Sunday, February 28, 2010

At the Heart of the Transfiguration - Father SimonTugwell, OP

“It is a measure of how far we are from purity of heart and from our natural condition that it should seem almost unnatural to us to be concerned with God. It is all too understandable that the old definition of prayer as the "rising of the mind to God" should have come to be mistranslated as the "raising of the mind to God," and that the old liturgical exclamation, "Up hearts!" should have become "Lift up your hearts." It barely even occurs to us that that upward movement is natural to hearts. If we had real hearts, hearts purified of all that is not heart, they would gravitate towards God as naturally as ham to eggs.

It is a measure of our humanity that we should come to be fascinated by God, and then all our life will fall into place, all our faculties will function in the way God intended them to function, we can then also put up with an awful lot of tiresome things in life, because they pale into insignificance beside the wonder of God. In that light, even pain and failure and betrayal cease to matter too much. Even they can be seen to shine, when they are seen in God, because even they have been accepted by God as the price for union with our world.

Our human nature is indeed, as Saint Thomas, following Saint Augustine, dared to assert, capax Dei, it has room for God. But it has room for God because it has an innate capacity, even a need, to transcend itself. It is the mystery in us, the unfathomable profundity which makes us ungraspable even to ourselves, which is capable of enfolding the mystery of God.

We may try to deny that we have this drive within us to transcend ourselves, but if we do we shall consign ourselves only to dullness and death. But if we allow it to affect us, we shall be laying ourselves open to the most dangerous and devastating force in existence. The urge that drives us to seek God is the same as the urge that drives us to smash things. The old psychologists were absolutely correct in the ambiguous role they ascribed to our power of anger. It is the power that smashes through limitations, leading us either to become visionaries or to become vandals.”

– FATHER SIMON TUGWELL, O.P., Father Simon Tugwell is a Dominican priest, the author of several books on theology and spirituality, and a member of the Dominican Historical Institute.
— Magnificat, Vol 11, No. 13, February 2010, Pp. 389-390.

Alter Christi

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday during Lent means Stations of the Cross

We will be heading off to the Stations of the Cross in a little bit.  If you are not familiar with this devotion LINK HERE for a brief summary.

... also called the Way of the Cross or the Via Dolorosa (Latin for "Way of Sorrow"), are the prevailing popular devotion during Lent but many Catholics made the Stations of the Cross on Fridays throughout the year and some even daily. (Pope John Paul II had the pious practice of making the Stations of the Cross daily and installed a set of stations in the apostolic apartments.) In using the word "stations" we understanding it to come from the Latin "station," meaning "standing still." The Stations are designed to have 14 stops (and some more recent publications include a 15th station) that portray events of the Passion and death of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They begin with Jesus' condemnation to death, and concluding with His being laid in the tomb.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DeMarco - Can Beauty

Donald DeMarco asks, Can Beauty Save the World?

St. Thomas Aquinas did not bequeath to the world extensive treatises on the topic of beauty.
However, he did provide posterity with a simple definition of beauty consisting of four words that, according to the great Thomistic scholar Jacques Maritain, "says all that is necessary." For Aquinas, beauty is id quod visum placet, "that which pleases upon being seen."

In order to be faithful to the meaning of Aquinas' words, we must understand the specific meanings of the words visumand placet. The former connotes more than meets the eye. Its meaning is closer to our understanding of the word "vision" (as opposed to "eyesight") and refers to an intuitive knowledge that includes the senses. The two senses that are involved in the apprehension of beauty are what St. Thomas calls "the senses of knowledge," that is, sight and hearing.

The word placet means more than a mere sensual pleasure. It is better rendered as "a delight for the soul." This delight is conferred when a person beholds a beautiful object by means of an intuitive knowledge that incorporates either sight or hearing..More>>

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Genesis of Desire by Jean-Michel Oughourlian & Battling to the End by René Girard

Have you checked out ...?

Interesting review HERE

Lenten Veil of Baldramsdorf

And back to the sublime after the ridiculous: Daniel Mitsui posts on the Lenten Veil of Baldramsdorf.

Get thee hence, and do thyself a favor: scroll down and look at each event depicting heilsgeschichte.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Here is a photo of fable and legend. One sees the Livestrong bracelet, the smiling, bearded face. But the stuff of legend is on the Yahtzee score-keeping card, the craggy pinnacle of Yahtzee-dom, a score of 616.

Long Lady Athos held the top two scores - the Gold and Silver on the Olympic podium - scores in the low to mid-500's, while I, the dutiful husband was content with a third-place Bronze at 500 even.

