invents hometown living with a flourishing new community complementing a new University. Inspired by the eternal charm of Italy’s hill towns, it offers diverse homes at diverse prices and incomparable amenities, including a water park, as well as everything residents need for daily living. In short, Ave Maria is an exciting place to live, work, play and learn for every family, every lifestyle, and every dream.

Does it have a serious chance to survive? and here in the US? What's it going to look like 50 years from now?

St Augustine, cont.

This is the oldest surviving portrait of Augustine, from the Lateran in Rome in the sixth century.

It seems to me, Aramis here, that we can either participate in the Communion of Saints and the Life in Christ or we dismiss it. I pray with the words below from Pope John Paul II, "O Saint Augustine, Communicate to us too a spark of that burning love for the Church," so that we may glow with the sure witness of Christ Love and to be His instruments drawing all souls to Him.

Reflections from Doctors of the Catholic Church on St Augustine.

Saint Augustine’s confessions is a classic of spiritual autobiography. His self-knowledge was rooted in his knowledge of Christ, so it led him beyond himself into the heights and depths of love. His brilliant mind led him to the shores of human understanding, at which point he knelt in humble acknowledgement of the transcendent mystery of God.

Augustine was blinded by the light of God and through his conversion he was able to change his love for life to a life of love for Christ and his members. He received from God a powerful, spiritual life that empowered him to shepherd God’s flock for thirty-four years by his example, sermons and brilliant writings. He protected the faith and faithful from many false errors and heresy and lead others to find the light that he looked for all his life but never really found it until he was generous with God’s graces. Had it not been for graces, his prayers and others’ prayers, and his mother's prayers, he would have never found it. It also required his persevering faith from Monica, and all those who aided him, especially St Ambrose, first Doctor of the Church, who baptized him into the faith as a young man.

The conversion of St Augustine is so dramatic because he reveals how far he strayed from the Catholic faith through his waywardness and his pride. Only by acknowledging his sinfulness, turning to prayer and listening to the Spirit urging him forward in truth, did Augustine turn to God and ask for his mercy. God never refuses to grant to anyone who will but ask seriously.

The below by Pope John Paul II who died, and who reigned from 1978 until 2005 , writes a glowing testimonial about Augustine that will greatly benefit all who will read it and take it to heart on this holy Doctor of the Church.

Saint Augustine

O great Augustine, our father and teacher,
Who knows the shining paths of God
And also the crooked paths of men,
We admired the marvels that divine grace
Has worked in you,
Making you a passionate witness
To truth and goodness
At the service of your neighbor.

At the start of a new millennium, marked by the Cross of Christ,
Teach us to read history
In the light of divine Providence.
Which guided events to the
Final encounter with the Father.
Guide us towards goals of peace.
Kindling in our hearts
Your own desire for the values
Upon which we,
With the strength that comes from God,
Can build the “city of Man.”

May the profound teaching that you drew,
With loving and patient study.
From the ever-living sources of Scripture
Enlighten all who are tempted today
By alienating mirages.

May you obtain for them the courage
To set out on the way
Towards that “inner man” in whom the One,
Who alone can restore peace
To our restless hearts, awaits.

So many of our contemporaries seem to have
Lost the hope of reaching,
Amidst the many conflicting ideologies,
The truth that they continue to yearn for
In depths of their hearts.
Teach them never to give up their quest
In the certainly that,
In the end, their efforts will be rewarded
By thy fulfilling encounter
With that supreme Truth, who is the Source
Of every created truth.

Lastly, O Saint Augustine,
Communicate to us too a spark
Of that burning love for the Church
The Catholic mother of the saints
Which sustained and gave life
To the efforts of your own long ministry.
Enable us, as we walk together under the guidance of our legitimate land
Where, with all the Blessed,
To reach the glory of the heavenly Homeland
Where, with all the blessed,
We can join in singing
The new and eternal Alleluia. Amen

The below Meditation of the Day listed today in the Magnificat comes from St Augustine himself and in it we see his gratitude for God’s grace and his insatiable thirst to share God’s profound peace.

Judgment and Mercy and Fidelity

He, you see, after the war in which “the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so that it is not the things you wish that you do” (Gal 5:17), is peace on earth to people of good will, because “he is our peace, who has made the two into one” (Eph 2:14). So let good will persist in standing firm against evil desires, and persist in imploring the help of God’s grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord…

Is anybody, I mean to say, in a position to have both the will and the ability, unless the one who granted us the will by calling us also helps us to have the ability by inspiring us? The fact is, his mercy gets in ahead of us every single time; to call us when we were lacking the will, and then to ensure we obtain the ability to do what we will. So let us say to him, “I have sworn and determined to keep the judgments of your justice" (Ps 119: 106). I have indeed determined and promised obedience because you have ordered it; but because “I can see another law in my members fighting back against the law of my mind, and taking me prisoner to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23), “I have been utterly humbled, Lord; give me life according to your word” (Ps 119: 107). Look, “to will is available to me” (Rom 7: 18); therefore, “approve, Lord, the voluntary offering of my mouth” (Ps 119: 108), so that your peace may come on earth to people of good will.

St Augustine ( + 430) is called the Doctor of Grace.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Saint Augustine + 28 August

Not wanting to give short shrift to Saint Augustine on his feast day while lauding his saintly mom, Michael Joseph over at Vox Nova gives us a splendid primer on where to begin reading the great saint's works here.

Even if you don't plan to plunge into The Confessions, this is a post well worth your while.

God as Metaphor vs. God as Fact -- GKC

Lord, Hear My Prayer Photograph by A. Aubrey Bodine

You may talk of God as a mystification or a metaphor; you may boil him down with gallons of long words or boil him down to the rags of metaphysics. It is not merely that nobody punishes you, but nobody protests. But, if you speak of God as something like a tiger, as a reason for changing ones conduct, then the modern world will stop you if it can. We are long past talking about whether an unbeliever should be punished for being irreverent, it is now thought irreverent to be a believer.
-G.K. Chesterton
the false transcendent vs. the Real Transcendent

It may be a bit of an over-simplification to say that there are 2 types of people - those who try to live as if their lives made sense and those, as the mid-20th century Cardinal Archbishop Emmanuel Celestin Suhard of Paris wrote, "TO BE a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist." (Long before Dorothy Day came to know and cherish those words of Suhard's, she exemplified them in her own life.)

