Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pentecost - Wind of the Spirit

Beatrice was frantic when Aly returned to the hotel room just before three. “I just got back,” she said. “I’ve been looking everywhere for Lenny since I woke up and he was gone! After last night ... O God! Why did I sleep so late?”

“Let’s go,” Aly said. They got in her car and starting driving.

It wasn’t long before they spotted Lenny, sitting cross-legged under the low-branched cedars at the Berkley Center. His hair was tucked under a baseball cap and he looked like any other tall youth visiting the island. They parked at the Visitor Center and walked back to where he was sitting. He was looking over the pale blue ocean at clouds that met the water.
“Lenny, are you okay?” Beatrice asked breathlessly.

“R...U...O...K. Ruach. Yes. I suppose so,” Lenny said. He patted himself down like a survivor following a natural disaster. “Geez, what a beautiful breeze is blowing! Don’t you think?”

He looked at Aly with an undecipherable stare followed by an unexpected laugh. “We can’t stop the wheel of destiny from turning by ourselves. Can we, Aly?”

Aly didn’t answer immediately. She sat down near Lenny and looked closely at him. Lenny took off the cap and his black, straight hair caught the wind. Beatrice sat down next Lenny and put her head on his shoulder.


Eliot - Loss

Ash Wednesday (1855-60) - Carl Spitzweg

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

- T. S. Eliot, The Rock (1934)

Let's Try A Scimitar Vigilante Group

The Scotsman reports: Muslim police group to tackle anti-Islam prejudices. A rose by any other name would smell so sweet. Try inserting "Christian" and "anti-Christian" into the above and see what backing this scheme would receive. Multiculturalists are so naive.

Scimitar Springtime

Pastorius at Infidel Bloggers' Alliance posts the helpful What Islam Isn’t, which contains quantifiable "tipping points" for countries that are headed, á la Mark Steyn, toward demographic winter and Scimitar springtime.

Friday, May 9, 2008

All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name

Check out the top of the page at this link to Mark Shea: a Scimitar-wielder comes to know the power of Jesus’ Name.

"WHY would Jesus help a Muslim?" Afshin asked in his confusion. Because, he finds, God is Love. Best 20-minutes of MY day, I'm telling ya. Deo gratias. +

Jackson's Lord of the Rings - Thumbs Down

In rereading J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I see now clearly what is, ultimately, unacceptable about Peter Jackson's mutilated film version. Jackson does the expedient box-office thing: he turns the key characters, Gandalf and Aragorn, into exemplars of Nietzsche's übermensch.

At crucial moments both of these film characters of Jackson make decisions that are horrific to the readers of Tolkien's opus. When the Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, confronts Gandalf in the Halls of the Dead, Gandalf shoves him into the flames to run pelting off the bow-like rock of the great city like some flaming firebrand pushed off the cliff. Never happened in the book. Gandalf would not. Period.

When "Mouth of Sauron" comes from the Black Gate of Mordor, Jackson's rendition of Aragorn has him lop off the head of this odious creature in a moment of passionate wrath. Never happened. Both instances resemble Indiana Jones taking out his pistol and wasting the scimitar-wielding black-clad fellow with one shot: great for cathartic release after guy in Black Hat finally "gets it" from guy in White Hat; perfectly wrong message, wrong characterization, wrong to the text of Tolkien, wrong period.

For good measure, Frodo, the protagonist extraordinaire, never rejects and sends packing his ever faithful companion, Samwise Gamgee. And Faramir, Captain of Gondor and brother to ill-fated but redeemed Boromir, never is tempted to take the Ring from Frodo. Jackson cooks up these changes in Tolkien's narrative for incomprehensible reasons known only to himself.

Therefore, regardless of Peter Jackson's best-effort-to-date version of LOTR with the glorious backdrop of New Zealand and dizzying CGI eye-candy, what it surreptitiously teaches viewers goes against every fiber of J. R. R. Tolkien's masterpiece. And I firmly believe, if he were here, he would have never given Jackson permission to take LOTR in the direction it finally went. For Tolkien the ends never, ever justify the means.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Millais - PRB

Mariana (1851) - Sir John Everett Millais

Millais paints Mariana from Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, but embues her beauty and surroundings in such a way that one wonders at her ennui in the play. Is Millais trying to say that we carry our boredom and life-weariness into life strewn with loveliness, and we cast too much blame for our unhappiness unworthily about us?

Clues to the Bard

Just a plug for Michael Wood's PBS presentation, In Search of Shakespeare, now that Joseph Pearce's new book, Quest for Shakespeare (Ignatius) is out.

Wood in his fascinating exploration of Shakespeare in his world asks, "Is THIS (above) a picture of William Shakespeare, a twenty-something rake in London?"