Weeks past and turned into months. After dinner games melded one into another. Long did Athos maintain that attentive savoir faire, gamesmanship, and ... je ne sais quoi (think Bill Murray half-way through his purgatorial ordeal in Punxsutawney).

Then, lo and behold and four - count 'em, four - yahtzees in a single game catapulted Athos up and over all others who, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, ceded first place. (The photo is during the playing of the national anthem.)

Praise and rejoice greatly, O Israel. Thy babylonian captivity is ended. Now ... ahem ... back to Lent.

Truth, Beauty, and Conversion

Joseph Pearce, author of Literary Converts and C. S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, linked this fabulous video on converts to Mother Church:

Lenten Wilderness and Earth Science

The thing I love about teaching earth science to a gaggle of middle schoolers is that I get to (a) drop momentarily out of the mimetically-driven hall of mirrors of fallen human funny business for a brief time, and (b) consider the breath-taking facts of such things as plate tectonics and geologic time scale.

Take for instance Heather Catchpole's article, Islands of Fire, in which she visits New Zealand's hot spots and which I will let you read for yourself.
As I've said before, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

What stuff? Oh, like the fact the outer core of our planet is a billion trillion tons of molten iron spinning at 1,000 mph, thus creating the electromagnetic field that comes out one pole, around the planet, and reenters it at the other pole, protecting us from the same solar radiation that scoured Mars when its EM field collapsed? (Don't worry. Ours won't collapse for many millions of years. We are, however, overdue for a reversal of our EM field; meaning, our Boy Scout compasses will all, then, point south.) Go write something like that and try to find a literary agent who will find it "credible".

Read Catchpole's article (above). It may explain why Our Lord went to the wilderness (besides being tempted by Satan), far from the maddening crowd.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, at ZENIT writes,

Temptation is everything that makes us small, ugly, and mean. Temptation uses the trickiest moves that the evil one can think up. And his power is greater and stronger than our own human power. The more the devil has control of us, the less we want to acknowledge that he is fighting for every millimeter of this earth. Jesus didn't let him get away with that.

Jesus' desert experience raises important questions for us. What are some of the "desert" experiences I have experienced in my life? What desert experience am I living through right now? When and how do I find moments of contemplation in the midst of a busy life? How have I lived in the midst of my own desert wilderness? Have I been courageous and persistent in fighting with the demons? How have I resisted transforming my own deserts into places of abundant life?

Far from creating a great divide between Jesus Christ and ourselves, our own trials and weaknesses have become the privileged place of our encounter with him, and not only with him, but with God himself, thanks to this man of the cross. Jesus has been tested in all respects like us -- he knows all of our difficulties; he is a tried man; he knows our condition from the inside and from the outside -- by this did he acquire a profound capacity for compassion. For one must have suffered in order to truly feel for others. From Jesus we learn that God is present and sustaining us in the midst of test, temptation and yes, even sinfulness.

As Christians, we are in a constant fight with the desires born of our sinful natures. We are unable to resist temptation without God's grace. We are called to trust the Lord (not ourselves) for strength to resist temptation before it becomes sin. It is not the temptation itself that leads us to sin, but the lack of resistance and trust in the Lord for deliverance..More>>

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday - Carl Spitzweg - the end of Carnival.

From the Shrine of the Holy Whapping archives, Matthew Alderman ruminates on Ash Wednesday:
Chesterton once imagined a long procession of mysterious priests with their strangely-shaped mitres, hooked croziers, their incense and bells, and their sacred books--what possesses us to leap upon them, disregarding everything else, and seize the Bible from their hands, crying out for sola scriptura, when they, with all their antique ways of mind and worship, were the first to call it sacred? There's always a deeper logic there, if we dig, or if we simply choose to trust in the vast and occasionally cobwebby mansion that is both Tradition and tradition. Public penitence--whether flamboyantly physical or merely simply passing on the cheesecake--is part of the Catholic landscape, and the Catholic imagination. (And I won't pretend that can't get disturbing sometimes, but there it is, no apologies--though the Church has always stressed moderation). We're no angels. We're not supposed to be. While the best thing is a chastened soul, sometimes the only way to get there is via the body. No dessert menus, thanks. Check, please?
More here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tucker - Sublime Polyphony

If you are at all interested in music, listen to this clip and also read Jeffrey Tucker's reasons for his loving polyphony here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quinquagesima Sunday

Saint Peter weeping before the Blessed Virgin on the first Holy Saturday (1647)
Guercino (Image from Vultus Christi)

On this Quinquagesima Sunday, Father Mark explains holy compunction.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

God is in the Pain

Cardinal Angelo Comastri stares down suffering, pain, and death. We do not fly from nothingness to nothingness. God is in the pain.