When we get stuck in the Enlightenment and post-Christian world of intellectualizing God we strip ourselves of the only source of Real Knowledge. It is this trap that we fall into when we feel drawn to take sides today in most religious discussions when in fact BOTH sides of the argument, all too often, are void of any transcendent or mystery. And when we foster, promote and encourage this sort of waywardness from mystery we are in fact partnering with the forces (another example of MT at work) which deteriorates our ontological density (the Christ-centeredness of the person in each of us).

Monday, August 27, 2007

False Harmony vs. True Harmony

In Girardian lingo this meditation could read: False Transcendence vs. True Transcendence. And the desire that mystic Angela of Foligno talks of can easily be mimetic desire - where the compulsive, pre-occupation of the other stagnates one in negative mimesis relating to the false harmony vs. true harmony which is grounded in positive mimesis of a compulsive, pre-occupation with the True Transcendent Other as it frees one into obedience to the One who stands outside the mimetic whirlwind.

Meditation of the Day

The Desire the Pharisees Lacked

In the felt experience wherein the soul finds the certitude that God is within it, the soul is given the grace of wanting God so perfectly that everything in it is in true and not false harmony. False harmony exists when the soul says that it wants God but does not really mean it, because its desire for God is not true in everything, in every way, or in every respect. Its desire for God is true when all the members of the body are in harmony with the soul, and the soul in turn is in such harmony with the heart and with the entire body that it becomes one with them and responds as one for all of them. Then the soul truly wants God, and this desire is granted to it through grace.

Hence when the soul is told: “What do you want?” it can respond: “I want God.” God then tells it, “I am the one making you feel that desire.” Until it reaches this point, the soul’s desire is not true nor integral. This form of desire is granted to the soul by a grace by which it knows that God is within it, and that is in companionship with God. This gift is to have a desire, now a unified one, in which it feels that it loves God in a way analogous to the true love with which God has loved us. The soul feels God merging with it and becoming its companion.

Blessed Angela of Foligno (1248-1309) was a wife and mother who later became a Franciscan tertiary and an esteemed mystical writer.

tip to the Magnificat and Doctors of the Catholic Church

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Saint Monica + 27 August

Saint Monica, Saint Augustine's mother, prayed for his conversion for many long and fruitless years. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a nice synopsis of the facts of her life.

And, lest any doubt the historicity of the facts of her -- or her son's -- life, Father John Zuhlsdor posted a must-read essay entitled, ”The Bones of Augustine” -- a snippet:
Last year (2006) Augustine began to get out a little more. He dramatically was reunited for a time in Milan with St. Ambrose who helped the young materialist philosopher get a grip on the concept of an immaterial God and soul, had helped to open his heart through the chants he composed for church, and after Augustine’s conversion had baptized him in 386 in the baptistery of the Church of St. Tecla adjacent to what is now the Cathedral of Milan. You can visit the excavated baptistery of St. Tecla now and see the actual baptismal font. This year, however, Augustine was reunited with his mother in Rome . . .

You Can Call Me Al(lah)

From The American Thinker, Soeren Kern offers discernments regarding the origins of the image of deity worshiped by approximately one billion human beings world-wide (the other deity; the other billion) here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Behold Your Mother +

Some moving movie moments from Zefferelli and Gibson: Our Lord and His Mother...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Really Big Void in Space

Kewl. I think.

More Than Mere Decoration - The Hard Command

To followup Athos' post The Hard Command and my post My Initial Take I add this from our friend over at Real Clear Religion, where Genevieve first quotes Ali Larijani and then comments:
'The US cannot by force impose the American way of life on Islamic societies, as democracy on the basis of secularism would not work (in the Islamic world)...Islam is not just a decoration in our lives, contrary to the West where the Vatican is decoration,'
Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, said in a meeting with religious scholars in Tehran.

Unfortunately, Larijani's criticism is not entirely without merit. Due to the mass apostasy from the Christian Faith in the West, the Vatican and more importantly the Church, has become no more than an old discarded decoration and a vestige of the past. Only when our faith becomes more than mere decoration, will our eyes be opened to the devastation that Islam poses to our civilization.

Aramis wonders, how many, oh how many of us, simply wear our Christian faith as decorations keeping it on our shirt sleeves, not ever risking a chance that it would seep into our hardened hearts, turning them into soft and pliable instruments of Christ?

Seems to me that a priority among Christians should be the deepening of our faith and a prime source for this journey would be to become a student of Pope Benedict XVI. Another way is to become involved in the Emmaus Road Initiative with Gil Bailie. Gil so aptly wrote about the project:
Pope Benedict XVI has written of the need "to reinvest with some concrete and particular meaning theological statements about the uniqueness and the absolute value of Christianity." Pope Benedict has also pointed the way to accomplishing this by suggesting that a collaboration between theology and anthropology can lead to "the truly most exciting part of Christian faith." The Emmaus Road Initiative is an effort to rediscover this excitement by drawing on René Girard's extraordinary anthropological insight into Christian uniqueness and on the rich theological tradition to which Girard's work makes an invaluable contribution.
Today we honor St. Bartholomew and in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "we can say that despite the scarcity of information about him, St Bartholomew stands before us to tell us that attachment to Jesus can also be lived and witnessed to without performing sensational deeds. Jesus himself, to whom each one of us is called to dedicate his or her own life and death, is and remains extraordinary."

Don't so much worry about the splinter in the other's eye, but get to the removal of the log from our own eye - the log which weakens our attachment to Christ - so that like Bartholomew we may forever be decreasing so that Christ might increase, in our lives as well as in the lives of others.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Hard Command

In an article from the Washington Post, "Albania Takes Aim at a Deadly Tradition," an amazing truth about human nature itself is touched upon and passed over without realization.