Wood's In Search of Shakespeare is a fine addition to one's DVD collection.


Lord Acton's axiom, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men," was penned in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. It is used variously by pundits and doom-sayers within the arena of party politics ever since ... always against their perceived adversary, never as a cautionary word about their own candidate.

But what bothers me with great seriousness is the way this presidential election is bringing to the fore three dangerous dynamics. First, the apparent Democratic candidate, Barack Hussein Obama, a self-proclaimed Christian, nonetheless has a dubious voting record as a Junior Senator that puts him squarely in what John Paul II the Great deemed "the culture of death." With no apology and no qualm, Obama voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act - what would protect an infant who actually survives an attempted abortion. (That he supports abortion is not sufficiently pro-choice, apparently.) By what authority does he square his privatized version of "Christian faith" that does not value the life that God would bring into the world? That places the human will far above the will of God manifest in Natural Law?

Secondly, as a progressive humanist with a thin odor of Christian sanctity, he is a man who granted this power makes no apologies for making tough decisions based on the presuppositions of multicultural ideology. Nietzsche would recognize Senator Obama's operating/system immediately: he is an example of Nietzsche's own brain-child, the ubermensch, and a member of its officer class at that. Tough decisions must be made for the greater good, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few ... we hear these values and we hope that we meet the criteria of the "many", not the "few".

Needless to say, the ethic embodied and proclaimed by Our Lord in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats -- "Lord, when did we see you ... ?" -- is not a part of this worldly "realism".

Thirdly, may I suggest that this mindset will always be found in those who do not know, do not have recourse to, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The leader who knows not the relief, the joy, the gratitude of having one's sins absolved by Christ's power in this Sacrament is the realist. He makes the ubermensch decisions that cut away the unhealthy, the unwanted, the unhelpful, the unadaptable. Mother Teresa would be his exemplary antithesis.

I painted this kind of Nietzschean thinking in The Dionysus Mandate, but we may soon not need to read about it; we may soon see it in its unvarnished realpolitik from the Executive Branch of the United States government.

Culture of Death's Candidate

Truth is, what presidential candidate is not comprised of several parts hubris, fallenness, and personality character disorder? But why fall so head over heels for THIS man?

Creative Minority Report's "Mad World of Barak Hussein Obama:
[WARNING: Brief Graphic Image]

How well do we know this candidate? [h/t: Maggie's Farm]

Ex-gays Fearful

Ex-gays are fearful of persecution says an ABC News Report. At one level, it is frightening to run counter to the monolithic dogmatics of multicultural progressivism. From a Girardian point of view, it is an innate realization that the multicultural chimera, of which the "gay" agenda is a card-carrying member, is a sacrificial entity, needing certified victims (by its standards) to continue its existence.

Nothing like an "ex-gay" for victim fodder.

View the video – ABC News 7.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lion & the Cardinal - Mitsui

Lest anyone has not discovered or has forgotten the truth, goodness, and beauty over at Dan Mitsui's magnificent The Lion and the Cardinal.

Do You Long for Heaven?

God has a will with and for us and it must become the measure of our willing and being; and the essence of "heaven" is that it where God's will is unswervingly done. Or, to put it in somewhat different terms, where God's will is done is heaven. The essence of heaven is oneness with God's will, the oneness of will and truth.
- Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth (147)

Spengler On Benedict XVI & the Scimitar

Spengler is in a theological and sociological class of his own (that's a compliment). If only he knew some Girard: [h/t: Real Clear Religion]
A madman is not someone who has lost his reason. A madman is someone who has lost everything but his reason," wrote English writer G K Chesterton, adding, "Poets do not go mad, but chess players do."
Read all ...

Hunt - PRB

The Haunted Manor 1849 - William Holman Hunt (Tate)

Most of this landscape was painted in the open air in Wimbledon Park, in south-west London. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood believed strongly in painting directly from nature.The picture has a low view point, filled with close and fastidious studies of plants, rocks and water. The murky tones of the waterfall and tangled vegetation contrast strongly with the narrow, brightly-lit strip of landscape at the top of the picture. It is likely that this and the deserted manor house in the top right were added later, to give the scene a mysterious atmosphere. (From the display caption July 2007)

Recusant Composers of Note

William Byrd

Susan Treacy, musical historian and writer for Saint Austin Review, gives a wonderful introduction to the Recusant musicians of the period known as the English Reformation under Elizabeth I. The following is drawn from her article published in StAR, November/December 2004, "Music of the English Martyrs and Recusants." The footnote re: the Gunpowder Plot is not from her article.

