Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Thanks for the Prayer - Here Goes

I want to thank profusely the innumerable folk who have promised to pray for me, put my name on prayer-lists, visit Adoration Chapels tomorrow during my surgery to take care of a wayward "transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis."

Father Dan Hanley graciously prepped me by all the ministrations afforded by Mother Church today, and for that I am and shall ever remain truly grateful.

Thing is: there is the appearance of helplessness in all of this spot of bother. And that is why I harbor a particular and ferocious antipathy for such Japanese thriller/horror flicks as The Grudge (2004) - the poor mortal humans can't do a blooming, bloody thing to stand against the onslaught of the inevitable doom. Pah! Phooh!

That is why, without doubt, I choose this of all nights to take in an altogether different flick; a piece of sub-creation (á la Tolkien) in which death is actual, but humans are real actors in this grand opera; namely, At World’s End. Here we are talking Purgatory, redemption, self-sacrifice, resurrection, and the Adventure of "offering it up."

I refuse to see this rigamarole as something other than an opportunity to practice the virtues, cardinal and theological. But I assure you, gentle reader, I will be tempted to do otherwise any number of times. So, pray for me. Here I go in the name of the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Edwin Muir

The Good Town [h/t: Gil Bailie]

Look at it well. This was the good town once,
Known everywhere, with streets of friendly neighbours,
Street friend to street and house to house. In summer
All day the doors stood open; lock and key
Were quaint antiquities fit for museums
With gyves and rusty chains. The ivy grew
From post to post across the prison door.
The yard behind was sweet with grass and flowers.
A place where grave philosophers loved to walk.
Old Time that promises and keeps his promise
Was our sole lord indulgent and severe,
Who gave and took away with gradual hand
That never hurried, never tarried, still
Adding, subtracting. These our houses had
Long fallen into decay but that we knew
Kindness and courage can repair time's faults,
And serving him breeds patience and courtesy
In us, light sojourners and passing subjects.
There is a virtue in tranquillity
That makes all fitting, childhood and youth and age,
Each in its place.

Look well. These mounds of rubble,
And shattered piers, half-windows, broken arches
And groping arms were once inwoven in walls
Covered with saints and angels, bore the roof,
Shot up the towering spire. These gaping bridges
Once spanned the quiet river which you see
Beyond that patch of raw and angry earth
Where the new concrete houses sit and stare.
Walk with me by the river. See, the poplars
Still gather quiet gazing on the stream.
The white road winds across the small green hill
And then is lost. These few things still remain.
Some of our houses too, though not what once
Lived there and drew a strength from memory.
Our prople have been scattered, or have come
As strangers back to mingle with the strangers
Who occupy our rooms where none can find
The place he knew but settles where he can.
No family now sits at the evening table;
Father and son, mother and child are out,
A quaint and obsolete fashion. In our houses
Invaders speak their foreign tongues, informers
Appear and disappear, chance whores, officials
Humble or high, frightened, obsequious,
Sit carefully in corners. My old friends
(Friends ere these great disasters) are dispersed
In parties, armies, camps, conspiracies.
We avoid each other. If you see a man
Who smiles good-day or waves a lordly greeting
Be sure he's a policeman or a spy.
We know them by their free and candid air.

It was not time that brought these things upon us,
But these two wars that trampled on us twice,
Advancing and withdrawing, like a herd
Of clumsy-footed beasts on a stupid errand
Unknown to them or us. Pure chance, pure malice,
Or so it seemed. And when, the first war over,
The armies left and our own men came back
From every point by many a turning road,
Maimed, crippled, changed in body or in mind,
It was a sight to see the cripples come
Out on the fields. The land looked all awry,
The roads ran crooked and the light fell wrong.
Our fields were like a pack of cheating cards
Dealt out at random - all we had to play
In the bad game for the good stake, our life.
We played; a little shrewdness scraped us through.
Then came the second war, passed and repassed,
And now you see our town, the fine new prison,
The house-doors shut and barred, the frightened faces
Peeping round corners, secret police, informers,
And all afraid of all.
How did it come?