In the realm of the Bible, the Sacred Scripture of the Catholic Church, a "given" is that vengeance is a major source of social catastrophe. As Gil Bailie says, "The first homicide, which is really a fratricide occurs [in my Bible] on page 4, and thereafter the thing is awash in blood. And it reaches its denouement by Christian standards at a ghastly public execution; then it finally culminates in scenes of apocalyptic violence ... What’s strange is that it just now dawned on us that this book is about violence. About violence, religion, and truth."

This story from Albania is about revenge and the thirst for blood too, and that Albania is somehow trying to address this "problem" shows how poorly modern (how Belloc hated that adjective; it only means current, but carries the airs of pomposity and strutting) social science understands the depth of the Christian message. For that, we must turn to a retired philsopher from the University of Chicago, Leszek Kolakowski. In his Modernity on Endless Trial [Univ. of Chicago, 1990], this hardened old humanist and no Christian himself wrote the following about the benefits of this biblical faith for the world:
Our natural forces can find no safe shelter against evil; all we can do is practice the art of balancing opposing dangers. And this is precisely what the Christian tradition affirms in its statement that certain results of original sin are inescapable, and that if salvation is possible, it can only be through grace.

There are reasons why we need Christianity, but not just any kind of Christianity. We do not need a Christianity that makes political revolution, that rushes to cooperate with so-called sexual liberation, that approves our concupiscence or praises our violence. There are enough forces in the world to do all these things without the aid of Christianity. We need a Christianity that will help us to move beyond the immediate pressures of life, that gives us insight into the basic limits of the human condition and the capacity to accept them, a Christianity that teaches the simple truth that there is not only a tomorrow but a day after tomorrow as well … the strength of Christianity does not reveal itself in a theocracy or in a monopoly on the creation of rules for all areas of civilization. Its strength in this interpretation is manifested in its ability to build a barrier against hatred in the consciousness of individuals …

The requirement of the renunciation of hatred was a challenge thrown down by Christianity to human nature, and it has remained so. If Christians are to be found only among those who know how to meet this challenge, who are disciples of Jesus in the sense that they do not escape from the struggle, but are free from hatred – how many have there been, and how many are there now in the world? I do not know. I do not know whether there were more in the middle ages than there are now. However many there are, they are the salt of the earth, and European civilization would be a desert without them. [84-85, 92 - My emphases]

What Kolakowski discerns as "renunciation of hatred" is the injunction of Our Lord to forgive and even pray for our enemies. It is a short circuit not only in the escalation of violence written of between two Albanian families, but that of all human beings who fall for the satanic injunction of vengeance as their "sacred duty."

Christianity has only recently begun the hard work of not scapegoating as Jesus taught us. Some have fallen into a kind of nihilistic paralysis in the wake of not scapegoating as the principle of culture-creating and culture-sustaining, but this is simply the failure of accepting the grace necessary to live the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount.

Other religions are just that -- religions -- that, by anthropological definition are built on sacred violence and hatred. Christians have the hard job ahead of living up to Our Lord's command: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father..." [Matt 5,44-45a]

And, echoing Kolakowski in a paraphrase, How many Christians are there who do not escape the struggle and are free from hatred in the world? I do not know. I do not know whether there were more in the middle ages than there are now. However many there are, they are the salt of the earth, and civilization would be a desert without them.

My Initial Take - We Have Made a Pack With the Devil

Guys, please don't leave me dangling out here, Porthos' post, which included 3 good articles, is too rich to leave behind without more comments. There is much good in them-ther articles, yet I am inclined to say that Lilla's essay bothered me the most as it offered much, but squandered everything by staying affixed to an un-grace-filled, dead language of modern secularism, Western culture refusing to look in the only place where meaning can be found.

Here is the article by Mark Lilla who is a professor of the humanities at Columbia University. This essay is adapted from his book “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West,” which will be published next month.

The following is the last paragraph of the essay:

Our challenge is different. We have made a choice that is at once simpler and harder: we have chosen to limit our politics to protecting individuals from the worst harms they can inflict on one another, to securing fundamental liberties and providing for their basic welfare, while leaving their spiritual destinies in their own hands. We have wagered that it is wiser to beware the forces unleashed by the Bible’s messianic promise than to try exploiting them for the public good. We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation. All we have is our own lucidity, which we must train on a world where faith still inflames the minds of men.
THE END! That's it? He leaves us to our own lucidity? I think the time has past for that kind of hands-off reporting.

I (Aramis here) can't help but think that as the Gospel, over time, prunes and purifies our 'political theology' centered on God, that granted we will experience sporadic human convulsions, which we will have to repent for, however to try to trivialize and minimize the Gospel in our lives, as we have tried to do with a political philosophy centered on man, leads to the Great Separation and in fact an expulsion of the Gospel. This compartmentalizing of man and God will only produce a more dramatic and violent return to paganism and the primitive sacred.

It seems to me that Lilla has attempted to clarify and in some ways justify the breach that our modern Western social sciences hides and that is our mimetic desire and our only salvation which comes from the True Transcendent Being. Lilla, like most intellectuals represent, quoting Rene Girard,
“A panic-stricken refusal to glance, even furtively, in the only direction where meaning could still be found dominates our intellectual life.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

John and Thomas Shirt the Issue

For your favorite Calvin & Hobbs fan. (And don't miss the 'Disappearing Descartes Coffee Mug' for the most discriminating caffeine addict.)

Mary Softens Our Heart

Another Coronation Picture

This one by Velazquez is my favorite. (And to repeat Aramis, happy birthday, Gil!)

God and Anarchy?

Does anarchy get too bad a rap? Wretchard at the Belmont Club undertakes a somewhat thick synthesis and reflection on what look like two interesting articles.

The two articles under consideration are excellent and deserve examination in their own right:
The Politics of God, by Mark Lillain the NYT (long!)
Anarchy Unbound, by Peter Leeson at Cato Unbound

Wishing Happy Birthday to Gil Bailie on this Great Feast of the Queenship of Mary

The feast of the Queenship of Mary was established in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. The original date for this feast was chosen as May 31st, but was later moved to the octave day of the feast of the Assumption, August 22nd. This memorial celebrates the same event that is highlighted by the fifth glorious mystery or the Rosary.