For more resources on dealing with the oft ignored realities of mortality, visit the ever-growing number of entries at Meanings of Suffering and A Holy Death.

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Cancel my Liturgical Dance Lessons"

The Archbolds have a moratorium going on the Hitler bunker thing. Glad Shea still posts them!

Aggie Catholics - Lent

Aggie Catholics provides a good primer and reminder of all things Lent:
Once again, it is time for our Aggie Catholics annual Lenten mega-post. Links, videos, and resources will be added and updated throughout the Lenten season. Please leave your feedback in the comments and anything that needs to be added. Thanks for reading.

Things you will find below include:
***LENT FAQ***
Visit their site here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


What Japanese motor company made this lawn mower?

Weigel - Erosion of Religious Freedom

George Weigel:

Religious freedom, rightly understood, cannot be reduced to freedom of worship. Religious freedom includes the right to preach and evangelize, to make religiously informed moral arguments in the public square and to conduct the affairs of one’s religious community without undue interference from the state. If religious freedom only involves the freedom to worship, then, as noted above, there is “religious freedom” in Saudi Arabia, where Bibles and evangelism are forbidden but expatriate Filipino laborers can attend Mass in the U.S. embassy compound in Riyadh.

In its glory years, the State Department’s human rights bureau was a stalwart friend of those brave men and women in communist countries who were asserting, in addition to their right to worship, their rights as believers to be fully participant in society. That noble legacy should cause the present guardians of U.S. human rights policy to think very carefully about the path they seem to be taking in this field.

Read more here.

Escalation to the Extremes

As René Girard recently writes in Battling to the End, when one member of a model/rival warring relationship is settling into a defensive posture (the dominant 'model'), that partner sets the terms of the battle and "escalation to extremes." The lesser partner (the 'rival') is forced to move against its foe-partner in terms dictated by the former's defenses.

The dominant partner may enact a faux ignorance of its rival's actions and even a feigned ignorance of the rivalry altogether. Its rival is, thus, forced to enact any and all measures not only to be noticed, but, in the words of Robert Hamerton-Kelly,
It wishes not only to imitate the other, nor merely to possess itself in the other, but to destroy the other as the place where the self is alienated to itself.
In this quest, the rival will change the terms of discourse (don't forget; the Scimitar was founded on this model/rival template). But the model will act remarkably stupid and seemingly blind to the obvious. Even when the "escalation to extremes" reaches the level of sacrificial denouement.

WILL the escalation continue? Girard is convinced of it, and fears for the world of humanity. And apparently, the dominant model partner is beginning to think so, too.

But under current leadership from the Last Self-Help Administration, it is unlikely that any actions other than functional dhimmitude, academical indifference, and puer-senex tendencies will be seen for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

True North

Mentor, friend, and stout fellow, Gil Bailie posts on expecting a grandchild, being a former - or is it present? - Eagle Scout, and weathering cultural storms in Be Prepared … for random coincidence …

He refers in his post to Joe Carter's piece at First Things, The Most Influential Conservative Book Ever Produced in America
, which shows how my Shire-produced hobbit mind works. It never occurred to me to label the Boy Scout Manual "conservative". Or perhaps, if anyone was so benighted as to see the Manual in Marxist terms, it was so much the worse for him/her. To libel the BSA was tantamount to libeling the Junior Woodchucks, or being so daft as to assume magnetic north is true north.

Of course, times have changed: up IS down, bad IS good, and the center does not hold.

The worshipers of mayhem and chaos, those possessed by the spirit of the age, feel a quaint need to kick over any restraints and mores that still exist. For them, following a path of being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent is clearly pathology.

But for me and my house, we will keep lamps and oil ready during snowstorms, help the old lady shovel out, have the whetstone handy, and a few extra tins in the pantry. Especially when more snow is expected.

Send me a copy of the Metrosexuals' Manual when it comes out. I'm sure it will be good for a few laughs.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Our Lady's Statue

ONE SPRING YEARS ago now, I stood talking with a CCD class of sixth graders. At least three of them were obviously well past the expiration of the effects of their meds for the day. "Bouncing off the walls," as they say. Having two clinically diagnosed ADHD sons myself, I knew the signs. They were seeming stunt doubles for bat boy, and just as attentive. But I glanced out of the Catholic school basement window to the small courtyard. There stood a lovely and serene statue of Our Lady of Grace.