Many Catholics -- among whom research is including William Shakespeare as one (Shadowplay ; Shakespeare the Papist; Quest for Shakespeare) - continued to adhere to "the old religion" during this time of danger and deprivation. Some of the Catholic composers and musicians of note during this time include William Byrd (1543-1623), Thomas Tallis (1505-85), and Richard Dering (1580-1630).

Byrd and his teacher and sometime business partner, Tallis, issued Cantiones sacre in 1589, and a number of motets have texts that allude to the worsening situation of English Catholics. For example, Exsurge, Domine sets to music verses from Psalm 43:
Exsurge, quarew obdormis, Domine? Exsurge, et ne repellas me in finem,Quare faciem tuam avertis? Oblivisceris inopiae nostrae et tribulationsis nostrae? Exsurge, Domine.

Arise, O Lord: why sleepest Thou?
Arise, and reject me not for ever.
Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face and
Forgettest our misery and trouble?
Arise, O Lord!
One of the most famous manuscripts traditionally associated with suffering Catholics of this period is the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, a manuscript of nearly 300 secular and sacred works for keyboard instrument. The same handwriting is used throughout and traditionally the author has been thought to be Francis Tregian the Younger (1574-1619) of a distinguished Catholic family from Cornwall. Composers whose works appear in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book were either Catholic or had Catholic connections: Byrd, Tallis, Dowland, John Bull, and Peter Philips.

One of the 300 English martyrs was Henry Garnet, SJ, who was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot.** A Frenchman, Charles de Ligny, recorded that he "found Garnet in company with several Jesuits and gentlemen, who were playing music: among them Mr. William Byrd, who played the organ and many other instruments. To that house came, chiefly on the solemn days observed by the Papists, many of the nobility and many ladies by coach or otherwise."

Around 1617, Richard Dering found refuge in Brussels and there became acquainted with Peter Philips (1560-1633). A wonderful recording that juxtaposes the sacred music of Philips and Dering was released by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge (EMI 7243 5 66788 2 8).

Music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book can be found in recordings by Joseph Payne (Vox CDX 5085) and Ton Koopman (Capriccio 10211).

The Essential Tallis Scholars CD contains works by both Tallis and Byrd.

**Hiliare Belloc (1st History, Oxford) reports the following in his fine How the Reformation Happened: "The first date assigned to the conception of the Plot is March, 1604. The first hint we have of the Government's watching and 'nursing' it is April, 1604. The pretended 'discovery' is November, 1605. So it was 'nursed' in secret by Cecil for the full eighteen months." [footnote, 244]

Be Proud, Catholics (Humbly, of course)

Steve Ray, author, Catholic convert, DVD-series personality says that Jewish businessman, Sam Miller, is hopping mad at how the Catholic Church is smeared in America.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tolkien - Catholic Culture

Strider and the Hobbits at the Prancing Pony - The Brothers Hildebrandt

Since I find that my fine Parochial Vicar, Father Dan Hanley, is also rereading J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, I offer the following as a very good introduction to the great man's life and work, Tolkien's Catholic Imagination, by Jason Boffeti.

Fighting a Dragon

One thing I am discovering is that when a person goes into battle with a dragon, one is at a distinct disadvantage on several fronts. First, one is weaker and has fewer innate weapons. Second, one has to lean heavily on good timing and something that we call variously "good fortune" or, for people of faith, "Providence". Most of all, regardless of how one may prepare to do battle with such a primeval monster, when it strikes, all plans are out the window and one must, finally, come into full awareness of one's mortality, ineptitude, and need for strength and dunamis well-beyond one's own puny powers, not to mention one's need for allies who can help when least looked for.

Two films that portray the truths listed above with great fun, alacrity, and acerbity (at least from the humans' point of view) are Reign of Fire (2002) and Dragonslayer (1981). Without the latter's magnificent dragon, "Vermithrax Pejorative," no film dragon would have any credibility to the present. What Disney did in creating him was as wonderful as the music score was atrocious (sorry, but true).

So this is a post about fighting dragons? No; it is about fighting a dragon closer to home and more real: cancer. All of the axioms in paragraph one above hold true. And I am grateful for all who have come to my assistance in prayer, skill, hope, and strength in fighting this "dragon".

May you find yourself surrounded by loving and caring help when the days that you must fight your dragons, gentle reader. Cheers and blessings.

As Goes Israel

What has Israel's survival got to do with us? Israel is far away. It has different enemies than we do. Even among Islamic extremists, they are battling Hamas, Hezbollah, the PLO and Islamic Jihad, while the West is confronting the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Besides, if we're nice and accommodating of diversity, the terrorists will respect our attempts to honour their culture and faith and leave us alone.

Nice theory. Too bad jihadis of every label view Israel and the West as conjoined and inseparable. Even though we may not see our destiny as inextricably linked with Israel's, they do. If we give up on Israel, they will simply take that as a sign they might be able to pressure us next to give up on Quebec, Mississauga, Michigan, Birmingham and the Paris suburbs.