Throughout the New Testament, Mary's role in heaven is mentioned. Mary is alluded to as Queen in the book of Revelations, and throughout the Bible. It is because of Jesus close relationship with his mother that she shares in his kingship.

The Church and the faithful for have also referred to Mary as queen since the fourth century. Various songs, litanies, and prayers refer to Mary as queen. (e.g. Regina Caeli during Eastertide.) The Church has affirmed the title of Mary in modern times through documents including Lumen Gentium (..."and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son" Lumen Gentium 59) and the papal encyclical Ad Coeli Reginam.

The title Queen is used to indicate the final state of the Virgin, seated beside her Son, the King of glory.

Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia

The Son whom you merited to bear alleluia

Has risen as he said alleluia

Pray for us to God alleluia

Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!

For the Lord has truly risen alleluia

Dude!!! The Dalai Lama Said THAT?!?

Erstwhile music critic, author of Thrill of the Chaste, and newly appointed director of the Cardinal Newman Society's Love and Responsibility Program, Dawn Eden, brings us a cool clip of an irreverent Aussie quizzing people on who said what about sex, the Holy Father or the Dalai Lama.

I'm sending new readers to Dawn's blog instead of embedding the YouTube here just in case you haven't yet visited her before (not likely!).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


This is a video with excerpts about the economical theory of Distributism. This thought was based on the encyclical Rerum Novarum of Pope Leo XIII, initiated by English thinkers and propelled universally by writers G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

For more information:

The ChesterBelloc Mandate

The Distributist Review

The Distributist League

I seek to understand distributism - it does not come easy to me. Can one really grasp it if one is deep within the bowels of Capitalism?

Women, Islam, and Things to Come

From an Islamic writer, with two fatwas on her person, Wafa Sultan, a warning. Dr. Sultan gained wide notoriety for her now-famous interview on interview on Al-Jazeera TV .

Meanwhile, a Muslim colleague of a writer at Brussels Journal expresses his opinion of having a woman boss in "Scenes from Eurabia: Women Should Know Their Place" here.

The Best Bands That Never Existed

Very entertaining.
The Rutles YouTube links would be worth the price of admission, if there were a price of admission. I'm very partial to The Commitments, who should probably be Number 1 on the list.

H/T Instapundit.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Father Fessio on Moto Proprio

What is it good for?

Bruce Bawer writes at length on "Peace" agitation/education in City Journal. H/T Instadpundit.

Pullman's Atheist Story for Kiddies

Coming to a Theater Near You ...
Tom Peters, at American Papist, gives the low-down on the atheist children’s story, The Golden Compass.

Co-star and big name, Nicole Kidman, denies that it denigrates the Catholic Church in any way: "I was raised Catholic, the Catholic Church is part of my essence," Kidman said.

"I wouldn't be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic."

Yet Christopher Blosser wrote on all of Philip Pullman's trilogy, "His Dark Materials," giving a broad array of reviews (Amy Welborn, et al) warning of this author's influence as early as 2004. An important review.

What the Young Man Refused

The following reflection on today's Gospel reading; Matthew 19:16-22 is from Doctors of the Catholic Church including the Meditation of the Day from the Magnificat by St Bernard of Clairvaux. See this site to research St Bernard further.

In the gospel today, a young man pressed Jesus on how to live a more holy life and after first telling him about the commandments he said:

“If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

The young man, like many who are first attracted to Jesus, get excited about the Lord, but when they are told, or experience, what following Jesus really means, they realize that it isn’t easy, and they easily become turned off, get discouraged or lose their first fervor toward the Lord unless they have a sound foundation in discipline, prayer life, and great determination to follow the Lord. Any serious follower of Jesus Christ realizes that Jesus led a totally dedicated life that required great sacrifices for others because he was so good and would do anything to help them and that meant going out of the way to be patient with them, overlook their shortcomings, and above all, encourage them to pray and becoming generous in the service of God as Jesus did.

Any dedicated living for others or a specific calling, whether it is in the married state, religious or clergy environment or living a single state in a specific profession or business, requires a firm determination to follow a plan with certain goals and principles and a resolution to grow, learn and be the very best one can be in that way of life. All callings in life begin with some attraction or leaning toward a specific person or way of life and as one attempts to build on that attraction and understanding it more in depth, they will discover new dimensions and find how to develop and grow toward achieving this interest. According to the maturity and goodwill of the individual, and their educational growth and guidance, most of us find our ultimate calling and respond to that initial attraction that God has allow that person to possess.

In the gospel today, this doesn’t happen even though the attraction toward Jesus was real, the challenge not to follow Jesus, was also real, and for that reason, mainly his possessions, the young man went away sad, so we are told in the gospel. For whatever reasons, his possessions were stronger than his attraction toward Jesus and that caused him to be sad when at first, he was most serious and interested in Jesus and his way of life. We don’t know exactly what happened but St Bernard, in his meditation for today, sheds some insight on what took place in this young man’s heart, mind and soul so that we can learn and avoid. For no ones wants to be discouraged to follow Jesus for he is so good and worthy of our attention, and he first calls us to be happy and to strive for happiness, whatever it is.

Meditation of the Day

What the Young Man Refused

How precious is the wisdom by which we know God and despise the world! The one who has found it is indeed blessed, if he holds fast to it. What will he give to possess it? Give obedience as its price, and you will receive wisdom in return. If you want to be wise, be obedient. Obedience has no will of its own: it is at the service of another’s will, subject to another’s command.

Embrace it, then, with all the yearning of your heart, with all the effort of your body. Embrace, I repeat, the blessing of obedience, drawing near by obedience to the light of wisdom. Draw near that is, by means of obedience, for there is no approach more direct or secure, and be enlightened by wisdom.

The person who does not know God does not know where he is going, but walks in darkness and dashes his foot against a stone. Wisdom is light, the true light that shines on every person coming against this world, not the one who is wise with the wisdom of this world, but the one who is not of the world though in the world. This is the new self of one who has turned away from the sinful and slothful ways of his former self, and strives to walk in newness of life, knowing that damnation is not for those who walk in the way of the Spirit, but in the way of sinful nature.