From outside, so it seemed, an endless source,
Disorder inexhaustible, strange to us,
Incomprehensible. Yet sometimes now
We ask ourselves, we the old citizens:
‘Could it have come from us? Was our peace peace?
Our goodness goodness? That old life was easy
And kind and comfortable; but evil is restless
And gives no rest to the cruel or the kind.
How could our town grow wicked in a moment?
What is the answer? Perhaps no more than this,
That once the good men swayed our lives, and those
Who copied them took a while the hue of goodness,
A passing loan; while now the bad are up,
And we, poor ordinary neutral stuff,
Not good nor bad, must ape them as we can,
In sullen rage or vile obsequiousness.
Say there's a balance between good and evil
In things, and it's so mathematical,
So finely reckoned that a jot of either,
A bare preponderance will do all you need,
Make a town good, or make it what you see.
But then, you'll say, only that jot is wanting,
That grain of virtue. No: when evil comes
All things turn adverse, and we must begin
At the beginning, heave the groaning world
Back in its place again, and clamp it there.
Then all is hard and hazardous. We have seen
Good men made evil wrangling with the evil,
Straight minds grown crooked fighting crooked minds.
Our peace betrayed us; we betrayed our peace.
Look at it well. This was the good town once.’

These thoughts we have, walking among our ruins.

Edwin Muir

Aaron Ruiz Meets the Pope

You have to read this if you haven’t already. [h/t: Creative Minority Report]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Liberal Episcopalian and the Pope Walk Into...

I can't stand it. THIS is against doctor's orders to take it easy.

Texas Meets Rome, Shakes Hands

Father Z(uhlsdorf) lauds an article by Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review on the Dictatorship of Relativism - The pope bears important truths about the roots of our experiment in liberty.

Pay close attention to Fr Z's commentary in red; his sanctified W. C. Field's asides are well worth the attention!

Modern Rationality? You're Joking, Meis

Morgan Meis of The Smart Set opines,

The pope (was) here. Ratzinger. Pope Benedict XVI. It is thus a good occasion to figure out what this pope is up to. So far he's done two notable things, at least for those of us outside the arms of the Church. He did the first just before he became pope, and that was to meet with the world-renowned German philosopher Jürgen Habermas for a long chat about faith and reason (the title of the discussion: “Pre-political moral foundations in the construction of a free civil society”). The second was to deliver an address at the University of Regensburg. In that address, he mentioned in passing a quote from the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus. "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new,” the emperor said in 1391, “and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
This was not received well by the Islamic world. There were riots. Various Islamists threatened to march on Rome, literally, to take the city for Islam. A Christian nun was killed in Somalia. In general, mayhem. The pope later apologized for the fact that his words were taken as an insult. He did not, however, take back the gist of what he was trying to say. Now there's no question that the pope was taking a swipe at Islam. But in the context of the discussion of faith and reason, the swipe comes off a lot differently than how it was picked up in popular media. Basically, the pope accused Islam of holding God so far above reason that there is an absolute split between the two things. Islam, therefore, has no need to justify itself rationally. And thereby it has no need to limit itself in terms of violence or anything else. Whatever serves Allah serves Allah and there's nothing else to say about it. Now one can object to this point in various ways, but it is far from stupid, or uninteresting.

The pope, in essence, was challenging Islam to step up to the plate. He may have made his pitch in a jerky way, but he was essentially inviting Islam to join in with the Logos, the great big argument about how we can make society good. Because the pope does not see Islam as his big problem. Islam — a religion essentially of The Book — is a potential ally in the task of fixing things up. The pope sees the modern Western world as his main problem.

The problem with the modern Western world is that it got all jazzed up on rationality and forgot what that rationality was supposed to be in the service of ...

Read all of He’s got a bone to pick with the Western world.

+ + +

The only disagreement I have with Meis is that the modern world is NOT rational; not by a long shot. In fact, as Hilaire Belloc pointed out, the Modern Phase of the attack on the Church is characterized the flagrant disabusing the human race of reason (as well denying the existence of a covenant-making, loving God and Revelation, but that's another topic).