So writes Lorne Gunter of the National Post in As Goest Israel ... If the Jewish state can't survive the onslaught of militant Islam, neither can the rest of the civilized world. [h/t: Real Clear Religion]

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rossetti - PRB

Mary Nazarene (1857) - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Our Lady as a gardener: awesome!

Father Cantalamessa - Marriage

The Two Shall Become One Flesh
In their path toward perfection, the saints often go through the so-called dark night of the senses, in which they no longer experience any feeling, or impulse.

They have aridity, are empty, do everything through will power alone and with effort. After this, comes the "dark night of the spirit," in which not only feelings enter into crisis, but also the intelligence and will. There is even doubt that one is on the right road; if it has not all been an error; complete darkness, endless temptations. They go forward only through faith.

Does everything end then? On the contrary! All this was but purification. After they have passed through these crises, the saints realize how much more profound and selfless their love of God now is, in relation to that of the beginning.

For many couples, it will not be difficult to recognize their own experience. They have also frequently gone through the night of the senses in their marriage, in which the latter have no rapture of ecstasy, and if there ever was, it is only a memory of the past. Some also experience the dark night of the spirit, the state in which the profoundest option is in crisis, and it seems that there is no longer anything in common.

If with good will and the help of someone these crises are surmounted, one realizes to what point the impulse and enthusiasm of the first days was but little compared to the stable love and communion matured over the years.

If at first husband and wife loved one another for the satisfaction it gave them, today perhaps they love one another a bit more with a love of tenderness, free of egoism and capable of compassion; they love one another for the things they have gone through and suffered together.
Read all …

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rossetti - PRB

Mary in the House of St John (1859) - Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The Way, the Truth, the Life

Madonna with the Host - Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingre (1780-1867)
Musee d'Orsay, Paris

To Return to the High

(I)f the Rohirrim are grown in some ways more like to us, enhanced in arts and gentleness, we too have become more like to them, and can scarce claim any longer the title High. We are become Middle Men, of the Twilight, but with memory of other things. For as the Rohirrim do, we now love war and valour as things good in themselves, both a sport and an end; and though we still hold that a warrior should have more skills and knowledge than only the craft of weapons and slaying, we esteem a warrior, nonetheless, above men of other crafts. Such is the need of our days ... we have changed, declining from Númenor to Middle-earth.

[ . . . ]

You have no need of soft words: I do not hope to see you again on any other day under this sun. But you shall go now with my blessing upon you, and upon all your people ... If ever beyond hope you return to the lands of the living and we re-tell our tales, sitting by a wall in the sun, laughing at old grief, you shall tell me then (your tale of the One Ring). Until that time ... farewell!

-- Faramir, Captain of Gondor
(Two Towers - J. R. R. Tolkien)

Baggins and Bourne

When feeling most trapped by this "transitional cell carcinoma of the renal pelvis," and, admittedly, under the literal breath-taking effects of the pain-killer Percocet, it felt as though I were entering a dark, airless, rock tunnel, far beneath the earth - forgotten, alone, doomed.

"What good is this to God's Kingdom?" crossed my mind, even as I "offered up" the whole experience. I had brought a picture of the image of the face on the Shroud of Turin, but it seemed a rock-hewn picture itself; something my fingers my chance upon in this cave of despond.

But two thoughts came to me: (1) Frodo Baggins, J. R. R. Tolkien's hobbit who in Lord of the Rings must carry the evil Ring of Power to Mount Doom and there destroy it with no hope of return himself. And (2) Color Sergeant Bourne in the 1964 classic film, Zulu. Frodo carries out his journey and ordeal literally with no hope; or rather, the journey itself is for him his only hope. Color Sergeant Bourne carries out his orders, effectively, chivalrously, and dutifully, in the face of overwhelming odds. Instead of a rifle, however, picture the faithful Color Sergeant carrying a staff with a banner of the Cross.

These are my heroes these days. For both, it seems to me, exemplify for me obedience to the Lord who says, "...when you have done all that is commanded you say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'" (Luke 17,10).

7th Sunday After Easter

"Accordingly, in every soul that the Spirit has anointed with the oil of gladness, so that it may desire Jesus, he accomplishes his end in the same manner. And the result is that the bodily way of acting, whether in thought or affection, the way in which, while the soul was still inexperienced, gradually and little by little, turns into a strength that is all spiritual."

-- John of Ford [h/t: Magnificat]
(+1214, Abbot of a Cistercian Monastery, England)

Birth of Freedom - Trailer

Featuring George Weigel and others: [h/t: Mercatornet]