As long as you follow your own will, you cannot escape turmoil within you, even though at times you seem to escape turmoil outside you. This turmoil of self-will cannot end until the desires of your sinful nature are changed, and God becomes for you a source of delight. Sinners enlightened by wisdom are said to be freed from turmoil because, once they taste the goodness of the Lord, they are freed from their sin: from that time they worship the creator, or the creature, and when they leave self-will behind they are feed from their feverish turmoil.

While at last they get rid of the turmoil of desires and the discord of thoughts, they experience peace in their inmost heart, and God takes up his dwelling within them: his dwelling-place is in peace.Where God is, there is joy; where God is, there is calm; where God is, there is happiness.

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (+ 1153) is considered the last of the Fathers of the Church and is a Doctor of the Church.

Everything starts with obedience and giving up one’s own will or possession. Somehow we don’t realize that Christ himself leaned obedience. It wasn’t automatic. He was like us naturally and grew in wisdom and knowledge as he aged. We learn from Scripture that at the age of twelve, it is said that Jesus was obedient to Mary and Joseph. That he was subject to them and progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.

St Bernard tell us that we can lose wisdom and for that reason we must hold it fast to be blessed. If one is truly to become wise, we must obey. Exactly as Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph in returning to Nazareth after he was lost in the Temple, we too must embrace obedience and Bernard encourages us to embrace it with our whole heart as Jesus did so that we will gain wisdom and allow us to accept another’s will rather than our own will. Saint Bernard explains that as long as we follow our own will we will not escape turmoil within us.

All religious life for the most part demands a vow of obedience. In fact, those about to get married pledge to each other their fidelity and faithfulness. They are for all practical purpose pledging and vowing obedience to their marriage and exchange of rings. Many single persons live dedicated lives of professions and commitments too in a chosen way of life that demands for them to be wise, obedient to certain laws and faithfulness to their conscience.

Once we get rid of the inner turmoil within us it will probably be because of our obedience to law, order and our principles in acting good towards others and less selfishness and with more generosity. To do good for us will make us happy, joyful and wise and the more we are focus only our self, we will become more narrow minded and mean spirited and experience plenty of inward turmoil in our heart and mind.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Well, at least there's no patriarchy here, either . . .

Why gangs give boys what they need. (via Instapundit)

There Must Be Witnesses

Seems appropriate to, every once in a while, post quotes from books that we list down our sidebar. So I today selected a section from Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.

Jean-Michel Oughourlian: Within the human community, which is the prisoner of unanimous violence and of mythical meanings, there is no opportunity for this truth to be entertained, let alone to carry the day.

Excerpt from René Girard's Things Hidden since the Foundation of the World. Research undertaken in collaboration with Jean-Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1987, pages 215-223.

Rene Girard: This differentiation between the two forms of transcendence appears negligible and absurd from the point of view of the violent mentality that possesses us -- a mentality concerned with detecting the structural similarities between the gospel enactment and the basic workings of all other religions: workings that we have ourselves been concerned to expose. These analogies are real ones, just as are analogies between the evil reciprocity of violence and the benevolent reciprocity of love. Since both surpass all cultural differences, the two structures, paradoxically, amount to very much the same thing, which is why it is possible to pass from one to the other by means of an almost instantaneous conversion. But at the same time, there is also a radical, an abysmal opposition between them, something that no form of structural analysis can detect: we see in a mirror, darkly, in aenigmate.

J.-M. O.: Precisely because the revelation of violence has always been greeted with incomprehension, it becomes easier to understand why the Christian text puts before us someone who triumphs over violence by not resisting it, and as the direct emissary of the God of nonviolence, shows his message emanating directly from him.

Within the human community, which is the prisoner of unanimous violence and of mythical meanings, there is no opportunity for this truth to be entertained, let alone to carry the day.

People are most open to the truth at the stage when false differences melt away, but this is also the point when they are most in the dark, since it is the point at which violence becomes even more intense. Whenever violence starts to reveal itself as the basis of the community, it is accompanied by the manifestations one might expect at an acutely violent crisis, when mankind lacks the least vestige of lucidity. It almost seems as if violence is always able to conceal the truth about itself, whether by causing the mechanism of transference to operate and re-establish the regime of the sacred, or by pushing destruction as far as it will go.

Either you are violently opposed to violence and inevitably play its game, or you are not opposed to it, and it shuts your mouth immediately. In other words, the regime of violence cannot possibly be brought out into the open. Since the truth about violence will not abide in the community, but must inevitably be driven out, its only chance of being heard is when it is in the process of being driven out, in the brief moment that precedes its destruction as the victim. The victim therefore has to reach out at the very moment when his mouth is being shut by violence. He has to say enough for the violence to be incited against him. But this must not take place in the dark, hallucinatory atmosphere that characterizes other religions and produces the intellectual confusion that helps conceal their founding mechanism. There must be witnesses who are clear-sighted enough to recount the event as it really happened, altering its significance as little as possible.

For this to happen, the witnesses must already have been influenced by this extraordinary person. They themselves will not escape the hold of the collective violence; but it will be temporary. Afterwards, they will recover and write down in a form that is not transfigured the event that is primarily a transfiguration.

This unprecedented task of revealing the truth about violence requires a man who is not obliged to violence for anything and does not think in terms of violence -- someone who is capable of talking back to violence while remaining entirely untouched by it.

It is impossible for such a human being to arise in a world completely ruled by violence and the myths based on violence. In order to understand that you cannot see and make visible the truth except by taking the place of the victim, you must already be occupying that place; yet to take that place, you must already be occupying that place; yet to take that place, you must already be in possession of the truth. You cannot become aware of the truth unless you act in opposition to the laws of violence, and you cannot act in opposition to these laws unless you already grasp the truth. All mankind is caught within this vicious circle. For this reason the Gospels and the whole New Testament, together with the theologians of the first councils, proclaim that Christ is God not because he was crucified, but because he is God born of God from all eternity.