Why else the irrational worship of instincts? The pan-sexual destruction of faith and morals? The any and every stick possible to try to destroy the one place where human dignity and worth is still held as indelible, imago dei?

Yet Meis and other humanists are beginning to "get" the gist of Benedict's mission. Perhaps, just perhaps others, too, will see the light of Christ's hope and return to the Faith vouchsafed in the Catholic Church. Just perhaps.

Malta - Tiny Fortress of Faith

Thomas Basil at New Oxford Review compares Contrasts in Christendom: Red Lights in Amsterdam, Neon In Malta.

Monday, April 21, 2008

And a Nice Smile

Rich Leonardi, the Seditious Catechist, posts on a tribute for the Holy Father from an appreciative but non-Catholic columnist in A quiet pope ... with a sword:
I'm not a Catholic. But somewhere during the funerals for two fallen firefighters April 9, I thought: Nobody does this better than the Catholic Church. When an uncertain world cruelly reminds us how fragile life can be, the magic, tradition, ritual and beauty of a mass soothes the aching heart. It speaks of eternal truth.
You noticed that all by yourself, did you? I did too. Became a Catholic. Glad I did.

No, Not Them Bells, Dylan. These

In honor of my friend Scott Dinsmore over at In the Meantime, here is a piece by Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic, Ring the Bells. It begins, "For a long time I did not hear the beauty of church bells; or more accurately, I did not wish to hear it. They sounded only like Christianity..."

Benedict and Belloc

HILAIRE BELLOC, historian (First honors, Oxford), author, and friend of G. K. Chesterton, is known but not widely read today. This is too bad. He knows better the ailments of the dilapidated West today than the talking heads, pundits, and politicians who happen presently to be alive.

Belloc describes in utter lucidity the gradient of the degradation of the West in the chapter of The Great Heresies entitled, "The Reformation." The entire book should be required reading for all concerned with the apparent demise of the West. Suffice it to say that the Protestant hegemony, a truly anti-Catholicism, broke up finally and certainly with the Great War, World War I.
But let it be noted that this breakdown of the older anti-Catholic thing, the Protestant culture, shows no sign of being followed by an hegemony of the Catholic culture. There is no sign as yet of a reaction towards the domination of Catholic ideas - the full restoration of the Faith by which Europe and all our civilization can alone be saved. [141]
Belloc goes then into the final chapter that describes with wincingly accurate ways what he calls "The Modern Phase" or "The Modern Attack."
To many who have no sympathy with Catholicism, who inherit the old Protestant animosity to the Church (although doctrinal Protestantism is now dead) and who think that any attack on the Church must somehow or other be a good thing, the struggle already appears as a coming or present atttack on what they call "Christianity." [143]
This phase of the attack on the Faith is replete with rabid scientific dogmatists like Dawkins or Fleet St. jingoists like Hitchens or separate religionists like the Scimitar-terrorist boys or recrudescent Neo-pagans-R-Us in the mainstream media. It is a dark and apocalyptic time for the Catholic Church in the world, let alone in the West.

ENTER BENEDICT XVI ON HIS MISSION TO AMERICA. The Pontiff leaves the Vatican to celebrate his eighty-first birthday on American soil, meets with his American bishops, celebrates the Blessed Sacrament in two -- count 'em, two -- major league baseball fields, strolls Fifth Avenue, meet with young people and seminarians, and kneels in prayer at Ground Zero, praying for loving forgiveness in the face of heinous and murderous evil.

This aged leader of the Catholic Church has not given up on the West; nor is he about to look fearful before the specters that haunt our televisions, newspapers, or internet-browsing computer monitors. The Holy Father toddled through his stomping-grounds to show that he is Christ's Vicar -- the 265th since St. Peter himself -- and come hell or high water, he will come to bless, to serve, to love, and to spread the Gospel. How about us?

A Human Person, Actually

City Journal's Peter Lawler reviews Embryo: A Defense of Human Life, by Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen (Doubleday, 256 pp., $23.95): a powerful philosophical case for protecting embryos.