In an instant of insight I knew why I was glad to be there with an unruly, indifferent class of sixth graders who would rather be home playing video games waiting for dinner. It was the sense of antiquity associated with statuary, heroism, sacrifice, and a culture not entirely of this world.

Tolkien knew this, too, of course. He could tell his son,
Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste. Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children - from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn - open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered. Go to communion with them (and pray for them). It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people. (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand - after which [our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come.)
The Catholic Church is not a transcendent Gift from Our Lord because of the people, high and low, who populate it. The Catholic Church is that grand, shimmering Vessel cutting through the storms and high seas of history promised to St. Peter, his Vicar; that she would not succumb to the Gates of Hades (Mtt 16, 18), nor be swamped (Mk 4, 37-41), but bear Our Lord's sacramental Real Presence until He comes again (Mtt 28,20).

Like Elrond's Rivendell, the statues, the monuments, the ageless Liturgy are the bedrock and foundation of faith, the stuff of legends, the absolutely needful place of repose and mission and chivalry for us poor mortals.

I did not despair teaching those sixth graders. Instead, I used clips from Peter Jackson's film version of Tolkien's master opus to illustrate catechetical points. I also recalled a very young Athos who was isolated from the other children during Sunday School class because I was rambunctious (ADHD wasn't invented yet).

And I looked out the basement classroom window up at Our Lady's statue.

St. Jerome Emiliani

Monday, February 08, 2010

Nella's Story

Okay, gentle readers. Prepare yourself for a mother's story of her daughter's birth and the realization that her newborn daughter has Downs Syndrome:

A Little Bit Married, eh?

Dr. Christine B. Whelan gives essential advice to couples whose only catechism on marriage was prime time television: Are You A Little Bit Married? - How to know if it's time to walk down the aisle or go your separate ways.

Gizmo from down under for our friend who loves fast cars

Holy Post Café

I saw and began reading a piece in the british Telegraph expecting the worst from its title, The Holy Post Café, but came away from the article feeling a bit differently.

This is the Holy Post Café. It's the first of that trinity of words that's the giveaway. This is not first and foremost a café or a post office. It's St Luke's church in the village of Kinoulton, in the Gainsborough lands between Nottingham and Melton Mowbray. The beaders are in the sanctuary, while the post office and cafe nestle behind the pews in which villagers sit and chat and pass the time of day.

I've come here with Dr Stuart Burgess, the Government's "rural advocate" and chairman of the Commission for Rural Communities, which once upon a time would have been called a quango. We meet in the Neville Arms down the road. With the leather sofas and contemporary dining furniture filling its small front bar, it's a Darwinian model of how the traditional village hubs of shop, pub and church are adapting, or dying.

Dr Burgess has been on something of a mission, since the closure of some 2,500 rural post offices was announced nearly two years ago, to establish alternative village postal services: "I've been travelling the country, cajoling." ("Encouraging," corrects his PR man). "Local businesses use rural post offices, but it's really the social dimension – they're critical for the elderly and a real focal point for communities."

The name of the Post Office's revival scheme, Outreach, isn't lost on Dr Burgess, a Methodist minister. "Outreach" is what churches call their efforts to minister to local communities. The target was to have 500 new Outreach post offices, ranging from mobile vans to services in alternative premises. That target has already been reached, with some 25 Outreach post offices either in churches or run by churches in local premises..More>>

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

Pistol Pete

Like the great Drew Brees, some of us recall with drawn breath the basketball wizardry of the great Pete Maravich.

Zmirak - Generosity of Tolkien

John Zmirak on discovering Tolkien as a boy, dis-enchantment by a Catholic sophisticate teacher, and rescue to re-enchantment. A must-read:
Tolkien spent his scant free hours constructing the parallel world found in his books, "Middle-Earth." He acted as its loving father, peopling it with a vast array of species. Instead of doing what most writers (trust me) settle for, the minimum needed to move the story forward, Tolkien showed all the Liberality of those medieval craftsmen who would carve even the backs of pillars that no man would ever see -- since they worked for the glory of God, Who would. Tolkien crafted for his creatures' use entire languages with alphabets and whole continents with maps. He limned out their history for thousands of years, from the mists of our own faded legends (such as Beowulf and the Brothers Grimm) all the way back to Creation. The opening of The Silmarillion describes the fall of a mighty angel and his expulsion from heaven. It begins:

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Ilúvatar; and he made first the Ainur, the Holy Ones, that were the offspring of his thought, and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before him, and he was glad.