Priest Protectors by Hunt, PRB

A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Priest from Persecution by the Druids (1850) -- William Holman Hunt
William Holman Hunt, co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, could choose some strange and rather obscure themes for his paintings. As I've noted before, the very name of this group of 19th century British artists connotes a loyalty that their contemporaries might have qualms about had they connected the dots, so to speak.

Today even more than in their day, Catholics find themselves in a multicultural milieu (read: an ascending neo-pagan recrudescence) in which the notion of protecting our priests is counter-cultural and politically incorrect in the extreme. I'm not speaking of the so-called priests who bless the moral-free, value-ambiguous, spirit of the age denizens and their right to choose any and every lifestyle they may please. No! I am speaking about protecting our Catholic priests who bring us God's grace through the Sacraments, who are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, who safeguard the epistemology, ontology, and anthropology of the deposit of faith.

It is a day to protect our priests. William Holman Hunt foresaw the day when it would need doing yet again.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Dawkins' Delusion

A physicist offers a rebuttal to the self-proclaimed "world's most prominent atheist," Richard Dawkins (mimetic theory would have something to say about ontological substantiation here - but that's another story). Edward Remler asks, "is 'the world's most prominent atheist' correct to assert that the existence of God is irrational? Only if he believes that the Fundamental Question of Philosophy is itself irrational, is our answer. The meaning of 'irrational' is flexible enough to allow a belief in the irrationality of the FQP; but this does not permit the 'irrationality of the existence of God' to be asserted as an authoritative truth. It is more aptly characterized as a religious faith of atheism ... The upshot of this is that it is simply foolish to assert that science and rationality support atheism."

Read the article here.

Double Standards @ BBC

The Koran’s take on Jesus, compliments of the BBC. Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican canon and spokesman for the Barnabas Fund, which works with persecuted Christians, accused broadcasters of double standards. Mr Sookhdeo, who was born a Muslim and converted to Christianity in 1969, said: "How would the Muslim community respond if ITV made a programme challenging Muhammad as the last prophet?"

Mental Experiment: Imagine a media representative in 1935 whose ideology is multiculturalism circa 2007. He or she wants to present democratic, monarchical, fascist, and National Socialist ideals on a radio show. Is this a realistic project? Why? Why not? Defend your position.

Playing Dead

Theodore Dalrymple writes a succinct article in City Journal, ”How Societies Commit Suicide.”

Friday, August 17, 2007

Botticelli - PRB Precursor

Madonna of the Magnificat (c.1485; Florence) -- Sandro Botticelli

Original name ALESSANDRO DI MARIANO FILIPEPI (b. 1445, Florence [Italy]--d. May 17, 1510, Florence), Florentine early Renaissance painter whose Birth of Venus (c. 1485) and Primavera (1477-78) are often said to epitomize for modern viewers the spirit of the Renaissance. His ecclesiastical commissions included work for all the major churches of Florence and for the Sistine Chapel in Rome. His name is derived from his elder brother Giovanni, a pawnbroker, who was called Il Botticello ("The Little Barrel").

Although he was one of the most individual painters of the Italian Renaissance, Sandro Botticelli remained little known for centuries after his death. Then his work was rediscovered late in the 19th century by a group of artists in England known as the Pre-Raphaelites.

Born Alessandro di Mariano Filipepi in Florence in 1445, Botticelli was apprenticed to a goldsmith. Later he was a pupil of the painter Fra Filippo Lippi. He spent all his life in Florence except for a visit to Rome in 1481-82. There he painted wall frescoes in the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican.

In Florence, Botticelli was a protege of several members of the powerful Medici family. He painted portraits of the family and many religious pictures, including the famous The Adoration of the Magi. The most original of his paintings are those illustrating Greek and Roman legends. The best known are the two large panels Primavera and The Birth of Venus. -- WebMuseum, Paris

Gazing Upon the Face

tip to the Magnificat and The Doctors of the Catholic Church

The following is the Medittaion of the Day out of the Magnificat and I found it working very well into the mimetic theory of Rene Girard.

The Spouse as Friend

Above all, hope is manifested in a faith-filled gaze upon our neighbors. The Church places the experience of being a pilgrim in this pedagogical framework and teaches us to see all of life as walking “step by step” behind the One who leads us.

The path is grueling, but the goal draws us in and the companionship of other people simplifies what would be much more tiresome were we to go it alone. This is the fundamental step along the road that every day, every hour, and every moment mobilizes all people and all things: recognizing the grace of God in the people he places closest to us. Gazing upon the face of the friend who is further along the journey persuades us that the journey is possible, even for us, and this makes us hasten all the more.

Our vision becomes purer and our capacity to see further down the road increases. It is only then that we are able to see more clearly and our desire grows in such a way that what at first seem quite exhausting is transformed into a joyful and agile pursuit nourished by the foretaste of what we experienced when we first set out at the beginning of the journey.

Monsignor Massimo Camisasca is an Italian priest who is a consultor to the Vatican Congregation for Clergy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Deeper Digging

Recently, in a brief and passing discussion, Aramis and I spoke of (1) the impact of the oeuvre of René Girard in the field of cultural anthropology, “mimetic theory,” (2) how it rests upon the revelation of Sacred Scripture and Tradition (the deposit of faith) and (3) how indebted we two are, personally, for the way that Gil Bailie, author and lecturer, explicated the great man’s work for us both over the past the last eleven or twelve years. (The rest of the sentences will be shorter, I promise.)

To take just one example of the way mimetic theory can help bring clarity and understanding, look briefly at the upsurge of terrorism in general and Islamist terrorism in particular. It has been explored economically (Saudi petro dollars at work), politically (EU-rabia), educationally (technically, evolution-emphasis, etc.), morally (It ISN’T a religion of peace! Is TOO!), and sociologically (gang theory, etc.) by nearly all the academic social scientists and internet pundits able to point and click.

But mimetic theory -- at least the way that Gil Bailie helped us see -- doesn’t stop at the themes promulgated by Islam. Mimetic theory says, “Look at the structure, not the themes talked about! Structure of violent action is comparable. Themes are blind alleys and misleading rabbit chases.”