As opposed, say, to nihilistic neo-pagan Moloch worship and ‘Abortion Art.’

Soaps, Mimesis, & Birth Rates

Is watching the soaps responsible for falling birth rates?? Given the realities of mimesis, the small families depicted on soap operas may be a major influence.

Enoch Powell

Paul Belien begins to voice what many are feeling about the once-taboo British politician: Enoch Powell and his “Rivers of Blood” speech were right.

One would do well to reread James Pinkerton's notion of a "Shire Strategy" in the West.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mary the Dawn

Mary the Dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the Gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!

Mary the Root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the Grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!

Mary the Wheat, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the Stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!

Mary the Font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the Cup, Christ the Saving Blood!

Mary the Temple, Christ the temple's Lord;
Mary the Shrine, Christ the God adored!

Mary the Beacon, Christ the Haven's Rest;
Mary the Mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!

Mary the Mother, Christ the mother's Son
By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.

From Sunday Evening Prayer, Corpus Christianum (Little Office of the Virgin Mary)

Stanhope Forbes

A Street in Brittany (1881) - Stanhope Forbes

Address to Young People

Here is the text of the Holy Father's Address to Young People and Seminarians. An excerpt:

My own years as a teenager were marred by a sinister regime that thought it had all the answers; its influence grew – infiltrating schools and civic bodies, as well as politics and even religion – before it was fully recognized for the monster it was. It banished God and thus became impervious to anything true and good. Many of your grandparents and great-grandparents will have recounted the horror of the destruction that ensued. Indeed, some of them came to America precisely to escape such terror.

Let us thank God that today many people of your generation are able to enjoy the liberties which have arisen through the extension of democracy and respect for human rights. Let us thank God for all those who strive to ensure that you can grow up in an environment that nurtures what is beautiful, good, and true: your parents and grandparents, your teachers and priests, those civic leaders who seek what is right and just.

The power to destroy does, however, remain. To pretend otherwise would be to fool ourselves. Yet, it never triumphs; it is defeated...


What might that darkness be? What happens when people, especially the most vulnerable, encounter a clenched fist of repression or manipulation rather than a hand of hope? A first group of examples pertains to the heart. Here, the dreams and longings that young people pursue can so easily be shattered or destroyed. I am thinking of those affected by drug and substance abuse, homelessness and poverty, racism, violence, and degradation – especially of girls and women. While the causes of these problems are complex, all have in common a poisoned attitude of mind which results in people being treated as mere objects ─ a callousness of heart takes hold which first ignores, then ridicules, the God-given dignity of every human being. Such tragedies also point to what might have been and what could be, were there other hands – your hands – reaching out. I encourage you to invite others, especially the vulnerable and the innocent, to join you along the way of goodness and hope.

The second area of darkness – that which affects the mind – often goes unnoticed, and for this reason is particularly sinister. The manipulation of truth distorts our perception of reality, and tarnishes our imagination and aspirations. I have already mentioned the many liberties which you are fortunate enough to enjoy. The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

His Real Presence

Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth mini-series stands in a class of its own. Robert Powell's face (pictured above) captures the archetypal image that, for many people of faith, is the face of our Lord as vouchsafed for us in the Shroud of Turin.

A fine presentation that presents convincing evidence of the Shroud's veracity (as well as critics' shoddy efforts to disparage it) is the PBS Home Video episode, Secrets of the Dead – Shroud of Christ? The textile evidence is quite astonishing.

But, of course, the truest affirmation that Our Lord gives us is His Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. It is here that He comes to us - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - and we know at our deepest level of being what Edward Schillebeeckx said: "It is existentially impossible to despair in the Presence of Jesus."

Benedict XVI - White House

There were so many fine talks given by the Holy Father on his mission to America. Father James Martin called his homily at St. Patrick's Cathedral one of the best sermons ever. Period. But this clip from the White House lawn gives for my money the best directive from the Vicar of Christ to the major world power. It is worth your ten minutes attention.