Tolkien didn't see his work as a piece of Catholic apologetics, but as something more ambitious. Tolkien hoped to create for the English-speaking peoples a literary myth -- as the Germans had in the grail legends, and the French in chivalric romances. The stories of King Arthur, Tolkien sniffed over his pipe, were actually Celtic, and too mixed up with French infusions for his Anglo-Saxon tastes. So he spent his life creating a replacement -- which, to his cackling delight, took root. Let's test that assertion: If you're reading this in English, write down the names of as many knights of the Round Table as you can think of. Now name all the hobbits you can. Case closed.
Read all of The Generosity of Tolkien

Steyn - Environmental Fear-mongering

Mark Steyn takes on the melting credibility of the warming crowd - and their shoddy research:
Whenever I write about “climate change,” a week or two later there’s a flurry of letters whose general line is: la-la-la can’t hear you. Dan Gajewski of Ottawa provided a typical example in our Dec. 28 issue. I’d written about the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit’s efforts to “hide the decline,” and mentioned that Phil Jones, their head honcho, had now conceded what I’d been saying for years—that there has been no “global warming” since 1997. Tim Flannery, Australia’s numero uno warm-monger, subsequently confirmed this on Oz TV, although he never had before.

In response, Mr. Gajewski wrote to our Letters page: “Steyn’s column on climate change was one-sided, juvenile and inarticulate.”

Yes, yes, but what Steyn column isn’t? That’s just business as usual. A more pertinent question is: was any of it, you know, wrong?

Well, our reader didn’t want to get hung on footling details: “The disproportionate evidence supports the anthropogenic cause of global warming,” he concluded.

Yes, but how did the “evidence” get to be quite so “disproportionate”?

More here.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Chivalry in Our Dark Ages

"Servants of the Enemy look fairer and feel fouler"

Lest any fall under the illusion that the goal of chivalry is a nostalgic backward sigh or, worse, a peripheral movement unworthy of true Christian vocational aspirations, Rodney Stark reminds us that no less a figure than St. Bernard of Clairvaux - theologian, head of the Cistercian order, and one-time most powerful man in Europe - helped to found the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon: the Knights Templars.

So much slander slops in politically correct circles regarding the Crusades that even well-meaning Catholic souls spout the poppycock spun by the likes of Voltaire, Hume, Diderot, Fuller, von Mosheim, Barraclough, Gibbon, and, more recently, Mayer and K. Armstrong.

So it is well to read Stark's excellent introduction, God’s Battalions. And, as one who peruses the titles of books on sale at the bookshop of a near-by Cistercian abbey, Bernard of Clairvoux is still the object of great study and admiration even today. Stark writes:
Bernard was born into the nobility and raised to be a knight, but at age twenty he entered the Church. His knightly background was clearly reflected in the military structure he created for the Cistercians. Bernard also was an early and compelling advocate of chivalry, and many have suggested that he served as the model for the legendary Sir Galahad.
The Christian faith in general and the Catholic Church in particular is if nothing else (and it is a great deal More) historical. Legend in this case grew from fact. So, in the spirit of St. Bernard, let us not gainsay, gentle reader, the noble and ennobling vocation of Marian chivalry. Even in these present dark ages of neo-paganism, worship of Mammon, and shoddy thinking.

Up - Down-to-earth

The Pixar film UP is filled with the usual amazing story line, animation whiz-bangery, and laughs that any child has come to expect when dragging parents to a matinee or birthday outing.

What was unexpected was the four minute depiction of Carl and childhood sweetheart Ellie's marriage. As someone who has shared the ups and downs of realtime marriage for thirty years plus, I find it surprisingly heart-string pulling and, well, down-to-earth.

See it here.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Harold Ramis - Groundhog Day

'We are Nazareth'

Cardinal Schonborn says about current Europe:
“Sometimes I have the impression that what we are living now in Europe is exactly described in this scene,” the cardinal said. “We are Nazareth. . . We are tired of Him. With all our beautiful Cathedrals and monasteries . . . and the great witnesses of sanctity, we are tired of Him. We are looking for Buddhism, for all kinds of strange ideas, or simply secularism.”

Cardinal Schonborn said he is sometimes frightened by the vision of Christ going away from Europe. “Lord do not abandon us . . . Do not leave the Church in Europe,” Cardinal Schonborn said. “We have been so enthusiastic about you through all the great ages of Christianity in Europe, but then we have become tired about your words, about your requirements . . . We prefer the mainstream, the politically correct. . . We are tired of your Gospel.”

Cardinal Schonborn asked the congregation to pray that Christ would not “go away” from Europe, even while we want “that He reaches all countries of the world, all people of the world.”

Read all ...