It is here that Girard’s mimetic theory can begin to apply the way in which the Gospel unveils the inner workings of the mechanism(s) of violence, universally. And so, Bailie could say in my hearing as early as September 1997 at the Servant Leadership School, Washington, DC, that like earthquake research, mimetic theory as revealed in the “anthropology of the cross” doesn’t look at “broken fence posts and sidewalks.” It goes much deeper, to the “tectonic plate level.”

To stop at the merely economic, sociological, or other conventional social science level is a recipe for failure to understand jihadists (or irhabis – ‘false warriors’). To point fingers at Saudi petro-dollars providing “education” in progressive schools will be inadequate. Even to state the obvious – our radical dependence on oil provides terrorists with capital – is not enough.

But mimetic theory can’t be summed up in soundbytes catch phrases. The great man wrote (and James Williams translated a portion) still, to me, the finest analysis on irhabist terrorism and their “unholy war” (hirabah) in the Le Monde interview, "What Is Occurring Today Is a Mimetic Rivalry on a Planetary Scale." It’s a starting place.

Post 500 - Tribute to Martyrs

It is good to recall that 'martyr' in ancient Greek means 'witness'. In this clip from Catholic Tube – Broadcasting Christ & His Church to the World, we see a tribute to these 'witnesses' of the Church in Jesus our Lord.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

"It was necessary that she who had preserved her virginity inviolate in childbirth should also have her body kept free from all corruption after death. It was necessary that she who had carried the Creator as a child on her breast should dwell in the tabernacles of God. It was necessary that the bride espoused by the Father should make her home in the bridal chambers of heaven. It was necessary that she, who had gazed on her crucified Son and been pierced in the heart by the sword of sorrow which she had escaped in giving him birth, should contemplate him seated with the Father. It was necessary that the Mother of God should share the possessions of her Son, and be venerated by every creature as the Mother and handmaid of God."
-- Saint John Damascene

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who Defines the Discourse?

Who Defines the Discourse? We don't realize how this question is such a powerful Girardian reflection. The 'who' is either the True Transcendent One or the 'who' is entangled in the mimetic desire of fallen humanity.

You begin the day with prayer - we begin with Mass, with Holy Communion. Only after we have received Him as Bread of Life ... He gives us the strength, and the courage and the joy and the love to touch him and to love him and to serve him... without Him we could not do it, but with Him we can do all things. - Mother Teresa

René Girard Quotes

Athos asked for one and I go over-board...

“What is frightening is the conjunction of massive technical power and the spiritual surrender to nihilism. A panic-stricken refusal to glance, even furtively, in the only direction where meaning could still be found dominates our intellectual life.” – René Girard

" . . the Gospels set in motion the only textual mechanism that can put an end to humanity’s imprisonment in the system of mythological representation . . ." - René Girard

"We cannot escape the issue of a relationship with the real course of history. Indeed, we shall see that only by confronting the real course of history -- which the gospel text claims to determine -- can the astonishing coherence of the gospel logic be fully revealed in our time." - René Girard

"If the Judeo-Christian ferment is not dead, it must be engaged in an obscure struggle against deeper and deeper layers of the essential complicity between violence and human culture." - René Girard

"The Bible has given us the privileged tool of demystification, but we either do not know how to use it, or do not want to use it. Perhaps we are secretly afraid it will wreak too much havoc." - René Girard

She's Got a Way +

Define Your Terms

Robert Spencer confirms my contention that the present struggle with terrorism is not only dealing with its attacking far-flung elements of Western Civilization 'round the clock and seeking a "death by a thousand cuts", but also to determine who defines the terms of discourse. Spencer, author of Religion of Peace: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't, says, "We should challenge the jihadist idea that Sharia equals justice. And we should call it tyranny. But that is not the same thing as formulating some genuine way to counter jihadist claims to represent true Islam. Inventing our own benign little Islam and hoping that Muslims will buy it won't do that."

An important article.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Mr. Wizard (It's a Slow Posting Day)

Yeah, well, Bill Nye the Science Guy is just fine, but Mr. Wizard was our cool science dude. Just watch ...

This is a Cross, This is a Crescent ...

Doug Giles weighs in on benighted secularists who can't tell Christianity and Islam apart.

And this shows that what is happening in the West, at present, is a struggle to determine who defines the terms of discourse. I.e., "peace" equals _______ ? Sez who for you? What, or, for Christians, Who is the epistemological foundation for knowing anything for certain?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

That Man Is Me?

Via Father Stephanos over at Me Monk. Me Meander, a recommended article for men of faith, The New Catholic Manliness.

In it, Todd Aglialoro mentions something he finds commendable from a family ministry based in Houston, Paradisus Dei, entitled, ”That Man Is You.” A rigorous three-year process, "That Man Is You" is not a "pastoral" program for those who want their hands held. Rather,
“Men respond to a challenge,” founder Steve Bollman says. “To offer them a ‘soft’ program doesn’t take into account how men work.”

So Bollman set out to provide that challenge—with early morning prayer groups; with demanding “covenants” that call men to be self-sacrificing leaders in their families; and with an intellectually rigorous 68-week program, spread over three years, that unites science, Scripture, theology, and spirituality in a “thinking-man’s quest” for the full truth of what it means to be a man—and a man of God. To date, more than 5,000 men in Texas, Canada, and satellite programs nationwide have participated.
Hmmm. Sounds like something the Three Mass'keteers might endorse and enjoy. Note well: Take time to read "The New Catholic Manliness" mentioned above. It includes such sub headings as "Toward a Crunchier Catechesis," that describes many new seminarians not engaging in psychobabble, felt banners, and "Jesus our friend."

Well, at least there's no patriarchy here . . .

Aaron Hanscom writes about schoolkids in intact and non-intact families at Pajamas Media. First part of two.

Save the View!

Making the rounds (but via Instapundit and Anchoress).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Compulsive Fascination, +/-

While the New York Times surveys the ratcheting up of movie violence beginning with "Bonnie and Clyde," the Washington Post relates an escalating spiral of horrific breaking-and-entering violence in the suburbs. Hmmm. Gosh. No connection there. Hollywood, by all means, keep making bondage, torture, rape, and murder films ...

Mimetic theory pulls the veil off the reality about human "mimesis"; namely, our nearly ubiquitously unconscious compulsion to catch "desire" from one another. Paraphrasing pal and mentor Gil Bailie, highlight and delete anything in your memory banks about Freud and the word desire here. From the viewpoint of biblical anthropology, "desire" is a highly specified commodity that we "catch" from one another. (Ever wonder why the Sunday paper has all those sales flyers that fall out all over the place? Here's why: we don't wake up thinking, "Gee, I really want a new plasma, flat-screen TV." Our appetite must be whetted.) Madison Avenue knows this about us. We should know it too.

But "desire" isn't just about the "wanna-buy-it" syndrome. A French Girardian, Jean Pierre Dupuy, defined desire as “a secret fascination for the apparent autonomy of the other which cannot rest until it has demystified it.” Sounds a bit dense, doesn't it? But if you have ever been the object of this "intense fascination for the other, either positive or negative" (Bailie), you know how unpleasant it is. Such "desire" can flip-flop in the blink of an eye. (Think "Hosanna!" shouted on Palm Sunday and "Crucify him!" by the same crowd later the same week.) This intense fascination is at the heart of Girard's "model/rival" problem of the doubles.

What if a poor, benighted soul thinks that if he (or she) can just steal your possessions, indeed, dispose of you in the process, then he (or she) will have the happiness, the satisfaction, the ontological substantiation that he (or she) has always wanted? It gets that nutty.

And what if the movies show you how to do it? "It's only entertainment." Yeah, right.

And what if this compulsive desire affects not only individuals, but whole peoples, ethnic groups, religions, on a global scale as well? Welcome to our world, fallen and in need of a Savior.

St Clare - Sun & Moon Over Assisi excerpt

St Clare feast day - August 11
from my good friend Gerry Straub,

A Good Catholic Girl

Clare was a good Catholic girl before she met Francis. She went to church, did good works and avoided evil. Yet, when she encountered Francis, she was introduced to something radically different from just being good. She suddenly realized that God wasn’t interested in our “just being good.” God desired far more than that…God wanted us to be so united with him that we become reflections of the divine.

Francis inspired Clare to dedicate herself to live in full accordance to the highest demands of the gospel. She put the whole gospel into her whole life. She lived for nothing but God. Her mind and heart were constantly centered in God. She entered fully into the most rigorous demands of poverty. She gave herself in charity to all. Prayer became her very breath. She lived love, and radiated with sanctity. Clare’s undying fidelity to the Lord and her vocation inspired everyone who knew her. Pope Alexander IV called Clare a “lofty candlestick of holiness.”

The light from the candlestick shimmers with one unequivocal message: God wants our all. God wants our trust, our humility, our openness, our hearts…God wants our entire beings, so his perfect love can be born again into the world.

How do I respond to that message? I must begin by renewing my commitment to God every day. I must try every day to deepen my relationship with God.

Clare calls me to ascend the ladder of contemplation.

…we must remember that young girls living in 13th-century Assisi did not have the right to determine their own future...Clare’s future was not her own. During the Middle Ages, noble women were expected to marry well and increase the family wealth. By the time she reached 18, Clare was already well past the marriageable age, and her parents were lining up suitors for her, and firmly pressing her to accept one of the many advantageous offers of marriage available to her. (Note: her parents wanted her to marry shortly after her 12th birthday, but Clare managed to get them to delay their plans.) But Clare had a much different marriage in mind - she wanted Francis to take her hand and give it to Christ. Her choice not to marry caused great turmoil and anguish in the household, and greatly disrupted the peace within the Offreduccio palazzo. It took great courage and determination for Clare to follow through on her dream to have no other spouse but Christ. First, she had to renounce her privileged position in the nobility, and, second, she had to refuse to follow the conventional monastic tradition (that was one of the few options open to women) because it too seemed to represent wealth and security.

During the Lenten season of 1212, Francis preached a series of sermons in San Giorgio and the Cathedral of San Rufino. Clare attended a number of these. Considering her love of beautiful sermons, Clare must have been thoroughly captivated by the fiery improvisations of this preacher-poet who was once known as “the king of the youth” and who was now inebriated with God’s love. She, too, felt she had to make a decision, a decision to follow Francis’ example and walk in the footsteps of Christ.

But it is important to remember it wasn’t Francis’ words that motivated Clare; what moved Clare was what she heard in her heart. Listen once again to Ingrid J. Peterson, O.S.F.:

“When Clare was influenced by Francis’ preaching, it wasn’t because his personal life was a model for her. It was not because she finally found her knight in shining armor, the man of her dreams; it was because Clare had a hunch that what Francis said about the Gospel and the poorness of Jesus is what she could put into action in her own soul. What Francis said touched Clare’s heart. In the thirteenth century, for a woman of the aristocracy to choose to live without property as a means of support was a risk, even of life itself.”

As a young girl, Clare saw the deep divisions within the community of Assisi; she was troubled by the conflict between the merchants with newly-acquired wealth and the old aristocracy, and by the ever widening chasm between the rich and the poor. Many members of the Church hierarchy, driven by a hunger for power and money, behaved so scandalously, they sparked the birth of numerous religious movements consisting of lay people who wanted to live a more Gospel-centered life that was animated by penance and a radical following of Christ and the Apostles. Clare’s sensitive soul responded to the extremes of greed and misery she witnessed by dedicating herself completely to the service of Christ’s poor. And so, the soil of Clare’s soul had been well-tilled and was ready to receive the message sown by Francis. Clare had already made a private vow of virginity and service to the poor. She was living as a penitent and was planning to give away her inheritance to the poor. The words she heard in San Rufino issuing forth from the mouth of Francis just hastened her along on her spiritual journey.

The Sun and Moon Over Assisi, pages 349, 354 – 355, Gerard Straub

Aramis here - I highly recommend this book. Gerry surrounds his own spiritual journey with great insights of the life of Francis and Clare as well as the history of Assisi and the painter Giotto.